Friday, October 31, 2014

North Downs Way 01 - Farnham to Guildford

Sunday 19-October-2014

We decided to get out about about and get some exercise. My suggestion was to walk the first leg of the North Downs Way - a long-distance path that runs from Farnham to Dover and is 153 miles long.

We caught the train down to Farnham where my parents live; we decided not to drop in but, instead crack on from the station. We quickly met the River Wey which, at the very start of the walk, is little more than a ditch but soon expands to a stream.

We crossed a small tributary of the Wey with a cute folly in the shape of a bridge.

By half way through the walk the Wey looked like a proper river.

The route is gently undulating with no real ups and downs. In theory an easy navigate but I did miss one turning as you can see on the map.

A good part of this stage runs parallel to the Hogs Back along country lanes and through lovely deciduous woodland.

The last mile was a bit of a forced match to catch the train and avoid an hour's wait for the next. We made it with about 45 seconds to spare.

I am guessing that we will eventually do the complete walk.

Watch this space...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kenilworth Grammar School Reunion - Class of '71

A reunion for those of use who left KGS in the summer of 1971.

We met up in The Tiltyard opposite the school for lunch.

This, and previous reunions, have been efficiently organised by Dilys Shepherd, seen here talking to Ross Beadle.

We also had a couple of teachers present as well as us pupils (see attendees list below).

An unexpected bonus was announced - a tour of the interior of the school through the kind offices of the caretaker who very patiently lead us round the old school.

It was a strange sensation standing on the stage of the main assembly hall. I only ever went up there on prize-giving day (which happened most years as I was such a swot). For others it brought back memories of Pirate of Penzance in the sixth form.

The chemistry and physics labs no longer boast traditional mahogany lab benches. They are all gone to be replaced by flimsy formica topped tables.

The Portakabin that was my form room in the sixth form was still there after nearly half a century - a tribute to British engineering! It brought back memories of early bridge playing days and Jeff Love bringing in his copy of Blind Faith's eponymous album and its controversial cover art.

A final tour of the playground.

A most successful reunion and a chance to meet up with my past fellows and reminisce over my school days.

A full set of photos on Flickr:

  • Elizabeth Brown (was Thomas)
  • Wendy Browne (was Skinner)
  • Linda Camidge (was Wake)
  • Martin Haswell
  • Mark McLellan
  • Norman Stevens (Teacher)
  • Bill Nealon
  • Mary Plimmer (was Cameron)
  • Diana Jones (was Gibson)
  • Mary Boswell
  • Dilys Shepherd (was Crumpton)
  • Cathy Martin (was Holland)
  • Chris Jackson (Teacher)
  • Paul Pearce
  • Andrew Fox
  • Ross Beadle
  • Ken Harrop
  • David Botterill

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cleaning the Wandle October 2014

King George's Park, Wandsworth, London. Sunday 12-October-2014

This was the first outing for my birthday present from Mary - a pair of size 9 safety waders complete with steel toecaps and steel shank in the sole.

The Wandle Trust provide a goodly pile of waders - they have plenty of 10's and 11's, plenty of 6's and 7's, but only one pair of size 8 and not a single pair of size 9. Hence getting my very own pair.

It is not so long since we were here last but there was still plenty of fresh rubbish to pull out of the river.

Duvets are particularly weighty and unwieldy so we use rope and grapple to drag them up the bank.

As well as invasive flora there are also alien fauna. Chinese mitten crabs are officially listed as one of the World's 100 worst invasive species [].

The half-barrel, floating trugs quickly filled with the usual suspects including wheels and tyres. We always check the latter for eels as the eel count gives a measure of river water quality

The usual lunch break for tea and cake. The tea was particularly welcome to warm the fingers as the water was colder than I was expecting, given the air temperature.

It it not uncommon to find car parts beyond just tyres. This time I pulled a steering wheel and a car seat out of the ooze.

This clean-up we were joined by volunteers from local estate agents Seymour Green who helped swell the ranks of volunteers - well done guys.

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:

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Kate Bush at The Eventim Apollo - Before The Dawn

London, England. Saturday 20-September-2014.

I was online at one second past nine to get tickets to see this icon from my youth. I was chuffed to bits to get four top price tickets in the stalls on my actual birthday. Who to invite? Well it had to be Mary and my brother and sister.

I respected Kate's request not to takes photos during the performance but did allow myself one before and one during the interval.

When she walked on stage the welcome was astounding. I have been to a number of gigs where the audience cheered enthusiastically at the entrance of the band but this reception was qualitatively different in timbre - it was real love and devotion from her fans.

Before the Dawn

This was not a concert - it was musical theatre with two complete song cycles. Before the interval it was The Ninth Wave, the second side of Hounds of Love, and after it was A Sky of Honey, the second CD of Aerial; the whole lot topped and tailed with a number of other songs [Set List on Wikipedia].

Her voice is no longer the little girl warbling of her early years; her range seemed deeper and richer.

She talked very little as befits theatre rather than concert. Mostly she said "Thank you, thank you" after every song and seemed genuinely moved and grateful by her reception. The only other thing she said, and it seemed incongruous, was to thank her "shit hot band" and her "shit hot singers".

Ian, Mark (me), Jane

I had not realised that The Ninth Wave was a coherent collection because I don't really pay enough attention to lyrics. Seeing it acted out was a real a-ha! moment. So, not only did I get the music I gained insight and understanding which added to the enjoyment.

Poetic confetti fired at the audience

This is not a review, there are plenty of extensive reviews out there from the broadsheets - Google for Kate Bush Review. What I can say is it was a rare treat, a once in a lifetime event, which I am very happy to be able to say "I was there".

Friday, October 03, 2014

Cleaning the Wandle September 2014

Ravensbury Park, Merton. Sunday 14-September-2014.

This was a massive clear up. Instead of the usual 40 or so volunteers there were over 70! The regulars were supplemented by Friends of Ravensbury Park, the Richmond, The American International University in London and young volunteers from The Challenge Network.

Every clean up starts with a safety briefing. I've heard it so many times I think I could recite it verbatim. Then it was into the waders and into the river.

We started at a bridge, always a "good" place for rubbish and work our way upstream. That way you are working into clean water without stirred up silt obscuring your view of the river bottom.

In a quiet spot under a tree I found this old helmet. I couldn't tell you its age but I would assume second world war.

There is also a lake which was badly overrun with floating pennywort - an invasive species from North America. Huge floating mats of the stuff were pushed along to an edge where it could be lifted out.

Then a chain of volunteers transported it to an ever growing compost heap.

Also present at this clean up was Luke from the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership. This is a Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) Project, which aims to deliver a series of improvement projects along the whole length of the River Wandle. One of these is to narrow and diversify the channel through the park - not unlike the works done on the Hogsmill.

Another well spent eco-Sunday.

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, October 01, 2014

Puglia August 2014 - Pizza Oven

The highlight of our last visit to Trullo Azzurro was having a pizza chef come round and cook at our place. We invited a number of friends round - we were eleven in total - and hired Angelo to fire up the oven.  He came with all the ingredients and balls of dough ready to go.

It is a proper forno a legno - it took a couple of hours for the oven to get up to full white heat. You know the oven is ready when the roof is glowing white - like with barbecue charcoal. Then the embers are spread over the floor of the oven to warm that. They are then pushed to one side when the floor is warmed - and thereafter the heat is topped up by burning logs off to one side.

Of course part of the entertainment is having a go at making our own pizzas. It is definitely not as easy as Angelo made it look. First Elaine and Andrea had a go, then some of the other guests.

Naturally we had a go as well although ours were not as circular nor as even in thickness as the professional's.

And in they go.

The assembled article in the oven.

Angelo soon had a steady stream of hot pizzas coming out of the oven over the next hour or so. He allows one and a half pizza per person so, even with these thin crust pizzas, we did not go hungry.

At the end of the evening, as it cooled down, some sat in the warmth of the antechamber to extend the evening.

A great evening's entertainment, definitely to be repeated next year.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blues brothers at Ronnie Scott's

Ronnie Scott's, London. Friday 22-August-2014.

We are greatly enamoured of The Blues Brothers movie and, many years ago, went to a "Heroes and Villains" fancy dress party as Jake and Elwood although we leave it to you to decide which category they fell under.

Waiting in the Members Only queue at Ronnie Scotts I couldn't but help feeling a little smug. We had tickets and, looking at the long queue of hopefuls awaiting for returns, I consider us very lucky get be at Ronnie's yet again and watching another classic band.

The London Jazz Review writes, "... the current crew showcases two original and significant members: guitarist Steve “The Colonel” Cropper and tenor saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini." It made many positive comments about many of the songs but seemed lukewarm overall, "It was a perfectly respectable show by any standards, but one could have wished for a few rougher edges, a slightly less sanitised portrayal of the seamier side of life." Full review...

Personally we had a great time. They had a couple of guys (Tommy McDonnell and Rob “The Honeydripper” Paparozzi) come in dressed as Jake and Elwood to do the vocals for all the old favourites. That's what we came for and that's what we got. A rollicking good time.

Friday, September 26, 2014

BBC Prom 45, Laura Mvula

Royal Albert Hall, London. Tuesday 19-August-2014.

Our first late night Prom and a fine concert it was too. Having heard absolutely nothing of Laura's music I had no choice but to go with an open mind. It was brilliant.

Picture from Laura Mvula on FB.

I was particularly taken by Sing to the Moon.

BachTrack gives it 5 stars:
"This was a concert truly like no other. Mvula has a very honest approach to performing - it all comes from the heart, and, for all her glamorous exterior, she remains thoroughly grounded as she sings. Someone once described her songs as a 'sonic breath'; they were absolutely right. The orchestrations worked in a most unique way, and I hope that Laura Mvula pens many more orchestratable songs." Full review...

Really wonderful, a very special concert.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Battersea Foodies' Festival 2014

Battersea Park, London. Sunday 17-August-2014.

What better way to recover from our annual BBQ the day before than a wander round the Battersea Foodies Festival in the sunshine thanks to a complementary tickets from those nice people at South West London TV.

Lots of food stalls, obviously, featuring everything from one person entrepreneurs to large corporations and all manner of food and drinks.

One woman tied to tempt us to into buying extra virgin olive oil by declaring that it was organic and that they pick and press the olives themselves - "So do we!" rejoined Mary.

Live music...

... and a novel mobile bar.

South West London TV is an internet only TV channel and here is their report on the day:

Definitely worth a repeat visit next year.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Annual BBQ 2014

Wandsworth, London. Saturday 16-August-2014.

Our seventh annual BBQ and wine cellar emptying event was back after a year's gap.

All set up ready for influx of hungry and thirsty guests...

Around forty people turned up over the course of the afternoon. We were ably assisted by our burger flipper Zoe which freed us up to mingle with our guests.

Some turned up late afternoon so we lit another barbecue bag and started a second tranche of cooking. We started at one in the afternoon and finished at one in the morning when the last visitors toddled off.

The next morning it was a trip to the recycling bank at the local tip to dispose of the evidence of a most successful party.