Thursday, 10 January 2019

Plastic -v- the world...

I mentioned in my last post that one of our "big challenges" for this year was going to be to reduce our consumption of single use plastics still further. We've already made good progress on this - on the rare occasions that we buy a bottle of water (or more often, get given one free when MrEH purchases his newspaper in a location that offers a bottle for free) that bottle will be refilled many times before it finally goes into the recycling, effectively turning it into a reusable bottle. Mostly we use one of our  purpose-bought re-useable bottles - I permanently have one on my desk at work, and we have others for the gym, or for taking on days out. Similarly although not a "buy a coffee on the way to work everyday" people we do use refillable cups on occasions when we know we're likely to buy hot drinks out - I've got a couple of the bamboo keep-cups, and we both have insulated mugs which get used regularly on longer car journeys, often with the back-up of one of our trusty thermos flasks!

Within the home it can often be quite tough to break the old plastic habits - we have made a start here by re-using plastic takeaway containers for freezer storage, not purchasing cling film at all, and using our RSPB magazine wrappers as compost bags for green waste. We also always take our own bags to the shops, and indeed I have invariably got a shopping bag or two neatly folded in my handbag also. It's been bugging me for a while though that each working day we bring lunches from home, and each working day that is 2 plastic food bags, and 2 wire ties, used between us. We re-use the wire ties, in fact they often get used until they literally fall apart, but I bet when they DO end up in landfill they're not great, and as for the bags, well...! So we turned our minds to alternatives, and solutions...

Firstly we started thinking through alternatives that we already had. Things are complicated by the fact that standard sandwich boxes tend not to fit our home made bread well, and that sometimes we have sandwiches and sometimes we have rolls (also home made - so again, non standard sizes). Fruit we just carry loose in our respective bags, so it was just the question of transportation of bread-based food that we were looking into initially. Of course it wasn't that simple as having thought about it we then started seeing all the other places that we use the flimsy food bags we habitually buy, too... Cheese gets wrapped in them, opened packets of crackers get put in them to stop them going stale in the tin, we use them in the freezer for portioned out raw meat, and sometimes for blanched vegetables as well, The last few slices from the loaves of home made bread get put into a bag in the freezer as well. Greaseproof or waxed paper came to mind immediately for at least some of our applications, but they wouldn't really solve the issue of wrapping sandwiches as there would be no way of ensuring they stayed fastened, plus waxed paper doesn't recycle, and greaseproof is the subject of a whole other minefield on the compostable/recyclable/biodegradeable questions (It might be, but then it might not, basically covers it so far as I can find). Foil - no, not really - firstly it tears too easily and secondly it's just creating more waste, albeit recycleable waste. Then we found these:

Beeswax wraps. Available in a variety of sizes, positively recommended for cheese, sandwiches, veggies etc...not cheap, mind, but worth the trade off of NOT putting possibly over 400 plastic bags into landfill every year? Well, that has to be worth a try! Of course they should also work for cheese, random bits of veg, for covering leftovers in the fridge and maybe even for those random ends of loaves in the freezer too? A pack has been ordered and we will report back.

Lovely as it would be, the wraps won't work for everything - so we set our minds to a bigger plan. We'll continue to have some of the flimsy bags available for the time being - things like raw meat are difficult to store well for the freezer - often a portion is too small for the re-useable containers we have, and we don't want to be using electricity essentially freezing empty space. We will buy a supply of sturdier, heavier grade plastic bags for use with dry goods, where they can be re-used. Where we can use plastic tubs that we already have - or those that we get with takeaway foods - we will do so. I'm looking to source re-useable produce bags instead of picking up those annoying flimsy bags for loose produce in the supermarket, too. So far I'm struggling to find many options on those that tell you the individual weight of the bags themselves - as I often buy quite small quantities of loose items this is not an insignificant point! More research needed!


Monday, 7 January 2019

Now for 2019...

So time for a new page, a fresh year, and also a good time to make some decisions about what I want to achieve this year. Last year feels like a tough act to follow in some ways - and indeed this year's aims are going to be loosely based on what I set out last year with some additional bits thrown in for good measure. 

Personal/Health & Fitness:
- I will aim to keep up a good level of activity, averaging at least 13,000 steps daily across a year.
- Continue with eating well, using the FitBit to log foods some days to keep on track.
- Exercise at least 3 x per week - more is fine. Gym, running, swimming, circuits, HIIT Sessions - all good, also a brisk paced walk of at least a mile/15 minutes counts.

- Stretching - I had one injury last year partly as a result of not doing enough of this so an area to focus on.
- Bullet-ish journal - weekly lists, monthly planners, general to-do's.
- Aim for 500km total distance run in the year - I'm signing up to a virtual challenge for this one!
- Assuming they do the series again run 3 RunthroughUK "Chase the Sun" events
- Sign up and run a full 10k
- Bring running distance up to 10 miles
- Either get back to cycling or get rid of the bike
- Run the Dartmouth Regatta Road race in August - a terrifying 5 mile course with some horrific hills!
- Run/walk up Rueval - my favourite hill in the Hebrides

Home: We need to get back to sorting out the remaining works on the flat this year - from the more major stuff that still needs doing, to simple decluttering:

- Establish whether the electrician we were planning to use still wants the work, and if so get a firm start date from him.
- Find a new plasterer - lovely Geoff has retired!
- Plastering in Hallway and around windows - investigate whether we can do smaller areas ourselves?
- Hallway to be refloored/redecorated
- Decluttering at a low level - focus on seeing items within the house that we don't use
- New coffee table for front room - put measurements for this on the phone so I have them to hand and research and actually buy something.


- Start to look towards replacing Ben's car - either just "at some stage" this year or earlier depending on MOT result.
- Joint savings to continue as they are
- I will keep a good eye on interest rates - if good deals come up we will switch money around to capitalise
- The "extra" savings will pay for a short holiday with friends in the spring - and will probably subsidise the holiday savings a little too as we have a short gap between the 2018 & 2019 Hebrides trips and had moved a previous surplus in that account across to long term savings
- Keep the focus on not frittering, and getting best value from our money


- Continue social stuff as last year
- Learn from the lessons I learned last year on friendships, and people who add value to my life rather than sucking the vibrancy from it.
- Try not to feel hurt or upset when other people behave unpleasantly or unkindly - I can't control their behaviour, I can control my reaction to it. (This one stays - SUCH a good life lesson!) Sometimes my reaction to it may be to simply step away from them as a regular part of my life - this works exceptionally well!
- Be conscious and mindful. Try to stop and think through choices and choose my path accordingly
- Brutal tidy and organise of laptop
- Sort out new power cable & battery for laptop
- sort out problem with desktop
- Keep up the momentum with the Beer Order stuff and don't let the workload pile up
- Another "big" walk - perhaps done in stages 
- Finish the Thames Path walk
- Finish the Jubilee Greenway walk

We have also agreed on some joint things to focus on for the year :
 - avoiding products with non-sustainable Palm Oil
 - Breaking the habit of procrastination (We're BOTH guilty of this!)
 - Working on cutting use of single use plastics even further

That seems like some good stuff to work on through the year, and a nice mix of "quality of life" stuff alongside building for the future. Social stuff will take a different turn this year in any event as there is likely to be less airshows partly due to taking up more responsibility within the National beer festival - the role we have taken on is a big one and there is absolutely NO room for not doing it well, so other distractions will need to take at least a bit of a back seat this year I think. There will also be meetings off the back of that too - which as a flip-side means more time spent with friends from that area of our lives which is great! 

My mantras for this year then:


There WILL still be challenges - and I'll still be looking to see what I can achieve, but the focus this year will be more on maintaining the things I've achieved already within the running/fitness stuff. Last year started forcefully on the exercise front but tailed off later in the year - I found running in the heat of the summer quite challenging and as a result took more of a step back from it than I really wanted to for - this summer will be about finding a way of keeping going - hopefully the Dartmouth Road Race might be a way of keeping the momentum there!  

Feel free to join in for the ride - I'm starting out as I did last year with a challenge to do some form of exercise every day of January and so far, so good on that one. I think Frugal February will not be happening this year but I am intending to keep a focus on spending as I've said - we have more works on the flat to pay out for and lots of social stuff planned and intend to compromise on our longer terms savings as little as possible for those things. 

Has your last week been about planning challenges and goals for the year ahead? 


Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 - done!

Where did those twelve months go?! I know we say this every year but it really does seem to have positively flown past! At the start of the year I confirmed that I was going to shun "new years resolutions" as usual, and instead set out a long-ish list of things that I wanted to see if I could tackle/focus on through the year with the following overall aims:

So I guess it's now time to see how I've done with this!

Personal/Health & Fitness:
- I will aim to keep up a good level of activity, with no fewer that 6,000 steps in a day It's been an incredibly rare day when I've not achieved this and my daily average over the year is currently sitting at over 13,000 so I think I can call this one done! 
- Continue with eating well, using the FitBit to log foods some days to keep on track. This has continued to work really well and I've maintained my weight through the year using this method - so again this will be repeated for next year! 
- Exercise at least 3 x per week - more is fine. Gym, running, swimming, circuits, HIIT Sessions - all good. Aside from points when injury has got in the way I've maintained this one pretty well and over the year I have regularly taken part in a good range of different activities too. 

- Stretching is good and helps facilitate the exercise. Ideally a full stretching session at least once per week and mini sessions scattered through as well. Going to "amber light" this as needing to be more of a priority for 2019 and beyond. I have done a fair amount but have also identified areas and specific muscle-groups where I could benefit from a lot more.
- Continue using my Bullet-ish journal to help with planning and general organisation WIN! Again use of it dropped off a bit during the very busy summer months though so something to focus on - I've also refined the way I use it to a degree which in itself helps with actually making sure I DO use it. 
- Do Parkrun - either our local one or another, it doesn 't matter which, just DO IT! Yes - done our local one in Harlow a couple of times and also nearby Gunpowder park in Enfield.  Have established that I don;t like Harlow much because of #ThatHill but as I have a certain hill-related challenge for 2019 already in mind I may need to make use of it a bit more for training for that event, if nothing else! 
- Visit the local climbing wall for a session. Finally did this in November and I'm inclined to say that it might be the one single achievement that I was most proud of from my year. 

Home: We want to continue with the works on the flat, initially to make it a lovely place for us to live, but also to add value. No - thoughts below

- Hallway to be refloored/redecorated No - thoughts below
- Plastering to be done in the front room and bedroom No - thoughts below
- Electrical works to be done over the first third of the year No - thoughts below
- Decluttering at a low level - focus on seeing items within the house that we don't use This has happened but probably needs to continue to happen as an ongoing thing. 
- New coffee table for front room - this is a quality of life thing. We have now established that the one we saw previously MrEH is not that keen on so the hunt continues. Back on the list...! 

This is one major area where we did FAR less than we were intending to. Several reason - the electrician that we found who we *thought* was going to be a great person to use seems to have let us down - we will have one last attempt to get him on the case early next year and then will have to look elsewhere. The hallway and plastering can't be done until the electrics are dealt with - so this loops right round on itself. I'm inclined to say that I suspect we could have pushed this one forwards more too - but I rather feel that perhaps it was just too soon after all the upheaval with the kitchen to go through another lot of household turmoil - more recovery time was needed!  


- Joint savings to continue as they are Yes - really good progress on savings again this year!
- I will keep a good eye on interest rates and make the most of any access we have to higher interest savings Again - we've kept on top of this changing the account that was going to lose it's bonus rate at the right time and keeping up with money going to 5% interest rated regular saver accounts within the limit that those have imposed on them. 
- 0% card must be cleared by the end of October, and again as far as possible this needs to be done without touching savings. This was done, and in the end it was cash neutral to within about £40 if I recall correctly. 
- keep the extra savings ticking over to ensure that our Lundy trip in the spring doesn't have to be paid for from savings. The account which was formerly our "mortgage OP account" has indeed been ticking over on a monthly basis - we still use it for the "money we've saved" on utilities, Sky, that sort of thing, as well as the small surplus from my monthly salary, and sometimes a small surplus from our joint account too. This has actually paid for TWO Lundy trips! 
- Refocus on the small stuff - the odd frittering, and the impulse spends that have started to creep in a little. Frugal February helped with focusing back on this and we're back into the habit of spending mindfully now. We certainly aren't "frugal" to the extent that we used to be when paying off the mortgage was a priority but we've discussed this and are happy with where we're at - we are in a different place financially now and the work we put in at that time has enabled that. 
- "Frugal February" to assist with the refocusing on the small stuff. Yes - covered above.


- Continue to work on gaining confidence in friendships Yes - thoughts below
- Learn to be more tolerant without letting myself be used, and a little more patient without taking unnecessary amounts of sh*t! Yes - thoughts below
- "Let it go" and "This too shall pass" Yes - thoughts below
- Stop and think before acting This also comes under the heading of "mindfulness"
- Try not to feel hurt or upset when other people behave unpleasantly or unkindly - I can't control their behaviour, I can control my reaction to it. Yes - thoughts below
- Be conscious and mindful. Think about the choices I have, and those I make going forwards In part this is again to do with the conscious choices I have made. 
- Tidy up laptop in readiness for the new Airshow Season. I did. And now it needs it again! 
- Continue with volunteering stuff Yes - although it went in a different direction mid year. We also took on a new commitment which is going to mean an adjustment of our free time for the next few years I think.
- Try to tick a couple more items off our big "We want to..." list. Yes - a helicopter ride and also visiting a specific RSPB reserve that we wanted to get to. 
I'll talk about the items above relating to other people as a single entity I think. I made some very conscious decisions this year - to remove some people from my life and to spend time with others, sometimes instead, other times as well as. I've refined those I see as "friends", and there are others who are now definitely in the "acquaintances" camp - and that suits me well. Bridges have been built in one area also and some misunderstandings hopefully now ironed out which is good. My conscience over a particular situation now sits more easily and comfortably. I have a far clearer view of the sort of people who add value to my life - those who are genuine, who do things to experience rather than to be seen to be doing them, those who actively seek to spend time with me for me, not because of other factors, those I actually like more, the more I get to know them! I've also remembered that the more you spend time with people like this, the less you need to worry about your reaction to unkind things said by others as the situation doesn't really arise, so another win there.

All in all I'm calling it a pretty successful year. On the running front I had a vague list of places I'd like to run - the Olympic Park, in central London, and on a beach were key ones, and I have ticked off all of those as well as "on Lundy" which was pretty good. Part way into the year I was also challenged by a social media pal to see which of us could get to 365km for the year first and I was delighted to record my tally by the end of November. Also said I wanted to run in a regular group with others and RunTalkRun has given me the chance to do that - and that is something I definitely want to continue with in 2019! 

Now it's time to start thinking through plans and challenges for the next 12 months - I'll be posting on that in the next few days. Some things will be a straight copy across as they are just as valid to keep up with. Some stuff will be new and I have some solid ideas there already too. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

On challenges, simplifications and shake-ups...

It occurred to me when we returned from our Hebrides trip in October that I only had a relatively short amount of time remaining to really attack my 2018 challenges. I remember back at the start of the year I used the word "Accountability" - and that has now looped back on itself as I decided to use the next 40 days (from when I started thinking about needing to focus back on completing my challenges through to the end of November) to be fully accountable - first to myself but also to anyone else out there who might be reading. So the "Accountability40 Challenge" was born - a challenge within a challenge, if you will...

My aim for this was partly to get back to routines - running, keeping on top of organisational things at home, and the day-to-day stuff that makes life easier. Partly to kick-start my exercise plans again at a time of year when sometimes it can be tough to motivate yourself to lace up and get out. I also wanted to focus on "Wellness" generally, physical AND mental health, and give our meal plans a bit of a shake-up with new ideas, maybe some new recipes and some different ingredients. Finally I wanted to take some time to see where I have achieved this year already in terms of my start of year challenges, and where I might still want to have one last push to thoroughly tick a box.

I decided that I wanted to lose a few lbs in weight to get back to my "ideal" weight ahead of the Christmas season and all the extra food and drink that sometimes entails. Exercising an average of 5 days per week would help with this as would getting back to running more regularly - with airshows and the summer's high temperatures my routine on this one had definitely slipped a bit. Similarly looking for some fresh new ideas for meals should also help to keep our food interesting and avoid the feeling of having slipped into a rut with what we're eating week on week. I'm sticking with the plan that has worked so well for me of tracking and logging the food I eat 4 days a week, then relaxing over weekends. The organisational stuff ties in with the overall wellness picture as there is no question that for me, feeling as though clutter has built up, or that there are things that we "should have done" that we're putting off plays hell with my mental health. As I've mentioned previously on here, the darker/shorter days can also be a trigger for me mentally so this is a good time of year to be proactively tackling ways of dealing with anything that might have a negative effect.

I love a challenge as you know, so decided to post daily on Instagram to keep up the accountability. I managed to miss one day entirely at some stage, and only realised a few days from the end that I was running behind, and did have to combine two days into a single post over a busy weekend, but generally I did keep up with this daily posting. I intended to do some blog posts, but that didn't happen, and I posted regularly on a private forum that I'm part of with updates on how I was doing - and got masses of support in return, too!

The running regularly started well with me increasing my longer run distance up to 7 miles and a total of nearly 15 miles covered in the first 8 days of the November but my run on the 8th had to be cut short as my hip was extremely painful and I wasn't able to run again for over 2 weeks which knocked my plans a bit. Managed 9 runs in the 40 day period in the end which in real terms, allowing for the 2 week hiatus in the middle, was actually somewhere close to where I was aiming. I also managed to get two runs with the RunTalkRun group in there too which was good - it's not always easy for me to make their runs not being London based but I love it when I can join and one aspect of the challenge was wanting to fit in more social running too! Lesson also learned about not trying to run on multiple consecutive days - my joints simply don't like it! Other exercise across the month consisted of a swim, masses of walking and lots and lots of strength and stability work - something which I want to keep up the focus on going forwards - as well as a couple of Metafit classes. By the end of the month I had also clocked up over 365km for the year thus "winning" a mini challenge that a friend had set us on Twitter to see which of us would be the first to reach that particular milestone in the year.

On the food front I looked for ways of mixing up some of the meals we have regularly with differing ingredients and flavourings, using more fresh herbs for example. Remembered how much I love brown rice rather than white, and finally managed to successfully poach an egg! Bought some wholewheat pasta but haven't used it yet, generally managed to step back from snacks "for the sake of snacks" and make healthier choices when out and about. At the time of writing my weight had headed back to pretty much where I want it to be which was the aim - if I can trim off an additional few pounds ahead of christmas I'll be happy enough.

One BIG challenge I overcame during this period involved attending the local climbing wall for a trial session - pretty much everyone when I said how much this worried me assumed that it was because the height scared me - in fact nothing could be further from the truth, those who know me well are aware that height has never phased me in the least! In fact as someone who is severely claustrophobic it was the fear of getting stuck that made this one truly terrifying - I've always been hesitant about climbing steeper hills as much as anything else because I'm afraid that I will find myself in a position I can't get out of - and this was one reason for wanting to challenge this. I was shaking like a leaf when I arrived but once the session got underway and I saw others climbing I relaxed a lot and eventually managed two climbs to the top on suitably easy routes. SO pleased to have done this and more than a little proud of myself as this was definitely a big thing for me!

I'm going to be taking a lot forwards from this challenge - and a lot of this ties in with stuff in my wider 2018 challenges too. Organisation and using my bullet-ish journal to keep on top of things - this is a winner all the way for me - each and every time I return to using the journal life gets easier. I'm making it less structured though with a straightforward list for each week, using the standard bullet journal arrow system to "forward" things on to do in a future week. More than two arrows on an item lead to a questioning of why I don't "JFDI" or "Does it actually need doing?".  Similarly is SLEEP - I need more of it than I often get, and when I get more of it, life is easier again. This is another area where forming a habit really helps. Strength & stability exercises - I need to remember that I NEED to do this stuff to carry on running - the stronger I am, the less prone to injury I will be, and with my temperamental joints, that's a key thing. (See also "Stretching" on this one!)   And in fact on the subject of the strength/stability/stretching stuff this is somewhere else I can form a habit which would be beneficial.

I've now started thinking about 2019 - and also back to all the stuff I've achieved and the targets I've hit this year. I'll try and do another post as the end of the year approaches specifically on my 2018 challenges - I'm really looking forward to going over those!


Sunday, 11 November 2018


On Thursday we celebrated my Great Aunt's 90th birthday. Mum, Dad and I, and the cousins arrived en masse with presents, cards, balloons and flowers and made sure she had a lovely afternoon! So why am I mentioning this in a post about remembrance?  Well you see Auntie D grew up without her Father in her life beyond the age of 3. He died in 1932, aged just 39. Her siblings - my Nan and my Great Uncle Ken were 12 and 7 respectively and were both very badly affected by his death - I remember Nan continuing to miss his presence throughout most of her life. My Grandma lived for another 47 years without him by her side and I have no doubt that not a day passed when she didn't think of him, miss him, and wish that things could have been different. My Mum grew up with the family speaking of a "Grandad" who she never knew.

John Henry Stanley - known as Jack - died as a result of being caught in a gas attack during World War 1. He returned home having been awarded the Military Cross for his actions at the Battle of Havrincourt, but was never fit enough to return to his previous occupation as a wood working machinist. In spite of the fact that he died a full 40 years before I was born I'm tremendously proud of my Great Grandad - the whole family are.

We're very good at remembering those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom - and indeed quite rightly so. They are not the only ones who made the ultimate sacrifice, and paid the ultimate price, however. Those who returned home but died later; those with missing limbs, lost sight or hearing, damaged lungs, lingering psychological effects or any other life changing impairments; the families who had to come to terms with someone returning who was very different to the man who went away; the children like Auntie D who never really knew their Father - on this Remembrance day please take a moment to think of them, too.

Lest we forget...


Thursday, 2 August 2018

Airshow season - half way already!

We've reached the mid season point in the UK airshow season and what fantastic weather we've had for it so far!

My season this year started at Shuttleworth in May - I was getting itchy feet and when someone mentioned the first of their "evening airshows" I couldn't resist getting started! As well as the usual Shuttleworth residents there was also a visit from this beauty:

A few blank weeks after that as we headed off to Lundy with a big group of friends for a week (there is a blog post half written on that, to!) but our return to the mainland tied in nicely with the lovely Torbay Airshow - having attended their first show a couple of years ago it's become a bit of a favourite of mine so I was pleased to be able ton get there for a day again this year. It was also my first time this season seeing the Red Arrows display:

A lovely day in the sun with Maxine watching the flying, chattering lots and making the most of access to cheap ice cream!

From June things start getting busy as a rule - although I had made a conscious decision this season that I was going to step things back a bit simply because there are just too many things I want to cram into my summer" - still, Cosford was up next - one that I'd previously ummed and ahhed about doing, but this year the line-up made it an easy decision.

So many highlights it's tricky to know what to pick out but seeing these guys do their full landing display is also good:

Mid month was the first Great Yarmouth Airshow - and I debated long and hard about whether to go or not. In the end I decided to judge it based on the weather, and as the date grew nearer the forecase wasn't looking great. Then a few days before a couple of this year';s Red Arrows Circus chaps started encouraging me to head up to Norwich to see them at the airport which was what I decided to do in the end. I was very glad I did too - thanks to the lovely Caz, and the kind chaps at Saxon Air, I ended up spending a full day airside with the team and the jets - which of course meant that this year's "Circus At Work" project is very much on!

Another trip to Shuttleworth followed - warbird heaven! then into the "big" shows again with Yeovilton arrivals and the show itself. The arrivals day there has proved to be a really nice chilled day and for its £15 price tag, great value too, so friend Gary & I pitched up on a blazingly hot sunny day before being joined by Kim & Jade the following day for the show itself. The absolute highlight for me was finally getting to see this for myself:

My much loved and missed Uncle Bob's name on the tail of RAF Red Arrows Hawk XX322. Thanks to the fundraising "Names on a plane" scheme Bob had been whizzing around the skies of the UK and beyond since last season but for various reasons this was the first time I'd got to see it up close. There was a shriek, and then a tear or two when I realised it was visible - very emotional indeed and I just know how excited Bob would have been at this!

Flying highlights were probably the Belgian Air Force F16 display I think - with their stunning "Dark Falcon" scheme complete with the additional of flares for this display:

The following week was of course the biggie - The Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford - a great three days of incredible displays but most of all the years best chance to catch up with oh-so-many great friends that you simply don't see enough of! So many highlights on the flying front - the RAF BBMF's incredible "Trenchard Plus" display where they got all the toys out of the toybox to fly:

Awesome is a much over used word but this really was. See also "emotional". Very very special indeed - I'm incredibly glad to have seen it for myself. Another "Special" was a 617 Squadron Formation with the BBMF Lancaster, the Panvia Tornado and "new kid on the block" the newly arrived to the UK Lockheed Martin F35b Lightning II.

Spectaular and another great tribute to both the #RAF100 anniversary and the anniversary also of the Dams Raid, of course.

This end of the season got wrapped up with a visit to Farnborough. Now this is a show I've never been sure about visiting - tickets tend to be on the expensive side and the public days at the weekend are often said to be not great. However, the draw for me was that they had secured a Spanish Navy Harrier jump jet - and this one was going to be FLYING! The decision was made and I duly met up with another pal - Simon - shortly after bacon butty time for a good old wander about the show. We found the prototype model of the newly announced RAF jet the Tempest which was interesting, then  separated for a bit to find our chosen spot top watch the star of the show:

What a star it was, too! I'd forgotten how unbelievably loud these are! Thank goodness for earplugs - they really were much needed! She flew, and she hovered and yes I confess that it must have got quite dusty as I definitely had something in my eye! In spite of not being greatly impressed with the rest of the show, this was actually well worth the ticket price, for me. Probably not a show I'd got back to though, on the whole.

So next up for me after mid season break will be Eastbourne - this is one for the "usual suspects" gang - Claire, Anthony and I are all in the same hotel I believe, and Tom & Alysha are staying elsewhere in the town. Lots of other friends will be about as well so it's going to be a sort of combined mini holiday and big get together, hopefully! Planning is happening apace and we're all thoroughly looking forward to a great few days! Bring it on!


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Going Underground...

A couple of years ago we were introduced to the "Hidden London" tours - organised by the London Transport Museum, these take small groups of people to the parts of the London Underground system that your regular commuter doesn't get to see. The first one we did was to the old Down Street station -  this station sat between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park on the Piccadilly line but due to the proximity of the other two stations it simply didn't get the footfall and so was closed in 1932. That was far from the end of its life though as it was later to see service during world War 2 as the Headquarters of the Railway Executive committee and even provided refuge for Winston Churchill!

In February we did our second Hidden London tour - this time the disused tunnels at Euston. Our little group met in the old Leslie Green designed station on Melton Street - no longer in use apart from providing ventilation to the active tunnels below:

From there we had a short walk across to the Mainline station and down the "shortcut steps" known to most Londoners to the tube station where we were ushered through the barrier (no Oyster cards required!) and on to one of the Northern Line platforms where a door at the end lead to the tunnels we were after. 

Unused by the public for over 50 years, these tunnels were closed when construction for the Victoria Line started - since then they have been used to run additional ventilation pipes, and for storage and access for those working on the station, and as a result the tunnels are astonishingly well preserved exactly as they were when the last commuters passed through. 

As well as the history of the tunnels themselves we learned about the way the tube stations were constructed in those days - basically they were  built in "kit form" from a standard pack of parts - which leads to oddities like this ticket window - designed to allow commuters to purchase tickets to change lines without having to return to the main booking hall... it is a single window the "in" and "out" make little sense and it can only been assumed that they were in the parts supplied and therefore got used regardless!

Some more posters...who is Spartacus?! ;-)

Originally there were lifts running from these platforms to surface level at the Mainline Station - here is the view up one of the shafts...

These tours are absolutely fascinating - not cheap, we paid £85 each for the Down Street tour and £45 each for this one I believe - but good value for money, nonetheless, and the money supports the London Transport Museum helping to ensure that these sorts of tours continue to be available. since starting to write this post (yes, writing,m and actually getting around to posting can be spread over a l-o-n-g time period!) we've actually done yet another - so I'll try to tell you about that one before all that long too! There is a feeling of visiting somewhere that has been frozen in time when you explore somewhere like this - and some of the small details are absolutely fascinating - for example did you know that all the rings that line the tube tunnels are date stamped with at least their year of manufacture, and sometimes with the day and month also (If you happen to be exiting a Jubilee Line Extension station any time soon take a look at some of the rings that are visible from the escalators for examples of that.

I'll leave you with a picture that pretty much sums up the Euston tour, for me - this is the tunnels as they were abandoned when this section of the station was closed off. The colours on the tiling still so vibrant, and those amazingly preserved posters - there is almost a feeling that it could have a bit of a clean up and swing back into action!