Sunday, November 19, 2017

All Things Brighton Beautiful

Sorry! The title was Ann’s idea! I’ve clearly got competition!!!

Another one of our long(ish) weekends! This time, it’s a return to Brighton, where we haven’t visited for over ten years! The plan is to do as much as possible over the next few days, taking in as many of the local attractions as our legs and the weather will allow.

As is becoming a regular journey these days, when we’re heading south, we drove over to Bedford Station – so far, so normal, but unlike yesterday, we managed to actually get a parking space! Then it was simply a case of jumping on the next train to Brighton - the 10.10 - and letting the train take the strain. We came prepared: plenty to read, plenty to watch plus a cushion for the seats (they’re a particular type on these trains and not very ‘cheek-friendly’). As a result, we were totally ready for our two-and-a-half hour/twenty-or-so stops journey to the end of the line (literally!).

On arrival at the Station, just before 12.45, we took the short walk to the IBIS Hotel in Queen’s Street and after a lightning-fast check-in, we dumped our bags in our rather basic room (box 516), and enjoyed a quick cuppa…

Ibis is basic, but it has all the essentials

…and headed for the sea-front.

The Clock Tower

We don’t know Brighton that well, but it was soon clear that (apart from the nearby Clock-tower) the road where we’re staying (Queen’s Street) is the more in-loved part of the town – certainly not beautiful. Roads either side were actually very nice, with some attractive shops, but in our immediate locale, there were lots of empty premises, some in need of a lick of paint, some with an abundance of graffiti, and, the saddest part of all: a lot (and I do mean a lot) of people begging in the doorways.

On a more optimistic note, Brighton switched on their Christmas lights last night, so we’re looking forward to seeing those later! Weather-wise, it was pretty cold, but we were dressed so that we could have just as easily been recruited for the next walk to the North Pole! We must have stuck-out like a sore thumb as the locals were easy to spot – dressed in tee-shirts and in some cases, shorts too! Boy, they’re tough down here!!!

Pit-stop, Californian Style!

First stop was somewhere to grab a quick lunch. There was plenty of choice and I think we saw every known restaurant chain! The aptly named Tortilla selling Burritos and Tacos (in a Californian type of way) caught our eye - it looked busy and had a freshly cooked feel about it. Five minutes later we were sitting down and tucking in. Being a glutton in a previous life meant that I just had to choose to biggest Burrito going, and after managing to get it to the table, all I needed to do, was try and actually eat it. Pity then, I missed the helpful (and rather large) poster on the wall - ‘Eating your Burrito‘.

Surely it can’t be that difficult? So, I attempted to use the plastic cutlery that was clearly there only for display purposes – totally useless! Cutlery-deprived, I attempted to finger-wrestle this culinary creation and I’m pleased to report that it may have taken three times as long to eat, but I wasn’t aware of anyone on neighbouring tables (or indeed, walking past) being hit black-beans or salsa! I call that mission accomplished!

My Beast of a Burrito!

With ‘the beast’ conquered, it was off for a quick look along the sea-front taking-in the remaining pier…

We Do Like to be Beside the Seaside!

…before heading off to the Royal Pavilion, Brighton where we’d last visited in 2006. Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed anywhere in the building, but I did manage to sneak a few past the eagle-eyed ‘watchers’. Wow! What a place! I’d quite forgotten how over-the-top the interiors are. Certainly what George IV lacked in skinny-cut jeans, he made up for in look-at-me-aren’t-I-loaded type of decor in all the big rooms – especially the Banqueting Room. As they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it’ – and he was King Flaunt!!

The Royal Pavilion – So OTT!

After a cheeky cream-tea, we took the slow walk back to the Hotel for a few hours of‘feet-up’ before our next jaunt.

And our next next jaunt was at 7pm, meeting up with our good friends Ian and Sharon at Days Chinese Buffet Restaurant in East Street. It was only a short, twenty-minute walk from the Hotel and we walked briskly! It was good to see Brighton all lit-up, but boy, was it cold!!

Day’s Restaurant

Day’s was heaving! and some!! In fact the layout and volume of trade was very much like the Chinese place we went to with Richard and Pauline – The Mandarin Buffet – back in October. The food was excellent here too, although our seating position, meant that occasionally, the outside temperature hit us, every time some inconsiderate soul left the entrance door open!

It was good to see Ian and Sharon and we had plenty of time to catch-up with each other’s goings-on. We’ve agreed to get together earlier next year and we’re all looking forward to that very much.

As we were leaving, we were approached by a guy (with a beer glass in hand) offering us 2-for-1 on cocktails at a nearby Bar. Not sure why he singled us out, but I convinced him that I was under-age, and he politely left (obviously, he was either drunk or blind.. or both!)

We said our goodbyes to Ian and Sharon and headed back to the Hotel. By now, of course, all the Christmas lights were on, and they looked fantastic with some very innovative displays using LED lighting.

And that was our day done! Highlight for tomorrow is the ‘trip on the famous (or, if your a local, INfamous) ‘BA i360’ – a rather advanced moving observation tower near the seafront. We learned that it’s INfamous because of how often it breaks down and gets stuck! Oh joy!

The weather forecast today is good in the morning but plenty of rain after midday. So the plan is to enjoy the i360 and get some great photos and then find somewhere INSIDE for the afternoon. We’ve also booked a table at the local(ish) Ginger Dog for the evening – they’re part of a small chain of local(ish) ginger-related eateries that include The Ginger Pig, The Ginger Man and The Ginger Fox. I see a pattern emerging here and am looking forward to ordering some Ginger Beer with my meal!

First stop today is the walk to the ‘BA Terminal’ to get the 10.30 ‘flight’ on the i360. This unique attraction, apart from winning the overuse of inverted commas award, boasts a 360 degree view of Brighton. One other massive claim to fame – not only for Brighton, or even England, is that it’s the tallest moving observation platform IN THE WORLD!

All Aboard! Almost!!

It was all very ‘aircraft-ey’ in that there was a Departure Lounge and all the staff were dressed in BA uniforms. They even had a themed shop too (Kerrching!) where we picked up some drinks coasters for Lee. Our ‘flight’ was called and we, together with quite a few other curious souls, ‘boarded' the flight’.

Don’t look down! …so we looked up!

On-board and comfortably seated, after the obligatory ‘Pearl Fisher Song’ song (relevant!) followed by some Jazzy stuff (not relevant!) we slowly ascended up on the central spindle. It was very smooth and neither of us felt it moving – just how I like it! Actually, it was very relaxing and there was plenty of space to wander around and take in the views.

And we were soon at the top admiring scenes of Brighton where even the greyness of today’s weather couldn’t spoil the amazing 360 degree aspect. Lovely!

Brighton Beautiful!

…but ‘green screen’ technology helped this one!

Then it was a return to terra-firma and back out into the November air, which by now was of the damp variety. We wandered up to the posh shops of Brighton – The Lanes – and then took refuge in Brown’s to dry out and to grab a light-bite.

Brown’s Brunch!
By now, the weather had really deteriorated. Not only was it even colder, it was wetter too, so we headed for somewhere under cover. Opened in 1998, Churchill Square was the obvious destination, and we spent quite a bit of time looking round the shops there.

What No Children in Need Activity!?

Given that it was a Saturday… and a Saturday close to Christmas, the number of people reminded me why we don’t often go shopping on a Saturday – to say it was packed would have been a massive understatement! Still, we managed to bag a few bargains as well as finally nailing Ann’s present for our Anniversary! Perfect!!

One thing we also noticed whilst wandering around the town was that was absolutely no sign of any Children in Need activity. Considering this is THE weekend for this very worthwhile event, we were quite surprised there was no-one bathing in beans or even rattling a bucket.

We took the short walk back to the Hotel to recharge batteries (phones as well as our own!) before heading out for the Ginger Dog tonight for our evening meal.

Well, the walk of (just) 1.3 miles felt more like 133 -  no idea why! However, it was more than made up for by the warm welcome, excellent service and fantastic food. I opted for the rather unusual Chicken and Trotter Pie that was so full of flavour, I thought my taste-buds were going to explode. Probably the most flavoursome pie I’ve EVER tasted! (Sorry Ann, sorry Mum!)

And after it was all over, we walked the return journey back to the Hotel. Luckily, it seemed easier, even though the weather had now changed for the worst and it was raining. A short stop at the local Tesco set us up for brekky tomorrow, and we then spent the rest of the evening watching TV.

It’s been a great stay – good hotel, good location and good to catch-up with friends. Even the i360 didn’t break down!!

We’re heading home tomorrow after breakfast, and in a case of ‘perfect timing’, the occasional sniffles I’d been experiencing have now turned into a full-blown ‘something’ that’s knackered my voice and given me a really bad cough.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

St Albans 2017

We drove over to Bedford today and planned to hop on the train for the short ride to St Albans. However, Fate had other plans for us as the car-park was completely full and we couldn’t find anywhere else nearby with a long enough parking period. Instead we braved the M1 and drove to St Albans, out of necessity. We were due to meet up with Peter J, but he's not so well these days and felt he couldn’t make the trip – so just us two this time.

The reason for St Albans? We’ve been wanting to visit the town for quite a few years because of the lovely Cathedral and the the fact that the town itself is really old! Potentially, there was a lot to see here, but for today, we narrowed it down to just the Cathedral.

After a reasonable journey on the motorway, we arrived at our destination. parking again, was an immediate problem, but we shoe-horned the Sportage into a space just opposite the Cathedral for the maximum allowed period of two hours. From thereon in, it was all a bit of a rush, but we managed to do everything we planned – just!

Wow! What a stunning piece of architecture both inside and out – we were blown away by its beauty.

With the cultural part now completed, it was time to look to the future. With the revamp of our bathroom in mind for sometime soon (ish!), we thought we’d drop in C P Hart – the bathroom specialist in the town where we sourced 99% of our stuff for our refreshed downstairs loo, this time last year. They were very helpful and after a short discussion, they’re going to draw up a few plans for how the bathroom might look.

Then it was off for lunch at Lussmann's in the town centre, where they did us proud (in spite of having a party of an extra 100-or-so also eating at the same time!)

All-in-all a great day where I think we made best use of the parking difficulties in-and-around the town. Next time we’re here, we’ll park in the multi-storey (that we didn’t see until we were leaving) so that we get more time to explore this fascinating place.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

DIY and Me! :)

DIY and I go together like Morecambe and Cream and Peaches & Wise!
So, I deliberately stepped outside my comfort zone today and dropped in on my friend Chris. The plan was to lend a hand with his latest garden project. This required sawing, screwing, drilling, measuring and aligning – all the ingredients of a typical DIY job – involving some lovely ‘big-boy’ toys!

Big Boy Toy!
Four hours later, there had been no major problems, no missing limbs – just a couple of very smug blokes admiring their creation!
We even got time for lunch where Chris, conjured up some homemade Stilton and Broccoli soup helped along with a spice-mix that I’d never heard of before – the mysteriously named Zhoug!

The it was off to help out Trish bluetooth her shiny new iPhone to her car. That task was much easier, and it was sorted in a flash! Home by 4 where Ann had prepared a full roast – yummy! Then it was out for a walk, dropping-in on Jo and Janet on the way back before settling down back at ours to catch Sunday’s first episode of BBC’s production of Howard’s End.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tablet Coaching: 1-to-1s

Auto cross-posted from my Wordpress Blog:


With the majority of the Class either on holiday or off sick, I decided to carry-out some 1-to-1s with the two pupils who attended today.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Laptop Coaching: What’s New in Windows 10?

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Today we looked at the recent ‘Fall Creators Update’ for Windows 10 and discussed the changes

Sunday, November 12, 2017

82, not out!

Not content with enjoying ourselves at Ian’s 70th birthday celebration yesterday, today, we laid on a birthday lunch for Lee’s 82nd!

Pick up from Yeoman’s Court was just after 11am (carefully avoiding the planned Armistice celebrations in Burton Latimer) and then we headed back to ours for the birthday lunch. But, before lunch, there was the more vital activity of the present-opening ceremony!

…revealing a glittery plant, an LED battery powered lantern and the two-DVD box set of 80s Detective series, Shoestring.

Lunch then followed featuring all Lee’s faves – Roast Chicken, Roast Potatoes, Green Beans, Stuffing followed by Profiteroles!

A great day for Lee then, especially after her recent (and frequent) trips to KGH. We dropped her home (this time REALLY avoiding the Armistice event that I learned was in the afternoon in BL) at just after 3 and then we went onto Sean’s for our final visit this year to get his garden ready for Winter.

Back home by just after 4, we rewarded ourselves with a cuppa and a cheeky mince pie before settling down for the rest of the evening watching TV – the Strictly results and then Blue Planet II.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

70, not out!

We celebrated Ian’s 70th tonight, together with 30-or-so friends and family at his place. His birthday had been on the previous Monday and this significant get-together had been organised by his other half, Ann - with military precision – and been in our diary for a year! With plenty of food and drink, some familiar faces from the past, most of the family in attendance (complete with grand-children) it was a great event, and we caught up with some faces that we haven’t seen for nearly 20 years! Hard to believe that I’ve known Ian for just over 30 – where have the years gone??!! By coincidence, it turned out to be Ann’s birthday on the night too! – but the spotlight was most definitely on Ian, and I think that’s how Ann preferred it!

And if that wasn’t enough celebration for a Saturday evening, we dropped into Rosi’s to catch the tail-end of another in the gang’s pre-Xmas ‘eatathons’. We arrived just before midnight, and the get-together was in full swing. We’d missed all the food (well, mostly – Rosi did manage to conjure some of her spicy chicken for me to try!), but it was good to see everyone again and we were soon in full gossip-mode.

Before we knew it, it was 1.30am and therefore our cue to leave. In year’s gone-by, the party would have carried on, but I guess we’re all a little older now, and our exit saw everyone else grab their coats too. Trish and John taxied Tom and Julie, whilst we did the same for Paul and Karen – leaving David and Rosi the herculean task of sorting out the washing-up!

We hit the pillow at 2am!

Next neighbours’ ‘eatathon’ is at Tom and Julie’s on the 2nd December, then it’s Trish and John’s on the 9th – and I feel I need to get into some sort of training for these!