Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thames Bridges Bike Ride 2011

London, England - Sunday 22-May-2011

Our fourth participation in the Thames Bridges Bike Ride in aid of The Stroke Association - 14 bridges and 33 miles.

We don't ask for sponsorship for every event to prevent donor-fatigue amongst our friends. Instead we sponsor each other for the suggested fund-raising target, that way we can support the charity and the charity can claim the tax relief. We save the begging emails for the big events.

Thames Bridges Bike Ride 2011 - Start at Southwark Park
Start at Southwark Park

Mary signed us up for the 8 o'clock start (!). Public transport is not really fully operational at that time on a Sunday so we set the alarm for 6 and cycled the 7.5 miles to the start point.

Thames Bridges Bike Ride 2011 - Start at Southwark Park
Start at Southwark Park

We were in the first batch across the start line and consequently amongst the early arrivals at the end point just beyond Hampton Court. We did the route in a riding time of 2:53 consequently we were all done by 11. Then it was a well deserved cup of tea with Jamaican jerk chicken with red beans and rice.

Thames Bridges Bike Ride 2011 - Finish at Hurst Park
Finish at Hurst Park

Previously: Thames Bridges

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kenilworth Grammar School 1971 Reunion

Kenilworth, England - Saturday 21-May-2011

At the weekend I went to my third old School reunion (see previous *). It is 40 years since I left Kenilworth Grammar School. Respect to Dilys Shepherd for her untiring efforts in tracking people down and organising these events.

This one was held in The Virgins and Castle, one of many of ye olde pubs in Kenilworth. Driving up the main drag made me realise what a delightful town it was. Probably very "middle England" and still very unspoilt.

KGS Reunion 2011 - Virgins and Castle
KGS Reunion 2011 - Virgins and Castle

Who was there? Alex Smith, Andrew Fox, Bill Nealon, Caroline Bostock, Deb Collett, Diana Gibson, Dilys, Kay Warmingham, Ken Harrop, Kevin Beckett, Liz Thomas, Louise Phillips, Mark McLellan, Mark Webster, Martin Haswell, Mary Cameron, Rick and Wendy Skelcey, Ross Beadle, Sue Kirk, Pete Old, Wendy Skinner, David Ashwell, Paul Pearce, Craig Horner, Chris Hills and Carol Mallorie

plus.... teachers: Malcolm Chambers, Norman Stevens, Fud Forsyth and Peter Muckersie

KGS Reunion 2011 - Mark Webster  and Mark McLellan
KGS Reunion 2011 - Mark Webster and Mark McLellan

As before there were people who I remembered vividly and others who I would never have picked out in a police line-up. Not that they have changed - the years, in general, have been kind to the assembled company - it was more that I simply didn't remember them despite having spent years in their company. No reflection on them more a sign of my poor memory :-(

KGS Reunion 2011 - Team Photo
KGS Reunion 2011 - Team Photo
In this photo: Andrew Fox, Paul Pearce, David Ashwell, Peter Old, Peter Muckersie, Craig Horner, Sue Kirk/Hope, William Nealon, Dilys Shepherd, Wendy Skinner, Kevin Beckett, Liz Thomas, Chris Hills, Richard Skelcey, Nigel Mykura, Sue Lamb/Mykura, Norman Stevenson, Deb Collett, Caroline Bostock/Drew, Shelby Louise Phillips, Alexandra Gunning, Mark Webster

Some people had not made it to the previous reunions so it was fascinating to hear about their lives since KGS. It was also good to get an update from those who had made previous events. There are some who Dilys has not been able to track down - whatever happened to Brian Burton or Clive Dodds - and some where the trail went cold or they never replied.

An enjoyable afternoon and I would love to spent longer chatting to some there if we could meet up again - like parties there are so many people you never get long enough to talk to everybody.

Here's to the next one!

My full set of photos on Facebook

Facebook page for Kenilworth Grammar School 1971

* Previous reunions:
Reunion 2001 photos
Reunion 2006 photos

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Race for Life, Battersea Park 2011

London, England - 18-May-2011

Raising awareness and raising money for Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK LogoRace for Life Logo

A cause we both support - both our Mums had breast cancer and Mary's Dad had prostate cancer and all successfully treated. More research is always needed into causes and cures.

Mary at Race for Life, Battersea Park 2011
Mary at Race for Life, Battersea Park 2011

Mary ran, I sponsored. They sensibly divide the participants into runners, joggers and walkers. Because of her dodgy back Mary placed herself with the walkers but, given all her recent power walking, she was closer in speed to the joggers - 5K in 40mins. Pink is the colour!

Afterwards we went for a meal at the Lost Angel with our friend Andrea A for a very enjoyable meal. It describes itself as "bar, restaurant and boozer". I have cycled past many, many times on my commute but this was a first visit - very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting more of a "young persons meeting place" but it turned out to be a very pleasant gastro-pub.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Colavecchia Primitivo Bottling

Three years ago our neighbours introduced us to the Colavecchia Primitivo - excellent everyday drinking wine at a ludicrously cheap €1.10 per litre. We bottled that first batch using old bottles and recycled corks pushed in by hand. I decided that we should bottle using fresh corks and a bottling widget but it has taken a couple of years to get round to doing that.

Colavecchia Primitivo - Buying 10 litres
Colavecchia Primitivo - Buying 10 litres

While we were out in Puglia this Easter we took our friends Tim and Sarah and Elizabeth over to the cantina armed with two 5 litre plastic demijohns and bought their *cough* top-of-the-range primitivo.

Colavecchia Primitivo - Inspecting the bottle
Colavecchia Primitivo - Inspecting the bottle (Photo by Elizabeth Buie)

Back at Trullo Azzurro I co-opted Tim to assist in the bottling process.

Colavecchia Primitivo - Using the corking machine
Colavecchia Primitivo - Using the corking machine (Photo by Elizabeth Buie)

Colavecchia Primitivo - One down, twelve to go
Colavecchia Primitivo - One down, twelve to go (Photo by Elizabeth Buie)

Mind you I'm not sure we needed to bottle all 10 litres because we had drunk half of it by the time we went home. The rest will be awaiting us on our next visit.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Saturday, May 14, 2011

JJ Grey and Marcus Bonfanti at the O2 Academy Islington

London, England - 12-May-2011

Were it not for the joys of the interweb and the iPhone we would have missed this gig.

Some while back my friend Rosemary, who I met through the blogosphere, stayed with us and sent me a JJ Grey CD as a thank you. In return, for her birthday, we sent her a Marcus Bonfanti CD. We had come across Marcus as a support act when we went to see the legendary John Mayall.

Marcus Bonfanti
Marcus Bonfanti

Rosemary had posted a link to the JJ Grey tour info on the Wednesday but after we had gone to bed. By chance I decided to check Facebook on the iPhone before I leapt out of bed and discovered that both these acts were on that very evening! Otherwise I might have cycled to work and Mary gone to her Italian conversation class.

As it was we had a rapid change of plans and went off to the O2 Academy, Islington for the gig.

JJ Grey and Mofro
JJ Grey and Mofro

Both acts were excellent - to quote Mary "Awesome!" What I was also impressed with was the venue itself. Very small, nay intimate, like a large pub room. That meant you could get right up close to the band, just feet away. It would be hard to imagine a greater contrast to the O2 Arena at the complete other end of the spectrum.

A great evening that really got us hankering to go back to New Orleans for the Jazz Fest. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Georgian Chiffonier

We have been looking for a stylish antique for the breakfast room for a couple of years now to replace the Homebase pine sideboard and a butchers block that had served as our work surfaces - well when I say "we"...

A regular Sunday activity has been a stroll to Criterion Auctions of London armed with tape measure to look for likely candidates. Many unsuitable items have vied for our bids but we resisted until the right one came along.

Rather than let this one slip away Mary went down on the Monday evening and bid in person. We got it for just under the guide price on the second bid, pipping an absentee bid and no in-room competition.

Georgian Chiffonier - 01
Georgian Chiffonier (with Peaches and Blue)

The next evening I went down in the car with the roof racks that have repaid their cost many times over and brought our trophy back.

Now it is the happy home for the kettle, cat food and serving dishes.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Sanding the floors and painting the hall

We are now in week six of a major redecoration with the end, at last, in sight.

SWMBO decided that the downstairs floors needed sanding. That means the living room, dining room, breakfast room and hallway - in other words the entire downstairs apart from the kitchen and shower room.

boxes on the bed
Boxes on the bed

So we had to clear the decks - everything had to be moved upstairs or to the garage - while they sanded. Dust everywhere!

Front hall - work in progress
Front hall - work in progress

Dining room - work in progress
Dining room - work in progress

Then Mary had her contract extended so we could afford to have the hall painted as well. However that is about a third of the house as it takes in the kitchen and breakfast room, stairs and upstairs landing. More sanding, more dust.

Hallway from the breakfast room
Hallway from the breakfast room

Thankfully the lads are nearly done and we have started to reassemble our life. The breakfast room is done; the living room is mostly reconstituted but we are waiting till the post-decoration spring-clean before unboxing the CD's. The dining room will be last when they clear out their equipment.

Then we will have to host some dinner parties to show off our wonder walls and shiny floors.