Tag Archives: London

Bill Nighy Kicked My Endorphins

6 Sep


The last of London, at last.  For you, that is; I would move there tomorrow.

Spud and I were turfed out of the Globe at five-thirty by a staff member who insisted that yes, we really did have to leave.  We had been there for eight hours; he felt it was time.

Spud and I sat on the steps next to the Thames while my legs recovered from standing for almost four hours (queue/play/interval).  We planned our next move.

DSCN1881We had three hours before our train left Euston and two determined people can do a lot in London in three hours.  Spud fancied the British Museum, which meant the Tube.  We headed off in that general direction but we passed a small alleyway and there, in all its historical glory – somewhat bizarrely squashed in between office block and restaurant in a channel about as wide as my old waist – was the Golden Hinde II.DSCN1873

The Hub had printed off information about local sights (and eateries; that man really looks after me) and TGHII was one of them so I had no compunction in bringing out his credit card again.  Actually, it only cost just over £12 for two, so it was pretty reasonable.  Spud made sure we got every penny’s worth.  He went over every inch of that ship and made me go with him (sometimes, I don’t like Spud much).  He had me on my knees to traverse the gun deck, because it has the lowest ceiling I’ve seen outside of a storm drain.  He made me go up ladders and down ladders, forwards, backwards – sideways at one point, I think.  or that may have been when I tried to sidle away.  Unsuccessfully.  That kid is strict.

It was incredible to think that the real Golden Hinde had sailed across seas and oceans and made it back to Blighty: it was tiny.   I’d like to have seen Sir Francis Drake’s ad in the Loot:

Wanted: Intrepide Sailors withe ye nerves of steele.  Shorte men only neede apply, laddie.  

Thate means ye, Hub, Ye scurvy doge withe an ungratefule wife.


The ship was rather sad.  Not in its history or size, but in how neglected it was: cardboard boxes and junk piled up at one end of the bottom deck; signs and portraits hanging askew; old information sheets that needed replacing.   I guess you get what you pay for.

DSCN1891We knew we wouldn’t have to pay to enter the British Museum; we gave the Hinde back to its careless owners and headed for the Tube.  One change at Elephant & Castle and we were at Piccadilly Circus.  I took a photo of Eros but he was smothered in tourists so I won’t share it here.  We could see Shaftesbury Avenue on one side and Regent Street on the other (strangely, no green houses or red hotels; that was a surprise) but we headed up (or down; I’m not sure – the map was side-on) Piccadilly towards the British Museum.

We walked for what seemed ages but the trip was enlivened by Spud’s whisper, ‘Hey, Mum!  Isn’t that that actor?’  What an eye for detail.  No wonder the boy did so well in his exams.  I turned to look…and it was Billy Nighy, crossing the road in a navy suit.  I don’t know why that matters, but I, too, have an eye for detail, you know.  

Ever the sophisticate, I pointed and yelled, ‘That’s Bill Nighy crossing the road!’ Perhaps he studiously avoided turning round to acknowledge me because I forgot to mention his outfit.  I’ll never know because traffic passed behind him and Spud dragged me off, red-faced.  Spud, not me: I had been hungry, tired and aching up to that moment but Bill Nighy kicked my endorphins into action.

English: English actor Bill Nighy.

English: English actor Bill Nighy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We couldn’t find the British Museum.  We asked a smiling security guard – she stopped smiling and sighed.  Apparently, our up-to-date, 2013 guide-book (free from the B&B) has a map seven years out of date.  Seven years ago is when the British Museum moved to Russell Square, as security guards across the borough are tired of telling the guide-book makers.  She was apologetic but it wasn’t her fault: if a guide-book publisher didn’t notice a whole building move across town, what hope did one little security guard have?DSCN1921

She smiled and waved us on.  I’ll say this about London: people (northern) complain about how rude southerners are but Spud and I were treated with friendliness and courtesy the whole time.

Spud and I decided to head to the station and get something to eat, as we were running out of time.  We had an hour wait at  Euston but I was glad just to sit.  

DSCN1964We travelled back First Class.  Hub had tried to get us First Class tickets (on sale) both ways, but it would have meant another day in London.  I was game but his credit card complained.

First Class is nice.  Served at the table with food and drink and smiles from the Virgins, it was worth the extra £4 per head.  

Two hours later we were home, keeping the Hub up until late with our tales – The Globe is awesome! (Spud) We saw Bill Nighy crossing the road! (me).

Dr Johnson was right: when a person is tired of London, they are tired of life.  What he didn’t mention was just how tired a person can get in London.  I didn’t get out of bed until my legs woke up, three o’clock on Saturday.

Totally worth it.

Happy soon to be my Birthday me, and thank you to the best husband in the world.  

What am I getting for Christmas?


I’m Not Leaving London ‘Til I’m Done

4 Sep

I started the finish of my London story – I really did – after eight weeks’ worth of ironing fell out of the cupboard and said ‘Do me or the washing machine gets it!’ and I thought I’d better do it so I did; but then I remembered Spud’s Personal Statement for his university application (for which he had eight weeks to work on it, and didn’t) which I had insisted he send to me for proof reading/heavy editing and which had to be sent off by five o’clock today so I proofread/heavily edited it then we argued for a bit about my changes and then he made all the changes and then he sent it off, by which time it was dog walk time dinner time clear up after dinner time fall into bed time get out of bed to schedule tomorrow’s joke time and might as well write this post while I’m at it time.

As for London…like the Eagles in Hotel California, we may never leave.


Coming Soon…

27 Aug

…The conclusion to my London tale.

Wax Lips

Wax Lips (Photo credit: red clover)

Thank you all for your good wishes.  I am on the mend but I have spent today catching up with some of your blogs.  Don’t be offended if I haven’t visited you yet; I follow a LOT of blogs.

Tomorrow, I’m off to the hospital to see a man about a gag.  I will take two buses there at the crack of rush hour to be fitted for a thing in my mouth that I don’t really want but which is supposed to stop me snoring.

If the dental doctor ends up with my breakfast on his shoes, don’t blame me – I gag if I put too much food in my mouth (it’s why I can’t eat trifle) so how they expect me to sleep with a plastic wotzit in my gob I really don’t know, but doctor, apparently, knows best.

Of course, if I choke to death in my sleep on the plastic wotzit that’s bound to cure my snoring, so the Hub’s all in favour of it.

Anyway, the ordeal of taking four buses and rubber fingers poking around my very private mouth probably means no London post tomorrow.


London Day 2: Lunch Bunch

17 Aug

A quick summary for those people visiting from Six Word Saturday who wonder what’s going on:

Birthday Treat – London! – I’m Giddy – We’refourpostsin

Okay, I may have cheated slightly there but, seriously, folks: who can describe the wonder that is London in only six words?


We finished looking at the Globe’s exhibition around 11:30 and headed up to the café for some lunch but it was all posh, inedible stuff (my sole complaint).  We decided to venture out for real food but passed the groundling queue…where two people were already queueing. That was it – we were not prepared to risk missing a good spot so we joined them.

The couple were sitting on the pavement, reading.  Spud and I sat on the pavement, quiet for a while, enjoying the novelty of numb bottoms on grubby streets (we might not eat posh but we are usually clean), watching the world go by (London is busy).  Spud, on my left side, was surprised to hear me sneeze and then say, ‘Bless you.  Thank you’ to myself.  He hadn’t realised the ‘Bless you’ came from the young woman sat on my right side.  That gave us all a laugh and broke the ice.DSCN1856

Our conversation was interrupted by lunch: Young Woman’s partner wandered off for a while and came back with pizzas; I thought that was a good idea and pulled out the exhausted credit card.  Pizza Express was just up the road.  The service was very good; the friendly staff included the genuine Italian manager who, in answer to my query, told me that the toilet was ‘upstairs; second bridge to the right.’  There was nothing wrong with his English, if that’s what you’re thinking; the upstairs was designed so diners could look down onto those eating below.

DSCN1852The pizza, alas; was dreadful: all tomato; no cheese.  It was fun to eat on the street, though I wouldn’t like it to become a habit (which could have become all too real a possibility if the Hub’s credit card and I had stayed in London for another couple of days).

The wait passed quite quickly.  It rained heavily for as much as thirty seconds.  By the time we had our raincoats on, it had stopped – and stayed away.

There were constant queries from passers-by about which end of the queue was the beginning.  It was confusing if you were new because the queue is between the steps to the outer yard and the exhibition centre.  DSCN1858

An American woman with three children stopped to ask if it was worth going to the play.  I told her, ‘Absolutely!  It’s great,’ despite not yet having seen this particular play, because I knew it absolutely would be great.  We explained the price of £5 for a yard ticket – there is no cheaper theatre ticket in London, according to our guide; and probably anywhere in Britain, according to me.  The woman and her children discussed the idea before heading off.  I heard her exclaim, ‘ere she walked out of sight, ‘We might as well try it; she says it’s great and she’s got a British accent.’

We all had a good laugh at that, and then I returned to my conversation with the Young Woman.  Something about London made me unashamedly nosy: ‘If you don’t mind me asking,” I said, “what do you do?’

‘I’m a writer.’

London Day 2: Oh What A Beautiful Morning

16 Aug


After a fitful night for Spud and a deep sleep for me, I woke him with a cup of tea (provided).  It had rained in the night but was trying to clear.  As our seats were standing in the yard, we fervently hoped it would succeed.

After showering, we went down to breakfast.

Open to the public during the summer months, the B&B is actually student accommodation for the London School of Economics, with the emphasis on ‘economic’ – £41 each for a London room, 3 1/2 minutes from where we wanted to be, and with a cooked breakfast thrown in. Talk about good value!  The party in the bar across the road stopped before it got too late; scenery included TV production trucks & trailers on the doorstep. We could see into one trailer from our room and Spud only just stopped me from wandering into it thinking it was some sort of diner: I could see people at tables and what I thought was a waiter, wandering up and down with mugs of tea.DSCN1773

Our room was basic and clean; no TV but the shiny white towels and shampoo sachets made up for that.   Who needs TV when the whole of London is on your doorstep?  Not us.

We had until 10:30 to check out but we wanted to fill every minute so we were out by 9:20 and entering the Globe at 9:25.  The Hub had paid for the tour and exhibition and a tour was just starting.  It was fascinating and I couldn’t help but be the annoying person in the party who puts up their hand and asks a million questions.

It was one of those few times in my life when I really didn’t care what people thought of me: I wanted to know stuff and I had the opportunity to find out; I wasn’t going to waste it.

DSCN1781Did you know the Globe – with only legally required health & safety additions – is made entirely of wood – even the pegs which hold it together?  That it moves and seasons and is a thing of great beauty?  That thunder storms were made by rolling cannonballs around in the attic?  That, as far as possible, costumes, props, the building, are as authentically Shakespearean as they can be?  That the names on the paving slabs in the outer yard are those of everyone who contributed to building the new Globe?  Well now you, me and about thirty other members of our tour group do.

We had to be silent at one point because the musicians were rehearsing on stage (and they all signed my programme!).  It was fun to see the difference between the rehearsal and the performance later on.DSCN1794

At the end of the tour we were encouraged to make a donation.  Anything was welcome, from £1 for a red rubber bracelet to signing over your first born child as an indentured servant.  It was worth our £2 because the nice lady at the donation table warned us to queue from twelve at the latest if we wanted to be certain of a place in front of the stage.

Then we hit the shop.  Last time I was at the Globe, all I could afford was a pencil with a Shakespeare head; this time, I was armed with the Hub’s credit card.

DSCN1810I had warned him that if they had notebooks, no matter the price, he was buying one for me.  I was on notebook number 60 last week but this week’s number 61 is red and flimsy and one on which I would never normally have spent £6, but it has ‘Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’ indented on the cover and I had to have it. The Hub also bought two postcards (one for Spud; one for me), a pack of playing cards (for Spud), a t-shirt (for Spud), a badge (for Spud*) and a souvenir book of the history of the Globe.

*I have to say, Spud seemed to enjoy my birthday almost as much as I did.

We headed back out and round to the exhibition entrance.  More fun was to be had. We went into a booth and Spud played Lady Macbeth, recording his performance and playing it back to our great hilarity.  I don’t think Shakespeare would have approved of the accidental inclusion of the word, ‘mate’, but we won’t tell him if you won’t.  Here’s some of what we saw:


London Day 1: An Enchanted Evening

15 Aug


Previously on The Laughing Housewife:

Tilly and Spud spend some time in the Tower, like many of Royalty’s once-favoured; then they spend some money in the Tower shop – as much as £6.97.

And now, the conclusion:

DSCN1674After our busy and happy afternoon, I needed to sit down.  The Tower is sited next to the Thames, so Spud and I found a vacant bench and feasted on cake and water as we watched the boats.  Once rested, Spud expressed a desire to walk across Tower Bridge.  I’m ageing but game, so off we went.  Call me slow, but it was only when I saw Tower Bridge is close by the Tower that I realised where its name came from.  Does that sort of thing ever happen to you?

Trying hard but failing miserably not to look like tourists because the Hub said we must not be mugged or it would spoil our trip, we kept stopping so I could take photographs, including a photo of a photo shoot which Spud spotted taking place below us.DSCN1685

Once across the bridge, we kept eyes peeled for a Tube station.  Isn’t ‘eyes peeled’ a horrible saying?  Like something that might be done to me in the Tower.  

Spud saw what he thought was a sign for the Tube but which was actually for the buses.  We sat to check the map (London is generous with its seating) and Spud noticed we were on a street which appeared on the map and the distance to the B&B was only that  [……..] far, so how long could it take to walk?

Tube Sign, London

Tube Sign, London (Photo credit: DanieVDM)

London Calling

London Calling (Photo credit: paul_appleyard)  Can you see the difference?  A thin blue line, that’s all.

Almost an hour, as it happened; but we won’t discuss that unless you want to put me in a bad mood.  We went the long way round, though we didn’t know that until the next day.  When we arrived at the B&B to book in, with me holding on to Spud for support for the last half-mile, the poor receptionist couldn’t get a coherent word from me.  I think she believed I was foreign.  Spud booked us in; all I had to do was sign my name.  Lifting my arm took a while but I got there in the end.

The room was on the second floor, close to the lift.  I made it. After a revivifying cup of tea (provided), I showered.  Once clean, I could breathe (remember my little armpit problem) and felt more able to not waste a precious minute of London Time.  We headed down to Reception and asked the same receptionist for directions to somewhere cheap to eat.  She was surprised at how much my English had improved in thirty minutes.DSCN1707

We left the B&B and less than four minutes later we were at the Globe!  The Hub could not have selected a better B&B location (at a very reasonable price).  We took photos and admired it and then wandered off we knew not where to find some food.  DSCN1694We just walked until we found a place which looked affordable and which prepared food we had heard of.  It was a chip shop.  No fish, but massive hamburgers.  Spud had one; I had a bowl of chips (no paper, just polystyrene: how very southern); they were generous portions and I couldn’t finish mine.

We meandered back towards the Globe, admiring a trio of musicians who played classical tracks from their CD – Reminiscence, which I first read as Remini Science, to Spud’s great amusement.  You haven’t lived until you’ve heard popular classics played on a keyboard, violin and accordion combo.  Bizarre but lovely.

Back in front of the Globe, a couple of cyclists were doing tricks on steps to a violin accompanist.  Not sure if they were all together but somehow, it worked.

DSCN1713Since the year 2000, one of my fervent desires has been to walk across the Millennium Bridge.  I don’t know why; it’s just something I have always wanted to do.  So we did.  It is close by the Globe and in line with St Paul’s on the other side of the Thames.  It took us about twenty minutes to cross (I was sloooooow by this time) and, as we were so close, we walked up to St Paul’s, pausing only for a girl in heels who was with two young men, playing American football (badly) outside a restaurant; to admire what looked like three huge stainless steel balls, randomly placed and for no good reason that I could think of but, hey, this is London, so who cares; and to take a photograph of a scooter which had fallen onto its side like a stranded turtle.  In retrospect, the side-on scooter probably had nothing to do with London, but the fever was upon me.DSCN1754

I took some photos of Spud in front of a fence at St Paul’s because I thought it was the same spot we had visited about twelve years ago, but it probably wasn’t. We were at St P’s back side but it was now dark and I was tired so we turned around to walk back.  I was shuffling by this time.  It took ages to get back to the B&B but the trip was enlivened by a lone flautist below the bridge.

It took an even longer time for me to fall asleep because there wasn’t a bit of me that didn’t ache (I wrote the day’s events in my notebook while lying flat on my face because I couldn’t lift my arm enough to write without support) but it was totally worth it – Spud and I had a packed and fun day and I don’t regret even one painful body part.


Thank you, Hub, for the hurt you caused; I loved every minute of it.


London Day 1: Afternoon Delight

12 Aug
Spud getting our bearings in the map.

Spud getting our bearings in the map.

11:43 Board train to London.

11:45 Bored on train to London.

13:55 Train arrives in London.  Tilly and Spud hit the ground running.  Ow.

14:00 First things first – decide where we’re going to go.  The Tower of London it is!  Hub has pre-paid the Tube tickets so we just have to ask for directions.   Begin serious hammering of the Hub’s credit card by buying entrance tickets to Tower of London at Euston railway station.  What a strange world this is.

Some time after 14:00 (Tilly giddy with excitement; doesn’t look at her watch or remember to phone the Hub to tell him ‘Arrived safely’: Take Yellow Line* to Tower Hill from Euston Square Tube station, carefully holding tight to belongings as per Hub’s instruction not to get mugged.  Stand facing each other as directed so that we can see each other’s backpacks; realise we will have to walk like inverted pushmi-pullyu and decide to risk attack from larcenous Londoners in order to perambulate like sensible human beings.

*Not the official name; just the colour on the Tube map.

Slight moment of panic: Tube crowded – people piling off and on in free-for-all – Spud climbs on – doors begin to close while Tilly still on platform – Tube virgin mother (me) acts on instinct – reaches in to closing Tube and yanks son out with supermother strength – exasperated Spud scolds unrepentant mother – laughs – notice a notice on boarding next Tube that doors will not close if teenager trapped in them.

Q: Where did Beefeaters get their name? A: Nobody knows (straight from the horse's mouth)

Q: Where did Beefeaters get their name?
A: Nobody knows (straight from the horse’s mouth)

Later: Dismount at Tower Hill; make way to Tower.  Just in time for Beefeater* guided tour.  Laugh at all his jokes because he is a retired soldier with lots of ribbons and missed his calling as an actor.  Funny, too.  I checked his name tag: Simon Dodd.

*Officially known as Yo! Man of the Guard.

Later still: Marvel at standing on the very spot where a young Princess Elizabeth (the I) entered the Tower at Traitor’s Gate.

'Much suspected of me.  Nothing Proved can be.  Quoth Elizabeth, prisoner.'  Etched into a window in the Tower by QEI

‘Much suspected of me. Nothing proved can be. Quoth Elizabeth, prisoner.’
Etched into a window in the Tower by QEI

Marvel at viewing the very window where the young Princes are said to have last been sighted before their murder.

Marvel at Tower Green, where Anne Boleyn and Jane Grey and a couple of others were beheaded.

Marvel at the houses they stayed in; and where our present Queen occasionally stays*, the Tower being the Crown’s oldest residence.

*Accidentally typed ‘strays’.  I’m sure there’s never been any of that sort of business by our very moral monarch. 

Marvel to be in the very chapel where Katherine of Aragon and many another prayed; and where six people are interred, including Sir (now St) Thomas More.

Marvel at…well, you get the idea.  The whole visit was marvellous.

Later than that: The one thing I have ALWAYS wanted to do is see the Crown Jewels.  The queue was roughly twenty minutes’ long.  I’d have waited all afternoon.  The jewels were fabulous, of course; but what took my breath away were the swords: jewel-encrusted and simply beautiful.  The crowns were amazing.  Charles II’s maces were amacing (give me a break – I’m exhausted; you’ve seen my schedule).

Even later than that: Return to the use of present tense.  Visit the Line of Kings which is the oldest organised visitor attraction in the world and comprised of a bunch of old armour on wooden horses, representing the armour worn by kings; but not the actual armour worn by kings; but historical because old in its own right.  Only in Britain….


Take call from frantic Hub, wondering if we’re still alive.  See off his outrage by whining, ‘Don’t be angry – it’s my birthday.’  Birthday not for another seven weeks.  Can’t believe it works.

Finally: Get chucked out of Tower (how ironic) and regret not arriving in London at the crack of dawn and spending all day there.

Last finally: Visit gift shop.  Buy tacky souvenirs for Hub.  That’s how much I love him for sending me on this birthday trip.

I LOVE London!

11 Aug
London was brilliant.  I make no such claim about my photography.

London was brilliant. I make no such claim about my photography.

London was brilliant.  

In 35 hours we managed to visit/see/cross/meet the Tower of London including the Crown Jewels, Tower Bridge, the Globe (of course), loads of street musicians, St Paul’s, two fellas being not very good on stunt bikes, the Millennium Bridge, the worst pizza ever made, a novelist, Regent Street, Eros, Piccadilly, a VERY fluid Macbeth (never wore so much foreign spit in my life), friendly southerners (really) and Bill Nighy!

Details to follow.

Blogging, The Happy Medium

8 Aug

London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Write up a mid-year “State of My Year” post.

Finally, a prompt I can take seriously!

My year has been great.  I’ve done lots of fun things, including several visits from people who I had never met before they arrived; but we all finished the visits as fast friends.  Though one finish couldn’t come fast enough, if you know what I mean…*

*I’m kidding.  Everyone was lovely; you know


London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I can’t resist the easy joke.

I’ve been to the theatre five times; eaten in restaurants at least four times – three of them in the space of a week.  I didn’t eat out three times in the previous three years but I made up for it in July.

I’ve had a fair few poems published this year. I finished editing my South African poem collection.  I gave a poetry recital and I’ve got two more planned for next month, as well as a workshop I’m going to run.  I’ve signed up for a local creative writing course in September.  I got my blogging addiction under control; so much so, I practically gave it up for a while, but now I’ve found a happy medium.

My boys are doing well.  Tory Boy enjoys his job; he’s coming home for ten days for my birthday (oh, and the Hub’s).  Spud was in three plays in six months and had the lead in two of them (I will never tire of boasting about that).  He had his first paid acting gig (a post will follow when he sends me some photos).

My husband really loves me.  So much, in fact, that he’s sending me away.   That’s where I am now, as you read this – in London with Spud.  Speaking of dead weight, I’ve lost over a stone.

My year so far is gooooooooooooooood.  Though I do miss Maltesers.

London Underground

London Underground (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Is the glass half-full, or half-empty?

The glass is brimming over and making a mess on the table.

London underground

London underground (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Tell us about a time where everything you’d hoped would happen actually did.

My husband offered to send me away and then made sure he did.

Oh, sorry; I didn’t realise it was supposed to be about me.

A multi segment panoramic image of the London ...

A multi segment panoramic image of the London skyline from the Bermondsey banks of the Thames. Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you gaze out your window — real or figurative — do you see the forest first, or the trees?

I see the tiny back gardens as I whizz past on the London Express.

So, not so much trees and forest as wet washing and cement.

Globe Theatre - London

Globe Theatre – London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We each have many types of love relationships — parents, children, spouses, friends. And they’re not always with people; you may love an animal, or a place. Is there a single idea or definition that runs through all the varieties of “love”?


Thank you, darling Hub, for this trip; for making sure I have a special treat for a milestone birthday; for making my dream come true.  I love you.

So much so, I might be nice to you when I get home; if I’m not too tired or menopausal, that is…oh…wait…I see why I’m being sent away….

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (Photo credit: n_willsey)



6 Aug

county-clean-fatberg-image1 (Photo credit: walt74)

This is probably the grossest thing I’ve ever read, so naturally I want to share it with you.

From Sky News:

 [A] 15-tonne mass of festering food fat mixed with wet wipes and sanitary products threatened to send raw sewage spurting onto the leafy streets of Kingston upon Thames.

“The sewer was almost completely clogged with over 15 tonnes of fat. If we hadn’t discovered it in time, raw sewage could have started spurting out of manholes across the whole of Kingston.

“It was so big it damaged the sewer and repairs will take up to six weeks.”

The foul blockage was discovered when residents of nearby flats complained they could not flush their toilets.

Mr Hailwood added: “Given we’ve got the biggest sewers and this is the biggest fatberg we’ve encountered, we reckon it has to be the biggest such berg in British history.”


All I can say is, I’m glad my London trip wasn’t last week; ’cause you know the Hub would have blamed it on me.

The fatberg was the size of a double-decker bus.  

Seriously, London: it’s time to diet.


Globe Trotter

31 Jul

And so the 50th birthday celebrations continue!

First of all, an illustration:

You’ll find more illustrations like this at Mark’s blog.  Hit the pic to access it.

That’s my way of saying ‘thank you’ to everyone who offered me a place to stay if I could get there.

I can’t tell you how touched I was by your generous offers; or how desperately the Hub tried to make it happen (a little too desperate for my liking; but that’s an earbashing for another day).

Finances, however, want me to celebrate in modest style; and so I will have to decline your kind offers.  I’m so sad about that.  Thank you, thank you, thank you all!

The Hub, keen to get me out of the house, won’t let me be sad for long,  He has managed to make me deliriously happy on a budget and without Maltesers: I’m going to London to visit the Queen.

The Scottish Queen, that is; from centuries ago: Lady Macbeth.

Okay, that was a long-winded, round-the-houses, you-readers-have-a-life-you-know way of saying that I’m going to watch Macbeth at the Globe!  The Globe! The Globe!

A reconstruction of the Globe Theatre in Londo...

A reconstruction of the Globe Theatre in London, originally built in 1599 and used by Shakespeare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been once before and it is on my bucket list to do again.  In fact, it will always be on my bucket list; I will never get enough of the Globe.

The Hub is not going with me, but fear not – I won’t get lost in London because Spud will be there to hold my hand.  We will take the train (a two-hour express) down next week Thursday; see some sights; and then book into our hotel-come-hostel-come-student digs thing (told you we were on a budget).  We could have saved more money by taking our own bedding but I don’t want to carry it for two days.

I will get no sleep because I’ll be too excited but I’ll manage the breakfast they promise; and then we will head to the theatre for our tour and exhibition (pre-paid), before standing as groundlings.  Groundlings pay a fiver to stand (often in the rain) to watch the show.  It’s the only way to experience the Globe – I had a seat last time but gave it up to be a groundling, squeezing in to lean on the stage during the second half of the performance.

I have so much to look forward to: flea pit hotel; theatre pit in the rain; smelly armpits if it’s sunny (menopause symptoms stink).  

I have the best husband!


Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been?

22 Feb
Win the tweenies!

Image by linniekin via Flickr

Describe the best road trip you’ve ever taken.

What follows is not the best road trip I’ve ever taken (most of it being by rail, for starters), but it was good fun.

To continue our nursery rhyme theme…which reminds me: well done, dear readers, on your excellent modern nursery rhymes.  Way to make me feel inadequate as both poet and social commentator.  My only comfort was that none of you noticed I used all of your favourite words in one post.  If this blog had a tongue, it would be blowing raspberries right now and I would have to issue a stern warning because it’s necessary to be nice to people if you want them to come back.  Kisses, dear, dear readers.

The theme:

Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to look at the Tweenies.

I won a competition back in 2003.  The BBC phoned me one Thursday morning – not the whole corporation, just two incompetents – to tell me I had won an exclusive, all-expenses paid trip to London that weekend, to watch the premiere of the Tweenies new video/dvd, Night-time Magic, featuring Eddie the Dream Genie

The Tweenies is/was a children’s programme involving people dressed in felt costumes, and a lot of singing.  I once set up my ironing board in front of the tv and found I had done twenty minutes’ worth while singing along to them without realising.  While I’m at it, I might as well confess that I also have the ‘Goodbye’ song from Bear In The Big Blue House on my playlist.

The first BBC person to phone wanted to confirm that I could accept the prize, as it was such short notice, and promised a second person would phone to give me details of travel, etc.

Nobody phoned.

On Friday morning I phoned them to see what was happening: the first person thought the second person had phoned me and the second person thought the first person had phoned me, to tell me that the train tickets would be with me by twelve o’clock that day.

They weren’t.

Either the first or second person phoned me at two to tell me that, actually, the tickets had come back to the office because they were incorrectly addressed but not to worry, because everybody else all over the country had received theirs, so that was alright, then.

I’d be hearing from the BBC.

I didn’t hear from the BBC.

I phoned again.

Can’t you just hear someone from That’s Life saying, ‘This has got nothing to do with us’?

I was promised an e-mail bearing all details including a pin number so that I could collect the tickets from the station just before we left.

No e-mail.

By this time, the Hub and I were convinced that the whole thing was a wind-up. I didn’t bother packing, and I was preparing to tell the kids on Saturday morning, sorry to disappoint you and blight your life but you can blame the sickos playing a joke on us, when the e-mail arrived with all details, including the train time of 12h37.

It was all hands to battle stations, packing, cleaning (can’t leave the house dirty for burglars) and setting the video for the England-South Africa game the Hub was sacrificing for his beloved children to have a weekend jolly (and if you knew how much that man loves his rugby, you would appreciate that it was a HUGE sacrifice on his part).

We were at the station for 11h55, and there was a minor panic when the ticket machine was not located at the end of Platform 2 as the BBC advised us (I know the BBC don’t run the railways, but give it time).  We located it eventually (thirteen miles away at Granada Studios), collected the tickets, and waited for our fabulous weekend to begin.

The train journey was pleasant, if punctuated by sad comments from the Hub: ‘Kick-off will be about now.’  ‘I bet England are ahead now.  ‘Must be half-time.’  ‘It’s a shame, but I don’t think South Africa will beat them; they’re not the team they were.’  ‘The game must be over now.’  ‘At least I can watch the highlights in the hotel (sigh).’

We arrived at Euston Station knowing the hotel was only two or three minutes away, but not in which direction. The e-mail had promised us a map at the end of it, but after scrolling through four pages of disclaimers and details of what we were not getting from them, you will not be surprised to learn that were was no map. However, my husband is a resourceful man, and he asked somebody for directions, and we arrived at the hotel within the promised two or three minutes.

No problems booking in and our room was what I can only describe as larney – extremely posh, too good for the likes of us, but we don’t care, we enjoyed it anyway. It was bigger than Spud’s then-classroom, as he informed us in awed tones, comfortably fitting a king-sized bed, large single bed, fold-out, thick sprung-mattress sleeper-couch that was more comfortable than our bed at home, table, desk, chairs, luxury bathroom and mini-corridor big enough for Spud to turn cartwheels in.

The Hub was pleased to discover that Man City were winning three-nil when he put the telly on, and ecstatic when they eventually beat Bolton six-two; the rugby highlights were also shown, so he was thrilled/disappointed when England won/South Africa lost – you only know the real meaning of torn loyalties when you are married to a rugby-loving man born in England but raised in South Africa.

The BBC then decided to spoil our weekend by having the latest Tweenies comic delivered to our room; to add insult to injury, they sent two – one each for the boys. You will appreciate our agony if I tell you that a combination of two lively boys and two free plastic guitars ensued – excellence in Children’s Literature was eschewed for excruciating noise and howling parents. 

We went down to dinner at five-thirty. We were seated next to another family there courtesy of the BBC, who had had a similar experience to us, ungrateful wretches that we all were, in discovering what was actually going on.   They had arrived at the station and got into a taxi for the hotel: total journey time – 30 seconds.  They had also been promised a dinner at Planet Hollywood which never materialised, as part of the prize.

The reason I mention them, apart from giving me an excuse to complain as a good licence-payer about the waste of my money on know-nothing staff and weekend jollies to London, is that we all fell in love with their toddler daughter, Ellie-May. She was entrancing; her skin was like the proverbial caramel; her eyes the biggest and brownest I’ve ever seen in a little girl; her dark curly hair had golden tints; she was dressed beautifully; she was high-spirited and mischievous without being naughty, and her entrance was spectacular: she climbed up on the seat behind her mother, opened her mouth, and daintily vomited all over her mum in the middle of the restaurant.

That hiccup not withstanding, we had an enjoyable meal and an early night. The Hub was exhausted and ready for bed, but Spud, Tory Boy (then thirteen and not so much Tory Boy as Boy) and I struggled to sleep, talked in booming whispers so as not to disturb the Hub, eventually all dozed off and left him wide-awake from our efforts not to wake him. 

That was also the night we invented our family cat.  Before settling to sleep we told age-appropriate ghost stories (I find them too frightening otherwise).  Mine was a shaggy dog story – unbelievable, I know – with a creaking door.  When I creaked menacingly, they all laughed and demanded to know where the cat came from.  He’s been a fixture ever since.

Breakfast next morning was ample and included a complimentary admirer for Boy – a Spanish waitress who told him he looked absolutely lovely….

We were all packed up and checked out by 11h15, waiting in the lobby for the BBC to collect us. Here, Corporation incompetence came into its own: two minibuses, meant to carry sixteen people each, arrived to carry sixty people to the premiere.  Each driver thought he was collecting one family.  You should have seen us all crammed in: Ellie-May’s father must have thought his luck was in, the way he and the Hub were cuddled up together. Can you imagine if we’d had an accident? Night-time Magic, Daytime Nightmare…why spend what we calculate was about a £1000 per family for the weekend, apart from the beanfeast itself, if you are going to risk it all? As it happened, nothing happened (shame – can you imagine the extensive media coverage for the new Tweenies dvd if we had all been maimed and/or killed? You can’t buy that kind of publicity), and we all arrived safely, once the first driver had been told by his passengers where we were going.

Things looked up after that. We went into a very exclusive place called The Rex Club, in Piccadilly Circus. To be honest, it looked exclusively seedy, but apparently cost the Beeb a fortune to hire, and was sited next door to Planet Hollywood, who provided the catering, so Ellie-May had the opportunity to throw-up their food after all. She screamed loud and long, poor little mite, at the site of a real, live Doodles, and refused to go anywhere near him. She spent most of the time playing with Boy, as she really took a shine to him. He didn’t mind being showered with many mini Doodles.

The room had been decorated with all things Tweenies, and we were free to take home as many of the aforementioned mini Doodles and yoyos as we wished (clearly the worst-selling toys) and to drink as much tea, coffee and cool drink (it was a children’s day, so no alcohol) as required. Those children not terrified by him had their pictures taken with the real Doodles, then we trooped into a very plush screening room (reclining seats, no less; I can’t help wondering what other films the Rex Club hosts…) to watch, da-da! the premiere of the Tweenies’ new video/dvd, Night-time Magic, featuring Eddie the Dream Genie.  I must have mentioned it enough times now to have paid for the weekend.

Once they got the projector working properly – only a fifteen minute delay with a room full of eager, excited and very hungry children – we settled down to watch it.

Yes, well.

I am still confused as to why, exactly, the BBC felt the need to bring sixty people from all over the country to watch a very ordinary fifty-minute video.  It seemed like a colossal waste of money on something that was bound to be a huge seller, anyway.  The Hub reckons it must have been a tax write-off.

We all trooped out once it had finished, and those children not asleep, too young, too old or too bored were thrilled to meet Eddie the Dream Genie in person. Spud confided in me that he overheard someone saying that Eddie had had trouble getting his head on properly.  Spud seemed to enjoy meeting him and didn’t even mind an elbow in the face from Eddie in all the confusion.

Food followed, supplied by Planet Hollywood, which was extremely edible (the food, not Planet Hollywood – you can’t eat a business, silly, unless you’re Godzilla.  But you won’t be invited back).  Then goodie bags (two videos, wallet, poster, figure, bits and pieces), taxis – one per family this time, baggage collection, and off to the station.

I decided to forgive the BBC for wasting my money on expensive hotels, good food, freebies and generally showing us all a very good time when I took my seat in (because the journey home was almost fully booked, the woman at the Beeb had us bumped up to) First Class.  We got free crisps! And drinks, eccles cakes and gross sandwichews. We were on Richard Branson’s new, tilting Pendolino train – in First Class!! They didn’t tilt, unfortunately, as we only travelled at about 23 miles an hour for half the journey. We didn’t mind, though, because we got free crisps.

I think the highlight of the journey was when I went to the toilet and couldn’t work the tap. Not as daft as it sounds – if you can imagine a machine that operates on the same principle as a hand dryer (no, not a towel), in that you put your hands underneath it and the water automatically comes out.  It didn’t. There I was, with a handful of liquid soap and no water. I had to call the (male) attendant to help me, and I felt very silly, if germ free.  Next time I went to a different toilet (hey, it’s a two-hour journey)and couldn’t get that tap to cease running water. I crossed my legs the rest of the way home.  Those machines are everywhere now but they were state-of-the-art eight years ago.

And that was one of my favourite road trips (apologies for the many parentheses).

A History Lesson

29 Sep
The Palace of Westminster at night as seen fro...

Image via Wikipedia


Now that we have a new leader of the Labour Party, the time seems right to tell you about the adventures of a future leader of the Conservative Party (sorry, dear deceased Labourite Granddads). Tory Boy came back from his two weeks in Westminster declaring that it was the best fortnight of his life. Highlights appear to have been: access to a huge bedroom for the first time in two years (his guest room; not anyone else’s); an excellent transport system (45 minutes from Wimbledon to Westminster via bus, train & two tubes); and the Pope’s back.   


We’ll dispense with the Pope first (no jokes, please; respect the fact that my Nan was a Catholic and always displayed a photograph of the latest one in her home). TB sent us a text to say he was standing right behind the Popemobile and could see His Holiness’s back. It was an historic first Papal State visit to Britain, so I suppose it was worth a text. Tory Boy had a pass which enabled him to get close enough to see the arrival at Westminster Hall. I don’t begrudge him his little witness of history, even if he is an atheist.   

TB tells me that Westminster is like Hogwarts: corridors go off in all directions and people disappear down them and are never heard of again. He worked in the old Scotland Yard building.  He was given a tour of the Commons and the Lords and he says they were beautiful but small. He found the Queen’s throne ‘stunning’ and was surprised to learn that it stayed there permanently; I don’t know why he was surprised: someone would notice if you turned up at the front door with a moving van.  I hope.  The Speaker’s Chair was a gift from New Zealand. The doors behind the Speaker were donated by India. Much more of this and we’ll be hearing next that the Queen’s Speech is brought to you by the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis: Come stay with us; we’ll move a mountain to give you the earth.   


The four patron saints of the UK are depicted on stained glass windows in the lobby. Legend has it that St George leads to the Lords, because every Englishman aspires to be a Lord; St David leads to the Commons, because the Welsh yabber on; St Andrew leads to the bars, because the Scots like to drink; and St Patrick leads to the exit, because every Irishman wants out of England. It’s heartening to know that racial stereotypes are alive and well in our nation’s seat of government.   

Tory Boy told us that, contrary to popular belief, St Stephen’s Chapel is not a chapel, but a hall. Thanks for clearing that up, son. There is a myth that the section of floor tile that doesn’t match is the spot where Percival Spencer was assassinated. Coughing noises and blank looks elicited the information that PS was the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. File:Assassination of Spencer Perceval.jpgThat was news to me: I’d never heard of him, or even that we lost one.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I Googled his name for an image, I discovered that I hadn’t been paying attention and it was, in fact, Spencer Perceval.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I could probably name more American presidents than British Prime Ministers – though I can name every monarch in reverse order, going back to Henry VII. (If you want to read a funny story about the Queen, go to this).   

Tory Boy spent most of his time doing research but couldn’t say into what; he did other things as well, but couldn’t say what they were, either. If it’s a matter of confidentiality, they’ve got the right boy: this is a child who, from the age of seven, when I collected him from school and asked him about his day, preferred to tell me that he ‘couldn’t remember’ than share even the tiniest piece of his life with me. He did tell us (we’re back in 2010) that he did case work, dealing with his particular MP’s constituents’ problems but, of course, he couldn’t tell us what they were…I can see having a son at the heart of government is going to be as much use to me as a bottle of bleach in a dirty kitchen.   

The days were as long as he wanted them to be, and some were longer than others; but he did make time to visit the Globe at the weekend, as I have previously mentioned. By the way, his comment that ”Falstaff gave me an apple” was as accurate as an MP’s expense claim: what really happened was that a number of apples rolled off Bardolph’s head and off the stage; one made its way into Tory Boy’s pocket, via his grabbing hand. The boy was born to be a politician.   


He fulfilled a lifetime ambition to re-create a scene from Bedknobs and Broomsticks: he walked down Portobello Road. He bought a couple of books from a charity shop. Before you get to thinking that TB needs to get a life, he also went to the opening of a think tank and to a wine tasting.   

He was taken to the wine tasting by his kind host, who works in that field.  Check out his blog.  It was held in the Vintners’ Hall, one of the oldest buildings in London; and the first to be reconstructed after the fire of 1666. TB said the building was fabulous, with Thirteenth Century tapestries hanging on the walls and even an Eighteenth Century Samurai sword (which seems an odd thing to leave lying around for a bunch of winos to get their hands on). Every Mayor of London leaves a gift in the Court Room; gifts date back to the 1700s.    


Tory Boy knows all this because he was given a tour. Tours are not given to the public in the Vintners’ Hall but Tory Boy decided to just ask someone who worked there; and that kind person obliged. Perhaps it was all the wine floating around.  Talking of which, TB’s host gave him a crash course in wine tasting and the first thing Tory Boy did was spy out every bottle of wine costing more than £30 and taste only those. My son will go far in politics; I just know it.    

Perhaps it was the wine; perhaps it was the double Pusser’s Rum at work; perhaps it was the excitement; perhaps it was the hard work; but his sleep issues disappeared overnight. He was in bed by nine most nights and asleep soon after.    

Remember when I told you he was going to Westminster and I said he was running the country? I may have exaggerated, but only a little. His MP was promoted on Tory Boy’s last day: clearly, TB is a man of influence. It’s nothing to do with us, of course; but his hosts, who were wonderful to him, and with whom he hopes to stay in touch. He couldn’t stop praising them. I bet he told them what he did at school when he was seven.    






Matters Arising

7 Sep
British Parliament and London Eye at night

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday’s post raised a few comments that I thought I would answer here.

First of all, a big thank you to slpmartin, who always leaves such lovely comments, and yesterday’s was the nicest yet.  You should check out his poetry here; it’s well worth a look.

Tory Boy asked me to clarify that he didn’t shout at his brother at all.  But you knew that, didn’t you?  Those of you who have been reading my blog for more than a week must be aware that I never met an exaggeration I didn’t like.

Also Peter (a wonderful man) is his host and I should have got the reference because Tory Boy cleverly echoed my (a wonderful woman) interjections.  However, I can’t read code; that’s why there are never any metaphors in my poems.  But you should check out his blog, especially if you are interested in wine.  If you are more interested in whine, keep reading me.

Tory Boy promised to phone on Friday night but he was early by three and a half days because of disgruntled Londoners.  I believe London may be conspiring to keep my son from governing the nation because Sunday’s train was reluctant to arrive and when it did, it deposited him outside the country’s security HQ; the canteen prices in the Houses of Parliament rose significantly on his first day; and now there is a tube strike.   Actually, I’m grateful for that last one because I texted him about it and he was standing at the bus stop with time to kill and he phoned me.

He had a brilliant first day doing grunt work – everybody’s got to start somewhere and he enjoyed himself enormously; was fed by both his hosts and his colleagues; and it only took forty minutes from Wimbledon to London in spite of the bus, train and two tubes he had to take.

On his first day he also managed to be both late and early at the same time.  He slept through two alarm clocks, possibly because he is in such a lovely bedroom.  He raved about it, telling me more about the room than the Commons.  It is like a loft conversion except it was built that way and there was never a loft, and he banged his head six times yesterday on the sloping roof, particularly when he stumbled out of bed at 7:45 in a panic at being late on his first day.  He arrived at nine-thirty to find he wasn’t supposed to start until ten.  Phew!  and boy, do British governments have it hard….

I am instructed not to worry that he might be late again: yesterday was an aberration because he has always been able to get up when he has to; it is just that he is still struggling with his sleep pattern.  He has a plan – he has placed his alarm clocks under the sloping roof so he will crack his head on it when he tries to turn them off: that’s bound to wake him up.  I’ve made an appointment with my doctor when TB gets back to check for concussion and the idiot gene; but I must confess, I think it’s inspired.

My good friend Flo has asked the question: Is that a Boris Johnson barnet Tory Boy is sprouting? She is referring to the hair of our eccentric Conservative London Mayor, the man who offended Liverpool.  Have a look for yourself and tell me what you think:



Here are a few Boris quotes, from The Telegraph:

  • On his rivals in the Liberal Democrats: “The Lib Dems are not just empty. They are a void within a vacuum surrounded by a vast inanition.”
  • On The 2005 Conservative Leadership Contest: “I am supporting David Cameron purely out of cynical self-interest.”
  • And my personal favourite: In his Telegraph column December 2, 2004 on being sacked from the Tory front bench: “My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.”

Here is Boris on Have I Got News For You:  

Boris Johnson is affectionately known as ‘BoJo’.  If  Tory Boy follows the same trend he will be known as ‘ToBo’ – which is what we call our dog.  Still, if the hairdo fits….

And finally:










My Boy Is Running The Country For Two Weeks

6 Sep
The Clock Tower, Palace of Westminster, London...

Image via Wikipedia

You may recall a while back I mentioned that Tory Boy was offered an internship at the Houses of Parliament.  His accommodation was all arranged and then it fell through and I was lamenting that fact on my blog.  One of my sisters-in-law (a wonderful woman) emailed her company’s London branch and asked if anyone could help out.  One of her colleagues (a wonderful woman) emailed to say that her mother sometimes hosted students and she would ask her.  My sister-in-law’s colleague’s mother (a wonderful woman) said yes, that would be fine.  Even more kindly – once dates were established – my sister-in-law’s colleague’s mother’s husband was up here on business and offered Tory Boy a lift down to their home last Friday, saving him the train fare.  Unfortunately Tory Boy had the Muse gig, or he’d have gone then.

However, we packed him off on the train yesterday afternoon and he arrived safely if somewhat late, British trains doing their usual we run when we feel like it thing.  I didn’t mind because it gave him the opportunity to phone me from outside MI5 to tell me he was calling me from outside MI5.  I was an avid spy book fan in my twenties and TB knows that sort of thing excites me, particularly as I live my life vicariously through the adventures of others (like a lot of mothers).

Tory Boy phoned again when he arrived to let us know the people were lovely the house was lovely his room was lovely yes they were feeding him a roast dinner as it happened and he was right to stand firm against my motherly angst and not let me pack him a food parcel of crisps & Cornflakes.


We have been thinking about him all day on the first day of Parliament and hoping he got up at six okay to catch his bus, train and two tubes to Westminster.  We wouldn’t dare phone him to ask, of course, in case he was in consultation with the Prime Minister on which song is Muse’s best to date, so it was fortuitous that the accidental call Tory Boy made to Spud three days ago happened to come through as a missed call on Spud’s phone as he left school this afternoon.  Spud thought it was made today and naturally returned the call, only to get a hiss blast from his brother to ‘stop bothering me at work,’ so we know he got there okay and hasn’t been sucked in by druggies and drunks.  But he barely knows our MPs yet.

Here is a message for Tory Boy: a letter arrived today from the Lancaster area; what do you want me to do with it?

A message for everyone else: I posted that message to TB here because he doesn’t read my emails or answer my calls, me not being a woman of importance in the life of the child who ate my figure but not my food if he could avoid it. 

The Hub and I are quite excited about the kind of work he might be doing: setting policy, delivering mail, who knows?  Maybe he could work on safety laws for old people: no pensioner vaulting between the hours of ten and six would be a good one.  As we were crawling home on Saturday night, the Hub stopped – or, more accurately, didn’t start – the car to let an old couple cross the road in front of us.  There was a fence on the pavement and we were astonished to see the elderly man try to jump it from the road; fail; fall back with his legs hooked over the top so he was dangling head first backwards; and be rescued by his even more elderly wife, who gamely cradled his head in her chins until younger and more able pensioners ran to their rescue.

Whatever Tory Boy is doing down there in t’ big city, I’m sure he’s enjoying it and we won’t hear from him again.  I’d be sad, but I need his room to store my athletic equipment; I’m entering the 2032 Olympics.


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