Saturday, November 30, 2019

Alabama 2019 - Days 7 & 8 : Speedy and Dirt Cheap

Thursday 28 November - Thanksgiving

Breakfast is pancakes and bacon, which makes a change from porridge.

All is quiet, on the walk this morning we saw more people than we have seen on any previous morning.  It is like Christmas day, lots of people out walking. After breakfast I took Robbie and Mady up to the end of the road on their bikes.  Robbie is just learning and seemed to enjoy it, although every time he stopped he took his helmet off.  Mady was having fun some of the time, but I don't think she really understood why we were 'going nowhere'. Karen and Robert are busy preparing for the evening Thanksgiving meal.  Most of the stores are closed today.

Lunch is rice, beans and salad.

After lunch Robbie takes us for a walk around the lake.  He is a good guide.  There is a bird that he calls 'Speedy', we haven't identified it for sure yet, we saw one of his 'cousins', we also saw a turtle, and spent a while watching a grey heron fish.
Grey Heron Hunting



Jo + Robbie watching the Heron

Robbie in front of the Park sign.

We bought an acorn back from the walk that Robbie really wanted to open.  When he did, with Robert's help, all he found was grubs.

Too much food is kind of a theme for Thanksgiving.  Robert and Karen worked hard to provide an over the top meal.  Robert has a smoker and smoked a turkey - it was delicious.  Karen had prepared other traditional dishes and made two pies - pumpkin and peanut butter, both in gluten free bases.  We were all soon very very full.  As ever there was lots left over, so more of the same for dinner tomorrow - can't wait (weight?).

Friday 29 November - Black Friday 

We went to a store called 'Dirt Cheap'.  Boy did it live up to its name.  We were looking for a Christmas Tree (fake).  There were loads, most of them too tall. All the boxes were open, all had either mixed content, missing content or broken content.  We did not find one that was complete and working.  All they have at the store is salvaged goods, which they presumably get for next to nothing.  There is Christmas tat all over the store, all for a dollar or three.  Its hard to work out the prices because the label says $2, then you have to find the discount code - typically 60%, so the price is $0.80.  Then there is extra discount if you shop between certain hours. I hope I never go back.

Then onto the park with two very nice play areas.  Here we are 'selfie style' enjoying the park, but one of us not enjoying having our picture taken, which is why I am pointing, so that he will look at the camera.

We were not there long when Karen got a message that her parcels had been delivered.  She was worried that it would be left on the doorstep, and sure enough it was.  Delivery is no better in the USA than in the UK, perhaps its even worse here.

Alabama 2019 - Days 5 & 6 : Grand persons and digging in the dirt

Tuesday 26 Novenber

This is not a sight we would see at home, a vulture walking round a dead animal in the road.  I think the carrion was another bird or a rabbit.  Mauve was fascinated, I was grabbing my phone to record it.

Today's main event is Grandparents day at Robbie's school (Cary Woods). The sign at the entrance was Grand persons day.  Pam had driven Mady, Jo and I to the school, it is only a few minutes away.  Robbie loved showing us around and took us down to the hall to eat.  The Thanksgiving meals were all set up ready to go.  We collected our meals and found a table.  One of Robbies friends sat at the other end of the table and his grandmother kindly offered to take a picture of us.

Here we all are:
On our return, Pam leaves to go to other members of her family for Thanksgiving.  We stay with the children.  First we clear the leaves from the front a little. Then they are playing on the front grass, Mady digging in the dirt.  One of the boys from down the road sees Robbie and comes to play, he is 9 years old. More of his friends arrive, they are older.  A very boisterous ball game gets underway, eventually one of the older boys is hurt and they all go home - which is a relief for us.

Now all is peaceful and quiet, I can pretend, just as the children are.  My pretence is not Pokemon related, but it might involve digging in the dirt. I'm just enjoying sitting on a verandah in a rocking chair with my faithful dog lying there.  I'm watching my lands, enjoying the late autumn sun, satisfied with a good day and a good season.  Well all the elements are there and I can dream too, can't I?  It was a lovely day, quite like Mid-September in the UK.

Dinner was home smoked red-snapper, it was delicious. 

Wednesday 27 November

Today is also like mid-September, it is raining hard, so hard water is running out of the gutters.  There will be no walking a dog while it is like that! The rain didn't last long, almost all traces of it were gone in an hour or so.
I looked after the children while Karen and Jo went shopping. We did a little more leaf clearing, it's harder work when the leaves are damp. A guy in a truck stopped and offered his help, I told him we were just playing and were not serious about clearing the leaves.  They are deposited by an Oak and a Sweetgum tree mainly.  Both trees are quite large, so there are lots of leaves.
Mady dug in the dirt again, I think it is her favourite outdoor activity. We had to go out, so I was following instructions to keep her out of the dirt.  She had a melt down when I told her to stop. So, we played games while cleaning her up and her usual pleasant temprament soon returned.
When Karen and Jo got back we loaded ourselves into Karen's car.  There really isn't much room and Jo is stuck (literally) between the two child seats. We are soon at Taco Mama.  Mady is then with Carly, one of the employees and is very happy.  There are all sorts of people in the restuarant, and it soon gets busy, so arriving early was a good choice.  The food is good as always.  Robbie enjoys his meal eating quite a lot.
After lunch we visit the new bookshop next door.  It is very nicely laid out and has a few nice souvenir type gifts too.  Back home I play with Mauve for a bit, and take her for a walk about 4:15.
Later, we go for dinner at Cracker Barrel.  Its a nice place, but a bit of a disappointment.  Our orders are  not delivered properly, Robert's is completely wrong, mine is incomplete, Karen's is overcooked, Jo's is OK.  They sort it out, but it shouldn't have happened.

Alabama 2019 - Days 3 & 4 : In the woods, at school

Sunday 24 November

After a better night's sleep where I only got up once and was quickly back to sleep.  We were woken by the children. For breakfast I tried the cinnamon porridge we had purchased, the instructions do not allow it time to cook adequately.  Porridge needs to be simmered for a couple of minutes, so I tried that and the porridge is much much better.

Today we visited TJ and Val and their children Weston and Poppy.  We last saw TJ and Val several years ago, so it was good to re-new this acquaitance.  They too have a lovely house with a similar arrangement to the one we saw yesterday - a lounge area open to the top of the first floor.  We had dinner together at their house after some shopping.  We also visited the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefied Park (Civil War) and the four of us (Robert, TJ, Jo and I) took a stroll along one of the trails.  We arrived just as the 'five minutes to closing' announcement was made for the visitor centre, the trails are open for another 90 minutes.  It was a short walk along steep hillside paths covered in leaves so that rocks were not visible, the temparature was dropping as the sun went down.  The trees restricted the view, there is little space between them.  It was not easy for us on a planned, prepared trail.  What it must have been like to chase an army or be chased by an army through those woods is difficult to imagine.

Monday 25 November

This mornings walk around the estate was more eventful than usual.  Mauve was stalked by an escaped dog.  She was very concerned about being followed, I didn't know where the dog had come from, I'm not used to all the local canines yet.  Eventually after 5 minutes and maybe 10 steps a woman and a boy started to try to catch the dog. The boy caught it with an amazing rugby tackle and our walk continued.

The main event for us today was a visit to Karen's School  The Radney Elementary School.  On the way we stopped at Zaxbys and got a takeaway lunch.

We were signed in at the school reception, the ID required was a driving licence, a small machine copied the picture and a label was printed - very efficient.  The label is now on Robbie's bedroom wall. We ate lunch in Karen's classroom, Zaxbys salads are very good.  After that we met a number of the staff, including the nurse and the head teacher - a Star Trek fan who has a poster on his wall proclaiming "Everything I need to know I learned from Star Trek". I can't fault that!

It is Pam's birthday tomorrow, as she will be away we will celebrate this evening.  Robert bought Mexican pancakes. They are corn tortilla disks with bean mash to stick things to it.  There is a selection of toppings, its then covered in grated cheese and grilled.  Very Nice.

I spent the last part of the day connected to work, solving a SQL problem with the billing engine checking process. - All good fun! (I don't think)

Alabama 2019 - Days 1 & 2: Surprise! and a Helicopter

Friday 22 Nov

The day is dedicated to travel, from the time we get up at about 7am the focus is preparation for the trip.  The taxi is due at 10:30, we are ready by 10:20 (unusually!).  It arrives in good time, although sitting in the back seeing many clocks showing different times is disturbing, even when the maximum difference is 2 minutes.   The journey is good, none of the contingency time is needed, so we end up with time to kill in Terminal 3.  I suppose that is what they want.  Going through security there is an elderly man having his bags searched.  A bottle of ketchup, or something similar, is found.  It is held together with parcel tape.  It is above the 100ml limit so will have to be surrendered.  I feel sorry for him, he seems more confused than angry.
There is still 2 hours before the gate opens.  We paid £12.00 for a salad, sandwich and 2 waters at Eat, the airport is a rip off - but you know that.

Sitting at the gate, an old man sits opposite me and says "Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait".  It sums up my feeling but I am not in a conversational mood and avoid further eye contact.  This was a mistake.  When boarding was called we both got up at the same time and there was a gentle clash of heads.  He was OK, so was I.

The flight left 25 mins late, but was ready to go on time.  We were informed that the arrival time was not affected.  We settled in, if you can do that on a plane.  There is free WiFi (allegedly), you are not allowed to use it to message people.  For me it didn't work, no internet connection was provided.  I have since been told I should have installed an app.

The choice of films did not seem inspiring, I watched:

Storm Boy
This was the best of the three, the story told by a grandfather to his granddaughter of the rescue of some baby pelicans.   The backdrop to the story is another piece of conservation, and the two are cleverly woven together.

Toy Story 4
A formulaic extension to the franchise, watchable but not inspiring.

I am Mother
A skynet story, or is it? The sole girl being bought up by a robot (mother) gets to discover the real world.  As Sci-Fi goes the telling is better than the idea with this film.

Airline travel is NOT environmentally friendly, but there are some obvious small things that could be done:
  1. Serve a fork, knife and spoon as required, not every time.
  2. Give out what's asked for, not tooth brush and paste, and eye shades to everyone.  This is already done with headphones. 
We arrived 30 minutes early, which made for a better flight than usual.  To compensate, we were put in the slowest line through immegration.  People from the next flight overtook us.  The queue management this time was awful, this has not always been the case, so I suppose it depends on the staff.  Our bags were set off the usual carosel, waiting for us. It took at least 45 minutes from start of the queue for the particular desk to being officially allowed in.

Robert met us and drove us home.  Robbie's face (surprise) and Madelyn's hug made the whole day worthwhile.  Total travel time is about 18 hours. 

Saturday 23 November

We slept badly.  That is not a surprise, there is jet-lag to be overcome as well as overtiredness.  Saturday morning set the pattern for the rest of our time here:
  • Get up, breakfast, walk Mauve, shower and be ready for the rest of the day.
We went out to a yard sale. A couple opened their house, priced up their items and invited people around.  We bought a few odds and bits.  I can't see this working in the UK, but let me know if I'm wrong.
Just across the road was another of Karen's friends - Erica and her two boys, her husband was recording a Vlog, so we didn't meet him. They have a lovely roomy, airy house, with the lounge area open to the roof.
After that we did our first shopping.  By then the rain had started and the standing water meant a shallow paddle in to and out of the supermarket. (approx $153 was spent)  The self service check outs are as unreliable here as in the UK.

After lunch, back at the house I helped Robbie build a Lego helicopter, here's the finished article.

Another dog walk, and home for beef stroganoff. Before that I was playing with the children, chasing and catching them, Mauve could not resist joining in.  She doesn't know her own strength though, so had to be put in her crate.

Grandad was tired and dozed off on the sofa.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Summer Holidays 2019 Part 2

Part 1 of my unusual summer is here.

Thursday, 22 August - Thames side nature park

We took the boys to the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park.  Take a look at the website and you will see that it is a very interesting building. We were able to follow the spiral up to the roof  where the view is amazing.  The park shows wildlife living alongside industry.  That wasn't our theme for the day though, Leo got an interest in bugs.  We bought a small bug collecting kit, and the picture is of one of the bugs we found that day, not at the park itself, but in Mill Meadows.

Looking for bugs in the park bought home to me the sudden drop in numbers that insects have suffered in recent years.

Sunday, 25 August - St. Giles Mountnessing Flower Festival

Bank Holiday weekend also brought the bi-annual flower festival at St Giles.  In previous years there have been more people at the St Giles weekend, but it was still a good display.  No pictures of flowers because the thing that most grabbed my attention was the mamoth bone.  I had never heard of it before, or perhaps I had just missed it.
That's not to say that the displays of flowers weren't good, they were very good, as they always are.

Wednesday, 28 August - Bats in Mill Meadows

The slightly grainy picture of Mill Meadows at the scout hut entrance was taken as the sun set.  We are visiting the meadow on a guided bat tour.  The bats that inhabit Mill Meadows are pipistrels.  We were loaned bat detectors and had a very enjoyable evening pointing them at the sky and listening to the bat's echo location calls changed to a frequency we could hear.

We saw and heard a bat chasing an insect in the torchlight in the middle of the meadow.  The changes of direction are mad and seem impossible to us.

This may be my favourite outing of the summer.

Thursday, 29 August -  Jenny and Joe's Wedding

Christ Church had been transformed for the wedding.  An event we had all looked forward to for such a long time.  It went very well, as many people came to celebrate with them.

We all wish them the very best in their life together.

Saturday, 31 August - Flatford Mill - Treasure Island

Open air theatre is one of the things I enjoy most.  It is also pretty rare for me to get to a show.  This one was special because it was aimed at children.  So, there we were with Leo and Fred and their Mum and Dad on one of the hottest days of the summer.  Lunch was packed and eaten in the field in front of the stage before the performance.

The story was told brilliantly with lots of action and lots of songs to keep the children (and Adults) entertained.  Even so, the youngsters were a little distracted for some of the time.

At one point the weather changed and it became quite cold, but at least it stayed mostly dry.

Pirates have been quite a theme since, but there's no keeping Captain Jack out of it now.

Friday, 5 September - Tiptree

We had been told that there was a pub in Tiptree that served good lunches at a very reasonable rate for pensioners - The ship.  We decided to visit as it was a nice day.  The food was good, but we should have booked, the pub was full.  We were found a small table right next to the bar.

After lunch we took a stroll on Tiptree Heath. The heath is first recorded in 1401, and now has ponies on it to keep the scrub under control.  They certainly add something to the heath, making it feel older and more rural than it probably is.

I've heard since that some people are trying to get them removed, I hope they do not succeed, natural management of the environment is so much better than a mechanised human  approach.

Friday, 6 September - The Windmill and the White Horse

The family got together  to celebrate an important birthday twice.  Once, because that was the decoy event and happened at lunchtime.  We went to The Windmill at Hanningfield for lunch, and once again it was full, or so we were told.  It didn't look full, but then you can never tell what bookings they have.  While we were standing outside trying to find somewhere else to go one of the waitresses came out and invited us back in, saying there had been a cancelation.  Was it just a story, I don't know, but we were pleased to be seated, and to enjoy a good meal.

We said our good-byes and prepared for later.  A room wwas reserved at the White Horse for the evening celebration.  Loads of friends had been invited, and a good night was had by all.

Sunday, 8 September - Weald Park

Weald county park is a huge expanse of green space, fields and woods that we visit occasionally.  Today Brody enjoyed a longer than usual walk and so did we.

So concludes the summer.  A very different approach this year with different highs and different memories.  The children are back at school and life goes on, only blogging gets left behind.  I'm catching up with that now the weather is cold and foggy.

Summer Holidays 2019 Part 1

It's a strange year, not just because of the unprecedented madness in the political world, but also because for the first time as an adult, I took a holiday at home.  The intent was to take the grandchildren out for odd days, it didn't work out quite as expected.  Here's what happened:

Wednesday, 24 July - Tilbury Fort

This was a scouting expedition - to find out what the place is like and whether it is suitable for young children (up to 6 years).  This year we are members of English Heritage, so it didn't cost us anything.
We took lunch and ate under a tree on a very warm day.  There is plenty of space to run around, lots of different guns and plenty of displays which make interesting reading.  So I enjouyed it.  The staff were very helpful.  I think that it would be better to wait a while - say until they are 10 - because there's little that's interactive.  It's fine for toddlers, but for older ones maybe not so useful.

Friday, 26 July - Old Windmill

Not really a part of the holiday, but these few days were lovely and warm, too hot even.  After taking Brody to Hydrotherapy for a later appointment than usual, we went to the Old Windmill for lunch.  Thomas enjoyed playing on the old Tractor, while Brody enjoyed sitting near the table, watching for a crumb to drop.  Food is usually very good hear, today was no exception.

Sunday, 28 July - Tollsbury

Having looked after Thomas for a few days, we were invited to visit the boat that had been his parents home.  They had almost completed running a holiday for disadvantaged children.  It is hosted by Fellowship Afloat.  Much work has been done to the boat and more is planned.  It is a great space for ministering to children, and provides great activities in the estuay.

Friday, 2 August - ChiChi and Andrew

On  the afternoon of the 2nd we set off to visit Maidstone for the wedding of Chi Chi and Andrew.  The wedding was different and a joyful occasion that will be remembered for a long time.  From dancing down the aisle as the bride arrived to a reception with an ice cream van outside, we had a lovely evening.  Sadly all my pictures were awful, so nothing to put here. We also learnt something about the 'eco' friendly sat-nav in the leaf.  The journey to the tunnel was mainly on 'B' roads, and sometimes not even that!

Monday, 5 August - Pensioners Praise + Lion King

Today, I was preaching at Pensioner's Praise at Christ Church, Billericay.  The subject was the Gospel of Luke, you can read the sermon here, if you are interested.

In the evening we went to the Canvey cinema to see the 2019 version of the Lion King.  It's quite an impressive film, the animals look so realistic.  Of course, we know the story, but it was still a good night out.

Tuesday, 6 August - Whipsnade

Whipsnade is an amazing zoo.  There are so many animals and for the most part they are easy to see.  We started with penguins and listened to the talk, got the answers wrong and generally enjoyued ourselves.  It is also a LOT of walking for young children.  We also saw the baby tigers, zebra, meerkats, rhinos, camels, chimpanzees and loads more.  A ride on the train takes you to views you cannot get any other way, and allows the children to rest their weary legs.

Wednesday, 7 August - Jo at tea at church (prep for St Johns on Sunday)

I was also asked to preach at St John's, so needed a few days to prepare.  That's one of the advantages of being at home.

Saturday, 10 August - Rochester

Cathedrals have been upping their game recently.  Rochester had crazy golf on the subject of bridges.  We couldn't miss that so went to take a look.  It was good fun.  We learnt a lot about bridges, but before we could play we had to wait for a wedding to finish.  The business of the building still comes first.
Their visitor numbers are up, but I wonder how many of those additional visitors are Christians from other places checking out what they are doing. We certainly fall into that category.
Rochester itself is a lovely little town and we will try to visit again to get a flavour of the Dickens Christmas events.
We had lunch at 'The Cheese Room', which advertises:
- how could we go anywhere else?  The service was slow but they were absolutely packed, so that wasn't surprising.  The cheese was delicious, and the others were happy with their food too.
We arrived back late, and I was more focussed on the events of the following day than remembering to pay the Dart Charge.  Weeks later I got the penalty letter.  It lets you off for a first offence and any subsequent offences before the letter arrives, so it just cost me £5, as it should have done on the day. Phew!

Monday, 12 August - Papermill Lock

We decided to visit Paper Mill Lock with Jo's Mum.  There is a very nice Tea room and boat trips are available up and down the canal.  Although there are quite a lot of people about, it always feels reasonably peaceful.  We ordered our lunch, and it arrived in a reasonable time.  We had been on a boat one way, but not the other, so booked a trip on the boat that went the other way.  All the time I was watching the weather forecast, one hour to rain.  We should get back in time.  The canal is lovely with just a few people on the tow path, you can feel that you're really out in the countryside.

About three quarters of the way I found I was wrong, the rain arrived. Although the boat is covered, the sides are open.  We got soaked, and then needed tea in the tea shop to warm up again, by then the shop was very busy and tables were hard to find.

At least Brody enjoyed himself.

Tuesday, 13 August - Audley End

Photo here
We had thought of taking the grandchildren to Audley End.  As we are, for this year, members of English Heritage, it seemed like a good thing to do.  Maybe they are a bit young for stately homes yet, but with the quality of visits these days, maybe not.  It did not look like it was going to happen, so Jo and I went ourselves.  I've already written about this trip here.

In the evening we took Leo to Billericay Town, to watch ???, a match we shouldn't have won, but much to our relief we did.

He stayed with us for a sleep over, on his own.  That was one of the things he had asked for.

Wednesday, 14 August - Sleep over over

Photo here
I woke to find there was something in my bed.  See above and guess what it was.

Thursday, 15 August - Audley End Train

Today marked our second visit to Audley End in the week.  This time we took the three boys not to the house, but to the train and the childrens activities.  We booked the train to save us queueing. and arrived in plenty of time.  We found a reasonable space and laid out the picnic.  Then the rain started, luckinly it was only a short shower and the rest of the day was dry.

The boys enjoyed the train ride, the craft activites, and the other activites that were available.  They even enjoyed the fairy walk, which I have to say was very carefully thought out and nicely put together.

Only one gripe really.  Why are ice creams here more expensive than at the house?

Friday, 16 August - Warners Hayling Island

The cabins @ Warners, Hayling Island.
"Hi de Hi".  I's the only way to introduce the topic.  Last year I completed 10 years at my company, so I got the 10 year award, some money towards a weekend break.  After much trying to find something that would fit the budget, we ended up here for an Elvis tribute weekend. The journey down was not that great and we arrived in the rain.  I went to reception, booked in, got the key and we found the 'cabin'.  The accomodation is quite good. We were not that late arriving, but alrready all the tables in the resturant were booked, only two sharing tables were left. This was the thing I liked least about the whole experience.
In the evening, rather than watch the entertainment we went to their little cinema and watched "The Greatest Showman" - a very sanitised version of the P T Barnum story.  The songs are quite good, but musicals are not my thing.  Jo enjoyed it.

Saturday, 17 August - Warners Hayling Island

Saturday was dryer, so we went for a walk along the seafront.  Some of the houses are amazing, I don't know if they are holiday lets or whether someone leves there, but the level of decoration is impressive.  There is also a train, so we caught the train back, and then went on for a walk around the funfair.

After dinner we stayed for the Elvis tribute.  He is billed as the best Elvis, but neither of us were that impressed. There was even one song that he missed a verse on, and others he sang in the style of Elvise, with some connection to Elvis, but never actually sung by Elvis.

Sunday, 18 August - Warners Hayling Island

We visited Chichester Cathedral for their Holy Communion service and then took some time looking around.  We had lunch in the garden behind the resturant because the rain had stopped.  After lunch we visited the museum, a very modern building covering part of a Roman Hypocaust.  The displays were interesting, but the supposed view of the cathedral was covered by scaffolding.
Next, we visited Boxgrove Priory, and the church that used to be attached to it. There was a sign pointing to a cream tea, which was a bit of a surprise, but a welcome refreshment.
Finally, we visited Halnacker Windmill.  It's a long walk up a long hill but is absolutely worth the effort.  The view frrom the top is incredible.   Unforetunately, as ou can see, it is not possible to visit the windmill itself.  Back at the camp we enjoyed the entertainment put on by the staff - a Queen special.

Sunday, 19 August - Warners Hayling Island - return

Photo hereWe travelled home via the Hambledon Vineyard.  Our intent had been to get our wine for Christmas there but they only had sparkling wine.  The journey took us through some lovely southern England countryside.  Hambledon was not our fist choice, but that one seemed to be completely closed, so we used google to find the next nearest.

The adventure continues here

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Olivers Italian on a Tuesday evening in September 2019

We had heard many good reviews on Facebook, so for our anniversary celebration the two of us visited. I phoned ahead to book and the booking was accepted. We arrived in good time and were immediately shown to a table and given a choice where we would like to sit There are only the two of us in the place. There is a refurbishment going on, so the doors are all open. We are asked if we want them closed, but it is warm enough. The restaurant is in the old Mayflower pub - an ugly 1960's concrete building. It still looks like that, but hopefully will improve.
We are asked what we would like to drink. Firstly there is no real ale (but I'm used to that in restaurants), then there is no cider - because the bar area is being refurbished. I opt for sparkling water.
We choose and order our food. The starters are soon delivered and are very nice. There is not much of a wait for the mains. The ravioli is OK, but a little dry. The salmon teriyaki tastes very good, but the salmon is a little dry and poorly filleted.
Would we like a dessert? We are asked by some guy who we haven't seen before, our waitress is now serving the other table where guests have just arrived. He doesn't know what flavour the cheese cake is, he doesn't know if tiramisu is available. It is, and it is nice enough, the cheese cake is strawberry and is nice enough too.
All evening we have been listening to accordion music the only track we recognise is 'O Sole Mio' (If you're a certain age 'Just one Cornetto'), maybe I'm just not good at recognising Italian classics? Most of it reminds me vaguely of Café René ('Allo 'Allo), I was worried that Madame Edith might sing!
The prices are a little high for the food that’s on offer (about £1 too much on a main course, for example).

We were asked several times if everything was OK, yes, it was always OK, always OK, never better than that.
Starter: "Colours of Italy" - Mozzarella and salad
Main: Salmon Teriyaki
Main: Raviolli
Desert: Cheesecake

Friday, September 06, 2019

Eleven Thousand Books, Two Faded Badgers and an Albatross

During our last holiday (the wash out, in June) we joined English Heritage on a special offer.  It would be wrong, therefore, not to make use of it.  So we visited Audley End.  We had planned to take the grandchildren, but it began to seem as though that wouldn't happen, so we went on our own.  We were met by a lady offering a guided tour of the servants quarters.  This sounded interesting, so we decided to go around with her rather than head straight to the restuarant.Very interesting it was too.  The most fascinating thing for me on the whole tour was the water system.  They installed something remarkable - something very like a modern hot water system, installed in the 1700s.  I asked about how the water was managed, how it was pumped up to the boiler on the second floor and was told there was a 40-page book on the subject (but not how it was done).  We saw the cold storage, a large room, always in shade with perferated zinc windows.  This is one of the things that I don't remember, but have seen evidence of in a house moved into when I was 5 years old.  The drying area for the weekly wash had many things in it I do remember - especially the dryers hanging from the very high ceilings and the ropes used to lift and lower them up.
The tour of the main house was also interesting as it has been through so many different periods of development, restructuring and decay.  There are 11,000 books in the house and none of them are unique, copies exist in other libraries, principally the Bodmian.  So, few scholars come to read them.
There is also a very large collection of stuffed animals and birds.  In different cases in the near dark there are creatures that look very like badgers, they have black stripes across their heads, but their enite body is a uniform dirty cream colour.  They are not a rare species of albino badger they are just faded with the passage of time.  Then there is the biggest gull I have ever seen, it is, of course, an Albatross.  It is a very impressive bird even with its wings closed and suffering from being stuffed!

Audley End is not cheap, but it is good value.  We visited once when I was a child, but I don't think we went in because all I remember of it is the outside view.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Amble Day 6 - Remorseless Rain

I was awake about 6:30 and could hear Brody walking about, so got dressed and took him out.  I had 'waterproof' walking trousers and my dog walking coat - used in the depths of winter.  The wind went straight through it, and so did much of the rain.  I was out for about 11 minutes and was soaked.

Again about 11:20, for about 12 minutes, in an already wet coat, I braved the elements with Brody - dogs have to go out, and he doesn't really like it any more than I do.  Again I came back soaked, even my coat lining was damp.

We drove to the Old Ash Dene pub in Ashington.  It was not old.  It was on a trading estate, with piped music, none of which either of us was familiar with and served pub chain food.  OK, but not great.  Something to fill a hole and a break from the rain.  When we got back I took Brody to the grass, and around the pier, as the rain had just about stopped, but we still weren't out long, the wind was strong and it was about 10 degrees.  I really should have bought gloves!

I have a recorded total of just 1.86 miles walking for the whole day, but there is another dog walk to do, so I will get wet again.  The forecast has this going on to about 4pm tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Amble Day 5 - Warkworth and Alnmouth

The day started really early with Brody barking to be let out.  As there is no garden here, only a small concrete area, he has to be walked to the end of the street.  That is not a good thing at 5am.

Today we were supposed to go to Seahouses and do a Farne Island trip, but thought better of it when we saw the gale that was blowing.  We did think a short trip round Coquet Island might be manageable, but when I tried to phone them the land line number on the leaflet took me to a private residence.  The man gave me a new number.  Neither that nor the mobile number on the leaflet were answered.  Instead we decided to visit Warkworth Castle.
View from the first floor
 We used the audio guides provided by English Heritage to take a guided tour of the castle.  These always provide a good tour and a little extra information.
The Percy Tower

The Gate House

The Keep
Just to prove that Brody can hear OK I called his name from the first floor of the gatehouse, he looked straight at me, as you can see below.
Brody, looking in the direction of my call

We then walked along the river to the Warkworth Hermitage, which is only accessible by boat.  On the way we came across a small landing stage and Brody had a very short swim.

A Heron on the river Coquet between Warkworth castle and the Hermitage
Returning from the walk we drove into Warkworth and into the Masons Arms for lunch.  Brody was allowed in the bar, and distinguished himself by being the best behaved dog in our part of the pub.  Warkworth has free parking!  I had to check with the bar staff because I couldn't find anywhere to pay. The pub food was very good.

2.6 miles

After lunch we drove on the Alnmouth.  It has narrow streets, a one way system and free parking all the way round.  It also has an amazing beach.  We spent very little time in the beach because the wind was so strong I could barely kick the ball - it was blown along the beach.  In the town we stopped in The Village Tearoom for tea and cake.  Brody was again allowed in, and behaved himself perfectly.

2.35 miles

Then it was back to the house, to catch up on some sleep.

Driven 14 miles