Archive for the ‘drinks’ Category

Family BBQ

September 2, 2019

Our last weekend in England and we were having a family BBQ at Brian & Julie’s (Ian’s Dad’s cousin), along with the rest of Ian’s family. This was a bank holiday weekend in the UK, a long weekend with Monday being a public holiday, and the BBQ was planned for Sunday afternoon, with the weather playing a large part in the planning. We needn’t have worried though with the hottest August Bank holiday weekend on record being recorded and the days temperature set to reach at least 32C.

We arrived at Julie & Brian’s and made our way out to their lovely garden where the gazebos were set up providing much welcome shade.

Brian was manning the charcoal BBQs with Roy giving a hand. Charcoal BBQs are a rarity for us these days as most people in NZ use gas fired BBQs mainly because of fire restrictions for NZ’ers over the summer months.

Brian and Roy manning the BBQs

Comparing notes behind a smoke screen

All sorts of fun and games were had by all generations.

Grandad Barry and Callum

I forgot to take any pictures of the table set out for the main event but needless to say it was all delicious and there was plenty to eat, it was some time later in the day before we got around to having dessert and cheese.

Panoramic shot

I had said I would make a dessert and thought I should make a pavlova as my homage to all things kiwi, but decided an ordinary pav would be a bit boring so instead made a brown sugar version with dates, almonds and chocolate. Topped with fresh whipped cream and raspberries it was rather delicious. Roy put together a cheese board and even made radish mice with the radishes grown in Alex & Ian’s garden, and it too also went down a treat.

Cheese board

Dessert and cheese….yes, I forgot to take pics of the main event!

Group photo

It was a wonderful afternoon and evening with lots of fun and laughter.

Thank you to the Denny family for making us feel so welcome and part of your family. We shall miss you all, until next time x.

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!

Family are friends

July 29, 2019

There is an old saying that goes something like ‘you can choose your friends but not your family’ which has some negative connotations about family relationships and all that goes with that. However, we have yet again experienced the absolute opposite of all those implied connotations when we went to stay with Jackie & Hossein in Milton Keynes. To put our relationship into context, Jackie’s Great grandmother and my Grandmother Alice are the one and the same incredibly strong, amazing, formidable woman who gave birth to 19 children. We are in awe of Alice’s energy and fortitude as we piece together more and more information about our genealogy and in particular Alices story.

But back to our visit to Milton Keynes. We were met at the train station by Hossein and Jackie on a very hot day and were whisked away to have lunch at a local community charity facility where we had a very nice relaxing lunch.

Lunch in the garden, Willen.

From there we went to a local park where we went for a walk around the park grounds. We were surprised to find a Japanese Pagoda in the middle of the park.

Peace Pagoda

Further along we came across a Japanese Pagoda. Why the Japanese connection you may ask?

Japanese Temple

A peace pagoda is a Buddhist monument built as a symbol of world peace and is meant to promote unity among all the peoples of the world regardless of race, creed, or border. Peace pagodas have been built all across Asia, often in places that seem to need the most healing such as the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where American atomic bombs took the lives of more than 150,000 people at the end of World War II. There are now more than 80 peace pagodas across Europe, Asia, and the United States, but the first of the Western temples was built in the town of Milton Keynes in England.

From here we walked to the nearby Tree cathedral, a lovely leafy avenue of trees with its cathedral shape becoming more evident from an aerial view.

Centre of the tree cathedral

Aerial view borrowed from the park trust web site

Margherita’s for the ladies

Cheers boys!

Pad Thai

Pad Thai for dinner made by Hossein

Unfortunately Roy had come away with a bit of a dodgy tummy so it was an early night for him, without any dinner!

The next morning Jackie and I headed off early so I could get a haircut before returning for a late breakfast with the boys. Roy was still not feeling well and Hossein had a few things to do so Jackie and I went out for a look around and also to visit a couple of shops. I have to add here that we have been quite taken with Milton Keynes, I like the layout, the trees and green spaces laid out in grid patterns and the of lack high rise buildings.

A couple of purchases may have been made

A few tea bags may be coming back to NZ with me!!!

An ice cream at IKEA, and no, it was not the only purchase made there

The other good reason for heading to the shops was to be in air conditioned comfort, with England experiencing its hottest July days on record, it was pleasant to be in air conditioned surrounds.

The Grand Union Canal Milton Keynes

Jackie and I visited the Grand Union Canal for a look around.

Another return to their home where dinner this evening was to be an Iranian meal of a Celery Lamb stew ( Khoresht-e-Karafs) followed by Sholesh zard, a fragrant and very light rice pudding.

Sholeh Zard

The temperatures did not abate with Thursday bringing with it record temperatures hitting 40C at some stage during the day, debilitating, oppressive heat with no escape from it. Roy, Jackie and I were heading out to go visit Jackie’s mum Hilda, my cousin, via a little village called Earls Barton where we were going to visit a little museum called the Jeyes museum, yes dedicated to the pharmacy renown for Jeyes Fluid.

Roy perusing the exhibits

I have to add that this museum was upstairs in rooms that were quite small, and with record temperatures it was a very hot experience.

But not only was the museum dedicated to all things pharmacy, one section was dedicated to the business Divine Shoes, made famous by the film and stage show Kinky Boots. The original factory was in this village and one part of the museum was dedicated to the boot manufacturer.

Your size?

These boots were made for walking!

We were back to the car ready to continue our journey in air conditioned comfort when we got the message that Ken & Hilda had decided to visit us. So we turned around and returned to their home, calling in on this property further along their road.

Chichely Hall

As an aside, this property was used as the film location of the movie Enigma, which as a coincidence when Roy & I owned Pen-y-Bryn Lodge in Oamaru, we hosted two of the stars from this movie, namely Dougray Scott and Saffron Burrows.

We were soon back at the house and hadn’t been home long before Ken & Hilda arrived for an afternoon of reminiscing, memories and catching up on their news.

Family

L-R: Ken, Bernice, Roy, Hilda, Jackie and Hossein.

After a lovely afternoon it was soon time for Ken & Hilda to return home and time for another wonderful meal courtesy of Hossein.

Pulled Lamb with coleslaw and wraps.

The following day it was time for us to return to London, another trusty train ride to London Euston, then to the tube for London Bridge and then the train to Erith.

Waiting for us was this wee man

The Thinker!!

Oh, and his parents too 😉.

A lovely time spent with family in and around Milton Keynes. Many many thanks to Jackie & Hossein for making us feel like we were at home with friends where we could relax with them. We look forward to the next time we meet up which will hopefully be soon.

Wetting the baby’s head

July 10, 2019

There is a tradition apparently of when a baby is born that the father and close male family and friends go out to ‘wet the baby’s head’. But where did that term ‘wetting the baby’s head’ come from?

Traditionally taking its name from the Christian baptismal rite, during which the head of a baby would be wet with blessed water, the phrase now commonly relates to the consumption of large amounts of alcohol as a celebration of the new arrival.  The true tradition meant that the Dad went out with his friends the night after the baby was born, I guess it’s some sort of male bonding or show of virility or something along those lines but in this case the celebration was a few weeks after Callum’s arrival.

The upshot of all this was that Roy and Ian headed out on Friday night to the William Campden Pub to meet up with Ian’s Dad, brothers and mates.

The happy celebrations

Eagled eyed readers will note an interloper, Ian’s Mum just so happened to be going past and popped in to say hi. Meanwhile Alex and I were at home with Callum, so what did we get up to? After a very simple dinner, Callum went to sleep and Alex and I followed suit shortly thereafter!

Apparently the blokes imbibed in some suitable liquid refreshments and spent a jovial evening together. Callum has had his head appropriately dampened, next will be registering his birth so all appropriate documentation is done. Next it will be time to get his passport so he can visit all his NZ family.

Showing off Mums new passport, won’t be long before he has his own.

Catching up and a show or two

February 19, 2018

Yes, I know, we have been slack since we have been home but there has been lots to do. I am now trying to catch up on a number of blog posts to get us up to date so be prepared to be inundated over the next week or so.

Our final week in London, and where has the time flown? which means we need to get into gear and tick off a few things which includes going to see a couple more shows. Our first choice was to see the Book of Mormon, we managed to get matinee tickets during the week and as Ian & Alex had already seen the show it was just Roy, Antony and I that headed off into Piccadilly Circus for the afternoons performance.

The Book of Mormon is a musical comedy about two young Mormon missionaries who travel to Uganda to preach the Mormon religion. The play satirises various Mormon/religious beliefs and practices, it’s irreverent, rude and at times bordering on crude, funny, thought provoking, and all in all a damn good show.

The show was written by the creators of SouthPark with the music and lyrics by the writer of Avenue Q – which we saw here in London on our last visit. It was a fantastic cast as well with some amazing performances.

Afterwards, we met Alex from work for a cocktail before we found somewhere to go for dinner. Antony impressed with my selfie-taking skills NOT!

After dinner on our way to the train station we passed a theatre with searchlights casting their beams along the front of the high rise buildings, security people were everywhere, and an air of something happening, what was going on we wondered?

It’s the premiere of The Post, a movie starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, apparently they were in there somewhere but I was told by my children to stop staring and move on!

A couple of days later we were off into town again to another show, this time The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie.

The sign outside the theatre

commemorative plaque – note the date….my birthday!!! Although the year is a little out, the play started long before I was a twinkle!

It was a good play, looking a little dated perhaps these days but a typical Agatha Christie whodunnit. Of course, as requested by the cast at the end of the show, we shall not divulge the culprit!

That brought to an end the shows on this visit to London.

Borough market

January 9, 2018

It’s hard to believe that just six months ago the Borough market was the scene of a terrible terrorist attack but here we were at the market which was a hustle of activity and people all happily going about their business. The market is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the UK. Borough Market has existed in one form or another for around 1,000 years. Its precise start date is impossible to pin down: there was no official opening, no ribbon-cutting ceremony, not even a brief mention in a chronicle. The best date available, and the one used as the basis for the Market’s millennium celebration, is 1014.

Borough, then as now, was a place defined by its position at one end of London Bridge—for centuries, the only route across the river into the capital. It is likely that London’s first post-Roman bridge was constructed here in the mid-990s, partly to bolster the city’s defences against Viking raiders who routinely sailed up the Thames to kick seven shades of wattle and daub out of the locals.

Borough Market with the Shard in the background.

Amongst the produce on sale are fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat, game, baked bread and pastries, sweet treats, honey, fresh fish & shellfish and much much more.

It’s a place where you can wander around for hours and then go back another day and find even more stalls. Amongst our finds was a stall selling a huge selection of alcohol including rums and gins. Rum selection

Gin selection

And yes, I did have a test of a few samples, purely for research purposes of course although I did buy a London gin for imbibing over the festive season.

All that wandering was making us hungry but what were we to choose? Roy was eyeing up the oyster bar with a choice of varieties of raw oysters from England and Europe served in their shell, or maybe something warming on this chilly day.

a Bellini each to start

so what did Roy choose? It’s hidden under its tinfoil cover.

scallops of course. We did get chatting to a Japanese family who came to share our table, they were enjoying a selection of oysters as each in Japan so they were enjoying the small ones that they got at the market for just a couple of pounds each. I didn’t dare tell them that they are known as the pest of the sea in NZ and people gather them easily.

There has been a running joke in the household that Roy has a bit of a cheese addiction, he buys and tries cheese wherever and whenever there is an opportunity, in fact he has been told he cannot buy anymore cheese until he has finished the pile already stored in the fridge at home!

but what’s this? Caught again in a cheese shop trying a few samples, but he was good…he only bought one!!

It’s a fantastic market and no doubt we shall be back again soon.

Theatre, rugby, party, football time

January 3, 2018

Friday 29 December:

We headed into London on Friday afternoon aiming to eventually end up in the Westend as we had booked seats to go and see a show. Alex, Antony Roy and I made our way into town via train and tube with Ian joining us later once he had finished work. But first we all need to have something to eat as we hadn’t had lunch at it was by now nearing 5pm and the hunger pangs were starting to gnaw away.

We headed to a restaurant by Covent Garden called Ping Pong, for a dim sum feast.

Alex reminded us that we had actually been here before when we last visited London, except that time the restaurant was Spanish tapas bar and our company at that time was my niece Fran and her now hubby Clive. I’ve looked for the photo of us having dinner together then but I cannot find it amongst the few thousands of pictures we have!

From there we headed across to the Westend Theatre district where we were set to see a show, called Mischief Movie Night, an improvised movie live on stage. We first had to meet up with Ian before the show, we then settled in to watch the show.

the scene is set

What happens with this show is that you suggest a genre, location and title and Mischief Theatre’s improvisers bring the show to life, complete with rewinds, fast forwards, directors cuts and a live score. So when it came time to call out suggestions for genres, a few were called out and picked then we had to vote for which one we wanted….Alex’s choice of Kung Fu movie made the cut as did Roy’s suggestion of Spaghetti Western with Roy’s suggestion winning out to popular vote. Other extra things that were added to the plot was the classic gunfight scene, the setting was an old picture theatre and a dinosaur had to make an appearance!

Much hilarity ensued, with the cast at times unable to contain themselves when things went awry and ended up in fits of laughter. We all thoroughly enjoyed the humour and it was a really great night out, with a train journey home to wrap up the night.

Saturday 30 December:

We were all going to Twickenham to watch a rugby match, including Ian’s parents Christine & Barry, their cousin Julie & Brian, Matt and Alex’s friend Helen completed the group. First we headed to the Campden pub to meet up with everyone for a bite to eat for lunch before making our trek across the city, oh and this was the same pub we came to on Christmas Day. At times it was like herding kittens.

The train journey meant we had multiple changes to make and platforms to find, but we got there in plenty of time to then make the trek from train station to the rugby grounds.

walking along the streets with the crowds.

getting settled into our seats

It was a packed stadium with nearly 78,000 people in attendance, but with clear views of the pitch, a huge screen at each end of the stadium and smaller screen directly in front of us, we were guaranteed not to miss a thing.

The ball delivery was a little different as well with a high wire stretched across the top of the stadium and a guy bouncing along the wire to the middle to deliver the ball dropping it from the great height. I have to admit that I could not watch him as it made me feel rather ill.

in both pictures above, you can see the tightrope walker in the screen and if you look carefully you can also see him in the little piece of sky peeping through the top of the stadium. In the lower picture, the ball has just been dropped which you can see in the tv screen. Please note that I took these pictures by not looking and just pointing and clicking!!!

We enjoyed the game and the crowd was very good. Rugby crowds are very different to football (aka soccer) crowds here. Apparently football supporters are kept very separate from each other with lots of police and crowd control in evidence. In many matches, one group of supporters is locked in the grounds whilst the opposition supporters are let out, and usually in totally different directions so they never meet! A little different to what we experience and what is experienced at the rugby where everyone is mixed and friendly banter ensues. I am told that rugby is for “posh” people in the UK, the ones that go to the right schools, don’t ask me if it’s the public or private school as the two types of school are labeled the opposite of what we know them as in NZ!

A few of the many food stall at the grounds, we had a drink or two and a bite to eat whilst we waited for the crowds to dissipate.

We managed to stay together and retrace our steps home.

the rabble on the train.

Oh and if you were wondering, the Harlequins won 50-21.

Sunday 31 December:

A few of Alex & Ian’s friends had organised a dinner at an Indian Restaurant, aka a curry house in this neck of the woods, for a group of us to go to on New Years Eve but first they all descended upon their house for an afternoon of watching the football and trying out a few gin based cocktails as we somehow seem to have managed to put together a reasonably large selection of gins.

looking up recipes?

From here we then went to the Curry House for an evening that proved to be brilliant on many counts. First the company was great, second the food was amazingly delicious and very very different to the NZ versions of curry, and thirdly there was entertainment. And believe me when I mean entertainment, I mean we were thoroughly entertained.

The entertainment was one guy on a key board who we must admit that initially we had serious reservations regarding his competence, however after a couple of songs, which included local improvised lyrics, wigs hats and glasses were continually being added for dramatic effect, we were all soon into the swing of things. With the refreshments flowing, he was being helped along by our vociferous table (albeit except me as I had woken that day without a voice), but I did try!!!

doing his Elvis impression.

After an hilarious evening out we headed back home to continue the celebrations including watching on TV London putting on an impressive display of fireworks.

Monday 1 January :

It was a slower (and later) start to the day today, by late morning we were all up ready for the days activities. Alex and I went off to do the grocery shopping whilst the blokes went off to the local football match, supporting Welling. Apparently Roy is becoming known as an honorary long distance supporter, as I think this is his third or fourth game he has been to!!!

The ground for the game against Dartford

Meanwhile Alex and I had a quiet day at home before everyone returned for dinner then we all settled down in front of the TV to watch the darts final live. I know, who would have thought that I would want to watch men throwing darts at a dart board? But after having to watch a number of games surrounded by some very avid and vociferous fans, I became a little interested! And yes, it was a good final.

All in all a busy and fun few days.

Christmas in London

December 29, 2017

Plans were made, orders placed and lists drawn up in readiness for Christmas Day. Alex and Ian were hosting Christmas Day festivities this year and for Ian’s family this would be a little different from their traditional fare. Tables were arranged so everyone could be seated comfortably, seating plans were made, cutlery and crockery were borrowed, Christmas crackers were made, the menu drawn up and we were all set for the day with a bit of a kiwi twist put on it all.

The English were nearly outnumbered by Kiwis though as Alex’s friend from Oamaru days, Kaz, who also lives in London came to join in the fun. However, it was not all going to be Kiwified, one English tradition for this family is that you all head to the pub around midday for a couple of hours, to meet up with friends, celebrate over a couple of drinks before heading home for Christmas dinner, it was in fact good fun and a nice way for everyone to catch up with friends before going off home for family time. It also happens to be one of Ian’s mates birthday on Christmas Day and there is a long standing tradition of him opening his birthday gifts from his mates whilst at the pub…..let’s just say that I have no idea where these guys found the gifts but let’s just say they were hilarious (and some were very definitely x rated!!).

Once back at home, Alex and I got into cooking mode, although there wasn’t that much to do as we had prepped just about everything before hand, so it was just the last finishing touches to do.the table all set ready to go

We all settled down with a festive drink and some nibbles before dinner was ready, Roy had made a delicious duck pistachio and cranberry terrine which with a few pickles and some nice bread went down very well. Then it was time for entree and our homage to turkey, in the form of turkey bonbons with a port cranberry sauce. Apparently roast turkey is the usual main course in this part of the world and to deviate from having a turkey was unheard of. So as not to disappoint those who wanted turkey we came up with this alternative, turkey breast pieces in a spicy rub encased in phylo pastry made to look like Christmas crackers or bonbons. They went down a treat. Then it was the main course…..Beef Wellington using ribeye beef, and it looked and tasted fantastic I have to say, and along with all the trimmings it was a great success. You will note a lack of photographic evidence of the food….some of us were working too hard to have remembered to take any pictures!! However here are a few of us enjoying the meal.

Once the main was out of the way it was time to adjourn to the lounge for another variation on Christmas gift giving, our version of secret Santa.

everyone was told to buy a gift to a nominated value, wrap in newspaper and bring it along. Everyone then draws a number out of a hat to determine the order in which you choose and open a gift, once opened, you can then opt to either keep the gift or swap with another opened gift. With much hilarity gifts were opened, kept, swapped and swapped again.

Christine opening one of her gifts with Julie & Brian watching on

who bought that, we all wondered?!

Antony and Ian discussing the pros and cons with the rest of us laughing along

Roy and Alex

It was all rather hilarious with some inventive wrapping and packaging also in evidence, and everyone received a really good present. I think that the English members of the family were quite impressed with the whole idea and it certainly makes life a lot easier rather than buying small gifts for all.

The gift swapping took a good hour and a half to complete and then it was time for dessert, a pavlova of course and a chocolate roulade as well as a small Christmas pudding for those traditionalists.

There was a planned cheeseboard for afters but by this time we were all well and truly full, so it was time for trying out some of those gifts, generally chat and look back on the day. The outcome? Well, the English have decided that Christmas 2019 will be held in New Zealand with our turn to host……hmmmm, does that mean we shall have to find ourselves a base? We shall see!!!

Back to London and a show

October 15, 2017

We left our lovely apartment in Langermark late in the morning and headed off to Lille, I have to admit that I was ready to hand the car back although the driving had become easier as we went along. Funnily enough I found the roundabouts the easiest of all to handle and I have to admit that my co pilot was excellent at guiding me and making sure I was OK, and as well the roads are easy to drive on and well maintained.

We got to the Lille train station in plenty of time, however, we missed the entrance to get into the car park building so ended up going around in a grand circle to get back to where we should be, it only took an extra 30 minutes of driving through central Lille with blood pressure slowly rising, sweaty palms, and a dry mouth before we got to where we should have been. We got into the parking building only to discover that we needed to be in the next building to return the car….with a lump rising in my throat at the thought of more driving, we made the move to the next building and returned the keys.

Whilst at the station we saw a couple of things which were memorable. The first was the free charging station for devices, to power the charging you sat at the desk and cycled!

Right next to this was the lounge with plenty of plugs and USB charging sockets, guess which one we used?

Once we got through immigration – and we did get the third degree at immigration too…..why were we away so long? When are we going back to NZ? Where were we staying in the UK? Where did our daughter work? What does she do? Why were we in Europe? What was our connection to Passchendaele? Did we intend to work in the UK?…..and so it went on. Once through we met up with a couple of crazy but ever so friendly Scotsmen who were raising money for Cancer research by standing for 24hrs and travelling from Edinburgh to Paris and return. They were really lovely and were having a great time and were raising lots of money too.

The trip back to London was a breeze with Alex picking us up at Ebbsfleet Station which is much closer to her home than St Pancras in the city.

We had a lovely weekend in and around London. Sunday, Alex and Ian told us that they had organised a surprise for us for the day, so at about midday we headed off on the train into town then a walk through to a lovely rooftop bar overlooking St Paul’s cathedral. Ian, Roy and Alex with St Paul’s dome in the distance

panorama from the roof top

From here we went off into Piccadilly Circus where we were to go to a the show ‘A comedy about a bank robbery’. It was fast paced, hilarious and well acted play, I haven’t laughed so much for a long time. It was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

After the show we took a London black cab

Passing Trafalgar Square along the way

To near Victoria Station for dinner where the fellas tried a beer or two

Then it was a train back home to end a fabulous day, well done Alex & Ian.

Mothers Day 

May 18, 2017

Mother’s Day rolled round and as usual we had little planned as we are not into the whole commercialisation of the day, however, I was invited to share a Mother’s Day lunch with my sister-in-law Leslie, and her three daughters Sarah, Erin & Frances (they make a reasonable substitute for you Alex! and Antony was coming over later for a visit, for some reason he didn’t want to join all us ladies for lunch?!).  

We headed off to KissKiss in Balmoral for a lovely northern Thai lunch.  A lively bright, colourful setting with quirky touches such as the cocktail menu was in old-school viewfinders…..we all had to indulge in a cocktail of course.  

 Sarah & Fran at the back, Erin and I at the front.

Sarah & Erin on the left with Leslie & Fran on the right.
Lunch…



The food was excellent, the company brilliant and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  As it was such a beautiful day we headed into Mt Eden for a glass of vino, sitting out in the sun enjoying ourselves.  Thank you for inviting me along to share, it was a laugh and a half.