Event-lag, pass me a brufen somebody…

Slow news day yesterday. A combination of event-lag and a head cold which has taken up residence and is now inviting a large group of noisy friends has meant that I mostly wandered around like a hopeless drunk whilst C unpacked, abused Richard and Caroline’s washing machines and reloaded Doris. Horror of horrors she went for a run round the big field out the back of their house and I resorted to taking my ailments for a walk – well done her. But that did give Richard and I another hour or so to put the world to right – he’s got wide ranging military and adventure training background – from recently walking in Georgia to canoeing in the Antarctic – so there’s always something we can wrestle with.

one view from Richard's and my walk yesterday

one view from Richard’s and my walk yesterday

Our latest, and I’ll try and summarise this in a short paragraph, is the impact that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is having on the West and how we (that is Richard and I) would have done things differently in hindsight. My view has always been that whilst we have to defend ourselves what gives us the right to impose liberal democracy on other people? You might argue that what we have is better than the previous regimes in those countries, but with ‘our way’ comes a myriad of subtle, complicated and unpleasant issues such as drugs, alcohol, mass consumerism (shopping as a pastime), racism, rampant ambition, broken marriages, lack of respect for the elderly, gun crime, fear of crime, sexualising young people, over-the-fence jealousy…..I could go on. I’ve not been to Iraq, but I have been to and worked in a number of third-world countries including Afghanistan, and whilst the poverty, disease and, in some oppression, is appalling and not something I would exchange my life for, I’m totally unconvinced that blanketly applying our way of life with all its rubbish add-ons is the right solution. And I guess the aftermath of the West’s incursions in Iraq in particular must support my view. Afghanistan will follow after we’ve all gone…

But more important – and absolutely why we will not be able to apply a solution to these countries – we have to ask ourselves and then answer the question ‘why is there an issue in the first place?’ We eventually did this in Northern Ireland where we engaged with the terrorists and amended the imbalance of civil rights between the Catholics and the Protestants. We took away the core reason for the need for one side to feel aggrieved and, with no remaining reason to fight the terrorists lost the general support of the side they were purportedly fighting for. I know that there are still very small elements of that society on both sides that would like to kill each other and sectarianism still exists, but we did ask and then answer the question (eventually). For much of the Middle East the Arab/Israeli issue is central to general disenchantment and the West’s, particularly, as the Arabs would see it, the right wing Christian US’s underpinning of Israel, wholly exacerbates the problem. Add to that US/Christian soles treading the tarmacs of their towns (come on, what would we think if the Saudi military patrolled the streets of Wolverhampton?) and mix in mass poverty ruled over by an uber-rich elite and, have a guess what? I certainly would be taking up arms against the infidels. Come and join me?

Bombing and killing the terrorists is not the answer. It’s part of the problem. Yes we must protect ourselves and yes that means we have to stop terrorists and that might mean surgical involvement with special forces and spies. But, and I know it’s a cliche, for every one terrorist you kill you spawn ten more. We absolutely have to help answer the Arab/Israeli question in a meaningful way; it must be the top of everyone’s foreign policy list. We do have to help regimes become better regimes and close the gap between rich and poor. We have to help regimes see that human rights are key to building a future in their countries. But we must not, never, believe that the way we live our lives is so special everyone should get some of it. And, anything other than an UN mandated, Arab led force, the west should not but boots on the ground unilaterally. We should always be seen as the last people they call, and we can diplomatically help them make that call, but not force them to; then come along in a supporting role, sheepishly but effectively. I appreciate that this approach is neither instant nor will it attract many right-wing votes, but in a basket case of a region it will not stoke the fire, it might eventually dampen it.

So that’s told you.

my mate Richard (and Caroline)

my mate Richard (and Caroline)

Leaving the v kind hospitality of Richard and Caroline’s today for a CL near Frome (I have an ENT appointment tomorrow in Frome). The consultant’s going to love it when I sneeze all over him. But back in Doris – yippee!

BFIW – Sunday

At least I wasn’t hung over. I’d taken up the role of taxi driver for all of the evening slots. It wasn’t so people could smell the burning martyr, it’s just that drinking is something I have no problem dipping in and out of. So yesterday morning I was almost as fresh as a dandelion, except I’d picked up a head cold probably from wantonly swimming in the Med. If that was the case I was about to exacerbate the problem by insisting we all went to the Adriatic so we could compare and contrast. After everyone got themselves sorted (and I managed to post the blog, which, with the hotel wifi talking to the WordPress server using HF and morse code, took me forever) we embarked the car through the front and rear doors using the flipflops provided at about lunchtime. And headed east.

order under the olive trees

order under the olive trees

It was a slow meander through endless olive groves, all immaculately set out and bordered by the chaos that is run-down Italy, which from our limited experience, is anywhere south of Rome. The Adriatic coast here typified this.

Lawrences of Puglia

Lawrences of Puglia

The beach we stopped at for lunch and a swim was flanked by a ten-year old build which had started to morph into the shrub and sand. The littoral was littered with unpainted single storey concrete holiday homes all boarded up for the winter. The beach-side resorts were charmless, tatty (broken in places) and would not attract even the hardiest Butlins supporter. But, although the sea was rough, it was warm and the surf was inviting. And I suppose if you were to throw open the cafe doors and transport in a few thousand brightly dressed Italians (it’s their resort, not international) the place would probably become fun, easy going and relaxed. Pretentious it couldn’t be; pleasant almost certainly.

surf was fun....

surf was fun….

...but resort was delapidated

…but resort was delapidated

Richard and I braved the surf for twenty minutes and we reverted to our youth. Where we picnicked, a kingfisher, unaware that this wasn’t the place for

too posh for this place

too posh for this place

upmarket types, dipped in and out of a small lagoon exposing its fluorescent blue cloak for the sun to smile at. And (we should have known better) the combination of strong wind and bright sun shrivelled our exposed surfaces, tightening our skin – no nip and tuck required now C.

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We drove on to Lecce, a major town where we we due to supper with most of the wedding Brits and say our farewells. I know our cultures are different, but Sunday night in Wells is a timid affair with most of us watching Countryfile and preparing for another week at work. In Lecce partying had recently been passed into law. It was packed. Jam packed. It’s a big town with a small quarter of a Roman amphitheatre taking up part of the main square. We had

Lecce....the place to be on s Sunday night

Lecce….the place to be on a Sunday night

difficulty squeezing into and then out of the square; the whole town was heaving with a population intent on having a good time. When we left the restaurant at about nine-thirty it was the same thing, except perhaps busier. Three West Africans played their bongos to a delighted crowd and some other folk had set up some blocks for people to step on and over. Everyone else was milling about, talking, smoking and heading into and out bars. It makes you wonder how anyone manages to complete a full day’s work on a Monday. Perhaps they don’t.

Brits on tour

Brits on tour

It took us an hour to get back to the hotel and we were up with the lark’s youngest cousin at three to hoof our way back over to Naples and their cunningly hidden airport, made more difficult to find in the Italian version of the early morning rush hour – when two lanes become three, sometimes four.

Was it all worth it? The early starts and long days? Absolutely. The wedding, as described, was spectacular and an event we will never forget. We’ve learnt that this part of Italy, the south east, is not really worth a second trip, but southern Italy remains a draw in a post-apocalyptic sense – shabby, deserted post summer, but warm and v friendly. The food was scrummy and the people a pleasure. As such it has reaffirmed our drive to head for Sicily for Christmas, but probably skirting the west rather than east coast. But we’ve yet to fully think it all through. Downsides are that diesel is at least as expensive, if not more pricey than it is in the UK and, unlike Spain and Portugal, the hinterland is pretty much like the coast but without the lapping sea. Plusses are – well that rustic, peeling charm that is everywhere. In the south it’s a country where personal expression and happiness outweigh the need to paint the windowsills. And that suits us.

Another place?  What Anyhony Gormley  would sculpt if he did live art...

Another place? What Anthony Gormley would sculpt if he did live art…

Next for us a couple of weeks of admin and catching up and saying cheerio to a few people. We hope to be at Dover mid-October, but no ferry has been booked yet. It will, inevitably, evolve and, just as inevitably, adapt at the last minute. That’s the beauty of Stage 3…..

This will be published late as I’m writing this on Easyjet 12345 and we don’t get in for another two hours. Oh well.

The (BFI) Wedding

Wow. Awesome. Fabulous. #bestweddingever. It was something else.

The catholic service was not as high church as we were expecting, there was no incense, no interminable readings, no inquisition. It was held in a beautiful Southern Italian church dappled in September sunshine, conducted by a kind-eyed and smiling priest who did his best to help us Brits to maintain pace with his imageItalian. There were claps, cheers and kisses. There was laughter and warmth. Photos were taken inside and outside the church, and whilst I felt the official photographers just got in the way a bit, there were no barking of orders to gather people together, it just happened in a relaxed and sensible way.

imageThe reception, on the other hand, was a monster. Not the sort of monster that invades your dreams, chases you round the park and tries to chew off your legs. No, this was a Monsters Inc sort of monster. All huge, over powering, never ending – but fluffy adorned with navy and light blue stripes and as scary as an untoasted marshmallow. It had opulence, order and slickness all hidden in a sea of style and panache. It was the wedding that George Clooney would have preferred to be at. Indeed, I’m sure I saw Michael Douglas waltz in off his super-yacht with Katherine Z-J by his side, say his hellos and disappear down to the casino in Brindisi. It was just fabulous and we, and most of the other Brits who attended, were v lucky to have been invited and I feel unlikely to see anything like it ever again in our lifetimes.

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(Wifi tricky, more photos to follow)

The reception was held at a pink Moorish palace that had been converted into ‘a imageplace to hold weddings’. It wasn’t the Alhambra, but it was a mini version. In one seamless seven hours we went from carefully crafted canapés and champagne on one outside area (we were all stuffed by the time we had tried everything on offer – the generosity of the day was staggering), followed by a sit-down outside buffet of six stands of anti-pasta (we’d put on a stone already) accompanied by two different servings of fine wine in another outside area, followed immediately inside on set tables (just in case we were hungry) by a sit-down five-course dinner with whole scampi on smoked tuna, two sorts of pasta courses, a superb breaded sea-bass and side order of rum sorbet – various expensive wines were served throughout. We then reconvened in another, now sensitively candlelit outside area, where the most enormous of wedding cakes was cut, we helped ourselves to a mouth-watering selection of patisseries, ice-cream, strangely shaped small iced cakes, exotic fruit and whatever post-dinner alcohol you could ask for. Oh and then a waiter came round with espressos – and I’m sure if you had asked him if you could stick your finger in his ear he would have obliged; the service was discrete but overwhelmingly efficient.

all the tables were named after famous people

all the tables were named after famous people

mmmm, what's the answer?

mmmm, what’s the answer?

Sometime during this marathon the bride and groom arrived in a concours old Renault, we played some sort of standing up to questions game where the happy pair had to work out what we were being asked, we were entertained with a couple of short family films and a band played throughout. We danced, well the Brits danced to the disco stuff and then the Italian contingent showed us what true dancing was with a display of their flamenco equivalent – the bridesmaids were particularly good at this, not that I paid too much attention. Throughout there was an effete fiddler energetically fiddling to almost every section of the occasion and at every table. Almost annoying.

image

image

And I guess that was perhaps the only schism in a quite beautiful day. The Italians and the Brits didn’t mix that much. It didn’t detract from the day and there were plenty of conversations between the two groups, especially between the younger generation, but it was noticeable. We spoke to an Italian General and his wife (friends of Simon and Rosemary) who told us that this was all pretty standard for an Italian wedding. No wonder the Italian economy is in tatters…

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Anyhow, our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who had a handle into a truly memorable day. And our best wishes to Amy and Vincenzo for their future. They’re flying back to Australia in a couple of days where they currently both live and work. Hopefully we will see them at some point soon.

Rest day today.

BFIW – Friday

The wholly unplanned day turned out to be a success. After a swim and then breakfast the four adults (even though Emily and Laura + blokes are older than I was when C and I got married, they will always be children in my eyes) went for a long(ish) walk through the local olive groves, which other than, well, nothing, seem to constitute industry and agriculture round here. The trees are all old and gnarled, but the ground beneath them perfectly flat and clear of any obstruction including grass. The aim, we believe, is to leave an uncluttered floor for when the olives fall or are shaken from the trees. It provides a wonderful sense of order in an otherwise haphazard and scruffy area of the world.

Caroline - it's a big chair!

Caroline – it’s a big chair!

shabby Roman, chic car

We drove to the local Lidl to forage for some stuff for a picnic on Sunday and met up with Simon and Rosemary (bride’s parents) for lunch in the main square of Francavilla Fontana, another local town. It’s difficult to describe these places. There’s a magical sense of forgotteness about the buildings with peeling plaster, chipped corners, faded frescos but all forged from substantial Romanesque architecture – big sandstone blocks and semi-circular arches. C finds the whole place enchanting; she loves the shabbiness, and I’m inclined to agree with her. It was brill to be able to catch up with Simon and Rosemary before the big day, and as with the previous night, the food was plentiful and cheap.

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girls doing lunch

We bade our farewells and whilst the sun skipped in and out from behind the clouds and the wind whistled round our ankles, I fired up Gazza (bought with us to have his own holiday), and the four of us pointed a finger at a town on the Med and of we jolly-welled.

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two pansies getting out of the sea

The Med was understated on this part of the arch under the boot of Italy. It’s all low-rise ‘of the local architecture’ holiday homes, simple seaside resorts, the odd falling into the sea sandstone fortress and rocky beaches. But, for us, it was an opportunity to swim in salt water, which has always been a real draw for me. Richard and I, rather tentatively on the rocky floor, gingerly made our way in, paddled about for a bit, and then gingerly came out again. We’d have been no good in the Army. But it was a delightful intermission; so how lucky are we?

We headed back north and stopped to look at one if scores of Trullis, dry stone round storehouses which can only be found down here. Some of them, indeed the one we stopped to gawp at, have been renovated, but seem to remain unused. So I’m not sure what’s going on there? Anyhow they brighten an otherwise fairly dull landscape. The photos below are where we stopped, but the one I really want has a tiled, pointy roof which looks v Lord of the Rings. I’ve seen one just north of here, so I will try and get a photo and stick it in before we leave.

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truly Trullis

We gathered together back at the hotel and drove back into Francavilla F for supper (Richard and Caroline, Rob and Laura and us). We had another v inexpensive spread in a less rustic restaurant than last night, but just as tasty. A hot topic was press freedom, the young taking one stand point and the elder taking the same stand point, but seemingly describing it differently. I think our future is in fairly safe hands. I managed to drive back without the need of local assistance, but driving a left hand drive car on the wrong side of the road does require a special effort – it is not a natural activity I find.

The BFIW today. Simon tells us at the reception we have to stay in our seats for the first four courses; after, for the remaining five, it’s a buffet and we can wander about.  Is that an ‘hurrah’ statement?

BFIW – Thursday

the four of us before the affects of red wine

the four of us before the effects of red wine

Easyjet is not a bad way to fly. Certainly it’s nowhere near as chaotic as it used to be. And at eighty-seven feet tall there’s even enough room for my legs in a standard seat. The early doors start didn’t seem to be a worry accept there was an accident on the M25/M23 junction which put us in a bit of a spin. But getting onto and off of the plane was a breeze. Well done Gatport Airwick. We flew into Nice, picked up our Suzuki hire car from some pretty girl behind a desk (can’t remember the name of the company) and spent imagethree and a half hours driving through relatively uninspiring country from Nice to Oria, where our hotel, the Laurito, found itself. We’ve done this part of Italy before; the hills are all white rock and pine green trees, barren but peppered with settlement, much of it run down. To the east the hills hand over to a plain which mixes industry with almost medieval farmland. The vineyards lack the order of Germany or the rustic-chic of France. Everything is covered in a film of dust and everywhere is littered with, well, litter. It’s a forgotten place, seemingly untouched by EU subsidies.

The weather was warm, but not stifling, and the hotel above basic, but not luxurious. A converted monastery (the continuing story of my life..), it was something out of a Clint Eastward film set. Although the pool, which (like the hotel) we had to ourselves, was v special. At the end of a long journey, however, it was an oasis in the desert of travel. We quickly settled in and had an hour by the pool.

the hotel...

the hotel…

the pool

the pool

The away team that we know include (obviously) the parents of the bride, Richard and Caroline’s daughter and her boyfriend (hopefully arrived here last night after we went to bed) and other Army friends’ (Phill and Denise) daughter, Emily, and her boyfriend Richard who travelled with us on the same flight. We know Emily v well and it was great to catch up with her news and meet her boyfriend.

We left the hotel to forage for a few things in the local town, before reconvening to go out to supper slightly later. Of course, on your feet and unannounced is where you see the true country. The town of Oria is quintessentially southern Italian. Built on a small hill with the cathedral on top shouting power and issuing damnations to us surfs below, the town beneath

Oria

Oria

is a warren of small cobbled streets, interlocking houses, arches, unsuspecting splashes of floral colour, a glimpsing sun and long dark shadows. It was lovely. The people we bumped into were smiling and kind and the restaurant we found later in the centre of town served cheap, good, local food even if the translated menu included the words horse and donkey. Wine was served in a water jug, and a water served in bottles. Perfect.

the cathedral - looking down on us all

the cathedral – looking down on us all

Almost untouched by alcohol I drove us home, although like a v badly directed version of the Italian Job, getting out through the maze of tiny streets included going up one way streets, only to have to reverse back down them, more U-turns than a post war British government and eventually a v kind young woman who stopped her car in frustration and said ‘follow me (you idiot)’. I bet the ensuing traffic jam I caused has yet to clear.

we had supper her somewhere

we had supper here somewhere

Em' and an idiot

Em’ and an idiot

Not sure what’s on the agenda today. Breakfast is served soon….I might pop down to the pool quickly for a swim. Luxury.

Fascinator 1 – BFIW 0

For those of you expecting another slab of ‘stuff we did’, an abridged version today as we gather ourselves together for an assault on the Big Fat Italian Wedding.

Good news. C has a hat, well sort of. It’s right and proper that ladies wear hats to weddings. It’s tradition, it’s polite and it’s always a struggle. The outfits create angst (“but I wore that to so and so’s party last year, I can’t be wearing it again so soon”), but for C the change of disposition from School to Army friends means that what she is wearing hasn’t been seen by the attendees of the BFIW. However, the hat is a different thing. She just hasn’t got one that will scrunch down to a small enough space to allow for Easyjet travel. And we haven’t been able to find one; certainly not one that is either affordable or inflatable. Until now…

We got up to our last morning at the Caravan Club site in Abbeywood and decided that as we were heading down to Dover to meet with Richard and Caroline (long time Army friends – they met through us; we’re good at that) before we got the flight to Naples, we should pop in to see my brother who lives just off the A2 and who wasn’t at work yesterday. Over coffee (Georgina’s enjoying a week’s leave before disappearing to Leaconsfield and Grace was off school not well) the topic of conversation stumbled across the hat dilemma and both Georgina and Grace fetched ‘fascinators of distinction’. So I take back yesterday’s comment about fascinators are not necessarily for the more mature woman as a neat black one, handed from niece to aunt, seems to be working wonders. I’m sure that’s not the end of the hat saga, but it’s further forward than we were yesterday. And that’s a good thing.

C, Georgina, Grace and fascinator

C, Georgina, Grace and fascinator

We left Kevin’s, stopped for lunch at some motorway service station and arrived at Richard and Caroline’s mid-afternoon. We had booked the hotel (four nights near Brindisi) and flights (Eastjet too and from Nice) what seemed years ago, but only now did we realise that to catch the flight we needed to be up at three in the morning. And, with us on a budget, we have restricted ourselves to one suitcase for wedding clothes and a cabin luggage for the rest. For Richard and I, ex-infanteers and old hands at living with not much, this would be fine. For the girls, not quite so… But C, after some chumfing, managed to squeeze a bath tub into a basin and we are now all travelling ‘lite’.

view from R & C's window last night...

view from R & C’s window last night…

It’s going to be a great break, notwithstanding early starts and the accompanying poor temper that will inevitably take a cup of strong coffee to dissipate. We’ve no idea what the wedding will be like, although Richard and I did discuss the possibility of waking up in the same bed as a horse’s head if we flirt with the bridesmaids. I think it will be v catholic and v long with lots of incense. Whatever it is, I’ll let you know. We have Friday and Sunday to explore and recover, so that will add something as well.

our new method of comms whilst abroad - Jen and Skype

our new method of comms whilst abroad – Jen and Skype

We are, as always, v lucky. And I do hope that comes across in these ramblings.

Posting this now (hopefully) under pressure at Gatwick at oh-goodness-thirty hours.

London Day Four

Another full day; a sleeping bag too big for its stuff sack. We got to Alex at Starbucks just below Barclay’s corporate headquarters at the ‘Wharf’ (a colloquialism reserved for those who work there) on time and it was great to see him and catch up. Not surprising to me he has made the transition from senior Army bloke to banker type (it’s all ethical you know) with ease and is doing well. We exchanged all our family news but, as it was his coffee break and with our outside slot verging on chilly in dull sun with a supporting cool wind, we didn’t spend anywhere near enough time on the detail. There will be a next time.

Alex

Alex

To get to see Alex we had taken the train from Abbeywood to Greenwich and walked under the Thames using the pedestrian tunnel and then north across the Isle of Dogs. What, at one time, must have been a rough area is now a cross between farmland and Hampshire village. There’s a big (listed Grade II) parkland covering much of the area. But before you know it you’re among the

one view within 'The Wharf'

one view within ‘The Wharf’

Millwall docks, all of which have been transformed into luxury apartments, posh eating establishments and offices. Canary Wharf is so much more than a few high rises. Indeed, after seeing Alex we stopped for a picnic on another quay just north of the main towers. As we sat and munched away at pate and bread you could sense the hum of money moving its way into, through and out of the many banks and investment houses that dominate this small, chic city. It’s a never-ending ‘ker-ching’ of a place which deservedly has had a bad press, but probably contributes more taxes to the upkeep of the NHS than any other equivalent piece of ground. So we mustn’t complain.

'Ker-Ching'

‘Ker-Ching’

We now had about six hours to kill before we were due at Peter and Karen’s for supper. We took the DLR to Bank and then the tube to Tottenham Court Road. C has this gap in her Big Fat Italian Wedding wardrobe – no appropriate hat. Sure she has hats: a bike helmet, ski helmet, summer straw hats, winter fleecy

Oxford Street at it's best

Oxford Street at its best

hats, but no BFIW hat. We did Oxford Street, which was an experience. Those department stores with specific wedding hat sections were just(!) beyond the sort of money we wanted to spend, and probably wouldn’t survive the Easyjet experience. The plethora of accessories shops majored on ‘fascinators’…..not really her. The rise of these decorative hatpins is understandable for younger women, but they’re probably not quite right for the whole ‘C goes to Italy for a Catholic Wedding’ thing. Bless.

But what was interesting about Oxford Street is there are thousands of people buying stuff and lots of fashion on display. But somehow in the maelstrom of clothing consumerism what people buy doesn’t seem to be what people end up wearing. Unlike Paris or Milan where the general shopper scores a 9.7 on the elegance scale, London hasn’t quite caught up with ‘the look’. Even though over half of the shoppers must have been foreign, and by genetic pool have more fashion sense than anyone born a Brit, it was a drab Tuesday afternoon in London. The sun may have been out to sharpen the colours, but the folk just missed that opportunity to look good. Ok, in our current state we’re hardly elegant, but whilst London architecture has emerged from a period of discolour and dullness, the overwhelming feeling of fabulousness has yet to make an impact on the public who have as much fashion sense as an old folk’s home. Come on London!

no pornographic references please

no pornographic references please

We had tea in Trafalgar Square where the arrival of a large French Cockerel on the fourth pillar was a mystery. It’s by German artist Katharina Fritsch and will be on display for eighteen months. Boris Johnson unveiled it and couldn’t help but make phonographic references to it, and, apparently, it’s a symbol representing power and regenration. We both saw: big blue French cockerel, the Gallic blue in particular completing the assumption. It’s great, big as a bus, but clearly the French taking over the square. It’s as irreverent as the poppies in the moat are intensely serious, so worth a visit. The National Galley next which was, as always, fab. We didn’t do it anywhere near enough justice, but C had a good look at her fave, Stubbs’ horse and we both spent sometime pondering Michelangelo’s cartoon.

Michelangelo - so special it has its own little room

Michelangelo – so special it has its own little room

Still with time to spare we crossed the river and sat near Tommies and listened to Emily Lee, a lyrical folk busker who did a great job of entertaining us and everyone else who stopped by. You can stream her original music from Facebook or similar – just google her. Worth a listen.

Emily Lee – our own personal early evening entertainer

We them ambled west down the south bank to Peter and Karen’s new flat in Peninsular Heights. Just a stone’s throw from Westminster and on the ninth flour, this shortish tower block sits on a curve in the river that gives those with the right balcony probably the best view in London. (Karen tells us that Peter Stringfellow. Tommy Steel and Jeffrey Archer all share the same view just from different floors…) My photo doesn’t do it justice, but trust me, it’s something else. There was a v pleasant crowd of us for supper, with a couple of Peter and Karen’s international friends and their daughter Sarah and her friends. It was a grand way to finish the whirlwind that was London and, having slurped their red wine (there’s a theme emerging here) we took a late(ish) train back to Abbeywood.

the view...

the view…

So, off to Dover today to meet up with Richard and Caroline, and then tomorrow onto Brindisi for the BFIW. We have no idea what to expect and C still hasn’t got an appropriate hat. Oh well…she’ll have to stick a flower in her hair.

Simon and Garfunkel