From the Blog

Spring has Sprung, the grass has ris.

 So I decide to log onto Internet Explorer to read the last 20 or so e-mails and reply to a few of them.  But access is denied and I don't know which of his several passwords to use.  As I say, I give up and it's back to my notepad - that Pete isn't allowed to touch.

No, Pete isn't out with a bunch of wild women.  He recieved an SOS call from Don.  Kristian and Hayden spent the holiday's about a month ago 'ripping' CD's for Don to use on his programming (for those who don't know - Don is Programme Manager of several radio stations) and today, he was copying CD's from one computer to the other when Kristian decided to use the internet.  They think they may have lost the lot but Pete has a programme that may retrieve the data.  However, he expects it will take awhile.  As we could just imagine the knashing of teeth at 38 Attingham Hill, I figured it best to stay out of the way.

We had quite a lovely spring day today; although the wind is still somewhat cutting it was wonderful to see the sun.  I have the car on Friday's and we arranged to meet for lunch.  Normally, Pete sits in their staffroom reading his book and I normally go for a walk, further exploring the area, but it's rather boring spending every lunch-hour on my own.  Milton Keynes has a number of man-made lakes and today we visited Mount Farm Park near to Pete's work.

We walked around the lake in the short time available and just as Pete was telling me he'd heard that all the lakes in MK were connected with one another we came upon the obligatory information board explaining exactly that.  Amazingly, when MK was in the planning stages, the engineers realised the many acres that would be built on, concreted over and tarsealed would decrease water absroption and increase runoff so they incorporated lots of lakes which would also provide attractive, tranquil sancturies amid the bustle of an ever increasing town.

Good plan but council funds don't stretch to picking up rubbish or the up-keep of gardens and lakes resulting in some dismal, damp, unattractive settings giving the impression of being likely places for flashers and winos to hang out.  Not surprisingly, Pete and I didn't come upon many office workers enjoying the 'tranquil sanctury' of Mount Farm Park and it's lake today; we saw more geese and swans, who aren't too particular about where they do their business. But I suppose theirs is preferable to the dog's, whose owners seem to think the footpaths have been provided explicitly for their dog's to do their business.

That reminds me of another story and/or experience Pete had recently.  Their office-cum-warehouse is stuck away in a funny little place amongst other big offices and warehouses and some of the posties over here aren't very bright.  Pete, being the office manager, gets mail for companies he's never heard of or it might be one he knows of in the neighbourhood.  He rings them up to tell them he has their mail and funnily enough, they sometimes have COS's mail.  So, one Friday afternoon, Pete rang Royal Mail to speak to the manager and was informed that all the managers work 8-12 every day.  He rang back on Monday morning. All the Managers were having breakfast from 8-9 a.m.!!!  (It was after 9 o'clock.)  "That means then", said Pete to the lady at Royal Mail, "they work 2 hours a day?"  "That is correct".  As the yanks would say - Go figure!

A recent foray was a day trip to Brighton.  We left home just after 8 a.m. Sunday morning with what looked like the promise of clearer skies down south and we thought we were going to be in for a great day.  We took the M1 heading for London, turned west onto the M25, which circles the whole of outer London with thousands of arteries leading off it, and curved south eastward through Berkshire, the edge of Hampshire and into Surrey, where we turned off onto the A23 in West Sussex leading directly to Brighton.  By this time, we were in dense fog and while disappointing, we have become resigned to winter weather after having had practically 12 months of it.  The seaside town was fairly packed with day trippers like ourselves even on such an unaspriing day so can just imagine there would barely be elbow room in the height of summer.  We parked along the promenade then sauntered into town to find breakfast but not as we know it in NZ, in places like yummy Drexels.  The poms haven't caught onto doing breakfast yet because they're so firmly entrenched in their Sunday Roast. However, Brighton has the nearest thing to a breakfast restaurant, called Redroaster.  For a change, the interior was light and airy, it looked clean and a plentiful supply of newspapers were laid on.  They made delicious coffee but haven't quite got the knack of breakfast food down to a fine art yet.

Fortified with food, however good or bad it was, we were ready to explore what used to be called Brighthelmstone, an obscure fishing hamlet until a doctor moved there in 1753 proclaiming the virtues of crabs' eyes, cuttlefish bones and woodlice washed down with a hearty pint of seawater.  His successor, an Irishman, discovered the salubrious qualities of fresh sea air, heightened by Brighton's fortunate lack of noxiously perspiring trees.  The effect of this twaddle was to draw well-to-do invalids and hypochondriacs to the Sussex shore, and when the Prince Regent took to visiting and built himself an oriental pleasure dome, the Royal Pavilion, the new resort's success as a health retreat was assured.  (I'm quoting from my book by the way.)

Some fishing villages and minor ports grew gradually into resorts but others, like Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast, were planned in the 1870's to lure the middle classes.  The Great Northern Railway brought hordes of holidaymakers from the Midlands industrial towns and Skegness instead became a leading working-class resort.  The first of the chain of Butlin's holiday camps (Hi-De-Hi) opened there in 1937.  (Jason, from work, used to be a Butlin's boy but they are referred to as 'Red Jackets'.)

'Beside the Seaside is So Bracing' proclaimed the posters; piers and promenades sprouted and to spice up the simpler pleasures of swimming, sunbathing, sandcastles and donkey rides, funfairs, zoos, flowery gardens, bandstands, dance halls, freak shows, tattoo parlours, saucy postcards, fortune tellers' booths, eel and whelk stalls, ice-cream and rock kiosks added further enjoyment. The seaside landlady became an archetypal figure of fun and dread, with her iron gentility, stricktly regulated meal-times and parlour aspidistra (potted plant).

The pier is descended from the much earlier quay, built to land cargo and passengers on an open shore.  In 1823 Brighton constructed its famous Chain Pier, like a suspension bridge tiptoeing gracefully into the English Channel (which destroyed it in a storm in 1896).  Though built for boat-passengers to and from Dieppe, it was a pleasure pier as well.  It had souvenir shops and a camera obscura and was appreciated as a way of enjoying the sea without being seasick.

One of the traditional sea-side delights is Rock, a stick of mint confectionery which is usually white in colour with the resort's name in pink or red letters, mysteriously running through the stick's entire length.  Blackpool and Morecombe both claim to have invented the delicacy, but there is also a tradition that it originated in the inland mining town of Dewsbury in the 1860's.  As late as the 1970's Blackpool was manufacturing 2 tons of rock a day in summer.        

End of quote.  The pier today has the original stalls that are built along the centre of it, selling rock, candy floss, caps that you can have your choice of word/s printed onto it for an exorbitant price, henna tattoos, have your personality read from your signature and countless fish and chip and burger bars.  I think the camera obscura is now the Amusement Arcade, jammed with pokey machines designed to relieve you of all your spare change and more - it was well partonised the day we were there due, I hope, to the bad weather but I guess the scene is the same on bright sunny days too.  The restaurant, The Blue (Something Nautical) didn't entice us inside on account of the smell of greasy chips cooking but in fair weather, it might be nice sitting at the outdoor tables with a glass of wine.  The T-Shaped tip of the pier is a 'recent' addition where the Amusement Park rides and stalls are permanently in place.  The usual Merry-go-Rounds, Ghost Train, Kiddies Bumper Cars, Rollercoasters, Waltzer and open-mouthed clowns or rows of cans for you to throw balls into or at.  The amusement arcade and park appear to be what keeps the pier a going concern as it is "despartely expensive to repair and maintain".

After exhausting the sights and marvels of the famous Brighton Pier, we headed for the Royal Pavilion in the consistant drizzle by this time.  I had read about The Lanes so when we saw a signpost pointing the way we decided to investigate.  Turned out to be a rabbit warren of narrow zig-zagging streets no wider than one car width in some to only 4 or 5 feet in others, lined with all kinds of interesting shops.  Because it was Sunday afternoon, many had closed by the time we found The Lanes so we'll probably go back another time.      

The drizzle had become rain when we joined the slow-moving queue to enter the Royal Pavilion.  We waited awhile but several factors made us decide to come back another day - it was after 3.30 and they closed at 5 p.m. so by the time we would have made it to the head of the snails pace queue there would hardly be enough time to have a good look around; we had to catch the supermarket before it closed at 4 p.m. because we hadn't done our customary grocery shop the day before and finally, we didn't want to be too late getting home.  It took 2 hours to drive down to Brighton but little did we know it would take us 4 hours to get back!

For a start, it took half an hour to move about 4 miles from where we had parked the car to the edge of town (the design of the streets in English towns beggars the mind).  Then we stopped at Crawley hoping to have a nice cup of tea since the original aborted plan was to have tea and scones at the Royal Pavilion but Crawley was closed up tight for the night and indeed looked as though it had been devoid of human life for a week or more.  It's right on the edge of Gatwick Airport, an airport almost as busy as Heathrow but is reknowned for the fact that as far as public transport or facilities are concerned you might as well forget it. We could see why when we visited Crawley.

With parched throats then, we continued on back towards the M25 having decided to take the country roads home for the scenic value and quaint country pubs.  We passed a couple of nice looking pubs that were on the right hand side of the road but didn't/couldn't stop as it's so difficult/dangerous trying to turn across the traffic.  Finally, a Black Horse pub came into view on the left and it even had a car park of sorts (car parking is a major problem), which we pulled into.  A sandwich board outside the front door advertised Japanese and Korean food - not our favourite but Don & Jill may have been impressed if they'd been with us.  An attractive Japanese girl was behind the bar whom we asked what the house red was.  Huh?  Oh goody, we thought, the staff can't speak English in a typical English pub and it took some time for us to communicate to her what we wanted.  Whether it's due to my years of working on the counter at Countrywide and dealing with Asians nearly every day, we understood her meaning even before she had found the odd English word to convey her message, which was we had to buy the whole bottle of wine.   If we only wanted one glass, it came out of a tap like the beer taps and I didn't fancy recycled wine mixed with human saliva.  We settled for a cider each then enquired after the menu.  She rushed out the back to talk to the boss and came back with the message, "No serve till 6.30".  We smiled and nodded our understanding,  drank our warm, flat cider and now with thirst partially quenched, we left the Black Horse with rumbling tummies.

Once on the M25 there was no hope of finding food so settled down to head for home to cook our own tea.  At first, we made good progress taking it more cautiously than everyone else in the heavy rain, the dark and the spray from speeding cars passing us but 15-20 miles before the Heathrow turnoff we struck a traffic jam.  Roadworkers in the centre of the motorway had 2 out of 3-4 lanes on our side and 1 of the opposite sides lanes cordoned off.  It creates a bottleneck and traffic comes to a halt miles back.

You can see then, a day out is not necessarily a simple exercise.  I wont even tell you about going to Bovingdon Market near Hemel Hempstead last weekend.  That was a nightmare and if Pete wasn't a nervous wreck by the time we came home, I know I was and I wasn't driving!!  

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Started this last Friday night (can't think of anything I'd rather do on a Friday night except writing to all my loved ones in NZ) and drawing quickly to a conclusion this Tuesday night, 3 April which happens to be Lietta's birthday.  We have toasted her health and happiness with a little liqueur this evening, but I'm afraid she has reached the stage where she probably prefers not to divulge her age.  

We went to Warwick Castle this weekend and have I got lots to tell you about that - in next weeks exciting installment as you've probably had enough for now.

I heard a rumour that our temperature got into the low 20's on Sunday and Monday!  They were certainly nice days and fingers crossed for many more to follow.  Is your Indian Summer still lasting???    

Take care All.  Love you lots.......Pete & Kath

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Written by : Kath Douglas