Sunday, May 28, 2017

Return to Canon’s Ashby

It was off to National Trust’s Canon’s Ashby today to meet up with Ian and Ann. With a communal picnic arranged and a pukka parking spot for their motor-home just outside the main car-park, we had all the ingredients of a perfect day!

We haven’t been here since (we think) since the early 80s, and (my) Ann thought it would be a good idea to recreate the photograph of me sitting on the steps in the Garden in nineteen-eighty-something. It took a few attempts to get the pose right, but we didn’t do a bad job!

The weather was just perfect and combined with the fact that it was also a Bank Holiday,  it didn’t take long for the place to start to fill up. It was quite simply perfect wandering about weather.

As the House didn’t open until 1pm, we started off looking around the Gardens…

…and it didn’t disappoint! Everything was maintained to a very high standard!


Then it was lunch-time. Both Anns had co-ordinated the components of the picnic and we were soon tucking-into pork pie, potato salad, sausage rolls, prawns and much more – all washed down wine, ginger beer (lashings of), sparkling water and Beck’s Blue. And if that wasn’t enough, it was all followed by Profiteroles and Fruit Salad. The gorgeous weather combined with the perfect seating area just to the rear of their motor-home meant that this was an pit-stop before the afternoon session – but it was also the perfect combo for maybe lazing in the sun and falling asleep! – Ah well, maybe next time!!!

Suitably stuffed, our afternoon’s activities took us on a short walk to Canons’ Ashby Church – St Mary’s. Once a Priory, it suffered in the hands of Henry VIII’s (ahem!) ‘review’ and now is a lot smaller in size having lost the majority of its original structure. It still looked solid enough as a Church and there was plenty to see inside.

Our final stop was obviously the House itself. Built in the 1500s from the masonry from the fallen Priory, it was inherited in the 1800s by by John Dryden aged just 19! - lucky bugger! (good article HERE) but was eventually acquired by the National Trust in 1981 after it had lay, deteriorating, through much of the 20th century.

After the grandeur of the Gardens, I was expecting the inside of the House to be similarly impressive (I certainly couldn’t recall any detail form my trip here in the 80s!). As it turned out, the interiors were mostly quite lack-lustre. They were still interesting to look at, but they were mostly all very ‘ordinary’ – no highly decorated ceilings, no massive chandeliers nor impressive paintings.

Not that there’s anything wrong in this, but it wrong-footed me a bit where the most impressive room, by way of exception, was the Library with its gazillions of books (all arranged with enough precision to keep anyone with any degree of OCD very satisfied!).

We finished our day, as we did with lunch, positioned behind the Motor Home and enjoyed a well-earned cuppa. After another hour enjoying the sun, we said our goodbyes and headed for the now almost still completely full car-park.

It had been a great day, although I’m surprised/disappointed that I didn’t recall more from our first visit. I was more than pleased to have re-created the 80s photo though!

Another great day out with great friends!

All the above photos and more without any of my chat are HERE.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

First Visit: The Marquess of Exeter

We headed off to The Marquess of Exeter in Lyddington tonight to meet up with Mick and Jane S. The Pub/Restaurant/Hotel boasts: “One of the finest restaurants, pubs and hotels in Rutland” – so expectations were high!

On one of the hottest days of the year so far, what could be better than taking the XKR out for Summer evening spin and enjoying a meal with friends in an English ‘local’. Ann was convinced we’d been to this Pub before, but as we arrived and headed for the car-park, it all seemed very unfamiliar (and we soon realised that had in fact been to The Old White Hart just down the road).

Perfect timing as Mick and Jane had arrived just seconds before us! We strolled into a more-or-less deserted restaurant and were quickly shown to our seats. We were soon perusing the (slightly restricted) menu after ordering our drinks.

There was also a ‘Specials’ board – and it certainly was special if Fish was your fave (as everything on it was fish-based). Eventually, Ann and I settled for the ‘Lamb to share’ option. There was about a twenty-minute wait, but at least that showed it wasn’t being defrosted and microwaved!

..and it gave me a chance to enjoy my Guinness (note to the Menu designer – there are two Ns in Guinness!)

When the lamb arrived, we weren’t disappointed! The supplied carving knife and fork was redundant as just the thought of what was on offer seemed to allow the meat to fall off the bone! The joint itself was massive and could have easily served four or even more!

The food experience was excellent, but as the place filled-up, we were soon flanked on both sides by two groups of ‘young things’ celebrating their respective birthdays – and, maybe not surprisingly, the noise level increased dramatically! At first, we thought that it was just us four being ‘boring old fruits’, but this was more than loud, it was deafening! – and so much so, we couldn’t hear each other across the table. We soon realised that it was simply the acoustics of the restaurant, combined with a very low ceiling. It slightly ‘took the edge’ of the evening, and we skipped dessert and coffee because of the challenge to converse (in truth, we were stuffed anyway, so maybe, for the sake of our health, not a bad thing).

We said our extended good-byes in the car-park and headed home. It had been a great evening – a chance to catch-up with some long-known friends, a perfect drive on some lovely Rutland roads and a good meal too! We love the English Summer!!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Laptop Coaching: File Management and Memory Sticks

Auto cross-posted from my Wordpress Blog:
windows folder
Today we looked at how to organise files and folders using File Explorer. We also convered how to manage files held on a ‘memory stick’.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Laptop Coaching: Keyboard (Physical and Virtual)

Auto cross-posted from my Wordpress Blog:


Today we discussed the layout of a typical keyboard and the subtle differences between different laptop manufacturers. We also looked at the benefits of using the virtual keyboard built-in to Windows 10.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Doctor Who – Series 10, Episode 6: ‘Extremis’


Wow! This was a good one – and I definitely think I’ll re-watch it! Another creepy episode (more than just scary) with twists and turns at every point. It seemed to start quite slowly, but then I learned it’s the first of a three-parter, so I can’t wait until next week’s episode.

For me, this was Who at its best (but I’ll save ‘half-a-star’ in case there’s even better to come!)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Short Break: Beaulieu and Brockenhurst

We slept badly. In an effort to give us a different impression of Winchester, just before midnight, some local drunks had chosen the space under our window to exchange words of wisdom. I can’t recall the details, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a replay of the five-party political debate on TV last night! If that wasn’t enough we also had an early morning visit from the bin lorry!
Confused smile

Still, it reminded us of how lucky we are to live where we live, where the noisiest things tend to be the birds!

There’s plenty on the list to-do today, but our first task was to see what breakfast had to offer. Good news! What the Hotel lacked in car-park spaces yesterday, it made up for with the variety at breakfast! You name it, they had it – so after the fullest of English Breakfasts, we were ready for anything!! Just after 9.30 we set off in the direction of Beaulieu and were soon at our first stop.


The rather beautiful village of Bucklers Hard has been tastefully maintained and boasts a proud history – from ship-building, a motor torpedo base and a construction site for pontoons for the D-Day landings.

These days, it’s now a preserved village, home to its very own comprehensive Maritime Museum.

And if the history isn’t enough, the village is located alongside the Beaulieu River commanding some beautiful views across the water.

Once we’d seen the exhibition in the Maritime Museum we took the short walk to the two rows of houses that made-up the village. These included a Pub and Church, but you’d have missed them if you didn’t look very carefully.

With its immaculately manicured lawns, great views and somewhat private location, It felt like a great place to live!


Twenty-minutes later, we were at our second stop – Beaulieu.

I can remember coming here as a young lad with Mum and Dad (more about that later) but the last time WE were both here together would have been 20+ years ago, but bizarrely, neither of us remember  anything - ABSOLUTELY NOTHING - from any of our previous individual and collective visits here. How weird!

First stop was Beaulieu Abbey. Again, nothing seemed familiar, but in a way, that was good, because it was beautiful (in spite of Henry’s later mods!) What was left had been tastefully cleaned-up and there was a lot of background information about its history and subsequent partial renovation. For a 800 year-old building, it was looking good!

Next stop was Palace House, part of the Beaulieu family home since the 1500s. It was immaculate inside, and the staff in period dress really brought it alive.

Just as we left, the rain came giving the House a very different ‘look’ from the outside! Spooky!!!

Probably the most significant part of Beaulieu’s history that we had forgotten, was its role as a ‘finishing school’ for some 3000 WW2 spies. There was a really good exhibition here detailing many of the specific activities and people who served in the SOE (Special Operations Executives).

Our final stop was, of course, the National Motor Museum. I felt sure that with my love of cars AND having been here at least twice before, some of it would seem familiar. Not a chance! Just like the Abbey, it all seemed like a first visit to me.

As I mentioned earlier, I think the FIRST time I came here was when I was a lad. Dad had been to Ford at Dagenham a few weeks before to pick up his first brand new car (a rather flash Mk1 Cortina). That was 1964, and I was 8. Dad was now £900 poorer and wanted to take the car for a long run to show off what he’d spent his money on – the perfect destination: Beaulieu Motor Museum!
Open-mouthed smile

As we went through the door, I wasn’t sure what it would be like, but wow! what a collection – an iconic mix of very, very old, very old, old and modern marques. There was also an impressive display of motor-cycles too, as well as plenty of related exhibitions all connected with transport. Fab!


Gosh! They must have known we were coming as they even managed to squeeze in a Sainsbury store-front!

Given my love of Fords, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that according to the website, they have a permanent exhibit completely dedicated to FORD. However, it was nowhere to be found, so we took a few more photos before stopping for a snack.

All-in-all, we had a great time here in Beaulieu - apart from the frustration of not recalling anything from previous visits c1991 and c1964!


They say ‘life is full of coincidences’ and ‘it’s a small world’ – today we experienced both. Although the mobile signal was non-existent at Beaulieu, I picked up a voicemail from our good friends Denise and Steve, who were coincidentally just a few miles away. So, in between the less-than-perfect phone reception, we managed to arrange to meet at our hotel tonight – The Huntsman in Brockenhurst.

On the short drive to Brockenhurst, we stopped off at our final location - the beautiful town of Lymington. It had one of the longest high streets we’ve ever seen, and by the look of the types of shops, the shoppers themselves and the cars they were driving (I saw two Bentleys in less than half-an-hour), it felt like it was a pretty affluent area.

By 3pm, we were at The Huntsman checking-in. We were given ‘The Pheasant’ room with a very nice view over the garden at the back of the Hotel. After unpacking, we had time for a quick snooze and then a change of clothes before meeting-up with Denise and Steve. We headed for the Bar just before 6.45 and not long after Steve and Denise arrived, so we spent some time catching-up before heading for the Restaurant.

The Restaurant might have been almost deserted when we arrived, but clearly its reputation was well known. The food and service was excellent and by the time we left just before 9, the place was really buzzing. Well deserved in our view!

We had a great time – a perfect combination of great friends and great food! we said our goodbyes and then headed for our room whilst Steve and Denise took the short drive to their B&B.

Home tomorrow, but depending on the weather, we may return to Lymington to make up our rather hurried look-round today.