Tuesday 31 August 2021

Morse tour of Oxford

 Lovely weekend with Elaine and Mark, including a trip to Oxford.

They are both avid viewers of the Inspector Morse series from the 1980's, and Darren managed to find a self guided tour of the locations of many of the scenes from the show.

Amongst others we saw the bookshop where Morse interviewed Mrs Field after the murder of her husband and the pub where Lewis trails Charlie Bennett, but we couldn't find the ironmongers that Lewis visited to ask about Anne Stavely's keys.

In the following photo Elaine and Mark are doing some investigating of their own and wondering what the tomb like structure was in Balliol College grounds. After a bit of deliberation there was no definite conclusion. Where is Morse when we need him?

I took an artie selfie in front of a sundial that commemorated 30 years of female students at the college. Seeing that Balliol was founded in 1263, it was disappointing that out of 758 years of education, women have only been allowed in for 43 of those. 

But it is a very nice sundial, although I couldn't check the time as the weather was too cloudy. 

We also walked along the river, saw the beautiful boathouses and watched some terrible attempts at people punting along the river. No one fell in, but there was a lot of crashing into the banks. 

Finally, we visited the tiny shop that was the inspiration for one of the scenes in Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately non of us had read Lewis Carroll's classic masterpiece, but apparently Alice finds herself 'in a little dark shop, leaning with her elbows on the counter, and opposite to her was an old Sheep, sitting in an arm-chair knitting'. 

Friday 27 August 2021

RHS Wisley

Lovely trip today to explore the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley.

Had a few problems with the map reading and signposts. This way, that way, somewhere or Wonderland?

They had a fantastic vegetable garden with absolutely no weeds in sight.

A beautiful walled garden with clipped hedges, amazing exotic garden and an enormous glasshouse full of cacti and bananas.

There was also some good structures and an easel full of succulents.

Hopefully Darren is going to build one of these for me at home, and I bought some unusual bulbs from the garden centre too.

Thursday 19 August 2021

Whitechapel and sunflowers

 Two days ago we set off home from our hotel in Whitechapel.

It had taken me five days to recognise our hotel in the distance, and now we are leaving. But even as we were leaving I confidently set off in completely the wrong direction towards the river. Whitechapel used to be a very dodgy area, and although gentrified, there are definitely still some streets that are worrying. Apparently Jack the Ripper used to operate around here and there was lots of references to this including Jack the Chipper fish and chip shop, and Jack the Clipper the barbers.

We also cycled past the Blind Beggar pub where the Kray Twins used to drink, although we didn't go in.

Anyway, our route out was along Cycle Superhighway 3 again and the Limehouse Cut to Stratford.

From there we visited Darren's mum for lunch, and then home.

Fast forward to today and our trip to the sunflower field at Abingdon. I can't think of any connection between the two, except possibly a lack of sunshine at both.

What a lovely place, a huge sunflower field with a winding pathway through it, and you can pick as many as you like.

Arty photo here, with reflections of the flowers in my sunglasses.

Great photos from Darren, and we just had to pay £1 for each sunflower on the way out.

Stop press, Darren has just booked the same hotel for a couple of nights next month, so let's see if I can find the hotel again. 

Monday 16 August 2021


Picked up Santander Bikes and cycled along the fantastic SuperCycleHighway 3 to Canary Wharf. Darren got the lucky ticket number 22222 for his bike.

We stopped for breakfast and then had a look around. Lots of massive buildings and interesting statues, although everywhere was very quiet so maybe lots of people are still working from home.

The main reason for this trip was to see the new Crossrail station and the garden inside the building. It didn't disappoint, and was a bit like a mini Eden Project.

We then set out on a walking tour designed by Darren to take us along the Limehouse Cut, and the River Lea to the Stratford Olympic Park.

Interesting views on the journey and a surprising amount of building work still going on at the Park. All of the trees have grown a lot since our last visit and it is looking good.

Onwards on our walk and we were following the Hertford Union canal when suddenly Darren's map app told us to leave the canal towpath. Unfortunately high railings stretched out into the distance, but someone had had the same problem in the past and had bent one of the railings just enough so that we could breathe in and climb through the gap. 

Apart from that an uneventful walk home, although I did buy chocolate ice cream from the Hackney Gelato company that was advertised as 'like eating gold but softer'. 

Really not sure about that description, but it was very tasty.

Sunday 15 August 2021

Sunday morning run

 This morning we had a lovely morning run along the Thames from the Tower of London to Big Ben, over the river and back along the opposite bank. then over Tower Bridge and back to the hotel.

In total around 11 kilometres along quiet paths and enjoying the beautiful views.

After breakfast we cycled right across from the east of London to the west to the Design Museum. We had tickets for the Charlotte Perriand: The Modern Life exhibition.

She was was French and about 100 years ago she designed open plan, multi functional rooms and modern metal furniture.

This chair was very comfy, and also tipped up so it doesn't always look like a dentist's chair. She worked for many years with LeCorbusier, and other famous artists such as Picasso and Joan Miro.

Lots of information about this exhibition because it was so interesting, and most of her designs look totally up to date today.  I think that Ikea have picked up a lot of ideas from her back catalogue.

This afternoon we went to a concert at the Southbank Centre called Tubular Bells. This is a famous album by Mike Oldfield but it was a bit before our time so we didn't know most of it. However, it was a great show, and massively livened up by some fantastic acrobats performing to the music.

Saturday 14 August 2021

Naked bike ride

This afternoon was great fun, and we saw the start of the annual naked bike ride. There was about eight separate starting points, and eventually all of the different groups met up together later on in the day.

At random we chose to see the Hyde Park start and there were many more participants than we expected.

To my surprise we saw one of our friends from Nottingham on about the third row of riders. I was not sure what to do, so pretended that I hadn't seen him, but about half an hour later he sent me a photo on WhatsApp, so he saw me too.

He also put his photo on Facebook and has now been banned for three days so I won't put it on here.

Not many sun tan lines on display.

This evening we went out for dinner to an Indian restaurant and had some interesting things.

These are crispy balls resting on the top of little shot glasses with minty liquid in them. The trick is to pour the drink into the crisp and then eat it in one mouthful.

Nice dinner, but surprised that it was vegetarian because it had chicken dishes on the menu outside of the door, but when reading it more closely it was called plant based chicken, which I can't comment on because we didn't try it.

Brick Lane

Busy morning as we got up early and cycled through Tower Hamlets to Mile End to do a parkrun. We both got good times so were pleased,  then we whizzed back to the hotel to shower and get out for breakfast.

Darren had noticed that our hotel was near to Brick Lane and he recognised the name. I don't know if I had heard of it, but it used to be a slum, then Irish and Jewish people moved there, and now it is known for its Bangladeshi food and curries.

However,we decided to go for breakfast from the bagel shop and I had to queue out of the door for a salt beef and pickle bagel for Darren and smoked salmon and cream cheese for me.

To me it also seemed to be full of graffiti, although it was very professionally done and we even came across a group of artists at work.

Then we went across town to the Royal Academy of Art where we had tickets for the David Hockney exhibition. No photography was allowed, but basically he has started using an iPad programme and has made a series of over 100 paintings of spring in northern France.

He managed to churn them out very quickly, sometimes three in one day, and to be honest they got a bit samey.

Imagine another 99 similar pictures to the one on this flag and you get the idea.

We then walked down New Bond Street which is amazingly posh, like Bicester Village but all of the shops are real and not outlets, and a sculpture of Winston Churchill in the middle of it.

Not really space for me, but I managed to squeeze in.

Friday 13 August 2021

Visit to the Houses of Parliament

This morning we got on the Santander Bikes and headed to the bicycle racks nearest to Big Ben. We had tickets for the Houses of Parliament, and they said that we had to get there 20 minutes before our timed entry. This was absolutely not necessary and we stood around for 19 of those minutes before we got inside. However, they did corral us in to the Press Pen, which they said that they use to keep the news reporters in one place while the MPs go in and out of the building.

It did have a nice view of the back of Westminster Abbey which we are hoping to visit very soon.

Darren is just about to enter Westminster Hall which is the oldest part of the building and was built in 1097 by William 11.

This is one of the few places where we were allowed to take photos. The rest of the building was really interesting, very grand in places, and exactly like all of the pictures that we have seen on TV, but both the House of and the House of Lords are much more compact than expected.

We stood in all of the obvious places, next to where Boris Johnson sits each week for Prime Minister's Questions, in front of where the Queen sits for the opening of parliament, we walked in the footsteps of Black Rod, etc, etc.

Next we walked to Hyde Park,passing in front of Buckingham Palace just as the horses from the Household Cavalry made their way back to their barracks.

We arrived at The Mound, which is a temporary feature next to Marble Arch. It is a mound made of scaffolding, covered by plants and trees, although some sections are surprisingly bare. There are supposed to be views across London, but unfortunately that isn't true, mainly due to them being hidden behind the trees in Hyde Park.

We stayed at the top and the most interesting thing was that Simon Calder, the travel correspondent for the BBC was there speaking very loudly into his phone. Listening in for a while it seems that he wasn't very happy to be there either.

Lunchtime arrived and we walked to Mayfair, partly because it is the most expensive property in Monopoly, but also because we wanted to eat at the Mayfair Mercato inside a converted church.

There was a lot of little stalls all around the edge of the building and we had quite a nice pad Thai.

Off to the theatre tonight to see Singin' in the rain.

Thursday 12 August 2021

Radish starter in London

Off on holiday today, and we jammed all of our luggage on to the Bromptons and set off once again to London.

Fortunately our hotel has a lovely tea cup outside it so hopefully it will be easy to find again.

We went for an afternoon walk along the river around St Katherine's Dock, looking for the lady with the dolphin. We found her eventually, but there was no water in her fountain so the photos were a bit disappointing.

However a nice walk alongside the not too busy river Thames.

Good hat effect from the Shard.

This evening we went out for dinner at a posh restaurant in Whitechapel, and had the tasting menu with wine pairing.

The starter was radishes with nasturtium pesto, paired with a fizzy white wine. Very strange, just a pile of radishes on a plate with a green sauce. Very funny though.

Lots of wine and the food got better, ending with a sort of museli and yoghurt for pudding, or was it breakfast?

Tuesday 10 August 2021

At the pictures

Today we had an action packed visit to Oxford. We caught the 2pm train and then set off on what we had thought was a self guided Harry Potter walking tour, but on reading it a bit more closely, all of the places were inside buildings that we couldn't access.

Instead we made our own route up, and saw loads of really good sights that we have never found before.

Firstly, a great secret top floor of the Westgate shopping centre full of bars, restaurants, a nice view and a photo opportunity.

We thought that the sign said Visitors, but it actually says Victors, which is the name of the bar, but whatever happened to the apostrophe?

Next, lots of beautiful buildings.

A walk along the river to see the punters.

Then a trip to the Oxo bar for a couple of cocktails before the main event of the day.

A trip to the cinema to see a film that hasn't even been released yet. It is called Free Guy and Darren managed to get hold of the tickets online. When we got to the Odeon a security guard took our phones off us and put them in a sealed bag that he gave back to us. 

This is so that we, and everyone else at the showing could not video it and then put it online. Surprise, surprise, I really enjoyed it, so if you get the chance then go and see it. And you don't hear that very often from me.