Kiss me Kate and dinner in China Town, London

The Coliseum theatre where we had an enjoyable time seeing this old musical.

Outside the theatre.

On our way, we went to nearby Chinatown for a meal. The food was Hong Kong style and very good.

Today we took the very slow bus to a hotel near Heathrow Airport. Our flight is at 9:30 am tomorrow and we have a car booked to take us to Terminal 2 in the morning. It is the same cost as the Airport Shuttle, but faster.

We had a day of packing and finishing cleaning at the apartment, before catching the bus. It took us about 3.5 hours to get here, with wait times and Stephen going to the library to return some books.

This hotel is more of a hostel, we have a tiny room with tiny ensuite and a kettle in a nearby outdoor area if we want to make our own cups of tea. I have a cup and some teabags and plastic cutlery. There were other possibilities for an evening meal, such as pizza delivery or a nice pub on the corner, but I brought some leftover food and we had picnic tea outside, before walking down to a local shop to get money, water and ice creams.

Our last few days in England

On Tuesday afternoon we went to the Science Museum in London. The highlight was going to the iMax theatre to see the 3D movie about the Hubble Telescope. Stephen looked at other exhibits afterwards whilst I enjoyed reading about the Hubble. Being close to Earth it was possible for teams to do repairs and upgrades and it is still operating after being launched in 2009. A replacement is planned which will be much further out and not able to be reached by astronaughts.

We caught a bus through to Hyde Park and spent a pleasant time in the warm late afternoon on the Serpentine. Our goal was to see an exhibit, very large and very silly, floating on the water. We were able to enjoy the warm weather just sitting. The lack of airconditioning means travelling by public trans;port can be quite uncomfortable. Our train journey home was comfortable as it was cooler.

When the weather warmed up here, we were finding the house very warm and stuffy, and it was difficult to sleep even though we had the sliding door in the bedroom open. We could only open the windows very slightly. However, Stephen emailed G and found out how to open the windows properly. It means going through a very stiff part, then the windows open. For the last couple of days the house has been much cooler, especially since we are waking up to mist insteading bright sunlight. The mist clears by late morning, allowing the sun to really warm things up. During the ‘heat wave’ our house was already very hot by 7.00 a.m. when the sun had been on the glass for about two hours.

Yesterday Stephen wasn’t feeling very well with renewed cough and cold. I did some shopping and we went out later in the day to enjoy a cup of tea at the M&S cafe. We both bought some underwear, not cheap, but good quality.

Today (Thursday) is our designated cleaning day. We have done the big jobs, with some more to do tomorrow. We are spending our last night in a hotel near the airport, but checkin is not until 3.00 p.m. and we plan to do our packing in the morning and travel via the very slow bus to Heathrow. From there it is a short journey on another bus to the hotel. I thought I might do packing today, but can’t get motivated.

We are both feeling a bit anxious about leaving as we have been in one place long enough to feel quite settled and it is unsettling us to feel we have to move on. Also, I don’t think anyone these days looks forward to long flights, especially when travelling economy. At least arriving home means we can relax at the end.

Tonight we have an outing to the theatre to see ‘Kiss me Kate’ at the Colloseum in London. We plan to have dinner somewhere first. We felt we needed a reward after cleaning the house. Plus, it is a lovely way to spend our second last evening here.


Down House

Yesterday we took trams and buses to visit Down House, which was the family home of Charles and Emma Darwin for most of their married life. They had 10 children altogether, with Emma having her last baby when she was 48 years old. There is a biography of her life which I will look into as she seems to have been a remarkable woman.

Charles Darwin was very fortunate in that he always knew he would inherit wealth and he ackowledged himself that perhaps he didn’t really apply himself at university because he knew he didn’t really need to. Another reason was that he had his own areas of interest and may not have really cared for much of what he was being taught.

After living on The Beagle for five years, travelling to remote places, doing long field trips and studying plant and animal life, he arrived home, married, moved house once, and pretty much stayed put for the rest of his life. He developed stomach problems, probably due to contact with a particularly nasty beetle, which sometimes made it difficult for him to work. And work he did. He walked in the grounds of his house three times a day – doing a particular circut five times in a row before lunch.

He would work in his study in the morning, writing and doing research, then walk, then have lunch, have some time with Emma (she often read to him, but they were in the bedroom away from the children, so may have engaged in other activities, leading to more children). Then I think he went back to work. He was a fond father and pretty relaxed for the times, when fathers tended to be distant and stern. He actually sounds like a rather nice person.

They bought the old house, adding to it over the years as they had more children. The house is now open to the public and run by English Heritage, a sort of rival to the National Trust. However, in this case I think they did a very good job of setting the house up for the public. They had some rooms set up with displays about Darwin’s life and research and some set up as much as possible as they were when the family lived there.

The gardens are still very well looked after, with Darwin’s walk (the Sand Walk), greenhouses, vegetable garden with the same vegetables that were grown in his day. Of course, they had servants to look after them and the butler appeared to be a very good friend to Darwin. They had two cooks over the lifetime of living there, and the second one wasn’t much good, but they don’t appear to have considered getting someone new to replace her.

When doing modifications to the house, Darwin said that he wanted the servants to be comfortably housed as well as the family. He was always an opponent of slavery.

Of course, having wealth meant that he didn’t have to worry about earning a living and could focus on his own areas of interest, which were many and varied. But, he could have been lazy and self indulgent, like many wealthy people.

We set out at about 11.30 and arrived home about 7.00. We had warm weather. It continues to be fairly comfortable in the shade, it’s not really hot, but being in the sun isn’t pleasant for us and we avoid it as much as possible. Our bedroom was hot when we got home and I opened the sliding door as wide as possible and put the little fan on. By the time we went to bed it was reasonably comfortable.

sandwalk (1 of 1)
The Sand Walk. We explored the garden after 4.30 when it was a bit cooler. I didn’t do the whole circut as I wasn’t sure how long it was and if I would be back before they closed the house. Long enough to try to imagine being Darwin doing the walk, of course.
Being Darwin under the tree (1 of 1)
They had the obligatory digital headset and device for exploring the ground floor and gardens. Here is Stephen imagining he is Darwin, sitting in the garden.
squirrel (1 of 1)
We see lots of these little fellows whereever we go.
greenhouse (1 of 1)
Darwin’s greenhouse. There is a little laboratory attached and photos of schoolgirls doing experiments there (the house was a school for some years)
fungus (1 of 1)

Today we plan to continue our scientific journey with a visit to the Science Museum in London. We are counting down the days until we leave. Thursday we will clean the house and probably have a local outing. On Friday we change all the linen and do a lot of washing before catching the very slow bus to Heathrow. We have a hotel booked nearby where we will stay the night. The Heathrow Shuttle will then take us to Terminal 2 to catch our 9.30 a.m. flight on Saturday.

Hampstead Heath

Yesterday we did our usual Sunday morning thing – speaking with Matt via Facetime. Hidde wasn’t there and Matt definitely makes more effort to speak when he knows it’s up to him. The staff member holding his iPad did help out a little.

This week promises to be quite warm and sunny, with temperatures in the mid to high twenties and nightime lows up to 15 or 16. Our apartment has windows getting lots of morning sun and it really heats up. The circulation system doesn’t work very well and because we have no fly screens opening the sliding doors means we get flies. It’s humid and quite uncomfortable at night even with the sliding door open. I’m really glad to be going home to winter weather. I’m glad about the weather from the point of view of people who live here, of course.

We caught the train and bus and underground to Hampstead Heath, partly because Stephen wanted a bus ride through the Monopoly part of the city and partly because he doesn’t like changing trains at Clapham Junction for some reason. We caught the London Overground to Clapham Junction on the way home and it was very quick. It was still very light when we arrived home at 9.00 pm.

Indian celebration in Trafalgar Square - 1
Trafalgar Square – there was an Indian festival happening here.

We visited a stately home, Fenton House, near Hampstead Heath first of all. We had set out at about 3.00 p.m. and arrived there about 4.00. I took some photos with my iPhone.

Fenton House - 1
Fenton House
Fenton House2 - 1
beautiful bedroom

Afterwards, we walked through one of the Hampstead Heath paths to Parliament Hill, which has a view of London. It’s partly blocked by some bushes. Being a weekend there were heaps of people there, having picnics, swimming and generally behaving as if the hot weather had arrived.

enjoying the sunshine on Parliament Hill (1 of 1)
Stripping off to enjoy the sun. This was at about 8.00 p.m.
Hampstead Heath swimming - 1
view from Parliament Hill - 1
View from Parliament Hill at full zoom

Annoying minor ailment

I spent yesterday in bed. In the morning the problem was the cough, but I was taking cough medicine and avoiding dairy products, and the cough is now a minor problem. Then my nose started and hasn’t stopped since.

Stephen went out yesterday in the late afternoon to visit the local museum. He wants to get the paper this morning and also has a mission to get something to stop the nose. Plus more boxes of tissues.

Our photos are backed up on hard drives, but also on Google photos and Flickr. Google photos likes to do small compilations and modifications, and the featured photo is a then and now of Stephen, courtesty of Google Assistant, wearing exactly the same jacket. I think the first photo is from about eight or nine years ago when we were in Canberra for the National Folk Festival. I make this deduction both on the background to the photo and the type of camera used, a Sony NEX 5.

We have beento the Canberra Folk Festival three times now, we flew the first couple of time, but the last time we went with our caravan. The second photo was taken a few days ago in Hastings on Stephen’s iPhone 8.

Stephen noted a couple of differences – that the resemblence with sister Lesley is stronger and he has a bit of a stoop in the latest photo. He wasn’t wearing a backpack in the older photo which may have helped with standing straighter.

Visiting West Hill

Yesterday we went out for breakfast at a fairly pleasant cafe/bakery and felt once again rather thwarted. I had hoped for really comfortable seating with a long table, we ended up sitting at two different small round tables. There were no specific breakfast options so we had toast and jam. At least I was able to have a very nice coffee. Stephen opted for coffee as well. And, I was able to do yesterday’s blog.

We went back to our AirBNB and packed up our things. Our hostess was there and gave us a little later time, until 4.15 p.m. Stephen had a couple of museums to visit and I wanted to take a lift to one of the hills. There were two, but by the time we spent roaming around West Hill we felt that we didn’t need to go to the other one. There was light cloud, some mist, and some sunshine and it was very beautiful. The Hastings Castle is a ruin, and seemed a bit expensive to us, and I just took photos of the outside.

We had lunch at the West Hill Cafe, which looks like a fairly traditional tea rooms, but had French staff. We could enjoy the views from the large windows. I took some video of the scenery as it seemed the best way to show the panorama, with gulls flying and a breeze. We enjoyed the herring gull sound all the time at Hastings, even in our room.

We picked up our bags and went to the station waiting room until our train arrived. We had a comfortable four seater area with a table. Although passengers came and went at the various stations we were able to maintain our spot. I was reading part of the time, but we also enjoyed the views as we went through the countryside. At first we were by the sea as the train went towards Eastbourne, then headed inland towards Croydon. We arrived home very tired and feeling very happy with our little holiday by the sea. I was particularly happy to come home by train and not have to drive.

Yesterday the cough that has lingered since we had colds a few weeks ago became much worse. I woke up this morning with my voice mostly gone and feeling very congested, with difficulty breathing. This improved once I Croydon GP Hub, with no appointment necessary. It is an alternative to going to Emergency with lesser ailments and open 7 days a week.

I was seen by a nurse after about a 20 minute wait.   She took medical details and checked vital signs, then I was seen by a GP. She confirmed that I didn’t actually have a chest infection. She said to go to Emergency if I had any chest pain and difficulty breathing and precribed lots of fluids and no dairy products or bananas. The experience as a whole was very good, I felt they took me seriously, and I was treated with courtesy. It was also free, even though we are visitors here.

I’ve had a restful day. Stephen went and did the shopping on his own. It is probably going to be our last big shop before we leave here.

Following is a slideshow from our visit to West Hill. The lift has been in operation for 120 years and cost a mere 2 pounds for a return journey. In fact, we walked down the hill afterwards, it wasn’t far, but would quite tough to climb up. With the slideshow it’s best to take it to full screen mode and enable HD for best quality.


Hastings Adventures

After afternoon tea on Monday we walked along the sea front as far as we could until we were under the cliff. There are a couple of museums for Stephen to explore.

a walk to the end of the town (1 of 1)
at the end of the path
cliff face (1 of 1)
cliff face
how to get up the cliff to see to view (1 of 1)
funicular railway
Stephen on pebble beach (1 of 1)
enjoying the pebble beach
the pier (1 of 1)
The pier, a new construction owned by foreign interests appears to be only open when there is an event.

We walked back into the Old Town and found an Elizabethan style pub where we had the two together steak special. The steaks were beautifully cooked to our specification and the meal as a whole well presented and tasty. There were chips, but not used to cover up bad cooking, as sometimes happens. We were so happy with our first dinner Monday night that we went there for our evening meal last night as well, choosing the fish and chips special this time.

the pub where we had our evening meals

When we were walking Monday evening we saw a place, Pam’s Cafe that serves breakfasts. We chose it partly because we would be able to see the sea from the windows. However, it turned out to be a bad choice – the only choice was fried everything and they didn’t do real coffee. I took my laptop and planned to blog whilst enjoying coffee, but the table was sticky and I didn’t like to bring it out. So, we consider that a fail. The sea was grey, with a grey sky. After breakfast we walked back to the house to pack our things for the day out.

Our plan was to visit Bodian Castle, a bus ride away from the town. I was trying to buy a real coffee, but the Costas at the bus station/train station reported a malfunctioning coffee machine. After walking around a bit, I found a sort of funky pub that did take away coffee. Thank goodness as it was getting close to midday.

The bus ride was interesting as it took us through a part of the town which is hilly and we probably wouldn’t have chosen to walk that way. Bodian Castle is a National Trust property and located just near the bus stop – which made it ideal from the logisics point of view.

Apart from that, it is the most beautiful castle. It is a ruin, but the outside is well kept and there is enough intact inside to get a feel for what it was like to live there. The man that built it came from an ordinary manor house and he and his wife had the challenge of making a castle as comfortable as their former home. The castle has featured in documentaries, but I don’t remember seeing it before.

It was partly sunny and quite warm by the time we reached Bodian. It was a delightful experience to walk inside and around the grounds. They had the usual National Trust shop and cafe, and we made good use of both. I took lots of photos, but also bought some postcards of the castle in snow and in evening light. If we ever build a castle I want it to be just like Bodian. Below are some photos.

Bodian Castle1 (1 of 1)




There were some very large fish in the moat. This one’s face looks like some sort of mammal rather than a fish.

It’s been an odd experience as we walk around the town to seeing Hastings on signs everywhere. The was also a Carlisle hotel and I took a photo of it for Matt.

After arriving back in town at about 3.30, we went to Jempsons for our afternoon cuppa. We resisted cakes and it paid off with having a good appetite for our dinner. We walked along the sea front in the other direction after leaving Jempsons, then walked back to the Old Town to our favourite pub.



there was a bank of fog over the sea during the afternoon, some of which blew over the town

By the time we got home we had done the most steps of any day on our trip so far, about 16,929 – about 12 kms. We slept very well indeed, though we had energy for listening to a couple of Desert Island Disk podcasts. If you haven’t been listening to Desert Island Disks it’s worth while checking them out. They have interviews stretching back 30 years. Sometimes there are interviews of the same person at vastly different stages of their life.

I needed a new book shortly before we left and chose ‘The Conqueror’ by Georgette Heyer. Her books are now available as ebooks and the connection with Hastings makes it the idea choice for reading here. The hero is William the Conqueror. I’m not sure I want to bring it up with the locals, they speak of the Civil War as if it happened a few years ago instead of centuries. Being overtaken by the Normans might be a bit sensitive for them, depending on their ancestry and loyalties.

Stephen likes to strike up conversations with other elderly men as we are catching buses. This can lead to very interesting local information.

We see very little of our hostess who is a shift worker. Hopefully we will see her when we go back to the house to pack up and we can clarify the pick up time for our bags.


The Hastings go to Hastings

But first, getting up to date. On Saturday evening we went to a concert at the Croydon Minster. The choir members do not audition and the choral singing was a little fuzzy – not up to WASO chorus standards. But the young soloists were excellent and the Rossini mass is very easy to listen to.

soloists - 1
Sadly I couldn’t get a photo with all four soloists looking towards the front. The second from the left was the mezzo. She had a really lovely voice.
performance area - 1
We could see more of the church before the choir arrived.

When we came out it was still light, with a cold breeze. Stephen had his thick coat (I had been using it in the church to try to get comfortable), but I had my denim jacket only. A brisk walk home was the best we could do to get warm.

On Sunday we did nothing very much – we talked with Matt and Hidde on Facetime at 11.30 a.m. Matt continues to look well and happy. In the later afternoon we went out for afternoon tea and shopping. We had pork pies for lunch, mostly so that we could tell Hidde that we had them, rather than because we thought they would be great. They were nice at the time, but have a strong taste of pork which seems to be haunting me still. Perhaps I need a Chinese meal or something to overpower the taste.

waiting for our train to Hastings - 1
Stephen’s finger on the lens here. We sat outside as we waiting for them to post the platform number. We were told it was usually platform 3, but we didn’t want to have to scramble up and around to another platform if it changed.
arrived - 1
Stephen with the sign on the platform opposite – we have arrived!

This morning we got up in good time to pack for our little trip. In fact, our train didn’t leave until 1.00 p.m., but we wanted to get to the station early to pick up our tickets. We were thinking of just taking my duffle bag for both of us, but I filled it up with my stuff, so Stephen has had to bring the other duffle for his clothes. We still felt we were lightly packed compared with when we went away with the car for a week.

We haven’t bought any food with us as it would have been extra to carry. We can prepare food at our AirBNB, but will probably just have meals out for the couple of days we are here. We have two nights, and are leaving at 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday, which gives us a couple of days here, more or less. We have a room on the ground floor, just down three steps, rather than up many steps, with our own private bathroom. It’s very inexpensive compared with most of the places available here, $103 for two nights including AirBNB fees. Breakfast isn’t included, but there are many options to buy breakfast nearby.

we are staying in the left hand house on the ground floor - 1
We are on the left, with the white door.

It was cloudy and dull when we woke up this morning, then fined up by the time we left home. We arrived here in sunshine, which tends to make a good impression. There is a coolish breeze, so we need jackets. We really enjoyed the train ride. Obviously when we were travelling along near the sea Stephen put away his paper to look out the window.

Jempson's in Hastings - 1
Stephen in the town square with our destination, Jempson’s Bakery Cafe, in the background.
Jempson's in Hastings2 - 1
The cafe
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Cup of tea for Stephen and coffee for me. We had tea cakes, a bit similar to Welsh cakes, quite delicious toasted.

Stephen didn’t do any preparation in terms of looking up the attractions of this area before we came. Whilst I am tapping away at the blog he is doing some research for the next couple of days.

Stephen was joking (I hope) with the waitress that we should get a discount because our name is Hastings. She confided that the manager had said to only charge us for one tea cake, not two – we were already being given a discount. I think we will come back to this cafe.

The Fox to Farthing Downs

We had a roast for lunch today, just a small amount of chicken, enough for two, with roast vegetables. It was delicious and we felt it would set us up for a long walk in the afternoon.

We set off on our expedition quite late, about 3.30 p.m. The bus was full of blue blazered schoolgirls, very noisy and happy to get out of school. As it was a long bus ride to our destination it wasn’t as peaceful as we would have liked. Plus, the bus was having to contend with a lot of traffic. Close to our destination our bus packed it in altogether and booted us out. We weren’t told, but the next bus was close behind and it didn’t cause much of a delay.

On arrival we had afternoon tea at The Fox, a rather nice pub on the edge of the Coulston Downs. We have walked in this area before and had a rough idea that we could easily walk through to Farthing Downs, then along the high ridge to catch a different bus. It was about 5.00 p.m. when we set out and we caught the bus towards home at about 7.00 p.m. We had one very steep climb and compared it with doing the 9 floors up to our apartment. Doable, but slowly.

So, now, some photos from our walk:

Stephen examining something (1 of 1)
Stephen spends time looking at plants and trees and I take photos. We don’t try to keep pace with each other all of the time, but sort of leap frog as we go.
Fox to Farthing downs (8 of 8)
The Long Grass on Farthing Downs
Fox to Farthing downs (7 of 8)
There were quite a lot of different flowers, I found this one interesting.
Fox to Farthing downs (3 of 8)
Stephen waiting for me to come through the gate.
Fox to Farthing downs (4 of 8)
View from Farthing Downs
Fox to Farthing downs (2 of 8)
Another view down the hill
Fox to Farthing downs (1 of 8)
The buildings mark the beginning of the Farthing Downs section of the walk.
Fox to Farthing downs (5 of 8)
The signpost. I have a photo of this from our last trip to England.
Fox to Farthing downs (6 of 8)
The Shard and other buildings in London were visible in the distance. Although it looks to be getting dark in the photo it was still quite light when we arrived home.

As we were travelling on a different bus on the way home we decided to switch back to the 466 when we could so that we could get off outside of our housing complex. It would have been quicker, but more expensive, to go home by train.

As we were home so late we had a quick and easy meal of scrambled eggs followed by fruit for our evening meal.

Most of the photos were processed using DxO’s Effex Pro. I find the HDR effects not as pleasing as the ones from the IOS app Snapseed. The files blow out to 144mb and I have to import the processed files back into Lightroom, then export them using my normal ‘for the web’ presets, taking them back to no more than 5 mb. It adds to processing time. The featured photo and photo of Stephen bending over were just processed using the Lightroom sliders.