Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Hotel Hilton Watford – could do better.

What is more relaxing after a hard day at work than settling into your hotel room and availing yourself of some refreshment from the hospitality tray? When I checked in to the Hilton at Watford I needed a comforting drink to dispel my disappointment at discovering that the hotel had closed their swimming pool two months earlier.
What I got was a sort of soup. It should have been coffee but the UHT milk supplied in the little plastic pots was so old that it had turned. How could this have happened, I asked myself? Surely it has a 'best before' date?

So I looked at the top of the pot.

It informed me that the 'Best before' information was to be found on the base of the pot.

Accordingly I turned the pot over.

And on the base was inscribed, 'best before see tab'.

So I turned it over and that told me that the best before information was on the base. 

So I turned it over and that told me that the best before information was on the tab, so I.....


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Woolly Art

Pausing in Haywards Heath for a picnic (we know how to live) I was amused by the knitted and crocheted lamp post cosies which had been installed along the main street.
Woollen lamp post cosies installed along Haywards Heath High Street.
What was their purpose? 

It was apparently all part of the art fortnight organised by the Haywards Heath Community Interest Company to encourage shoppers to visit the town and generally promote the town's facilities.

So Margaret bought a skirt.

Not a knitted skirt.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Oh, go to Hull!

Finding ourselves in Hornsea with our bicycles, we decided to go to Hull. National Cycle Route 65 starts here as the eastern end of the Trans Pennine Trail. The other end is in Southport. The cycle route runs on the old trackbed of the former Hull & Hornsea Railway which was opened in 1864. The construction of this 13 mile line had been heavily promoted by a local businessman, Joseph Wade, and although the company never recovered from the initial cost of construction and was merged a few years after opening with the North Eastern Railway, the railway transformed the town of Hornsea.

Hornsea Town Station,
now the beginning of the cycle route.
In the nineteenth century the town was a seaside resort where the well-to-do would come and stay for several months to 'take the waters' and sea bathe. With the arrival of the railway came day trippers from Hull. Inexorably the facilities of the town adapted and traders established themselves in the town to satisfy the passing diurnal demand. There existed even a commuter population who moved to the seaside to enjoy the healthy air and travelled in to Hull every day to work. It could not last forever and Dr. Beeching finally finished off the line in 1964.

The well known Hornsea pottery was also made in the town from 1949-2000. You can find some in the museum.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Dumbleton Hall

We recently stayed at the Dumbleton Hall Hotel, near Broadway and Evesham. I think I would describe it, probably erroneously, as a Victorian pseudo Tudor/Gothic mansion. No matter. 
Dumbleton Hall from the drive.
It stands on the slopes of Dumbleton Hill in its own grounds of about 19 acres.

There existed an earlier Hall on the site, constructed in the sixteenth century and featuring extensive formal gardens laid out in the Dutch style which was fashionable at the time. Evidence of the canals and walkways of this garden can be found in the grounds near the public road.

Dumbleton Hall from the gardens.

The present Hall also had its misfortunes and was waiting for demolition in 1959 when it was purchased by the Post Office Fellowship of Remembrance, an organisation formed to remember those employees who were killed in the wars and to assist their families.

The Hall was restored and modernised for use as a hotel and convalescence home and is now run as a commercial hotel.

Dumbleton Hall reception.
A characteristic of Victorian building which appeals to me is that, in my opinion, the Victorians always over-built. Everything was on a substantial scale, and not only in the larger houses. Compare the brickwork and joists of the average Victorian semi with the contemporary rabbit hutches which they now seem to erect from plywood and plastic.

I particularly liked the fire hose network, one nozzle of which nestled outside our bedroom door. As a schoolboy I had spent some time maintaining and operating a steam powered Merryweather fire pump for a local businessman so I was particularly warmed to find their name standing sentinel for me.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Immigration Service Cyclists to the Rescue

Every month, when my busy life permits it, I go for a cycle ride with some friends all of whom were either Immigration Officers or are still serving in that capacity. Today we intended to lunch at The Artichoke, a pub in the pretty village of Chartham, but we had not booked a table and it was absolutely choc-a-bloc so we carried on up the hill and met this:
Lithuanian truck stuck on the corner.
A Lithuanian articulated lorry on its way to the Arjo-Wiggins paper mill at the bottom of the hill.

Except that we all knew that he would not be able to get through because the street was too narrow.

The camaraderie within our little group of cyclists is one aspect which I find quite heart warming. So whilst three of us stayed to help the truck driver, the other four beetled off to the next pub and ate their lunches and drank their beer whilst we tried to solve the problem.

How do you convince a Lithuanian truck driver that he should turn around and go back? Dead easy. We had all been immigration officers at a time when you were supposed to be proficient in foreign languages.

"Tony," said I, "You speak Lithuanian don't you?" He nodded. "Well tell him to turn his truck around."

The driver was completely unphased by the fact that he was being addressed in his own language in the middle of a small Kentish village.
Lithuanian truck being reversed up the road.
Next on the scene was a local man who had an HGV licence. Using his driving knowledge, Tony's language skill and our cyclist fluorescent jackets we managed to stop the traffic, back the truck 200 yards up the road, turn it and send it on the correct route. The whole operation took us forty five minutes.

The point of this little yarn is not to evince our beneficence, but rather to observe that, now that the Home Office does not encourage its border control staff to learn foreign languages, this kind of serendipitous encounter, already of an extreme rarity, will become extinct.

And the truck will stay stuck. Probably with you behind it.