Term Ending/Birthday Spending/D-Day Landing

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Thursday – Term Ending
It’s a Gambles-Get-Together! We travelled down to Roger, Jane and Oliver’s on Thursday for lunch and then an overnight stay, catching-up with Denis and Bev tomorrow.

After a quick bite, we watched part of the 400th Anniversary celebration on DVD of Oliver’s school – Richard Hale – that took place at Westminster Abbey back in January. Then, after a leisurely cuppa, it was off into Ware town-centre to see how Roger’s refurbs have been progressing – Wow! there’s been a lot of work done since we were last here back in January. Impressive stuff!

Next, back to theirs for a quick freshen-up before heading off to The Woolpack in Hertford for a swift shandy and a burger and then heading for the main event for today: Oliver’s End-of-Term Concert at his school. This year’s theme was Last Night of the Proms and when we went last year for the first time, we were bowled-over by all the kids’ talents, individually and collectively. Hopefully this year, it’ll be the same.

The event started just after 7pm to a almost full-house. Luckily for us, it wasn’t quite such a warm evening as 2016, so even though were were all sardined into the same Hall as last year, it felt a tad more comfortable. The Concert was split into two parts of roughly an hour each, with a 30 minute minute interlude. They even dished-out flags in exchange for our tickets, in preparation for the final few tunes – all in the spirit of the theme: ‘Last Night of the Proms’.

Well, this year (again) was simply overflowing with talent – possibly even more than last year! A wide range of musical genres from classical to modern followed with solo instrumental pieces, solo vocal pieces – and even two pupils on the same piano! Oliver seemed to be in every  orchestral arrangement on the Programme, but he also had a solo piece in part two, playing: Everything is Still by Andy Scott – a particularly tricky flute piece, that Oliver took in his stride. Wow! he’s certainly even more more confident and professional since we saw him last year – and he was pretty good in 2016! You can see his video HERE.

I’m sure I said it last year, but at their age, what was I doing? – I was struggling with English Literature and not enjoying it too much! Conversely these kids were loving every minute of their education, and it really showed in their performances.

During the Interlude, the school served us some drinks from the pop-up Bar run by the PTA. Haribos for Oliver whilst the grown-ups stuck with Pimm’s! (I fancied some of Oliver’s though!)

10pm and 30 performances later, it was all over for another year, and whilst there was a mass exodus for the car-park, we hung back waiting for the crowds to die-down. Once they’d had gone, it was a short drive and we were soon back at Ridge House tucking into tea and toast. A late night for us (11.30!), but worth every second!!!

Friday – Birthday Spending

After a very relaxed lie-in until 7.30, we helped ourselves to quick brekky before heading north for Stamford – and the famous George Hotel. Today is a celebration of Denis’ 88th birthday (this coming Monday, and a belated birthday celebration for Bev) and we’re joining them both for a slap-up lunch.

You can’t really go wrong here. Even if the prices are more premium than say, Nando’s, or your local gastro-pub – you get what you pay for in terms of food quality AND the service. They didn’t put a foot wrong and they made us all feel that we were their only customer. Brilliant!!

Delicious Duck…

The legendary dessert trolley…
…with legendary desserts!

..and a nice chocolate nibble to err, nibble!

Wow! What a lunch! We had a fab time with Denis and Bev and The George really did us proud! Time to leave – Bev and I got the cars from the car-park and managed to bag a temporary space just at the end of walkway to the Hotel (saving Denis’ legs in the process). We said our goodbyes and headed home. Next stop Odeon, Kettering later tonight for the first night of Dunkirk  by Producers: Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas.

Friday Evening – D-Day Landing

Unusually, I think EVERY film critic going rated this film highly – pretty unusual these days – so this was potentially an opportunity too good to miss. As mentioned, this was also the first night of release, so we were expecting it to be busy even though the local Odeon had it on EVERY HOUR for the next week!

And busy it was – our screen was full and I bet the screen next to ours was too!

What was it like? Well, they didn’t try and romanticise the Dunkirk story at all and the tension-meter was already on ‘11’ within 15 seconds of the movie starting. In fact, some of it was almost unwatchable in its pursuit of realism. Horrible, horrible, horrible! – and it really hammered home what a waste of human life all war is. I think by the time the credits rolled, we four were completely traumatised. Seriously! I don’t think I’ve EVER been moved by a movie as much as this one. If you are of a nervous disposition, you most definitely will NOT want to see this. I probably won’t ever write this in another blog about a film but this was NOT enjoyable at all but it was the best film I’ve ever seen!

Off for some tranquilisers now! Phew!

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Oliver’s End of Term Concert 2016

End of Term – Oliver

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We drove down to Roger, Jane and Oliver’s for Oliver’s end-of-term musical concert at his new school: Richard Hale. The past few days have been roasting – and today was no different with temperatures in the mid 30s.

We set off around 2pm – a rare outing for the XKR – and had a smooth journey to our destination.  After some salad and a quick natter, it was off to the school to take our seats amongst the other hundred-or-so parents all there for the same treat! It might have been mid-30s outside, but in the relatively confined space of the School Hall, it was more like 130! Phew what a real scorcher!


At just after 7, the Concert began …and what a varied programme it was! I was expecting a sedate series of classical pieces, but what we got was something much more interesting! – the Theme from Goldfinger by the Concert Band as the opening piece, and that very much set the tone for the evening where the classics were nowhere to be seen (well, hardly) displaced by the more modern music of  Jessie J, Coldplay and Lana del Ray.  It was all great stuff and clearly demonstrated to me how things have changed since my school-days, where the end-of-term music was normally the ‘racy’ Hallelujah Chorus! The only instruments that were acceptable in those days was piano, violin, violin, violin, recorder or recorder! Tonight, we had synths, drums, electric, Spanish and bass guitars, bongos and saxophones!

I feel like I’m getting old!

Oliver’s solo piece was entitled: ‘Nobody Knows’,  and he certainly made his flute sing! His ability has clearly grown since the last time we saw him play. Fantastic!

The nine pieces that made up the first half clearly showed that Britain’s got talent – well, at least Richard Hale school has! The other thing that became immediately obvious was how confident all the kids were. To get up (especially during solo pieces) without any sign of nerves and perform in front of mostly strangers was no mean feat – and I can’t imagine when I was their age having the balls to do what they did!

The interval arrived, and the congregation flooded out into the area in front of the Hall where the (very, VERY) welcome glass of free Pimm’s helped us all cope with the heat. If the School needed anything more right now, it wasn’t talent, it was an air-conditioned Hall! Phew! what a real scorcher. The Pimm’s seemed to be going down a treat, and happily we were informed that there was plenty more – clearly the musical talent of the kids wasn’t matched by the mathematical ability of those who provided the alcohol!

Suited me!
Part Two beckoned, as the now fully-refreshed (if slightly inebriated) audience flooded back into the sweat-box School Hall. Just like the first half, talent was in abundance, and although Khachaturian got a brief look-in with his Sabre Dance, (nicely played Oliver!) the session was dominated by more modern pieces that included vocal solos and personal compositions.

The evening finished with the returning Concert Band (and more of Oliver!) who knocked-out Rock, Reggae and Disco pieces like their lives depended on it!

The Head rounded-off the evening with his thanks to everyone – and a reminder that next year is the school’s 400th Anniversary. I suspect that will be the perfect excuse for even more musical events! Wow! what an evening!!!!

We were soon back at R, J and O’s reflecting on it all. I think we all concluded that (based on Oliver’s education to date), the ‘system’ seems to allow kids to blossom at an earlier age – and that’s no bad thing.

By 10.30, we were done and with the music still ringing in our ears, we headed for bed. I think it had now ‘cooled’ to around 21 by the time our heads hit the pillow and we hoped for a good  night’s sleep.

Black Sheep Black Sheep

Black Sheep Black Sheep
Morning came (as it often does) and we’d slept well. We had a quick breakfast before heading home. Another smooth journey meant that I was home in time for probably my last phone-call ever relating to my role as Chairman for the OCA. We’ve got our AGM and Reunion next Saturday (when I step down) and the phone conversation allowed me to clarify the last remaining bits and pieces.

Big Nose!

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After yesterday’s trip into London for possibly my final informal School event as Chairman, it was a quick turn-around, and then off to Stratford-upon-Avon and Second Thoughts’ 7.30pm production of Cyrano De Bergerac. Unusually, it played at The Bear Pit, rather than the Civic Hallbut that didn’t diminish the attendance, as it was almost a sell-out (and had been for the previous three performances).

Wow! what a production!! The cast all played their parts really well, especially the lead, Tim Guest, as the doomed lover of Roxanne. My only criticism was the seats, that were so close together, it’s a good job I sat next to Ann, and I was on the end of a row!

Well done everyone!!!
Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up Thumbs up

Smart Nephews

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Clearly when they were giving out the brain cells, I opted for the express queue, labelled ‘five or less’. Luckily our nephews demonstrated sound judgment, by taking advantage of a BOGOF, and doubled theirs!

Seriously though, what a bright generation they’re becoming.

Alfie James Palmer. Currently at City University, but lucky enough to have secured (and just completed) a year as an Industrial Placement with the mighty McDonalds as a Technical Analyst.

Frankie Stephen Palmer. Having just completed 13 (yes, 13!) GCSEs, Frankie’s been invited back to ICL Summer School for the second year. It makes my 8 Os look rather pathetic by comparison! Frankie seems to have harnessed the twin talents of being exceptional at both Piano and Maths. Although I can’t vouch for his Maths, this talent does run in the family – even I’ve got that gene! – I’ve heard him play the piano, and he is nothing short of superb!!
Oliver James Gambles. Oliver has clearly picked-up the musical gene in the family, and at the annual end-of-term bash at his current school – Duncombe – he wowed the audience with his command of the flute. Flute? FLUTE? In my day, it was violin, violin, violin, recorder, recorder or recorder! He was just superb – and at such a young age too! Sadly, no photographs here, because the school doesn’t like any pupil-pics on social media, so here’s one of his satchel!

I think it’s time we encouraged our cats to accept some career advice and not spend the day sleeping and eating!

The School Re-opens

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The School reopens
In my capacity as Chairman of the ex-pupils association, ‘The Old Croydonians’, I was invited with many others, to see the official re-opening of the school, now reborn as: The Crescent Primary School.

It was a well supported event, with the pupils singing their school song and the head-teacher recounting how the school reinvented itself. Parents, teachers and Mayor of Croydon gave it a very special feel and I was also pleased that The Old Croydonians, was able to play a part by arranging for one of our oldest members – Reginald Whellock (99 years of age!) to cut the ribbon together with the school’s oldest pupil (somewhat younger, at 7!).

The event concluded with the unveiling of a plaque and the release of hundreds of balloons.

It was an great event, and somewhat emotional for us, the ‘old boys’ to see the old place renovated and so full of life.
Crying face

The Parcel Yard

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I took the early train down to London this morning in preparation for the twice-yearly meeting I chair for The Old Croydonians’ Association.

We found a really good venue – The Parcel Yard just off the concourse at the recently refurbished Kings Cross station. As the name suggests, it’s the old parcel yard that’s now been converted into a multi-level pub and restaurant. The service and food was excellent and it made a perfect meeting place.

Lunch with Roger H

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Market Harborough Station 
I live such a exciting life, as I spend quite a few evenings impersonating taxi-drivers waiting outside Kettering Station. And now, life now has got much more interesting as I’ve started doing the same at PETERBOROUGH station.

So, today, I could hardly contain myself when I drove to MARKET HARBOROIUGH Station!!! – is there no end to this variety!!???!!!


It was time for my three-monthly catch-up with Roger H to discuss OCA matters and with Roger is based in Melton Mowbray, it’s about halfway for both of us.

Now I’ve got a bit more time on my hands, these meetings have taken on a new significance and we had a very productive and comprehensive meeting (I didn’t get home until 4!). With the full committee meeting scheduled for Saturday week, our meeting was very timely, putting us both in a more organised frame of mind for the main event.

We had lunch at The Roebuck, just outside Market Harborough – great service, good hearty pub-grub AND free wi-fi – a perfect location!