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Last night of the Proms

The BBC Promenade Concerts have been around since 1838 and it will be no surprise to our regular readers that Sue and I tune in to most broadcasts.

This year we particularly enjoyed the Budapest Festival Orchestra's programme of Gypsy Music, in particular the fine musicianship of Jeno Lisztes on the cimbalom, an instrument I knew nothing of until this concert. It was also the first time I had ever heard a Symphony Orchestra singing which they did for their encore! The links here will take you to videos from those concerts on a BBC web site.

To celebrate the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein we were treated to a concert performance of 'On The Town' featuring the London Symphony conducted by that master of the genre, John Wilson.

The Last night of the Proms is also an event we rarely miss but was somewhat spoilt by it being politicised when 20,000 EU flags and berets were handed out. Those claiming responsibility were well meaning activist musicians who are concerned that after Brexit it will be difficult for them to obtain employment in the EU.

As much as I sympathise with their concerns, which I am sure are unfounded, I do object to a festival of music from all over Europe and the rest of the world being politicised in this way and think they would be better advised to find alternative methods of campaigning.

To those who decided to wave all those blue flags of a political organisation that is causing national division while singing Jerusalem and when Sir Andrew Davis told them in his speech of music's ability "to unite us", I would caution to give some thought to their actions and it's symbolism.

One of those giving out all those freebies outside the Albert Hall wearing a 'Thank EU for the music' T-shirt (a misnomer if ever there was one), was from the campaign group People's Vote on the final Brexit deal who have crowd funded the giveaway each year since the vote to leave.
The EU flags were free but if you wanted to wave a Union Jack it would cost you £3.00.

I would also say that we are all well aware that 70% of the London electorate that voted in the EU referendum did so to remain but that the majority outside London voted to leave. London to us is a different country.
We are also aware that the majority of London residents eligible to vote were not born in this country so perhaps they do not understand the history and traditions of the Last night of the Proms but I hope after Brexit we will get back to waving national flags of whatever country you belong.

New Zealand Move

The reason for the page title above is that we will be moving permanently to New Zealand in October and when we get there it will be springtime.

Flights are now all booked and we are hopefully leaving Gatwick on Monday 29th October. I say hopefully as we are flying Norwegian Air who have the worst long haul record for delayed flights, however, we have two nights in Singapore so we can put up with some delay and if the delay is more than five hours we will get most of our fare back. We also get the use of the No 1 lounge at Gatwick.

From Singers we fly to Melbourne by Scoot which is the budget subsidiary airline of Singapore Airlines and on both legs we are travelling business class which is the equivalent of premium economy on the big airlines. We arrive in Melbourne on 1st November.

Here we will visit friends in Melbourne with side trips by train to Albury in NSW and Stratford, Victoria before continuing by Quaintarse from Melborne to Auckland on 12th November. We will buy a car in Auckland before heading down to Tauranga on the 15th where we intend to find a permanent home.

Map of Cheltenham Paint Festival Venues

The festival town of Cheltenham has yet another one to add to its long list, the Paint Festival, of as some might call it, graffiti and street art. The venues in the centre of the town are shown on the map above and over 100 artists from all over the world have contributed.

Sue and I wandered round town and I took a few photographs of some of the art works which were pretty impressive. I have put them all together in a screen show below.
You will be able to see these paintings in the flesh for at least a year and we visited other venues which are detailed further down this page.

The artwork at North Place Car Park is the most extensive and one is about Gustav Holst's WW1. This coincides with an exhibition at the Gustav Holst museum just round the corner about Holst going to Salonika to teach the soldiers music organised by the YMCA. 25 soldiers from Cheltenham died there and there is an exhibition on the BT wall opposite the YMCA building in Vittoria Walk displaying 25 posters each with the name of a Cheltenham soldier that died at Salonika.

We walked down the Honeybourne Line from Cheltenham railway station. This is an old railway line which has been made into a walking and cycle path and the Cheltenham Paint Festival obtained permission to paint the two tunnels and four bridges which are close to the big Waitrose store so if you are feeling idle you could park in their car park!
The Railway Pub just behind Waitrose serves good beer and does a Thai BBQ.

The artwork at the tunnels is extensive but it was well worth walking a little further to see more art on the bridges and to Cleveland Street where there are two very impressive murals on the side of houses.
The slide show below features the ones we thought the best at these sites.

Hover your cursor over the photo or touch it on a tablet to stop the slide show.

A collection of the largest works of art are at Williams Cycles on Albion Road. If you walk to the East end of the pedestrianised High St and turn left up Grosvenor St you will find them diagonally left across the other side of Albion St. Beware the map on the Festival web site as several locations including this one are marked incorrectly.

One of the most photo realistic efforts here was by Irony but unfortunately a dirty gert big yellow van was parked right in front of it so I nicked a photo from another web site with apologies to whoever took it. That photo includes a toddler in front which shows the scale of the piece.

 CLICK HERE FOR ROUND 3 ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP RUGBY.

Political correctness struck another blow against free speech when a senior London police officer was reprimanded and faces dismissal for telling his officers they had to be "whiter than white" meaning faultless and above reproach in carrying out inquiries. He is accused of alleged racism and gross misconduct. This country is "going to the dogs" and I do hope that idiom does not offend the RSPCA or animal lovers.

The Plain English Campaign recommends we should all take a more "common sense" approach rather than issuing a blanket ban on traditional phrases. I still use phrases that I grew up with that never caused any offence but are now frowned upon as racist. They are only racist if they are used in a way intended to cause offence and I am sure that police officer had no such intentions.
I reckon he would have gone "white as a sheet" if he had been "white washing" what was a "white elephant" and telling "white lies", him being a "white collar" worker! It must have been a "black day" for him practicing those "black arts"!

I anticipate the New Zealand rugby union team might have to change their name in the future if we carry on like this?

 CLICK HERE FOR ROUND 4 ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP RUGBY.

Tuesday 23rd September 1948 was a momentous day in Marton, New Zealand as Susanna Margherita Biddele was born and has now become a septuagenarian. We celebrated the event with Sunday Lunch at the White Spoon Restaurant in Cheltenham.

Street Art beside the White Spoon Restaurant

Sue was wearing her "I'm fabulous and 70" badge and chose a bottle of Pouilly Fuisse to go with the meal which began with Crispy Courgette Flower, Sweetcorn, Smoked Yoghurt, Wild Rice, Pea & Soft Herbs. For mains she had Brill, Saffron Linguini & Sea Vegetables and I had Roast Kelmscott Pork Loin, Roasted Apple Puree, Crackling, Sage & Onion Yorkshire Pudding, Roast Potatoes & Seasonal Vegetables. Sue finished with Cherry, Dark Chocolate & Coffee Granita and I had Banana Mille-Feuille with Hazelnut Praline Ice Cream which was the only criticism as the puff pastry was not very puffed but we 'wos stuffed!

Sue would say I always have to criticise and she would be correct and I am being picky as everything else was excellent including the service.

There is some street art from the Paint Festival just beside the restaurant which was hidden by a parked car on our last visit so here it is now.

Oxford

We were supposed to go to Oxford for Sue's birthday treat but the weather was bad so she craftily had two birthday treats as we went the following week.

We parked at the Pear Tree park and ride which dropped us off at The Ashmlolian where we spent most of the day.
This is the university museum and has over 12,000 precious objects on display collected since it's inception in 1678.

The Alfred Jewel

We elected first to take an introductory free tour and I should add that admission to the museum is also free. The volunteer guide showed us a selection of exhibits which she liked particularly together with ones the Ashmolian considered important.

One which was of particular interest to us was the late 9th century Alfred Jewel which was found in 1693 in North Petherton, Somerset and a replica is in the village church where I sang in the choir as a boy but I had never heard of it until now?
Another replica is on display in the Blake museum in Bridgwater which is right next to the old technical school which I attended for three years!

The jewel is inscribed "Aelfred mec heht gewyrcan" which is old English for 'Alfred ordered me made' and is thought to be something that King Alfred the Great did as it was recorded that he sent an 'æstel' to each monastery, however, this is the only one ever found from Alfred so I doubt that theory. It is one of six other different jewels found which are also known as 'æstels' and were used as pointers when reading old illustrated books or manuscripts so that your fingers did not touch the page.

The Ashmlolian atrium

The museum underwent a multi million pound interior renovation between 2006 and 2009 when a lower ground floor and upper floors increased its display space from 3 to 5 floors. As you enter you come into an atrium with a staircase sweeping around one side. As you climb the stairs you travel from displays of objects of great antiquity to the present day.

We walked along to Little Clarendon Street for lunch at Pierre Victoire. The little French Burgundian girl managing it was very much on top of her job and she and her staff moved at impressive speed to serve a full restaurant excellent fare on two floors. I swear her feet didn't touch the stairs on her way down!

Sue had the Magret de Canard with a raspberry wine sauce which she declared had crisp skin, no fat and tender pink flesh. I had Moules Frites, fresh Fowey mussels in a cream and white wine sauce which tasted of cream cheese and was delicious. We have not been to Pierre Victoire since we lived in Edinburgh and we realised how much we missed their blend of good authentic French cooking and value for money.

Back at the Ashmolian we worked our way up to the top floors where we admired the collection of Pissarro, the worlds largest, and other Impressionist painters. Many were given to the museum by the widow of Pissarro's son Lucien who moved to England in 1890 and consisted of paintings, drawings, prints and correspondence that he had inherited from his father Camille.

Later we wandered round Oxford taking in some of the famous buildings shown in the slide show above. We will try and get back for more before we emigrate.

 CLICK HERE FOR ROUND 5 ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP RUGBY.

We met up with old friends Mr R.A.Tarse and his wife Jill from Perth WA plus Mr Mac Anus from Priddy on Mendip for an excellent lunch at the Old Spot Inn at Dursley.
Mac reminded me that he was one of the last people I went caving with when I was aged 69 and I confirmed that was record he would keep!

The Old Spot is a proper pub and they served us a Sunday Roast which was washed down with well kept pints of Otter with no muzac or other distractions and good attentive service. It is dog friendly and you could combine it with a walkies on Stinchcombe Hill but you would be well advised to book for Sunday lunch as they do two sittings and the first one was full.

Sue, Jill, Mac and RA in Dursley

Mac's wife Marilyn was busy milking Bulls so couldn't be with us but the four of them will be in New Zealand in 2020 and have promised to meet up with us again then.

 CLICK HERE FOR ROUND 6 ENGLISH PREMIERSHIP RUGBY.

We did manage to visit Oxford again and wandered around Trinity College grounds in the morning before lunching once again at Pierre Victoire. This time Sue had Filet de Brèam au Epinard, pan fried served on wilted spinach with new potatioes and caper butter. Boring old me had Fowey mussels again and they were just as good as last time. We washed everything down with a half bottle of white Burgundy from Mâcon.

Pudding was profiteroles with lashings of chocolate sauce but all I could manage was salted caramel ice cream then we staggered off back into town to Christchurch where we had pre-booked tickets on-line.

The slide show above shows our Christchurch tour which began in the Great Hall where the students had just finished lunch and the place reeked of fried onions! You climb up the Hall Staircase with it's fan-vaulted ceiling before entering the Great Hall, the panelled walls of which are full of portraits of past students and benefactors from Cardinal Wolsey onwards.
It was at the top of the hall stairs where Professor McGonagall welcomed Harry Potter to Hogwarts!

Christchurch dates from c. 710 with the foundation of the Saxon priory of St Frideswide which was refounded in 1122 by Augustine monks.
In 1524 it was closed on the orders of Cardinal Wolsey who then founded Cardinal College which largely saved the priory church which became the college chapel although some of the relics were desecrated as part of the reformation.

In 1532 Henry VIII renames Wolsey's college in his own name then in 1546 he refounds the whole institution as Christchurch combining the college and cathedral.
The Tom Quad is the largest in Oxford and is named after 'Great Tom', the 6 ton bell, was installed in Sir Christopher Wren's new tower

We had a small wait while a concert finished in the cathedral where we first admired the St Michael Window. Nearby was St Fridewide's shrine which is the cathedral's oldest monument. It used to contain the relics of the saint but was one of those that Henry VIII knocked about a bit and was destroyed on his orders. The bits were discovered 350 years later and superglued back together!

The vaulted ceiling of the cathedral was rather fine as was the Becket window which is the oldest dating from about 1320 and depicts the martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury cathedral in 1170. 'Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?' so said Henry II and four of his knights did just that. The window was later defaced to protect it when Henry VIII ordered the destruction of all Becket images.

Before leaving Christchurch we visited the Picture Gallery which contained Old Master paintings including those of Van Dyke and Tintoretto. We emerged opposite Oriel College which was unfortunately closed so we had to be content with peeping through the gate at the lovely entrance to the hall.

 CLICK HERE FOR ROUND 1 EUROPEAN RUGBY CHAMPIONS CUP.

Even if you are not interested in Rugby you might like to read of one of Bath Rugby's greatest sporting achievments by clicking on the above.

We leave Cheltenham in a few days and after waving goodbye to our household effects being shipped to New Zealand we will be going down to Worthing where we will sell our car. Then we travel on to Somerset for a few days in a borrowed car before returning it to Worthing and on up to Gatwick for our first flight to Singapore.
Our mobile numbers will remain the same until we get new SIM cards in NZ and our web site and email address will not change.

I will have my laptop with me and will try to keep the web site updated while we are travelling but make no promises.

Moving Home

Everything went well for us moving out of our Cheltenham apartment. The incoming tenant bought our dishwasher, beds and other bits and pieces while the auctioneers took what was left of stuff we were not shipping to New Zealand or were not allowed to take like wicker baskets and vacuum cleaners.

Doree Bonner International arrived from Bath who export packed and wrapped every single item. Two big prop forwards arrived at 10am and worked without a break for 5 hours. Most items went out through the window including our sofa bed which one of them carried on his back to the van and it was all within the estimated cubic capacity.

A most efficient and impressive operation so far and we must hope that everything gets to Tauranga safely. We arranged marine insurance though Letton Percival Insurance Brokers who were helpful at every stage of the process.
Without exception all the removers quoted premiums between 2 and 3 times the brokers who told us that they often made more profit from the insurance than from the move itself and one company refused to move us unless we took their insurance.

Menu Problems

While staying with our friends the Hockey's, Chris complained that the new menu system was not working properly on his steam driven iPad! When you touched the menu header item on the screen the menu did not drop down.
It is strange as the system works perfectly on the 'Barging' page but not on the 'Travel' page which uses the same code and it is always difficult to isolate problems that are inconsistent. I am aware that Apple and particularly older products have problems with certain CSS functions but will continue to try and resolve it.
In the meantime if you are having problems I have put in a link to the site map on the home page so you are able to access old pages. It is only the dropdown menu that does not function on some pages but on proper computers the top menu also sticks to the top of the page when you scroll down as it should when you scroll down whereas on mobile devices it doesn't.

 CLICK HERE FOR ROUND 2 EUROPEAN RUGBY CHAMPIONS CUP.

Selling our Car

We needed a car in the UK up to when we flew out so we had to decide when and how to sell our car. Fortunately our friend Les Harper in Worthing offered to lend us his car for a week before we left. We obtained a quote from WeBuyAnyCar.Com and from Evans Halshaw who sure enough quoted a valuation £500 higher as their TV ads say they will.

We drove over to Evans Halshaw at Portsmouth who then proceeded to knock the value down £800 due to the number of previous owners and the partial service history so we drove back to Worthing and WeBuyAnyCar did the same thing but having started from a lower valuation ended up the lesser of the two.

After contacting several other dealers for a valuation we concluded that we were not likely to get a better offer and so sold the car to Evans Halshaw.
I would not recommend this method of selling a car if you have the time to advertise it and sell it privately but it was the only practical way for us unfortunately.

Armistice Concert
St Mary Magdalene's Church, Taunton

While visiting friends and rellies in Somerset we found ourselves in a packed St Mary Magdalene's Church, Taunton for a concert which included The RAF Association Concert Band, The Taunton Military Wives Choir and Taunton Deane Male Voice Choir in which our friend Paul Rowbathan sings. He also recited one of my favourite poems by Rupert Brooke entitled 'The Soldier'.

The concert consisted of a programme of music and readings to commemorate the centenery of the ending of the first world war.
The band played all the right notes but, as Eric Morecombe famously once said, not necessarily in the right order, however, the ladies and gentlemen sang well and we all joined in some of the old WW1 songs.

Norwegian Air

Sally Harper dropped us off at Worthing station and as we left Gatwick Airport station, Norwegian Air check-in was right in front of us with no further walking. There were no queues and we checked in our luggage, cleared security and found the No 1 lounge included with our premium class tickets where we relaxed with drinks and food prior to boarding our flight to Singers.

Because there are only economy and premium class the forward cabin which would have been business class is premium with a 2/3/2 seating arrangement so we had perhaps the most generous space of any previous flights we have taken on a 787 aircraft. This one was brand new and we departed on time for the 13 hour flight to Singers with a warning from the Brit captain of headwinds which meant we were scheduled for a late arrival.

This is a popular aircraft but I think it is noisy compared to the A380 and wondered if this was lower engine noise and this aircraft had Rolls Royce engines so it must be the airframe. It was a very bumpy ride, not the aircraft's fault and it did make sleep difficult but the seats did have those flaps which you could fold forward to support your head and we did get some sleep with the help of maximum seat incline and leg rests.

Food was certainly a lot better than our last flight with EVA but we had no appitite at 1-30am. You could order drinks and snacks thoughout the flight from your seat monitor and service was good with as much booze as you wanted with your meal. Breakfast was served before we landed which was at 8pm local time and we both said was really tasty so full marks to Norwegian all round.

Singapore

We left our heavy luggage at Changi Airport and found ourselves a hotel in Katong. This is an area of Singapore where Straits born Chinese people known as Peranakans first settled. There is a distinct culture and cuisine associated with these people and we visited Rumah Bebe on the East Coast road where Sue bought a sarong in the Peranekan fashion and we were shown round the interesting old house with its historic artifacts.

Just around the corner in Celon Road is the Sri Senpaga VinayagarTemple which was rebuilt in 2003. I took photos of it in daylight and at night when it is floodlit which you can see below.

The 328 Cafe on East Coast Road is a Michelin starred cafe which specialises in Laksa, a Peranekan spicy noodle and seafood soup. We noted photos on the wall of some famous guests including Gordon Ramsay and ordered small bowls of Laksa which came with a sachet of Sambal Chilli, however, after tasting it we both decided that it was hot enough for our delicate western stomachs so did not add it to the soup which was delicious. We ordered some chilli crab dumplings and prawn and pork shui mai dim sum with fresh coconut milk to cool the parts.

The bill for the meal was a paltry S$27 for the two of us so you can still eat well and inexpensively in Singapore

Scoot

Scoot is a budget airline owned by Singapore Airlines on which we travelled on to Melbourne in their Scoot Biz class. The aircraft was a 787 and the seating was similar to Norwegian Air but there the similarity stopped. We were offered a choice of soft drink and served a dodgy looking braised chicken and rice dish which we did not attempt to eat. There was no in-flight entertainment and you had to pre-download a Scoot TV app to your own tablet. Anything else you had to pay for including a cup of tea which they wanted S$4 for. Considering we paid about twice as much as an economy ticket we think that Scoot have it wrong as a few empty seats demonstrated. We would certainly not choose to fly with them again.

Melbourne

The place has changed yet again in the few years since our last visit. We were met at Tullamarine airport by our friends Gilly and Andy and shared a cleansing ale or two back at their ranch. The next day we met up with Mary, Sue Connie and her new friend Russell for lunch at the Mornington Peninsular Galleries, Redhill. We had arrived in temperatures of 30°C and by the next afternoon it was 23°C with the forecast of 18°C the next day. Some things never change and this is the typical Melbourne weather we remember but I blame global warming!

Cascade of poppies at South Petherton War Memorial

Chris Hockey sent me the adjacent photo of his latest project for the village enhancement in South Petherton, Somerset.
He has been given a load of money to spend by a village benefactor and he is a committee of one which is the best sort when it comes to spending public money.

Chris is in the process of canvassing for more ideas on how to spend the money and we gave him a few of our own as past residents.

1000 fabric poppies were sown on to a to a hessian backcloth to create the cascade and it will be removed after armistice day and used again in future years.
Chris has also had a more permanent wrought iron 'Tommy' placed opposite the cascade.

We travel by train down to Stratford to see Barbara and 'Jum, on Tuesday which is Melbourne Cup Day. I am looking forward to sampling Jum's home brew again but we are only staying one night and set of back to Melbourne then on to Albury in NSW to be with Sues sister Frankie who will be celebrating her 60th birthday. Then back to Melbourne for the flight down to Auckland.

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