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starting over

You know there’s a lot more to Chelsea than a football team and a reality tv show. To be honest, I’m not hugely keen on either of those.

Sloane Square

Sloane Square

But I’ve fallen in love with Chelsea, it is just so cool.

Sloane Square and the King’s Road are still so vibrant – although I do wish I had been old enough to appreciate it in the 1960s and 70s when the King’s Road really was the epitome of cool.

Chelsea’s history goes back a lot further than that though. There was the Anglo Saxon settlement, a few Romans, medieval lords and a few kings along the way. The fountain these two are sitting in front of features images of Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwyn.

Sloane Square fountain

Sloane Square fountain

The King’s Road is named for these two. It was once a private road. King Charles lived at one end, the lovely Nell at the other. The road was built so he could gallop along it in private to see his lover.

The road really became famous in the 50s, 60s and 70s. In the late 1950s, Mary Quant opened her shop here and the King’s Road became eponymous with fashion, music and coolness. Mary created the mini skirt, hotpants, and huge great spidery eyelashes.

114bThere is still a Mary Quant shop here, only now it is in the rejuvenated Duke of York Square.

065bThis is the recording studio where the Beatles created the album cover for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Just around the corner is a house formerly owned by Eric Clapton and probably party central for many a year. Bowie lived nearby, as did Mick Jagger.

118bAnd the Sloane Square Hotel is reputedly where Paul McCartney met Jane Asher and began their relationship.

Chelsea is also home to the Royal Chelsea Hospital where the Chelsea Pensioners live.

057bThat one’s a model, I’m really not sneaking up and surreptitiously snapping snoozing pensioners.

Around the hospital, Chelsea almost has a village feel. These two are contenders for my new home (if I had a fair few million pounds to spare that is).

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Beautiful aren’t they, especially in the spring, but sadly they are megamillions and, therefore, a little outside my budget.

Now just along from the Royal Chelsea Hospital (next door in fact) is the National Army Museum. I actually didn’t know it was there. As you walk past you may miss an extraordinary piece of history because it’s just a little unobtrusive.

058bBut this is an actual piece of the Berlin Wall, complete with original graffiti. I think it was presented to the museum because the British Army spent so long manning Checkpoint Charlie, but I’m not really sure.

059bAnd a little bit further along again was once the home of Oscar Wilde. Wilde was living here when he had an affair with the Marquess of Queensberry’s son. Old Queensberry wrote Wilde a letter that he deemed offensive so he tried to sue him for libel but the ensuing trial laid bare Wilde’s hidden life and resulted in his prosecution (and eventual jail sentence) for gross indecency with men. Bet he wished he’d left the old Marquess to rot.

Incidentally, the judge who jailed Wilde was his neighbour in this street too.

063bJust a little way further round the corner I found this. Now my guide for the afternoon, a lovely man called George from The Tour Hub London (where do you think I got all this information from?) wasn’t sure whether this had actually been Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s studio but thought probably not. It looks like both the studios (there are about seven of them) and the apartments around them were just named after him, having been built by Edward Holland. Chelsea Art School began life here in 1904. Anthony Devas had a studio here, as did noted Vogue fashion photographer Ronald Traeger who photographed, among others, Twiggy.

Finally, this is Hans Sloane.

050bOr rather, it’s a statue of him and it sits on the King’s Road, on one corner of Duke of York Square. He was a physician and a collector. You’ve probably guessed Sloane Square was named after him.

He was president of the Royal College of Physicians, President of the Royal Society (he succeeded Sir Isaac Newton) and Royal Physician to Queen Anne, George I and George II. He was the first Baronet of Chelsea and also founded the Chelsea Physic Garden. He was a collector of natural history and when he died, he bequeathed these to the nation (on condition parliament paid his executors £20,000) and they formed the beginning of the British Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Thanks Mr Sloane, you left us quite a legacy.

 

 

 

 

I’m in London for the weekend – specifically Chelsea.

I’m on a press trip. I used to do these a lot a few years ago as I was the self-designated travel editor, I don’t do so many any more.

For those not familiar with the concept, press trips involve PR companies, hotels, resorts, destinations etc inviting journalists on a free visit in the hope they will write something nice about them. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it :)

So this weekend I am staying at No11 Cadogan Gardens, a boutique hotel tucked away behind Sloane Square and part of the Small Luxury Hotels consortium.

And this is my suite for the weekend.

My bedroom.

My bedroom.

My sitting room.

My sitting room.

See what I mean … it’s tough :).

I’m here on my own – no guests (sorry Man) – but with three other journalists, all from magazines – two wedding magazines and a polo magazine – and a delightful PR lady called Kirsten is in charge of looking after us for the weekend and keeping us entertained.

Yesterday involved food and photographs (how could I not be happy with that?). After a brief tour of this lovely little hotel, we had an early afternoon tea (yum) and were then whisked off to the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which was completely amazing and closes today so I am delighted I got to see it.

Dino in the front entrance of the Natural History Museum.

Dino in the front entrance of the Natural History Museum.

The general manager joined us for drinks last night. Strangely he had been making sausages all afternoon with his uncle (??) and therefore could not join us for dinner.

Tartufo means truffle in Italian and is the name of the restaurant in the hotel. We dined there last night. It was fabulous. Particularly fabulous was a black truffle risotto created for us to try. It is a specialty of the house and was just the most delicious thing ever. We were given a copy of the recipe by the restaurant. If I can recreate that at home, I am entering Masterchef! (Oh and the Eggs Benedict I’ve just devoured for brunch were pretty special too).

The lovely Kirsten and my three colleagues for the weekend went off clubbing at midnight last night. I went to bed (I’m too old for clubbing!) and got up with the lark and went exploring.

This is what I found.

I love exploring the back streets and hidden areas. Wandering down a residential street I came across Christ Church in a small square surrounded by the most beautiful mews houses. That’s why I love London.

Today we are off on a walking tour of the Cadogan Estate in Chelsea and then I plan to head to the Saatchi Gallery. This evening it’s more food and jazz :)

Sometimes, I really love my job.

 

I’ve been away for a while. Well, technically not away, just busy.

Very, very busy. Lots going on. 

Didn’t even get to see Man for five whole weeks. Longest time not seeing him in the almost four years I’ve known him.

Finally this weekend I got to go to Nottingham for the weekend :) woo hoo.

And how better to celebrate than a road trip? We chose to go to Southwell to see the Minster and then went on to Newark to see the parish church there and visit the market (and have a late lunch).

Then yesterday we took the bus into the city centre, went and saw some tentacle porn at the Nottingham Contemporary (yes really) and sat eating bread, olives and humus watching some friendly neighbourhood drunks cause chaos.

But rather than tell you about the places we visited, I thought I might tell you about some of the people we met over the weekend … because, quite frankly, they were as mad as a box of frogs :)

In Southwell I decided that I really ought to get the prescription I had been carrying around in my handbag for a while (a couple of weeks to be honest) so we popped into the pharmacy and found …

461b… the comedy chemists assistants :)

They were having a chaotic day. The barcodes weren’t working for them, the chemist had locked herself in a room and the orders were stacking up and they couldn’t find anything. And they laughed and joked their way through the chaos and certainly made me smile. They spotted the camera around my neck and decided I was paparazzi.

Tomorrow I’m going to email this photo to them from my work account, which signs me off as group deputy editor – then they really will think I’m paparazzi :)

We stopped a little further down the street for a drink in this pub.

462bThe Saracen’s Head.

There was an older guy behind the bar, in his 60s I would guess. Extremely well spoken.

The conversation went like this.

Me: I’d like a lemonade please.

Man: Lemonade’s off.

Me: Um ok, I’ll have an apple juice.

Man (perfectly straight face): That’s off too. We only have water.

Me: Great, well I’ll stick with the lemonade then and a pint of bitter please.

Man (giving me the lemonade and attempting to pour a pint): Oh great, the bar manager hasn’t put those little thingies on the end. That gets right on my tits. I’ll have another go. Oh bollocks. That’s not going to work. I’ll have to go and find him, the bastard.

Man goes off and returns with a younger guy who decides the barrel is empty and says he will go and change it and bring the pint outside.

Man (giving Man the dregs in the glass): Here, you might as well have this bit for free. That will be £23.72.

Without a word I handed him a ten pound note. Without a word he gave me £4.50 change. 

It was possibly the most bizarre service I have ever received in a pub.

On to Newark and we were wandering around the market square when we heard a busker and went to listen. Turns out we’d seen him before. We ran into him a couple of years ago in Lincoln.

Here he is, he’s quite distinctive and he was wearing the same hat.

483bBusking in Newark, September 2013.

buskerBusker in Lincoln, October 2011.

He’s a nice guy and a really good busker and it was great to see him again.

Yesterday we got the bus into town. It’s actually cheaper than parking the car. We had a mooch about, went to see the Aquatopia exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary which included tentacle porn – Katsushika Hokusai’s Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife from 1853, which is basically a woman being pleasured by an octopus or two. It’s actually quite brilliant, as are many other of the exhibits (although some are just weird).

We caught the bus back home and for the second time this weekend, someone wanted me to take their photo.

565bIt was the bus driver.

This is him striking a pose. I’m not sure what pose it is, but it is definitely a pose and it made me smile.

See, mad as a box of frogs… we do have a habit of attracting them :)

 

 

 

 

Hi all.
I haven’t been around for a while because things have been manic.
We’ve moved house (again). That was fun! The gorgeous daughters, their boyfriends, Man and I with a hired van and a borrowed carpet cleaner managed to shift all our stuff and blitz the old house in a few hours one tiring Saturday two weeks ago.
This is our fifth home in four years, you’d think we’d be used to it but we’re not.
However the new landlord and his family are lovely. And they say they want to let long term. The new house is easily the best we have rented in the last four years and it has four bedrooms and a big conservatory and a lovely mature garden that comes with a gardener … bliss.
Gorgeous daughter number two went on holiday the next day and came back on the Wednesday. Thursday was GD1’s 23rd birthday and Man and I came on holiday to Northumberland on the Friday.
In addition I started a new job (same company) the week before the move. I have accepted the job of Group Deputy Editor which appears to mean I still run the production department but I also have a young team of reporters and a couple of papers to edit and group-wide I am responsible for the community news and the user generated content – the quirky stuff that I love that is about real people not celebrities or politicians :)
The job came with a new car. A diesel. More miles to the gallon means more road trips for me and Man. Yay.
And most exciting of all. I finally got a new camera (lots of yays) Well I say new, it’s a reconditioned, second hand Canon 50d. But it’s mine and I love it.
Now currently, while I am exploring the North East, I have no laptop to upload my photos too and very limited connectivity so the 1,000 plus pics will have to wait.
Suffice to say our tour has so far included churches, castles, countryside, wildlife and a few pubs :)
Watch this space.

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Man was down at my place this weekend (he calls it his country retreat) and I had promised him a weekend of places that he was interested in for once, rather than coercing him into accompanying my to churches and ruined castles.

And we did do that, no, honestly we did, but I still managed to persuade him to take a little detour to Aldershot Military Cemetery.

I was looking for the grave of aviation pioneer Samuel Cody, having seen photographs of the memorial procession through the streets of Aldershot and Farnborough 100 years ago.

I found the memorial quite quickly (it’s the big one with the statue).

But then I was struck by the beautiful setting of this military cemetery.

Set on a hill and tucked away in the Military Town, many fallen servicemen rest here. Soldiers, airmen, early aviation pioneers are buried in the peace and tranquility of a beautifully tended garden.

Some of their relatives’s graves are also here, military wives and children.

Many of the soldiers’ headstones bore their regimental badges, and there was a whole swathe of white headstones with  maple leaves engraved on them, soldiers buried on a foreign shore.

I always find cemeteries and graveyards interesting and poignant but military ones especially so.

Here lie heroes.

 

 

When I was a kid I used to love the cartoon Ivor the Engine. There was Jones the Steam and Idris the dragon and, of course, Ivor, the steam engine who sang in the choir (You can see the first episode on YouTube here)

I also loved both the book by Edith Nesbitt and the film The Railway Children. Jenny Agutter waving her red flannel knickers standing on the railway track was very dramatic. I’d breathe a huge sigh of relief when the train stopped in time.

Maybe that’s why Number 27 on my Fifty before Fifty challenge was to go on a steam train :)

Yesterday was probably the first glorious spring day I’ve seen this year on a day off, so Man and I headed to Matlock, historic county town of Derbyshire, and a beautiful drive away across the Peak District.

010b

Matlock is absolutely lovely and has the very best park I have ever seen. This is a bridge in two halves. This side is 14th century, it was big enough to get a horse and cart across but that is probably it. If you look carefully underneath the arches, you can see the join where the bridge was extended. The other side is about 500 years more recent and it has been spliced together so you can get single lane modern traffic over the top.

On one side is Hall Leys Park, which is just amazing and has absolutely everything. Yesterday there was a Farmers’ Market there. We bought some amazing cheese, a huge scone and a sausage roll AND marmite sausages – oh my goodness they are amazing. We had some last night for dinner and then made some marmite bread to have sausage sandwiches for breakfast :)

This park is the most spectacular park and it has something for everyone. It has a bandstand, a sunken garden, a putting green, a boating lake, a miniature train, open areas where you can sit or kick a ball, an amazing kids play area with fountains, tennis courts, a bowling green, skateboard park, toilets and a cafe … all alongside the side of the river. It was fabulous.

We went for a walk along the river and found …

023b… lead mining. Mining has been carried out here since Roman times.

But the real reason we went to Matlock was to visit the Peak Rail steam railway and check off Number 27 on my list. It’s not quite Platform 9¾, it’s actually Platform 2 but this is real and not fiction :).

At Matlock Station we found the Peak Rail Station master.

008bPeak Rail is staffed and run by a team of enthusiasts who lovingly recreate the golden age of the steam railways. They are knowledgeable, cheerful and help give visitors a most memorable day on the trains.

For just £7.50 per adult you can ride the train all day, travelling a short stretch of line from Matlock through the village of Darley Dale to Rowsley South and back again, getting off where you want and hopping back on again.

046bIsn’t she beautiful?

We jumped on at Matlock and rode at a civilized chug chug speed through the most beautiful countryside to the end of the line where we got off and had a quick look round.

061bHere’s me on the train.

063bAnd a very nostalgic-looking photo of Man when we managed to commandeer a First Class carriage for our journey. So comfortable with sprung seats and doors so you could shut yourself in. So much more civilized than the hustle and bustle of today’s railways.

This used to be the Midlands Railway line between Manchester and St Pancras. It closed in the late 1960s. Some of it now forms paths, bridleways and cycle paths through the Peak District but I’m glad they kept this bit.

070bWe hopped off the train again at Darley Dale. This old gothic-style railway building has an exhibition of old photos and other railway memorabilia. You can check which engines were in use when, see the staff lists from years gone by and look at amazing photos of Land Girls at work on the railways during the Second World War or retired railway staff on their annual day trip. It was a lovely little exhibition.

Darley Dale itself is quite small. It had another fabulous park (probably bigger in area than the rest of the village) where we sat and devoured the Eastern scotch eggs we had bought earlier at the Farmers’ Market.

079bIt’s a funny little place. We found this random collection of mangles outside a house along the road near the park. Bizarre.

Darley Dale was the home, and is the final resting place, of Joseph Whitworth, Victorian engineer and philanthropist who was described when he died as a brilliant man but also a man with a huge ego.

He devised the British Standard Whitworth system, which created an accepted standard for screw threads – not a lot you can say about that really – and the Whitworth rifle, renowned for its precision.

Anyway, he lived here and his home is now a hotel and restaurant.

Then we hopped back on the train for a pleasant chuff chuff chuff back to Matlock.

It was a day of slowing down the pace and stepping back in time, a day of nostalgia and beautiful countyside on a bygone mode of transport through lovingly restored stations. It really was just lovely and, if you are ever in the area, I couldn’t recommend it more.

… And if you get a chance to buy the marmite sausages then make sure you do because they are amazing :)