Brideshead Visited

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Castle Howard


It’s another cultural day-out with our friends, Dennis and Sandra, this being our eighth adventure.

Together, we’ve previously enjoyed:-

The Royal Armouries Museum (March 2019)
Bolsover Castle (October 2018)
Belton House (May 2018)
York (February 2018)
Burghley House (October 2017)
Hull (May 2017)
Leeds (February 2017)

Castle Howard is a private residence, north of York and has been the home of the Carlisle branch of the Howard family for more than 300 years. It’s probably best known though for Granada Television‘s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and 2008’s remake for the cinema. You can read more about this stunning home on Wiki HERE.

Getting there was pretty straightforward, with part of our journey by car, and part by train. It was an early start from home though, leaving just before 7am in the dark and the damp to join our York-bound train from Peterborough at 8.18. Gosh, it reminded us of our working days! 😮 …and maybe not in a good way!

As things turned out, our journey was about as good as it gets! In spite of joining the rest of mankind on the A14 heading east, we had a straightforward journey… no queues… no jams.. in fact, it was all perfectly normal! A text-book travel experience, with only the ‘car park full’ sign at Peterborough causing a momentary ‘wtf?!’ moment (before ignoring it altogether and finding plenty of spaces!).

All aboard from platform 4, and we were soon looking for our seat for the 80-minute journey. The rail-franchise was previously operated by Virgin Trains, but they’ve fallen from grace in recent months and LNER has picked up the baton.

A ‘Full English’ for Ann, whilst I wrestled with a big decision

Ann had bagged us a bargain and bought 1st Class seats for just a few extra shekels. Super-comfy seats, a ‘proper’ full English breakfast/Bacon Butty with attentive staff were all part of the deal – OK two-out-of-three isn’t bad I suppose! 😋 where the most difficult decision for me was whether it’s ketchup or HP*???

*HP obviously! 😉

Our train slipped into York just two-minutes late, and we headed for our pre-arranged meeting point, the rear car-park, where we met up with Dennis and Sandra and their new family member — a BMW i3. Ahh, another experienced motorist joins the EV revolution! 🔌

Twenty-five minutes later, we were parked and heading for the entrance. It’s clearly a popular destination (based on how full the car-park was, even at 10.15!) and although this was my first visit Ann had been here some 40 years earlier! The extra attraction for the Christmas period in 2019 was that the House had been decorated using the theme ‘A Christmas Masquerade‘. It’s running from 16 November until 5 January 2020, and as we were to find out, it wasn’t to disappoint…

Wow! What an experience! If you like your colours, vibrant and varied (we do!) and complemented by the ‘olde worlde’ charm of an old House, this is THE place to spend time. Each room was drenched in colour either though the displays themselves or a range of cleverly positioned lighting.

Sunglasses should have been an optional extra, but it all worked beautifully! Take a look at the pics below…

It was real assault on the eyeballs (in a good way) where every successive room seemed to be bolder and brighter than the previous…

The old and the new working very well together…

…and no Christmas theme would be complete without err, a tree would it..?

…or the table set for Christmas..?

…and even in places where there wasn’t a Christmas theme, it was still very beautiful!

We were all impressed by how lavish the House looked. After a well-deserved coffee break we headed outside….

Brrrrr!

It was a cold day, and were all glad we’d packed gloves – it was VERY muddy too where we found ourselves constantly checking the ‘road ahead’ to avoid sinking! 😮

Having said all that, it was a lovely day to wander round with the winter sun, a bright blue sky and occasional breeze.

Bracing but beautiful!

It was now approaching 1.30, so we decided to have lunch at the Courtyard Café on-site. After a short wait for a table, we were soon served and tucking-in. The food was delicious and a perfect end to our visit.

We finished our visit with a brief look round their Garden Centre and then it was back to the i3 and the short journey returning to York station. We said our goodbyes and located our train back to Peterborough. Toasty-warm on of the 16.03, we arrived back at Peterborough station just after 5.30, and we were soon on our way home.

It had been a great day. The House had impressed us all – inside and out – and it was good to see Dennis and Sandra again!

All the photos and none of my chat HERE

🎅 Merry Christmas! 🎅

Oliver – Live in Concert

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We drove down to Roger, Jane and Oliver’s this afternoon. The weather was horrendous, but it was well worth it as we were going to see Oliver playing flute in the East Herts Concert Band at their Christmas Concert.

St Mary’s Church, Standon

The venue was the delightful St Mary’s Church in the village of Standon, a Grade 1 listed place of worship near Puckeridge.

But before the entertainment, we needed to eat, and Roger had helpfully booked us in at The Star Pub. Even more helpfully, it was exactly opposite! Parking though, was challenging to say the least. We could have used the Pub car-park but due to some excessive faffing around by another motorist, we had to drive past the pub and eventually left Robert, with two wheels on the pavement in the street just up the road. Standon is only a tiny village, and the Concert tonight was therefore going to test everyone’s parking skills!

The Pub’s food turned out to be excellent, and they coped really well with the increase in trade generated by those heading for the same destination as us!

At 7pm, we retrieved the cushions that Roger had helpfully packed in readiness for the pews, and we headed inside the Church.

Unusually, the ticket price was based on ‘what you thought of it’ AFTER the event. I’ve not experienced this arrangement before!

By 7.30, the Band was assembled, but wait a mo’, there was no sign of Oliver! ‘The Devil’s in the Detail’ as they say, and a closer inspection of the programme’s cover explained it all! There were actually TWO groups of musicians — The Youth Orchestra and Concert Band — the former were on first and Oliver was performing later.

All-in-all, it looked like a great selection of Christmassy tunes — and at least the carols were ones that everyone knew!

Oliver was soon on stage! He played with confidence and the overall sound from the Band was impressive!

The final piece — Sleighride — was where both groups of musicians joined forces. It didn’t disappoint (given there were only about 40 players) and they produced an impressive full orchestra sound — it was the perfect way to end the performance.

The Concert finished just after 9.15, and we were soon on our way back to our premium B & B for the night! 😁. After breakfast tomorrow, we’re heading home to finish preparing the garden for the Winter!

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 — the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

For the King Tut Exhibition, it’s £24.50 for the young ones (off-peak) to get in, and £22 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 — 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! 😁

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 café (that would appear to have also doubled as the local sauna — 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! 😁

There were two areas we were particularly interested in once we got inside the main building — 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 — 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 — it was like going back 50 years! 😁. 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! 👍👍👍👍👍

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 — 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 — 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 — 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! 😁

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!

London Mini-Break – Day 3 (of 3): Suits you Sir!

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Our final day in London today!

Ahh, that’s better! I feel a walk down Oxford Street coming on (before midday!)

On our list today…

The Samsung Shop in Oxford Street
St. Paul’s Cathedral
A trip to the Theatre

…and knowing us, maybe more! 😊

9.20am: We were out earlier than yesterday, but confident we’d miss the rush on the Tube. How wrong we were! It was nose-to-armpit for the whole of our journey in, and reminded us both of how travelling around the capital used to be when we were based. A sensory experience I thought I’d never have to endure again!!! 😮

The Samsung Shop

9.45am: Our first stop of the day was the Samsung Shop in Oxford Street – aka The Samsung Experience. It’s (apparently) the ‘Mecca’ for Samsung fan-boys and girls, and it looked very upmarket inside. I’m not a fanboy myself – far from it – I simply choose the brand that offers the best techy-spec! However, in theory at least, you can’t do better than this official shop for all your ‘bits and bobs’ for their phones. In my particular case, I’m on the hunt for some very special (and very new) wired chargers. They’ve only been around for about a fortnight, but I felt optimistic!

I already knew these two ‘species’ – Chargus Wattus Maximus Major (and Minor) were like ‘hen’s teeth’, but the official shop was bound to stock them, weren’t they?

Weren’t they???? 🤔

Well, it turned out to be a completely wasted journey! (apart from helping me to increase my step-count for today!) As I enquired if they stocked the new ’15W super-charger’ and maybe even the ’45W hyper-charger’, the Assistant looked mighty embarrassed as he whispered “No sir, we don’t have either, and we’ve no idea when they’ll be here”.

A bit disappointing considering it’s their flagship store! 😒😒
So, what’s all the fuss about these chargers? Well, they’re both able to charge the new generation of Samsung phones from completely empty to completely full in… wait for it… just over an hour! Amazing technology, and a real life-saver if you’ve ever need to charge your phone in record time!

To add insult to injury, I was advised by the Samsung Shop to try Currys opposite or Carphone Warehouse down the road. Of course, I did, but of course, they’d not got them either! 👿

On our way to our next stop – St Paul’s Cathedral – we couldn’t help admire how much better Tottenham Court Road station now looked. Very shiny and very spacious too!

St Paul’s Cathedral

10.25am: Time to forget tech for a while and concentrate on something much older. We exited the Tube at St Paul’s and headed for the Cathedral. Neither of us had been here for a good many years, and so we were looking forward to admiring this famous landmark inside and out. Once again our 2-for-1 tickets saved us a packet – Total admission price? £20 instead of £40!! 🤑

It didn’t disappoint..!

Superb architecture that looked like it was decorated yesterday. Beautiful!

The Crypt was just as interesting and included the resting place of two military heavyweights – Nelson and Wellington.

A quick pit-stop next to the Crypt, before heading off to our next stop…

The Bank of England Museum

11.35am: We were a little early for Lunch, so we decided to track-down the location of the Bank of England Museum – especially as it had now started raining. A short walk later (after being re-directed when we mistakenly entered the Bank itself!) we arrived at the Museum, literally just round the corner. No queues and so we were inside in the dry very quickly.

What a find this was! Five separate galleries explaining the history of this famous institution, as well as plenty of interactive exhibits to attract the young (and me too!) 😁

Entry is free, and there’s plenty on show to enjoy. It’s a light and airy space with plenty of emphasis on interactivity. Want to control inflation? Check. Seen a ten-bob note? Check. Wonder how they actually create money? Check.

There is so much to see here, and it’s all presented in a clear and well-constructed fashion.

If you’ve an hour-or-two to kill and you’re in the area, then this is a no-brainer (especially if it’s raining – and it WAS.. still!).

How to combat forgery (old school!)

This had been a most delightful of discoveries – and for once, we’re so glad it started raining, otherwise we may never looked for it! 😁

12.35pm: We decided to walk back towards St Paul’s where there was a Café Rouge. There was method in our madness, as I could use the gift voucher that Sally B had bought me for my Birthday! – Thanks Sal!! 😊

1.05pm: I think we arrived just in time! It was already 80% full when we arrived, and after we were seated, they kept on arriving! They’re obviously doing something very right here!

We were soon seated and served (a good start!) and when our food arrived, it was piping hot.

Mushroom Rissotto
Blackcurrant Crumble

We both chose from the fixed-price two-course menu. Risotto and then Crumble for me, whilst Ann opted for the Chicken and Chips followed by Chocolate Fondant Pudding with ice-cream.

It was all delicious and in spite of how busy they were, our two waiting-staff were a ‘well-oiled machine’. We left, just as the restaurant approached 100% capacity – yep, perfect timing! 👍👍

2.10pm: We took the short walk back to St Paul’s Tube dodging the showers.

3.05pm: Arrivaing back at the ibis, there was time for a couple of hours to recharge batteries (phones AND humans) before we’re out again on our way to (for me) highlight of the day – the Theatre.

Not a bad step-count for today! (Thanks Samsung!)

5.30pm: Fully recharged, we took the now well-trodden path back to Stratford Station – this time heading for Leicester Square Tube. The Theatre is right next door, so that made things easier! 😊

The Theatre

We’re seeing tonight’s performance of The Man in the White Suit at its new home of Wyndham’s Theatre.

Those of you of a certain age will remember the 1951 satirical comedy film of the same name made by Ealing Studios. It starred Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood and Cecil Parker and was directed by Alexander Mackendrick. I love any film out of Ealing and this new Play, was going to be a real treat!

Starring Stephen Mangan, Kara Tointon and Sue Johnston Ujust until December 6th) it originally opened at the Theatre Royal, Bath in September 2019 before transferring to Wyndham’s Theatre. It’s only been running a few weeks in London, and I was eager to see how it translated to the stage. In fact, I learned later, that the original 1951 film itself was based on a Play so that makes this latest adaptation: ‘the-Play-of-the-film-of-the-Play!’

7.35pm: A slightly delyaed ‘curtain up’, but it was worth the wait. I think we were both unsure of how the film version would translate to the stage, but it worked really well. The leads all acted their socks off and although it was possible to recognise certain scenes from the film, it all felt very different – in a good way! In fact, I’d say we both enjoyed it more than the film (and I really like the film!). It was longer too at around two-and-a-bit hours. Comedically, it was much more slapstick than its on-screen equivalent – with the occasional musical break – and it all came together very nicely! The very clever set-design allowed for some extremely sophisticated configurations, and the set-changes were as entertaining to watch as the production! Superb entertainment all-round!

9.45pm: As the actors took their bows, the audience showed their appreciation with very enthusiastic (and well-deserved) applause. Being a small theatre, we were able to exit without any fuss and were soon on the Tube back to the hotel (for the final time).

“Fire in the Hold!”

10.15pm: Luckily, the Tube was much less busy than on our journey in, but a problem at West Ham station meant that we all had to evacuate the carriage whilst the driver investigated ‘an incident’. Someone had helpfully (not!) set fire to a pile of newspapers in another carriage – and then left in a hurry! Luckily, the plucky driver poked the pile with a stick and manouevered it onto the platform where it burned out. We were soon back on-board and heading for our next – and final – stop, Stratford.

10.25pm: After leaving the Station, we weren’t sure whether our shortcut through the Stratford Centre would still be open – but it was! As we we walked though, we could see why…
There were quite a few homeless people settling down inside for the night in their makeshift beds – a sad and sorry sign of this modern age!! 🙄

As we exited at the other end, the only thing outnumbering the tube passengers at the start of our day, was a gathering of the Met’s finest! We’ve never seen so many boys (and girls) in blue just standing around. I think there was more here than the whole of Northamptonshire’s force put together!

We quickened our pace! 🤔

10.40pm: Back in the room! It’s been a long day for us, but it’s all been very worthwhile. We’ve packed a lot in (as we always do!) and even squeezed in some extra stuff too! Another very memorable ‘Birthday break’ – I wonder where we’ll be this time next year? 🤔

Home by lunchtime tomorrow!

If you like to view JUST the photographs from our three-day break
they’re all HERE

London Mini-Break – Day 2 (of 3): Birthday Boy (2019)

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Here we are then, in the capital for my Birthday celebrations!

After yesterday’s retail therapy, today, it’s all about sight-seeing, and we’re off to visit Westminster Abbey and The Banqueting House …and maybe more!
That means there’s at least THREE relics on show in London today then! 😉

7.20am: Another lie-in – that’s the second one this year! Instead of ploughing through emails, it was a really nice change to wake up to a record-breaking number of text messages and social-media posts wishing me well. A great start to my day.

As we’re away, we only brought the first few cards with us – the rest will be opened when we get back. Thanks in advance… and for the various gifts too! I’ve heard there’s quite a few to open on our return!

Wot! No candles???

8.45am: My ‘Birthday’ Breakfast in the Hotel was impressive in terms of its range. You’ll be pleased to hear that I did precede the above with a bowl of fresh fruit (hurrah!) but then go on to spoil the healthy intention with a couple of pastries (boo!)

Westminster Abbey

9.45am: My birthday celebration began with a spring in my step (early days yet!) as we took the short walk to Stratford Station, heading for our first sight-seeing opportunity – Westminster Abbey. It was a good day to travel underground (and stay inside) as the weather for London was already damp with more rain forecast. We were prepared for it and although I was pleased to see Ann, it WAS an umbrella in my pocket! 😂😂

10.30am: By the time we arrived, the weather had deteriorated and it was now pouring! Luckily, the queue wasn’t too long and we were soon inside. The 2-for-1 offer had saved us a hefty £23.

Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside, but the excellent – and free – multimedia guide (portable video player and headphones) made up for it with Jeremy Iron’s soothing tones telling us all we needed to know. Simply, put, the interior was stunning with lots to see. Today’s Top Tip? With so much to take in, in addition to everything that’s in your normal eye-line, it helps to look down as well as up on a regular basis.

Westminster Abbey

The Supreme Court

11.45am: In a change to the advertised programme 😁 we stumbled across The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom – just up the road in the direction of Whitehall. We already knew of it, just not exactly where it was.

Architectually, it was a fascinating building with a mix of old (it used to be council offices) and the new (it had been extended and was very light and airy). Free admission too! 😁

Click on the pic for a larger version
Just an excuse for me to show off the lens on my new phone that blurs the background

It had a very ‘open’ feel to it and was scrupulously clean. Inside there are just four Courts where supreme justice is served, so it’s kept very busy. Deserted today though!! A lovely piece of London! 👍👍