Hair and tapas

This afternoon, I was sitting in Starbucks, waiting for the clock to tick around to my hairdresser appointment when I overheard two old chaps (older than me anyway) discussing the pros and cons of various different smartphones. And it wasn’t the usual lack of understanding or even desire to have one. In fact they both really knew their stuff. From the new Google phone to the Galaxy S8 to the new iPhone X series, it was like listening to a professional review. It was a joy.

Technologically, it was an annoying morning with my Skype call to mum being interrupted a number of times because of connection problems. I had decided to sit at the dining table but the wifi signal wasn’t happy with that. Eventually I moved into the Library and everything was fine.

Stupid carbon rod!

After our chat, I headed up the park with the girls for an early walk. I was amazed at the number of dog walkers there are at just gone 11am. Normally we go after lunch.

Also, I spoke to a woman (the owner of Fraser, a marvellous Labra-doodle) who agreed. She normally walks him first thing in the morning and usually sees no-one at all.

Most notable in the park this morning were the blank spaces where once benches had been. I wrote a few weeks ago about the threatened removal of three benches from the park and now they’ve done it. Well, two of them anyway. The third clearly had a stay of execution.

All that remains of the old benches are patches in the grass. Eventually they won’t even be there as the old and removed concrete bases become overgrown and invisible.

CSI ex-bench crime scene

After a lot of running around after her tennis ball, Emma decided it was time to go home. Fortunately this coincided with the time for me to prepare for my lunch date.

For the first time in (the usual) long time, I was having lunch with Dawn. Apart from the obvious pleasure of spending a lunch time in her company, it was also to thank her for the transcription work she recently completed for Mirinda.

We went to Bloom, a new tapas type place which recently took up residence in the premises vacated by Prezzo. And it was very good. Sadly (for them) we were the only ones there for most of our visit though a couple turned up later. I hope they do well because the staff is very keen, the food is excellent and the location ideal.

However, like all good things, our time together drew to a close and I walked her back to her car before heading for Starbucks.

Then I went for my 12 week hair cut and fun hour with Cacheta.

Blurry photo of the almost completed ‘do’
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Paying for Spain

Whenever I go anywhere for any length of time I know I’m going to have to pay for it. Pleasure doesn’t come free at my age and experience.

To be fair, it’s normally okay when I go to France with Mirinda. And Australia is generally okay as well. But places like Spain and Italy…well its called suffering for a reason.

Today I wasn’t going to work because Heather wrote to say they were having staff training so my services were unrequired. Rather than stay at home doing essential things around the house, I decided to go into town to an exhibition I’ve been wanting to see.

Rather than change the usual plans, I thought I’d still take the girls to Sue as well as go to the gym and shop on the way home.

It was such a lovely plan.

Until I woke up this morning to the dull throb and devastating agony of gout. My right foot was screaming and red and not even mildly funny.

I eventually texted Sue to say I wouldn’t be dropping the girls round and planned a day involving very little perambulation.

Sue texted back offering to take the girls for a walk when she went after lunch. I happily said yes. (She also asked if I was okay for food and medicine. When I told Mirinda she claimed that she cared more about me than she did. I simply nodded.)

And so my day was spent researching some more war dead, sitting at the dining table and watching some Korean television.

It was annoying but a small price to pay for the great amount of gout inducing pleasure indulged in in Spain.

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Green butt seed tomatoes

The gardeners came today though not Michael. This week it was Gardener Dave and Paul. When I asked Dave where Michael was, I figured he’d say he was on holiday or sick. I didn’t expect him to say he was on gardening leave.

That’s a bit odd given he’s a gardener,” I quipped

Dave then asked me what garden leave was. When I explained he told me that Michael was not on gardening leave he was actually not working with them anymore. Sort of. The other week he’d gone off with the boss to do some landscaping and he didn’t enjoy it. So he decided not to come back. Dave wasn’t sure where things stood.

I rather missed Michael, given he knows what he’s doing. Not that Dave doesn’t, in fact he also cares about our garden which is a real bonus.

So, this week, they started off by mowing then stabbing the grass all over before scattering special horticultural sand all over. The idea is for the sand to penetrate the grass and fix it up. Some how. We’ll see. It’s just another in the long line of grass fixers we’ve tried.

Another big job was to move the leaf trap contents in order to get to the mulch. This was quite a big job, particularly given the amount of juggling needed. I’d already dumped about 37 barrows full in the trap and Dave and Paul had at least 53 more.

They also managed to get the thousands of leaves off the beds. It was a big job made even bigger with the aforementioned juggling. Still, they managed to do something constructive with the leaves and the entire garden was much improved.

One other big job Dave completed was the plucking and removal of the butt seed tomato bush. He retrieved a lot of green tomatoes, giving them to me and telling me to put them somewhere dark. He swears they’ll turn red in two weeks. We shall see,

Green beauties

The best news of this week…nay, of this month…actually of the year! The roof repair job appears to have fixed the leak! There has been no drips even though there has been an awful lot of rain falling from all manner of directions and ferocity. I feel almost ready to get the decorator to come and make it pretty again.

And then, late in the day, I had a call from the real estate agent telling me that a new buyer is pretty close to finalising on his property and he should be in a position to move on the cottage in about 48 hours.

I don’t want to jinx it so I’m saying nothing else at this juncture. I’ll just leave this photo here. I took it of Mirinda at the garden centre yesterday.

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At 11am I was walking home from the shops. I stopped and sat on a convenient park bench just as the church bells started ringing the hour.

When they fell silent, so did I. I just sat and thought about the beauty around me and how it’s only like it is because of the sacrifice of other people.

I wasn’t alone. A chap walking his dog had stopped on the path and, like me, was in silent contemplation.

I thought about the soldiers I’ve researched and the stories I’ve read. I thought about the stories I tell.

The bells started again just after 11:02 and they rang out as if in memory of all of them; every single one.

I continued on my way home wondering why people have such a problem with a peaceful existence.

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Oh, what a circus!

I was sitting in a room with a whole crowd of other ‘older’ people when suddenly, the loudest clap of thunder I’ve ever heard erupted directly above us all. It sounded like an explosion and given we were in a room where discussion of The Great War was going on, it carried with it a bit of historic foreboding.

The room gave a gasp then a strained laugh at what turned out to be harmless. We returned to our war learning. And, today I discovered that Armistice Day did not signal the end of the First World War.

The Armistice was, actually, a ceasefire between Germany, Britain and France. The end of the First World War wasn’t until June 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. And peace wasn’t finally, officially ratified until January 1920.

In fact, the British government didn’t want too much celebrating on November 11, 1918 for a number of reasons, one of which was the continuing spread of the incorrectly called Spanish Flu.

(I know I’ve written about this before but I think it bears repetition: it wasn’t ‘Spanish’ but was called Spanish because the Spanish newspapers were the only ones permitted to discuss the influenza pandemic while the British, German, French and American media were censored during the war. This meant that everyone figured it had originated and was worse in Spain. In fact, the latest evidence suggests that it started with Allied soldiers in a trench.)

But, back to the Armistice of November 11, 1918…This was between the Allies and Germany. There had already been three other Armistices leading up to November 11. These were between the Allies and Bulgaria, then the Ottoman Empire and, finally the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This effectively took them out of the war leaving Germany to be dealt with alone.

The war, however, continued in various other places with British and Commonwealth military personnel having to travel to Russia and the North West Frontier (India) long after the signing of the Armistice.

All of this was illuminated by Roland Wales, an author who was talking at an event I attended today at the Surrey History Centre. His new book is called Armistice and After and discusses post-WW1 Britain and the effects it had on society. It was an excellent talk by a very erudite writer.

It was the final session of an interesting day which included some silent black and white WW1 footage of Red Cross nurses (no actual fighting but some highly entertaining three-legged racing), a soundscape created in an attempt to artistically represent the war through sound and a presentation by a metal detector of a rare medal from 1914.

The footage was interesting and, thankfully, short, the soundscape was a bit wanky and the medal presentation was great…so I’ll go straight to that.

The medal was received by the High Sheriff of Surrey, Mr Jim Glover and a more entertaining man you’ll rarely meet. He took the medal on behalf of the Queen and then handed it on to the Surrey Archivist for safe keeping and, eventual display.

The Medal Circus – Jim Glover is in the pirate shirt and my boss, Kirsty, is at the extreme right

He then went on to explain what the High Sheriff was and why. He was very funny and it was most enlightening. It’s not a paid position, it’s held for a year and there’s no expenses claimed. He represents the monarch at official engagements and there’s a High Sheriff in every county. In fact, when I told Mirinda about Mr Glover, she told me that their academic board has a High Sheriff on it.

The ‘Medal Circus’ mentioned in the photo follows a conversation that took place behind me when the group was being photographed. Two old people were complaining that there was a circus going on and it was wasting everyone’s time. I thought their comments were unnecessarily rude and negative.

While talking about rudeness, I feel I have to mention the two old ladies sitting behind me, on the other side, who talked almost continuously throughout the whole event. Rude and inconsiderate.

Still, the whole afternoon was great and I enjoyed myself. I also tried a bit of that WW1 favourite: trench cake. This was a fruit cake that didn’t use eggs and was made specifically to be sent to the troops in the trenches at Christmas. The trench cake I tried was not 100 years old. One of the ladies had made some and brought it along. While not very moist, it was, nevertheless, quite tasty.

The rain, heralded by the thunder, poured down, letting up by the time I left. I did manage to get a bit damp but the true downpour did not start until I was safely back in the house.

Woking progress

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A Farnham builder

On December 22, 1909, an ice skating rink opened in Farnham. It was behind 68 Castle Street which, at the time, was a builder’s office. The builder who operated out of the office was a chap called Arthur George Mardon.

Arthur had come to Farnham from the West Indies. At the age of five he was brought to Ewshot, presumably by his parents. By 1881 he was living in Aldershot. It would appear that his father was in the Royal Engineers and all of his younger siblings were born in the UK.

By 1891, he had married Ellen Louisa Scarlett and was working as a carpenter. He had served his apprenticeship with Tompsett and Kingham, a well known and highly respected firm of Farnham builders and then gone on to work in Aldershot and London before returning to work at the Diamond building company at 68 Castle Street. 68 Castle Street was also at one time the offices of Hickley’s who I have written about here:

Eventually he decided he quite liked 68 Castle Street so he bought out Diamonds and took over in 1900. At the time he was working out of his house in Upper Hale.

Arthur was a formidable chap and he didn’t do things by half measures. By the time he moved into 68 Castle Street, he’d already built 70 or 80 houses in the neighbourhood. But he wasn’t satisfied just being a successful builder. He really wanted to be on the council. He wanted to be a mover and a shaker.

He stood first in 1902 but failed to get elected. In April 1906 he was finally successful.

Arthur George Mardon

He then managed to keep Farnham on the straight and narrow while also gaining a few council contracts. This included the ‘right’ to build an ice skating rink in the back of the premises at 68 Castle Street.

The skating rink was a huge success and soon had competition with another one in the town. As well as the rink, Mardon decided that the town needed squash and badminton courts. He was riding high and the money was rolling in.

Like a lot of councillors in Farnham, he was a Freemason, being accepted into the local lodge in May, 1903. He was, all round, successful and carried his council powers until at least 1934, with great alacrity and a belief in Farnham.

In 1911, for reasons that are not particularly clear, the Farnham builders Caesar Bros demolished the badminton courts and built instead Farnham’s first cinema, the Picture Palace. It seated 450 patrons and was accessed from Bear Lane. The next year the skating rink and squash court were acquired and the cinema capacity doubled to 1,000.

Then, at the beginning of The First World War, the property was given over to foreign soldiers for much needed billeting.

This is what 68 Castle Street looks like today. It’s now home to the Giggling Squid. Previously it was the Chinese restaurant, the Colony and Liberty, a dress shop.

The skating rink was down the alley below the ‘Zizzi’ sign

In 1938, Mardon made a deal with the council. If they agreed to give him a £200/year annuity then he would gift them Vernon House. The council agreed and the house is now the property of Farnham. He had purchased the house from Duncan Bethune with the intention of selling it on to a Mr Edward who wanted to turn it into a garage. Given the King Charles I legend attached to Vernon House, this change of use was never going to happen so Mardon, basically, was lumbered with it.

Eventually, Arthur George Mardon died in 1949. Sadly his only son, Daniel Arthur Mardon was not so lucky. He died on 02 February 1917 fighting for our freedom in France.

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Hidden carbs

After the miserable weather of yesterday, today was gloriously blue and dry. It was a pity Denise left yesterday.

Still, the weather was perfect for me given I had an early Talking Newspaper this morning. And so, happy and dry, I left the house at 8am.

After complaining that no one in Starbucks appeared to miss me while I was in Spain, Sue immediately asked where I’d been when I dropped in for my coffee this morning. There would have been a noticeable skip in my step afterwards if only I could skip.

I had a good team today with the ever reliable Nina and Tricia and the deliciously insane David S. In fact David started off in the manner he intended to continue in with his cryptic response to my query after his health.

Me: And how are you David?

David: I really have no idea.

Me: (laughing)

David : And I have a leaky tap in my bath!

But, as well as all the frivolity, there was a moment of panic when we realised the engineer, Pete was quite late.

This marks a new moment in my FATN career. I’ve never had an engineer not turn up.

I rang Pete, after ringing Tony for his number, and surprised him with the news that he was supposed to be with us in the studio. His one word response (“SHIT!”) more or less summed up his thoughts on the matter.

He claimed he’d written down the wrong edition. Whatever the reason we all had a jolly good laugh and waited for him to race over.

Meanwhile the other groups made a lot of mileage out of his no-show. It was all very funny.

After all was said and done, the recording went very well and basically, we finished at the time that we are scheduled to finish by.

And then I went home.

At home I decided to clean the fridge out and discovered something very disturbing.

Now call me simple but I figure that a bag of grated cheese will only have the one ingredient. Cheese. However, I was wrong.


Looks like I’ll have to stop being lazy and grate my own…without the potato.

It also shows how vigilant one has to constantly be.

And just because, here’s a short, odd little video of the mobile that Denise gave me for my birthday.

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Carrots on a train

Liverpool Street Station is presently in the grip of a frenzy of building. It’s noisy and crowded and a lot of the roads are blocked off. It’s difficult to describe just how awful it is. There’s Crossrail and a bloody great building gradually growing.

In case there was any doubt

I had a choice to go to Liverpool Street or to Shoreditch via the overground. Without any information I chose Liverpool Street. As it turned out that was a very bad choice. However, I then discovered that the Overground was using a rail replacement bus service so that may have been just as bad.

The reason I was in Shoreditch (for the first time ever) was to visit my nephew, Michael. Denise wanted to see him so we organised to have lunch in the pub he manages.

The Owl and the Pussycat is a marvellous pub. The typical old school London pub with wooden floors, tin pressed ceiling, beer garden, an excellent choice of beer, all the works. It also has a wonderful atmosphere, particularly on a Tuesday at lunchtime.

Michael has basically turned it round over the last seven months. I can’t vouch for the past having never been there before but it’s certainly brilliant now. If I lived locally, it would certainly be a favourite haunt.

Having had a delicious Caesar salad (and a couple of pints of Camden Town IPA – thanks, Mike) we then bid Michael goodbye and headed off for the Museum of London, passing an awful lot of graffiti and street art.

Fuzzy view

Some was good, some was bad and some was just very funny. Whatever they were, we saw a lot given the walk took us down many, many unfamiliar streets, hoping at every step to come across somewhere I knew.

Cheers, god!

A lot of steps, helped along by the Google Lady in My Pocket, slipped beneath our feet before I eventually recognised the Barbican and finally spotted the walkway into the MoL. Our feet would have breathed a sigh of relief if they’d had the capacity to breathe.

Smile while you walk

The first stop was the cafe then, once our feet had stopped screaming, we headed into the museum. Unfortunately we only had time to go from prehistory to the beginning of the Romans before we had to once more head out, this time for Holborn. And this time using the Tube rather than our poor feet.

We were meeting Mirinda for a tour of the college…finally. And it looked fantastic. I loved it. I even got to see Sarah who was busy trying to upload documents.

After an almost completely comprehensive tour, we head for Mirinda’s club for dinner. And Sarah joined us for a pre-dinner drink.

Our meal was lovely but, as these things do, it was soon over and we had to head off home. Mirinda hopped into a cab and headed for the flat while we ventured down to the Tube for the short hop to Waterloo then home…after a wait of half an hour.

The train trip home was nice and comfortable and a lot quieter than the trip in when I was tortured by a woman sat across the aisle from me, constantly crunching carrots.

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Early Decs

Today I returned to the gym having not been for two weeks. I was prepared for it to be difficult. I was prepared for it to make me work. I wasn’t prepared for it to be the same as it always is.

Something else I wasn’t prepared for was when a couple of the old ladies came up and accused me off slacking off for the last fortnight. I told them I’d been in Spain and they forgave me.

This is more than can be said for Starbucks. Normally when I’ve been away they wonder where I’ve been. Not this time. I don’t think they love me anymore.

Not that that was a problem this morning because, after the gym, I went to Nero’s where I met Denise.

Back at home we headed out for Guildford for a bit of a wander around. They were busy hanging Christmas decorations up the High Street which is always a bit depressing.

(BTW, Jenny, it is actually called High Street.)

Realising beer o’clock had been and gone, we decided to have some lunch in the delightful Three Pigeons pub. Sadly there was no pigeon on the menu so we asked for chicken and bacon salad.

My lunch was extra nice given it was washed down with a pint of TEA. Denise also had tea but had to go to great lengths to ensure it wasn’t beer.

After lunch we headed over to the castle making sure it was well before sunset so we didn’t get locked in again.

The beds were having their winter planting done making it look a lot different to when I was last there.

We then went through the museum along with about 270 small children dressed as Victorian urchins.

The Alice production we went to a few years ago has made a welcome return and a few bits and pieces were dotted around the museum. I also introduced Denise to the famous fire backs.

Eventually we’d had enough and wandered back to the Priory for the bus back – we timed it perfectly with the bus ready to go about two minutes later.

The poor bus driver was having a bad day. First up a passenger had nothing smaller than a £10 note which took all of his change then a car was parked in a bus stop. To cap it all, a woman at another bus stop only just signalled him forcing him to shove on the brakes at the last minute. It was quite a roller coaster ride home.

Back at the house we took Mirinda and the girls up the avenue of trees for a break…

…before I made pork with fennel for dinner which was eaten in a very hygge fashion.

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Normal service

Today was all about returning to normal. There was quite a lot of washing to do and leaves to rake. And the hippo bird bath was rank.

And, of course, we went and collected the girls.

I’ve had lots of excited dogs greet me over the years. All of them react in about the same way it tends to be just a matter of degree. It never really matters if it’s a day or a month, the reaction tends to be about the same. 

Today wins the excitement stakes. Freya, in particular, was so excited to see us that she was beside herself with joy. She kept making little squeaky noises because she wasn’t sure what else to do. Her tail almost wagged off. She wanted a hug but then wiggled so much she had to be put back down. It took her a while to calm down.

Emma was also overjoyed. She ran and ran from me to the car and back until I opened the car door and she saw Mirinda. She was so excited she actually spent some time standing on the centre bit between the front seats, Freya’s usual spot. Again she took a while to return to normal.

As soon as they entered the house they jumped on Denise then ran through the rooms at top speed, skidding and sliding all over the place. Their pleasure at being home was unconfined.

When I let them out the back door they immediately went and drank from the hippo bird bath. Then they chased invisible garden invaders up the back.

Denise and I then went shopping.

Starbucks was ridiculously crowded for a Sunday, making it singularly unpleasant. I really wished I’d suggested Nero’s instead.

We went shopping (again it was later than optimal so Waitrose was subsequently crowded) then walked home.

After lunch Mirinda and Denise took the girls to Thursley while I raked the leaves and tidied the kitchen ready for a Roast Lamb Assault. Denise was given the choice for dinner. She asked for a roast. She then had to choose the meat. She went for lamb. And that’s what I made.

Also, it was our first hygge meal so the tablecloth came out and all the candles. The day was so grey that the extension was transformed from dismal to rainbow.

It was a lovely day but I didn’t take any photos so here’s another one from Malaga yesterday.

What a star
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