Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Adam Ant at Cheltenham Town Hall

Friday 11-April-2014

Adam's only London gig is over the Easter weekend while we are away in Italy. The next nearest was Cheltenham last Friday which gave me an excuse to visit friends John and Andrea who live nearby. John and I went to the concert and left Andrea and Mary to go out to the local pub for a natter.

Back in 1980 I went to my local record store to buy "Kings of the Wild Frontier". They didn't have it in stock and I was persuaded to buy his previous album "Dirk Wears White Sox". I took it home, put it on the turntable and I have to say I was disappointed. What was this stuff? Where was the dandy highwayman I'd seen on Top Of The Pops?

I may not have liked Dirk but clearly Adam does. At the London gig he is going to play DWWS in its entirety so in some ways I am not unhappy to miss that date.

It was a concert of three parts. The first part was four songs from DWWS including "Car Trouble" and "Xerox Machine". The second part was what the crowd (or at least me) had come to hear including "Stand and Deliver", "Vive le Rock", "Desperate but not Serious" and "Strip". The third final 20 minutes was non-stop hard-rocking medley that I didn't recognise; perhaps I need to go and listen to the music in my collection again.

Adam did a fair mount of chat, well swearing actually, and it became clear that Dirk is the album closest to his heart. He also seems to think of himself as bit of a hard geezer and he dislikes Oasis intensely.

He still has serious charisma and stage presence as he swaggered about like a louche version of Cap'n Jack Sparrow.

As well as Adam there were two of the original Ants: the bass player, Leigh Gorman, and one of the drummers, Dave Barbarossa.

The music was very loud and we were near the right hand speakers so I called my earplugs into action. In the end I lent one to John so we had one each - both in our right ears.

It was an enjoyable evening but I'd only give it three stars. It might even have been two-and-a-half stars but for Adam's stage presence and iconic status.

Then back to John and Andrea's for a glass of red wine and to bed well past my normal bedtime.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Italian Regional Cooking and Matching Wine

Sunday 06-April-2014

Demonstration Class with Valentina Harris

I must confess I had not heard of Valentina Harris but she is a prolific writer of cookbooks with over 40 titles to her name. Mary signed us up for this class held at Divertimenti in Marylebone High Street.

It was demonstration rather than hands-on so we watched while Valentina prepared and chatted. She gave us an insight into her background (Italian mother, English father), her introduction to Risotto (her signature dish), and about each of the dishes and wines.

The theme being regional cooking every dish and every wine was from a different area. Not a dish and a wine from the same area but wherever produced a wine that would suit.

We were pleased to see a couple of our favourite wines on the list: Greco di Tufo and Salice Salentino.

It started at 12:30 and, given the lead time for preparation and cooking of several of the dishes, it was gone 14:00 by the time we were served the starter and I was starving.

Bocconcini di Sogliola
Parcels of Sole and Rocket
Greco di Tufo, Vesevo, Campania 2013

The parcels were wrapped in speck and were light and delicate as was the wine. I normally think of Greco di Tufo as being a little more full bodied and unctuous but maybe they chose a lighter one deliberately.
Risotto con le Cipolline e la Lattuga
Risotto with Lettuce and Spring Onion
Morellino di Scansano, Le Pupille, Tuscany 2012

I wouldn't normally have thought of cooking lettuce but why not, you cook other green leaves. Since Valentina is nicknamed "The Queen of Risotto" you would expect this to be good and it was very tasty.
Coniglio ai Pepperoni alia Calabrese
Calabrian Rabbit with Red Peppers

Served with

Polenta con Pomodori alia Friulana
Baked Polenta with Tomatoes

Fagiolini alia Fiorentina
Florentine Green Beans

'I Muri' Salice Salentino, Vigneti del Salento, Puglia 2012

This dish may be Calabrian but is also very Pugliese-like as it comes from just around the corner, Puglia is the heel of Italy and Calabria is the toe, and you would expect them to have a lot in common culinary-wise. It would be the perfect dish to prepare in our big terracotta casserole dish. Valentina was very unkind about the "boring" green bean and was of the opinion they needed jazzing up. The stew itself was excellent, very tender rabbit.
Torta di Paparele alia Veronese
Veronese Chocolate Pasta Cake
Moscato d'Asti di Strevi DOCG, Contero, Piemonte 2013

It is a good job this wasn't a TV cookery competition. She, or her assistant, took their eye off the ball and the pasta stuck together - the torta was assembled in clumps rather than layers. Then, when baked, one of the cakes stuck to the tin and came out in several pieces. So she did what sensible cooks do, she reassembled it on the serving dish and covered it in chocolate so you couldn't see the disaster! And it tastes just the same.

Of course we had to buy a cook book so we bought "The Food and Cooking of Sicily: 65 Classic Dishes from Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia" (available on Amazon) signed by the lady herself.
 The Food and Cooking of Sicily

An excellent Sunday lunch and some recipes to try when we are next out in Puglia.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 8-10. For more information visit

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Great Siege of Kenilworth - 700th anniversary souvenir programme

Full PDF version: 19660611-kenilworth-castle-programme

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The Great Siege of Kenilworth

700th anniversary souvenir programme
at Kenilworth castle Saturday 11th june 2pm

price two shillings

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The Commemoration Committee

MR H. L. G. SUNLEY Chairman
MR C. R. BLICK Hon. Secretary
MR D. F. MOORE Business Manager
MISS H. M. CAPPS Publicity Manager


Our Grateful Thanks to:

St. Barnabas Young Wives; Inner Wheel Club of Kenilworth; Methodist Church Women's Fellowship; Kenilworth Flower Club; North Warwickshire Hunt Supporters Club; B.P. Scout Group; Warwickshire Girl Guides; The Kenilworth Society; Kenilworth Town Women's Guild - Afternoon; Kenilworth Town Women's Guild - Evening; Kenilworth Liberal Association; Kenilworth Horticultural Society; Kenilworth Historical Society; Warwickshire Fencing Union; Talisman Theatre; The Kenilworth Payers, Priory Theatre; Kenilworth National Savings St. Group; The British Legion; Ministry of Public-Building and Works_; K. Gee, Esq.; Kenilworth Urban District Council; Warwickshire & Worcestershire Yeomanry; Peter Asquith, Esq. Hudson's of Birmingham; E. F. Abbot, Esq.; Civil Defence; W.V.S.; St Nicholas Bell Ringers; Kenilworth Rugby Club; National Federation of Business & Professional Women's Clubs; The Woodlands School; Mrs D. Harley; Kenilworth Police; Kenilworth Labour Party; 1st Kenilworth Girls Life Brigade; The Rotary Club of Kenilworth; St John's Mothers' Union; Calor Gas Co.; Bullfinch Gas Equipment Ltd. ; Kenilworth Meals on Wheels; St. George's Society of Kenilworth; Councillor E. T. Evans; Mr H. L. James of Autoprufe; Mr H. C. Kenderdine; Eric Pedler; Mr T. E. Bates; Mr and Mrs C. F. Dyer; Mr, R. Tisdale; The Sphinx Club; Kenilworth Carnival Committee; Mr R. Gee and all the good friends who have helped us.

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Bristol Siddeley supply the power

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Messages from

The Right Hon. The Lord Kenilworth, CBE, TD

It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to inaugurate the festivities to commemorate this 700th Anniversary of the Great Siege of Kenilworth.

My family has been associated with this area for many years and I recall with pleasure the time my wife and I lived in the Gatehouse of the Castle.

This is a unique occasion and I know that many people in the town have put a lot of hard work into suitably remembering the valour of our ancestors.

I hope that everyone visiting the Castle will thoroughly enjoy themselves and I wish every success to the other events which are going to be held during the period of the commemoration.

[signature - 'Kenilworth']


The Chairman of The Urban District Council of Kenilworth

In January 1965, the Urban District Council sent a message to the Speaker of the House of Commons praying that he would convey to the Members who were celebrating the 700th Anniversary of the Parliament, the greetings of the inhabitants of Kenilworth and the Council (the present owners of the Castle of Kenilworth which in 1265 was in the possession of Simon de Montfort, and in which he conceived, or at any rate pondered, on the constitution of the 1265 Parliament), who were proud to recall the association of their Castle and its environs with that great man and his cause.

When the Kenilworth Historical Society suggested to the Council that a suitable commemoration of the 700th Anniversary of the Siege of Kenilworth Castle might be arranged, the Council readily gave its support.

It is appropriate that Kenilworth obtained a Grant of Arms this year. The motto adopted is 'Cives oppidi fundamenta' (The Citizens are the backbone of a town). The enthusiasm and voluntary effort of your committee certainly bears out this motto.

As Chairman of the Council, it is indeed a pleasure to congratulate you on your exciting programme and I urge everyone in the town to give their fullest support.

[signature - 'Florence N Adcock']

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A Medieval Entertainment

Saturday 11th June - in the Castle Grounds

Two performances - 3.30 pm and 6.45 pm


A tale of Robin Hood

Presented by The Priory and Talisman Theatre Companies

Thrill to the throbbing drama as Maid Marion is abducted by the Dastardly Sheriff! Enjoy the jocular jokes of the jolly jesters!

Marvel at the mirth and music as the Merry Men dance round the Maypole!

See the amazing action-packed duel between the Sheriff and Robin Hood - ten great hits . . .

Thursday 13th October at the Priory Theatre

*A GALA PERFORMANCE Normal performances from 14th to 22nd October

Presented by The Kenilworth Players

The Play tells the true story of the period in Henry VIII's life, when having gained dissolution of his fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves, he fell in love with and married Katherine Howard, a young and spirited girl of twenty.

Her sudden decline and fall was brought about by a trio of Court Ladies. Their disclosures - some under threat of torture - about the young Queen's previous love affairs, led to Katherine's overthrow and imprisonment in the Tower. She was of course beheaded.

The Commemoration Committee is most grateful to The Priory Theatre who are donating the proceeds from this Gala Performance to the Commemoration Fund.

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Saturday 11th June 1966, Kenilworth Castle

Multi-method Minor Peal of Bells from St. Nicholas Church

2 00 Unveiling of Plaque by Lord Kenilworth

2 15 Tour of Medieval Fayre by official party

3 30 A Medieval Entertainment presented jointly by the Priory Theatre and the Talisman Theatre

4 00 Fencing

4 30 Short-Bow Archery

5 15 Cannon Fire

Draw for Programme Lucky Number

In the Echo Meadow

5 20 Tug-of-War

5 45 Long-Bow Archery

6 15 Demonstration of Cannon Firing

6 20 Musketry

Back in the Castle

6 45 2nd performance - A Medieval Entertainment

The Medieval Fayre will remain open from 2.00 pm until approximately 8 pm.

Other attractions to be announced during the Afternoon

Prize Winning Programme

2 bottles of Lanson Black Label Champagne

Your Programme Number is 910

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Bows and arrows were introduced to this country about A.D. 450 The early types, such as were used at the Battle of Hastings, were short and the archer drew the arrow only to his chest.

The introduction of a longer bow, such as was used during the Siege, made it possible to use a longer arrow and for a more powerful bow to be drawn because the archer could draw to his ear instead of his chest. Both power and range were increased.

It was the long-bow that made the Bowmen of England. Its use was practised by all and sundry from a very early age. It was not an easy weapon to use but practice brought proficiency and it was always superior to the earlier cross-bow which had a shorter range and was slow in operation.

The long-bowmen stood in a body eight or ten deep and shot together, those behind shooting over the heads of those in front. This the cross-bowmen could not do.

The long-bow was last used in battle in 1644. The most effective range was between 250 and 300 yards. Bows for military use were usually between six and seven feet long and made of yew, basil, wychelm, ash or hazel. The arrows would penetrate plate armour.

The long-bowman of today uses a six foot bow and his arrows weigh about one third that of a war arrow. His bow is not as powerful as the military weapon and the range is about 220 yards. There are very few men today who, without constant practice, would be strong enough to draw a military bow.


A sport with ancient origins, fencing has been developed over the years into its modern form. It requires a high degree of skill and co-ordination of mind, hand and body.

Today's fencer has the choice of three weapons - the foil, originally a practice weapon, the sabre which is a lighter version of the cavalry sword, and the epée, derived from the 18th century French court sword. All three are demonstrated today.

The fencers' special clothing gives them the maximum protection consistent with freedom of movement and the position they adopt when 'on guard' enables them to defend themselves or launch an attack with equal facility.

As they advance and retire, testing each other's reaction, seeking an opportunity for attack, the action flows from side to side until a hit is scored.

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If you run short of invitation cards ... send this
Lanson Champagne is one of the Grande Marque champagnes.
Behind its restrained label, lie over 200 years of history that have been anything but restrained.
Louis XV sat on an unhappy throne when Lanson was born.
His 'friend' Madame de Pompadour was at her most devious, Voltaire his most scathing. Kings, emperors and presidents have come and gone.
Lanson remains.
A superb champagne.
Small-bubbled, crisp, sparkling, alive!
If that Lanson label fails to bring home a guest, you must have posted it to the wrong address.

Percy Fox House,
24-25 Whitechapel High Street, London E.1

Item recentely loste in Waters Wine Vaults, by Brodegate Coventry

A cloake of Worsted camblett or cloath, fitting for the winter,

A chair to sleepe in, either of Russia Leather or plush Shagg,

2 pair of Shoes for a girle of little age, one biger than the other.

6 Mops to wash Houses

1 duzen leathern flashes smelling of fragrances stronger than those to which we are ackustomd.

In all we should be well pleas' d to restore owners to lost and vice versa and would ask recipients not to leave our vaults without sampling the wines of Jerez, the porters, sack and fine old British ales.

Tel: 26657/8
Tel: 24946

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The two Cannon in use today belong to Robin Wigington of Stratford-upon-Avon, an antique dealer who specialises in firearms.

The larger of the two Cannon is a bronze seven pounder. The barrel is a fine example of its type and the carriage has been reconstructed to its original pattern in oak and teak.

Known as a 'galloper' it was a mobile field gun in Napoleonic times and could be moved rapidly about the battlefield to support the infantry. It mostly fired solid shot, but when in action at short range - repelling a cavalry charge for example - it fired canister shot.

Although a 'light' gun the barrel weighs several hundredweight, and the complete gun around 15 - 16 cwt.

The smaller weapon is an iron barrelled three pounder of the early 19th century. This is its first outing since its reconstruction.

A mountain battery gun, it is easily dismantled and was designed to pack away on three mules. It was mainly used by infantry in difficult areas such as the North West Frontier of India, and the mountains of Africa, where normal artillery could not operate.


The muzzle loaders in the clay pigeon shooting are of two main types, flint lock and percussion. The flint lock guns date from 1730-1810. They are of slow ignition and the shooter has to learn to follow through even after the priming has flashed if he wishes to connect with a fast moving 'bird'.

The percussion or detonating lock guns are of the 1825-1860 period. The invention of the percussion cap made ignition certain even in wet weather.

Both types are loaded with a measure of loose black powder and then a card wad is rammed down followed by a measure of shot topped by a thin felt wad. in the case of the flint lock the pan has to be primed, and in the case of the percussion action the cap placed in position.

As well as the firing demonstrations we have a fine collection of antique arms and firearms on display, all arranged by Mr Peter Asquith, National Hon. Sec. M.L.A.

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Kenilworth has no Museum. Its treasures have found homes in the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, the County Museum in Warwick and The British Museum, amongst other places.

By kind permission of these friends, and the generosity of many others, it has been possible to put on an exhibition in the Gatehouse of the Castle.

Recent aerial survey has dramatically altered our knowledge of the occupation of this area by pre-historic man. Worked Flints and fine examples of axe-heads, found locally, are on display.

The Romans were here. A tile kiln, near Chase Wood, has long been known but members of the Historical Society recently located a new Romano-British find and examples of tiles and claywork are on display.

Also on show is a unique collection of glass, metalwork and pottery found about 1917 in the area of Kenilworth Common, and this covers the period from Roman times to the 12th century.

The Kenilworth Urban District Council and the Churchwardens of St. Nicholas Church have lent us examples of coins, glass and leadware, tiles and stonework found in the excavation of the Abbey, but the great 'pig of lead'— melted down from the Abbey roof—remains on display in the Church.

The Ministry of Public Building & Works, and Mr. Philip Rahtz have put on display shot typical of that used in the Great Siege, a suit of armour and many examples of pottery, glass and metalware found in the 1960 excavation in the Castle.

To give some idea of the weapons used models have been made of the catapult and trebuchet, and Mr John E. Pocock, Agent to the Raleigh Estate, has lent fine medieval swords and armour.

There is a display of prints, maps, copies of Dugdale's 'The Antiquities of Warwickshire, 1656' and important books written subsequently. A copy of the Enclosure Award of 1756 is on show.

The Kenilworth Historical Society has published a history of the Siege to mark this occasion and it has been designed and beautifully illustrated by Eric Pedler of this town, a member of the Society. Copies are on sale for the first time today on the Historical Society's stall. The price is 2s. 6d.

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Go for happy go luxury!

All set up for a swinging safari Four adventurers (and all their kit) off on safari in style in their Super Imp. To set up camp is simple. They open up Super Imp's rear window and out come pots, pans and hampers. There's room up front too, for more big game equipment. Big load holding that's all part of happy go luxury motoring. And Super Imp hoards its fuel like a camel. Does 40-45 miles on just one gallon. So for carefree happy go luxury motoring with big car styling and comfort see the Hillman Imp at your Rootes dealer today. Recommended prices: Hillman Super Imp £467 plus p.t. Hillman Imp de Luxe Mark 2 £445 plus p.t.


London Showrooms & Overseas Division
Devonshire House • Piccadilly • W1

Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening up Trullo Azzurro - Spring 2014

This year we are renting out the whole of Trullo Azzurro. This meant that opening up was more than the usual tasks of airing the mattresses in the courtyard and doing some tidying of the flowerbeds.

We needed to remove all our personal possessions, transferring them to Sotto Le Stelle, and checking that Trullo Azzurro had all the equipment our guests need. Sometimes we bought new replacements for stuff we'd moved - like new pans to replace our Le Crueset pots - and sometimes we left our stuff and bought new for our apartment - like a compact Bose Soundlink Mini and left them our Sony music system. We also boughts bits and pieces like more mugs, a second drying rack and two first aid kits.

The first evening we went straight out with the Italian usual suspects for a meal. Il Cucco was full so we went to the excellent Mezzofanti. My starter was an unusual and tasty dish of artichokes in a truffle sauce with egg.

The Italian "Usual suspects": Chris, Mark (me), Mary, Richard, John, Kath

On Sunday morning we moved the first tranche of stuff then went over to Kath and Richard's place for a long, relaxed Italian lunch. By the evening we only need at light supper so we went back to Il Cucco for a single course pasta supper with a couple of glasses of Puglian wine.

In the local village of Trito they hang large dolls that look like witches starting on Ash Wednesday . This is a Puglian tradition and these witches represent our sins according to Google. Not a witch, I am informed by a local, but an old woman as a reminder that you are giving up something for Lent.

Back at Sotto Le Stelle we finally have hot water so we did not have to return to Trullo Azzurro for showers. The underfloor heating was turned on for us a couple of days before so everything was lovely and warm. Also we could use the hob for cooking - essential for heating milk for Mary's caffe latte.

We need new business cards now we are renting out the entirety of Trullo Azzurro. So we took some pictures showing both halves of the property. As usual Puglia provided sunshine and blue skies. This time there were some little fluffy clouds which makes a change from the standard pure blue that looks so unsullied it looks photoshopped.

All is in place for our first guests due in three weeks time.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 8-10. For more information visit

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hogsmill Restoration

Kingston, Surrey. Sunday 16-March-14.


"The stretch of the Hogsmill River which runs through the Knights Park campus has been heavily engineered in the past, making it overly wide and lacking in habitat and a natural meandering form. Well, we are now doing something about it! With the help of the South East Rivers Trust we have already started to encourage a more natural river course by installing timber deflectors. The overall aim is to increase habitat provision and enhance the appearance of the riverside environment."
 - KU Biodiversity Action Group

The Restoration:
  • The first phase fixed five trees and one large log into the river to add habitat and create a complexity of flows
  • The second phase is the bulk of the work. Create a marginal wetland habitat which will further help the river by narrowing the excessively wide channel. This will be achieved by installing brash and introducing gravel.
  • The final phase will be planting the wetland up with a variety of native species (Wed 02-April-14, 10am-4pm).
To quote the briefing from KU BAG:

"During this second phase, we will be installing brash (small woody debris) and gravels to narrow the river channel and create areas to plant up next month. We will be staking in chestnut posts using post-knockers, then pinning brash to it using strong wire and fencing staples. Gravels will be tipped from wheelbarrows into the river and manoeuvred to sculpt banks in and around the woody material. No prior experience is necessary, just a willingness to muck in (and maybe get wet)!"

And that is what we did:

This was the third day of the second phase, three day event. First up we had to move the last of the 40 tonnes of gravel which took half the volunteers up to lunchtime.

Filling the wheelbarrows

Stakes and brash to go into the river bed

Bashing the chestnut posts in

Laying the brash in place

The locals investigate

After lunch those not installing the marginal habitat were on litter picking duty both on the banks and in the river.

Deciding how to tackle a drainpipe

By the end of the day all was in place.

Curving the brash round the end of the gravel bank

Full set of pictures in Flickr:

[How to download pictures from Flickr]

Wandle Trust logo
The Wandle Trust is an environmental charity dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of the River Wandle and its catchment. They hold community river cleanups on the second Sunday of every month, up and down this unique urban chalkstream – pulling out everything from shopping trolleys to shotguns, and improving the environment for birds, fish, insects and local people. For more visit:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mike and The Mechanics at the Eventim Apollo

Hammersmith, London. Sunday 16-March-14.

A friend of a friend had a spare ticket for Mike and The Mechanics - part of a tour celebrating 25 years since the release of "The Living Years" so I snapped it up.

Mike and The Mechanics were responsible for me buying a CD player. I had two earlier vinyl albums but "Beggar on a Beach of Gold" was only available on CD so I had to go out and buy a player. I went with the best I could afford, a Meridian 206, which cost over a grand in 1995 and still going strong.

Four of us met up for a meal beforehand at The Gate - a superb vegetarian restaurant. I had a delicious beetroot ravioli starter and a risotto primavera for main. The others all raved about their choices; I must go there with Mary sometime soon.

Off to the venue where we caught the tail end of the support act: Sadie and the Hotheads. When Mike and The Mechanics came on they launched straight into "Beggar on a Beach of Gold".

They continued with a set packed with "The Best of...": the song list took in "Another Cup of Coffee" and "The Living Years", amongst others, right through to audience participation in the encore of "Word of Mouth" (full setlist).

A brilliant concert with very good seats (Stalls, Row H).

Thanks to Julie for the ticket and Julie, Grant and Helen for the convivial company.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beer Festival at The Perseverance

Wraysbury, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Saturday 15-Mar-13.

Tony, a friend and ex-colleague, invited us round as his local pub was having a beer festival. We could have taken the train but it was such lovely weather we decided to cycle. Are we mad?

The first part of the journey was through various parks until we reached Hampton Court where we picked up the Thames Path. We followed that as far as Staines and a final stretch of road into Wraysbury.

Mary is faster than me on the flat. By about an hour and a half in my thighs were starting to flag but had no choice but to carry on. There was a head wind and we were on gravel paths so we only managed an average of 9.3 mph: distance 25.7 miles, time 2:44.

We had soup and bread at Tony and Terri's then strolled down to The 'Percy'. They planned to have an interesting range of beers including brews from Windsor and Eton, Dark Star, Langham, Tom Wood, Mordue, Rudgate, Black Hole, Ilkley, Bristol Beer Factory, Titanic, Saltaire and Kelham Island amongst others.

They also had a live band, The Sam Kelly Band, playing an eclectic mix of AOR.

They did a six-pint deal so Mary and I had three apiece. Most of Tony's friends we had not met before but that didn't stop us having lively and enjoyable conversations. We started in the garden but moved inside after the first pint as it was cooling down. Plenty of room inside a proper English pub with a decent range of real ales - every village should have one.

Tasty beers, good company, live music - what more could you ask for?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Marcus Bonfanti at The Blues Kitchen

Camden, London. Friday 14-Mar-14

It's official - we have seen Marcus more than any other artist, six times now, pushing Van Morrison into second place at five times. At three times there are a number of other artists: Marc Bolan, Taj Mahal, Mike West etc.

We had a delicious Greek meze at Andy's Taverna just around the corner as the gig didn't start till 10pm. The set menu starters were good, then a fish course then some superb grilled meats: chicken, lamb and two types of sausage, after which the kleftiko final course arrived as we were fit to burst.

Marcus was excellent as usual and this time I was once of the regulars - I knew all the songs as soon as he started each one. He played for an hour and a quarter to an appreciative audience.

I cannot say that The Blues Kitchen is my favourite venue: so packed that moving about was difficult, too dimly lit and the PA / sound system was struggling with the volume it was being played at. I had my earplugs with me and used them so my ears were not ringing when we left.

We left about 11:30 and Camden was heaving; North London is very different to South London. I cannot image any area south of the river with such busy street life at that hour. The tube is just around the corner and whizzed us back to Waterloo and train home.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cleaning the Wandle March 2014

This month was a mega-clean up in Poulter Park in conjunction with a number of other organisations, not just the Wandle Trust. The Wandle Valley Regional Park Trust was the coordinating body with representatives from the Wandle Valley Forum,  Sutton Council, Merton Council, London Wildlife Trust, Merton Conservation Volunteers, the Environment Agency and of course all us Wandle Trust volunteers.

This is part of  project funded by Boris:
‘Poulter Park and Watermeads’ (Wandle Valley Regional Park, Sutton and Merton)- £390,000 This project sits within the Wandle Valley Regional Park and was submitted by the Wandle Valley Regional Park Trust. It will result in the creation of new access to Watermeads nature reserve, which is currently closed to the public, by the creation of 4km of new improved paths, new Wandle Gateways and improved seating, signage and interpretation. New flood storage capacity will be created and habitats will be improved across the project area. Walking and cycling from surrounding areas will be improved to create better connections to the Wandle Valley and Wandle trail. It will also help establish the Wandle Green team so trainees can develop employment skills through supporting the delivery of the capital works and parks maintenance. See more at:

It was a land based, litter picking day as the river was not safe to enter. The river may look fine but the water was deep and fast because of the rains. Also it was full of toilet paper and sewage from the Beddington sewage treatment works. The storm tanks used for settlement were overflowing also because of the recent rains and E.Coli levels in the river are high (see Pollution alert: Storm flows from Caterham Bourne through Beddington sewage treatment works).

The banks were not too bad in terms of litter levels, mostly wind blown rather rather than dumped, but still enough to keep us all busy. Our friends Kate and Nigel came along for this clean-up and Mary cycled down to join us at lunchtime to say hello then cycled back again.

There were some lovely ponds alongside the river. I am guessing these might form part of the proposed watermead.

This one was home to two patches of frogspawn - at least I guess it is frogs but I am no expert on amphibian eggs. I cannot remember the last time I saw frog spawn.

It would not be a clean up without the obligatory shopping trolley.

Other mandatory items include bikes, car parts, scaffolding poles, carpet and motor bikes all of which duly appeared. Although we were missing a mattress and child's toy we did get a Christmas tree complete with star.

An added bonus was a sofa-bed from the undergrowth which provided a lunchtime rest facility

My inner caveman was disappointed not to go grunting into the water and heaving heavy stuff out but the lovely sunny weather and heaps of litter harvested made for a very pleasant and satisfying day out.

Wandle Trust logo
The Wandle Trust is an environmental charity dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of the River Wandle and its catchment. They hold community river cleanups on the second Sunday of every month, up and down this unique urban chalkstream – pulling out everything from shopping trolleys to shotguns, and improving the environment for birds, fish, insects and local people. For more visit:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Two titanium implants conclusion

Part two of the implants - a return visit to fit the crowns.

This finally fixes a gap that has been there since 1989 when a previous dentist made butchery of an extraction of the lower right 7 molar. It was that extraction that sent me to Harley Street in search of the best dentist I could find. As a consequence I have invested in some fine dental work in the intervening years.

The eventual failure of the lower right 6 molar meant it was time for implants to fill the gap. I am sure that implant practice will have improved in the intervening decades so the wait was probably beneficial.

The previous visit involved taking accurate casts with the temporary "golf tees" replaced by the pegs that would provide the final support.  Casts and pegs went off to the dental laboratory for construction of the new crowns.

The new crowns in place on the cast:

An X-ray with the new crowns installed. I was pleased to note that screwing the pegs into the implants used a torque wrench so that there was no danger of over-tightening.

The crowns had to be cemented into place in the correct sequence because the angles meant the 7 had to go in before the 6 otherwise they wouldn't fit.

Plan view of the new crowns. The fit was micron perfect. I can tell by the way the upper and lower teeth all meet simultaneously when I put my teeth together - like Swiss engineering.

It still feels odd eating on the right hand side. I am having to make a conscious effort to chew on that side; I am sure normal eating will soon be resumed.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Grandmothers of Invention at Under The Bridge

Saturday 01-Mar-14

We went from The Commitments at The Palace Theatre to this gig via Beachcomber bar in Queensway for Happy Hour with our friends Nigel and Kate. A couple of cocktails and then we were off to Under the Bridge to grab pole position.

My mates at college were big Zappa fans but I was never that convinced at the time; I was more into listening to T.Rex, Bowie and Roxy Music. However subsequently I have listened to a lot more jazz so my tastes have broadened. A couple of days beforehand Mary and I listened to a Frank Zappa greatest hits CD to get our ears in the mood.

The GrandMothers of Invention comprised three of the original Mothers of Invention line-up with additional band members. This is the first gig of their "Freak Out / The Early Zappa Years" Tour in which they perform songs from the first ten Zappa records.

Obviously I will never see Frank Zappa on account of him being dead but having three actual, original band members is enough for me to consider The Mothers of Invention ticked off the musical bucket list.

The GrandMothers of Invention are:
  • Bunk Gardner (with the Mothers of Invention from 1966-1969) on tenor sax, EWI, flute, straight man, commentary
  • Don Preston (with the Mothers from 1966-1974) on piano, keyboard synthesizers, electronics, gongage, magic, and vocals
  • David Parlato (with the Mothers of Invention-Hot Rats-Grand Qazoo-Petit Wazoo from 1972 thru 1976) on electric bass. 
Also featuring:
  • Christopher Garcia (the only drummer / percussionist,vocalist to hold the drum chair since 2003 for the GMOI) - drums, percussion, marimba, and vocals, and 
  • "Mad" Max Kutner - electric guitar, what nots, pedals, hats and hair.

As often at gigs the songs were well known to the devotees but to me they were all first time of hearing. Because of that I could not tell you which compositions were on the set list (apart from "Call Any Vegetable"). If it is not damning with faint praise, I enjoyed it more than I was expecting. Suitably eccentrically Zappa-esque, it was an excellent concert and they are very accomplished musicians.


Part of the concert on YouTube.

Set list and review at