Tuesday 14 May 2024

March Round Up Part Two.

 March part 2! Finally!!

I realise I managed to forget to mention in my last post we had a dinner for incoming students in the amazing setting of the Natural History Museum in Oxford. What better way to convince someone to come to our programme? 


I
must admit, lovely as it was to be able to wander at will around the museum out of hours and with a glass of prosecco in hand, I do find it somewhat unnerving having food and drink near priceless exhibits!


How often do you get to eat with a dinosuar looming over you?


Alongside everything else at work, we basically had 3 Fridays in a row where we also had something on in the evening we had to attend, well I say had to, I managed to miss out on the last one by booking some holiday.

 

I had seen the item on the national news and read the article on the BBC website about Bagpuss turning 50 and in it they mentioned an exhibition around him in a museum in Canterbury.

For those who don’t know Bagpuss is the main character from a stop animation children’s television programme form the 1970’s. In a nutshell he is a toy cat who lives in a shop window and his owner Emily brings him gifts, usually random lost or broken things she finds whilst out walking, she then recites a special rhyme;

 

Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss Old fat furry cat-puss. Wake up and look at this thing that I bring. Wake up, be bright. Be golden and light. Bagpuss, Oh hear what I sing. 

 

This wakes Bagpuss and once he is awake, all his friends wake up too. They look at the object try to decide what it is, then usually Bagpuss tells a magical story at the end of which the item is restored to it’s full glory.

I was enchanted with this series as a small child and have basically adored Bagpuss ever since. I still have the Bagpuss backpack my parents bought me, and various other Bagpi (as Himself calls them) that friends and family have given me over the years, so as you can imagine the chance to not only go to an exhibition about the show,  but see the real fat furry cat-puss in the flesh so to speak, was not something I was going to miss!

                                                                          Bagpi!


It’s been 2 years since Himself and last went to the Isle of Thanet in Kent, so I floated the idea of combining a trip down to see friends with a visit to the exhibition. Thankfully, he was more than happy, so I quickly checked the lovely B&B in Broadstairs we stayed in last time. They had a room free, without breakfast, but at a great price so I booked it ASAP.

Next, I messaged my friend Kay to see if and when she was about. She could do the Thursday evening, so we planned the rest of our trip around that evening and when the museum was open. The stars aligned there as the museum would be open on the Friday and the weather that day was due to be horrible that day, so we figured a trip to Canterbury and being inside was a good plan. Himself also contacted his old boss Pete, who now lives just outside Canterbury to see if he was free the Friday evening to meet us for a drink. 

 

Monday & Tuesday were long days taken up with getting as much work done as I could before we headed off on the Wednesday. 


We had a good journey and arrived at the B&B at about 2pm. As check in wasn’t due until 4pm I had emailed to ask if we could come earlier, even if it was just to drop off bags and come back after 4pm to check in properly. I hadn’t heard back so we took a punt anyway. We were met by a slightly flustered young man who said we could check in but couldn’t find the room key, after a fruitless search he ended up giving us the housekeeping room key. We went up, unpacked and then headed into town and straight to Morelli’s for an ice cream. First opening in 1932, and with it’s slightly kitsch 30’s décor unchanged, it is an absolute icon and famous not just for delicious ice cream but also for coffee.  It was lovely to see it busy and buzzing even on a mid-week afternoon.

The View from outside our B&B


We had a gentle mooch around the town to see what had changed before heading back to our room to chill before changing for dinner. I had brought my work mobile with me because when I set up my booking.com account years ago I had done it from my work email address. I’m not quite sure why I looked at my work emails but I saw I had had a frantic message from the B&B owner, which my colleague Hazel had also forwarded to me via whatsapp, as he had sent it on to the generic work email address after getting my out of office. 

Something to do with the room key and could we come back ASAP as he needed to go out that evening. Clearly, he hadn’t thought to try knocking on the room door as we had been in the room the whole time! 

I quickly jogged down the stairs in my socks, not even stop to put my shoes back on, and made him jump out of his skin. It turned out that they had a regular guest who ‘always booked room 8.’ To the point she had actually taken the room key home with her as she considered it ‘her room’ which was why the other guy hadn’t been able to find it when we arrived. 

This guest was also there and clearly extremely put out. I briefly considered offering to swap rooms with her, but she was so hostile and rude, I thought fuck you then, and stood my ground. With great reluctance she went and fetched the room key from her car whilst I had a chat with the owner and petted his dogs. Once I had the correct key I handed the spare over and headed back upstairs.


We had a table booked at our favourite restaurant Posillipo Pizzeria, a wonderful family run Italian that has been in Broadstairs for 30 years. I literally could not choose what to have but in the end settled for gnocchi with gorgonzola which was to die for. The restaurant was packed full but we weren’t rushed and the manager even brought us a free glass of limoncello to end the meal. I’m not a fan so Himself got to neck two!

From there we went to the quirky Chapel pub. I mentioned it in my post from 2 years ago here. It’s a very old tiny chapel that was converted into a bookshop. When the owner retired he just left it as was. Whoever bought it left most of the bookcases and many of the books in situ and just fitted a bar and some tables and benches. 

It was also busy with many games of chess being played but we managed to snag a tiny table and spent a pleasant couple of hours drinking beer for Himself and cider for me looking at books. We were having hysterics about the name of the author of a biography on Robert Redford called Minty Clinch. Himself sent a picture to his sister and it turns out his late mother who was a huge Robert Redford fan had had a copy of the book. We had to google the name and it turns out not only is that her real name (Araminta Clinch) she actually lives in a nearby village to us! Small world…

As we left the pub, we spotted the lighthouse was working, something I can’t recall ever seeing before. Even thought it was dark you could see this wall of white fog rolling in across the sea it was very atmospheric. Thankfully it had cleared by morning.

 

The next day we had a leisurely start as we didn’t have to go down for breakfast. Our schedule for the day was to walk the coast from Ramsgate to Margate so we caught the bus to Ramsgate with the plan of getting breakfast somewhere at the harbour before we started. 

There were a couple of cafes to choose from, so following lessons learnt over the years we plumped for the one that was busy with workmen, you can always trust them to go for the best breakfast!

Sure enough, Ship Shape Cafe lived up to our expectations, with a delicious full English for Himself, and as I’m not a fan of meat at breakfast and don’t eat sausages, a vegetarian breakfast for me. When they arrived, I gained his tomatoes & mushrooms and he got my veggie sausage in exchange (this is why we work as a couple.)
 I was also enchanted with their tiny nautical themed toilet, wishing I had taken my bag with me so I could have taken a picture in there.     

Replete with food we walked to the end of the jetty and started out walking apps.

The day was cloudy but not cold so perfect walking weather really. We walked past our B&B as we passed through Broadstairs but looking up at it from the beach. We also took a detour to Botany Bay as there are meant to be fossils there.

We found some shells and sea glass but sadly nothing prehistoric. 


As we got towards Margate there were clear signs of how violent the recent storms had been with this set of steps being completely buried in sand! 

It was sad to see the Winter Gardens and Lido looking so derelict (we actually met at the Lido all those years ago) 

I gather there may be some levelling up funding going to the Winter Gardens so fingers crossed it can become a vibrant venue once again.


 There was some amazing street art though. 

We finished our walk at the end of the jetty in Margate before decamping to Barnacles for a drink, the scene of many a date for us, and Himself’s parents’ favourite pub when they were both alive. From there we had a bit of a mooch before heading to the train station.


Once back at the B&B we both freshened up and caught the bus back to Ramsgate where we met my friend Kay in the huge Wetherspoons on the harbour. Himself stayed for a couple of pints before his friend Paul called to say he was outside waiting to pick him up. It was wonderful to catch up with Kay, we grabbed some dinner and had just finished eating when her partner Andy arrived. It was lovely to catch up with him in person as I haven't seen him before lockdown.


Once it was time to head off, they both walked me to the taxi office which turned out to be closed! 

I ended up having to google some firms and call for one instead, which some pissed bloke also waiting, refused to accept was mine not his, so I ended up having to call another! 

Finally in a taxi we picked up Himself enroute who was absolutely freezing having been standing waiting whilst all that drama happened.

 

Next morning was Friday and Bagpuss day. We called in at Tesco and bought some bits for breakfast which we ate on the train over to Canterbury. We headed straight to the museum The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. which is fairly small in museum terms, and was filled with school children. 


There was an interactive map for the Bagpuss trail you could buy, which involved finding clues and characters in the different galleries and collecting a stamp from the staff on duty in that room. I loved that it made the children goo to all the rooms and hopefully learn lots of different things whilst they searched for Gabriel or the Soup Dragon.


Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin who created Smallfilms that made Bagpuss and many other much loved children’s TV shows have donated a lot of their equipment and props to the museum, there is a small gallery space named after them for showing temporary exhibitions and this was where an exhibition about them and their work was running alongside the Bagpuss trail. They mostly used stop animation and it was fascinating to see how programmes were created, particularly the ingenuity, like adapting cameras with pieces of Meccano!  

For someone who grew up watching their programmes, to actually see The Clangers and of course Bagpuss himself, as in the actual one they filmed, it brought a tear to my eye.  

We did look in all the galleries. I particularly enjoyed the range of art work going right up to the present day with Banksy and Grayson Perry, 

and yes I may have treated myself in the gift shop!


I bought a tea towel and the tiny wheeled elephant on the left to add to my small collection of wooden elephants on wheels. 

 

By the time we left it was pouring with rain and we both wanted a drink and something to eat, and for me just a few quiet moments to just absorb all I had seen. 


I’d read an article that had mentioned this great café in Canterbury hidden behind a tiny doorway next to the Roman Museum that was tardis-like when you got inside and did great food. We found it and managed to secure a table in the big bay window on the second floor. The flatbread sandwiches were huge and delicious, mine was full of aubergine, humous and salad YUM! 

No room for a piece of cake afterwards even though they looked amazing.

 

My only other plan for the day was to see if Cosmo China was open, it had been closed on our last visit. It has a branch in London and Canterbury and features work by several of Peter Firmin’s daughters amongst others. 

It’s expensive, so I only planned to buy small jug to add to my collection. Only they had a Bagpuss range, I really wanted something but I couldn’t justify spending that much, so ended up choosing an eggcup. 

Luckily for me I noticed a basket of seconds, in there I found a Bagpuss and Clangers plate! Happy me.


(The Ivor the Engine mug came from the Museum shop.)


We spent the rest of the afternoon going in whatever shop took our fancy, I got a couple of bits in Siesta and some Cadfael books in Oxfam, some seasalt fudge in Roly’s and a bracelet in another charity shop. Tired and damp from the relentless rain we decamping to The Lady Luck our favourite pub in Canterbury for a restorative bottle of brown (Newcastle Brown Ale) or two. 


We had planned to go to this lovely Italian restaurant we had found on our last visit, but we were still too full from lunch, so instead just headed straight to the Wetherspoon’s nearest to the train station where we had arranged to meet Pete, Himself’s old boss and good friend. It was very busy, but we finally managed to find a table and had just sat down with our drinks when he arrived. Again, it was lovely to catch up with all his news and hear what his children have been up too. We ended up staying there all night and ordered some sharing plates to pick at.

 

The next day we again had a more leisurely start checking out at 10.30am. The saga of the ‘regular guest who always stays in room 8’ had one last fling when it turned out they had added her food to our bill! This took a bit of time to rectify but we got there in the end. Not withstanding that I would definitely stay there again.


It was a lovely morning and we were in no hurry so we walked along the seafront calling in at Morelli’s so Himself could buy some coffee to take home, and the local bakery to buy a loaf and some freshly baked hot cross buns that smelt too delicious too leave. We also grabbed a sandwich and drinks for the train home. What a wonderful much needed mini break it turned out to be.

 

I finished up the month with a trip to the dentist with my Mum for a check up then on to tea at a local garden centre where I managed to avoid buying any new plants.

Plus a trip to the cinema to see the latest Ghostbusters film. I have loved the 2 most recent ones so was very much up for this even though there was no real reason to make it, the story had ended well with the last one. Overall it was a bit of a mess, a bit too long but with some really great bits which redeemed it from being completely terrible.

 

So that was March and now I need to find time for April which was just as epic with the Biba exhibition and the highlight of it all Abba Voyage! More anon.  

Thursday 11 April 2024

A March Round-up Part One.

Well I think I might have to do March in two postings it was a mega busy month. 

I started with a treat to myself, something to look forward to for surviving January, and as it turned out February at work. What used to be a busy month had now morphed into a busy 8 -10 weeks!

I had wanted to go to the Coco Chanel exhibition at the V&A but it sold out before I could get a ticket. Just before I travelled to New York I got an email to say they had extended the run by 2 weeks and that the tickets would be going on sale at 10am the next day. I stuck a reminder in my calendar and logged in for 10am, I was over 200th in a queue…


Over the next 2 or 3 hours I would check back every so often as my position in the queue crept closer and closer to single digits. I was convinced it would be sold out before I got to 1st in the queue but miracle of miracles it didn’t. I managed to get one ticket for the 4th March. I instantly put in a holiday form which was thankfully granted.

 

I found myself on the tube with a huge school party which entertained me no end on the short journey to South Kensington. We all piled off the train and headed down the museums tunnel where several other school parties added to the decibels! 

Thankfully all bar one group peeled off at the entrance to the Natural History Museum. I had a bit of time before my entry, so first stop was the café for much needed cup of tea and a cheeky pain aux raisin. I then had a mooch around the shop and a couple of my other favourite galleries.



Also stopping to watch a busy team of staff painstakingly manoeuvring this gorgeous statue into position. 

I got told off for taking this picture later that day, I’m not quite sure why.


A friend had gone to the Chanel exhibition on the Saturday and said it was rammed. I had hoped a Monday would be a little quieter, but it was absolutely packed too. I just took my time and waited patiently to get a closer look, read the information and take some pictures. It was definitely one of the best exhibitions I’ve been to in some time, I absolutely loved it and managed to spend a crazy amount of time in there. It really was lovely to just go at my own pace though, especially after the frantic last few months. I was of course more taken with the early pieces but I surprised myself with how many of the later pieces I loved too.







I decided against eating a late lunch there and instead made my way back to Paddington, very randomly catching the same tube train back as the school party I had met in the morning! 

Instead, as I had 30 minutes before my train, I grabbed a meal deal in Sainsburys which I ate on the train home. I’m so glad I got to go, and also that I had planned this treat for myself. 


The next day I had the afternoon off work and went for lunch with my friend's Liz and Carole. We tried the new Italian where Himself and I went last month. The food was more flavourful this time. I will definitely go again.


I had to travel again for work that Friday, this time going to Munich. 

The timing wasn’t great as it was not only Mother’s day on the Sunday it was also a year since Dad died and again my brother was away. I really could have done with being at home for Mum but instead settled for flying home on Saturday evening, going straight to the airport from the event. 

Luckily the colleague I was travelling with also had Mother’s day plans so was happy with the arrangement. We had decided to fly on Friday morning so we could at least have half a day to look around Munich but sadly it was not to be. 

On Tuesday late evening I got a voice message to say my flight had been cancelled. Cue 2 days of frantically trying to organise something else with the company who books our work flights (don’t get me started on what I think of them – it’s a long and exhausting story!) 

It turns out not only were Lufthansa on strike, so were all the rail staff. We by sheer fluke it would seem managed to get on a flight with BA at 5pm on Friday, finally arriving at our hotel at 9.30pm after we had a nail-biting 30 minutes at the airport trying to confirm our seats on the Lufthansa flight home the next day. The strike was due to end on the Saturday morning and as our flight had been a return they had cancelled the whole thing, so we had to rebook the return part of it. By that point I couldn’t be bothered with going out to eat so went to bed with a book instead.    

 

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast, checked out of the hotel and took the 15 minute walk to the venue where the event was. It was a glorious day.

On arrival we were greeted with 'did you have any trouble getting here?' It turned out 2 of the Italian business schools didn’t make it at all because Italy was also in strike, and we got off very lightly compared to others. The poor girl from London Business School had had to fly to Amsterdam and could only get a flight home and 8pm that evening and into Gatwick!   

The event went well, and we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. It was frankly like being in one of those horror apocalypse films! This huge airport almost completely empty very weird. 

We did manage to find somewhere to eat a frankly revolting burger and chips. The flight home turned out to be on a tiny plane with Finair and the aircrew were so stereotypical you couldn’t help but chuckle. Literally all of the cabin crew being tall and blonde and one in particular with waist length white blonde hair in a loose plait, I was waiting for her to break into ‘Let it Go’ at any moment!

The Pilot was enormous, with a huge beard, long hair and tattoos, I couldn’t help wondering what my smart R.A.F short back and sides Dad would have thought of that.   

 

It turned out Nephew Number One’s band were playing in Reading that night so Himself had suggested we go. Initially I thought I would have time to go home and change but in the end by the time my airlink coach got back to Reading it was 8.45pm. 

So I just waited for Himself at the station and we walked to the venue with me in my smart work togs and with my work rucksack. I said I felt like the disapproving maiden aunt. We had time to grab a much needed and revitalising pint before the band came on. 

I said to Himself afterward I love how confident and comfortable in their own skin this generation are. When I was in my 20’s it was very much about having the right image, almost wearing a uniform, being part of the tribe. Whereas everyone there, particularly the girls, just wore what the hell they wanted and didn’t give a shit. I particularly loved that one girl was even sat crocheting as she watched.

Once the band had finished we took our leave and I got to go home, have a lovely hot shower and fall into bed. 

 

The next day we had a lazy breakfast in bed before Mum came over at 12. We had booked a table for Sunday lunch at our favourite pub and had decided to walk there as the weather had held and the ground wasn’t too wet. It was a gentle meander and we arrived with time to have a drink before sitting down. We all had roast beef and Mum and I also had the amazing homemade cheesecake. I think I rolled home.

 

Once we got back home Nephew Number One came over for a cup of tea. He hadn’t seen Mum in person since Christmas and I had also bought him a couple of silly bits in the US. Mum left before it got dark and he finally went about 7.30pm. A lovely day all round given the sad anniversary, we did raise a toast to Dad.

 

The following Tuesday I had another day off work to meet with Soo. Another long overdue get together! She had decided on Bourton on the Water as it has been years since we have been there together. We got there late morning and had a slow amble looking in various shops before finding a café/antique shop for a delicious jacket potato with tuna and a shared cream tea. 


This was followed by a bit more mooching  

I fell in love with all the moss growing on this tree.

Sadly the weather was miserable not that it mattered one bit, I’m not sure we drew breath the whole day, it was so lovely to see her and catch up properly. 

My only purchases were this ceramic bird plaque from a charity shop 

and a Snoopy from what I can only describe as the most terrifying teddy bear shop I have ever had the misfortune to find myself in. We were lured in by some Moorcroft pottery in the window, Soo is a big fan, but once inside….well. 

I’m not sure how but these teddy bears looked like they wanted to steal your souls in the night, they were quite unnerving, especially a shop full of them. I pinched this picture off their website!

I spotted poor old Snoopy in a cabinet and felt obliged to rescue him! Rather randomly he turns out to be a Steiff, and was crazy cheap for a Steiff. Anyway, I think he is relieved to be free and resting on the top of my bookcase!

 

On Saturday Himself and I headed to Oxford, we had tickets for 'Into the Uncanny with Danny Robins, Chris French and Deborah Hyde' as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. 


Himself did a crash course in the Uncanny podcast the week before we went as he has never listened to it before, I’m pretty sure he never will again! It was not really his cup of tea. 

The talk itself was fine, and I shall definitely be checking out both the books they were promoting, but it would definitely have been better if they had stuck to questions from the chair Stephen Law, rather than let the audience lose on the mic. As inevitably you got someone who wanted to go on and on and on about themselves. Overall, I did enjoy it though and I did bump ino a friend Alison there who I’m planning to catch up with again properly in the next couple of weeks.  

 

I shall sign off this post here and continue with the rest of the month in a separate entry. I’m looking forward to sharing the seaside, Bagpuss and Ghostbusters with you!