Thursday, December 11, 2008
" We Wish You a Merry Xmas, We Wish You a Merry Xmas, We Wish You a Merry Xmas
and a Happy New Year "
Believe it or not the weather has been unusually mild for this time of the year around 11 to 13 degrees for the past week, so I do not think a White Christmas will occur, at least not in this part of England. As it is almost Christmas Eve and you will be closing down everywhere to enjoy the festivities of the season, so we would like to wish each and everyone of you a Very Merry and Safe Christmas and New Year. So remember take care of each other and when you are having that tot over Christmas lunch give us a cheer as well, as we will do for you.
The period of this blog is from 1oth December 2008 to 23rd December, 2008. I will start this off by describing our daylong visit to Portsmouth, one of England's most famous ports and lovely coast which faces into the Solent some 50 odd miles southwest from London. It is easily accessible from London using the M 25 ring road motorway or as we did via a hook up through the A3. Both allow excellent travelling times and the journey down is very pretty really particularly when you reach a few hills which allows views over the countryside like via (The Devils Punchbowl) rather than just the seemingly endless tree rows and thickets which envelop the roadsides allowing only very fleeting glimpses of what lays hidden behind.
Rhonda's Comment: No we are not in Dubai!!!!
Along the way we did see the world famous Wisley Gardens which are huge but not worth visiting in the winter I wouldn't think plus small cities like Winchester with its renowned cathedral and so on. All at once you seem to flash out from the trees and there is the coast and in this case when we travelled down, it was sparkling in the sunlight. We spent our few hours at the Old Portsmouth Docks really as there is so much history right before your eyes. From museums containing such things as the remains of the Mary Rose, a Henry VIII ship, then on to the Lord Nelson flagship, Victory, still maintained in magnificent condition to the Warrior built in 1860 as the first steam driven inter continental ship and so on and so on. There are museums and artifacts galore hence our promise to return to soak up some of this wonderful area of our history. Obviously, the area is scattered with pubs with amazing names relating to history and right in the middle is The Lady Hamilton Hotel from which our original family name was derived from (Lord Nelson's whore) as we are recorded descendants of her. We decided that we would have to go back again before we leave these fair shores and stay at least a couple of days in any one of the multitudes of B&Bs which are found everywhere along the coast line so we can visit so many of the displays as well as look into the D-Day Operation Overlord exhibitions which are so much a wonderful part of our history as the stepping off place for the re-invasion of Europe by the Allies on June 6 1941.
"No Bathing Here at Low Tide". Who would want to
besides the water being to bloody cold you might also
be swimming around old relics.
All of this is of course surrounded by the Royal Navy bases which are huge and to be able to look out to sea sure shows why the area has for centuries made a wonderful port. It outs to the Solent and on to the Atlantic thus giving England its great position from where to launch attacks from or protect itself from marine attacks from the great seas which meet the coast here. We will offer much more in detail on this fascinating area when we re visit next year and to those of you who have already visited or are familiar with this piece of coast will well know how fascinating it is.
Our next big outing was as we had promised ourselves, a trip to stay for a couple of nights in London to see the lights and hear the choirs and bands playing Christmas songs etc so on the following Friday we drove to our old marina base where we left the car and caught the bus to Staines from where we caught the overland train to Waterloo then transferred to the Underground to travel to Holborn near Covent Gardens where we had our hotel booked.
It was quite an adventure as we were loaded with a roll wheel suitcase, a backpack, a camera bag, a plastic shopping bag and a large umbrella decked out in our winter clothes of 5 or 6 layers plus Harry. Yes,we always travel light when we move, just ask Daphne who chuckles about our inability to make do with small requirements of clothing etc. Harry was great even when faced with those huge escalators in the underground and all the new noises, but he like us, was glad to get to our hotel and to be able to rest in peace and quiet for a while.
After a short nap the navigator had us up and off to walk to Covent Gardens and then on down to Trafalgar Square to see the huge Christmas tree which is shipped from Norway each year and decked in white only lights as a symbol of peace and a token of thanks to the English people for their support in WW2. In front of the tree the choirs took turns to sing, however, just as we got there it started to rain steadily so while we watched from the sheltered steps of the National Art Gallery these poor kids did their best to keep a cheer in their voices while the temps fell to about 3 degrees.
We then moved off down passed Piccadilly Circus and down to Regent Street where we had been told the lights were great to see. Well to be honest they were poor so after about 10 mins we went past the top end of Oxford Street where we later found out that the lights further down the street were really good but of course we missed them in the rain and gloom. On we walked up through Soho just as businesses were closing and thus emptying a million folk out onto the streets as they made their way home or off shopping or out for the last evening of the working week. I have never experienced such crowds and as you can imagine in the rain and dark we were just hustled along by the throng like sardines swimming with the tide. Poor Harry, still at foot had to endure being soaked to the skin and black from his belly to his topsides due to the filth coming off the footpaths but he was wonderful in avoiding being stood on and was great really.
One of the things that stuck out was the huge numbers of people who still smoke here with so many of them being elder or seniors and as a result some 2000 people die of smoke related diseases per week in the UK. So sad isn't it when you think of the cost to health and finances. Many of these people huddle in the doorways of work having a fag and even more so at places of entertainment like when they go to the pubs as smoking indoors at pubs, restaurants etc etc has been banned since July last year. It is sad really to see them all standing in the rain like groups of lepers trying to enjoy themselves.
We eventually got back to the hotel looking like wet rats and calculated we had walked for about 10ks so as you can imagine we were knackered so it was baths all round for us including Harry, a take-away tea from next door and a big crash out for the night.
Saturday morning was no better weather wise but Rhonda took herself and Harry off to The Old Bailey(Courts of Justice) and then found the famous church where the Bells Of St Clements song and story originated from and she picked up a printed history sheet on how it all came about including the full song sheet. (If anyone is interested please let her know and she can scan the paper and send it to you, It is quite fascinating).
After viewing the Waldorf Hotel where the rich were breakfasting in the widows of the breakfast room and they watched us having our poached and scrambled eggs plus the obligatory baked beans out on the footpath at an open air eatery. Gee it felt good at about 2 degrees. Even Harry froze his bum off on the cold concrete but we soldiered on and then went to Drury Lane where all the West End theatres are situated. I still can't believe that she could walk so far over the two days but it just shows you how much fitter she has got and having lost 6 kgs like me is feeling the benefits of being able to walk Harry so far and to walk to do all the sightseeing.
Just across from our hotel was the biggest and most interesting Hobby Shop I have ever seen. Gee it was busy too with kids and dads buying Christmas gifts of all sorts from helicopters to soldiers to planes and ships to all the space invader stuff and so on. Just as well that I couldn't afford to buy some more train stuff as I could have gone quite mad.
Along with some long walks around the streets which run out from the hotel area, via the legal area with endless rows of buildings occupied by lawyers including the Law School which seems to be occupied 24/7, we found new parks which were open from 7.30am to 4.00pm where Harry could run off the lead and chase the squirrels and meet new dogs etc. This would have been great if the weather had been kinder, however, those are the breaks of a northern winter.
As you would know it, Sunday arrived with no rain, just cold and overcast so we packed up and trundled down to to the Thames to Somerset House and watched the ice skating and then on to Waterloo Bridge and then along to Westminster Bridge. Another good trot and while we enjoyed looking at the river traffic I have to say that most of the charter ferries which run and back over a set range don't seem to get started until around 11 am or so as people sure like having their mornings in bed rather than getting out and about. They love late lunches up to 3.00pm and it is not uncommon to see the eating of main evening meals well after 10.00pm.
We wended our way back to where our car was parked and safely got back to the boat around 3 pm so a good weekend was had really. I think we all slept for a good 12 hours that night but of course the memories will stay with us for so much longer.
Because of the very heavy rain which had fallen west of here, the Thames rose to a very high level and we were advised that travelling on this river until further notice was banned until the level dropped so we will be here are at Shepperton Marina at least until the end of the week while the level is still high and the current is very quick, up to about 13 kms per hour so the only things doing well are the big white swans which seem to handle it so well. Talking about the swans draws to mind that here at Shepperton Marina is a reserve next door where the swans are bred and raised so we get so many coming over here to the marina to make their pickings of scraps etc. They are truly magnificent particularly while taking off as they need about 50 meteres to get off the water when there is no breeze. They really are the jumbo jets of the bird world. You may be interested to know that while there are lots of birds around the hedgerows etc there is a a national concern over the loss of the common sparrows and to be honest we have not seen one in our time here. I don't know why they are vanishing but when you consider how well they do in New Zealand one wonders what is going wrong here.
The work on the boat is almost finished so we are glad about that. Just as well the weather has prevented us from moving on, however, we have enjoyed our stay at Shepperton Marina for a change as there are some great little shopping centres nearby so it will be Tuesday or Wednesday before we get back to Penton Hook for Christmas.
I have to tell you about a real win we had yesterday. We had been looking for a dehumidifier but they were all very expensive and not many stores had them but yesterday in Woolworth's while looking at the last of the stock before they close their doors for good I saw a dehumidifier, same model as we had borrowed from the old owner when we first came on board. It was labelled at 50% 0ff the old price of 140 pounds but I noticed a wee sticker saying a further 30% off, however, when we took it to the cash register to check if this was correct, it came up as being only 16 pounds total so needless to say we grabbed it and got out real quick and felt really smug. I felt like our mates the Cantelos really who seem to always strike on deals like this. The streets of Staines and Chertsey as you can imagine were very busy and already a number of High Street shops have started having post Christmas sales which has meant even more bargains for those who know their prices etc.
Last Friday night the navigator insisted we should go into Windsor to the castle gates on the hill to take part in the Carol singing etc. The Band of The Life Guards were playing and it was quite a sight as they were dressed in bright red full length winter weight woollen coats and all their regalia and about 3000 people turned out to add voice to the music. It was a very pleasant evening but I noted that while Queenie and Dukey were in residence neither of them bothered to come down to say Hi or to invite us in for a cuppa but that is the way things go I guess.
So once again in closing, Rhonda and I would like to wish you all and your families and wonderful Xmas and love to all.
Ken Rhonda and Harry