Lent Boy 2017: How Did I Do?

Reading time: 2 minutes...WARNING! Please read responsibly. This Blog contains large amounts of smugness!
So, that’s my ‘Lent event’ over for 2017. What began in 2010 as a small challenge, has now grown into a much bigger test of will-power!

Some of you have asked how I got on, so here’s a short summary. Thanks to all my friends and family – and especially Ann – who helped me out during the period with modified menus and words of encouragement.

I began the challenge on the first day of Lent this year – 1st March – and finished at midnight on Thursday, 13th April (yesterday). Technically, I know, for some, that’s not the complete period of Lent, but it works for me! I also didn’t take Sundays off, and many have commented that Lent allows this but where’s the fun in that?
Smile
This year, there were 46 items to try and steer clear of – nothing special about the list except they are all my favourites! For 2017, I added ‘Coffee’, ‘Gin & Tonic’, ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Stilton Cheese’. In truth, after this many years doing it, I’m slowly running out of things to add!!

Lent List 2017

I lost a bit of weight too! I was 13st 12.5lbs (88.2 kilos) when I started, and I was down to 13st 2.25lbs (84.2 kilos) a few weeks ago – but back up to 13st 4.75lbs by the end. Porker!

So, all-in-all, I’ve lost a bit of weight, but it’s the ‘will-power’ thing that’s the real test. As in previous years, the toughest time was at the beginning, where I certainly had more-than-one attack of the ‘munchies’ around the lunchtime period. Things got better as the days went on though! The smug-o-meter was on the rise!!!

Out of everything on the list, I think I missed Curry and Chocolate the most!

As has been the ‘tradition’ since I stated doing this, I always try and add a few items each year to make things a bit more challenging for next period of Lent, and that’ll be no different for 2018 it’ll total 48. I’m adding two more – Salad Cream and Semi-skimmed milk (the latter isn’t exactly ‘a favourite’, but it’ll still mean an extra challenge for breakfast cereals and my tea!)

2018’s List of Banned Items
Lent List 2018

Now, where’s that very large bar of chocolate?!?!
Smile

Previous Lent Lists…

2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016

Caesar and Salad

Reading time: 2 minutes...

A puntastic mix!

We set off for Gill and Chris’ today and then onto Stratford-upon-Avon to see the matinee performance of – you guessed it – Julius Salad Caesar.

In spite of it being the day before Good Friday (where we were expecting a lot of traffic) we had a good journey there and soon found a parking space near the Theatre. The weather wasn’t brilliant, but at least it was dry and I was able to grab a few shots of the area before we headed for lunch!

 


Gill had booked us all a table in the Rooftop restaurant at the RSC – and it didn’t disappoint! Good service and a scrummy menu set us all up nicely for the blood-bath that was to follow!
Smile

 

I’ll be the first to admit that although I like plays by Shakespeare, I wouldn’t say I loved them, but this production certainly changed my mind. Maybe the immersive feel of the stage layout helped, together with the fab acoustics, but I was hanging on their every word. Such powerful acting delivered with buckets of passion made this a must-see!!
Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up

Wow! Just ‘Wow!’, what an experience! Although It was a long production – over two-and-a-half hours – it didn’t feel like it and it’s certainly going to be a production I’ll remember for many years. It was impossible to single-out any particular performance, as they were ALL superb, but (for me), Caesar (Andrew Woodall), Mark Antony (James Corrigan) and Cassius (Martin Hutson) and Brutus (Alex Waldmann) were simply mesmerising!

When we left just before 4.15, it was still dry outside, but a bit overcast and so we headed for a local eatery for a cuppa and something sweet before preparing ourselves for the bank-holiday drive back to Gill and Chris’s. Obviously, we must be a bit out of touch with holiday traffic conditions these days, because we hardly hit any congestion at all going back, and after saying our goodbyes, we were soon on our way home.

What a fantastic day – and for me, this production of Caesar was simply outstanding!!
Smile

The Canterbury Rails

Reading time: 4 minutes...

Wednesday, 23rd: Arrival
It’s Ann’s birthday on the 25th, so we thought we’d slip away for a few days.

The destination of choice this time was Canterbury – and we did it all by train! (me, on a train, what, for ALL of the journey? – some mistake surely!). 

20160323_124512
Actually it was a bit of no-brainer. By car it’s around 150 miles, suggesting about a 2.5 hour journey – assuming no holdups – and it was about the same duration by train – only a lot cheaper and no hassle trying to find somewhere to park!
Smile Smile Smile 
Our accommodation was at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge Hotel unsurprisingly located within the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral itself – and as we had the Cathedral on our to-do list, it made the decision even easier! Better still, the accommodation allowed us free admission to the Cathedral. Kerchinnnng!


And so, after a trouble-free journey from Kettering to St Pancras International and then the same for the final leg to Canterbury West, we were soon checking-in; Lee next door in room 202 and us in 203, both with a fantastic view of the Cathedral.


The View from Room 203

After unpacking, it was straight into the Cathedral. Ann hasn’t been here for 40 years-or-so, and I’ve never visited Canterbury at all (not sure why not!). It was only when we got inside that we fully appreciated the scale of the place! I think it’s one of the few Cathedrals we’ve been to where there was more than one ‘floor’. The whole place has been expanded over the centuries – in many directions – and that meant there was an awful lot to see.


20160323_154425

Wow! you can’t fail to be impressed with this Cathedral – even if you’re not religious – so many years of toil for so many people through the centuries has resulted in a massive expanse of stonework… tall… long… and wide.

With our senses assaulted (in a good way) it was off to find somewhere to eat. One great thing about Canterbury is there are plenty of places to eat. On one of our journeys of (food) discovery, we discovered a street where virtually EVERY outlet was an eatery – we really were spoilt for choice. In the end we dropped into The Shakespeare in Butchery Lane.

image
We weren’t disappointed! The food was excellent! and we arrived just before it got too busy too, so we had a relaxed meal in a not-too-noisy atmosphere. Lee settled for ‘posh fish fingers’, Ann had the Steak whilst I had the Lent-friendly Duck with Sweet Potato fries, Salad and Onion Rings. Yummy! No-one could fit in a dessert, so Lee settled the bill (thanks Lee!) and we headed back to our accommodation. Lee was tired, so we settled her in her room, whilst Ann and I went for an evening stroll and some window-shopping. By now the temperature had dropped quite dramatically, but luckily Ann had packed all the essentials – gloves, scarves and hats! We discovered even more eateries on our walk – and perhaps surprisingly, given that there were so many posh shops, quite a few people were sleeping rough.

We walked in a very large circle, and 1.7 miles later, we were therefore back where we started. We headed for our room, fired up the radiator, and spent the rest of the evening watching the TV.

We’re planning a relaxed day tomorrow. We’ve got a table booked at Cote Brasserie for 12.30, but apart from that, we’re probably going to do some more sight-seeing and get some retail therapy.


Thursday, 24th: Retail Therapy
Our day began with breakfast in the Lodge. It was a pretty good menu and the service was polite, if a little slow. After one (almost) full-English (Ann), Eggs Benedict (me) and two-thirds of a croissant (Lee), we were ready for our dose of retail therapy. Lee unfortunately became our first casualty within the first hour – she wasn’t feeling too well. We thought it best to take her back to her room – and some familiar surroundings – that meant the TV permanently on ITV3 and the radiator on full 11!

Ann and I then headed back into town for a more detailed look around the shops. First stop was Fenwick’s, the department store.




Boy, this place was very impressive! It must have been the retail experience in our genes, but we loved looking round all the neatly arranged displays. Fantastic!

Lunchtime arrived, and as planned, we headed for Cote Brasserie. We were hoping to meet up with an ex-business colleague of Ann’s and his wife, but they were down with a flu-bug, so our table for five was reduced to just us two. In spite of the lack of numbers, we enjoyed a fab meal with great service to match!

20160324_132544


After lunch, it was a brisk walk down Canterbury Castle (or what’s left of it) and a quick look round. It’s one of the oldest in Britain, and although there wasn’t much to see, it was good to see it still standing.

20160324_133853
20160324_133920
By now the skies were turning very grey and the temperature had dropped quite significantly, so we headed back to the Lodge to see how Lee was, and eventually to put our feet up for a few hours.

At 5pm, Lee still wasn’t feeling 100% so Ann and I trotted into town for a small bite to eat. As we’ve discovered, there’s plenty of choice in Canterbury, but as it was starting to rain and getting really cold, we simply picked the nearest place that looked OK! And that place was Wildwood. We’d not heard of them before, but the Italian menu looked varied – and they didn’t look too busy. Just like last night, we timed it perfectly – it was quiet when we arrived and heaving when we left (and we were only there for around half-an-hour).


We shared their Italian Platter and weren’t disappointed. There was just about the right amount of meat and cheese – and the bread had been gently warmed through. Delicious!


…and then it was back to the Lodge for the last time. We check out tomorrow and we thought it a good idea to pre-book the taxi back to the Station just in case they were all taken tomorrow as part of the Easter events at the cathedral.

Canterbury has been great. Lots to see, lots of shops and plenty of places to get a meal. The weather could have been kinder, but we coped whilst still managing to keep up with our new walking regime. We’re leaving by about 11 tomorrow and if all the connections work, home by the middle of the afternoon.


Friday, 25th: Birthday Sun

Ironically, on the day that we depart – and Ann’s Birthday – the weather brightens up!
Sad smile

So, we just had time to grab the camera and re-visit the exterior of the Cathedral for some better shots…

P1040433
P1040434
P1040435P1040441
P1040447
P1040448
Exterior shots of Canterbury Cathedral

…and then it was back to the Lodge to wait for the taxi to take us back to Canterbury West, and our journey home.

Easter 2015

Reading time: 2 minutes...

For us, Easter this year was about getting together with friends and family – and eating! After a mammoth shop in Thursday night (unfortunately, ASDA was out of mammoths!) and a follow-up on shop Friday morning, we were all set for the feeding of the five thousand (well, not quite, but it felt like it!!)
Smile

Good Friday



David and Valerie popped over for coffee in the morning and it was good to catch-up with all their news.

Trish's Pickled Onions

…and in the evening, Karen, Paul, Trish, John, Rosi, David, Julie and Tom dropped in for our Fish & Chip Supper. Trish’s pickled onions made their debut appearance (here anyway) – and the food went down a treat (as it always does). It’s been a while since we all got together as a group, and there was a lot to catch-up with. Hopefully, there will be plenty more opportunities later this year. now that the lighter evenings are here.



Easter Saturday
An early start as we headed off to Leicester to pick up my Ring and a few last minutes bits and pieces before Roger, Jane and Oliver join us later for the weekend.


I’ve never seen Leicester so quiet!

My 30th Anniversary Ring
My 30th Anniversary Ring – courtesy of Mr Tarratt 

Ann laid on antipasti for Saturday night followed by a ginormous cheese-board, that was about half the size of Northamptonshire!!!, and David and Valerie joined the rest of us for the feast. I also got a chance to test-drive my new Guinness Glass, that I’d picked up during our holiday in Dublin.

Testing my new Guinness Glass
Best Drink of the Day!


Ready for the Feast


Easter Sunday
Sunday, as expected, began with breakfast followed by a lazy morning (unless you were in the kitchen). I spent some time with Oliver, giving him a few lessons on his Android Tablet, whilst Ann and Lee took on lunch preparations. Denis and Bev joined us a little later, where Bev got an opportunity to show-off her new camera (see photographs later in this blog). Denis was looking fighting-fit after his stents, pacemaker and heart valve marathon from a few months back – he’s certainly got value-for-money from the NHS!!

Lunch arrived just after 1, where as always, Ann excelled herself, with a full three-courser, and a choice of starters.

20150405_130502_Tynan Close 
Spicy Prawns!

After lunch, it was all hands to the sink as we attempted to recover from the debris created by ‘lunch-for-eight’. An hour later, and a few capfuls of Fairy liquid lighter, it was all done. We spent a bit of time catching-up before Roger, Jane and Oliver said their goodbyes, followed by Denis and Bev.

Then, for what was left of the day was punctuated by an afternoon walk – I wasn’t too keen, but Ann convinced me it was a good move!
Sad smile

Then, all that was left was to put our feet-up and get prepared for watching the two highlights of the weekend’s TV – Poldark for Ann and Lee, and the new Thunderbirds are Go series for me!

Bev’s Photos
DSC_0754
DSC_0744
DSC_0750
DSC_0753
DSC_0758
DSC_0759
DSC_0760
DSC_0747
DSC_0746
DSC_0749


Easter Monday
I took Lee back just before 9, and once I was back home, Ann and I tackled one of the significant back-garden jobs – wiring the fences (not for electricity or sound, for plants!). Three hours later, it was ‘job done’ – just as the weather turned really warm! Phew! Steve, next door, tackled the damaged fences that had blown down a few days ago, and it was all looking pretty good – there’s a bit of touching-up needed with fence paint, but that’s the small contribution that I can make! 

Well, it’s been a really enjoyable Easter- great food, great friends, getting most of the family together and better-than-expected weather – plus a few jobs in the garden sorted! I’d call that very rewarding!!
Open-mouthed smile Open-mouthed smile Open-mouthed smile Open-mouthed smile Open-mouthed smile

Family Lunch

Reading time: < 1 minute...

The Easter Table
The Calm before the Starter!

Just in case anyone forgot who they were!
Who’s Who!

Ann, together with Lee’s help pulled together a superb Easter Lunch for the family today. Even though Mum wouldn’t travel such a distance for these things, it did still feel a little odd that she wasn’t ‘around’.
DSC_0034
Let Battle Commence…

20140420_130539
Italian Meats & Fruit

Yummy!
Bev’s Trifle


Guess who’s washing up?

Easter Sunday – Mum’s

Reading time: 2 minutes...

Toby Carvery - Bromley Common

Together with Lee, we drove down to Mum’s to take her out for Lunch. It was a return to the now familiar Toby Carvery at Bromley Common, where we’d taken her a few months back. Being Easter Sunday, and the fact that they don’t take bookings, meant we had to time it just right if were to avoid the mega-rush. We set off from home around 9am and covered the 100 or so miles in good time, arriving just before 11. After a quick chat, it was back in the car for the twenty-minute drive to the Carvery.

Our plan was to get there before noon, and hang around in the Bar until the restaurant could squeeze us in. Actually, when we arrived, they were able to get us in straight away, in spite of the place already having plenty of guests already in the middle of their lunch (what time do they start eating round here???).

We opted for the Carvery – it’s always a good deal, and together with Yorkie Puddings half the size of Bromley itself and every conceivable vegetable, you can’t really go wrong. Fifteen minutes in, and the place was heaving – so our plan had paid off. Thanks to ‘Steph’, our Waitress, service was (again) excellent and that made the experience even more enjoyable. Given the volume of customers and the general pressure of working there, her customer service skills were absolutely spot-on – there are plenty of other restaurants that could learn a thing-or-two from her!!

We were stuffed by 1pm and headed back to Mum’s. We stayed for a while and then headed home. Traffic was OK for Easter (we’ve had it a lot worse in previous years) and the threat of serious jams on the M11 between junctions 27 and 29 being flashed-up on the overhead signs never materialised!

We dropped Lee back at hers, adjusted all her clocks, and stayed for a cuppa.

Phew! Job done, time for feet-up and some CHOCOLATE!!!!

Lincoln for Lunch/The Ritual of ‘The Garage’

Reading time: < 1 minute...

We drove up to Denis’ today for lunch. Bev was sorting out the main course whilst Ann took the raw ingredients for dessert. Neither disappointed and a few hours later we felt a lot heavier and very sleepy! A great meal girls – cheers!!


As is traditional this time of year, we take on The Ritual of the Garage. This involves clearing out all the bits and pieces that have found their way their over the year – and relocating them back to their proper home – or to the local dump! We’re always surprised as to how much c*** accumulates over the period of 12 months – and this year was no exception! An hour later, it was ‘mission accomplished’ for another year, but even after completing the task, we still couldn’t get both cars where they belong, but one out of two ain’t bad I suppose! – Maybe NEXT year!