Welcome back to 2020! The reason for today’s visit was an invitation to a private tour around Kelmarsh’s well-known Gardens (where Mrs P is a volunteer-gardener).
What is Shambala?
The Shambala Festival is a four-day festival contemporary performing arts. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts rock, pop, folk, world music, and other arts. Read more HERE
9.55am: On arrival, we followed the arrows to the rear of the Hall, where a member of the Kelmarsh team pointed us in the right direction. Given the tropical weather of the past few days, this morning looked like it was going to be a bit of a disappointment! There was a trace of blue in the sky – just a trace – but that was to change later to grey, accompanied by a well-needed downpour of rain of biblical proportions! Luckily, we were to miss the moisture by a whisker!
10.10am: Given the really hot weather of late – and the lack of rain, first impressions of the Gardens were excellent, with hardly a weed in sight, with a blaze of colour for us to enjoy!
…even if I didn’t know the names of some most of what I saw! 😮
Mrs P did though! 😘
10.25am: Looking at the sky, where its light blue hues had changed to a depressing mid-grey – so we quickened our pace..! 🙄
…but in spite of the deteriorating weather…
…the flora still looked in rude health!
10.30am: We could hear thunder in the distance, so we called it a day and headed back to the car
10.40am: It had been a very memorable (but slightly curtailed) visit, but the Gardens looked fantastic and it was great to see Kelmarsh Hall again after all these years. We hadn’t been in the car long before it belted it down with rain, so it looked as if our timing had been well-judged.
As usual, click on the button below to see the photo gallery with some additional photographs (and none of my chat!) 😁
An early start for us today as we spent Saturday and Sunday with Richard and Nicki at their place in Banstead.
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! 😫
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!
But apart from the social aspect, we had a cunning plan in mind — 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! 😮
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.
…and it certainly needed a 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! 💪💪💪💪
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…
…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!
Whilst the food cooked. all that was then left to do was to chill-out warm-up in front of the log-burner!! 😃
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.
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’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 10°C by lunchtime! Happy days!!! 😁
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! 😉
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! 👍👍
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 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 veryspecial (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!).
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.
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.
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! 😊
We’re seeing tonight’s performance of The Man in the White Suit at its new home of Wyndham’s Theatre.
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).
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
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!
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!)
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.
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! 😁
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! 👍👍
A very interesting place and well-worth a visit if you’re also planning to see the Abbey, Parliament, Big-Ben etc etc. best of all, given its function, we were left completely free to wander around without any restrictions. 😊
The Banqueting House
12.30pm: Next stop (and back on schedule) we arrived at The Banqueting House, home of the famous Charles I’s execution and Ruben’s ceiling – how’s that for contrast!!??
Beheading aside, the jaw-dropping moment was easily the Ruben’s ceiling on the first floor…
This was a real treat for me and the vibrancy of the colours, let alone the feat of actually creating it in the first place, was mind-blowing! If you’re interested in visiting, the location is easy to miss unless you’re specifically looking for it. Located between Downing Street and Trafalgar Square, opposite Horse Guards. Price of a (London) pint to get in!
1.15pm:Birthday lunch was at the nearby The Clarence Pub – and perfecly timed as my feet were reminding me how much walking we’d done so far!
When it comes to food (birthday or not) I’m easily pleased, whilst Ann is far more discerning. The Hake from the specials board found a home with Mrs P, whilst I chose the Chicken Pie and Smashed New Potatoes. One thing we did agree on was the cider – it had to be Aspall on draught!
The National Portrait Gallery
2.05pm:Next stop – and our last for the day – was The National Portrait Gallery. Last time I was here was back in May 2016 with my old prog rocker mate, Ian. We were on our way to seesupergroup Yes in concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Just like my previous visit, there was lots to see. Some familiar, others less so, but it made for a very enjoyable experience. For us, the amazing thing was that it was sometimes hard to tell whether it was a painting or a photograph! What a talent!!
Thoughtfully laid out by age, the displays showed-off a wide range of subjects and styles…
It felt like it was perfectly possible to stay here ALL DAY and not see the same portrait twice!
How many faces do you recognise?
Nice to see very modern interpretations too!
3.45pm: Tomorrow, we’re off to see a Play just up the road (more about that tomorrow), so we thought we’d beat the queues and pick-up our tickets today. It seemed like a good idea, but no such luck, as the Box Office politely informed us that our tickets won’t be ready until 30 minutes before the performance tomorrow. So, it was back on the Tube, as we headed back to the Hotel.
4.35pm: Phew! What a day! I may only feel 19 on the inside, but my feet definitely are all 63 years of me! We hobbled back from Stratford station, picking up some sandwiches along the way – all set for my Birthday Tea (where I’m not expecting candles! 😊)
5.30pm: It’s certainly been an actioned-packed Birthday (just the way I like it) and if I didn’t get round to replying to all your best wishes on social-media, I’m working through them next. For those who sent me cards, as I mentioned earlier, we travelled light and I’m opening those when get home on Saturday – that goes for my presents too! 😍
It was the in-house eatery Bistrot Pierre that was our ultimate destination and I thought we’d never been to it before, only to discover immediately on being shown to our table, it was all very familiar! 🙄 A quick check of this Blog revealed that Ian, Mags and I had been there as part of our regular Trainer ‘get-togethers’ back when we were earning: 30th August 2011!
Weather-wise, it was a glorious day! It would have been perfect for eating outside with a bright blue-sky and a temperature well into the low/mid 20s, but our table was already set inside and that’s were we stayed (although it was right by the big window in the corner, so at least we had a good view!)
Luckily, our table had been designed by King Arthur which meant it was easy to chat with everybody (most of the time). I say most because it was also very busy there, and very noisy too (technical term: ‘had atmosphere’). Still, we had plenty of opportunity to catch-up with everyone’s news, even though at times, we needed to raise our voices and it didn’t spoil the experience! 😵
Food and service were both excellent – and the combination of the friendliest of waiting-staff and a wallet-friendly bill, did the trick! We all left with a full bellies (even though none of us had Dessert) and a big smile. 😁😁😁😁😁😁
Unusually, we didn’t set a date for our next get-together – more forgetfulness than anything else – but Mags had picked up on it and started the ball rolling by email. Looks like our next jaunt will be next February/March sometime.
Unusually for me, I didn’t take photos of the food! No, I wasn’t asleep! I was without my mobile phone today as it’s new, and whilst I wait for a protective case, it stayed safely at home for fear of me dropping it! 😮👍
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! 😮
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.
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 33.2°C 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… 😉
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! 😮
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). 😊
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!!! 😓😓