Sunday, 21 February 2016

Sunday in the Marina

We have found on previous visits that the service at St Matthew's rarely starts on time - sometimes even ten or more minutes after the scheduled start. As a result we did not set off to walk down quite as early as we have before but did this time cut it too fine. Although we arrived only a couple of minutes after 10:30 (later than we had really planned) on this occasion they had managed a prompt start and notices were under way in the traditional church fashion. Hopefully we did not miss anything crucial.

At St Matthew's they are following a series for Lent about Giving and it was very pleasing to hear someone who is prepared to talk about money in a direct, realistic but not offensive way. Afterwards we learnt that they, and other churches in London, are this year using material from Liverpool Diocese.

Back to the boat - Mike spent most of the walk on the phone as he received a call just after we left church and it finished as we passed through the gate into the marina! Christine did her best to ensure that he managed to cope with traffic and mobile phone without the two colliding.

After lunch we stopped at Tesco for some milk and, we hoped, some rolls for the return trip tomorrow, Alas, we had forgotten that they have some strange franchise bread operation in store here and it did not have the desired range of rolls, Only some miserable plastic packs were available which we declined to buy. As a result, Mike will have to make a trip out in the morning.

We arrived in Windsor at the appointed time and found them all in very good spirits after their holiday - plenty of pictures to tell the stories, including the day spent on a Pirate Ship that involved walking the plank and a real use for Adrian's cheap waterproof camera!

Ellie also arrived back from a shopping trip in town along with her new boyfriend from Belfast who was shortly to go off to Heathrow to catch  plane back home. However, we did hear plenty of detail about Ellie's school trip to Washington and New York which happened the week earlier.

Back then to the boat and time for our roast - fortunately, having taking longer to hear about the trips, we had done most of the preparation at lunch time so it was just a matter of putting it all on to cook.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

We set off for B&Q in good time this morning. Christine went to the Click and Collect Counter whilst Mike looked for a few other items. She was initially rather disappointed to discover that although a mirror was indeed waiting for her to collect it was the wrong size - far too wide to fit in the required space. Fortunately and with great relief the assistant found the correct item in the store itself!

Meanwhile Mike was trying to find a bolt and some hex nuts to make an attempt at restraining the bow fender so that it does not push to one side whenever the boat pushes up against a top lock gate. He soon discovered why B&Q have to employ one person almost full time sorting out the nuts and bolts of the business. Customers routinely move items from one box to another seemingly quite at random. It took considerable time to locate a matching set of bolt, washers and nuts!

After we had paid for the mirror and other items we then remembered that we needed to buy some sticky mirror pads to fix it to the wall. These took a bit longer to track down than might have been expected . . .

Back to the boat and the mirror was put on the wall as quickly as Mike could manage - it was the safest place for it. Even so, he nearly had a mishap in the confined space.

After lunch, with light rain now arrived, Mike fitted the adaption to the bow fender. OK, so it does not look elegant but we will have to wait for our next trip to give it a try. If it works it is possible that we could look for something a bit smarter!

Apart from a brief trip to Morrisons that was it for the day.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Mattress Delivery

One of the reasons why we came back from Paddington yesterday was that we had bought a new mattress at the New year but could only arrange a delivery for now. As we have a narrower bunk than most home double beds, the mattress had to be made to special order and then we had to agree an available delivery slot.

We had a phone call yesterday just to confirm it would be in the 9 - 11 am slot and that we would have another call in the morning to be more specific. Rather than try and persuade the delivery people to carry the mattress down to the pontoon we planned to move the boat across the marina to the service berth where the van could be brought very close.

Another call around 8:40 told us that they were leaving the depot at High Wycombe and would be about 40 minutes. Mike untied our boat from the pontoon and set off across the marina only to spot that the services were being used by another boater for a self pump out. However, he was - as is usual on canals - happy for us to come along side and has Mike was just about beginning to jump over with a mooring rope he could see two men hovering by the gate and what looked like  delivery van in the car park! A quick shout established that they were indeed the people from Dreams.

Mike and the other boater quickly tied off Take Five on the outside of the moored boat and the delivery men helped to drag the new mattress across so that Mike could push and shove to get the mattress into position. By now Christine was just about ready for the day having had her normal routines unwelcomingly curtailed!

Having made sure that the new mattress was the correct size and fitted into place we then had to get the old one out onto the shore but by now we were past masters at this manoeuvre! Fortunately the delivery men offered to put the old mattress into the bag we had been supplied with before taking it away. part of the arrangement was to dispose of the old mattress because, as non-residents of Hillingdon, we could not get the local council to dispose of it for free. Hence we had to pay anyway and we were not confident that it would fit into the car.

All this happened rather quicker than expected and so, alas, the camera was forgotten and we have no photos. Christine quickly made up the new bed and so the mattress has now disappeared from view.

We needed another bag of smokeless fuel and to fill up the diesel tank so Mike reversed out of the main - the easiest way given that the boat alongside the services left too small a space to turn around. The fuels were available from canal-side from Paul at HyLine, a leased part of the marina that makes use of the former dry dock.

After that was complete - never a quick job here - we returned to our pontoon and contemplated the rest of the day, indeed the rest of the weekend.

Christine wanted to have a long mirror in our bedroom cabin and this seemed like a simple task - just go to a local DIY store and pick up a narrow plain bevel edged mirror to stick on the wall - done this before.

We tried close by on the basis that it was p[erhaps not so likely but if it succeeded it would save us a drive up to Wickes in Uxbridge. Alas, only a few small and fancy mirrors were in stock. So off we went to Wickes.

No, they do not stock mirrors but suggested w try Wilko on the High Street and kindly pointed out that we could leave the car outside Wickes for an hour. Sadly Mike relied on the satnav to find the store - the directions we had been given were quite complex and we wanted to be sure. However, this eventually took us to the rear of the store with  no access an it was almost as far from there as we had come to walk around, into the shopping entre and eventually into the store. However, all this exercise was fruitless as no mirrors!

Back to the car and a quick Google search established that Homebase do have the required item in their stock range and so we set off for the nearest store some 5 or 6 miles away, although the fastest route took us down to the M4 and back up again.

By this time the outcome seemed almost inevitable and we had to make our way back to the boat empty handed. It seemed that our day matched the pattern of the weather - bright and sunny in the morning and increasingly dull and then wet in the afternoon!

Back at the boat Christine did establish that B&Q in Hayes did have the item in stock and in the store and they agreed to put one aside for us to collect next morning.

By now we also had emails from Joanna and family who had been on half term holiday in St Lucia and who were returning first thing Saturday. This tempted us to stay over Sunday so that we could go to St Matthew's Church in Yiewsley in the morning and then go over to Windsor for the afternoon.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Back to the Marina

Today's Canal - Grand Union, Mainline and Paddington Arm

Today we made the return trip top Packet Boat Marina, not able to stay until the end of our booked week tomorrow as our new mattress is due to arrive in the morning.

It was a wonderful, bright sunny day, rather better than forecast. In the sunshine it was rather warm - until mid afternoon when a few clouds arrived, making it then chilly until the sun emerged once more.

So, Mike set off in good time with just a brief stop at the service point to empty one of the elsans and to drop off a bag of rubbish.

As the route is by now quite familiar to us, only some of the views, mainly to show how bright it was. The Trellick Tower seems almost non-brutal against clear sky.

The first hour was taken a fairly slow speed as there is an almost constant line of moored boats, although a new arrival can always find somewhere before too long.

Horsenden Hill on the sky line with a popular golf course between it and the canal.

As we approached Black Horse Footbridge in Greenford we could see a wrecked van pushed off the edge into the canal. Moments later, coming around the bend at some speed was a large barge-mounted crane with pusher tug. A brief exchange with the crew established that they were preparing to remove the van. Perhaps if we had been ten minutes later we might have seen the operation - alternatively we might have been frustrated by not being able to pass!

At one stage Mike spotted a fox basking in the sunshine in the undergrowth close to the edge of the canal bank. Alas, we passed to quickly to take a photo.

We kept going, not stopping for lunch, as it was obvious that the temperature would drop quickly once the sun started to get low in the sky. So we had our lunch on the go - a mug of the remains of the weekend's soup was most welcome.

We turned right at Bulls Bridge. It was welcome to see that a little work is now happening to the old office building but there is still a long way to go.

A squirrel was rummaging around beside the towpath - this time the camera was ready.

With the sun occasionally hiding it was quite cold as we turned into the marina. Mike thought that he had made the turn to the pontoon just right until a sudden gust of wind meant that he had to reverse and start over. Second time went just fine!

16.7 Miles - 0 Locks

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

National Gallery/General Synod

Today, Christine decided to go down to Trafalgar Square. Before going into the National Gallery she admired the latest  occupant of the Fourth Plinth, the Gift Horse, a horse skeleton, by Hans Haacke, said to link in with the Stubbs painting in the Gallery. Around the front legs is a tickertape giving the latest Stock Exchange prices!

In the gallery, remembering another visit with Alice last year, Christine decided to join one of the guided tours. Again it was excellent; the  guide talked about four pictures, the first (1438-40) by Uccello illustrating the beginnings of understanding about the use of perspective, the second a Titian showing how the artist painted the story of Bacchus falling in love with Ariadne, using just the right point in the story (1520-3).

The third painting was by Caravaggio (1601) (photo), 'the Road to Emmaus', showing the use of hand guestures to  draw the viewer into the scene. The last painting, 'Lady Cockburn and her three sons' (1773) was a Reynolds which showed how the artist took what could be a very ordinary portraiture and transformed it into something dramatic and outstanding. it was inspired by a painting by Van Dyke, 16th century, 'Charity', which was rather more the sort of painting that Reynolds would have liked to do if he could have earned money by doing so!

After eating her packed lunch in the square and a little more time in the Gallery, Christine went over to  St Martins in the Field (Photo) for tea in the Crypt (Pot of tea £1.95!)

Afterwards she had a brief look in the small gallery where some of the wall monuments are now situated. One free standing monument is that of 'The original Pearly King', Henry Croft, erected 1930. 

Also interesting was the St Martin's Whipping Post, used for punishing for minor crimes - drunkenness, blasphemy, slander, also theft, bigamy, forgery, 'public dissent of the crown , government and Church of England' - of women and men 'until the body became bloody by reason of such whipping'! This was discontinued in 1791 for women and 1837 for men.

By now it was mid-afternoon. The sky was turning dark and it was feeling colder. Christine decided to get back to the boat, doing this just before the rain really started and the afternoon would become  a very wet evening.

Mike arrived back. We'd decided to go out for a meal for this last evening and Christine had investigated several possibilities. Given it was, to put it mildly, continuing decidedly wet, we opted to go to the nearest, Massis,a Lebanese restaurant, which we had visited several visits to London ago.

We had an excellent meal - friendly staff ready to advise about unfamiliar dishes. We really enjoyed the spicy flavours, all dishes very well cooked and presented. Afterwards we only had room to share a baklava, intensely sweet. It seems that our interest and curiosity was appreciated. The manager insisted we tried Moroccan mint tea made from fresh mint leaves. If we can get the right mint plant, Christine will make this at home. We will certainly go back and would very much recommend this establishment.

British Museum/General Synod

Mike had to leave early to get to Lambeth Palace.

Christine decided to visit the British Museum again, to see some of the sections she has not seen before. 

Just inside is a small temporary exhibition, this year it is of a mummified crocodile, worshipped as a god, kept captive at the temple of Souk. This crocodile was xrayed last year. It was fed with only the best meat (in its stomach were the remains of the shoulder of a cow) When mummified its vital organs were replaced with fabric, and 20 mummified hatchlings were placed on its back!

In the main museum, she first went to look at the Waddesdon Bequest, left by a Rothschild in 1898. Two generations of the family had built up this private collection of nearly 300 smaller, exceedingly precious, ornate and decorated items. It was assembled to prove that the family had 'arrived', was one of the most prosperous in Europe. The objects were displayed for the admiration of visitors in the New Smoking Room at Waddesdon Hall!

Christine liked especially this superb  enamelled glass goblet, the Palmer Cup, dating back to 1200, originating in Egypt or Syria, but made into a goblet in France!

Also impressing her was this boxwood prayer nut

and Reformation period book covers.

Next she went into the booklined gallery which houses some of the collections of gentleman scientists of the 18th and 19th century, illustrating the breadth of and variety of collections from plant samples, egyptology, rock samples 

For the rest of her time Christine looked round the more recent acquisitions, illustrating African artifacts and sculptures

North and South American traditional items

She was particularly interested in the cagoule made from the guts of sea animals by the Inuit peoples ( really waterproof and so much better the early explorers thought than European waterproofs)

and a lizard metal sculpture, one of those made in a workshop in Mazambique in 2004 from decommissioned weapons after the civil war. This workshop was an initiative by a local bishop and was set up with the help of Christian Aid.

After her cultural fix, Christine made her way back to Tottenham Court Road and along Oxford Steet to Marble Arch, before taking the underground back to Paddington. She was singularly unimpressed by the shops - a real mishmash of architecture, three Primarks, three - at least - Zaras. Neither of the two M&S had the gilet she was hoping to get for Mike! She is unlikely to return!

The first part of Mike's day at General Synod was a small group session and as there was not enough room at Church House for all 20 groups, three were located across the river at Lambeth Palace. Mike's group was held in the Great Hall - they were told that this was a great privilege as this houses the greater (but less valuable) part of the world famous Lambeth Library. Strict instructions were given not to try and read any of the books!

Westminster Abbey/General Synod

We have been at Rembrandt Gardens since our arrival last Friday and this week Mike has been at General Synod and Christine has been exploring various parts of London. 

Mike did not have to be at Church House until 1.30 so the morning was spent leisurely. Christine went off to the nearby Tesco Express for a few supplies and the newspaper, back in time for an early lunch.

She had decided to visit Westminster Abbey, (last visited when a child!) in the afternoon so travelled down on the Underground with Mike to St James Park, bade him farewell and then went to queue up to go in. Yes it was busy, but then it was half-term. 

She was impressed how pleasant and friendly the staff were, the stewards especially very pleased to answer questions. She noticed that they were particularly aware of families with children and keen to ensure the children were given special attention.

Audio guides are available and certainly worth listening to. It is made quite clear that this is a church, with a pause for a short prayer every hour - and most people did stop and pause at that point. 

It is however, very much the memorial space of British men and women over the centuries -  the great (kings and queens - medieval to Tudor British rulers from Edward the Confessor), military leaders, the aristocracy, the good (William Wilberforce), the not so good (Barbara Villiers), poets ( Gerard Manley Hopkins), playwrights ( Shakespeare next to Ben Johnson), writers (small plain tablet for Jane Austin). The monument that stood out for Christine was one to Lady Elizabeth Nightingale, who died in childbirth, made by Roubiliac in 1761. It shows her husband desperately trying to defend her against Death, as she is about to be struck by his spear as he emeges from below. 

No photo since photography not allowed in the main cathedral building. In the cloisters photos are possible. Christine was pleased to see the more lowly were also remembered as in this memorial to a plumber.

Of the range of medieval and tudor period architectural styles, it was the ceiling of the Lady Chapel that was really awe-inspiring, paid for in the will of Henry V11. The stonework is so finely carved that viewed from below it looks like fine lace.

For the coronation of the Queen in 1952, 9000 people were seated in the abbey on specially constructed tiered seating. One of the stewards pointed out to Christine the damage this had caused to the pillars! It won't be allowed again!

There is little really old stained glass in the Cathedral. Of the more recent glass, Christine liked this small round window along one of the cloister passageways

She enjoyed the magnificent proportions of the chapter House where remains of 14th century wall paintings are visible

Leaving the Abbey, Christine took a walk past Big Ben then over Westminster Bridge (dodging the endless succession of people taking selfies). The wind was very cold, dark clouds threatening, the river looking very uninviting, so then it was back to Embankment station, Paddington and a warm, cosy boat.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Valentine's Day

Rembrandt Gardens

Last night we had tickets booked for a concert at St Martin's in the Fields, a Valentine's Opera Gala.

As we emerged from the underground in Trafalgar Square, we spotted a Waterstones where Christine was able to buy a pocket book A-Z street map. Thanks for the comment yesterday, however.

Four very capable singers at the outset of their careers were accompanied by an equally proficient pianist. They sang a variety of generally well-known operatic arias, combining solo and joint items. Composers ranged from Verdi to Gilbert and Sullivan, with Mozart, Puccini and several others. As we have found before, the church was pretty full although the gallery was not in use. A very pleasant evening.

We were back at the boat by 10 o'clock. The only distraction was that several people were sleeping rough on mattresses under a bridge over the canal, with no option for us but to squeeze past. We could not actually see a human face as they were all very well wrapped up under their sleeping bags.

Today was a slow start as the service we opted for at St Stephens, Westbourne Park did not start until 11. It was only a 17 minute walk and we were in good time. Just for once we stood out age-wise. The congregation, around 60, were mostly young, some with new families and a good quantity of teenagers. At the point when t he children and young people left for their own activities, about a third of those present went out.

It was a well-conducted mainstream 'modern' service with a lively music group. We only recognised one of the 'songs' - Amazing Grace - but that was somewhat adapted! The sermon was long - somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes accompanied by lots of PowerPoint slides. It was presented carefully and had been thought through, if only so that the slides matched the content. However, at the end we wondered what had been said that could not have been contained in less than half the time. We did feel that the length was a given and that the material had to be found to fill it. Afterwards we learnt that the rector is friends with the former priest in charge of Perranzabuloe whom Mike knew until he left for a new post in Bristol. Glad to hear that the move had gone well.

Back to the boat and definitely time for lunch! More of yesterday's soup and a tasty, crusty new loaf went down well.

Afterwards we took the boat for a very short trip across Brownings Pool to use the services at the Little Venice CaRT Office. It is usually quite tight here - there is a narrows, probably originally for collecting tolls. Camden Lock has re-opened today after a long closure and so rather more boats passed by than we would have expected this time of the year.

Afterwards we reversed back to our mooring. Following a cup of tea, Christine popped to the nearby Sainsbury Local for milk and bread. Meanwhile, Mike started to prepare the roast dinner - port, stuffing and the usual veg to be followed by a citrus sauce and melon.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Wandering the streets of London

Rembrandt Gardens

There was no reason to hurry this morning although we woke quite early. It was a grey and ever so slightly damp day but not as cold as yesterday.

By 11 o'clock, we were ready to go for a walk - Christine wanted first to visit a nearby M&S store that she has seen before, close to Edgeware Road underground station.

She completed her purchases - Mike was let down because they did not have the item in stock in the correct size that he would otherwise have bought, despite having one that was mis-labelled. Only after stripping off layers of warm outer clothing and trying it on did he realise that that it was a different size on the label from that on the hanger.

We then went on a bit further to look at one of the possible churches for tomorrow morning - St John's, Hyde Park. Like many churches in London, it is surrounded by newer redevelopment - London is a city that is forever changing as one use for land is replaced by another.

The church was open so we were able to look around inside. It had been re-ordered in recent times and now looks very light and airy although it was not always that way. A one-time screen has been moved to the back of the church so that it forms a useful feature to mark off space just inside the entrance. The pews have been removed - an information panel said that they had originated from America.

Most of the stained glass windows contained traditional nineteenth century decoration but a couple were much more recent. There was also a demonstration organ mechanism but alas the phone camera failed to take a useful photo. The main organ has just been completely re-built, recovering the decoration on the facing organ pipes from the ravages on an earlier repair. It seems that also some modernisation to the mechanism has been reversed. We had almost finished looking around when we were shooed out as the church was being closed up. It seems that it would not normally have been open on a Saturday.

Near to the church we spotted this restaurant - the 'first Yemeni' where a couple of chaps were just settling down to enjoy their traditional smoking pipes. Current laws mean that they have to sit outside whatever the weather!

We walked back via Praed Street (to pick up a paper from the small Tesco store at Paddington Basin and then into the station itself. Christine would like a traditional paper A-Z to guide her next week but alas, WHS did not have one. We will have to look further.

Back to the boat via the arm and were surprised to see four empty mooring spaces - yes, we know that nb Chance reported a similar fact a few days ago but they have flown off to India by now.

Earlier this morning Christine had prepared a new soup and it was made ready quite quickly once we were back on board. Most welcome.

Two o'clock and we went out again to walk to another church. We crossed the bridge over the arm with a view of Brownings Pool. This is the name of the canal space around a small island - Rembrandt Gardens is a small open area on one side, where our boat is moored.

St Stephens Church was closed, apart from the porch, so we could not see inside. We have yet to make up our minds.

We came back a longer way around so that we could walk along the last part of the towpath into Little Venice.

We crossed over the railway line at Westbourne Park, passing outside the huge LT bus garage.

Along the way we had a chance to look at one of the bridges which has puzzled us each time we come this way. From the water it is not possible to work out what it is used for. However, even from the adjoining land we were no wiser as the towpath end is completely blocked with a fairly modern brick wall. The other end just disappears into an anonymous building.

We took a slight detour to see whether St Mary's church might be a possibility but its forbidding entrance and well-locked gates did not put it high on our list. Probably rather too high church for us anyway.

We crossed over Ha'penny footbridge to return along the opposite bank - we knew from our arrival yesterday that the towpath is closed at the entrance to Brownings Pool and would mean a diversion.

Down one of the side roads we could see a slender spire and went to explore. However, St Saviour's Warwick Avenue is in a modern redevelopment with much of the land used for housing. The entrance to the church is far from disabled friendly, up two sets of steps into a dark and rather drear entrance. It did not seem, from the little information available, that this was what we were looking for either.

Close to the church we spotted a restored original Cabman's rest, where taxi drivers can have refreshment and a chance to chat with other drivers.

Then it was back the last short stretch to the boat and cup of tea. We have tickets for a concert tonight at St Martins in the Fields so a report on that will have to await an update to this blog, probably tomorrow.