Sunday 16 October 2022

Bushy parkrun and burning pictures

This morning we headed to the birthplace of parkrun - Bushy park at Kingston on Thames. This was their 898th running of the event, with over 1,000 entrants. In contrast the first run had 14 friends running 5k, and another friend timing them with a stop watch. How it has grown. 

It was nothing like that today, and was a well organised machine which logged and processed everyone very efficiently.

It was a lovely morning for a run and Darren finished 141st and I was 485th. Happy to be in the top half.

After leaving our hotel we passed an interesting row of phone boxes, stacked up along a main road.

We then caught a train to Vauxhall to see a picture burning session. This is a bit difficult to explain, but the artist Damien Hurst created a huge canvas full of dots, and then chopped it in to 10,000 pieces. These were then sold and buyers had a year to decide if they wanted to keep the picture, or have it as something called an NFT. This basically means that you don't have the picture, but you have a copy of it online. Very weird idea, but apparently that is the future and I am too old to appreciate or understand it.

Anyway, more than half of the buyers chose the NFT, so all of their paper copies are being destroyed. We went along to watch this happening.

It was quite interesting and theatrical. The short lady in the middle picked up each individual picture, read out the number on the back and showed it to the spectators. She then passed it to a helper who ceremonially took it to a trendy open fire and then it was burnt.

Art - how strange it is.......

And here is me in the pharmacy themed cafe with a copy of one of the pictures on my carrier bag.

As if this wasn't exciting enough, we then went to the matinee of Tango after dark, which was totally amazing. Also a bit weird to go out at the end and back in to the sunshine. 

Saturday 15 October 2022

Hampton Court Palace

After a night in Kingston upon Thames we set out to walk to Hampton Court Palace. It's not very far, but we walked up the wrong side of the Long Water, and ended up going the very, very long way to the entrance.

Once there we got our tickets, map and audio guide and set off. It really is a huge place and you can choose lots of different routes around it, so it always seemed confusing.

The most famous occupant was Henry Vlll and his six wives. Apparently when he was young he was fit and sporty, playing royal tennis in a special room in the grounds. However, he is better known for his enormous appetite and eating huge amounts of food was very popular amongst the nobility during his reign.

The massive kitchen had six fireplaces for roasting whole cows and every other animal you can ever think of.

The apartments were grandly decorated and each new king or queen who lived there seemed to build a new bit on to the Palace, or redecorate someone else's.

This is Henry's Great Hall, and then we moved on to another similar sized room called the Great Watching Chamber. Noble people used to spend hours and hours here waiting to see if they could catch a glimpse of Henry walking past. A fashion for the later monarchs was to have their fancy dining table in the middle of a huge room and with a little fence around it.

They would then sit inside the fence to eat, and their subjects could stand around and watch. Apparently it was very popular entertainment. There was also a Great Bedchamber where the favoured few could watch the monarch sleep.

This was the ceiling of one of the rooms but I have lost track of which one.

Eventually we got back out again in to the daylight before we spent a bit more time than we had hoped lost in the maze.

Here's proof that we got to the middle.

Friday 14 October 2022

Barbican guided tour

We are in London for a couple of days, and we started our trip with a guided tour around the Barbican.

Our guide was the liveliest, most enthusiastic person you could ever meet. She told us that she is always getting into trouble with her boss, as she loves the Barbican so much that her tours over run because she can't stop talking about such an amazing place.

We started the tour in the main lobby and she then spent over two hours firing facts and anecdotes at us whilst walking extremely quickly around the complex.

Firstly, she asked who had got lost in the buildings. Every time we have visited we have ended up randomly wandering around trying to find either the Theatre or museum or the café, and almost everyone else did too.

There is a long explanation for this, not least because there are very few signs about, but mainly because the whole area is raised up on to what she called the High Line.

The whole enormous area was bombed and destroyed in the war, and was then a blank canvas. The architects wanted all of the buildings to be full of light, so they built it on huge concrete pillars.

Once you are inside the Barbican it then gets really confusing as to what level you are on, and you end up peering over the balconies trying to work out where you need to be.

There are 2,014 apartments in the Barbican including three 43 storey tower blocks that are shaped like triangles.

The whole area is grade 2 listed and there are lots of rules that are supposed to be followed. One of these is that each apartment has a row of concrete planters on their balcony and only red or white flowers are allowed.

Work started on the area in the late 1950's and took over 20 years to complete. It must have run massively over budget too and was extremely unpopular with local people. Also, as it took so long the council kept adding or taking away buildings, which is why everything is so higgledy piggledy.

The above picture is of sunken gardens in the lake, but there is also a sculpture park with no sculptures, huge exhibition halls that are not used and a three storey conservatory (second largest in London after Kew) that was added at the last minute to hide an ugly warehouse. 

This warehouse was added just before the conservatory and housed all of the props for the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose Theatre was added sometime before that. 

I'm going to stop now as it's making my head spin.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Kitchen floor

This has been an ongoing project for many months, and we have lived with a large hole in the middle of the kitchen floor since February. The reason for the rather strange behaviour of digging up the kitchen almost as soon as we got the cottage was to try and solve a damp problem.

We don't know yet if we have, but we have given it a really good try.

Things ramped up a few weeks ago as Darren dug up more of the floor and deepened the hole.

Eventually he took out almost all of the floor apart from a small section that always remained dry.

Then he filled it with billions of expanded clay balls that will keep the moisture below them.

Next they were covered with a membrane and leveled off at 50 mm below the old floor level.

Then yesterday the big day finally arrived - lime mortar day!

The sand and lime delivery man turned up at 8am, so we were all ready to start. We set up the concrete mixer, got the wheelbarrow and buckets ready and started mixing. It took a bit of trial and error to get the right mix of sand, lime and water and the first two loads had to go back into the machine, but soon we were a team.

Darren loaded and worked the concrete mixer (unfortunately I wasn't strong enough to lift and tip the buckets in) and barrowed it up to the front door.

I loaded it in to not quite full buckets and laid the floor. We worked almost non stop all day, although I had to make an emergency trip to Wickes for more sand.

By 5.30pm we were absolutely shattered but it was finished. We had about half a bag of lime left, and every single grain of sand was used. 

We have left it to dry now and hopefully it will be okay when we next see it. 

Monday 10 October 2022

Dyrham Park

Darren had a free pass to any National Trust property, and as it was another lovely day we decided to go to Dyrham Park on the outskirts of Bristol.

We knew absolutely nothing about it apart from the fact that it has a very long wall along the A46 to keep people out.

We turned in through the imposing front gates and couldn't see the house at all as the road disappeared down a very steep hill. We had to turn off to the car park and walk down. 

After picking up a map in the Visitor Centre we set off in the opposite direction to the house to a viewpoint. It was very nice, but quite similar to the views yesterday, so instead here is Darren in a tree.

After our viewpoint we approached the house from the back through beautiful gardens. 

We wandered around admiring the views and trying our best to follow the confusing signs. We enjoyed a coffee in the cafe, bought a metal duck in the gift shop, and followed a sign that said basement but actually led to a courtyard garden. All of the while we were looking for the entrance to the house, and in the end we had to give up and ask a guide. It turns out that the front door is at the back and was kept closed with a sign saying 'wait to be invited in'. 
It all seemed very odd so instead I pushed open the door to find ourselves in a dark, grand room with a lady playing a harpsichord. 
The house is being restored after many years of neglect and lots of the rooms are closed to the public, but what they had was interesting, and they also had a dressing up box. 

There were very few visitors in the house, but two others were already there so we got dressed together. I was hoping to be a grand lady in a Jane Austen style outfit, but all I could find was the maids clothes. 

In the house we saw a picture of the enormous and intricate gardens at the front of the house, but were told by a guide that we needed to manage our expectations. 

That turned out to be true, as none of them are there any more, although there may be plans to reinstate them. It would be fantastic if they did as the gardens went all of the way up the steep slopes on either side of the house and there was a stepped waterfall down the hill from this viewpoint. 

All in all, a good fun outing if a bit confusing at times. 

Sunday 9 October 2022

Round trip to the round hill

A beautiful hill dominates the landscape around us, with fields on its slope and a lovely tufty topknot of trees at the highest point. 

We have admired it from afar, but today we went on a walk to the top.

We set off from river level, following instructions that I found on a pub website. Obviously it was all uphill for a while and it told us to walk along a holloway.

I have never heard of this before, but it was a sunken pathway that secretly led us up to the village of North Stoke. Once there we walked past an old church and then upwards to the Lambourn Plateau.

Amazing views from the ridge and we could see Bath, Bristol and both bridges over the estuary to Wales.

To be honest the bridges were very small in the distance, and my phone doesn't have a good enough zoom, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Next we went around the side, and then across the fairway of an immaculate gold course. It was very busy and golf balls were flying in random directions. At one point we heard a surprising crash as we think one landed in the bushes just behind us.

Then we came across some interesting metal sculptures, 

and finally reached the pub whose map we were following.

As it's October we decided to order two halves each to sample more of the pubs finest.

The pub was right next door to Bath Racecourse and we had to walk across the track to pick up the next footpath, and then on to yet another viewpoint. 

Are you ever going to get to the roundhill I can hear you thinking?

Well, here it is from the back. In the Iron age a Fort was on the top and you can understand why they chose it, as there are 360 degree views for miles. 

Once we had hiked up to it, all that was left was a long charge downhill, stopping at the pub in Kelston for a very late lunch, and then back home. 

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Testing out the decking

After a lot of effort the decking is now finished. Phew. 

We were very lucky with our materials and reused and recycled loads of stuff. We found a super sized pallet by the side of the road that a neighbour was throwing out (we think), and that made most of the base.

Our next door neighbour had too much topsoil and I ended up barrowing about five tons round to fill up the flower beds. Then we reused sand and gravel from the greenhouse base to mix with cement to put in supporting posts. 

I also bought two trees from the bargain section at the Garden Centre, and filled the beds with seedlings from around the garden.

The only things that we actually bought was the decking boards and hundreds of screws. 

I have put together a little picture montage from the three floors of our house. Note the building work in the background. 

This is the view from garden level. 

First floor balcony level and the fish lawn is just swimming into view. 

Top floor view. Darren didn't want an oblong shaped deck, so we officially have a splatt.

But when turned upside down and viewed from an aeroplane, it looks like a bunny with a little green tail being chased by a fish.

Sunday 2 October 2022

New patio

So the greenhouse has gone from Bicester, and we need to decide what to do with the gap where it used to be. After the heatwaves of the summer we decide that some shade was very important.

With that in mind Darren found a triangular sail on offer online and buys two - one flouresant orange and the other grey.

It took a while to concrete in the scaffold posts that hold it up, but it covers the new area very well.

What we have to do now is to make a flat usable space underneath it. Deciding upon decking Darren sets to work building a base. 

He laid the planks down on to it and was insistent that it had to be an interesting shape. 

It took a while to decide on the shape, but Darren wanted a splat. I think that he has succeeded. He also bought a sheet of corten and got the manufacturer to slice it in two to give a back to my flower bed.

You can just see it at the back of the decking, and as it threw it down with rain yesterday, it is already starting to go rusty.

We timed it really well as our next door neighbour was trying to get rid of quite a few tons of very clayey topsoil, so we barrowed round about four tons. It was enough to get the back planted, but we still need a couple of tons to finish the side borders.

It's coming on really well and as long as the weather holds it should be finished by tomorrow night.