John Owen Smith’s log for 2019

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29th December 2019 3rd January 2020

We're back from another cruise! Our first time with P&O, on their good ship Ventura, heading to Hamburg and Zeebrugge. While in Zeebrugge we took a trip to Ghent. Weather calm and dry, temperature in single figures. Verdict: we wouldn't hurry back to Hamburg, but may give Ghent another visit. Here are some pics.

Our cabin on the Ventura, with Champagne awaiting us!

… it was the one bottom-right,
with balcony, deck 8

In Hamburg we stopped
outside the Rathaus …

… but no stops at the shops
on Reeperbahn!

Our main stop was Miniatur
Wunderland where the scenes …

… alternated between day and night.

We saw Venice …

… and Vesuvius, which erupted
from time to time

Their largest scene was alpine
which rose through 3 floors.

After Hamburg, Ghent – this is
a real scene, not miniature!

Ghent has many tramlines, but
obviously used to have more!

The man in 'Friday Market' Square
pointed us to a café for lunch

We ate at 5th Gök, next to a pub
which sold '500 sorts of beer'

But we actually bought our
beer for taking home here.

Dil watching a passing tram
on a wooden swing-bridge.

We didn't expect to see a
UK-style narrow boat here.

Not the most comfortable
of seats to sit on!

They have a 'Graffiti Street'
to prevent it elsewhere

Why would you?

23rd December 2019

Family lunch at Cuckfield followed by coffee and music at Sarah's.
On her way home Deb ran into a deer (or vice versa)
– luckily she wasn't hurt, but her car has been declared a write-off and Bambi became venison!

The music

The crunch!

16th December 2019

"Honesty's all out of fashion, These are the Rigs of the Time".
So how did you vote in last week's election? For the 'least worst option'?
Who knows how things will go from here, but I worry about a Europe developing without the UK's involvement, interest or influence – has the 20th century taught us nothing?

9th December 2019

The usual suspects went to our annual 'December House' this year at Winterbourne Abbas in Dorset. Here are some memories:—

Some of us met up for lunch here
at the Poet Laureate before …

… moving on the Church View
in Winterbourne Abbas

Here is the winterbourne "a stream flowing only after heavy rainfall"

The view from the house
across the the church

Some of us decided to go for a walk
and found it rather muddy …

… where they were burying
these electric cables

The path was narrow in
some places …

… and a scramble in others.

But we were rewarded by long views
here to the West (Lyme Bay) …

… and here to the East
(Portland and Weymouth)

We were not afraid of
the Big Bad Wolf!

Stopping for a 'selfie'

We reached our objective,
the Hardy Monument

I wonder — what's behind
the Monument door?

On the way back we saw
some strange things …
how did they make these
hands of various shapes?

Who are Californian Rush Ltd?
And why do they want to own
a strip along the edge of a road?

And here's a pretty thing!

Some of the gang at the dining table

But it's always nice to be welcomed home!

25th November 2019

Winter drawers on! We had a delivery of firewood which is now neatly stacked in the woodstore – thanks for your help Steve – and should see us through to February.

18th November 2019

Went to see & hear the 'Purple Zeppelin' tribute band at our local theatre. Very good indeed, but my ears are still ringing!
It was 'home base' for singer Nigel Owens, and we got a name check from him for the time we all visited Headley Grange, home of the 'Stairway to Heaven' [Nigel is at the right in the cast picture].

11th November 2019

"Remain and Reform" — Armistice Day reminds me that we have avoided War in Europe for a generation or more since the end of WW2, and this largely because the nation states here have voluntarilty formed a Union for peace. In my opinion, we wreck that Union at our peril.

28th October 2019

Two events on Saturday, both music-related: Dil bought me a late birthday present, a bass ukulele (yes, they exist!); and, we went to hear Peggy Seeger (yes THE Peggy Seeger) at an intimate performance in a house in the village. She is just a lovely lady – we had the opportunity to chat, she signed our copy of her book, and (best of all?) she accepted one of my 'Stop Article 50' badges (see below) confessing she was a 'Remainer' herself.

21st October 2019

I sent off for a new passport well ahead of my old one expiring so that I could continue to have the EU format cover – only to find that they have already dropped the words 'European Union' even though we haven't left the EU yet, and may never do!
I complained, but was simply told that: "The exclusion of the words 'European Union' from the cover of a UK passport does not affect its validity for travel to Europe or elsewhere."
Well obviously; but that's not the point and I feel a bit cheated.

Here's my answer – a badge to wear
slightly more subtle than "Bollocks to Brexit"
but with the same message. And best of all,
it's based on a French traffic sign!

14th October 2019

As a second birthday present for me and Louis, we went to stay on the Isle of Wight for a few days last week, in an old Scout Hut!

Here's the Scout Hut, in Chale

There had been some rain and we slid down a nearby path mostly on our bottoms!

Inspecting a carved log at Fort Victoria, with the sculptor

The magnificent seven!
Erika, Nick, Louis, Dil, Deb, me & Jill

Blackgang Chine amusements
from the cliff path above

St Catherine's lighthouse
also from the path above

Sadly, we never made it to Joe's Bar!
But one of the old buses was the '353' from Brooklands.

The source of one of the two
River Yars on the island

3rd October 2019

As a birthday present for me and Louis, we went to Brooklands and the museum there. Masses of cars and planes and engines, etc – but for me the most memorable exhibit was a London Transport Country bus like those that I caught to school each morning as a kid.

The four musketeers at Brooklands:
Roger, Louis, Garry and me

Ah yes, I remember it well!
… and strangely we saw it again next week on the Isle of Wight!

30th September 2019

Once again I was 'Sir Robert Hunter', founder of the National Trust, when we repeated our Dramatic Walk on Hindhead Common on Saturday – see pictures.
I had once more grown a beard in order to play this character, and on Sunday I once more shaved it off with great pleasure!

12th September 2019

Just back from a 10-day rail trip to Vienna, Prague and Berlin. Here are some memories.

First night was at Nuremburg.
The next morning we walked round the centre in perfect weather.

They look up to their library!

Here comes the train for Vienna.

A fleeting glimpse of the Danube from the carriage window

In Vienna we caught the
No.49 tram to get to town …

… where we saw this fellow outside their Natural History Museum

… and this fellow who probably
should have been in it!

Sometimes the architecture
has been controversial.

But in the old days …

… they always seemed to want to be taking bits out of each other.

There were some fine stallions
in the Spanish Riding School

While those working outside
contributed to the health
of the city's rose gardens!

We eventually saw the
stallions of the riding school
at their morning exercises

Then we took the tram …

… to see the strange
but fascinating
Hundertwasser museum

And who could go to Vienna
without tasting the cake?

To the Secession museum …

… to see the Klint frieze
(there was nothing else to see there on the day!)

Vienna: home of musicians.
Here's the 'golden' Strauss

… but Offenbach
got sidewalked!

We had to follow the tracks
of Harry Lime, of course.
The big wheel, made famous in
'The Third Man', now carries
its passengers in
recycled tramcars!

This is where Harry descended
into the sewers in the film.

This is the River Wein, after which
the city was named – looking
a bit like a sewer itself.

We made a packed lunch
for our onward journey,
by shopping at Lidl.

And so, into the Czech Republic,
on our way to Prague.

Our hotel was within walking distance
of the Castle …

… with its views over the city.
Note the miniature 'Eiffel Tower'
on the hill opposite.

The guard paraded for us.

Not quite sure what this was.

Nor this, which seemed to be
the entrance to a closed garden.

Nice that they should have
given her a plastic hat!

But they weren't wasting
too much water here..

A view down to the centre of the city
showed us what to expect –
Charles Bridge packed with tourists!

And here they are, with a panda!

But we managed to get some
nice shots through the crowd.

And the famous clock.

Was this really where Good King
Wenceslas looked out?
It was a bit wet when we were there.

Are they in his master's Stepsitrod?
It's a pedal-powered bar!

And as for this!

And especially this!!
What would his Maj have thought?

We forged our way over
the Charles Bridge …

… and found a more relaxed
place to have lunch …

where the dumplings …

… come in slices.

It's an altogether quieter
part of town.

Back to the hotel on the No.20 tram.
(Free travel in Prague
for the over-70s!)

Next day to the splendid
Prague railway station …

… on our way to Berlin.

We were in a tower block
built by the East Germans
for their high & mighty.

These were the views from our
13th floor room.

And it did cross our minds that
this may have been a camera!

We had a coach tour of the city on a rainy day.
Nobody's burning the Reichstag today!

We'd seen Klint's 'kiss' in Vienna,
but this was different!!

The writing's on the Wall!

And here's the Christian Cross shining out
on the atheist GDR TV tower

The double line of cobbles in the road
marks the old course of the Wall.

Some points are more
famous that others.

But they've kept their old
East German Ampelmann

and we found some
quirky places to eat.

They seem slightly ashamed of their tram system – it only serves the NE of the city and doesn't show on their main transport maps.

There's a lot of work going on constructing a new metro line, with blue pipes all over the place pumping out water, and rather spoiling the view.

This this is supposed to be advertising the new Metro. Go figure!
Mind you, the Bear
is the symbol of Berlin …

… as we kept seeing!

Some pics of our tour group:
Here waiting for the Ladies in Vienna

At the beer cellar on the last night
in Berlin.

And waiting to change trains
at Cologne

from where I took this quick snap of the Cathedral as we passed by.

Here are some oddies
also snapped just passing by:—

No words needed in Vienna

But some words that are there
might be misunderstood

Can dogs read in Prague?

In Berlin – did they steal him
from Brussels?

19th August 2019

Had my annual pacemaker check on the 9th, which was OK.
Went to an open-air production of 'Private Lives' at Hatchlands on the 11th: an interesting interpretation and we were lucky with the weather.
Popped over to Corsham during the weekend just gone and helped Steve re-felt his garden shed. My own shed also needs attention, which I must see to when the weather allows!

5th August 2019

Went for a weekend to friends at Herne Bay and decided to take the scenic route there and back – that's 4 hours through rural Sussex and Kent rather than 2-and-a -bit hours along the M25. Very pleasant, but you need a cast-iron bladder when travelling along roads such as the lovely A272 as there are no 'services', particularly before noon when all the pubs are shut!

27th July 2019

Just back from a few days in France, with temperatures up to 40°C! Thank you Francine for your hospitality, and for the air conditioning in your car.

We said goodbye to Betjeman
at St Pancras

In France, got away from the heat
in a troglodyte farm …

… amazing
what you can find in there!

Next day we cooled off
down an old slate mine

15th July 2019

Phew! We've just done a weekend of 'Allo 'Allo with me playing the part of René Artois again. See more pictures.
I played the part some years ago, so many of the lines came back easily – but there's no denying it was a tiring stint.
We had full houses, and the punters told us they liked it, so it makes it all worth while.
Once again a grew a moustache for the part – and once again I shaved it off as soon as we'd finished!

1st July 2019

We held the Headley Theatre Club annual barbecue in our garden on Sunday afternoon. Here's how we filled the lawn!

24th June 2019

With all the current fooling around selecting a new Prime Minister, I don't know why they can't just give the job to Hugh Grant – he got close to the likes of the front runner in Love Actually, and he already knows the lines!

17th June 2019

The trouble with going away for a fortnight is that you come back to a fortnight's worth of work to do!

10th June 2019

Back home after two weeks in France. Here are some random pictures from our time in Corné, on the boat in Lot & Garonne, and around the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy.

In the queue for the ferry at Portsmouth – some were taking everything except the kitchen sink!

Waiting for the green light on
the Le Mans 24-hr circuit!

The stage we were later to occupy
gloriously(?) in France

The winery we visited

The 'picnic' at the winery

A bell at Fontevraud Abbey –
the hand indicating 'end of line' amused me!

More drinks!
It was indeed 'good ale'

The famous gardens at
the Chateau de Villandry

This is how they keep the hedges
so trim at Villandry

It is he, Leclerc!
[Reference to our upcoming 'Allo 'Allo]

The 'last supper' at Corné

Yet more drinks!!

Boarding 'Le Boat' at Le Mas-d'Agenais

Capt. Webb takes the wheel

Capt. Smith – Look, no hands!!

Trouble at t'lock!

'Les Marronniers' in Vianne
where we ate twice

Moored at Nérac,
not a cloud in the sky!

Sign in Moncrabeau,
the town of liars …

… and here's one of the liars!!

This was another lie – not all the
facilites listed were there

The entry to Condom was long
and narrow, as you might expect!

Snow in June? It was seeds
floating down from willow trees

Water and electricity mix
quite happily in France!

Maybe I was halucinating,
but I distinctly saw the word 'vin'
reflected in the water

Set the timer to 10secs,
position the camera
and this is what you get

The outside stairway to our room
in the two-room hotel at Richelieu.
The ivy was wet!

Fawlty Towers met 'Allo 'Allo
at this Bar-Restaurent
in Couterne

At Arromances for the 75th
anniversary of D-Day …

… here is a DD Sherman with
canvas screen erected

There were many old soldiers
having their photos taken!

A windy walk along the cliffs
above the German tunnel
near Auderville

Heather and dodder
above the German tunnel
near Auderville

An old gate near Auderville
with hole in stone to hold the post

Erika fleeing a shark in Cherbourg!

A tall ship passes our restaurant
on the Cherbourg waterfront

20th May 2019

We helped Nick choose the cast for the 'Allo 'Allo show in July. I am René again and Dil is Edith again (after 10 years!)

13th May 2019

Yesterday we did a massive 'shed clear' of Theatre Club stuff at the village hall see pictures.

6th May 2019

It was the annual 'bluebell walk' yesterday, but although they were still blooming nicely in the fields, they had 'gone over' in the woods where the main display usually is. Shame.

29th April 2019

Twice to the Royal Albert Hall in the space of a fortnight! Once to see Alfie Boe, and yesterday to see The Drifters. Both were loud and dramatic.
We also went to Greenwich yesterday, making a day of it. We thought the Observatory at £16 a throw was a bit expensive for what we saw in it, and there was no time to see anything else.
We tried to get from there to the Albert Hall by bus – the first part went OK taking the No.166 to High Holborn, but from there it seemed there were no buses west to Kensington. Strange. In the end we took the tube.

22nd April 2019

I did!

15th April 2019

We've decided to redecorate the lounge. I'll let you know if I survive the ordeal!

1st April 2019

So, the date for the UK to leave the EU has come and gone (29th March) and we're still in. Those who know me, know my feelings on the matter (see 27 Jun 2016).
I had a small bet with myself at the time that we'd not leave, and it looks likely that I may be right. If so, I'd be overjoyed. The EU with all its faults has ensured peace in western Europe since the devastation of WW2. It needs to change to accommodate a changing world, but we can assist if we work from the inside.

18th March 2019

Forgot to mention last week that my cousin William's son Rupert is working on the discovery of an eighth continent, Zealandia. See him on Youtube.

11th March 2019

Up to Northumberland for a few days. We made a halfway stop at Retford and slept in a bookshop! See pictures below.
Arriving in Alnwick on Shrove Tuesday, we were recommended to go and watch the annual football match between players from the two parishes of St Michael and St Paul. The ball was thrown from the castle gate by the Duke of Northumberland (or it may have been his son) and walked down to the flood plain of the River Aln following a Northumbrian piper. We watched the first half (of 30 minutes) but as it was raining and not overly exciting we left then and sought the warmth of our hotel!

The lounge at
The Barrister's Clerk, Retford

The bedroom at
The Barrister's Clerk

Alnwick Castle. The ball was thrown from the balcony

The piper

The Shrove Tuesday football match in progress

4th March 2019

We had Christian & Maryse from our French twin town of Corné to stay for a couple of nights, and of course gave them the 'full English' for breakfast (see right).
Later in the week I performed in the annual 'Green Room': this year 'Misty' on the sax and three numbers on the 5-string bass to accompany our little 'big band'.
And yesterday, before the storm swept in, I led the monthly walk 'Right Round Lindford'.

25th February 2019

Yesterday I mowed my lawn – in February! Is this a global warming warning?
The previous day I was dressed as Sir Robert Hunter again at a 'Mystery and History' day set up by the NT at Hindhead for kids at half term. Luckily it was a lovely spring-like day, because there was a lot of standing around waiting for an audience to turn up. However, I did learn several ways to start a fire from the man doing 'bushcraft' demonstrations, so not altogether a wasted day.

18th February 2019

So, after having the No.18 bus run through the village from Haslemere to Aldershot since bus services began in the 1920s, we now have the No.23 instead, running from Haslemere to Alton – and only once every 2 hours instead of hourly. Not sure who this is supposed to benefit!

11th February 2019

The Sunday walk last week was a curtailed affair due to snow, but 6 brave souls and a dog rambled up the riverside and back (see photo).
Now we're planning what to do for our Bard's Night at the end of April. This is our English antidote to the Burns Night (see below). A first meeting produced some good ideas, and we'll be building on those to produce a programme over the next week.

28th January 2019

Spent two evenings in the village hall helping Dil to make stage curtains last week, and another there dressed in a kilt being MC at a Burns Night. We seem to spend as many evenings in the hall as we do at home! The Burns Night is organised each year by our Twinning Association – so there you have it: a group promoting jumelage with the French putting on a Scottish evening in an English village. Vive le difference!

21st January 2019

The final weekend of Toad of Toad Hall went well – see pictures. Audience numbers were average, which means as good as recent years but nowhere near the halcyon days when we had full houses. I guess people's habits have changed, but it's still good to put on a show involving the kids and adults together, however fraught it gets at times!

14th January 2019

The first weekend of Toad of Toad Hall went tolerably well. Let's hope the final weekend goes well too.

Today I placed my first order for books via KDP rather than CreateSpace. It was a bit of a struggle, sending me to Dil's Amazon account first of all – but in the end it looks as if books come quicker, more cheaply and invoiced in Pounds rather than Dollars.

7th January 2019

A week of activity in the Village Hall and at home preparing for Toad of Toad Hall. At times the lounge floor looked like we'd had a snowfall as Dil made furry animal costumes!

Continued …

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