Thursday 29 July 2021

New car on the driveway

After selling the old car and walking home, then the next day we had to walk to the train station and take three trains to Redditch, and then walk for an hour to reach the garage where we could pick up our new car.

All went well, we picked it up and Darren drove us home.

Ideally we wanted a bright orange car, but there were very few of them around, and I think that the turmeric car looks very regal.

It also fits very easily in to the garage, so it is snug and dry when we aren't using it.

Today we went on a little journey to Waterperry Gardens to enjoy the drive (mostly Darren), and to look at the plants (almost only me).

It was good, not huge so it didn't take too long to see all of it, but some nice views.

We also bought a rusty metal heron as a companion for the stork that lives next to our pond.

Monday 26 July 2021

Busy weekend

Saturday was the first parkrun for 70 weeks. 

We went to Bicester and just as the race was about to start, a local celebrity called Eric the Swan turned up to join in at the back of the pack. 

We all set off in one direction while a volunteer tried to corral Eric away from the action. It wasn't totally successful and he was in the middle of the course at the end of the first lap, so we all had to stay away and do a little detour round him.

We finished well in quite good times so I am pleased that we haven't lost the knack, but obviously not quick enough for Eric who had totally disappeared by the time we rolled in. 

In the evening we went to a party for Darren's cousins delayed 50th birthday, and they had a photo booth.

There was a few problems with the photo cropping, so Darren's nephew in law is the bad boy and his great nephew is under the cowboy hat, and totally out of the shot. 

This morning we had an appointment with We Buy Any Car, and after a bit of haggling, they bought ours. We got more than we expected so walked away very happy,

but then had to carry on walking all the way home. 

Friday 23 July 2021

New turmeric coloured car

Darren has been planning this day for ages, and today we went and bought a new car. Well, new to us - it is three years old, has less than 6,000 miles on the clock and is a Volkswagen T-roc.

Top of my list of important features was a good colour, and this is an interesting one - turmeric yellow. It's always good to be able to spot your own car in the supermarket car park, and I think that we have managed to do that with all of our choices. 

We are picking the new one up next week, and our lovely existing blue and white car will be off to a new home.

This seems a good time to go on a trip down memory lane and our first car together, the amazing five litre Mustang. Also blue and white, but the similarities probably stop there. 

Then my trusty Probe that I drove until it very sadly died on Hucknall Road and I just managed to roll it down the hill where it was broken up for spare parts. 💔

Darren's Smart car that we should have kept and is a classic now. 

The nippy Ford Fiesta that had the whole of its front bumper stolen, and that we sold the next day in a big sulk. 

And who could forget our wonderful campervans. 

What a great collection. I wonder where they all are now. 

Saturday 10 July 2021

Back home

Woke up this morning to our final day in London. The weather forecast was not good, and we had nothing planned so we decided to walk back to the canal to see where our run went wrong yesterday.

We soon got to the Kings Cross end of the tunnel and the canal disappeared in to it.

Just above the tunnel was a map showing how to get to the other end overground, so we set off through a modern housing estate to try to find it.

After about ten minutes we found a huge pair of wings in a shopping centre.

This made me wonder where and what was the original Angel of Islington. I looked it up and there was a very old pub called the Angel Inn.  By 1614 the area around it was already being called Angel. Unfortunately the pub no longer exists, but its name lives on.

Angel is on a bit of a hill, so the canal builders had to decide whether to build a series of locks, both up and down, or a tunnel. Obviously the tunnel idea won.

A competition was held in 1815 for the design of the tunnel but all of the entries were disappointing, so the engineer decided to design and build his own, which to my untrained eye, also looks disappointing.

However, it is still here and does the job, so I shouldn't really criticise it.

Shame about the graffiti, and it is a lovely walk along the towpath. 

Caught the early train home, and the garden has grown massively in the past week. 

Easier day

 It was a much calmer day today, although it started out as quite hard work. We got up fairly early and got on a bike. You only get 30 minutes free on the cycles so we changed bikes three times before we reached our destination of the Limehouse Basin. 

That's in the bottom right of the map and the start or end of the Regents Canal. We then set off running along it back to our hotel. All was going well until we got to Islington and the canal disappeared into a tunnel.

We ran up on to the street expecting the canal to appear again. There was no sign of it and then we saw a road sign for cars saying Kings Cross, so we followed it and ran along the main road. Quite unbelievably, about ten minutes later we recognised our hotel.

Then we went to the Banksy exhibition at Covent Garden. It was very good and right at the end was an area for you to create your own Banksy.

I tried the one with the little girl who lets go of the balloon.

Afterwards we sat in very comfortable deck chairs in Berkeley Square and watched the tennis, while we waited for our friends Margs and Dave to arrive.

We then all went back to see the elephants again and they were even more magnificent this time. The sun was out and a flock of exotic birds had landed on some of their backs.

Actually that's quite a small one. Later we all went for a curry and a glass of cider or two.

Ps, I have looked at the map more closely and the canal disappears into the Islington Tunnel which is about a kilometre long. It runs right under Islington before appearing again and carrying on quite near to our hotel. We hadn't noticed this little fact when planning the running route.

Thursday 8 July 2021

Good hair day?


It's a shame that my hair is quite short at the moment, but here I am between Handel and Hendrix. It turns out that they lived next door to each other, but about 250 years apart. For this rather tenuous link they have a joint museum in the original buildings.

We were the only other people there, and we spent the whole time getting lost, although we did eventually find Jimi Hendrix's bedroom, which obviously did not belong to Handel.

Another very busy day today, starting with the Postal Museum. I was surprised to learn that there is a big network of tunnels running under London that used to transport the post on little trains more quickly than could be done on the roads. Nowadays it takes tourists....

We chugged around for quite a while and stopped at various stations to see the process. Afterwards we found a bit of time to design my own stamp.

Then we were back on the bikes again for a ride to the Royal Albert Hall.

We joined the tour, sat next to the royal box, went into the royal waiting room, and heard all about the thousands of famous people who have appeared there.

Next up, cocktails for Darren's birthday.

Finally, after three crazy, non stop days of tourist attractions and over 73,000 steps, we reached our final destination - the 72nd floor of the Shard to look at the view.

The reason for this craziness? We bought a three day London pass for £75 each, and the full price for the attractions that we visited was about £230. 

Good effort I think.

Kensington Palace

Another bicycle trip across London, this time to the queue to get in to Kensington Palace, and I am sure that we have got it right to book either the first or last tickets of the day. There was about 40 people ahead of us in the queue, but once inside we started with the part of the house where Queen Victoria lived as a child.

It was ok, but nothing special, so we soon overtook everyone else so were first in to the good stuff.

The rooms were very impressive and even better when they were deserted. We wandered around where King George 11 used to live and were very taken with the court outfits.

I think that Darren looks very regal in his lovely outfit, but mine is far more problematic.

A friendly guide came over to chat to us, and unfortunately I am going to remember her explanation about how you have to shuffle through doors sideways, and the issues of going to the toilet in the dress far better than which king or queen lived here and when.

Currently on display is Princess Diana's wedding dress with it's huge train.

And her new statue is in the sunken garden. The public aren't allowed very near to it and the closest view is of the back. 

That's fine though because although the garden is lovely, I don't really like the statue from the front, although the back isn't great either.

Moving on, we caught an Uber boat along the Thames for a very nice ride to Greenwich.

Right on the dockside was the tea clipper Cutty Sark. We had an excellent trip around it and the most amazing fact is that it was still sailing with cargo in 1922

The cafe is right underneath the hull and we stopped there for a break. Pleased that it didn't fall on our heads, we carried on.

Up the hill behind the ship and to the Royal Observatory. Here we learnt about how sailors calculated l their location when they were out of sight of land, saw some huge telescopes and stood on the Meridian Line.

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Tower of London

8.51 this morning and we were in the queue to visit the Tower of London. 9.00 am and we were in and running through the ramparts on the way to the Crown Jewels exhibition.

We were the first people inside and had the place to ourselves, apart from the helpful guides who pointed out the Cullinan Diamond in one of the crowns, which is the biggest diamond in the world. We saw fantastic crowns through the last 400 years, incredible swords and sceptres with more huge jewels embedded in them.

Best of all though was a metre wide gold punch bowl, made I think for George IV, although he died without ever getting the chance to use it. No photos allowed inside unfortunately.

After that there was loads of things to see, and hardly any other tourists in sight.

For hundreds of years, wild animals were kept by the various kings around the castle, including a polar bear that used to go swimming and catching fish in the river Thames, lions, monkeys and elephants. They often died because no one knew how to look after them properly, and this elephant statue gives a clue where they probably went wrong.

We got very close to a raven called Jubilee and he and I had a little conversation. He started it by saying cuckoo, so I said it back to him, and he said it again while flapping his wings. I said it again but had no wings to flap. He said cuckoo again and flapped, I said it again and didn't. This went on for a while and it was maybe not on a par with Dr Doolittle, but it is my first successful attempt at talking to the animals.

After the Tower of London, we went straight next door to Tower Bridge, climbed over 200 steps and had great views of the river. We have been here before, but since our last visit they have put in a glass floor that Darren really enjoyed, and I didn't.

Continuing on, we hired Boris Bikes and got soaked through in a sudden shower on our way to Westminster Abbey. Cold and hungry we couldn't find the entrance and then when we eventually did, it turns out that it was closed, although it didn't say that on the website.

After a reviving lunch and a quick rethink about how to spend the afternoon, we got back on the bikes. Immediately another shower hit, but we sheltered until it was over and then cycled a surprisingly long way to the Chelsea Physic Garden.

We arrived just in time for a guided tour and found out loads about poisonous and medicinal plants. We had to leave mid tour as it started to look like rain again, so we rushed back to our bikes. I only had time to take one photo while we were there. It was of an exhibition that we didn't get to find out a thing about, but it included nice giant apple halves.

We didn't even get as far as the bike rack before we got soaked again, so instead decided to get on the Underground to take us to Regents Park.

Drying out we went to the zoo. It was eerily quiet, non of the shops or kiosks were open and most of the animals were strangely missing. How could such big things as the giraffes and lions be absent? No sign either of any hippos, but they were pygmy ones so maybe that helped explain it.

We did see what looked like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra that might have been called an okapi, which was interesting.

A couple of the smaller animals put on a good show and the otters chirruped away to us and followed us up and down the path.

The penguins were nice, but we preferred the wild herons that wandered about fishing in their pond.

In summary, probably not the best zoo visit ever, and we left ten minutes before it closed and headed for the bike racks. Just as we were getting on them a massive storm erupted over our heads. We waited it out under a tree and then decided to walk to a restaurant under our umbrellas. Halfway there it started again and we got really, really soaked this time.

Had a good dinner and then squelched back to the hotel to try to dry out our shoes and socks.

Busy day.