Sunday, 5 January 2014

Church and not much else

We walked down to Yiewlsey for the morning service at St Matthew's Church where we have been once or twice before. There is a very mixed congregation, quite friendly. It was an 'all-age' communion which meant that along with around 100 adults there were upwards of 30 children taking part as well. A small music group of young people led the singing.

Yiewsley Parish Church
We were told that one of the congregation has a boat at Packet Boat Marina but we failed to find out who! We have become familiar with a number of faces of folk in the marina but no names!

After calling at Morrisons for rolls on tomorrow's journey back, we walked back to the boat.

Although we did finish packing and loading most things into the car so that we could make a good start in the morning, there is not a lot to report about the rest of the day! Mike once had ambitions for a short trip out in the boat but the rain and cold wind soon dispersed that notion!

Back home in the morning - let's hope the weather is not as bad as forecast. It seems that the crew from nb Chance are still on their way back from New York so we have missed each other yet again. Such is life on the Cut (even if we are not there all the time!)

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Saturday : Girls Return Home

After the excursions of yesterday, no-one was in the mood for an energetic start to the day! Fortunately, in the marina the satellite TV reception is quite good - except when the wind moves the boat around. The accuracy for pointing the dish at the satellite is rather high and only a little movement can move it off target. The result is an ominous No Signal message on the screen.

Midday and Mike set out with the two girls to walk along the towpath to Tesco for a few items (actually he went for just milk and a paper but lunch was enhanced by some bagels - for Alice - and a sausage roll - for Jess. After all the rain, there was plenty of water on the tow path and also a small tree had come down as well which we had to climb over.

After lunch, Alice demonstrated her developing skill with the violin - since October her tone has much improved and there is some confidence in creating a melody and a rhythm.

We received a phone call around 2:30 wondering if the girls were ready to come home! We had not been expecting that their parents would be back from the night away until a bit later. However, we were ready packed and so bundled cases, games, violin case and stand - whatever - into the car for the short trip back to Windsor.

So that was our grand parenting over for another holiday!

Friday, 3 January 2014

How The Whale Became

We had seats booked for How The Whale Became, a 'family opera' at the Royal opera House in Covent Garden. the performance was not until 5pm. So we had a slow start to the morning, during which there was a terrific thunder storm with several lightning flashes close by. As the rain poured down we hoped that it would pass over before it was time to leave for the station!

Indeed it did but there were plenty of puddles still to dry out. As it is about half hour walk to the station - not a problem going but not so good late evening on the way back - we opted to take the car, with Mike expecting to drop the ladies at the station so that they could buy train tickets whilst he went and parked in a car park about five minutes walk away.

As it happened, there were a couple of spaces in the very small station car park - cheaper as well!

Trains are frequent and they were soon on board for the run into Paddington. Here they sought the Underground and back to the same Bakerloo Line that Mike and Jess used a few days ago. This time, it was a change at Piccadilly Circus onto the Piccadilly Line for another couple of stops. Covent Garden station is unusual as it still has lifts to the surface rather than escalators.

The first task was to locate the theatre and pick up the tickets which Christine had ordered on line before Christmas. Then time to look around Covent Garden Piazza. Once an important fruit and vegetable market, it has been a popular tourist magnet for the past thirty years since the market moved to larger premises at Nine Elms in 1974. As well as lots of shops (Ellie enjoys coming here for clothes!) and eating places, there are always several street entertainers, often excellent classical musicians eking out their otherwise precarious income!

First, Alice and Jess watched Captain Franko's Flea Circus. Of course, the fleas were in the audience's imagination but it was highly amusing, including one that jumped from a high wire into a pool of Lucozade! Needless to say, two chosen you members of the audience who were asked to stand close to witness the event, ended up splashed!

We continued to walk around - the Christmas decorations were still in place: outside there was a large reindeer (after the show when it was dark we saw its red nose brightly lit) and inside giant baubles hung over the open spaces.

Down below, an enormous paella dish was being served to a keen queue of customers.

In the other lower area an operatic tenor was singing arias from popular audiences.

Finally, Jess wanted to take time to watch the juggler who had by now replaced Captain Franko. At first he juggled with metal knives and later with yo-yo's and a large diabolo. How did he manage to catch it every time it went up in the air, almost as high as the roof?

We had been told that we would be able to find tea at the Opera House but when we went back we discovered that they were not serving today so we went back into the piazza and had some marvellous cakes at the Boulangerie Cafe.

Time then to find our seats in the Linbury Studio Theatre inside the Royal Opera House. we left out coats in the cloakroom and then, as we went down we realised that the whole of this theatre space is below ground level! Not as large as the main theatre and open in a modern style, it was just right for this performance.

Obviously we could not take photos whilst the performance was taking place but we did sneak a shot of the stage set before it started.

The story was based on writings by Ted Hughes and is about the way in which animals were made by God - who sometimes tried experiments that did not always work out as expected!

The production was very intricate - the stage set was just the start. Innumerable props came and went at great speed - the whale went off in a bath taxi! Flashes, bangs, smoke and confetti everywhere . . .

The musicians also wandered around, sometimes on one side of the stage and then moments later somewhere else. The percussionist seemed to have an amazing collection of tins, flower pots, trays and bells!

During the interval the girls had ice cream - of course but then back to our seats for the second half.

The music was a modern composition, specially for this production and the five singers (two girls and three men) played many different parts with amazingly quick costume changes. No sooner had they gone through one door then they came back out from the central Making Machine in something totally different!

the end of the show was greeted with enthusiastic applause but it was time to wend our way back to the Underground and the journey to west Drayton station, the same way we came.

At least with the car just outside the station entrance we were back on the boat much sooner than originally expected. Nevertheless, it was just as well that Mike had prepared the bolognaise sauce in the morning!

An interesting footnote and coincidence: reading about Covent Garden via the internet, Wikipedia ( says that in the 1920's the Covent Garden estate was managed by Beechams Pills, the same company that took over from Thomas Holloway (see Thursday's blog)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Visit to Mike's Mum

Despite the forecast, we awoke to a bright sunny day - the morning was cloudless although a few clouds appeared in the afternoon. We were away from the marina early - well, at least before 8:30!

We picked up Joanna from home and then drove down to Sussex to visit Mike's Mum. The roads were relatively quiet and we arrived about 10 minutes ahead of expectation.

Mum was much as expected - each time just a little more frail but nevertheless recognised us and joined enthusiastically in looking at recent photos of the three great grand children. Tablets prove to be invaluable in situations such as this as the displays offer a larger format than old fashioned prints!

Alice and Jess had decorated a plant pot and filled it with a small hyacinth as a New Year present.

We stayed until it was time for her lunch and then drove back, stopping just briefly at a service station for a snack lunch.

Royal Holloway College
Just after passing Runneymede, we diverted to Royal Holloway College so that Joanna could give us a short tour of the original buildings. Not perhaps our taste in architecture but definitely very impressive. Worth remembering what Beechams Powders can do!

College Chapel

In the chapel, we were amused by the trumpet pipes, unusually set pointing out horizontally.

Some of the Listed Board Rooms have very ornate Victorian wallpaper.

Thomas and Jane Holloway
Back at Windsor we had a short stay to collect the two girls who are with us for another couple of nights. Alice brought her violin and both came with several new library books.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year's Day

It was a stormy, wet, windy and unpleasant day! We were all slow to get up this morning - despite the fact that we had not stayed up too late. Mike and Christine only just survived until midnight! Earlier we had all seen some of the local firework displays in the skies around.  The scale of modern fireworks means that they can be seen from quite a distance - no need to go up close.

Shortly before noon we wrapped up, packed bags and walked to the car so that we could take the two girls back home for one night. We did not stay too long at Windsor and came back to the boat via a brief shop at Tesco. They were out of Guardians so we tried the nearby petrol station only to discover that today they do not take our pre-paid tokens (they did a couple of days ago!). So it was back to the local newsagent near the marina.

As soon as we were back inside, little would persuade us to foray outside! Apart from a few minutes when Mike had to re-position the tv dish so that he could add the clamp to make it more secure in the wind. It took some time to recover. otherwise it was a pleasant afternoon reading and computering! Sorry, no pix.