Laugh Land, the happiest kingdom of them all

Peter Vaughn died today. He was 93 and was the brilliant Tom Franklin in Chancer, a TV series that Nicktor and I watched a few years ago. He has also been in Game of Thrones as Maester Aemon, a blind character at Castle Black. Interestingly his eyesight had been failing for quite a few years. When asked to what he owed his success in the industry he said good wine, beer and having a lot of fun. What a guy.

After posting the photo of the Marlborough Head yesterday, I realised that I haven’t included an image of the old greengrocer shop in Downing Street. It’s where I would occasionally buy my fruit and veg. It closed because the sons of the owner didn’t want to continue the business after their father retired. He sold the shop.

The shop is almost at the end of Downing Street so I rarely see it but I made a special trip this morning so I could get a photo.

It’s the shop in the middle with the black trim. It is an interior design shop for Claire Laughland. There’s a sign and small shop called Claire Laughland at the Bourne (I see it every time we drive back from Frensham and think it’s ‘Laugh Land’ rather than ‘Lachlan-d’). I have no idea if it’s still there or whether Claire has decided to open another branch in town. I’ll have to pay attention next time we return from Frensham.

Anyway, I walked Mirinda to the station this morning…actually that should read I walked Mirinda ALMOST to the station this morning. By the time we reached South Street, my knee felt leaden, as if it weighed more than the rest of my body. It was very difficult and weird. I later attributed it to all the up and down ladder stuff I’d been doing with the lights.

I stress that my knee is not in pain and it’s not a return to the Cloud Machine induced injury.

Still, I couldn’t continue to the station because my speed had been drastically reduced so I dragged myself off to Starbucks while Mirinda walked the rest of the way on her own.

After a good sit down with a latte, I was fine again. I went to the post office, managing to dodge the crowds, slotting into a trough between the peaks, and posted the calendars for this year without fuss or flutter. Then, at home, I Skyped with mum for over an hour and a half.

The rest of the day I sort of pottered around the house (going easy on my knee). This included the very risky business of washing the new tablecloth. Okay, the guy who sold it to us said it was easy to wash but you can never believe these sole traders who you’re never going to see again. It’s no skin off their nose if the tablecloth shrinks or fades or turns grey. It’s not like you’re going back to demand a refund.

As it turns out, he was right. I washed it on a very gentle cycle with not a skerrick of hot water and I didn’t tumble dry it, draping it over the furniture instead for the drying. And it looks as good as new (if I ignore the drops of candle wax) apart from a few wrinkles. I suppose if I was a crazy person I’d iron the whole thing but it’s not that bad so probably not.

While I was resting my knee, I did take the girls to the very foggy park for a bit of chasing the ball action but I didn’t over-do it. (By the way, the fog didn’t lift all day.)

I’m not going to the gym tomorrow, just in case but I reckon my knee is fine now.

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Raise a glass

Hannah Dadds died today five years ago. Hannah was the very first female Tube train driver in London.

Possibly more important, 93 years ago, Wadsworth’s 6X was born. So happy birthday to the best beer in the world. Sad to say I didn’t have any 6X at home so had to make do with London Pride.

Mirinda was working from home today getting as much hygge as she could. After the gym, I took my time in Farnham.

After leaving the bus I thought it best that I took a photo of the Marlborough Head. It was the victim of a compulsory purchase order as part of the never-ending East Street Redevelopment Debacle. The idea is to keep the building but change the usage. Probably a collection of designer shops or, ironically, a pub.

Because they’re just working inside, there’s no hoarding or scaffolding. All the ground floor windows, however, have been filled in with sheets of perforated steel. I assume it’s to prevent the glass being smashed but it gives the place the air of desolation one normally gets in more deprived areas. I’m wondering how long it will be before the steel is covered in graffiti.

Marlborough Head

Marlborough Head

Given I’m posting the calendars tomorrow I decided to pop into the post office for the customs stickers and air mail stamps. The place was packed. It was like a crowded tube train only worse. Let’s hope it’s better tomorrow when I actually have to spend some time in there.

I also went to Robert Dyas for some removable hooks for the lights to go across the back sliding doors. Actually, I have plenty of hooks and really only need the sticky bits. Unfortunately, you can only buy the sticky bits in packs of four. It worked out cheaper to buy packs of the hooks and sticky bits. That’s a bit silly.

I was stood at the Borough waiting for the bus when it turned the corner. I walked towards the stop and stood in line. When the bus doors opened, a couple of ladies approached from the opposite direction. I gestured they should get on first.

LADY: Ah, the Age of Chivalry is alive and well I see.
ME: Barely alive and not so well!
LADY: Oh dear. Here, let me give you a hand.

We were both joking and had a jolly good laugh.

At home, I set to fixing up the lighting mistake I made yesterday. I swapped out a set on my office, replacing them with the remaining icicle lights and threaded the remaining acorn coloured lights through the Higgledy Piggledy Palisade.

It’s difficult to make them all out but this is what it looks like from the kitchen with everything on.


I’ll try for a better photo tomorrow with camera and tripod.

For dinner, I made berenjenas and they were the best yet! I’m getting very good at them.

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The big walk

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been on a walk with Mirinda and the girls. About three months I would guess. Today I took the first tentative steps to rectify this unhappy situation.

After walking into town to shop and having lunch, we set off for Frensham Little Pond. We figured this was the flattest, easiest walk for my first after so long. And what a choice. Everything was so beautiful in the late Autumn sun. It really makes me realise how much I’ve missed it.


As it was we walked the shortest route (clockwise and staying by the pond edge) but I found it perfect. It was also very cold with thick ice covering half of the pond.

That's ice on the water

That’s ice on the water

Afterwards, sitting in the car, I realised my knee was a bit stiff but that’s to be expected given I’ve not had any extended walks for ages. (I’m not counting that awful walk in Ronda.) From now on we’re going to try one big walk a week until my knee is completely better. I might also avoid Hankley for a bit.

Given this was a cause for celebration, we stopped off at the Holly Bush for a drink on the way home. They were doing a roaring trade.


I said to Mirinda, as we sat in the cosy warmth of the pub, that these were the things I’d really miss about England if we were to leave. Sunday afternoons in December, the countryside and country pubs.

I also put up most of the Christmas lights. Actually I thought I’d put them all up but then realised I’d made a mistake which I’ll rectify tomorrow.

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Soapy snow

I had to wait in this morning for a very special delivery. For the last two weeks Mirinda has been asking when we could get a Christmas tree and I refused to entertain the idea until December. This being the first weekend in December, I ordered for a tree to be delivered today.

(By the way, the abbreviation Xmas, which we see everywhere this time of year especially in relation to trees, comes from the letter ‘X’ which is the first letter in ‘Christ’ in ancient Greek. I thought it was a lazy American thing we’d had foisted on us. Pronounced Chi, it was used as a secret symbol in ancient times for those people who didn’t want to be killed for their belief in their imaginary friend. How they managed to tell each other about it when it was all very secret is a mystery…unless they used Twitter.)

The company delivering the tree have an excellent system for letting their customers know when the tree is being delivered. It’s a tried and tested system that never fails to work. They tell you nothing. They don’t confirm it is arriving let alone what time. This meant I was in the unenviable position of waiting in for a tree that I assumed was turning up but had to evidence for it happening.

Anyway, all was well and the tree delivery was made at 11am. The driver was a rather gruff and grumpy chap who was annoyed that he couldn’t turn around at the top of the road. I told him how most trucks do it but he brushed me aside by saying his van was very long. In order to demonstrate the length, he’d parked across Dave and Gail’s driveway as well as ours. As soon as he stepped out of his van, Dave hopped into his car and asked to be let out. This meant a bit of to-ing and fro-ing before he could hand me the tree.

He then proceeded to reverse all the way back to the main road.

Mirinda arrived back from guitar class shortly after it arrived and helped me secure it in our tree stand. I then went up to the attic to retrieve the 326 boxes of decorations, lights and general festive stuff.

Mirinda had to go into Farnham after lunch (to see the optician) so we both climbed into Max and drove into town.

I sat in Starbucks (which was the most crowded I’d ever seen it) while she had her test. I was then texted to go and help her pick out a pair of glasses. This is always a good idea when you’re very sort sighted.

We then decided to have a peek into India Jane. A surprise awaited us outside the shop as kids frollicked in soapy snow. It was a bit odd…but did look like snow. Sort of.


It did look a bit weird seeing kids with soap suds in their hair after the machine was turned off.

Then, in India Jane, I was surprised to discover that I needed a magnifying glass held by a hare – I like to think of it as a March hare, obviously. The sales assistant who served me said that she thought it was so quirky she’d bought one for her boyfriend, an architect. She claimed that his home office used to look very professional and technical and dull but with the addition of a hare with a magnifying glass was instantly interesting. I told her that every time I looked through it, I’d think of her boyfriend. Mirinda thought that that sounded very strange.

I should explain that I have found the need for a magnifying glass on various occasions when researching or just trying to read serial numbers or Chinese instructions printed too small for unaided eyes. I have a lovely antique map reading glass but it’s not very good when handheld. And so, the magnifying glass. It is presently sitting in the middle of the dining table along with St James of the Pickle Forks.


Most of the rest of the day was spent dressing the tree with the numerous decorations we’ve collected over the years. This always takes longer than expected because, as we get older, we tend to forget some of them. Mirinda reckons we should photograph each one and write a short description of its provenance. Perhaps we’ll do that when we pack them away…though it would take a lot of the guesswork out of it.

The table was full when we started

The table was full when we started

By the time I had to start dinner, the tree was complete with Madonna looking down over us all. We accidentally placed the tree beneath a single spot which not only lit it up beautifully but also cast a wonderful pine needle shadow on the tiles.


Tomorrow I’ll tackle the lights.

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The file store at work is divided into rolling cabinets which contain shelves which hold file boxes full of files. The files on the shelves are organised in numerical order going down, the lowest number being at the very end and top. This makes a series of columns. The first one, right at the very top, starts in around 1852 and continues towards the present day at the other end.

The only reason I explained that (and I’ve probably explained it before) is because today marked the beginning of the final column. I hasten to add that this isn’t the final set of objects in the Shipping Gallery decant but the end of my journey backwards from halfway.

Originally the work was divided in half because there was to be two of us working on them. The other person didn’t last very long – I think they wound up sometime in 1913 – and the Objects have just waited for me to finish my journey into the past. That’s not to say it’ll be any time soon. I still have quite a few Objects to complete.

While I’ve really enjoyed working with the beginnings of marine engineering I must say I’m getting a bit sick of paddle wheels. The Science Museum has an incredibly large collection of paddle wheel models. I’m surprised there can be so many different paddle wheels. It’s not like there’s a lot of variation…unlike propellers.

Mind you, had I not been researching paddle wheels, I’d not have discovered Archibald Robertson who was a Ship Carver. Neither Nick at Work nor I knew what a Ship Carver was. I quickly found out that it was the person who carved all the fancy stuff on wooden ships including but not exclusively, the figurehead.

Irritatingly there were two other Archibald Robertsons alive at the same time and the other two were more well known, making references to the ship carver not so simple. Add to that the fact that all three were born in Scotland and moved to Liverpool and the problems just multiply.

Still, I managed to find a bit of information and created a reasonable People record for Archie the Carver.

On the way home, I noticed that the Natural History Museum ice skating rink was doing a roaring trade.


Meanwhile, in the extension, there was a lot of management chat and puppy fussing going on.

Interestingly, Emma made a friend. Emma the Cockerpoo spent most of the day with Emma from Marketing. This included sitting on her lap helping her with her meeting contributions.

L-R: Rowena, Will, Sarah, Ben, don't know, Graham, Emma & Emma

L-R: Rowena, Will, Sarah, Ben, Ian, Graham, Emma & Emma

Apparently the meeting was an enormous success and my food was tucked into. And, while most of the quiche Lorraine was eaten, there was a slice left for me to try when I arrived home. And a lot of cheese.



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Cooking up a storm

Manuel died today. Poor Andrew Sachs, who’d been suffering from dementia for a number of years, passed away. Although he did get quite a lot of coverage on Radio 4, it didn’t come close to competing with Fidel Castro’s of the other day.

I have to say that I enjoyed the Andrew Sachs’ anecdotes a lot more than the Castro ones. Andrew made us laugh, entertained us and thoroughly enjoyed his life. Castro almost destroyed a lot of the planet. Yes, I understand why one is more important than the other it’s just a pity the news had them mixed up.

Talking of mixing, I was at feverish work in the kitchen all day today, readying the place for the big summit tomorrow. I had soup to make, quiches and dips to prepare…all manner of foodstuffs. So much so that the house smelled of savoury delight all day.

First up came the pastries for the quiches. They were quickly prepared and put in the fridge to chill. Then the soup (roast veg and chicken) started off with the veg slowly roasting in the oven. It was then the quiche filling and cooking. Salmon first…

Salmon and dill quiche with potato pastry

Salmon and dill quiche with potato pastry

…quickly followed by the quiche Lorraine. I’ve never made a quiche Lorraine before but I thought it turned out pretty good. Just a pity I’ll not get to taste it.

The first Chez Gaz quiche Lorraine

The first Chez Gaz quiche Lorraine

It was then onto the dips: tzatziki, hummus, special Chez Gaz mixed olive and chorizo tapas, to name but a few. I didn’t count how many times I washed up but it was a lot.

By the time Mirinda arrived home (quite late as it turned out) I had everything prepared and sealed with Happy Wrap in the fridge and the house looking spotless.

I was knackered, but it was a good day. Now, let’s hope the meeting goes off successfully.

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Panno play

Yesterday, in Starbucks, I was surprised by Silvi, an ex-barista who left a number of years ago to give birth. I remember her being incredibly pregnant when she finally left and, I think, she had the baby the following week.

I was standing in the queue when she tapped me on the shoulder and said hi. We then had a jolly good chat about her first then second son. (Actually she said she had two small children at home and I suggested it was three if she included her husband who doesn’t seem to understand what she does all day.) They had decided to have their second child as soon as they could after the first in order to get it over and done with. Sounded like a good idea to me!

Anyway, she is doing very well (naturally she showed me a photo of her boys about which I made the appropriate noises) and looking forward to when she can return to the world of adults in due course.

Then, this morning I was sitting in Starbucks when Jo walked in holding her baby daughter. Jo is also an ex-barista who left to give birth to her fourth child. They already had three boys and Jo insisted she wasn’t going to stop until they’d had a girl. Fortunately the fourth was female.

I’m wondering if the next time I’m Starbucks I’ll run into Jade, another ex-barista who left to have a baby.

* * * * * *

It was another beautiful day so I thought it was ideal for cleaning the outside of the ceiling lantern. It’s a pity I didn’t have my ice skates. I’d decided I was going to use the high pressure hose to scrape off the mucky green stuff that comes from somewhere unknown.

I managed to get the big yellow beast of a machine out the Green Room window, plugged it in and turned it on. I then had to get the hose up there as well. I decided rope was the answer.

I tied the hose and hooked the rope over the exhaust pipe that hangs out of the wall at a reasonable height. I turned the water on and headed back upstairs.

I hauled up the hose and connected it, turned on the compressor and waited for it to reach the required pressure. I then pointed the hose and prepared for a great blast…nothing but a dribble came out the end. I tried a few times but there was nothing but a dribble. It was very disappointing.

It didn’t take long for me to realise it was because the water was frozen in the hose and the tap. It was so frozen that when expanding, it had snapped the connection off the tap. This was not good but, fortunate I found it before the big thaw.

I packed everything up, turned the water off, put the beast away and filled a bucket with warm water, dish washing detergent and headed back onto the roof with the mop. It was then just a case of slowly destroying the mop head while I gripped anything a little more solid than the ice underfoot.

The rest of the day was spent tidying ahead of a Management Meeting being held in the extension on Friday. It’s remarkable how much longer it takes when you’ve been nursing a knee injury since August and haven’t been as dedicated to housework as normal. Max was the worst.

Eventually, it was all looking pretty good which just leaves the cooking tomorrow.

* * * * * *

While in the park with the dogs I had a bit of a play with the panorama function on my phone. I quite like this one:

Panno Plus

Panno Plus

I also snapped a shot of one of my favourite trees which you can only really see once the leaves have fallen from the trees all around it.


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Shower saga

On November 13 I wrote an email to Dave the Builder. The temperature in the shower would not progress beyond tepid. To say it was pathetic was, itself pathetic.

The strange thing was that the water tap in the basin on the other side of the bathroom was as hot as hot could be. It was all a bit strange but I figured that because Dave had organised the bathroom install (albeit two years ago) that his plumbers would be more likely to know what the problem was.

Dave forwarded my email to Matt the Plumber. And I heard nothing for a few days. Eventually I emailed Dave again who told me he was very sorry and thought the plumbers had sorted it out and that he was presently in Sri Lanka on holiday. I then had a text from Jem the Other Plumber saying they’d ordered the part they needed from the bathroom shop and that it was still under warranty.

I then heard nothing for ages. Frustrated (and sick of having to go to the gym for a decent temperature shower) I decided to contact another plumber, willing to start the whole process again. I now knew that it was a part in the shower water flow handle which controlled the heat and cold. I could at least tell another plumber what the problem was. I went as far as emailing one I found on Check-a-Trade. I then heard from Dave again.

Matt thought that Jem had contacted me and vice versa but they had now ordered the part and were waiting for delivery. They had hassled the bathroom shop who, in turn, had hassled the supplier of the part. Meanwhile I had heard from the ‘new’ plumber. He was on holiday and apologised for not getting back to me.

Then, today, I was just returning from the park, dogs walking obediently next to me, when a van pulled up at the end of our road. I called the dogs to stop and wait for the danger to pass. It was then that I realised that the passenger in the van was waving at me. I waved back because I’m that sort of guy before I realised it was Jem.

After they parked up he told me he was concerned that I was just leaving for a walk rather than just finishing. He then proceeded to tell me about a friend of his who has just become U2’s sound engineer. He told me that because his friend used to live in our road.

Three of them then piled into the house, turned the water off and headed upstairs. It took them about 15 minutes. The thermostat in the tap control thingy had broken. Jem took all the credit for installing it though it appeared to me he just told the other two what to do. Matt seemed to think this was pretty accurate.

As they were leaving Matt warned me that the water was now very, very hot and I should be careful not to scald myself. He was right. The temperature was fantastic when I later had a shower.

What a rigmarole. That will be the last time I do that!

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Terrace terrorist

I tackled the terrace today. I moved everything, cleaned it up then put stuff back. I moved a couple of the trees around (following explicit instructions) and washed the table top. There was about four barrows full of leaves and compost to wheel up the back as well as various hospital plants.

It was the perfect day for it. The sun was bright, the sky was deepest blue, the air was still. I toiled away, the puppies occasionally getting in the way (or ‘helping’ as they call it). As a reward for their ‘help’ I took them to the park after lunch.

Park panno

Park panno

I decided to try walking in Badgers Wood today. I haven’t managed it since my knee because the ground is terribly uneven. So I decided to try it when the uneven ground is covered in leaves. It was fine and made a pleasant change though Emma wasn’t happy that I wouldn’t throw the ball.

Badgers Wood

Badgers Wood

We then continued on to the castle.

We saw a lot of dogs including a manic cocker spaniel called Ned…or Ted. He was very keen on little Freya – he ignored Emma after she ignored him – and kept chasing her. Freya has a habit of rolling over, making herself as small as possible, when being chased by a dog that’s faster than her. It means she doesn’t get very far and, usually, I have to go and pick her up. It’s always very funny if somewhat frustrating for Freya.


I forgot to report on the new shop in Farnham. It’s a home decorating chain called Vinegar Hill. It’s in the Borough, opposite the Bush and between WH SMiths and the Nationwide. It opened about a month ago.

Vinegar Hill

Vinegar Hill

It will probably do a lot better than the stupid Evitonni of a few years ago…which is now Poundland.

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Bitten by Bella

So, today I was standing in Starbucks, chatting to Grace, when, suddenly, a grey Staffie leapt at me and clamped her jaws around my hand. It was a bit of a shock.

Fortunately I knew the Staffie and she was just playing with my hand.

Her name is Bella and we see her in the park every now and then. In the park I see her with the husband of the woman who had her in Starbucks. Bella always comes over to say hello to the girls but just adores humans and will usually devote all her attention on me. She is ten months old and a bunch of wiggle. I’m not generally that keen on Staffies but Bella is ridiculously cute and always so happy.

I really love the fact that people can now bring dogs into Starbucks. It’s such a shame that it’s not always been the case, especially when I had Day-z with me after Carmen died. I can still see her mournful expression while she waited for me at the outside table.

Being a Sunday, I had to walk in and back but, it would appear that my knee is almost completely better.

The path into Farnham looking a bit gloomy

The path into Farnham looking a bit gloomy

Sadly the same can’t be said for poor Mirinda who seems to have caught it off me. Subsequently she spent the day off her knee, embracing hygge to the max.

To be honest, neither of us did much of anything and we had lamb chops for dinner.

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