Thursday, 1 August 2019

The RAF Museum at Hendon

For some reason, I'd never been to this museum, and thought that it was too far away and too difficult to get to, but, in fact, it's only the other end of the Northern Line.  Plus, it's free to enter, so I thought we'd take the boys there today.  Of course, it turned out that they had been before.... but I hadn't been, and I wanted to go.

We met the boys at the Pret a Manger in Warren Street, where we were having coffee while waiting for them - although we were still queuing when they arrived.  So we dived back down the Tube to the Northern Line platforms, to discover that all trains were going to High Barnet (why?) and we would need to change at Camden Town.  However, this is not particularly difficult, and one of the joys of the Charing Cross branch is that it stops at Mornington Crescent, which I am never quite sure is a real place!

Once we were on the Edgware branch, it didn't take long to get to Colindale.  I had hoped we could catch the 303 bus to the museum gates, but there wasn't one for 8 minutes, so we thought we would walk on to the next stop and see what happens - turns out that the bus must go a different route, as the "next stop" turned out to be outside the Museum!  But it was not a long walk. 

We spent awhile looking at the "Guard" Spitfire at the pedestrian entrance
and then went into the museum proper.  After the obvious bag checking, we split up, agreeing to meet in about 90 minutes to have lunch.  Boy Two and I put our rucksacks into the lockers provided for the purpose, which did mean we had to go back there when we wanted a drink of water, but that didn't matter - they were token-operated, although I could only find one token in my purse so we had to share.  I did have two in there, I found later!

I really think Boy Two is just the wrong age for this museum - he is too old, really, to enjoy sitting in the scaled-down model aircraft
and not really interested in the actual aircraft as such.  I liked them, though.  What he did like - and which amused me, too - was the undressed model in one of the exhibits - we wondered what would happen if we pulled on the strap round his bottom!
We looked at Hangars 1 (Meet the RAF), 2 (First World War) and 6 (Facing the Future), and passed Claude's Café on the way.  We went to have a look at the menu and discovered that there were several options on the children's menu, including a child size macaroni pesto with salad leaves.  Boy Two instantly said he'd have that.  I teased him that he was eating very healthily, to which he replied that he'd been eating very unhealthily all weekend (he and his family had been camping with friends) and needed to make up!  His brother, however, ordered chicken and chips..... the Swan Whisperer and I had the salad bar, which was excellent, and then I treated all who wanted - the Swan Whisperer didn't want - to an ice-cream.  The boys chose salted caramel, even if Boy Two did accidentally call it "salt and vinegar"!

After this, I was done, and the boys didn't really want anything more, either, so we went to the playground while the Swan Whisperer had a quick look round Hangar 2, which he hadn't yet seen (he and the Boy had done 3, 4 and 5, or parts of them, which I think covers the rest of the time between 1918 and the end of the 20th century).  I would have liked to have seen them, but was tired and had had enough.  The boys spent about 10 minutes playing in the playground, and then came and sat next to me and told me rather more than I wanted to know about their school's annual talent contest, and when the Swan Whisperer said couldn't he PLEASE have another half an hour, the answer was a resounding "No!"

We were taking the boys to their father, so it made sense to get the bus up to Mill Hill Broadway station and catch a Thameslink down to Blackfriars.  Of course we just missed a train, but they are pretty frequent over that section of the line, and we didn't have to wait long.  Both boys - and, it has to be said, their grandparents, too - were fascinated by the site of the former King's Cross Thameslink station, now called "Do Not Alight Here" (this had to be explained to them) - and then we were at Blackfriars and there was their father, so we said goodbye until the end of the month, as they will be enjoying family holidays until then.

Anyway, I think the Boy, now aged 9, enjoyed it rather more than his brother, who is very nearly 6 ("Only six more weeks until my birthday!"); it has masses of stuff for very smalls, and of course the older ones are interested in it for what it is, but Boy Two is just the wrong age!  Ah well..... maybe our next outing with them will be more of a success!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Making Science Happen

This was the title of an exhibition at the Francis Crick Institute which we took the grandsons to today.

In not sure how much they got out of it. It was mainly about the work done by people behind the scenes of science - lab technicians, maintenance engineers, etc. Boy Two, who may well be the scientist in the family when he is older, seemed interested and listened to the various podcasts, but I'm not really sure what, if anything, he got out of it.

It was a very small exhibition, but it did keep us going for about 45 minutes in air-conditioning on a very hot day. There was a cafe which did a very nice kind in cakes and snacks when we had finished, with books aimed at various age groups that one could browse. 

No photos, I'm afraid, but I think I'd give it 3 stars. 

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Lambeth Country Show 2019

This time last year, the Swan Whisperer and I went to the Lambeth Country show for the first time in many years.  But, as I said at the time, "If I had been by myself, I'd have spent a lot longer looking at the various shops and stalls, but of course the Swan Whisperer doesn't really care for that sort of thing."  This year, however, the Swan Whisperer had another engagement, so once the Tour de France had ended for the day, I decided I would go down and enjoy all the stalls and shops!

And I did!  As last year, there is a big perimeter fence, and you mayn't take open bottles of drink, but there are standpipes where you can fill your water bottles.  And, rather like at the Christmas markets in France, if you buy a drink they charge you a deposit on the glass (it's not glass, it's reusable plastic) and if you return it, you get your £2 back - although you could, of course, keep it as a souvenir of your day.

I wandered all round the stalls - lots of African fabrics and crafts.  I remember that back in the day I used to buy Indian cotton skirts - I still have some - and things like that, but the only thing that really tempted me was a butterfly-print shirt.  And maybe an African cotton wrap.... but I didn't succumb.  The only thing I did buy was a 2-pint bottle of cider to bring home.  And some gyoza and noodles to eat on site, also some fruit salad and apple juice.  I had wanted to try a Buddha Bowl,
but the queue was rather long and slow-moving, so I didn't bother, and the dumplings were very good!

I also visited the farm (of course) where there were the alpacas
and a very splendid tom turkey that I couldn't get a good photo of!

And then home on the bus, pleasantly tired.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

West Country Adventure, 17 July

The last full day of our holiday and, after Tuesday, I was tired! So we decided that the nearby Chard Museum looked nice, and headed off there for the morning.

It was lovely! A very eclectic collection - the staff think almost too much so - with displays ranging from local people (the first woman Cabinet minister), through the usual range of dairy equipment,
which always makes me feel old, typewriters,
to other farm implements and, most recently, a collection of dolls houses they don't quite know what to do with. I suggested they waited until they had the whole collection (it is being brought in piecemeal) and then making it into a model village of some sort - feet already have a church, a mill and a school!

The people were really friendly and even gave us a cup of coffee at the end of our visit! 

After this, we had a quick lunch and then drove to Chard reservoir, which we found with some difficulty. The Swan Whisperer went for a walk and I had a nap. Now back at the campsite it is raining, but we are going out to dinner with a cousin and her husband at a local pub they recommend. 

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

West Country Adventure, 16 July

We were very near the West Somerset Railway 
and I couldn't help but hope we would be able to spare some time to go on it. I didn't think it would be possible, but nevertheless sent the Swan Whisperer to pick up a leaflet when he went for his walk last night.

Imagine, then, my joy when the leaflet suggested that, if you were starting your journey at Washford Station,
you should probably park at Cleeve Abbey, which was only 10 minutes walk away. And as it was to visit Cleeve that we had come to that part of Somerset....

We worked out that we could take the first train to Washford, and would have just over 90 minutes there before the train back. There is a path to the Abbey that is signposted - the direct way is too dangerous on a very busy road with no pavement - and it took us 13 minutes to get there - there was quite a steep downhill so we agreed to allow a little more time to get back.

I had the EJO Society's leaflet about the place (it those to whom that means nothing, I should explain that the novelist Elsie J Oxenham wrote a series of novels set in and around a former Cistercian Abbey, based on Cleeve but transplanted, for the books, to the Buckinghamshire /Oxfordshire borders) and we spent a very happy 45 minutes or so wandering round looking at things.
We could have allowed ourselves another 5 minutes, in the end, as we had plenty of time at the station, but it would have been such a nuisance if we'd missed the train! 
However, we didn't, and arrived back at Blue Anchor on a preserved Diesel in good time to get as far as Bridgwater, where we parked up in an Aldi car park and had lunch.

Then on to Wells, and the cathedral  there, immortalised as Torminster in Elizabeth Gouge's City of Bells. I had been there before, many years ago, but had forgotten the scissor arches, which make it seem to scowl!
The Quire is nice, though,
and there is a beautiful window. 

When we had had enough, we went next door to the Bishop's Palace
where I wanted to see the bell that the swans ring when they want fed. It was there, but the string pulled up so they couldn't!
By this stage, I was gagging for a cup of tea, so we had one in the café there, and then walked back to the car park via the market square. I wondered which one had been Jocelyn's bookshop - perhaps where Waterstones is now?

And so on down to this campsite near Ilminster, where we remain for the last two nights of our holiday! 

Monday, 15 July 2019

West Country Adventure, 15 July

Well, St Swithun has certainly done his thing here in the West Country, as it has been a lovely day!

Our first port of call was thanks to Mrsrev, who recommended the very nice Fremington Quay Heritage Centre and café. Fremington Quay is now a pleasant pitstop on the Tarka Trail, 
But back in the day it was a working port where trains brought clay from local mines and loaded it on to ships for onward transport. Some clay was also used locally, and the centre had examples of local plates, etc. Then we had a cup of coffee and a cake in the very nice café before heading on. 
We have not been lucky with museums this trip - I don't count heritage centres - as we were to date for the one in Wimborne Minster, the one in Blandford Forum was closed on Wednesdays and the one in Okehampton yesterday! And we will never know whether the one in Barnstaple was open, as there was nowhere to park. The museum car park was being resurfaced and what was left was employees only, and the other one we could see had a height restriction! So we called it a bust and headed on to Lynton where we had lunch, bemused by the appearance of a German Rotel Tours  bus in the car park - they are more at home in African deserts, we thought.

Anyway, after lunch we headed for the Cliff Railway, which is water powered - the carriage at the top fills its tank with water while the one at the bottom empties its, so the heavier one goes down and the lighter one comes up! 

When we arrived in Lynmouth we wandered about and went to an exhibition about the Lynmouth Disaster in 1952. Then back up the railway in nice time to have an ice cream before driving across Exmoor (one word: don't!) to here, outside Minehead. The Swan Whisperer has gone for a walk while I recover from the drive, and then we are going to eat in the pub in whose back yard we are parked for the night.

UPDATE: No, we aren't. They laughed at the Swan Whisperer when he went in to book - no need to book on a Monday, duh! And when we went over to eat, they were fully booked and all, "Oh, you should have booked!" Well, bugger that for a game of soldiers! 

Sunday, 14 July 2019

West Country Adventure, 14 July

So the first thing today was to retrace our steps slightly, towards Okehampton, as we had not had time to visit the town yesterday. The actual town centre is very small, so it didn't take long. The main square is dominated by St James Chapel,
which is actually very small; it is what's called a "Chapel of Ease" as the Parish Church is away up the hill. It was open, but no services are held on Sundays, which struck me as a bit odd. So we sat quietly for a bit, and then wandered back to where we had parked the van, which was by a Lidl and a Waitrose. I went into Waitrose because why not, but came out again sharpish when I saw they were selling doughnut peaches and nectarines for £1.00 each. In Lidl, they were 5 for £1.99.

Then we found we had a leak, but it turned out to be not a valve problem, which we had thought, but that the shower had was coming adrift. Easily fixed, but a very wet floor. However, as we forgot the shower curtain and both find showering better without it - it is possible not to splash if you are careful and no clammy plastic on your back - we are going to just have a bathmat in there, no carpet. 

Next stop was Bideford, to be precise the Heritage Railway Centre, which is in the old station overlooking the town.
There was an exhibition about the history of railways in the area, and an old signal-box and a tea-rooms, FFs that was about it, but I imagine it is a welcome stop on the Tarka trail. 
Oh, and there were also the inevitable milk churns! 

And a blue plaque:
After this, we drive on to look at the sea at Westward Ho! - no sign now of Kipling's "Twelve bleak houses by the shore" - and Ingstone, and so to our camp site for the night. And listened to the Swan Whisperer telling me what was happening in the cricket - I am not particularly a fan of the game, but it does have its moments! I feel very, very sorry for New Zealand!