Yes, we are in the middle of a heatwave but I had signed up to enter the Marmalade competition at our local Agricultural show in a few weeks’ time. The Seville oranges were in the freezer – well, they have a very short season around February time and I hadn’t wanted to make the preserve that far in advance. My diary for the summer is fairly full so it was now or never.
I spent the evening juicing and chopping the oranges. I used a Delia Smith recipe but, honestly, all those that I read were so similar I could have used any.
Up early the next morning to beat the heat of the day. My oven is a Rayburn – a joy in the winter but not so great in a heatwave as it maintains its cooking temperature for ages after use.
The recipe stated that the ‘setting point’ would be reached approx. 15 to 25 minutes after the mixture reaches a rolling boil – my pot of oranges took 40 minutes. This often happens and I think it is something to do with the Rayburn’s heat distribution so had factored it into my plans (part of why I needed an early start).
When I had defrosted the oranges I realised I had more than was needed so as well as making marmalade I also made an Orange Sorbet.
I chose a recipe from the Internet, too hot and bothered to trawl through my recipe books and I found one that only needed 3 ingredients. Orange juice, sugar and Star Anise – mixed, boiled, removed Star Anise, once cooled into the Ice Cream maker then in the freezer for a few hours = Dessert ?
One benefit of having a husband reluctant to fully engage with retirement is that he still goes ‘to meetings’ and often these are in London. So, having only small expenses to pay (my travel costs and hotel breakfast) this is a cost-efficient way to enjoy a visit. Early July offered such an opportunity and we planned a very busy 48 hours, as it turned out we were perhaps too keen although dry sunny weather helped.
Our first excursion was to the Prince Edward Theatre to see ‘Aladdin – the Musical’. The story line was that of the 1990s Disney movie rather than the original tale of wizardry and treachery so very suitable for family viewing. As with the movie the Genie is the star of the show – witty and expressive (similar to Robin Williams in 1992, I have not seen the latest remake with Will Smith in the role). The production is very spectacular with seamless scene changes and vibrant coloured costumes. Unfortunately, in the second half, there was a technical ‘glitch’ which delayed the production for 20 minutes. This was a shame as it spoilt the atmosphere in the theatre. Once re-started everything worked perfectly although the audience rushed off once it had finished so there were no curtain calls for the cast, which I think they deserved.
Leaving the theatre at 10.30 (much later than anticipated) – too late for dinner but in need of something before bed – we had only walked a short distance when we came to to ‘Il Cucciolo’. It stays open until 11.30pm so we dived in for a plate of pasta and a glass of Italian wine – a lovely end to the day.
The next day we had booked a guided walk and as it did not start until 1.30pm at Temple Tube station near the Thames we decided to go there late morning and wander along the river.
But first, early lunch at Somerset House. When the weather is good the courtyard is a very relaxed setting to watch the world go by (or in this case watch numerous toddlers chase the pigeons whilst my husband wondered how long it took for the birds to tire of the pursuit).
Although there are occasional steps the route taken was easy to navigate. Gavin, our guide was entertaining, enthusiastic and very informed and this contributed to the success of the trip. Although I have visited London numerous times when working – and walked in the area between meetings etc so much of what he showed us was new to me. I now wonder how often I actually looked where I was going!
Having no firm plans as to what we would do with the rest of the day – and there were many options – we decided to go to Wimbledon and join the queue. We both have played tennis and do follow the sport, especially the Slams, so felt this was an opportunity not to miss. Whilst my husband had visited Wimbledon in previous years, and will always mention his great aunt Ethel Thomson Larcombe who win the 1912 Ladies singles competition, it was my first visit since childhood (and that school visit was outside of the season).
As expected the queue was long – very long – and we were happy to settle on the grass and enjoy an ice cream. When it was our turn to move (after 2 hours) and commence the walk through the waiting area, along the path and to the entry gate we had not realised that there were only 6 matches in action – 3 of which were on the Show courts and therefore not accessible to us. The 3 remaining matches were mostly in their final set, the ‘Resale’ office was closed and ‘Henman Hill’ was already over-crowded so the prospect of watching any tennis was minuscule.
Even though we had waited patiently for all that time, if we had been informed of this, we would have left rather than pay £18.00 per head to walk around a crowded arena, be crushed on the steps near ‘the Hill’ and then find the Museum was closed. I understand that due to the good weather and that many matches not being taken to a ‘final set’ everything was on schedule but still, I feel we should have been informed at the gate. The one thing of cheer – as there were so many empty seats on Court 2 we were allowed in to watch a mixed doubles match nearing its end. So, I was able to see Heather Watson and her partner win and what a lovely person she is, smiling and engaging with the spectators.
The completion of play on the centre court coincided with the end of play on Court 2 so we then had to join the thousands heading to the Tube station. This was pleasanter than it could have been – slow steady progress, held at the station entrance until safe to enter the platform, trains appearing every 5 minutes. A constant stream of precision and patience. Transport for London (TfL) at their best.
The festival is very popular although due to the amount of space I never felt crushed by the crowd, helped by the day being sunny, dry and not too hot. There were many gardens that we already know of – ‘Back to Nature’ co-designed by the Duchess of Cambridge and the Springwatch Garden.
There were workshops and presentations on a variety of gardening topics. We sat in on a couple which offered a chance to be in the shade and were interesting even to such a non-gardener as myself. The gardens and displays, as you would imagine, were beautiful and my photos do not do them justice. We walked over 11 Kilometres so the train journey back into the city was a welcome rest.
Then it was time to collect our luggage and head ‘up north’.
I enjoy learning the history of a city, how and why it developed its footprint, the buildings that grew, the ones that didn’t survive, it’s famous sons and daughters etc. I find such information enhances the understanding of a city’s character.
I was recently given, as a gift, an opportunity for a guided tour of Hidden London (https://funlondontours.com/tours/hidden-london-walking-tour/ ). The alleyways and courtyards of the Temple District and Fleet Street were introduced to us by our guide Gavin. In 1.5 hours, we were led through the very unknown (to me at least) history and hidden gems. Now, I could describe the tour in detail but that would spoil the surprise should you be encouraged to go.
All I will say – as is so often the case – if you live in London you are likely to have walked by the alleyways and buildings and not looked up, stopped to view or understood in whose steps you were walking. At least that is how I felt – I was familiar with the area yet felt I had not seen it at all. Note to self – look where you are going!
The group, on the day I went, was made up of 10 people who were from out of the city. Gavin was very informed and shared his knowledge in a friendly and entertaining way – it was as if he was living the tale he was telling, which made it all the more real.
Trying not to give anything away yet sharing the enthusiasm from the walk is difficult. So, briefly, we started at a taxi rank, understood why wedding cakes look like they do, walked across a river without using a bridge or wetting our feet, learnt of hidden sanctuaries of famous authors (remember to touch the stone) and tourist scams.
We heard of the lasting influence of the Knights Templar, the particularities of famous figures and the uncomfortable origins of well-known nursery rhymes whilst walking amongst the evidence of more recent history.
What always surprises me in such busy crowded cities is how easy it is to be in a peaceful park and/or seating area away from the bustle so do ask your guide about the weekend access gate to such a place.
Visiting Ferrisby, near Knaresborough, for Sunday lunch at The General Tarleton we decided to go early and stop off at Boroughbridge. A town neither of us had visited although pass the A1 ‘turn off’ to it frequently.
Lovely sunny day for a walk and, from our arrival, the town was full of surprises. The town centre car park had a voluntary fee of £2.00 and an honesty box at the exit. A novel idea that we had never seen before, hopefully everyone paid up.
There were two things I noticed straight away – the shops were closed! So unusual these days to have Sunday closures. The cafes and restaurants were open with plenty of pavement seating on which to watch the world go by. Or, in this case watch the cyclists – the town appeared to be a popular cycling route with many riders tending to their bikes or taking a break in the cafes. The colours and styles of Lycra fashions were an interesting addition to the flower displays.
The second thing I noticed was the main shopping streets were full of independent shops and not the Boots, WHSmith’s etc that I had expected. So, although glad to see that the shops were closed on a Sunday giving the retailers a rest, it was disappointing not to be able to call in to view the wares. Of course, it does mean we will be back one weekday.
Walking past one of the shops I noticed something rarely seen nowadays – the till cash drawer had been emptied and left open. ‘nothing to steal here – move along thief’. I am old enough to remember when this was a common site, an attempt by shopkeepers to prevent damage to their property by those forcing an entry.
Not far from the car park, near the War Memorial we came to a notice board with a ‘Town Tour’ and map which we decided to follow.
Although not long the walk was interesting, especially the sites of the 4 ‘Devils Arrows’. Amazing size and an untold tale of how and why such huge rocks were placed where they are. Many thoughts but nothing to confirm the facts, if only they could talk.
Surrounded by water – small becks, a river and a marina – we turned corners to be surprised by bridges, weirs and countryside views. Whilst the town may not fill a day it certainly is worth visiting – to break a long journey or to use as the start of a country walk.
As well as calling in to the Tourist Information Office the web links below have further information of the town and sights to visit should you be nearby.
And so, on to lunch. First time at The General Tarleton and would fully recommend a visit. many positive reviews and I would endorse them all – especially the young staff serving many diners and always pleasant.