Christmas was at home with Selina, Phil and Julian. Usual fare of turkey, roast potatoes, parsnips & carrots, plus a stalk & a half of sprouts, bread & cranberry sauces, stuffing balls and rather a lot of pigs in blankets. Various Christmas puddings and lakes of wine, including a dessert one we’d brought with us from New Zealand. Not a white Christmas, but a warm one.
We went for a couple of night to Norwich to see Bob, Lizzie and Ann. While there, we walked around the very local to them Eaton Park and sat on the new park bench which those at 410 had bought.
Today we travelled to Fillongley to scatter Margaret and David’s ashes. It had been arranged with the new owners of Margaret & David’s former house that we could scatter their ashes in the garden. Very gracious of them.
We arrived in time for cakes and coffee in the neighbouring
Suitably fortified, we made our
After the scattering we all went for a very enjoyable Sunday lunch at the Cottage Inn, where we toasted Margaret & David.
Rosemary wanted to see a National Trust house dressed for Christmas. The most dressed house is Waddesdon Manor which we have seen many times. Last year we went to another house because Waddesdon started charging NT members to go around the house at Christmas. (This is probably the intention of the National Trust, so they can get more non-members in paying the full price.) R was outraged (even though she’s heard all about people booking free NT members tickets and then not turning up) so she insists we go to another house. So, this year we went to Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire.
The house was decorated in various different styles based on one of the many eras when the house has been lived in. The helpers were all dressed up in appropriate costume for the various eras of the house decoration. We wandered around playing with the children’s toys. Of course, the day ended with tea in the cafe and a search through the secondhand bookshop.
Rosemary and I had a trip to Oxford today. Parking virtually impossible in Oxford, so you have to use the Park and Ride. Being retired, the cheapest and easiest way into Oxford is to park at the Bicester Park and Ride which is free. Then catch the S5 into Oxford, yet again free with your bus pass, and they supposedly run every 15 minutes. The website shows you live arrival times of buses, ours was a tad late.
In the city of Oxford, we went straight to the Library where there was an exhibition of books and magazines. The Bodleian is a copyright library so receives most publications from the UK. These included erotic publications, some of which were subsequently banned. The access to these publications was restricted and categorised as Phi. Students could see them for research purposes only with a written note from the Director of Studies. Most of the books displayed in the very public area were very tame, you could hardly believe any of them would have been banned in the UK.
Next was the business of the day shopping, clothes shopping. Having spectacularly failed at this, it was time for lunch at the Cinnamon Kitchen, an upmarket Indian Restaurant on the upper floor of the Westgate shopping centre. There are several restaurants up on the roof. Many with outside seating for warm days. A token gave us a free glass of bubbly and we had a fine meal.
Well after this, it was home time, but we had to go to the sweet shop for some aniseed balls. These were purchased at Hardys Sweet Shop on the High Street. It is so much further down the road than we ever imagine. We always believe we have gone past, and the shop has closed. Aniseed balls purchased for Rosemary. I won’t touch them now after a large dentist bill to replace a cracked tooth; I tended to crunch them up with my teeth.
Weekend away in Leicester drinking Whiskey in the National Space Centre. Poor R had a dry weekend, Whiskey or Whisky is not her favourite drink.
As some weekends start, we loaded up the car with a chainsaw and hedge trimmer and headed off to Leicester by way of Nuneaton. We needed to pick up the ashes of my Aunt Margaret who had been cremated on August 30th after she died on the 30th of July.
Arriving in Leicester in time for lunch at the Halcyon Kitchen. I had a lovely veggie salad dish, though missed the black pudding which should have come from Norman’s all day breakfast. A coffee in the Northern Cobbler before the gardening starts.
My favourite gardening is always with a chainsaw, cutting and destroying must have been instilled in me from the Doom Computer Game. I started off well with the carnage and destruction, but the chain oil reservoir had not been closed properly and a trail of oil was dripped through Valerie & Norman’s whole house. Oops, thankfully the route taken was on tiles. Phew! So a spot of decimation in the garden, opening up the canopy with the removal of some trees and ivy, all completed before nightfall.
Viv and Bill arrived for an early supper, a lovely bean stew/soup. Then it was on to the Space Centre for the Whisk(e)y tasting organised by 23 wine and whiskey.
You were given a tasting glass and a map of the Space Centre with the locations of the different whisk(e)y stands. These were peopled by 23 wine and whiskey, or by the actual company distilling the whiskeys. You went from stand to stand to try the different drinks, trying to act intelligently and making cerebral comments. This becoming more difficult as the time passed. The samples were small, but there were many to try.
At the same time, there were master classes, these were sold out well before the day. They took a theme, mine was American Whiskeys. On show were Bourbon, Wheat Whiskeys and Rye Whiskeys. This class took an hour and was fun, with a very knowledgeable and entertaining compere.
In the main hall, there were whisk(e)ys from Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, America, Canada, Japan, Sweden and India. The Indians even produced a peat tasting drink with peat imported from Ireland and Islay.
Was a very enjoyable evening. My regret was, unlike Rosemary, I did not see much of the Space Center. The positive of this I will have to go back.
The next day, after a slow and late rise, was breakfast, a walk and lunch at the Cradock Arms. I was amused when we all ordered out pints of ale, Tiger, and Rosemary also had a pint. One taste of it and you could see she realised her mistake. For some reason, she thought we all had ordered a lager. I ate a traditional Sunday lunch of pork belly, once Rosemary realised I had been served Viv’s turkey, and Viv had been served my pork belly.
Another trip organised by the Berkshire branch of the Cambridge Society was a visit to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. This was not exclusive to the Cambridge Society, we populated two groups of around 10 people for the tour. There were several other groups visiting.
We arrived in bright sunshine, checked in at the gatehouse and drove to the visitor car-park. We started off with a short talk and then we were on the way to see MAST. This was a British device looking at new ways to contain the hot plasma. It was undergoing an upgrade, adding new containment electromagnets, and a redesigned device to remove the gas and debris from the fusion reaction. It was not operational and was being dismantled to fix a leak which was letting in air. Hopefully, it would be up and running in a couple of years.
After MAST we saw JET, which is still at the forefront of Nuclear Fusion research. It still holds the record for generating the most power. It also had recently been upgraded and was building up to break new power records. It is funded by a collaboration of European countries and was testing out manufacturing ideas to go into the ITER reactor in France. For instance, the robotics required to perform maintenance tasks, such as replacing the Beryllium lining tiles. When a test is run on JET, it can consume 2% of the UK national electricity supply.
I find it amazing how old these devices are, and they are continually being upgraded as the science improves. ITER will be the first Nuclear Fusion reactor which will run and test out a commercial reactor engineering build. After it has been built and tested, the first fusion reactors may enter service. This is still 30 years away so it is likely I won’t be around.
After the tour, we left in the torrential rain for the pub, The Swan in Sutton Courtney. Nice meal, and the company of some Cambridge alumni for interesting conversation.
I have not mentioned this before. I have been to the dentist after nearly 30 years of absence. A few months ago I had to go to the dentist because I had a hurting tooth. Well, actually it had been hurting a little bit for several years. It was discovered a lower molar had cracked. Must have been biting those aniseed balls. After a failed filling, root canal treatment was suggested, This was not proceeded with when it was discovered the crack was serious and had split the whole tooth in two. So I went for the implant and had a titanium metal fixing implant placed in my jaw. Today was a checkup after 4 months to see that the fixing was firmly in place and the bone had healed. All was well and I have been booked in for the implant false tooth to be sized. Alas, the surgery was busy for the next few weeks, so have to wait until the end of the month. So hopefully all will be fixed by Christmas.
We drove to Henley Business School for the annual Cambridge Society’s Berkshire branch annual lunch. The day was bright and sunny. We arrived in time for a glass of fizz before lunch. The lunch is a three-course buffet before a speech by a relevant speaker. This year we had Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the previous vice-chancellor from Cambridge University. He gave a fascinating speech about the future of universities. He felt the elite universities would succeed, but some of the smaller universities were likely to fail. As for Cambridge, he did not see the number of undergraduates would increase. It was not economic, it costs £18,000 a year to teach a student at Cambridge, and the revenue was just £9,000. A definite loss. The proposed reduction in student loans from £9,000 to £6,000 was going to put additional pressure on Cambridge University revenues. Thankfully the Cambridge colleges have some large endowments which make up this funding shortfall.
To celebrate my birthday, we decided to spend a couple of nights in our Campervan in Cambridge. Our first stop was in St Neots, parking on the Bedfordshire side of the river Ouse where we had a coffee at the Ambience Café. Rather an insipid Cappuccino. On then to Cambridge where we were camping at Cambridge Camping and Caravan Club Site in Trumpington. It is well served by buses running during the day every 15 minutes, and in the evening, one an hour until quite late.
We were soon into Cambridge and visited the Fitzwilliam Museum. Rosemary wanted to see a Virginia Woolf exhibition. Unfortunately, the exhibition was not what she wanted. R had failed to read the small print, “An exhibition inspired by her writings” Next, a stop at the Eagle for a beer. We drank in the bar at the back, which is very much themed on American airmen. The walls are covered with signatures and dedications. Next stop was dinner. We chose the Cambridge Chop House and had a good meal. The Chop House is mainly underground. Its basement extends under several of its neighbouring businesses.
Back then to Emmanuel Street to catch the bus back to the campsite.
On Wednesday, after an al fresco breakfast, we again caught the bus into Cambridge, admiring the new Medical research building around Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and the new student flats near the rail hub. Once in Cambridge we had a walk around Caius College, and even visited the LNB (Late Night Bar). No longer the LNB, now a bike shed. The porter knew it had been the LNB.
We then walked on to Kettles Yard which reopened this year after some modifications. An exhibition of Richard Pousette-Dart work was on show. He was a key figure of Abstract Expressionism. Jim Ede, creator of Kettle’s Yard, first met Pousette-Dart in New York in 1940. Of course, we visited the house of Jim Ede, which continues to surprise & delight.
We now walked along side Jesus Green, Midsummer Common and the river, looking at the canal boats and Cambridge Boat Houses. The canal boats appeared to be stocked up with coal for the winter. Spotted the new Gonville and Cauis Boat House, well Google maps did. Back across Midsummer Common and down King Street. I was telling Rosemary about the King Street Run, and oddly we met a Cambridge graduate several days later wearing a King Street Run tie. The basic objective drinking a pint of ale in seven of the street’s pubs before returning for an eighth in the pub you started. One of the club rules state a penalty pint is awarded for the commission of either of the two Ps, “peeing or puking”. Successful members of the club wore a special navy blue tie decorated with the image of a tankard surmounted by a crown. This tie is also decorated with a ‘P’ for each penalty pint drunk. The tie soon became a highly sought-after item of apparel.
Finally, a pint at the Anchor, overlooking the mill pond, then the University Museum of Zoology where we had a few minutes before chucking out time. Ah well on to the Eagle for another drink before going for my Birthday treat at the Loch Fyne Restaurant. Yes Rosemary embarrassed my by having a candle placed in my dessert. Then it was back on the bus to the campsite.
Our final day, Thursday, started with a lovely bright morning with a slight frost, but we’d been snug. We visited Grantchester and the Orchard Tea Garden. Another bright and sunny day encouraged us to walk down to the river and admire a couple of punts moored up. You can see where Roger Waters from Pink Floyd found their inspiration for the song ‘Granchester Meadows’.