The weekly commute to London (this time to see Warhorse)

The new roof at Kings Cross Station
The new roof at Kings Cross Station

I got Helen tickets to see Warhorse, at The New London Theatre Drury Lane, March 24 was the first Saturday available with decent seats. Theatre is not my thing, but the show seems quite different to the norm so I am quite intrigued. We did not get off to our usual early start as we were out late in Tring at Olive Lime for a curry, with friends.

We got to Berkhamsted station at 10:28 just in time to get our tickets and miss the 10:30 train to Euston, so we grabbed a paper and cappuccino (triple shot!) and took a seat in the sun. The 10:45 left on time with us on board searching for a seat on the crowded train. Not sure if it was our tardiness or the sun that had got everyone out for a trip to London. We eventually found some seats and settled in to the brief journey to London Euston.

Apart from the new Wembley stadium there is not much to see except for embankments, brick walls, and peoples back gardens. The gardens can be quite interesting, some are nicely manicure but most are just back yards left to their own devices except for the odd mow now and again. Some we completely concreted over.

I lost Helen this is the last picture I have
I lost Helen this is the last picture I have

Kings Cross station has reopened and has a new roof, so we thought we would take a look. We walked via the back streets to get there they are far more interesting and a lot less busy. The roof is very impressive, check out the pictures. From King Cross we headed to the Brunei Gallery, at the School of Oriental and Asian studies, to take a look at a photographic exhibition of Japan after the Tsunami, many of them were very moving. Some just out of this world such as a large ship sunk into the side of a building and cars on top of 3 storey buildings. After donating to the relief fund we jumped on a bus to Aldwych and headed towards Neal’s Yard to find some lunch. Near by we passed a nice looking restaurant, but we passed on it and ended up in a not so good one in Neal’s Yard. I ordered tuna salad and Helen a Pizza. The food was reasonable for London £25 for the two of us. I had water melon juice which was freshly made and delicious, Helen had apple which was also tasty.

We had 30 minutes to spare before the show so we took a leisurely stroll in the direction of the New London Theatre. We got to our seats not too early after Helen had to queue for a pee. I read the paper while Helen warned me of the dangers of rustling sweet containers at the theatre apparently it is not allowed! The set was pretty minimal but there were enough props to set the scene. The animated horses were very clever requiring three people to operate them. The show was bought to an exciting effects scene for the interval leaving the audience wondering what was going to happen next.

At the Tsunami exhibition
At the Tsunami exhibition

The second half had even more effects, there was a happy ending that bought made the audience shed a few tears. All in all I enjoyed the show but not enough to go rushing back to the theatre. I’m still a theatre Luddite.

We both wanted to drop into a book shop so the obvious choice was Foyles so we walked in the general direction of Charing Cross Road. On the way we passed a trendy publication shop (coffee table magazines) that also sold some good T-shirts, two that caught my eye, were one that listed the percentage constituents of a human body and another that had bird silhouettes. I took their website details www.mymagma.com

The Masons Grand Lodge
The Masons Grand Lodge

In Foyles I bought a book called Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes, it won The Financial Times book of the year. It is about the idiosyncrasies of the Swiss, it sounds interesting, watch this space for future book reviews. We got a bus from outside Foyles to Holborn then you can walk round the corner and catch a bus to Euston. Finally we have figured out the easy way to get a bus from Foyles to Euston, on many occasions Helen has cracked and hailed a cab or we have ended up walking to a bus stop on Tottenham court road which is not too far but withe the crowds and tiredness at the end of a day in London is not fun.

We arrived at Euston station with enough time to spare to get some thing to eat when we got home, then we sat on the floor of the train to Berkhamsted. All in all we had a great day out in great weather. We have a BluRay to watch later called Drive, you may see a film review later.

Improbable research – The Ig Nobels London 2012

The Natural History Museum London
The Natural History Museum London

A welcome day off began with ticking off some chores. Neil had a haircut and Helen made a Herman. Neils birthday watch arrived and we booked tickets for Highclere castle for a family jaunt. Leaving a cinnamon scented house we headed towards Wendover station before realising we would miss the 12:43pm train so diverted to Amersham for the tube. We did see the main line train en route but it beat us. A very helpful LU employer helped us get tickets and then onto the Metropolitan line. An Independent and a Metro later (1hr 15) we arrived at Baker Street. We were hungry and luck would hjave it there was a Pizza Express just over the road, although despite complaining of hunger pains, a fag break was necessary. The service in Pizza Express was as usual swift and the pizzas up to the usual standard.

Chilean miners rescue capsule
Chilean miners rescue capsule

Suitably refreshed we headed to the Natural History museum to have a wander round a temporary exhibition about Scott, of Antarctic fame. The exhibition cost £9 and I felt that it was well done and worth the money.

We had a coupe of hours to spare so we went to the Science museum. I can always fritter away time there as there are so many interesting and ever changing exhibits. My favourite bit on this occasion was the opportunity to have my head 3D scanned then being give the opportunity to view the results on a computer. We also saw the Chilean miners rescue capsule. I will try to post a video we took of it. We finished off the visit with a quick coffee and cake before heading over to Imperial college.

We arrived a good time and hung around the entrance to the hall. The doors were advertised as opening at 17:30 but did not open until about 17:50, by that time there was quite a crowd hanging about. We had manoeuvred ourselves to the front of the queue so when the doors opened we had the pick of the seats. The show started a few minutes after 6.

The Ig Nobel presentation show London 2012
The Ig Nobel presentation show London 2012

Mark Abraham the founder of the Ig Nobels started proceedings by explaining what they were all about and introduced each of the winners before handing over to 5 presenters who one by one would deliver a speech about their work in less that 5 minutes. The whole things was very enjoyable. You can get more details here http://www.improbable.com/ig/

European bike polo championship london

Boat show main sub-hall.
Boat show main sub-hall.

Last year I went to the outdoor show at Excel London, I enjoyed it so I thought I would repeat the trip this year. it is quite good value for money, the outdoor show is not that big but the ticket includes entry to the boat show and the bike show.

I purchased my ticket the night before, it’s £2 cheaper and saves queue on the day. I planned to get off early in the morning and have a look around the area with my cameras as the weather was predicted to be frosty and sunny.

I left the house at 0800 and headed round the M25, till the M11 took me into London Docklands and the Excel Exhibition Center. There is a lot of building work going on in that part of London with the Olympics imminent. The final turn of the sat nav was closed and the diversion poor. I ended up doing a circuit then a guess at where to go to reach my destination with instructions!

Big boats
Big boats

By the time I was parked up (£15 for 6 hours) it was more or less 1000 so I went straight to the exhibition. The halls were just opening and they played a rousing tune over the tannoy, it was the one you hear at remembrance services. Not sure what the reason for it was perhaps to raise the spirits of the exhibitors.

I did a quick tour of all the halls before a more leisurely one to get an idea of what was about. The things that I enjoyed most are described below.

Velo Polo has a better ring than Bike Polo, was the one spectacle that I enjoyed the most. Three people to each team ride around on bikes with polo sticks. I figured most of rules out: a goal can only be scored using the small end of the head end, it can’t be pushed with the side of the hammer head. If you put your foot down you have to touch wall at the side centre of the court. Winner is first to 5 or highest score after 2 by 10 minute halves, when side do not swap ends. Sudden death if there is a draw at full time.

Arty shot of the docklands
Arty shot of the docklands

The games is quite fast and the cyclists are very skilled. Most were on fixies. The teams were from Europe by invitation, France and Geneva were mentioned.

Go ape had a very long zip wire, but I could not be bothered to join the queue. Andy Rouse and Joe Cornish shared a stand selling their photo’s and books of photo’s.

I happened upon a stand where Stuart Conway was publicising his attempt at the cycle round the world record, which is now 96 days, which tens of days less that Mark Beaumont’s record set some years ago. Apparently there will be a few riders attempting it at the same time although not by the same route.

The boat show had the usual wares. Some of the boats were massive and only just fitted beneath the roof struts of the building. I looked around a couple there is a serious amount of luxury that gets built into them there boats. There were some demonstrations of rope work which I found interesting, the guys doing it make it look so easy.

I had lentil curry and rice for lunch from the Indian food retailer.

My parking was about to run out whilst I watched one of the Velo Polo semi-finals, so I had to go before the traffic warden got to my car. All in all it was a great day out, I will return next year.

 

The night before the Royal Wedding

Tents outside the abbey
Tents outside the abbey

I’m not really one to go crazy over royal weddings,  I was probably Elite on my BBC computer when the last one was on, but I do enjoy big events. I floated the idea of going up to London on the night before with Helen but she does not like big crowds. On Thursday morning I thought sod it I’ll leave work at 1600 (I had been there since 0730) and head up to the big smoke and have a look round. I might even link up with A&C who had decided to spend the night outside the Palace to ensure a view of “the kiss”.

I needed to get the car so I went home at lunch time and would you believe the Golden Plover I had see earlier on the way to work was still there so were 2 Curlew. Any way I got the car and grabbed my camera and went back to work. I managed to get to a mile stone in a project I am working on at work so did not feel guilty about skipping off.

I got to Berkhamsted, found a place to park and was on the 16:30 train to Euston. I went for a 30p pee, grabbed a sandwich and headed for the Northern line and headed south to Charring Cross. My plan was to head straight to Westmister Abbey then kind of follow the route back to Buckingham Palace where A&C were under canvas with the Canadians. There were plenty of people about but it did not seem more busy than usual.

At the abbey things were a bit tighter there were people camped out on the pavement with chairs and tents, it was hard to get by we had to go single file. I got a few pictures of the tent city, and then headed back to Parliament Square to get a picture of Big Ben surrounded by flags. From there I headed the park that is next to The Mall, there was not much space left at that point, you could have fitted the odd tent in but it was clear that if you wanted a space earlier Friday morning would be too late.

Parliament Square
Parliament Square

I wandered down The Mall taking in the party atmosphere. At the end opposite the palace were the usual media village that gets erected for these occasions. It was a very busy place lots of traffic, and people out to see what it was all about just like myself.

It did not take me long to track down A&C the Canadian Maples were easy to find. They seemed pleased to see me and it was good to catch up with the Canadians again. I was offered a seat and settled in for an hour or so chatting and watching the world go by. From time to time some darkened windowed cars went past often followed by Range Rovers. We had lots of enquiries by Canadians asking us from which province we came, they had never heard of Buckinghamshire province!

I made my excuses and headed back down The Mall, when I got to the entrance to Clarence House there were lots of police telling people to keep out of the road, it soon became clear that someone was going to leave or arrive. I hung about and to see what was going on. First a very large Mercedes pulled up with Canadian flags on the dash board, a police man stopped the car and spoke to the man in the from who wound down the double glazed window. The policeman then called back to base to report that the Canadian Governor was coming through, and should he be allowed. After a mexican stand off as the car edged towards the policeman waiting for instructions, he eventually go the OK and the policeman stood aside.

The media village
The media village

A few minutes later the police got a bit stricter and some more turned up then all of a sudden a car left, then a few minutes later another and then another, I tried to get videos of the cars going past but the results were not very impressive. I had enough of seeing large cars with darkened windows at that point so headed back to the tube station, but not before using a portaloo, I was not about to pay another 30p to pee. I was soon back on the tube and heading towards Euston.

I had just missed the 2024, but the next train was at 2034 so just had time to grab a snack before heading to platform 8. When I got there confusion reigned there were two trains on the same platform, one was the 2024, which had the 2034 queued up behind. It turned out I could get on either so I chose the front train, and was soon back in Berkhamsted, where I found the car a drove home. All in all a great adventure.

Sunny Sunday Kew again

Zen Garden
Zen Garden

When I told Kev that we had been to Kew the weekend before he was keen to go this weekend whilst he and the family were down for a visit. So we woke up in good time to get ready prepare a picnic and head off to Kew. It did not quite work out like that, we started watching the Chinese Grand Prix and Helen decided that she would like to go to church as it was palm sunday. Who were we to argue it would mean we could see the finish of what turned out to be quitre an exciding race. Race over we quickly made sandwiches and put together some chrips and cake, we had a picnic ready to go.

Getting to Kew is really easy just round the M25 then get of at junction 2 of the M4 and you’re practically there. The car park was slightly more full that the week before but we both found spaces with ease. Once in the park we decided to keep to the river side of the park and headed in when we were level with the tree top walk. Helen looked after the bags at the bottom whilst the rest of us did the high altitude walk. Ben showed of his reading ability by reading all the signs on the walk way. Hayleigh started winging so we decided a picnic stop was in order, we found a shady spot an were soon tucking into to our trout or cheese sandwiches.

Suitably refreshed we headed towards the the Pagoda, by way of the bridge over the lake, which is quite an interesting design. We spotted a few Parakeets on the way over. It is strange once you have seen a bird for the first time you then start seeing them much more.  Just before the Pagoda there is a  Japanese Zen garden, very tranquil I must say.  From the Pagoda we headed towards the end where we cam in with the plan of visiting each of the green houses on the way.

Kew Pagoda
Kew Pagoda

Hayleigh did not like the heat of the greenhouses so we did not spend too much time in each. The highlights were the carnivorous plants, and the lizards in the Princess of Wales greenhouse, which we had not seen before. Ben and Hayleigh particularly liked the giant cat fish. We were fairly tired by the last of the greenhouses so we headed towards the exist for a coffee at the cafe near the exit, which has a children’s playground near by.

Whilst the kids were playing I was minding my own business when a little girl came up to me and declared that she had lost her parents. This was a tricky situation, what do I do? If I take here to a member of the Kew staff and her parents come looking for her and see me leading her away from the play area, what will they think. At the same time the poor kid was lost. I asked her what her mum looked like she said black short hair so I said well lets have a look round and see is we can see her. Luckily for both of us she spotted her mother some hundred yards away and went running off.

We needed some bread for tea so Helen and I set off to find a supermarket and left Kev and Ron to follow on. Another good day at Kew.

 

Trip to the library

St Pancras panorama
St Pancras panorama

Today Helen and I had planned a trip to London, it was almost scuppered when I remembered BT wanted to get their temporary mast used to hold the aerial that provides the link to the offices up and running while a tree was blocking the signal. The tree was recently cut down so there was not excuse now. They wanted to get on site to make sure the line of site was still good. Any way I phoned Mick who was on site and he agreed to let them in so we were free to go.

The plan was to visit an exhibition that Helen had spotted at the British museum, about the history of the English language. I had never been to the British library so did not know what to expect. We parked up in Berkhamsted and got the 9:40 train to Euston. The british library is just down the road from Euston just before St Pancras station, so we walked..

The building is a modern brick built one, and has a large open area in front, which is probably popular with office workers at lunch time when the weather is warmer. There is security on the door, but they let me through. The exhibition was in darkened rooms, which I found annoying as with my glasses on I had to stand quite far away to see clearly and with them off I had to have my nose up against the glass boxes. I guess the rooms were dark to protect the delicate books.

The books covered the very earliest examples of the English language when the books were written and illuminated by hand often by monks. As you went through the exhibits the language became more up to date. Apart from the beautiful books, what caught my eyes (and ears) was the videos of comedy sketches about posh and common accents, and an interactive map of examples of local accents through the years from the 1800’s to date.

Center point
Center point

Whilst we were at the library we had a look round the permanent exhibition which contains more old books as well as some other stuff, for example a birthday card with the words of the Beatles song Hard days night on the back, as written by Lennon when he composed it, and Yesterday by McCartney on another scrap of paper.

After the library we popped into St Pancras for a coffee and to have a look at the building. We had coffee at Paul’s a French style cafe, I had a slice Tarte au Myrtles. Then we went to have a look at the fantastic building. I have recently started taking panorama shots and took the opportunity to take a shot of the glass a steel arched roof. You can see the results in this article.

We then walked towards the centre to visit Foyles, there are some lovely neighbour hoods south of St Pancras, with normal shops and businesses, the sort of place you would want to live if you had to live in London. Once back on the main drag we hopped on a bus and got off at Trafalgar square. There was an Amnesty rally going on in support of the Egyptians.

We walked up towards Charring cross road and stopped off  to have a look round the catering supplies shop Nisbets http://www.nisbets.co.uk/, if you can’t find what you want there then it does not exist. We bought nothing! Foyles was as usual full of books, we had a look around and I bought a make magazine and Helen got some more murder mystery ones.

Helen is not so keen as me to pack as much as possible into every trip so we headed back  to Euston with a quick stop off at Tottenham Court road. At Euston I god a Thai prawn soup as a late lunch, before we jumped on the train back the the open country side of Buckinghamshire.