Wednesday, May 31, 2006

An almost free lunch

Mary and I have made so many bookings through toptable: London Restaurants that we had enough frequent eater points for a free three course evening meal. Excellent. So we booked ourselves into Quaglino's for a Friday night meal.

As we had a bit of time to kill I went straight from work to meet Mary in St James Park where Mary was on a four day NLP course held in Regent's College. We took time to wander around the park and be amazed at the amount of aquatic bird life. As well as the "usual suspects" (Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and Tufted Duck) there were loads of others.

The Canada Geese were particularly pushy and came marching forward beaks agape in expectatation of crusts of bread. Apparently they are a major problem in London parks because of their voracious eating habits and the resultant pollution from the output of their digestive systems.

The birds there are so used to human presence we were able to get within three feet of a Heron who looked not the least perturbed by our proximity. There were also half a dozen more exotic water fowl we could not identify from our small bird book. Orange headed ducks, ducks with rust coloured bodies and various LBJ's.

We then walked down Baker Street passing the blue plaque at 221B (Sherlock Holmes residence) to where we could get a cab down to Quaglino's where we had a very enjoyable three course set menu.

Now the food may have been free but the deal is you pay for the extras. The water, side vegetables, half bottle of Roederer, bottle of white wine, glass of red with Mary's cheese, glass of dessert wine with my pud and 12.5% service charge came to GBP 113 (USD 213). So not *exactly* what you would call free!

Apologies for the gap in postings but we have been in Italy for two days. An update on the Hovel-in-the-Hills™ to follow.

Friday, May 26, 2006

You are old, father William...

...the young man said
And your hair has become very white
And yet you incessantly stand on your head
Do you think, at your age, it is right? *

My first ever yoga teacher, thirty years ago at Oxford, was a guy called Kofi. It seems he became a big teacher in the world of Iyengar yoga. He was very keen on Shoulder Stand and Head Stand so early on I got used to being inverted for long periods of time.

Last week the teacher at Esporta got us to do the head stand. She was saying things like "this is difficult but give it a go" and "use the wall to help steady yourself". I just plonked my head on the floor, fingers interlocked behind the head, straightened the legs, lifted gracefully into a free-standing posture and "how long do you want me here?". But pride comes before a fall...

This week we did the Pigeon [see Google images for pictures of the Pigeon posture]. I may be able to put my hand flat on the floor in a forward bend but in reverse my spine has the flexibility of an oak plank! The hip joints were no help either. As soon as I tried to lift my hands off the floor over I toppled.

H-m-m, more practice needed methinks!

* You are old, Father William by Lewis Carroll

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I don't want to go to Chelsea

My normal cycle route takes me through Battersea Park and over Chelsea Bridge. This week thay have turned the car parks into overflow parking for the Chelsea Flower Show at only GBP 20 per day.

I know there are keen gardeners the world over but I do think of gardening as a particularly English obsession. At one wedding I went to the Best Man's speech included the quote, "If you want to be happy for a year get a wife. If you want to be happy for ten years get a dog. If you want to be happy for life get a garden". **

* (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea by Elvos Costello.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily the author's.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fair weather cyclist

Yesterday morning I opened the kitchen door to let Cleo out into the back garden. She looked at the rain, I looked at the rain, we looked at each other and both thought, "S*d this for a game of soldiers". She went back to her basket and I caught the train to work. If you think I'm cycling in that you're barking.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Michael McLellan limited edition prints

My father is a talented artist and it is not just me who thinks so. His work has been hung at a number of galleries and exhitions, most recently at the Art by Architects "Vision 05 Exhibition" (see also blog entry "Art by Architects"). At the end of last year he was asked to put togther a one-man show at Wolfson College, Oxford this autumn.

At this point Mary and I decided to enter the fine art publishing business. Over Christmas we were at Collier and Dobson in Fordingbridge to buy a pair of Tabitha Salmon prints. We chatted to them about what would be involved in doing prints of my Dad's paintings.

To cut a long story short, I went down to the printers on Saturday with Mum and Dad for a signing and numbering of the first 20 prints of two of Dad's paintings. Fine art prints limited edition of 95 worldwide; Anthony Dobson has done a magnificent job on the prints, the faithfulness and quality of the reproduction is astounding.

The topic of the wording on the Certificate of Authenticity came up. Contact details will be me and Mary as "publishers" but what to put for the web address? We checked it out and michaelmclellan .com and were both available. So now, at the ripe old age of 81, my Dad is a dot-com!

If you want to see the paintings please visit "".

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Meeting with Rosa

aka Blog Meeting 4. After Wednesday's fiasco ("Blog Meeting 3") this was the opposite end of the spectrum. I met up with fellow blogger Rosa of "Living as Rosa" along with "hub" and "the kid" as "hub" was in London on a business trip and the others tagged along.

We met at Joe Allen's at 7 o'clock as arranged and spent a most pleasant evening. I fear I was at my most garrulous and they scarely got a word in edgewise. I was commending the bus as the best form of public transport and pointed them at TFL (Transport For London) and their excellent journey planner.

On the way home doing the short walk over Waterloo Bridge I thought that I must get them to do the same and see one of my favourite vistas (See "London so good they named it once").

Friday, May 19, 2006

Blog meeting 3

London Bloggers Meetup Group:- May MeetUp

The group had gone dormant (see history below) but Jo from Tooting nobly stumped up the money to reactivate it. There had been a couple of previous meetups since that but this was the first I was able to get to.

Not so successful this one. Got to all-bar-one at 5 past 7 and was there for half an hour. Did three circuits of the place hoping for either 1) a sign or 2) for someone to spot a lost looking person. I accosted two groups asking if they were from; felt sufficiently embarassed - sounds like a dating site for singles. At 7:40 got fed up and left.

Turned out I had got the details right it was just I was the only one to turn up. Oh well. Two future dates for your diary:

Britblog meeting Sunday 21-May-06 in Covent Garden:
The London Bloggers June Meetup Tuesday 20-June-2006:
And a mailing List, UK Bloggers social:

Past history:
 • Tom Reynold sets up the London Bloggers Meetup Group
 • I go to a meeting
 • I go to another meeting
 • Tom steps down as chair

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Candles in the Wind

Sunday I remarked to Mary how pretty all the candles on the horse chestnut trees were as we cycled along the Thames path: huge white flowers with little pinks dots.

Monday I was cursing them. Tree pollen is sharp stuff and the light breeze whipped up a continuous mist all the way home. It was like cycling through fine cinder dust. Gritty stuff and my eyes are still sore today. I pity any hay fever sufferers who are allergic to the stuff.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Got the t-shirt

Yesterday we completed the Thames Bridges Bike Ride 2006 in 3 hours 12 minutes and raised GBP 1,260 for the Stroke Association. Thank you to all our sponsors for their generosity.

Not only did we cycle the 32 miles but we also cycled from Waterloo station to the start, from the finish line to the pub, from the pub back to Hampton Court station and from Earlsfield station back home. Phew!

It was a good day for it weather wise: not raining, not too hot. We were booked for a 9:30 start as the organisers offered staggered start slots. Because of the Sunday train service we were early and scanned through the start gate by 8:30 making our target of The Bell Inn by 1 o'clock easy-peasy.

We normally cycle at around 13 to 15 mph but were hoping for an average 10 allowing for pit stops and clambering over bridges where the bike has to be carried. At one point Mary reached 29.7 mph on a long downhill but had to brake for a gate or she would have been in danger of breaking the speed limit!

The ride itself was uneventful and not too crowded as we were in the with the early riders. The highlights for me were the free Mars bar at the third pit stop and the fish and chips at the pub afterwards. I cannot remember how long it is since I ate either of these "delicacies". Oh, yes and a pint and a half of Old Peculier.

Our sponsors pledged a total of GBP 630 which we matched as promised. Now all we have to do is wait for next year's date to be announced.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Oddbins Wine Fair 2006

It's that time of year again when we do the Oddbins Wine Fair* with usual suspects Bob&Lynn. Yesterday we tasted 55 wines between 12 o'clock and 4 o'clock.

We did the usual champagnes before lunch (20 of them) and as always we taste in pairs and swap glasses. That way we get to "compare and contrast" two wines and also drink half the quantity than if we both tried both.

We started with an NV shoot out then went onto the vintage and luxury cuvée and finished with a pair of rosé. The winner in the NV category was Tattinger for me and Bollinger for Mary. In the vintage category it was the Veuve Clicquot and the Moet Rosé was delicious.

My notes for the morning are cryptic and for the afternoon illegible.

Then back to Wandsworth for the first barbeque of the year in our new home. Unfortunately the rain meant we cooked under the parasol and dined indoors. Still it was a most enjoyable day and evening.

* See previously
"Drinking for charity - It's a dirty job but..." (2004)
"Amethystos (under the counter)" (2005).

My name is Ozymandias

king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
* Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

For I have built a mighty shed and the name of that shed shall be "Jackson".

As previously written I had decided on a second shed (see "Arthur 'Two Sheds' Jackson". On Wednesday between the full day's work and the ten mile training ride I popped down to Homebase and picked up the flatpack shed. The next couple evenings have been assembling it and Saturday morning saw me putting the final touches.

It is already stuffed full of garden chairs and gardening bits and pieces for, as everyone knows, a full shed is a happy shed. Now I think some kind of "topping out" ceremony is called for so the two sheds can be officially named.

Friday, May 12, 2006

In training for the charity bike ride (2)

Not content with cycling to work, doing a full day's work and cycling home again Mary decided we needed to squeeze in another training session. So Wednesday evening at 7 o'clock we set off on a 10 mile round trip along the south side of the Thames.

We started off down Smugglers Way, over the Wandle, past the Ferrari workshop and down onto the promenade. Thence through Wandsworth Park, a Grade II listed historic park, and past the "des res" in Deodar Road (*average* price in the last 12 months: GBP 936,000). The Embankment took us past Putney and thence onto the Thameside Path.

This was packed with cyclists, joggers, amblers and dog walkers enjoying a warm evenings perambulation along the banks of the Thames. This tree-lined path takes a very pleasant route past the boathouses, the London Wetland Centre, more playing fields and a nature reserve until we reached Barnes Bridge.

That being five miles we did a U-turn and retraced our route, tight-lipped lest we inhale too many midges. Home for 8 o'clock and rest.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

In training for the charity bike ride

Mary decided that what we needed for a relaxing Sunday afternoon was not a pub lunch with a couple of pints of Youngs Best followed by a siesta but a 20 mile bike ride. This to get in training for next Sunday's Thames Bridges Bike Ride. So off we set...

A short-cut through the centre of the Wandsworth one-way system took us to King George's Park and the River Wandle. The river-side path took us as far as Wimbledon with me singing "Remember you're a Wandle (sic)" with apologies to Mike Batt and anyone within earshot.

Up the hill to Wimbledon Common, down to Robin Hood Gate and into Richmond Park for an almost complete circumnavigation exiting at Roehampton Gate. Cutting through Barnes Common and some urban backroads brought us to the Thames embankment and thence home to Wandsworth.

According to Mary's new bicycle odometer a trip of 20.5 miles. As much of it was through green and pleasant foliage that made for a most enjoyable way to exercise. After which our legs deserved a sit-down and a nice meal at Marco Polo on the River.

It's not a sun roof

The cab that picked me up from Heathrow on Thursday night was equipped with what you might mistakenly think was a sun roof but you'd be wrong. At night this aperture in the car roof magically transmogrifies into something more magical it becomes, in fact, a "star roof".

The lucky passenger receives the light of not a single sun but millions upon millions of them. So open up that balmy evening star roof and gaze upon the majesty of the heavens safe in the knowledge that you may not get much of a tan but there is at least no danger of getting star-burnt ;-)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Transport of Delight

Friday Night Mary and I went to the The Naked Turtle in East Sheen. A fine restaurant with waitresses who double as Jazz singers and, in between taking your order and delivering food and wine, also deliver a song or two to the accompaniment of a live pianist.

Rather than take a taxi we caught the bus, why pay a tenner when you can get there for 1.50? There is, in my opinion, only one place to sit on a double decker bus: upstairs in the front, left-hand seat. From this Olympian vantage point one can gaze down on the street life and observe the first floor buildings. Much of South London was thrown up by our be-whiskered Victorian forebears in a frenzy of late 1800's building boom and there is much fine architecture to be admired.

But the bus is the thing - I still get great, child-like enjoyment from my top-deck eyrie much to Mary's amusement. She was less entertained by my rendition of the final lines from Flanders and Swann's Transport of Delight which features the line (oh so true) "We like to drive in convoys - we're most gregarious"

Cue: Music, Maestro!

"If tickets cost a pound a piece
Why should you make a fuss?
It's worth it just to ride inside
That 30-foot-long by 10-foot-wide
Inside that monarch of the road,
Observer of the Highway Code,
That big six-wheeler scarlet-painted London transport diesel-engined 97-horsepower, 97-horsepower omnibus.

Hold very tight please! Ting-ting!"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cleo behind bars

Mary got so fed up with Cleo widdling on the wainscoting that she bought a dog gate to confine her to the kitchen. We let her out when we are home but when we are out or asleep she is herded back behind bars:

Cleo the cat behind dog gate
A-h-h! Cruel owners!

From a distance Mary spotted a warning label on the frame and into her head popped the thought that it might read "Warning this gate may contain cats!"

We do let her out into the garden but without a cat flap this is a human-operated cat kitchen-back-door. Tuesday afternoon our friend John, who is doing a bit of decorating for us, let Cleo out. And would she come back in? No, the little Minx ran away whenever John got near and would not be herded. So she was locked out until Mary got home from Italian class at 9:30pm. In Cleo rushed with much loud protesting! That'll teach her (maybe, maybe not).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Morning in Oxford

Yesterday we set the alarm for 5:15am, threw ourselves into our clothes, stumbled rushed out into the streets of Oxford and headed for Magdalene Bridge. There thousands of celebrants had gathered to greet the dawn. Some looking the worse for wear in their DJ's (US:Tuxedo) and posh frocks having been up all night at a May Ball, some entering into the festive spirit.

may morning crowd

At six o'clock, as the chimes of clock tower faded, the choristers sang in Latin to greet the start of Spring. Then a blessing on the crowd, another burst of singing and the crowd disperse. In our case to a cafe on "The High" for a glass of champagne and 'Full English'.

The blessing may have been Christian but the roots of the occasion are pagan. There were Morris Men with clogs on their feet and "bells on their toes" dancing traditional dances.

may morning morris men

One troupe was accompanied by Jack 'o the Green, looking more like a Christmas tree than anything else, a primitive symbol of fertility.

[BTW this dancing / Jack is happening under the bridge of my alma mater, Hertford college]

may morning Jack 'o the Green

There was street entertainment such as this energetic percussion band. After all this we went back to bed for an hour then checked out the hotel and caught the train to London in time for lunch.
may morning band