Bow Best?

Reading time: < 1 minute...

It was our weekly Archery Class tonight!

So, after my generally sub-par performance last week, I’m hoping I’ll be on better form tonight – especially as my Mentor, Dave, is back to keep an eye on me!

Again tonight, conditions were perfect – not too warm, not too cold with a gentle breeze. It was a good turnout too, and we all noticed that it started to get dark a bit earlier impacting on how much time we had to shoot.

After a few rounds shooting at a target, I joined the Longbow group where Dave gave my technique a thorough examination. One of the things I’m noticing is that I can retain the said technique providing I’m there every week, but if I miss even a single lesson, then it’s a return to crapsville! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

As things turned out, tonight was a good night for me – my best performance for some time – and I shot right up until about 8.15 (when the lack-of-light stopped play). Unfortunately, I’m not there next week, so it’ll be interesting to see the impact of this on my technique next time.

August Bank Holiday 2019 – West London

Reading time: 7 minutes...

We always like to do something a little special for the August Bank Holiday – and this year was no different as we’d planned a two-day break in London.

The weather forecast promised a scorcher (especially in the capital) where temperatures are predicted to hit the low-thirties! Apparently another temperature-record will be broken today according to the Tabloids! (Actually, it was – we learned later that it had hit 33.2ยฐC in London!)

Bank Holiday Monday

We’re travelling light! Just two bags between us (and one of those is purely ‘tech’!), so it’ll be interesting to see how we get on… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Being a Bank Holiday, we guessed that the train schedule would be somewhat messy. In fact, there had been announcements over the previous fortnight about NOT travelling AT ALL over the bank holiday! We knew Kettering station was affected, so we drove to Bedford and travelled to St Pancras from there. Arriving for the ticket queue at just after 10 (after a bit of a wrestle with the car-park ticket machine that required an ‘AS’ level to use!), where it seemed the rest of Northamptonshire was already there – and the station was heaving! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

10.13am: With our queuing for our tickets over, the journey was happily, a trouble-free experience to the capital. It was our first trip on the new franchise that is East Midland Railways and not much has changed, but what had, was good including totally free wi-fi throughout on a train that arrived out of nowhere (based on its arrival time). ๐Ÿ˜Š

11.00am: We were soon joining a different hoard – on the Tube to our destination to Gloucester Road! And the tabloid promise was coming true – a scorcher was in the making for sure!

If it was warm above ground, imagine the joy of the Tube. Ahh, the Piccadilly Line – super-busy and every passenger (apart from the three Aussies next to me), getting more moist by the minute – there was more air coming out of the loudspeaker grille than the AC duct – what a way to travel on a Summer’s day!!! ๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“

On our list today…

The Science Museum
The Design Museum

ยฃ90 per night including breakfast! (in Kensington!!) ๐Ÿ˜

11.30am: But before the Museum visits, it made sense to dump our bags. We’re staying at the (very) modestly-priced IBIS Styles in Gloucester Road (more about that later), and after losing some weight we headed for the Museum region, a five-minute walk around the corner.

The Science Museum

11.45am: First stop was the Science Museum. We haven’t been here for a while, but we’d heard it had had a makeover courtesy of the National Lottery.

Wow! What a change! One of the first exhibits celebrated the age of steam…

‘Puffing Billy’ – the oldest locomotive in the world!
The Age of Steam

…followed by plenty of exhibits of cars through the ages…

A new take on ‘parallel parking’!

Next, examples of how machines were powered after the steam generation, including…

A Merlin engine from a Spitfire

There was also a big section on the future of transport – very thought provoking!

1.10pm: The highlight for us though was the GCHQ Exhibition on the lower-ground floor. There wasn’t that much to see, but what there was, was fascinating! It was a little like the exhibits at Bletchley Park, but in addition, it included more recent accounts of modern code-breaking.

No, not an Enigma Machine, but its successor, the Lorenzo Machine
All about early encryption methods – fascinating!

An excellent exhibition and worth seeing even if you HAVE been to Bletchley Park. All-in-all a fascinating visit with much more than we expected! Well worth a visit!

A Comprehensive GCHQ-related Shop

1.45pm: Next stop was a fifteen-minute bus-ride away (on the No. 23) to the Design Museum, next to one of the entrances to Holland Park. In all our travels in London, we’d never come across this Museum before – and amongst all the other buildings in Kensington High Street, it stood out a mile, architecturally speaking! The Museum is open daily 10 until 6 and open late on the first Friday of every month until 8pm.

The Design Museum – Stanley Kubrick Exhibition

2.15pm: Unfortunately, we’d narrowly missed an exhibition from our old employer ‘Mr Sainsbury’ (that had closed the day before) ‘From Corn-Flakes to Cola’ – or so we thought. It was still advertised… and still running! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Located around the perimeter of the first floor was a wide range of label-designs, packaging ideas and typography from ‘back in the day’ (probably best NOT to be too specific) ๐Ÿ˜Š – but it certainly brought back memories!

For those of you who read my Blog and also have a connection with ‘good ol’ JS’, there’s some great memories to wallow in here! ๐Ÿ˜‰

2.45pm: Back to the main event then – the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition. We had to pre-book, but on arrival, after a quick pit-stop, we got in about an hour before ‘our slot’. We knew we were in for a treat as the media hadn’t given it a five-star review and Steven Spielberg has sung its praises too!

The Exhibition commemorates Kubrick’s life, twenty years after his passing, and is as comprehensive as it comes. Luckily for the curators, Kubrick seemed to keep everything – and his notes captured the minutiae of his profession perfectly: from camera angles, casting and story-boarding, it was all here. In short, the Exhibition comprehensively tells the story of this icon of a film-maker, exploring his unique command of the creative design process of film-making, from storyteller to director to editor.

The entrance to the Exhibition

The Exhibition illustrated how Kubrick created genre-defining worlds for his films and relived iconic scenes and memorabilia from The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more. In all, there were over 700 rare objects, films, interviews, letters and photographs – fantastic!

This had been one of the most comprehensive Exhibitions we’ve ever seen. The level of detail that Kubrick had recorded in the process of his film-making was simply amazing! And it was so good that someone had had the foresight to pull it all together for this exhibition.

A car designed by Kubrick?

4.00pm: We were all cultured-out by now and having been ‘spoilt’ by the Museum’s air conditioning, we certainly felt the heat when we came out. It was now (at least) the promised 31 degrees. We made for the nearest bus-stop – fortunately just a short walk away – where we only waited around 10 minutes for the number 49, that took us pretty much straight to our hotel! After a quick perusal around the local Waitrose for our evening meal, we checked into Room 309.

5.30pm: We were glad to be out of the heat, but there’s a full-day ahead tomorrow!


On our list today…

The Natural History Museum
The V and A Museum
The Royal Albert Hall

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Inside the main entrance to the V & A

10.15am: After our quick breakfast at the Hotel, we walked our first stop of the day: The Victoria & Albert Museum. It was already 22 degrees outside, so it was good to enjoy the relative coolness inside!

Spread across five floors, there’s plenty to see here and the gift-shop is home to plenty of quality merchandise that punches well above its weight in terms of range.

Plenty to see on the 1st floor, modestly entitled ‘Britain’. it covered the years from 1500 through until 1900 and showed-off a wide range of home interiors, where there were even complete recreations of whole rooms! Lovely! โœ”โœ”โœ”โœ”โœ”

11.15am: Lunchtime at the V and A, with a particularly enjoyable view – The John Madejski Gardens

…albeit with London prices! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Welcome to London! Two soft drinks + two pieces of cake = ยฃ16.30! ๐Ÿ˜‹

Our final stop was the area of the Cast Courts containing an amazing range of replica statues!

This had been an impressive Museum. It was quiet, mostly sprog-free and (given today’s heatwave) a comfortable temperature. Our next stop however, would turn out to be the complete opposite! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum

12.35pm: I can’t recall the last time I visited the Natural History Museum, but it seemed to have changed a lot (based on my memory!).

There is a lot to see here and for the reasons that follow, we didn’t really do it justice. First of all, it was packed! Second, it was very noisy, thirdly, there were gazillions of sprogs in attendance (the main source of the noise!) and it was much hotter than its neighbour. Why all these kids – it’s a boring Museum after all? Well, if anyone says that the craze for dinosaurs has died-down, it certainly wasn’t in evidence here. The enormous section of the Museum devoted just to Dinos was where most of the human-traffic was heading – and it was heaving!

But we had to see what all the fuss was about. ๐Ÿ™„

Impressive doesn’t begin to describe what was on show. Anything, and probably everything, you ever needed to know about dinosaurs was covered here. But, forget the facts, because most of the attention (and noise) was from around the life-size dinosaur exhibit that moved and roared! Literally scores of people all squeezing into the (smallish) space to grab a shot of this animatronic marvel – including me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Not a real dinosaur
A real dinosaur

The other major attraction here was ‘Museum of the Moon’ – and the area surrounding it was rammed with onlookers! ๐Ÿค” It featured an inflatable installation artwork by Luke Jerram – a spherical replica of the Moon, with a diameter of 7 metres. Several copies tour the world for temporary exhibitions, often accompanied by music. There are also copies in museums in Barcelona and Sydney. Ann liked it, but because I’d seen the word ‘interactive’ somewhere in the promotional material, as clever as it was, I was expecting it to ‘do’ more than just ‘hang there’ accompanied by ethereal music. Beautiful though!

‘Museum of the Moon’

1.30pm: Although there was still plenty to see here, it (‘it’ being the noise and the heat) was all a bit too much for these two old codgers (a sign of our age?), so we retreated back to the safety of the now familiar Waitrose, Gloucester Road (opposite our hotel) for the bits-and-bobs for our late lunch.


2.30pm: With Lunch sorted, there was just time for a short siesta before getting ready for tonight’s main event…

The Royal Albert Hall

6.20pm: Now refreshed, we took the short(ish) walk direct to the Royal Albert Hall. It only took us about 25 minutes from the Hotel.

No photos allowed!

7.00pm: The highlight was seeing our favourite Opera, Mozart’s The Magic Flute where tonight’s performance is part of the 2019 BBC Proms season (‘Prom No. 51’, if you’re counting!) The last time I was at the Royal Albert Hall was for a very different kind of the music: the culmination of Camel’s World Tour in 2018 back in September last year – and the last time we enjoyed the Magic Flute in London was almost six years ago in April 2013 at the Royal Opera House. We love this Opera!! ๐Ÿ˜

Well, seating-wise, we couldn’t have got much higher, and to say our ‘backs were against the wall‘ for this performance was literal. Any higher, and we would have needed a parachute – and oxygen! Still, the seats were comfy, but we also felt the temperature rising with all the bodies from a (near) sell-out performance (I only saw four empty seats). Ann had thoughtfully packed a fan, whilst other less fortunate souls were frantically waving their Programmes to create a breeze! ๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“๐Ÿ˜“

But what of the 155 minute Glyndebourne performance itself? In a word: ‘Superb’. Everyone (see the full cast below) was at the top of their game tonight, and even at the distance we were from the stage, combined with the RAH’s challenging acoustics, the sound travelled well – and sounded fantastic. More especially, Caroline Wettergreen who sang her heart out as ‘Queen of the Night’, judging by the enthusiastic applause completely wowed this audience.

Creatively, it was a visual treat. It’s probably the only time you’ll see rubber babies, LED-powered chefs’ hats and where a Bake-Off based backdrop completed the picture!

The Cast

David Portillo – Tamino
Sofia Fomina – Pamina
Bjรถrn Bรผrger – Papageno
Alison Rose – Papagena
Brindley Sherratt – Sarastro
Caroline Wettergreen – Queen of the Night
Jรถrg Schneider – Monostatos
Esther Dierkes – First Lady
Marta Fontanals-Simmons – Second Lady
Katharina Magiera – Third Lady
Michael Kraus – Speaker
Martin Snell – First Priest/Second Man in Armour
Thomas Atkins – Second Priest/First Man in Armour

supported by the Glyndebourne Chorus
and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth

10.10pm: As we exited the RAH and followed the other 5538 heading for the Tube, we smiled as we knew we only had a short walk back to a comfy bed, whereas the crowd were heading for a bake-off of their own in the shape of the Tube!

10.50pm: Back in our room, all that was left to do was to lighten our load going home by emptying the half-bottle of Pinot before crashing-out! ๐Ÿฅฑ

It’s been a great break! We’ve travelled light (and it worked well!); we’ve walked more than usual (hurrah!) and best of all, we avoided the high restaurant prices of the local area by eating from Waitrose! ๐Ÿ˜. Thanks to Ann’s forensic pursuit of the best hotel-deals, our Hotel – the IBIS Styles, Gloucester Road – was a real find. For a budget brand, it exceeded our (very fussy) expectations and I’m sure we’ll be using them again on our travels.

Picnic Saturday

Reading time: 2 minutes...

A scorcher of a weekend is promised, so what better time than today for a picnic!

Click HERE for a live map and directions

..and what could be more perfect than Fineshade Wood (the clue’s in the name!) for some fine picnicking in a Wood in the shade! – and it’s only a thirty-or-so minute drive away too! The Wood is managed by the Forestry Commission and is part of the former royal hunting forest of Rockingham Forest. Part of the Wood is publicly owned and part-leased by the Forestry Commission – and we remember it well from our previous visit a few years back.

Looks like the weather is on our side!

Well, on arrival, first impressions (compared to our previous visit) were disappointing! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Why? Gone was the series of mini car-parking areas shaded with trees and with plenty of picnic tables. Instead, a humongous great open parking area…

…and rather ironically, the Forestry Commission seeedm to have felled a load of trees to achieve the new look! It all felt very disappointing, but we hoped we’d still find some picnic areas on our walk…

The Smelter’s Walk – A modest two-mile challenge!

Off we toddled on our two-miler, but it soon became obvious that picnic tables were not part of the scenery! Still, it didn’t ruin our walk, where the combination of great weather and tranquil surroundings made it all very enjoyable.

Just under two miles

But this definitely wasn’t the place for our picnic, so we consoled ourselves with a couple of extra-large ice-creams instead! Two large scoops (scoop 1 – Chocolate, scoop 2 – Salted Caramel) for Ann, whilst I wrestled with a scoop of Strawberry and a scoop of Salted Caramel. Boy! they were large cornets! ๐Ÿ˜ Almost a picnic in themselves!!!!

So, where to go for our official picnic? We headed in the direction of the quaint village of Wansford and had a quick wander round. There’s was nothing suitable here that we could find (having unsuccessfully failed to find the path to the river), so it was back in the car, crossing county boundaries, heading for Barnwell Country Park.

On arrival, we knew we’d made the right decision! Plenty of areas to walk and (more importantly by this stage) plenty of areas for a picnic!

Just under a mile

Wow! It was a really enjoyable walk. We took in some impressive views along the route, and I think in the end, we actually preferred it to Fineshade Wood!

Mission Accomplished!

And our picnic was well-worth the wait! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜

That’s what days like these are for!

Archery Absentees!

Reading time: < 1 minute...

After a two-week absence, (Film Night two weeks ago and rain stopped play for the whole Club last week) we’re back to the Bows tonight!

Weather-wise, it was a scorcher – a great start to the Bank Holiday weekend! ๐Ÿ˜‰
And the weather seemed out bring out the members too! – a record attendance for a Friday. The exception was my Mentor, Dave who was away at another shooting event tonight. In his absence, I used the Longbow for actual target practice…

Wish I hadn’t though! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Why? Well, the two-week absence definitely affected my efforts – to say I was ‘all over the place’ was an understatement, with just as many of my arrows threatening the grass as the target! Still, on a positive note, Ann did pretty well – and it was a beautiful evening to be outside! We stayed until around 8pm, when most attendees called it a night too!

Not my best efforts, by a long, long way – better luck next week! ๐Ÿ˜Š

First Visit: The National Memorial Arboretum

Reading time: 2 minutes...

Today, a planned day out with David and Valerie to the National Memorial Arboretum.

A bird's-eye view is needed to appreciate the scale!
Click for a larger view

It was a return visit for David and Valerie, but it was our first! Thank goodness then, that the rain has stopped, as a month’s worth fell in a day yesterday over the UK! (although it did belt it down briefly on more than one occasion during our journey there).

Click for a larger version and a live map

It was pretty straightforward to get there, located north-east of Lichfield, Staffordshire, and about a 85-minute drive for us. We arrived just before 11am and thankfully, the Sun was out – and that’s how it stayed! ๐Ÿ˜€๐ŸŒž

On its website, the Arboretum is described as:-

“The UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country”.

More specifically, The 150-acre site is a maturing woodland area, featuring over 30,000 trees and a vast collection of Memorials. It was originally opened in 2001, but had a massive refurbishment (courtesy of the National Lottery) that was completed back in March 2017, when the Arboretum’s new award-winning Remembrance Centre was officially unveiled by the Duke of Cambridge.

First impressions did not disappoint – airy and spacious, and it certainly lived up to its 150-acre size! It felt massive – but also intimate at the same time – with memorials to hundreds of individual/associations/organisations and regiments all in their own individually designed spaces.

What to do first? There’s a lot to cover and impossible to see everything in a single visit. Thoughtfully, to ensure that visitors got the most from their time here, there were guided-walks, buggy-rides and a Road-train too! Or, you are free to just wander around, if you prefer. Entry is free, but you pay for anything organised.

We all agreed that the Buggy-ride was to be our first stop. Steve, our driver/commentator did a superb job in explaining in great detail, the Memorials on the route (we reckon only about 20-25% of the total).

The whole area was immaculately clean too!

Our Buggy-tour lasted just under an hour which led perfectly to lunch-time! The Restaurant turned out to be excellent too! Spacious, with a sensible menu at sensible prices! All vegetables were free (which was a pleasant surprise).

After lunch, we split into our matrimonial pairs and did our own thing. Ann and I headed for the Road-Train. There was only a slight overlap between the memorials covered on our initial Buggy-trip, but we were soon seeing the other 80% of the site.

Again, there was plenty to see. Although the Road-Train was a bit slow for us, at least it gave us the opportunity to ‘hop-off’ at strategic points (but note, no hopping back ON!).

We hopped off at (for us) the star of the site: The Armed Forces Memorial.

Probably the largest Memorial I’ve ever seen in this country, it honours those members of the Armed Forces (Regular and Reserve) who were killed on duty or died while deployed on operations or as a result of terrorist action.

Wow! This left a lasting impression! After this, we were all ‘memorialed-out’ and we finished our visit with a cuppa and cake back in our foursome!

David continued his chauffeuring for the day and we were home inside 90 minutes. I feel a return visit for us before too long, in order to look at some of the Memorials in more detail.

An excellent day! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

First Visit: Farnborough Hall

Reading time: 2 minutes...

Another one our of cultural days out, meeting up with Ian and Ann along the way, heading for National Trust’s Farnborough Hall.

Located off the M40 between Banbury and Gaydon, the Grade I listed property (and its gardens) has been owned by the National Trust since 1960, when the Holbech family endowed it to them.

Opening times are quite limited here, so best to check before you go. At the time of writing, it’s operating on Wednesdays and Saturdays – and only from 2pm until 5pm. This is because the House is still lived in by the owners: Geoffrey Holbech’s daughter Caroline Beddall and her family. For the same reason, no photographs are allowed inside, which was a shame (but understandable) because there was plenty to see, it had all been restored beautifully (especially the plasterwork!) and where everything made it feel like a home that was not only lived-in, but loved too!

The House itself was a sort of Reverse-Tardis (it seemed bigger on the outside than the inside. There’s just the ground floor and the staircase to see (as the rest is off-limits to visitors, lived-in by the family, naturally!). Consequently, it didn’t take long to get around. We all felt that because of its ‘manageable size’ it was easy to imagine actually living in it.

Unlike a lot of NT properties, it doesn’t have a Tea-Room, but we had a cunning plan to compensate for that! Today’s more-or-less continuous rain meant that it wasn’t the sort of day to enjoy the Gardens, so we had a quick walk round outside before heading for Farnborough’s Tea-Room located in the nearby Village Hall.

And the Village Hall didn’t disappoint. After a quick five-minute drive following the home-made signs from the Hall, we were soon inside, where home-made cakes and fresh tea (served in proper china including a sizeable teapot) awaited us! The range of cakes on offer included ‘a ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ cake (worth trying, just for the novelty value). This was a building lost in time – and that suited us perfectly! All-in-all, it turned into a very enjoyable ‘tea-break’ – so typically British, and about as close as you can get to Midsomer Murders without the murders!

But before all that, there was the all-important question of lunch! After some research beforehand, we settled on The Moon and Sixpence in the High Street nearby Hanwell.

And if the food was to be as good as its flower display outside, then we were in for a treat! ๐Ÿ˜ We were! The food was excellent!

A great day out, but slightly spoiled by the biblical levels of rainfall! โ˜”โ˜”โ˜”โ˜”

Kilworth Cats!

Reading time: 2 minutes...

Off to Kilworth Theatre today with Ann, Janet, Jo and Carol to see the theatre’s production of ‘Cats‘. Am I the only person to have never a ‘Cats’ production before? Quite possibly!

Last time we were here was back in June, to see Joseph – and today was just as busy! West End quality without the prices! ๐Ÿ˜

The story, is, as you probably guessed, is about cats! But these are no ordinary felines! The Jellicle Cats appear on just one very unique night of the year โ€“ the night of the Jellicle Ball. They each they tell their stories to Old Deuteronomy, their well-respected cat-leader, who must choose one of them to ascend to the Heaviside Layer and be reborn into a whole new Jellicle life.

Thanks Wiki! ๐Ÿ˜

As always, with all Kilworth’s productions, they’re super-professional and every member of the cast looks like they’re having fun. Tonight was no exception and although we only knew a few of the tunes (all in the second-half), it was a very worthwhile experience.

And if the acting and the singing is always top-notch here, then the set design is right up there too! Kilworth’s interpretation for this production was that of an Underground Station – and it looked very (very) convincing with incredible attention-to-detail everywhere.

Being an outdoor performance, the weather that had postponed our outdoor cinema trip yesterday was on everyone’s mind. We needn’t have worried though, apart from the occasional gust of wind and a single clap of thunder (that I thought was a sound effect! Doh!), today’s matinรฉe wasn’t hindered at all.

I think overall, it wasn’t my favourite Musical (mainly because I didn’t know many of the tunes) but the sheer professionalism of all concerned – cast, crew and orchestra made it a production worth seeing. ๐Ÿ‘

It was back to ours afterwards to help with the leftovers from last night’s banquet – every little helps! ๐Ÿ˜