Archive for August, 2019

Afternoon tea

August 30, 2019

We’ve been waiting to go to Danson Park for some time now. It’s a local park (local for Alex) that includes a large historic building, a water play park, mini golf, lovely large park grounds with lots of gardens and large trees as well as a small lake but we were going for afternoon tea at the 1766 built stone homestead.

Danson House

We had been putting off a visit until Alex was back eating dairy again and with normal transmission having been resumed, we headed off to partake in some goodies.

Roy and Alex

Bernice and Roy

Afternoon tea including scones with clotted cream

Coffee and walnut cake

We had a lovely afternoon, Callum slept the afternoon away so Alex could enjoy an uninterrupted tea as well. And just so you don’t feel left out, here are a few pictures of the handsome young man.

Callum

Tourist for a day

August 27, 2019

I decided that I need to play tourist for a day so I headed off into central London. Roy was coming with me as far as Woolich where he was getting off the train to catch another train on a different line that would take him into the Museums he was going to be visiting.

Roy getting off at Woolich

Me? Well I was heading into London Bridge and to get on one of the Hop On Hop Off bus trips and pretend to be a tourist for the day.

Tower bridge

Tower of London

Westminster and cathedral

Where the other half live

NZ memorial Hyde Park

Gates into the park

Horse guards

Where Boris lives, well it was Boris at the time of writing!

Then it was onto the water cruise on the Thames to Greenwich where I would catch the train back to Erith.

My attempt at a selfie

Oxo tower where we had lunch a couple of weeks ago

Canon Street Station as viewed from the river

The old and new, the Shard in the background, and a replica of the Golden Hind in the foreground between the buildings

Tower of London

Tower Bridge, including a view of the glass floor at the top span of the bridge.

I think the photos tell it all, not much more to say really. An uneventful trip back home with Roy and I arriving within 30minutes of each other.

Now Roy WILL write a blog one of these days on his visits to museums and libraries as well as his trips to various football matches, I just have to keep nagging reminding him.

Touristing over and done with for this trip. Until the next time.

Date night

August 25, 2019

We had a booking for dinner at Melucci’s in Bexley, just the two of us. We were told it was our date night?! Really? It’s been a while since we’ve been on a date! Do we remember what to do? What do we talk about? We were under strict instructions not to talk to each other for the day beforehand so we would have something to talk about over dinner, and we were even sent a list of possible chat topics which covered everything from North Korea Politics, Origami, Brexit, the best Nursery Rhymes to who would win the Rugby World Cup!!!

But before dinner we were also going out for lunch, Roy with Ian’s Dad Barry and his cousin Brian and me with Ian’s Mum Chris and cousin Julie. The fellas were off to a pub whilst us ladies were meeting up at a tea room in Bexley. However, when we got to the tea rooms, they were closed for the day so it was off around the corner to another tea room where we enjoyed a very nice lunch and an afternoon of chat. Apparently the fellas had a nice lunch and sorted out the problems of the world. And you guessed it, neither of us took pictures.

Back home on our respective buses (I’ve got this bus lark sorted) where it wasn’t long to wait before it was time to go out again.

Off we went, actually we were dropped off by Alex, and we rocked up to the restaurant in the Main Street of Bexley. My brother John & his partner Jude were here last year with Alex & Ian, we had been given rave reviews from them all so we were hopeful of a good meal. And we were not disappointed, we got good, honest Italian style food cooked with love and passion with great local ingredients. It’s not everywhere where you can go for a meal and they can give you the provenance of the meat; as in which farm the animals come from, how they are raised etc etc. and they obviously care about where their produce comes from. But it was the service from the owner and chef that really made the night, Christo does front of house and his wife Maria is the chef and they really make you feel welcome.

Roy’s bruschetta with the yummiest mozzarella

My arancini – simply delicious

We were well entertained by Christo, Maria and other staff and as well other customers who picked that we were kiwis and they chatted away with us over the course of the evening with no mention of Brexit!

Roy’s slow cooked beef short rib

My pork belly with the best crackling ever (half eaten).

Apparently John had the pork when he visited and he enjoyed it so much he ordered extra crackling! I can attest to the fact that it was the best crackling I’ve had in a very very long time.

All in all we had a great evening and yes even held hands as we walked back to the bus stop for our journey home! Enough said.

Worcester, Herefordshire and a little bit of Wales (Part 2)

August 22, 2019

We continue on our journey on the trail of Black & White timbered villages.

After we left the church in Kinnersley, we meandered though some beautiful countryside, coming across this house which the owner obviously did not want to conform to the Black and White theme

Red and Black House

Next we came to Eardisley, which is a village on the border with Wales.

Eardisley

Then it was onto Kington which is just 3km from the Welsh border. However it is to the west of Offa’s Dyke so we presume that at some stage it may have been part of Wales. Offa’s Dyke is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. The structure is named after an Anglo-Saxon king, Offa, who it is believed to have ordered its construction in the mid 700’s.

We meandered the Main Street, a sad looking Main Street that needs a bit of revitalisation with some shops and cafes rather than the multitude of charity shops.

Main Street of Kington (top) and the covered market in the lower picture.

From here we continued on to the pretty village of Presteigne where the road signs are also in Welsh as the town lies just inside the Welsh border.

Beautiful ornately painted building in Presteigne

There are many interesting buildings in Presteigne including this one which had a Green Man (a pagan symbol of fertility) carved into one of the posts, well hidden from general view.

12th century building with green man carved in the wood

We paused for a cuppa in one of the cafes in the high street before making our way around the town.

This row of houses were obviously built at different stages looking at the roof lines.

Multi level roof lines

On our way back to the car we came across another church so we wandered in for a look around.

Martin, Roy and Sue on our way into the church

Saint Andrews church is primarily a product of the 13th century however it incorporates remains of a much earlier 9th century Saxon building. The most interesting historical feature is a Flemish tapestry woven in 1510, now hanging in a frame on the north wall.

Tapestry (sorry about the reflections)

Showing the original colours.

In the Lady Chapel is a 15th-century Italian oil painting and a worn 13th-century coffin lid is set into a recess in the north wall.

Stained glass window

It was back to the car and off to the next town on our list, expertly navigated by Sue, via a few more of those typical English narrow country roads with high hedges on either side.

A wide section of road!

Our next stop was in Pembridge, again with a lovely collection of interesting and very old buildings.

Not all the building were painted white

Information board

Alms houses 1661

Above the Main Street we walked up to another church, St Mary’s, with original parts dating form the 12th century however a loose Romanesque pillar piscina remains from the Norman church. This church had a very interesting bell tower which is separate from the church, built in an unusual shape and open at the top. Martin could fill us in on all the interesting details, as we discovered, he is a bell ringer of some 40years experience.

Bell tower

Information board on the Bell Tower

Inside the church were more beautiful windows.

Inside the church

Outside there are lovely views over expansive lawns

Views from the church

We walked across the lawns and through the gardens and came out onto another street where there is the old market hall.

Market

Markets have been held here since 1239 when it was granted a royal charter.

Sue making her way to the market with its well worn and undulating floor.

Time to return home, again through Eardisley where we came across a thatched roofed Black & White building

Thatched roof

Have you ever noticed that the trip home is always quicker than the trip to wherever you are going? It seemed like we were home again very quickly where we set to organising dinner of Raclette.

Me, trying to take a selfie, missed taking it of me, missed Roy and got Sue who was fishing around for an implement in the cutlery drawer……but I did get Martin!

We had purchased the Raclette cheese from the cheese shop earlier in the day (see previous blog entry). Of course someone was particularly happy with Raclette……who doesn’t like hot melted cheese??!!

Worcester, Herefordshire and a little bit of Wales (Part 1)

August 20, 2019

It was time for us to meet up with another cousin, this time from my Dads side of the family. I think Sue and I are actually second cousins, or maybe cousins once removed…oh I never did figure out which was which but in any case it doesn’t matter. Roy and I hopped on yet more trains to make our way to Worcester where we were being picked up. However the train journey was not to be as easy as it should have been.

Map of the journey

We left Alex’s by catching the bus to the local train station in Erith, we got onto the train and had not long left the station when Roy went off to use the toilet. Some few minutes later the drivers very quiet voice came over the intercom saying something about a problem, and I think he said something about the toilets but I didn’t really hear or take in what he was saying. Next minute the train comes to a halt, again the drivers voice came over the intercom, with indecipherable announcements. Next I see the driver walking through our carriage, I think to myself – oh, there must be a problem, oh and Roy seems to be taking an awfully long time in the loo!!!

Yes, you guessed it, Roy was locked in the toilet and couldn’t get out so in desperation he had to activate the emergency button attracting the attention of the driver. Apparently this then activates the stopping of the train which cannot be deactivated until the driver manually deactivates it from the original activation point. And did I forget to mention that we were in the very last carriage of the train so it was a long way for the driver to make his way through the train to release the button, and Roy of course!! As a result the train was then running 18 minutes late. To top that off the train was now not going to Charing Cross due to another issue further along the line so we had to change at London Bridge then take the tube with one change of lines to get ourselves to Paddington Station. Fortunately we always allow a bit of extra time for events such as this so we still arrived at Paddington with 15minutes to spare to catch the train to Worcester.

We were met at the train station by a Sue & Martin who then took us to their home a few miles out in the beautiful countryside. Now, it’s rather special to be able to meet up with cousins after such a long time and instantly feel comfortable and at home. We spent the afternoon in the garden talking, laughing and reminiscing. They live in a lovely old farmhouse which just feels so comfortable and welcoming. We also have a bit in common, one being that they also have a motorhome in which they travel all round the country and Europe as well.

The following day we were off on an all day drive to do what is called the Black & White trail which takes in a number of villages which are known for their black and white Tudor style architecture.

The general route

Close up view of the route

First we had to negotiate the odd narrow country road

Expertly driven by Martin

Through the village of Bromyard which was our first view of the black and white timbered buildings

Pub in Bromyard

Our first port of call was the town of Leominster where we were stopping for morning tea. After finding a car park, we wandered off into the village where we found this establishment.

Someone thought this was his place!

And no, we didn’t partake of the delights available in Roy’s cafe, we were to venture further into town.

Martin striding ahead in the town square.

We were heading to another cafe for morning coffee, I came across this model in the centre of the square

It is a model of the market house erected on the site in 1633 and subsequently saved then moved and renamed Grange House. It is the finest remaining example of work done by the King’s carpenter John Abel.

Grange House today

Passing narrow alleyways with buildings overhanging and not a straight line in sight, we made our way to the cafe.

Coffee for morning tea

Oh, and guess what we found just around the corner from the coffee shop? You guessed it, a cheese shop! Yes, we did sample lots of lovely cheeses and possibly some purchases were made.

Cheese shop in Leominster

Narrow alleyway and sheepy art work

Time for us to continue on our travels.

Next town on our travels was Dilwyn.

Dilwyn houses

a lovely collection of black and white buildings, all beautifully kept as well.

Onto Weobley next, where we were to have lunch in a local pub. But first a wander around the village to check out some of the unique architecture.

Weobley architecture and magpie statue

We had a lovely lunch at the pub, whilst in the pub I noticed these stained glass windows which look very much like some of the windows we had in the private spaces of Pen-y-bryn Lodge.

Stained glass window

Further along the road in Weobley we came across the Old Grammar School dating from 1660.

Old Grammar House, note the angles of the walls and windows

Now a private home with all its interesting wonky lines, the school was in continuous use until the late 1880’s. It catered for up to 25 pupils on the ground floor with the masters accomodation upstairs.

From here we continued on our journey, but along the route to the next village we came across this church in Kinnersley. Actually, I say in Kinnersley, but this just really an area rather than a village as there was no evidence of a village apart from the church.

Kinnersley Church

The 12th century church has an unusual slightly separate tower. It has intricate paintings and coloured stencil work decorating the ceiling and arches of chancel and nave. These were done by the famous Victorian “Arts and Craft” architect Bodley, who is buried in the church yard.

A very good, well carved marble 17th century monument to the Smalman family is on the wall inside, however it is now strapped to the wall as you will see in the picture below. The monument was described by the architecural historian Pevsner as one of the best of its kind in the country.

Detail from inside the church

More detail from inside the church

Outside the church there was evidence of old entrance doors, later bricked up.

Bricked up entrance

On wandering around to the rear of the church we came across a very large castle, Kinnersley Castle.

According to Wikipedia “The Castle of Kinnersley, was originally a stone structure, thought to have been built during the reign of Henry I (1100-1135 C.E.). The Elizabethan building that now occupies the site has obliterated all but a few traces of the medieval castle.

Although it looks predominantly Elizabethan on the outside, it has many features of different periods. It was ‘renovated’ in the 16th century by the Vaughn family and houses a fine example of an intricate plasterwork ceiling in the solar, thought to be one of the oldest in Herefordshire. There are many green men and serpent hounds to be found on this ceiling, a lot of the detail is picked out in gold. On the stone overmantel of the fireplace, carved into the stone is a boy’s head with a serpent around its neck.

Kinnersley Castle

View from over the fence

Apparently the castle is only open to the public a couple of times a year.

Enough rambling, part two will be posted in a day or so.

Cheesy crawl

August 15, 2019

Roy has a bit of a reputation for his love of cheese, cheeses of all varieties, styles and types but he is particularly fond of a good blue. There is a running joke about not letting him near a fromagerie however I’d read about a cheese crawl, something like a pub crawl that involves cheese rather than drinks, that takes you on a walk around London, trying different cheeses at all sort of establishments. That sounds as though it was a perfect thing for us to do.

We had originally booked it for a Saturday in July but we had to postpone that one as something else cropped up. Then the next time it was booked, Roy had a dodgy tummy so we made a third attempt at the trip this last weekend.

First we had to get there. This involves catching the bus to near Erith Train Station then a walk to the station, catch the train into London as far as London Bridge station, then make our way to the underground, find the Jubilee Line (heading in the right direction) and catch the tube to Green Park Station and then make our way to the meeting point in Green Park itself.

The train and tube route

We arrived with perfect timing at the allotted meeting point and with around 15 others we set off on our Cheese Crawl.

The first stop was not too far away, walking past the Ritz Hotel, shops and Arcades taking in the sights. As well as a cheese focused walk, we also had a bit of history explained to us about particularly interesting sites along our route.

One such interesting point was Burlington Arcade. It was built by Lord Cavendish (later Earl of Burlington) supposedly for his wife as she didn’t like shopping in the weather or amongst the general riff raff so he built the covered arcade with 72 shops, mainly for the sale of high end goods such as jewellery, lace and walking sticks. The arcade is probably best known for the Burlington Beadles, basically it’s own Police Force, dressed in their black frock coats embellished with gold buttons and gold braided top hats. These Beadles enforce a strict code of behaviour which includes no running or hurrying, no riding bicycles and no whistling. It was a connection with prostitution that lies behind some of the rules of the arcade. Pimps used to burst into song or whistle to warn prostitutes who were soliciting in the arcade that the police or Beadles were about. The prostitutes working on the upper level would also whistle to the pickpockets below to warn them of approaching police. Therefore a strict no whistling or singing policy is in place, however, there is just one exception. And that exemption is for none other than Sir Paul MacCartney who apparently frequently walked through the Arcade on his way to and from the studios located behind Burlington Arcade.

Burlington Arcade

From here it was into the iconic Fortnum & Mason store where we were lead through the shop to the cheese counter where our first tasting took place. It was a very nice Welsh Cheddar.

Fortnum & Mason was established in 1707, it was founded as a grocery store dedicated to supplying quality food which saw its reputation particularly take off during the Victorian era.

My attempt at a selfie outside Fortnum & Mason

From here in Picadilly, we walked further along the road, stopping occasionally to view interesting architecture and shops and then onto Paxton & Whitfield, the oldest cheesemongers in the UK having been established in 1797.

Paxton & Whitfield

The shop holds two Royal warrants, one from Queen Elizabeth and one from Prince Charles. Here we looked around the shop before having our tasting plate.

Delicious array of cheeses

It was here that we tasted Stilton, and oh my goodness, it was delicious. We were told that last year the shop sold 7 tonnes of Stilton over the Christmas period alone! A staggering amount.

Our next brief stop was to explain to us why Piccadilly is named as such.

Original Portugal Street

Originally it was named Portugal Street until a tailor Mr Baker bought in the area, enclosed the street and made his fortune making and selling piccadils which are those frilly neck ruffs that were predominantly worn in the Elizabethan era. Hence the road and then the area became known as Piccadilly.

Our next stop was at the American store, Wholefoods, which gave us a tasting of a truffled mascarpone filled Brie along with Parmesan crisps and a nice chilled rosé to wash it down.

Outside the Wholefoods store

Inside Wholefoods store

I should add here that there are opportunities to make purchases on our journey and a few purchases may have been made. On to our next stop

Lina Store

Here at Lina’s we tried a Prosecco soaked cheese and a Red wine soaked cheese. Apparently this tradition came about by the Italians who hid cheeses in their wine barrels to avoid theft.

From here we wandered to Neal’s Yard, but along the way found this Bambi artwork on a side wall.

Interpret as you like

Bambi is a contemporary street artist who focuses on female identity in a patriarchal society as well as political and social injustice. Interesting.

At Neal’s Yard we were to try goats cheese in the very picturesque yard.

This building in Neal’s Yard was famous for being the headquarters of Monty Python for many years.

After a session of cheesy jokes, we made our way to Covent gardens to try some amazing hot baked camembert with French bread. I think this was one of my favourites of the whole journey, probably because I had far too many helpings!!

What could be better than cheese and champagne?

Mmmm, hot baked camembert

Our next stop was just a short walk away,

Cheese and sparkling red wine

Here we enjoyed a glass of very nice sparkling red wine with our cheese.

By this time we had been walking for quite some time, one of us had developed a blister and we were both feeling quite weary. It was just a 15 minute walk to Charing Cross Station to get the train home.

Our walking route

Time to retrace our steps for the train journey home, however we were not having to change trains this time as it was a direct trip. But it was not all to go to plan, it was a very windy day and trees were down on some of the tracks so our train was not going to stop at Erith, we had to continue on to Slade Green, the next stop after Erith or alternatively change trains at an earlier stop and wait for a connecting train. However, it was not going to be a mission as we were in contact with Alex and she was able to pick us up from the Slade Green station.

We had a quick rest at home before we all headed out for dinner with Ian’s family for Alex’s birthday, and you know what happened don’t you? Yes, none of us took a photo!

Visits, visitors and a birthday

August 11, 2019

It’s hard to believe that just 10 years Alex arrived back in NZ bringing with her a new friend from the UK. Jennifer (aka Beanie) had not travelled at all before these two ventured on an epic trip through SE Asia then onto NZ. They joined us at Pen-y-bryn for a bit of a respite before continuing with their travels. We even went camping with the girls, joining them for a couple of days in Central Otago before we lent them our car and tent to continue on their trip around the South Island of NZ. So it was lovely to be told that Beanie was coming to visit us this week.

Beanie and Callum

It was fantastic to hear of her news and what she is up to these days. Beanie is a chef, she and Alex met when Alex worked at the Middle House in Mayfield when Alex first arrived in the UK. Beanie now works at an all girls school in the village, where she works 5 days a week with regular hours and no split shifts, and no stress!!! It’s so lovely that they still keep in touch and see each other occasionally and of course it was just lovely for us to see her again.

Roy and Ian were off to football that same evening so it was a girls dinner at home for us, and a very nice roast chicken with a pile of roast veges with a ratatouille to complete the meal. For those who are unaware, Roy doesn’t eat chicken so we take every opportunity to have our fill when he is not around!

We bade farewell to Beanie later that evening and look forward to seeing her again next time we are over.

The following day Roy and Barry (Ian’s Dad) went off to the Docklands Museum for a visit for which Roy assures me that he will write up a blog ….one of these days!! Meanwhile, Alex and I took ourselves off to Melucci’s in Bexley for lunch.

We both have double chins? Oh, I thought you said double gins!!!

Anyone for cake?

We had a lovely lunch, so much so that Roy & I are off there next week for dinner. Alex Callum & I had to sit in the cafe for a while after lunch as the heavens opened and it just poured with rain, and as we were catching the bus home, we didn’t fancy standing out in the rain getting soaked particularly as it is such a narrow road the gap between the shops, footpath, and road are all within a few feet of each other and there was a small river of water running down the road for the vehicles to go through and soak us even more. The rain soon passed and we were on our way. Even though Bexley is just a few short miles from home, we were surprised to get home to find that there was no evidence of any rain and the washing was dry on the line as well.

Later in the week Roy and I were meeting up with cousin Jackie & her husband Hossein in London for lunch as they were coming down from Milton Keynes for the Van Gogh exhibition at the Tate. Funnily enough it took us just as long to get into town from Erith as it did for them coming from Milton Keynes. We met at the OXO tower as we had a booking for lunch.

Oxo tower

The view over the Thames

Roy, Bernice and Hossein

Bernice, Jackie and Hossein

Fish sandwich for the girls and Pasta with mushrooms and hazenuts for the boys

After a lovely long lunch we bade our farewells before going on our separate journeys, our initial destination was the Borough Market for a quick visit.

Paella Paella Paella

Fish selection, and yes we did buy a gurnard

Friday also happened to be Alex’s birthday, so it was straight home to get dinner sorted for everyone. Fortunately I had done lots of prep the day before so there wasn’t much to do.

Birthday dinner L-R Alex, Ian Roy, Bernice, Vicki, Jen

Elaine getting in her cuddles

Birthday cake – dairy free!!

This was not the end of the celebrations though, the following night we went out for a family dinner in Bexleyheath with Ian’s family. We had a lovely dinner and it was great to catch up with everyone as well. Unfortunately I neglected to take any pictures, we were all far too busy talking and eating however I am sure that there will be another opportunity for a group photo soon.

Another Narrowboat

August 7, 2019

We came half way around the world and who should we meet up with? None other than one of Alex’s school friends, Kaz, from Oamaru. We’ve met up with her in London before notably Christmas Day 2017, but this time we were visiting her at her place which just happens to be on a narrowboat, right here in Central London. She is residing on board a narrowboat for the summer which is moored on the canal just behind Regents Park.

But first we had to get there. Our travel plans were complicated by two major events taking place, first a major bike race around central London which closed several roads as well as disrupting travel options. Secondly, there were planned major repair work going on on many central train lines which also disrupted travel. We drove to Barnehurst to catch the train to Victoria Station, then we would catch a bus down Edgeware Road to get off near the canal.

The general route

And here’s where we are heading.

At Victoria , we stepped out into theatre land.

Wicked show

Award winning show Hamilton

No shows for us today though, instead it was onto the bus towards Regents Park.

Kaz met us at the bus stop and we walked the short distance to the boat. Of course as is my usual manner I forgot to take any pictures of the boat or us inside it but we did take a picture or two of looking down onto the boats lined up.

The boat is on the left with the dark blue cratch cover

The canal itself is very full of weed and algae with very little water movement however it did not detract from our enjoyment.

We spent a lovely afternoon checking out the boat, interesting for us as this was a very different layout to NB Waka Huia and also very different finishes. The afternoon was spent talking and catching up with Kaz and what’s happening with her life in London, she will be leaving her abode on the canal soon as the owners will be returning to the boat she is on but she is seriously looking at another “boat sitting” stint or perhaps even purchasing a boat to live on. We shall see what eventuates.

Time to retrace our steps

Callum’s first bus trip

Along Edgeware Road onto Park Lane we travelled

Past the very upmarket houses, hotels, shops and cars back to Victoria Station. Then reverse the train trip back to Barnehurst, pick up the car and then home.

Back home again where the fellows put together a play gym for Callum, it very much reminded me of the Christmas scene where the young child gets a train set and Dad and Grandad then spend the rest of the day playing putting it together.

No, this bit goes here….or perhaps we should read the instructions!!!

Callum testing out his new toy

Yep, I quite like this!!

Visitors

August 3, 2019

Last week we stayed with cousin Jackie & Hossein in Milton Keynes, once we had arrived back in Erith we were to have a visit from Jackie’s sister Dawn, whose son Richard just so happens to live just a few minutes away from Alex & Ian. Dawn was down visiting Richard so we arranged to meet up.

Dawn & Richard with Callum

Was that a wry smile?

Richard’s turn to play

Richard has a broken foot so he was hobbling a little with his leg in a cast, this is just a few months after he had surgery for ACL reconstruction, not the best for someone who plays football semi professionally.

We retreated to the garden for morning tea and talk.

Someone was relaxing

And talk we did, somehow time just disappeared and before we knew it, it was mid afternoon.

Time to say hooray

Cousins

The oldies with the young ones!

Bernice, Dawn, Alex with Callum and Richard

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we meet up again.