22 Dec

I’m still trying to catch up on our travels since before we went back to NZ.  So bear with me while I revisit that before I recall what we have been doing since our return……

There are so many things that are surprising in London.  The older buildings, park benches, even lamp posts are built with so much style!  These mundane things have the most beautiful decorations, whose only purpose is to look good.  It just gives the place so much character, particularly when compared to the newer building styles of mirrored glass, etc. 

A brick wall, with a sailor's knot actually made in bricks!

Funeral carriage. We've seen this several times in our small suburb of Welling

All the lamp posts along The Thames in London CBD look like this

Michelen Building

On one particular day went to the War Museum.   After a very short time I was all “gunned out”!  I mean when you’ve seen one gun you’ve seen them all, right?   So I sat this one out and waited for Dennis to finish.

But after this “boring’ museum we took a wander down the streets to see exactly where we were in London.  When we hop on the Tube we figure out which station we need to get off at to get to the allocated museum, etc. and most of the time we don’t actually recognise the scenery when we arrive at ground level.  So it’s a good idea to take a wander around before just getting back on the Tube to go home again.  Today we stumbled across a Gardening Museum only about 15 minutes walk from the War Museum.  Well, this was more like it!  A Gardening Museum!  This was the first time we ever had had to pay to get in but a Gardening Museum was a big attraction for me so we duly handed over the money and in we went!  Oh, what a disappointment!  We were on and out of there in about 10 minutes flat….it didn’t have many items to look at, in actual fact.  Very lean.  It was a grand old church that was at one time going to be demolished but the locals were very keen to retain the building  so they persuaded the local Council that they would develop a Gardening Museum there instead. They had planted a show garden out the back and so we took a look but found that it was all pruned back and tidied up ready for winter so no flowers!  But we did find the resting place of one Captain Bligh, which was a welcome surprise.  Dennis and I had recently read his biography before leaving NZ.

One of the first lawn mowers ever made. It used to be sythes!

Sacred to the memory of Capt. W. Bligh

On another occasion we visited The Monument and decided to climb the 311 steps to the top, which resulted in us each receiving a certificate to prove it.  This sits as a memorial to those who lost their lives in The Great Fire of London, 1666, which started in Pudding Lane, right next door.  The fire burned for five days, destroying thousands of houses, shops, public buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral and 87 churches.  It took 50 years to rebuild London.  The flaming orb on top, made from gilded copper, symbolizes a flame.  The Monument, along with many other statues and public buildings made of Portland stone in London, are in the process or have been cleaned and repaired ready for The Olympics next year.  It is certainly very noticeable which have had the treatment and which ones are still waiting for it.

The Monument

The "flame" at the top

311 steps!

The same day we took a walk to Buckingham Palace and St James Park.  Unfortunately, we didn’t meet up with any Royals but we did see the changing of the Mounted Guards, which had a chap in a little vehicle travelling along behind the horses to clean up any mess!  The policemen inside the grounds of Buckingham Palace looked a bit fierce with their machine guns!

Outside Buck House



London, Kent, East Sussex, London
Our first sojourn in our Motorhome happened with Seth and Esther de Rues.  They are currently living in Edinburgh for a couple of years and we invited them to join us for a trip down to Hastings.  Seth and Esther had spent the previous 10 hours or so on the overnight bus down from Scotland, and we met them off an overland train nearest to Rob’s place ready to leave London.  Esther and I were quite comfortable in the back and Seth took over the duties of Navigator in the right hand passenger seat.  Due to their protracted  travels already, Seth kept falling asleep!  But no problem, Dennis would whack him on the leg, wake him up to clarify that there were no on-coming cars coming when we approached a corner with a restricted view (for Dennis).  He even woke him for interesting scenery, e.g.  a large, white windmill and Seth would wake up, make the appropriate noises and promptly full back asleep!  It was hilarious to watch this going on while I was sitting comfortably minding my own business in the back!
I must admit I was slightly nervous about sharing the camper van with others, not having lived in it ourselves yet, but it worked pretty well.  There was one slight hiccup….  During the first evening, Dennis, Seth and Esther were sitting around the dining table, talking etc, and I lay on our bed (which is situated above the cab) looking down and joining in the conversation.  After some time, the de Rues’ went off to have a shower and we made up their bed, rearranging the table and cushions to form another queen size bed there.  Then we climbed up the ladder to our double bed, as I said above the cab.  I lay down, on my back, looking up to the ceiling which was very close to my nose!  I thought, “Oh, this is a bit creepy.”  Next Dennis lay his beautiful body next to mine and effectively closed me in!  With him next to me I was completely stuck.  There was no way for me to be able to leave the bed without pushing Dennis onto the floor a couple of metres down.  I began to panic, but told myself that all I had to do was close my eyes and all would be well.  But no!  It was not well at all….There was no way that I could stay up there for five minutes let alone an entire night!  So I didn’t.  I did push him off and hopped into the other bed after all.  When the de Reus’ returned they got a nasty fright to find us in their bed and the prospect of them coping with the narrow space in the other.  Thankfully, they managed better than me and I have never been up to that bed again!
On our way to Hastings we called in to Leeds Castle.  Our first castle experience and a really good one at that!  Beautiful grounds with a large section dedicated to aviaries with all sorts of birds from around the world, and a tour through the Castle itself, which was decorated in the appropriate decor of the day.  Part of the castle was still in operation, used for conferences, etc.
Next stop was Hastings itself.  The day was very overcast, windy and cold and it spoiled our general impression of the place.  The famous pier had suffered somewhat in a fire some years back and looked dreadful, but there was a sign to reassure the locals that they were not about to demolish it!  After lunch we took a Walking Tour led by a lady from the Historical Society.  What a great thing to do!  She was so enthusiastic and knew so much history about the life and times of Hastings of the past.  It was brilliant.

Leeds Castle

Beautiful Tudor houses in Hastings

A Fire Insurance mark. If your house was on fire and the fire engine arrived to put it out but found another company's mark, they left you to it!

Freezing cold day but 1 hardy soul sun bathing

After a day of history this plaque entertained me!

Burnt out remains of Hastings Pier

The following day we drove the short distance to Battle and waited in a 550 year old building, which was now a cafe, for the Abbey to open.  We thoroughly enjoyed wandering over the battle grounds where William the Conqueror fought and won in 1066 and viewing what remains of the Abbey.

The intrepid wanderers

And inside the ruins....

The ruins of the Monastery

The Abbey at Battle

Imagine! 550 years old!

Dennis and I were quite excited when we got the news that we had our first job of house sitting!  We had been getting a bit anxious as to why it had taken so long to get one – we had been in England for just on a month when it was due to start.  We had anticipated that we would be employed more or less full-time for the agency, but had begun to appreciate that due to the terrible economic outlook in England generally this had not proved so.  It was for a long weekend (4 nights) in a little village near Biggleswade, 2 hours drive north of London.  We arrived early in the afternoon and met with the owners for perhaps an hour before they left us to it.  They had a cute wee dog, Mollie and a cat that needed looking after while they went away.  The house was 300 years old, situated on a LARGE section, perhaps half an acre.  The village was so beautiful, with mainly thatched roofed houses of similar age.  When I was making dinner on the Aga I thought I heard a helicopter close by.  It was so close I went outside to investigate only to find that the neighbour was arriving home from work in his very own helicopter, which he parked just a stone’s throw from his back door!  The other neighbour’s had a couple of llamas out the back of their large section!

I like Agas, this one is fueled by oil and has 4 ovens

Looking back at the house from the back lawn

The neighbours - taken through the car window as we were leaving the village

Dennis pointing to a pigeon strike on our way back to London

The London skyline, looking toward the CBD - notice how few tall buildings!

Eight hours later (midnight) we received the phone call from Matt telling us that Dennis’ father, Fred, was in hospital suffering from a major stroke!  We waited until morning and then began the very quick process of arranging our affairs to take us back to Masterton, NZ, as soon as possible.  Within 12 hours we were boarding an AirNZ flight back home.


2 Responses to “Reviewing”

  1. Chris and Richard December 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Hi very interesting reading again, loved talking to you guys the other morning.
    stay safe. Love Chris and Richard

  2. John and Maria December 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    It is great to sit and read about your daily activities. Janette you may have to write up a book: like I typed out dad’s dairy when they had been in Holland.
    Love from John & Maria

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