#thehottestdayoftheyear

Yes, it was the hottest day of the year so far. This usually occurs in April of course, only to be surpassed later on in the year. But the main topic of conversation on a few of the radio stations we briefly tuned into on the way home was the fact that the top trending hashtag today on Twitter is #thehottestdayoftheyear. Other hashtags are available too, such as #hottestdayoftheyear and #warmestdayoftheyear. And capitalised versions. But after such a long Winter that didn’t really want to finish, it’s fabulous to see blue skies, see the Sun and feel its heat.

We went for a walk in Richmond Park, the biggest and our favourite royal park in London. We saw a couple of single deer, several dogs, some even on leads, loads of birds and many, many muddy puddles. One day, we’ll take our grandchildren there to jump in them.

We enjoyed a picnic under a tree, listening to the birdsong. The occasional aeroplane was seen and heard as it flew towrads Heathrow Airport. A group of young men  were listening to music on their ‘device’: radio, ghetto blaster, phone? We’ll never know.

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Mick and Liesel

I am no good at taking selfies. At least we’re both in this one, but I usually miss. And of course, the horizon is horizontal in real life.

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A tree

This is the dead tree that we didn’t climb, despite the temptation.

We walked over five miles today, not bad since it’s the first time in the park for ages. Other firsts for the year today include me wearing shorts, we both had an ice cream and it was the first application of sunblock (one of us, not me).

 

Two Museums

The Museum of London is onre of those places we ought to visit more often. We’ve seen the Roman artefacts before, and the state coaches, but there is a lot more on offer. On one of the lower ground floor, some of the exhibits are from ouyr own lifetime. I visited the then new Post Office Tower in 1966 and I still have the brochure from that visit. It cost 2/6d. They have a copy in this museum.

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Post Office Tower brochure

The London Stone is usually hidden in a cage, at a bank in Cannon Street. While building works are taking place there, the London Stone is being exhibited at the Museum. It’s just a stone, yes, but there are so many stories round it, and it was good to see it close up.

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The London Stone

The other ‘main attraction’ is a small sample of the famous 130-tonne fatberg excvated a couple of years ago from the sewers of London. Not at all photogenic but we were pleased that there was no assault on the olfactory senses.

I used to watch Watch With Mother with my Mum half a century or more ago, and it was great to see some of the puppets here. If I remember correctly, the schedule was:

  • Monday – Picture Book
  • Tuesday – Andy Pandy
  • Wednesday – Bill and Ben
  • Thursday – Rag, Tag and Bobtail
  • Friday – the Woodentops

There’s nothing like seeing your childhood in a museum to make you feel old.

But being a museum exhibit yourself is a whole new experience.

The Museum of Futures in Surbiton is currently hosting the Wheels of Time exhibion, describing the history of cycling in the Royal Borough of Kingston.

This video talks about a couple of local cycling heroes.

Liesel and Mick attended the opening night of the exhibition which was very well attended. Mick’s mugshot is on the wall with a transcript of the interview conducted a couple aof weeks ago, about his experience of using a bicycle for his job as a postman. Snippets of the interview are available to listen to too, and are as embarrassing as you would expect. So embarrassing, I didn’t want to draw attention so I took a few photos with my phone, but not using the flash.

It was interesting to learn that there used to be a couple of tracks in the area, in the very early days of cycle racing.

A second visit is on the cards, not least so I can get some better pictures. If you can, go along and have a laugh at my bits look yourself.

 

Nelson and Hardy

For a long time now, Liesel has wanted to visit The Hardy Tree in London. If you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone. Most people that we’ve told have never heard of it, either.

Before he became a well-known writer, Thomas Hardy worked in the cemetery at St Pancras Old Church. When the then new railways began to encroach on the graveyard, many bodies had to be exhumed and reburied. A young man was given the task of storing some gravestones. His solution was to place them around an ash tree in the graveyard, presumably intending to relocate them at a future date.

A century and a half later, the tree is still doing well, it has taken some of the stones to its heart, you can see the roots above the gravestones. Just another episode in the fascinating life of this church. The sign tells you all you need to know:

(Oh, here’s a tip: if you need the lavatory and you’re in the area, go to St Pancras Station, where the facilities are free.)

The Hardy Tree.

Yesterday, Liesel and Mick were both pleased to see the tree in real life after all this time. We should be inspired to read a Thomas Hardy novel I suppose, but I have quite a backlog and Liesel’s reading list is partly determined by her WI reading group.

We caught a bus to Trafalgar Square, mainly to see the latest installation on the fourth plinth. I never would have thought that 10,000 empty, repurposed, date syrup cans would look so good. The sign tells you all you need to know:

Fourth plinth: how a winged bull made of date syrup cans is defying Isis.

My favourite ever is still Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle from 2010, which can now be seen at my favourite museum, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

Have a look at past commissions.

Nelson from the top of his column watched as we visited the so-called Lilliputian police station at the south-east corner of the Square. No longer a police station, of course, it contains bags of salt for ‘weather control’ and a comms link to the BBC.

As always in London, we walked much further than originally planned. Leicester Square, the Odeon is being refurbished and will in the fullness of time be more comfortable, offer more choice and no doubt, be even more expensive. We walked through Chinatown which always has the same smell, which neither of us could identify. On to Covent Garden, always busy, and then to the Duchess Theatre where we bought tickets for a performance in a couple of weeks time: thanks for the theatre tokens, Helen and Adam.

A few more photos here.

 

63: better than 57 was

Liesel and I were in a shop and she asked me what sort of doughnut I wanted.

“Oh, a normal jam doughnut, with the jam at the back, please.”

As she was being served, David Jacobs walked by us, said “Hello” and walked behind the counter into the kitchen. Well that’s strange, I thought.

Then Liesel looked at me in horror and said, “Mick, you’ve spilt coffee on your shorts”, in a manner that implied I was always spilling coffee down my otherwise pristine, white shorts. I looked down and was horrified at the large brown stain. Then I realised, it was a map of the world, printed on my shorts at a quirky, jaunty angle. But the map is meant to be on the back: yes, I’d put my shorts on back to front. The text is meant to be on the front of the shorts.

Then of course, I woke up and realised, hooray, it’s my birthday.

I don’t know if dreams really mean anything but in this case, it was half right. I did meet David Jacobs just the once: at a Kingston Readers’ Festival event, he asked me if I knew the way to the lavatory.

When I was a child, sometimes as a treat when she took me and my sister shopping in Guildford, Mum would buy us a doughnut. I could never understand how doughnuts worked. Wherever I took the first bite, I wouldn’t find any jam until I’d nearly finished. It was always at the back.

On the other hand, I haven’t worn lily white shorts for a few decades, not since I gave up playing squash. And I have certainly never worn shorts adorned with a world map, nor any other decoration. And I don’t think I’ve spilt coffee on any of my shorts. The living room carpet, yes; the shorts, no.

Back to real life. Today was Mick’s birthday and we had a fun day in London with our friends Helen and Steve.

In the morning we enjoyed Abba Super Troupers: The Exhibition at the Southbank Centre. We walked through nine immersive rooms, taking in the music and creativity that saw four talented Swedish musicians shoot to international stardom. There was plenty of memorabilia, lots of music, and an opportunity to remix one of the songs in a replica of their recording studio.

In Gabriel’s Wharf, we ate all, well, some of, the pies at Pieminister. It had been warm enough briefly in the morning for me to take my coat off. Nobody else did. But walking around in shirt sleeves, albeit briefly, is a sure sign that at last, maybe, possibly, finally, Spring is on its way.

We continued our walk along the South Bank stopping at the Tate Modern for coffee and cake. Not birthday cake, but close enough, thanks for asking. While sitting in the café there, we saw the royal barge Gloriana heading towards Putney for the University Boat Race tomorrow. I think that at the speed it was travelling, it wasn’t being rowed and should therefore not be allowed to compete.

There was a group of people filming on the South Bank beach. Maybe a film, maybe a TV programme. But if in a drama, you ever see someone fishing in the Thames with a rod, let us know, we were there!In the turbine room, the current exhibition is Superflex One Two Three Swing, lots of swings each of which has room for three people, so Liesel and I had a go. Great fun: it’s so good to be allowed, even encouraged, to act like children once in a while.

Steve is a big, big fan of buses, so we went for a quick bus ride to pass some time, catching the RV1 from near the Tate Modern to Tower Gateway, then a 15 to Aldwych, then another RV1 back to the Southbank Centre.

At the Royal Festival Hall, we enjoyed the London Concert Orchestra playing music from James Bond films, and other related films and TV series. The two singers Louise Dearman and Oliver Tompsett did pretty well: we’ll never see Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Matt Monro, Lulu, Louis Armstrong and all the others performing their James Bond film songs live. Yes, I was nudged a few times for singing along, but come on, it is my birthday.

Abba Super Troupers runs until April 29th.

Superflex One Two Three Swing runs until April 2nd.

And if you’ve got this far, you may be wondering about the title. Why is 63 better than 57 was?

Today was a great day, in the greatest city on Earth, all good, nothing bad. It was my 63rd birthday. 63 going on 29.

But I had to work on my 57th birthday: and that was the day I got bit on the bum by a dog.

Two Days in London

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London is probably always going to be my favourite city. I can walk around it for hours, always find something new, or something silly, or something historical.

I was joined by Pauline, my sister over from New Zealand for (so far) two days pounding the streets in London.

Yesterday, it was Kensington, where I re-visited the places I used to frequent when I was a student in the 1970s. My old halls of residence in Campden Hill Road is now a block of luxury apartments. The maths department, which used to be in the Atkins building, is no more.

Holland Park was and still is a fascinating place to walk around. Peacocks, moorhens, a heron and a pond full of fornicating frogs and lots and lots of frogspawn.

We walked back along Kensington High Street and along Church Street, I wanted to see again 96 Palace Gardens Terrace, where I lived for 18 months or so in a really small bedsit. Kensington Palace was beyond the fence at the bottom of the garden.

Then through Kensington Gardens which was not too crowded at all. Through the Orangery, past the Palace and to Kensington Town Hall where we met Liesel who’d been on a course there.

Wagamama’s for dinner and finally home.

Today, Pauline and I joined an official London Walk around the Inns of Court which is always fascinating. And we went into the Royal Courts of Justice, wandered round for ages, quite legally but we did feel a little bit naughty.