Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Gold post boxes

During the Olympics and Paralympics whenever  GB won a gold medal a post box from their local area was painted gold. I was only thinking the other day that I had yet to spot one but whilst in Manchester this week I came across this one by chance. It is in the heart of the city in Albert Square. I think it a pity that they do not put the name of the gold medallist on the post box but after a little research discovered that it was in honour of  Philip Hindes Men's Team Sprint - cycling

Monday, 28 January 2013

Trafford Centre

Across the road from the hotel where I stay in Manchester is the biggest shopping centre in the UK. It opened  in September 1998 and is called The Trafford Centre. It cost over £600 million to build and contains all the usual shops you would expect to find. What I find different is its opulence. £40,000 worth of gold leaf was used to decorate its columns and statues.

When you step inside the entrance hall it is more like a 5 star hotel than a shopping mall.

Beyond the marble staircase there is a gigantic dining area themed as an ocean liner with swimming pool and a stage.

Surrounding this area are many restaurants and eating establishments as well as a cinema.

Beyond that area are the shops. After spending the day with Mum this is usually where I end up either to eat or meet up with friends from my schooldays.This is my world Tuesday

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Friday, 25 January 2013

Tatsfield walk

Today was my second walk with the U3A ramblers. This one was completely different from the previous walk as it was out in the country rather than the town and it was at a much brisker pace. We met in a small village on the borders of Kent and Surrey, only about 10 miles from where I live. Although most of the snow has now melted in my neighbourhood, I was met with  quite a different scene as I approached the village of Tatsfield. I became quite anxious about the amount of ice on the side roads as they had not been gritted. I found the pub where we were meeting and drove into the car park. It should have been easy to park but the car was skidding even though I was driving like a snail. Luckily there weren't too many cars parked there so I avoided hitting anything.

This is the old bakery in the village which is now a bistro.

The walk began with a steep descent across some very snowy fields

The horses were too busy eating to pay any attention to us.
The young beech trees still had some leaves clinging onto the branches.

It was more difficult crossing this icy road than walking uphill.

These are some young grape vines. There are a few vineyards in Kent now. This one will not be yielding any grapes for another couple of years so the leader of the walk informed me.

The snow was quite deep in this field but it was made much worse as the ground was so  churned up and muddy beneath the snow that we kept sinking.

 Whoops! Someone about to fall over again.

 This was a view looking back across the North Downs. Although you can't see it from this picture, cutting right across is the M25 motorway, one of the busiest motorways in Britain. It is often referred to as the largest car park in Europe due to its high percentage of traffic jams.

This looked as though it was carved from a tree trunk. No-one knew the meaning of it, but looking at the photo, I now wonder if this is the county sign to show we had moved from Kent county into Surrey.

After the walk we enjoyed a hot drink and meal back at the pub in the village.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Lamb and Flag

For centuries the pub has been a part of British life and here in London we have some of the most interesting and oldest ones. I am no expert on beers but I do like the atmosphere and as many of them now serve food they make an ideal alternative to cafes and restaurants. This week I visited The Lamb and Flag.

It's not the easiest to find as it is at the end of an alleyway.

This alleyway leads you towards Covent Garden which is probably the closest tube station. The pub is quite small on the inside. The ground floor is the main bar area and then you go up the old winding wooden staircase to the restaurant. In here you will find a huge open fire in its original fireplace. There has been a pub here for over 350 years but as with many of these old buildings, a great deal was rebuilt in the 1890s. It is very cosy inside especially at this time of the year. The food is very British such as fish and chips, sausage and mash etc. but very tasty. I had chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert and the portion was huge. It was enough for all three of us but unfortunately we didn't know that when we ordered 3 desserts so we had to leave quite a bit behind. My mouth is watering now as I think about it. I know I should have taken a picture but I was too busy enjoying the ambience, food and company.

The street lamp outside the pub is a gas lamp. You can see the 4 gas mantles inside the lamp. Since coming across them in Hyde Park (
I seem to be noticing them everywhere.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The snow arrives

This is a pathway very close to where I live in a suburb of SE London. To the right of the path are some allotments and then further along on the right it opens out onto some private sports grounds. There used to be a hole in the fence which I could go through and take a short cut to the gym. This has now been mended and I have to walk the long way round. As I am going to the gym to exercise I shouldn't really be complaining about the walk.   

As you can see we have had quite a bit of snow the last couple of days but nothing to compare with other parts of the UK. I love it when it looks like this but it doesn't take long for the pavements to either be compacted with snow and therefore very icy and dangerous or, on the rare occasions they are gritted, they become a slushy mess.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Shop signs

There was a time when all shops used to have signs hanging outside to advertise their name and business. At one end of Fleet Street you can still see a few establishments that have retained these signs.

No prizes for guessing what this shop sells!

Goslings branch of Barclays bank.

Goslings Bank was established in 1650 at the 'Sign of Ye Three Squirrels', now 19 Fleet Street. It amalgamated with Barclays Bank Ltd in 1896, but is still known as Gosling's Branch.

Fuller's Ale and Pie House also on Fleet Street used to be the  Old Bank of England but as the name suggests is now a pub. It is quite large inside with beautiful decor in keeping with its age. I'm not a beer drinker but the friend I was with assured me it was well worth the visit.

Singin' in the rain

Have had a bit of a cultural  weekend visiting the theatre on two consecutive days. One was a planned visit and the other a very pleasant off the cuff moment. On Friday evening despite the worsening weather, 5 of us set off to the theatre. It was the first of a set of plays to be performed at the Noel Coward theatre and tickets for them have been booked for a number of months, knowing that they will no doubt be sell out performances. This first play was Privates on Parade written in 1977.  Simon Russell Beale in Privates on Parade by Peter Nichols

It is set in Malaysia after WW2. and focuses on  a young private joining an entertainment unit which was there to perform in front of the many troops still stationed in Malaya. One of the main characters was a drag artist played by Russell Beale whose impersonations of Marlene Dietrich, Carmen Miranda and Vera Lynn were terrific. It was a humorous and thought provoking play full of double entendres, nudity (not sure why) and satirical characters.

On Saturday morning I went into London again to meet a couple of friends who had braved the snow to travel from the wilds of the countryside so that we could spend the day together. Looking to start the day with a hot drink we wandered through Borough Market and engaged in a long discussion about bread making with this very enthusiastic young baker. His bread was made with sour dough which means it is not made from a fresh yeast but  from a fermented batter-like dough which is mixed with the other ingredients whilst keeping some of the sourdough to be fed with flour and water to be used in the future.
The breads had a different taste from normal yeast risen breads.  I loved the way he was so keen for us to taste all the different varieties, which had not been made by himself, as he is still practising the art of sourdough bread making because it apparently requires a great deal of skill to knead such wet dough. He was also a great salesman as we couldn't leave without purchasing some!

After a wander round and then lunch we managed to get day tickets to see Singin' in the rain. I think I have mentioned before that some of the London theatres will sell any remaining tickets at half price on the day. We had all seen the film many years ago starring Gene Kelly so were delighted to get 5th row seats in the stalls. We were warned before hand that we might get a little wet from the rain. I sure many of you will remember the famous scene of Gene Kelly dancing in the rain around the lamp post. The story is about the beginning of the Hollywood musicals which brought an end to silent movies.
It was an excellent show and the energy needed by the main members of the cast was phenomenal. The warning we had received was bang on target. A tremendous amount of water was used for the rain scene and as they tapped their way through the song the dancers took great delight in kicking the water over the audience. The people in the front row got drenched.

Like a group of children we  just couldn't resist!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Police House Hyde Park

Hyde park is possibly one of the most famous parks in London. King Henry VIII acquired the land in 1536 from the monks of Westminster to use as a hunting ground. It wasn't until the 1630s that it became a public park under the reign of King Charles. It is quite a large park when you consider it is in the middle of London and today it is difficult to escape the joggers and cyclists.

But in the middle of the park is this lovely Queen Anne style building dating back to 1902. It is known as the Old Police House.

The parks have their own police force which is part of the Metropolitan Police ( London Police force) which have been around since the 1870s.

Outside is the familiar blue Police lamp posts which are not such a common sight these days.

This one has a crown on the top which I assume is there as we are in one of the Royal parks. Looking around I noticed other lamp posts.

This one looks like a gas lamp,

 which still exist in some parts of

 London. You can see the gas fittings and the crown

more clearly in the close up


Sunday, 13 January 2013


Harrods is one of the world's largest and most famous department stores. It has 7 floors and 330 departments and covers more than 1 million sq ft (90,000 sq m). Situated in Knightsbridge, London, it attracts 15 million visitors a year.
It was established in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod and began as a single room with 2 assistants and a messenger selling mainly tea and other groceries. By 1880 it had expanded and offered everything from medicines to perfume. It burnt down in 1883 but was rebuilt into what you can see today.

By the 1890s it had expanded to include a bank, an estate agency and a department selling exotic pets although that ceased in the 1970s. It still has a pet department selling pet accessories as well as a pet spa.

During the 2WW it transformed from selling luxury goods to making uniforms, parachutes and parts for Lancaster bombers.

In 1985 Mohammed Al Fayed bought it for £615m from the House of Fraser group.

After the death of his son Dodi and Diana, the Princess of Wales, in 1997, he created a memorial to the couple inside the store. Although Fayed sold Harrods to the Qatari Royal family in May 2010 for £1.5bn, one of the conditions of the sale was that the memorial remained in his son's honour.

The store has twice been the subject of bomb attacks by the IRA. In 1983 6 people were killed by a car bomb outside the store leaving another 75 injured. In 1993 four people were injured in another bomb explosion.

Today the store is not only known for its luxury goods but also the food hall where you can buy almost any kind of exotic food.

This is the fish counter. The tank in the background has live fish in it but they are not for sale.

Lots of oysters on sale here.

Looking up there is a beautiful tiled ceiling showing pictures of the various game which is sold on the meat counter.

Anyone for caviar and champagne?

Or some hand made chocolates?

And this is the tea counter where of course it all began for Mr Harrod way back in 1849 not quite as large as it is today though.