Yummy Mummy

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11.30am: I’m off to the capital today with Ann to meet up with Janet and Carol. We’re all visiting the recently opened Tutankhamen Exhibition at the Saachi Gallery and whilst we’re in the area, home of the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’ too โ€” the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

For the King Tut Exhibition, it’s ยฃ24.50 for the young ones (off-peak) to get in, and ยฃ22 for us oldies. Off-peak generally means weekdays whilst peak is the weekends (obviously!) and school/ public holidays.

For the Royal Hospital, there are two choices for visitors โ€” a guided tour or a DIY independent visit. Best of all, both are completely free (although certain parts are off-limits between noon and 2pm for the Pensioners to enjoy their lunch in peace!)

And to finish our day-out, Janet has booked us all a Chinese meal. Where else, but in London’s Chinatown! ๐Ÿ˜

The Royal Hospital

We caught the 11.52 train out of Kettering and then it was a short trip by Tube to Sloane Square, followed by a twenty-minute walk, we were at our first stop!

After a quick stop at the on-site cafรฉ (that would appear to have also doubled as the local sauna โ€” boy, it was hot in there!) we headed back to the main building…

…by way of some very attractive garden displays!

Wowser! A Harley Davidson Mobility Scooter!

…and a particularly attractive mobility scooter! ๐Ÿ˜

There were two areas we were particularly interested in once we got inside the main building โ€” The Great Hall and The Wren Chapel.

First stop: The Great Hall. What a location for lunch! It reminded me a bit of the dining scenes from the Harry Potter films. Seating 270 for lunch and 400 for drinks, it didn’t disappoint on any level โ€” superb attractive architecture in a light, bright airy space! What a great place for the old soldiers to enjoy their meals!

Oh, and you can get married there too as it’s available for private hire!

The Wren Chapel

If we’d been impressed by the Great Hall, nothing really prepared us for the splendour of what followed: The Wren Gallery. Simply jaw-droppingly gorgeous!

A Mighty Organ!

We were under a bit of time pressure, so we probably didn’t stay as long here as we would have liked. However, in spite of our shortened stay, I think we were all blown-away by how beautiful it all was! Add to that, everyone we passed, spoke to us and passed the time of day โ€” it was like going back 50 years! ๐Ÿ˜. Our verdict? Definitely the ‘surprise of the year’ in our book, and a great way to spend an hour or more if you’re in the area.

They’ve even got a museum there that traces the history of the building – excellent! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

The clock was ticking as we walked in the direction of our final stop for the day: The Saachi Gallery and our 3.30pm timed entry slot for the highly-anticipated Tutankhamun Exhibition.

The Exhibition

Ahh, a queue!

We had already been advised on the tickets that we should allow for possible queueing whilst the security team did their thing, but as it turned out, it was all managed very efficiently. We were inside just slightly ahead of our time-slot and the entry-in-batches certainly helped avoid any sort of crush as we approached the myriad of displays

The spooky voiceover set the scene nicely for what was to come…

“According to Egyptian beliefs, they say you die twice. Once when you stop breathing and the second, when somebody mentions your name for the last time.”

Our first impressions meant you could probably hear our collective jaws dropping as we encountered the displays. Given that this stuff is close to 3000 years old, the condition was amazing… and the detail on the carvings too! How did they achieve this all those years ago โ€” no Dremel drills or laser cutters to rely on!

Spread across multiple galleries and on two floors, it all felt very spacious. Together with the slightly subdued lighting and the ethereal music, it felt very relaxed and un-hurried.

It was all a real treat for the eyes!

All-in-all, it took us around an hour-and-an-quarter to get round, and we all felt it was a thoroughly enjoyable exhibition โ€” maybe the best we’ve seen in many a year! Get along there before it closes in May next year.

Our final stop of the day was for our Chinese meal. All we needed to do was to get to Chinatown. Even for a Friday late afternoon, the Tube was even more manically busy. We learned that not only were there serious delays on the network, but there had been a terrorist incident on London Bridge causing extra congestion in and around the area.

The Meal – Yummy!

Starters!

We arrived (eventually!) where the Chinese restaurant of choice was an old haunt for Janet, Jo and Carol but a first visit for us. Opened around five years ago in the heart of Chinatown, The Orient is a slightly more upmarket affair โ€” and it impressed us from the moment we arrived. Lightning-fast service, piping hot food, a varied menu, all served with a smile. It a great end to our day of culture.

As expected, we all ate far too much and as we waddled our way back towards St Pancras, the Tube network was now even busier! We squeezed ourselves into the carriage, and it wasn’t long before we were looking for our final train home. In a rare case of perfect timing, we caught the 7.35pm where its first stop was Kettering!

We said our goodbyes in the entrance to Kettering station as Janet and Carol were in the North car-park whilst we were in the newer, south parking area. By now, the temperature had dropped significantly meaning that the car was covered in frost. Luckily for us, one of the many benefits of an EV is that heating is instantaneous and although we couldn’t remotely trigger it (like many other EVs), we didn’t have to wait long until we had a frost-free motor! ๐Ÿ˜

What an incredible day! Considering Chelsea Hospital was on our schedule as a ‘filler’ before the main event, it turned out to be probably our highlight of the year. The King Tut exhibition exceeded all of our expectations and I’m sure it’s going to be a great success!

Bulbs for Banstead

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An early start for us today as we spent Saturday and Sunday with Richard and Nicki at their place in Banstead.

Saturday

We left home just after 7.30 and drove over to Huntingdon station. Why not take the car? Well, it’s not the getting there, it’s the getting home part. Last time we tried it on a Sunday by car, it took twice as long to get back as it did to get there – Ahh! I’d quite forgotten how congested it can get ‘darn sarf‘ – and how busy the M25 was, even on a Sunday! ๐Ÿ˜ซ

As things turned out, it was a text-book journey there with all our connections on-time or slightly early! Rich & Nicky picked us up from Sutton station just after 10.30 and we were soon catching-up over coffee & cake at theirs!

Plenty of bulbs for Banstead!

But apart from the social aspect, we had a cunning plan in mind โ€” and that was to tidy up/prune their garden and plant as many bulbs as the space allowed.

We were reasonably optimistic about the weather having checked it daily for the past three days. Being November, it wasn’t going to be the warmest of days, but at least the forecast promised dry weather. I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic gardener, but with the appropriate clothing, I’d be OK… wouldn’t I? wouldn’t I??

…errr NO! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Soil – pre-turned

Everything started well: It was dry, 8 degrees and whilst Nicki and Ann turned the soil in the back garden, I concentrated on the pruning out the front.

In need of a haircut!

…and it certainly needed a haircut!

Post haircut!

After about an hour, with its new trimmed look, it was ‘job done!

…just as the rain started to come down in buckets (this wasn’t forecast!) together with a drop in temperature as the sun beat its retreat! Any one of those factors would have been enough to ‘down tools’, but not us four! ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช

We soldiered-on, getting progressively wetter (and in my case, progressively grumpier) as the rain became more persistent. We pushed on, and eventually, the final bulbs were in by 3.45 but with no improvement in the weather, we called it a day and cleared-up…

Bulbs in!

…but not before admiring all our work!

With the ‘toiling of the soil’ over, it was time to turn out attention to… the evneing meal! Richard had planned ahead and prepared his signature dish: “Garlic Roast Lamb”, whilst the rest of us got cleaned up!

Cosy!

Whilst the food cooked. all that was then left to do was to chill-out warm-up in front of the log-burner!! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

The meal didn’t disappoint and after us all digging-in for seconds, we all agreed it had been a great reward for all our efforts today!

Next stop was a movie – and after a thorough review of Netflix and Amazon Prime we settled on Daddy’s Home from 2015 courtesy of the latter.

Starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, it was the kind of movie that (for us) was laugh-out-loud funny – we loved it! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Our day ended perfectly and as a bonus we appear to be slightly ahead with our gardening plans. Tomorrow, it’s pruning and numerous visits to the local dump

Sunday

Sunday’s weather promised a dry day and when we peeked through the curtains around 8am, it looked like the promise had been kept (although it was a little foggy!) – but at least it was DRY! In fact, as the morning ticked-away, the temperature eventually ‘soared’ to 10ยฐC by lunchtime! Happy days!!! ๐Ÿ˜

Today was about continuing the mega-prune and generally tidying up the garden as much as we could.

I say ‘mega’ as it required two separate trips to nearby Epson’s Green disposal site (about a 20 minute drive away) to get rid of our enthusiastic clippings! After all our previous visits earlier in the year, I think they’re getting to know us there by sight now – we’re be on first-name terms soon! ๐Ÿ˜‰

After almost three hours, we downed tools around 11.45, satisfied with what we’d achieved. Whilst Richard and I headed back from our last disposal trip (for this visit anyway!), Nicki and Ann prepared a quick lunch that would allow us to get a slightly earlier train home.

It was all delicious, and we reflected on how much progress our hosts have made since they moved in! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Perfect timing! We finished lunch by around 1pm and having said our goodbyes to Richard, Nicki dropped us back to Sutton Station. Next stop Victoria, and then King’s Cross!

The 16.13 was on time (although we had a about a 45 minute wait) and we were soon on our way back to Huntingdon. A trouble-free journey along the A14 meant we were home just before 5pm. OK four hours is a long time on public transport and if the roads had been perfect, we could have driven it in two-and-a-half hours – but when was the last time the road conditions were perfect!

Ahh, that’s nice! โคโค

…and the above made it all worthwhile!

Avengers: Assemble Lasagne!

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Jo and Janet joined us for a night of munchies and a movie… Oh, and some G & Ts! Whilst I prepared the DVD player, the lemons and the limes, Ann got busy in the kitchen.

Our movie of choice tonight – Avengers:Endgame. There isn’t much that hasn’t already been written about the final film (for now) in this franchise – especially on a certain blog – so instead, I’ll concentrate on the food and drink! ๐Ÿ˜

On the menu tonight was homemade Lasagne and that was followed by homemade Fruit Strudel. I think we all enjoyed it so much, none of us took any photos! ๐Ÿ˜Š

The movie turned out to be as excellent as we remember it (and with its fairly complex narrative, probably benefited from a second opportunity to watch it again!) ๐Ÿค”

At just over 3 hours long, the movie was a test of stamina, if nothing else! And as a result, we didn’t say our goodbyes until just after 11pm – very late for us two! ๐Ÿ˜Š

A great night – and good to see Janet and Jo again!

Party, Party!

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Well, we haven’t done this in a while! It’s fair to say that many of our immediate circle of neighbours have all had significant things to ‘deal with’ these past few months, so tonight was the perfect opportunity to get together.

We played to our strengths, Ann weaving her magic in the kitchen and creating a couple of cheesecakes and me – washing the car! ๐Ÿ˜

With our strengths played-to, we picked up Paul and Karen and headed off in the direction of long-time friends, Tom and Julie (Georgina was celebrating her birthday today – and we’d all been invited!).

At the last minute, Trish and John couldn’t make it, but it still felt like a house full with aound 40 people there!

Safe to say, Ann’s cheesecakes went down a storm!

We stayed until around 10.30 leaving everyone else to finish the food and drink! It had been a really good ‘do’ although Eileen – Tom’s Mum – did manage aggravate her her knee along the way resulting in some much needed TLC – and an extended period on the sofa!

I’m tempted to say tonight was a great ‘knees up’ – but that wouldn be sooo corny! ๐Ÿ˜‰

John Lewis Christmas Advert (2019)

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It’s 8am on the 14th and the John Lewis Christmas advert has finally been revealed! Back in 2010, JL were the first of the retail giants to release ‘mega’ adverts for the festive season. It started a trend that continues to this day, and now anyone who’s anyone, makes them – yes, Argos and Aldi, I’m looking at you! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Always being the first makes it difficult to stay in front – and JL’s arrives a little later this year. As a result, the other ‘big hitter’ – Sainsbury’s – released theirs a few days ago entitled: Nicholas the Sweep.

Christmas has now officially begun for me! ๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿ˜

Don’t forget to scroll to the end of this post for links to all JL’s previous Christmas ads! ๐Ÿ‘

What’s this year’s about?

Entitled “Excitable Edgar”, this highly-anticipated (by me anyway!) Christmas advert stars an excitable and accident-prone dragon called Edgar who lives in a freezing mythical village with his best friend Ava. Edgar loves Christmas but can’t control his fire breathing.

In typical heart-warming (see what I did there!) and humorous fashion, the pair are forced to quell his disastrous fire-breathing habits after it threatens to destroy the festive period for everyone as Edgar ‘toasts’ a giant Christmas tree, a snowman and the local ice rink! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Who’s the Voice?

If you’re wondering who’s singing, it’s Dan Smith re-imagining REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. He’s the lead singer and main songwriter of Bastille, the English rock band. Read more about him HERE.

A Good Cause

As in previous years, the ad encourages engagement with a good cause. This year it is food poverty charity FareShare, with ‘feasts’ to be held in John Lewis shops and community venues ahead of Christmas.

Kerchingggg!

And not to miss a merchandising opportunity, a full range of Edgar bits-and-bobs are available, including a ยฃ15 cuddly toy, a Waitrose & Partners No.1 12 Months Matured Christmas Pudding for ยฃ8, as well as Waitrose Edgar cupcakes, ‘Chocolate Edgars’ and a ยฃ1.50 gingerbread biscuit.

And our survey says…

Update: 12th December. An online survey revealed how the ads had been received on social media (increase in engagement)…

Can’t Get Enough..?

For your viewing pleasure, here are all their previous Christmas adverts…

John Lewis Christmas Advert 2018 – The Boy and the Piano
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2017 – Moz the Monster
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 – Buster the Boxer
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2015 – Man on the Moon
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2014 – Monty the Penguin
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2013 – The Bear and the Hare
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2012 – The Journey
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2011 – The Long Wait
John Lewis Christmas Advert 2010 – Sheโ€™s Always a Woman

Enjoy! ๐ŸŽ…๐ŸŽ…๐ŸŽ…๐ŸŽ…๐ŸŽ…

Tech Alert (No. 1211) ๐Ÿ˜

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Yes, it’s that time again! – technology marches on, and I’m looking to replace my ageing BT router – the ‘Homehub 4’. It might only be around 6 years old, but that’s a lifetime these days for this sort of tech!

Our ageing ‘Homehub 4’

Why change? Well, normally, it would be simply down to more whistles and bells, but this time, things were different! Oh yes! Not only was the replacement going to have to have more whistles and bells, but it needed to be a lot more reliable too! Not that its unreliability was the router’s fault, as I’ll explain later.

As things were to turn out, I got all my whistles and bells, plus a few more AND the total price of our broadband package actually went down! ๐Ÿ˜

If I was to prioritise, the promise of a more stable wireless capability was the main aim, as this was desperately in need of improvement, especially for some of the radios and mobile phones here.

Why? Well, not surprisingly, we tend to push the router hard in this house – and that’s what was causing the unreliability. Not content with just the ‘normal’ typical family connections; say, a couple of phones, tablets, laptops etc, we’ve got so much more ‘talking’ the current router – see the list below.

Phew!

The result being in many cases, devices were randomly losing their connection and the speed-per-device was sometimes horribly slow. And no-one was surprised, not even BT when I told them how many bits of kit were connected!!! ๐Ÿ˜Š

After a lot of research, we simply settled on the latest router from BT – their so-called ‘SmartHub 2.0‘. Additionally, they promised no increase in the price of our contract (apart from RPI) at the end of the contract, but also a free techy visit if needed, and perhaps more importantly, ‘guaranteed strong wifi around the home‘ (using ‘mesh‘ technology). There’s quite a useful comparison between the various BT ‘Hub’s HERE.

Crikey! even Which liked it!

We had high hopes for the BT Complete Wi-Fi, and it definitely lived up to its bold claims. The Smart Hub 2 on its own is the highest scoring router we’ve tested, and with the added disc it’s one of the best mesh systems we’ve seen. It can give you excellent coverage and fast transfer speeds, even with lots of devices connected”.

Check out their full review HERE.

I must admit, even though the reviews of this replacement were glowing, I tend to treat all the hype with some caution these days – even from Which.

BT’s ‘shiny new’ SmartHub 2.0

“That’ll be interesting” I thought, “we’ve got close on 40 devices all needing to talk to the router, and I’m sure that’s well in excess of what’s recommended”

Our shiny new toy arrived a few days later. There was now even an app to help you set it up! ๐Ÿ˜

Long-story-short: It was a breeze to get up-and-running – and more importantly, after some thorough stress-testing, every device in the house was rock-solid in terms of its connection. I guess this ‘mesh‘ technology-marlarkey does the trick!

BT’s ‘Disc’

And just to be sure, I located a complementary piece of kit known as a ‘disc’ on eBay (half the price than direct from BT) that works with the router to boost the signal even further (some 15% apparently). That now lives upstairs and altohugh not strictly necessary, it could only make things even better.

Time will tell over the coming weeks as to whether it lives up to the hype – we’ll see!!!

Tech Spec:
Supports ADSL, ADSL2, VDSL2, G.FAST
1 x Analogue phone port
2.4GHz 3 x 3 MIMO 11n, 5GHz 4×4 MIMO 11ac
4 x gigabit LAN ports
2 x USB 3.0 ports
Serves as a DECT base station
7 x Wi-Fi, 2 DECT antennas
1 x USB 2.0 port

#CynicalBugger ๐Ÿค”

Update: Well, three weeks later, I’m happy to report that the internet is vastly improved. Downloads are a tad faster (although I wasn’t expecting that!) and every device has enjoyed a 100% connection since the router’s installation. Thanks BT!!

Cambridge-sur-Mer

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Ann and I drove over to Cambridge today. I say ‘drove’ as ‘sailed’ would have been more appropriate I think! – so much rain! ๐Ÿ˜ณ And add to that, the mega-roadworks as they transform the A14, meant slow progress!

Still, we made it in around an-hour-and-ten! ๐Ÿ‘

Gone are the days where I used to drive into the city itself and take pot-luck with parking! It’s all too stressful in 2019, and so, instead, our destination was Trumpington’s Park and Ride!

And whilst Ann then jumped on the bus and headed for the city in full shopping-mode, I took the gentler approach and met up with Sal for Lunch!

Sal and I took the bus to right opposite our destination – Brown’s in Trumpington Street – in fact, it was such a quick journey we arrived too early for lunch! ๐Ÿ™„

Brown’s Coffee area and Bar

A perfect excuse then, to try out their coffee area and begin our catch-up until lunch began at midday!

Twenty minutes later, having no doubt bored Sal rigid with news of our China trip, we then grabbed a table in the restaurant.

We haven’t been here for a while, and we both wondered if the food and service would be as good as we remember it! We needn’t have worried as Brown’s easily maintained its reputation for good-value food that was delicious, together with service that was efficient and friendly! Top marks!!

After our excellent Lunch we wandered back to John Lewis to meet up with Ann, before catching the Park-and-Ride Bus back to where our day began. It was still raining! ๐Ÿ™„

We said our goodbyes in the car-park, and as the weather deteriorated further, we headed off towards the M11 – Sal heading south whilst we headed north!

We’d all had a great day – Ann bagged some bargains whilst I caught up with Sal, who I haven’t seen in a while. Ducks would have also enjoyed the day! ๐Ÿ˜€