Here, There and Everwhere

So, who would have thought that a simple discovery day walking around various London areas would be , literally, such a pain in the arse (or ass for US readers)? A few years ago i suffered from a tension in my lower back/buttock area – like some-one had kicked me and bruised a muscle. After several expensive trips to a chiropractor, turns out my spine is lop sided due to fallen foot arches. 4 visits at quite a lot of money to be finally told to buy some plastic in-soles that would support my arches. £35.00 for 2 strips of hard plastic? And then I remembered that my Dad ( mum’s second husband so not my genetic dad (so she says)) was excused conscription in the 50’s because of flat feet. Can’t check with my actual dad if he had flat feet too because he’s dead too. But I digress. A few weeks ago Mrs C and youngest are off to visit her sister in Devon. A few days peace and quiet for me. Yay! Do I drop them off at local train station and go home to do good deeds or house work? Or do i go with them to London and further explore the big city? Having waved goodbye at Paddington, I set off to wander – and decide what to do. To be honest, without a definite plan, London is so big, has so much to explore, it can be pretty daunting. The older tube lines, with their “cut and cover” technique have fascinated me as it’s more easy to see their origins than the dark deep tubes. So – Central/Metropolitan  line -and a a whim get off at Great Portland Street.

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Overpass at Great Portland Street Underground, great detail looking down at the platforms.

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Great Portland Street tube station.

Those Victorians had an eye for detail even the bridge across the platforms has detail. I Guess a window on the bridge made for an interesting view for Victorian train geeks – plus helped with steam and air circulation. It still fascinates me the level of detail that went into these early tube platforms. In our modern era we are building Olympic and World Cup stadiums, extensions to the tube etc. Are we thinking “this will last a Hundred years, look at the small stuff??” So – exiting the building and heading out aimlessly on foot. Where to go next? Regents park loomed ahead – all those big terraces built for the Georgian rich.

JFK Statue

JFK Statue

Was he great? Or did his assination change the world looked at this womanising President?

One thing that London has that I never see in other great Cities, is how the haves and have-not’s  live so close to each other. Along the Grand Terraces beside the park, behind them were the mews for the horses and carriages, some are still there, some got bombed in the war. And, surprisingly, I got to see how the landscape was physically changed. the Grand terraces are raised up for a better view, the mews behind are at least 1 floor lower.

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A place facing the park about £3m plus – sorry couldn’t get a clickable link. But my point being that 2 streets are so close in distance but a million miles apart in class. Still – Alabany street had a decent selection of shops and a cheese sub for my lunch.

 http://www.zoopla.co.uk/property/197-albany-street/london/nw1-4ab/17162782

or  a few yards behind, a flat on Albany Street is a tenth of the price

 http://www.zoopla.co.uk/property/flat-34/chester-court/albany-street/london/nw1-4bu/17163068

So

, moving on – I wander around and find a beautiful hidden street with beautiful homes in Park Village East – then hear the train from Euston and realise that even back in the day, the rich had no choice but to adapt to teh new railways. Have a look here – within jut a few meters there is train lines, budget housing and millionaire properties

https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=albany+street&rls=com.microsoft:en-US:%7Breferrer:source%3F%7D&oe=UTF-8&rlz=1I7GZEZ_en-GB&gfe_rd=cr&gws_rd=ssl&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&ei=siWeU82sN4LY7Abuj4HoCg&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ

And then I was back into Camden and the tourists. Interesting fact – I’m a huge “Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy fan, listened to the radio show under my bed covers back in the early 80’s – and now I see an influence on the writer

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And on we go.. instead of my last visit towards the Overground, Mornington Crescent attracts my attention. 2014-05-26 14.05.07 a classic Underground Station design. All those tubes and people travelling under your feet.

Today is all about random, so – right fork as I see some cars for sale. As it happens, I’m in the market for a new car and I see the Ford Galaxies used by the biggest private hire company in London. In my price point, but all 100k miles. A nd just a few yards down a most amazing building.

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 The London Building. Google Goggles only came up with “Art Deco” but this is a beautiful building with a wry happy twist to it’s renovation. And a lot of images of our new cat – so our family now calls this the “Betty Building”  (Our cat is called Black Betty)

Move on. Back towards Euston/St Pancras – hmm.. been there before – come on I’ve all day and it’s only lunch time. Jump on the next bus, and end up in Oxford Street. Where I remember that John Lewis has done something to their roof.

Up 5 floors of International shopping, a brief flight of stairs, and some astro turf and planting. Not a lot up there, but the view makes me ponder on my earlier thoughts – those Victorians had so much attention to detail – detail that no one else would have seen. I mean, no planes, no Tower Cranes yet their roofs have detail, design. The 20th century stuff is all concrete, air conditioning – flat. 2014-05-26 14.40.41 2014-05-26 14.45.32 2014-05-26 14.46.34 2014-05-26 14.47.01 2014-05-26 14.47.50   And time to move on. Too many tourists – open your eyes! One of my favourite blogs is a guy who lives and talks about the Isle of Dogs. Or, as most people now know it – Canary Wharf. So that’s where I went next via Jubilee line, then DLR the robot train. Another tale of two halves. Across the river from the bottom of the Isle is Greenwich – and the Navy and all their rich friends hated looking at the dregs of society across the river, so they brought those dregs a garden. I do urge you to find out more – some areas of London have history, but the Peninsula of Dogs just sums up London’s expansion.

1950's film dfor all to see - but it's just me.

1950’s film dfor all to see – but it’s just me.

Thames, low tide

Thames, low tide

Yet more cobbles find a way to see history

Yet more cobbles find a way to see history

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TOP 10 PERSONAL FAVOURITE SHORT SONGS

TOP 10 PERSONAL FAVOURITE SHORT SONGS.

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TOP 10 PERSONAL FAVOURITE SHORT SONGS

I am a secret fan of “Top 10” lists – even if it’s only so I can shout at them “that’s just wrong!” So I’m going to have a go at my own liost – short songs/tracks that I would take to a desert island and play again and again. These are not in any order -that would just be too hard to do – and I could have done a Top 20 or 50.

I am a child of the 80’s – nearly 50 – so that decade is heavily represented hear. And with no apologies – that era was the greatest in my opinion.

JON AND VANGELIS  – I HEAR YOU NOW

Vangelis’s music I found to be so different – electronic with soul – and I was already a big Yes fan – so the 2 together was a great union. The first album doesn’t have a bad track on it, and Jon’s free form vocals fitted the dramatic music so well. This was the most commercial track. It also reminds me of my first proper girlfriend.

MARTHA AND THE MUFFINS – ECHO BEACH

Come on – you just have to sing along to this! I lived on Mersea Island as kid and teenager – the beach was a few hundred yards down the road.

MIKE OLDFIELD – TOP OF THE MORNING

Never released as a single, this track is just so heart lifting. A perfect way to blow away any bad emotions and greet a new day.

GARY NUMAN – DOWN IN THE PARK

So many versions of this to choose from – gary himself has re-imagined this song and updated it for the 21st century. Plus covers by Foo Fighters, Marilyn Manson and many others. A great melody line, brilliant bassline. Vocals a bit dodgy.

PETER GABRIEL – SOLSBURY HILL

Classic, hummable, great simple guitar riff

THE BUGGLES – VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR

Quintessential 80’s (actually 1979)

SIMON AND GARFUNKLE – THE BOXER

So many S&G songs to choose from – this one just sticks in my mind for no reason really.

ROYKSOPP – POOR LENO

As much as I loved teh synth-pop 80’s, the trance dance of the 90’s also resonated with me, an this was a great entry track to that style

LOUIS JORDAN – WHAT’S THE USE OF GETTING SOBER?

Sums me up!

MIKE OLDFIELD – SECRETS/FAR ABOVE THE CLOUDS

Another track that wasn’t a single but is just bloody great. The original TB theme (to be in my Top 10 Long Tracks) with that Ibiza dance twist and probably the greatest bass line ever (next to Too Shy by Kajagoogoo)

Categories: 2014, Just Me, Things I Like, Top 10 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

January, Oh January, Wet and Wild

Wet and Wild – great when in bed with a women, bit rubbish when it’s the weather. Wet and Windy? Bad from both.

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Ancient bridge, Great Barford, Bedfordshire

So, after the blow out of Christmas, ending with Mother’s Family Gathering to which all must attend, 2014 started with rain, rain and more rain. For my work this is better than snow. I can keep most of our team working. And January is always a tough month for any family. Bank account emptied by Christmas presents, and by being paid early before Christmas, so it’s hard to find things to do. Even more so when the rain just WILL NOT STOP! There’s only so many times Monopoly comes out.

So what top do? Get out the Wellies! – And what do our American friends call these?

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We have some great parks around our area – not beautiful like Devon, but free an most with decent signage and history. This one is near Northampton, a Georgian man-made reservoir that in it’s day drowned local farmers fields. We saw a teenage boy walking with his family wearing a onesie. Mud Mud glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood!

But January is also the time for Panto’s and school performances. Our Katie is nothing if not passionate about getting on stage – and she does it overcoming a serious problem – she has no talent! Now, that may seem cruel coming from her Dad, but she more than compensates with volume and enthusiasm. And really, until YOU have spent an hour in the car with Katie plugged into her phone singing along to Katie Perry, you can’t say.

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The 3 lower schools in our local pyramid put on a great show. There’s some great talent in there, a girl at Katies’ school has got a role on the stage in the West End “Matilda”. And what is funny is how her music/drama teacher looks so much like Mr Schu from Glee!

Later in the month we had planned on another London trip, but the day before some idiot vandalised the overhead cables so Sunday trains all screwed up. So what to do? A drive down to Aylesbury and the Roald Dahl museum. Turns out there are 2 musuems, the local council’s and a private one at Dahl’s house.

Ayelsbury is like Bedford, a mishmash of buildings, not a lot of sense to the town layout, nothing to really write about. The McDonlads was busy, got some bargains the street market

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The Roald museum is actually pretty cool, if a bit small. Expect about an hour or 2 to visit,but as a cost it’s OK compared to many other exhibits. But you don’t expect a local museum to charge. As it turns out, that money is spent next door on a local exhibit that makes a visit well worth well.

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Then it rained a lot more. And I got lucky.

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The book I won, signed by the authors

I had forgotten signing up to the 2000AD email. You know how it is – so many Facebook “like this page”, or you randomly search for things from your past. Whatever, I used to collect this comic as a kid, had about 3 years worth of comics from #1 onwards – God knows what they would be worth now but my mum “tidied up” after I left home. Anyway – I signed up and apparantly there’s a competiton to win a comic book – which i won!

What I never expected was to not only get a signed copy, but find a unique picture on the frontispeice –

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One shot image from the book I won

So – how to finish the month? By surprising the wife.

She had got an e-mail about bargain tickets for a stage show about Morecombe and Wise. Mrs C loves all those “classic” comedy shows from the 70’s and 80’s. Keeping Up Appearences, Steptoe and Son, Morecombe and Wise. We have 2 cable channels here in the UK she loves – “Dave” and “Gold” – full of re-runs. Did I mention “Golden Girls”?

Anyway – we agreed we couldn’t justify a trip to London and  stage show, even if discounted. And after the last few dull weekends, the forecast was sunshine. And it’s Chinese New Year – hey! Let’s go to Trafalger Square and join the crowds.

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The Square still has France’s present to the Brits – a Big Blue Cock!

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Oh – and the nerd in me saw this as we went of to McD’s for lunch – the Silver Lady – she has quite a history

http://www.vintagebus.org/RM577/SilverLadyinservice.aspx

I gave in a bit early, after Mrs C went on about finding cheap tickets at the scalping shops, and broke the surprise. We were going to see the Eric and Little Ern show – all about Morecombe and Wise.

I’m not a huge fan, but the actors had the impressions pretty good – the look and the voices. And just like seeing a favourite band to play their greatest hits, this had all teh best one-liners and comic riffs.

Clare happy at Eric & Ern

Outside Vaudeville Theatre

Roof

Inside the Vaudeville Theatre

The London Theatres are mostly 100 to 120 years old, and looking pretty fine – apart from that one where the roof fell on the audience. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25458009 – Remember to ALWAYS look up when visiting.

So – to finish both January ( OK -technically first weekend of Feb), an this bog -we had a great meal at a very reasonably restaurant just of Covent Market.A fixed price ( lunch much cheaper than Dinner), not too big, but good atmosphere, good menu with something to please everyone. If you have a youngster, or older family member not sure of going outside their comfort zone there is sausages, fishcakes or chicken escalopes. Or shish kebab. But it’s a very stylish place – just LOVE the lights! Food is recommended also.

Great Restaurant  near CoventGarden

Bistro !, between Strand and Covent Garden

And that just about finishes the month. Apart from dragging Katie away from a street artist that she was about to ambush.

There may be a separate post about my 97 year old Grandma- but if not – onwards to February – Spring is just around the corner

Categories: Clare, Family, Family Day Trips, Judge Dredd, Katie, London, Travels and Exploration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Judge Dredd and Batman

Judge Dredd and Batman.

Categories: 2000AD, Batman, Judge Dredd, Things I Like | Leave a comment

Judge Dredd and Batman

Judge Dredd and Batman

I won a comic book by signing up to an email list – and got much more than I expected.

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So what did 2013 do for me? July to December

The second half of 2013 – featuring many Mike Oldfield friends, Katie has a birthday, an operation and a holiday, more day trips to the seaside, cheese in a cave, Rainy days and Sundays, a Yellow Submarine and Christmas in a Caravan.

Welcome to the second half of my 2013 round-up. And thank you for reading. And going through my 2013 photo’s – I realise each episode should really have it’s own blog, so much more to show than you see here.

JULY started with my youngest turning 9 – and pizza. I could do the whole “Don’t they grow so fast, where did the years go” bit, or “Hey – remember when we were 9?” thing, but really, 9 is so much a ‘tween age; Santa is no more but the big kids get to do all the cool stuff. Katie had a great birthday, lots of presents.

But for me, the big BIG deal was the Mike Oldfield convention in Reading. The Spaniards and Germans have been holding regular meet-ups for years (I even went to a German one once – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmjgNteTsyw ) so the chance to meet all the people I’ve been chatting to at http://www.tubular.net and on Facebook was just fantastic.

The weekend was hot, the music was great and my T-shirts were too tight!

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The T-shirt appears to have shrunk!

But the icing on the cake was a live Skype feed from the man himself. I guess we kind of thought something would happen, maybe a pre-recorded video. And the organisers had got his brother to make an appearance

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Mike via Skype to his dedicated fans

Oh – and I had put my name up to give a small talk about Mike’s computer games. I was sweating buckets but was very ably assisted by Mar Merida (aka maria)

Maria and I trying to pretend we know what we’re doing

And finally, the day was made even better by a second chance for me to see those great Aussies performing Tubular Bells, especially with a room full of dedicated Oldfield fans and Mike’s original producer , Tom Newman sitting just a few feet away from me!

TB42

Very brave to perform to their “target audience”- and with original producer Tom Newman a few feet away from me.

But – July was hot, hot hot. A mini drought with all the worry that brings to my customers and their gardens. Katie had the pool out, it was a month to –

An evening walk along the river

Have evening walks along the river with my beautiful wife

Take a day trip on the train to Brighton and meet my Sister Briony and paddle in the sea

Sister Briony. Comrade Al and us eating Fish 'n' Chips

Sister Briony. Comrade Al and us eating Fish ‘n’ Chips

Clare and Katie paddle

Clare and Katie paddle

Or to visit Greenwich Park with #1 son Dan and his lovely girlfriend, Katie

#1 son and girlfriend Katie

#1 son and girlfriend Katie

Or to take my Grandma out for the day

My 97 year old Gran, a day out at Ruislip Lido

My 97 year old Gran, a day out at Ruislip Lido

AUGUST was not so busy, but a lot more stressful. It was also the month I seem to have given up on my normal camera and only used the mobile (cell) phone and dropbox.

The big deal was, we had booked a holiday in Burnham-on-Sea when we heard from our Katie’s doctor – they could fit at very short notice. So – do we cancel the holiday or the cancel op? Well, her 1st operation hadn’t worked, but she was hurting every day. And a week by the sea may help. It didn’t – she was in great pain but loved to show off her crutches and bandages. Alice came up to stay and brought her BFF Finola, so it wasn’t all bad.

Katie after her toenails removedBFF - Katie and Finola at BurnhamWeston Pier, summer 2013Weston Pier, summer 2013

After dropping Alice back to her mum, we visited Cheddar Gorge and the caves – lived down the road for nearly 20 years and never visited before! Mmmm – cheese…….

Cheddar caves

Cheddar cavesCave shop - can you see the bell?

Cave shop – can you see the bell?

 

SEPTEMBER – a much quieter month ( no cash!) but another London visit – this time The Tower! Off with her head! The Beefeater we followed had his talk down – really funny and of course Katie was right at the front being cheeky. Lucky he didn’t through her in the Tower

Katie with a BeefEater - Warden of the Tower

Katie with a BeefEater – Warden of the Tower

OCTOBER and yet another visit to London! Almost seems like we make a habit of it. More touristy stuff -Museum of London, Hamleys, and seeing the stage show of Horrible Histories as a late birthday present for our Katie on the 26th, followed by a day trip to Birmingham on the 28th, then a weekend in Chester/Liverpool on 30th & 31st. A mini tour of UK big cities, just missed out Manchester

Hamleys Toy Shop, Royal Salute!

Hamleys Toy Shop, Royal Salute!

Old vs New - Bullring center and old Church, Birmingham

Old vs New – Bullring center and old Church, Birmingham

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And I really should have posted a ton of photo’s.

NOVEMBER – my birthday, so we’ll skip this month. Very quiet. Katie started pantomime rehearsals for the village production. We took my Gran out for a day.

DECEMBER – all our plans thrown about by youngest half-sister Abigail arranging her Engagement party! But congratulations to her and her fiance, Matt. The fool.

So – pantomime at Village hall

Katie & cast , Clapham Panto 2013Katie helping Santa in Riseley villageKatie helping Santa in Riseley villageKatie at the back - adding "projection"Katie at the back – adding “projection”

And finally – Christmas. In a caravan in Devon. Sister-in-Law’s place is too small so we booked a caravan (and it was very windy). Spent Christmas day with Clare’s sister, Boxing day with our friends at their farm, then brought Alice back with us. Dan travelled up on the Saturday with his girlfriend for the Big Family Party.

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Actually – not quite finally. There is a last day trip – on my own. Yep – wandering around London. Always looking up. I saw a church spire hidden behind Oxford Street.

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Have a great New Year in 2014 everyone!

Categories: 2013, Clare, Family, Family Day Trips, Katie, London, Travels and Exploration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So what did 2013 do for me? January to June.

One thing I decided to do in 2013 was start a Blog – everyone and their dog was doing it so why not me?

I posted a few visits to London, about 3 of my family read them, and I gave up. Then I got the automatic renewal notice today – so here is my Grand Round Up of 2013.

The year started with heavy snow - view from the kitchen window

The year started with heavy snow – view from the kitchen window

Think of it as the dreaded family newsletter, with added photo’s, but you have to click to read on instead of it appearing with your Christmas card.

JANUARY Started with snow – lots and lots of it. A beautiful White Christmas that also meant our work was snowed off. So the family went on a day trip to London (for a change). I went to the Transport museum, and Katie got roped into a busker’s show.

Katie stealing the show at Covent Garden

Katie stealing the show at Covent Garden

FEBRUARY was a day out to myself, a trip around the whole of London by Overground. See my earlier Blog for more details, including a great greasy spoon cafe in Peckham – http://carlofamilyblog.com/2013/02/

DSCN1600

Also in February I was going to visit my eldest 2 kids in Devon – at the last minute my mother decided to come along  to visit her Grandchildren. I couldn’t refuse could I? But it was great to see Alice and Dan and visit the beautiful Devon countryside. I wonder why I moved away – until I remember my job was about to disappear, it’s hundreds of miles from anywhere and a million tourists visit every summer.

My Mum and my Daughter Alice, deepest Dartmoor.

My Mum and my Daughter Alice, deepest Dartmoor.

Proud Dad and his daughter

Proud Dad and his daughter

After you!

Our new family member – Betty

And finally, February saw more snow – here we have 2 cats deciding they can keep their legs crossed a bit longer.

MARCH was also cold – and also had more snow. Work sufferred from lost days. Another family day out to – you guessed – London. This time with a stop for Katie – see http://carlofamilyblog.com/2013/03/  At least Katie got to discover more gory history.

Carlo family at The Clink

Carlo family at The Clink

March also saw another trip to Exeter, this time with Katie who had a chance to visit her big sister and Brother.

Katie and Al climbing

Katie and Al climbing

Can't decide

My kids study the menu – Katie had a stonking cold and was half asleep

APRIL was pretty quite. The sun came out and we went for a nice boat trip along the Great River Ouse

Hire boat from Danish Camp

Hire boat from Danish Camp

2013-04-14 12.03.50

We were particularly impressed with the plastic bag tree. After the snow came floods, and all the crap was caught up in the overhanging branches.

MAY was very busy and started, would you believe it – another London day out – see http://carlofamilyblog.com/2013/05/

This time the Grandparents and Aunty Abi (may youngest half-sister) came along for a tour back stage at the Barbican. A “Brutalist” concrete combination tower block and arts center. An amazing thing to see top to bottom.

View from the stage - Katie can hear the applause in her head!

View from the stage – Katie can hear the applause in her head!

Mid May was the Steam Fayre outside Rushden – it generally shines, but the field was flooded last year. Old engines and fairground rides.

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2013-05-06 14.09.17

And then late May was the Biggie! My mothers surprise birthday family gathering. The Clan united – and she really didn’t have a clue! Everyone up to Yorkshire. A large house rented for the weekend, cousins, my 2 from Devon up on the train on their own for the first time, beer and booze overload.

Big meal - big table!

Big meal – big table!

For may in Yorkshire - the sun shone!

For May in Yorkshire – the sun shone!

There are hundreds of pictures, we had long walks and met the mountain rescue dogs etc…. a good time had by all.

And finally May was finished off with a trip to Thorpe Park theme park with Dan & Alice. A grey rainy day – but no queues! We ran around and got on The Swarm ride 3 times on the trot.

Thorpe Park in the rain

Thorpe Park in the rain

Oh – and I got another day to wonder around London on my own. I never got around to a blog about it due to the lack of interest in my previous efforts – but here’s some pic’s anyway!

A real street in London!

A real street in London!

2013-05-31 15.25.45

JUNE  – was another quite month. The sun was shining, Katie had a birthday party ( a week early) and Clare and I went to see Robbie Williams at Wembley. Oh – and as a fathers day treat another day out – nearly to London. The RAF museum instead.

RAF museum

RAF museum

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Clare happy as a lamb.

Clare happy as a lamb.

Robbie Williams at Wembley

Robbie Williams at Wembley

But, better than Robbie was seeing 2 Australians perform Tubular Bells, all the instruments, at Milton Keynes. It was epic. Tubular Bells For 2.

All my stage shots were blurred - so this is all I have.

All my stage shots were blurred – so this is all I have.

And that’s just the first half of my year! Strange – feels like we didn’t do much, but look at all these photo’s (and there’s LOTS more where they came from) and it was busy busy.

Part 2 to follow shortly.

Categories: 2013, Clare, Family, Family Day Trips, Katie, London, Travels and Exploration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A newbie/virgin bloggers observations

I have, to date, 11 posts. Spread over 4 maybe 5 events.

I know blogging is essentially a vanity issue – I have something to say and I hope others like it. If they do – I feel good. Occasionally there are bloggers out there with “issues and they have a genuine cause to promote,but from what I have seen – 90% is vanity.

So, why do i have these followers? People who like my post, but haven’t bothered to leave a comment?

I get the feeling this is a ruse to gain their own followers – look for newbies, “like” them and hope they follow you so you can spread your own word.

Perhaps my humble posts have actually gained the attention of Americans teaching in Nicuragua , Hockey moms in Nebraska or people bungey jumping in Australia. 

So -if you do follow me – tell me why please

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

London again – with special Guest Appearences.

So, another day out. Searching websites for interesting places to go.But this time with a new twist – Starring Special Guests – My Mum! And Nic and baby-est sister Abigail.

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Actually, Abi was off to meet some friends and when I revealed my next location, Nic said he’d be interested in coming too. And Claire and Katie didn’t have anything better to do.

Slow train today, Mum’s discount ticket meant we had to get the stopping train and see every small station. But sparkling conversation made the time fly. but it also meant we didn’t have to get of at St Pancras as this train goes straight through London and out the other side.

Our first stop then – Farringdon. A local stop that is destined for bigger things. Crossrail will make it a major hub. 

The concourse from the Overground/Mainline track is huge, obviously waiting for that major influx in a few years. But the old underground entrance on the other side of the road is looking a tad sad. The original signage still there but with a thoughtless addition stuck on top .

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A brisk walk past Smithfields market (closed on Sunday), some discussion as to the correct route, and we are passing some hidden gems. This area is full of Architects. Maybe it’s the brutalist Barbican that attracts them. Maybe it’s the 24 hour bars serving the market traders.

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Look Up! A motto mentioned quite frequently. The detail here is beautiful. Unlike the mess in the office on the ground floor. Literally everything Architecture needs is in this street – model makers, ground surveyors, jobs I’d never heard of. Nic and Abi were lapping it up. Nic was once a Quantity Surveyor on International class projects, and Abi is nearing the end of her Architects training.

So – next stop, The Barbican. A classic example of Concrete as Art. A living space to replace the bombed out area, and a humungous Arts Center. After the area was flattened in WW2, the City of London (and not London City – 2 very different things – see http://www.smithsonianmag.com/video/The-Secret-City-of-London-Part-1-History.html ) new residential flats were proposed together with a smallish Arts Center.

Our tour turned out to be just the 6 of us – our own private guide. Victor (with a mild North European accent) was our guide. He must have spent months remembering all the facts, dates and numbers. How many seats in each section,  when what was built, distances from top to bottom. I’m not going to bore you with all the details. Plus, I was too opened-mouthed most of the time to write anything down.

As a taster of things to come, our first fact was the lorry lift. Most theaters have a back door, or a ramp. Not here. As the main stage is underground, there is a lift to take 40 tonne lorries with their stores, props etc down.

One of the other very noticeable things is the use of primary colours and ovals. We have really entered the land of the 70’s. Just like any Blakes 7 or Doctor who set from 1978! Doors, air vents, lighting recesses, openings in the concrete walls – all have oval features. And in the main public areas – concrete. Not just one finish though – rough, semi and smooth. Victor tells us the rough finish as achieved by hand. With hammers and chisels. Must have been years of work – some of the interior walls are 4 stories tall.

We descend in a lift to a drab corridor. The feeling of claustrophobia, of being underground with no windows is starting to hit home. We are shown into a dressing room, designed for the chorus maybe. 6 mirrors, a shower, a bench. Those 30 years are showing, the stains on the thin cushioning, the age of the phone on the wall. oh – and those ovals..

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A short hop past the Gents and we are in amongst the rigging, just above the fly controllers space. Fly is the big sheets with the backdrop scenery painted on. This place was built to the specifications of the Royal Shakespeare Company – and they would put on 2 or 3 different shows a week. So they have 63 different “flies” that can be dropped, allowing for different shows to be all ready to go. We are already getting a sense of the size of this place. Big meter drop to the stage floor and we are at level -1.

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Where next? Down stairs. We got to see the rest area/canteen for performers and crew. The storage area for props and scenery. We sat in the auditorium as punters (a cool sideways entry, like the Star Wars ride at Disney) And the scale is just huge. A basket ball hoop stuck to a gantry. Over 100 musicians can be fitted in – the front of the stage is on a hydraulic lift.

But best of all – Katie got to see how her future audience will look like. This is a bit blurry, but in her head, a thousand people are cheering and clapping.

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Can’t go any further down (the 3 miles of tunnels built as a nuclear bomb refuge and the flood room aren’t on the tour anymore), so the only way is up. A surprisingly clean, fast and quiet lift gets us to the top floor. And the conservatory.

Back in the 70’s, the main residential flats had already been built, and here the Architects were putting a sodding great big building complete with huge tower in their line of sight. What to do? Wrap it in glass and make a giant green house. Which is beautiful, with ponds, carp, jungle plants, and – today only – a wedding

2013-05-05 13.14.10 2013-05-05 13.14.03And our tour is finished. 75 minutes of facts, jaw dropping size, and so much more to find out. Mum didn’t ask too many stupid questions, Katie didn’t get bouncy and twitchy (except on that stage) so I count this as a success. £8 each well spent.

After a lunch just of Covent Garden, and no Katie-related showing off (see previous posts), we went our seperate ways. I had promised Katie for a while that we would go to Coram’s field –  a play ground near Russell Square and St Pancras. http://www.coramsfields.org/ is the link. An urban green space. And very busy it was too. Katie soon had all the kids on the zip wire organised – helping the littler ones on and off, pulling the seat back. Claire and I had a sneaky ice cream from the van – but don’t tell Katie 😉

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Nearly 2 hours and she was shattered – so a brief walk back to the station, and another London Adventure done.

Categories: Family Day Trips, Travels and Exploration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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