Within 20 minutes of getting through the door my worst fears came true and poverty was staring us in the face as Mrs B found the sofa she "just had to have". (Those 20 minutes included 15 minutes spent waiting for a coffee that never materialised). The sofa was:
(a) designer (i.e expensive);
(b) an Italian import (i.e.even more expensive).
The cost of replacing the standard feet it is supplied with is more than the average punter spends on a sofa from DFS. We still had another 7 hours and 40 minutes at the exhibition to go. At this rate of spending I was worried that I might actually have to start working for a living. Fortunately things calmed down after that.
Other than the financial hole that it left in our now decimated bank balance and the coffee incident (don't get me started), I have to begrudgingly admit that I quite enjoyed the show. It was a real mixed bag - loads of electrical items i.e huge Plasma TV's (my plan for a cinema room is on hold for the moment) 68" with a picture that I would gladly sacrifice my readership for. (Don't feel down, it had a truly fantastic picture and I would think about everyone of you, each time the lights of Bishops Stortford dimmed when I press the power on button). OK, so I admit that's another pipe dream........Don't worry there will be quite a lot of convincing of Mrs B before I start having to sacrifice any of you.
Some of the products on sale looked like they were rejected from the shopping channel. Let's face it, if you can't sell an item to drunken punters at 3am what chance to fairly sober people wandering around a giant warehouse near Birmingham...?
"What do you mean you add the word "Designer" to the product description?"
"You claim it imported from where?"
"Did you say Italy?"
"and you charge over the odds"....sniff, sniff
OK, moving swiftly along...... without even mentioning the designer vacuum cleaner or designer light fittings. Neither of which, and I stress this, were imported from Italy or anywhere close to Italy.
Let's make a weekend of it.
As we were 200 miles from home we decided to make a weekend of it. Mrs B found a fantastic B&B in Stratford-upon-Avon, it was not cheap but sometimes it's worth paying a bit more (It was not designer either, or Italian........Just let it go!). Our hosts, Decima & David, were utterly charming and made us feel very welcome. We have stayed in some places which are so regimented that unless you make it to the breakfast table within 30 seconds of your allotted time you will go hungry and don't even think about staying out after 9:30pm if you want to spend the night in the room you have paid for.
This B&B certainly attracted a better class of clientele. Before you ask, I was Mrs B's guest and she is universally welcome everywhere - and just about makes up for me....
I have never stayed anywhere where your hostess produces sketches of rabbits after breakfast and gets you to compete against your fellow guests in a watercolour paint off. (Well, not since I was four and I think that was with crayons). The fact that I was judged joint winner, along with Mrs B and another guest leaves me with a warm feeling (no, I did not wet myself with all the excitement - the damp patch on my trousers was where I spilt the paint water) and happy memories.
I'm not sure what I would have felt had I lost but looking at the pictures I don't think the art world will be beating down any of our doors any time soon...... Perhaps I can pass the damp patch in my trousers off as something arty....
art judge to exclaim "Art might not be dead but
if this is its future it might as well be!!!"
Stratford-upon-Avon - Anyone for Shakespeare?
They seek him here they seek him there but unlike the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel old Shakey could be found everywhere........
Almost every house, shop, park or restaurant had a plaque claiming the Bard or one of the fruits of his loins had slept, stepped, owned, fallen over, passed wind or died on these very premises. The hardest place to find was his grave and that had huge signs pointing the way.
To find Shakespeare's grave just follow
the yellow brick road. Hang on a second
who's levitating the bricks? Harry, Ron
put them down at once, or I'll have to
send you to Dumbledore....
From a cultural point of view
Very entertaining, especially the local woman who took in every word, becoming almost possessed as each tale unfolded. She got cold as the tour leader told us the room we were currently bumping our way through never got warm because of the presence of spirits (try turning the heater on you tight git) and jumped to order whenever he dropped anything or stamped his foot. I'm pretty sure she was not a plant (no leaves being the main indicator) but not even Nicholas Cage can act that bad and he regularly practices...... The darkness was a nice touch but I suspect more because they had failed to pay the last electricity bill.
which makes him no better than Virginia Wade in my eyes
(long story involving her refusal to give a young boy her
autograph in 1977, the year she won Wimbledon. It's not as
if I said that I loved her or even hit her or anything.
Needless to say I supported Betty Stöve that year, which
probably accounts for Ginny's win. Before you ask, No Ginny
did not write to thank me.......How ungrateful)
* It's not surprising when you learn that of the eight
authenticated Shakespeare signatures the man employed
six different spellings...
We had been recommended two restaurants in Stratford, both in Sheep Street
- Lambs and Vintners.
We were planning to eat in Vintners on the Friday night. Just before going in, however, I said to Mrs B let's just check that we can get a table for tomorrow night in Lambs. We dragged ourselves the 30 yards down the road and tried to book a table. There was absolutely nothing available unless we wanted to eat at 5pm. Did we look like children or Americans? Lambs did, however, have one last table available at that very moment, so we jumped at the chance. The food was just sublime, so good in fact that we ended up having three courses, which is most unusual for us.
I'm sorry to report that despite having my camera with me I was enjoying the food too much that I forgot to take any pictures. As we waddled back down the road we dropped into Vintners and managed to book the last table available for the following night.
have mine done rare with a little herb butter
At first we thought we had got a bad table, it was right by the front door and we assumed we would get disturbed all night. Far from it. Within moments of sitting down we discovered we had got the best seats in the house. It was equally heartbreaking and satisfying to see couple after couple look at the menu outside and get excited by the prospect of the fantastic food within. They would push the door open and enter, all big smiles, the odd few salivating in anticipation of the fine food, only to have their dining plans dashed on the rocks of "Saturday night should have booked ahead" blues.... I don't mean to be mean but somehow it makes you feel really good, especially when you know that you grabbed the last table.... For the record we managed three courses again and thus wobbled away for the second night running from yet another fantastic meal.
Missed picture opportunity
I have let you down and missed a fantastic photo opportunity. We had gone for a walk down by the River Avon. A woman walking her dog coaxed (ie threw) the poor thing into the water in an attempt to clean off the mud that caked it from head to foot. It was not keen, especially as a rather large swan was hanging around and making menacing moves towards anything that took a slight interest in the water. I mentioned to the woman that her dog was bound to get his own back. Sure enough he jumped straight out, ran up to her and shook himself dry, absolutely soaking her in the process.
I was laughing so hard that I missed the opportunity of the shot, that in truth I knew was coming. Doh! Must remember take shot first, laugh later....So I'm afraid you are left with the following -
I can't work out if this is Zeppo & Harpo
in 'Duck Soup' or Groucho & Chico in
'A Day at the Races'?
the music stops they all try and sit on her.
Who says romance is dead?
Some National Trust pictures
Since becoming Life members of the National Trust (NT), about 10 years ago, we have managed (if you exclude Newark Park , where we are privileged to be invited as guests) about 3 trips to NT properties. This is partly due to the fact that the nearest NT property to us is about 30 miles away and more than that, whenever we vacation in the UK, we invariably forget to take our membership cards. The NT in England are delighted to charge you again but will not provide refunds. Compare this to our treatment in Northern Ireland - when we asked if they did refunds for members who had forgotten their cards they told us "No" but then promptly waived the entrance fee. Now that's service for you...
Incidentally, the only time that our lifetime membership was acknowledged was a week after we coughed up the readies, when we received a letter asking if we would like to give them some more money. If memory serves me right we spent the next six months fighting the cats for their leftovers, so declined the NT's splendid, if speculative offer. I'm not sure we could afford the stamp to send them another cheque anyway. Now I'm not expecting them to bow and scrape whenever we produce our lifetime membership cards (or invariably the little hand written note from our parents saying 'yes they are lifetime members but left their cards at home') but surely a little tug of the forelock wouldn't go amiss... ? For the avoidance of doubt I have a lot of respect for the work that the NT does, plus they generally do very nice cakes, not quite up to the standards of the WI (Women Institute) but not far off....
Fortunately this time we remembered our cards as the area is awash with NT properties. We even managed to visit two of them Charlecote Park and Upton House .
Zepplin version, not the Rolf Harris. While
Rolf has his place in the music industry it
should not include murdering rock classics.
National Trust but using pensioners to
cross pollinate the flowers?
The grounds of Upton House
of Mrs B's sparkly red shoes, plus a two
hour drive and we were home...
Thank you to Kathryn (who writes a brilliant daily Blog - I would however recommend that you Don't go there, as I fear you will never return for my meagre once a week offering) for my one entry to last week's bird question. A game effort but not even close I'm afraid.
For those of you who laughed and thought why is he asking about what is obviously a seagull, I have managed to establish, it is not a seagull. No, I have not become a twitter, tweeter or twitcher (whatever the term is) overnight. It's just by chance we ran into a BBC producer of Natural History programs, Stephen Moss (who by coincidence just happens to be the producer of Autumn Watch, the very TV program I just happened to mention in last week's blog - how spooky is that?) He was with his friend Nigel a publisher of bird (the feathered variety) books and their respective wives, who were staying at Cross o' th' Hill Farm . I learnt a number of interesting facts.
For instance the Gull has two outfits - pulling and non-pulling gear
i.e Black head plumage = Come and get me
Apparently my picture in last week's BlackLOG was of a Black-headed Gull in "I'm sorry I've got a headache" plumage.
Despite its name, the pulling gear is in fact brown....
OK. That's enough education for one blog, I don't know about you but I could probably do with a bit of a lie down.
All that remains is for me to apologise to J.K.Rowling (author of Harry Potter), Shakespeare (author of some badly spelt plays. At times he makes even me look like an academic...) and L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz) for the misuse of their work in this weeks BlackLOG.