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Avoid the Gap?

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

mind-the-gap

Mind The Gap!! refers to the gap between the subway door and the platform on the London Subway system (also known as the Underground or affectionately the Tube!!) London’s subway rolling stock are of a rigid design, and do not flex like some buses! and with many stations on London’s Underground on a curve, that’s when you notice this gap much more! It can be quite dangerous if you are unaware or not paying attention!  An automated voice recording is announced just as the train arrives and departs!

The Tube is the best way to get across London! if one wishes to save time as the road traffic on London’s streets is becoming a Nightmare!

However if you are claustrophobic as I am and don’t’ wish to travel like a Sardine in a Can!  Then my advise is to Avoid the subway at all costs, especially during Rush Hours! Stuffy tight quarters,with barely enough room to breathe, with No Air Conditioning, is not my idea of comfortable travel, Just a mass of Sweaty Smelly humanity all crammed together in a Haven for Pick Pockets and Gropers! And  if the picture isn’t clear enough already When the train comes to a stop between stations on a hot summers day as it surely will, for God Knows how Long?? Then this claustrophobic sensation is exasperated  even more! A desperate euphoria like their is no where to go and no way out!  An uncontrollable anxiety of  being trapped that can become all consuming! However, by all means take the Tube! don’t let this humble bloggers fears stop you in your quest or desire to travel on one of London;s greatest icons!

On the other hand if you are a realist!  if you have a similar condition! My advise is to walk in the Fresh Air, enjoy the sights and sounds of London!  Alternately take the Bus, or if you can afford it a Cab! allow yourself extra time, “Avoid The Gap” and you’ll get to wherever it is your going with less stress and anxiety!

Tiz The Season in Britain!

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

santa

It’s around this time of year that I tend to reflect upon the early years as a young boy, growing up in Britain and what Christmas, meant to me!

There are some similarities in the two cultures! of Britain and The U.S.A at Christmas time.

However, Britain differs slightly in the preparations and in the way it is celebrated!

For example the tradition in Britain of placing gifts at the foot of a young child’s bed Christmas Eve Night! While at the same time hanging the stuffed stocking at the head of the child’s bed while they are sleeping! Unless you have experienced it, you have no idea what it feels like to awaken in the middle of the night with uncontrollable excitement to pressies and things at both ends of the bed! It’s a Thrill Beyond Compare! for both child and parents!

Try it with your kids sometime, then sit back and quietly watch the happiness and pleasure in their little glowing faces, frantically tearing the wrapping paper off their Gifts, While at the same time eating toffees, nuts, and goodies, in their own little Christmas World!

I try to provide this same experience to my American wife while asleep Christmas Eve Night and a delight it is to see the child in her spring to life! as she plows into her Gifties on her side of the bed  She simply loves it!!!

“Merry Christmas to all”

British Ghostly Haunts

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Believer or not in Ghosts or Spirits one must confess Ghost stories and Haunted houses do tend to send chills through ones soul!ghost_

Several accounts of  spiritual or ghostly family encounters were told to me by my Mother when I was quite young! needless to say they gave me the creeps,especially around bed time, when it was all I could do to gingerly peer over the bed covers, to watch the shadows created by the coal fire in my room flicker strange shapes on the wall!! And if all that wasn’t scary enough, Every footstep on the creaky wooden stairs in our Old Edwardian House was accentuated, by my prankish brothers thumping on the walls and making weird noises! All this was just a little Too Scary and Spooky for an 8 year old with a vivid imagination!

One of those stories my Mother told was of her Grandmother whose son was serving in France in the first World War, her Grandmother was brushing her hair sitting at her dressing table and noticed some movement in her bed reflected from her dressing table mirror, she thought nothing of it ! But as she climbed into bed and was lying there she felt a cold presence or spirit along side her, reaching over she realized it was her son! noticing how cold he was she hugged him to give him some warmth! the very next morning She received a telegram saying that her son had been Killed in action!

More”Spooky Stuff” to come! Happy Halloween!!

Dining Nightmares

Friday, October 11th, 2013

food-sign-chef

There are few things in life that are more enjoyable than to plan dinner with friends in a nice restaurant with a fantastic setting! What one doesn’t plan on is to have the evening, ruined by Poor Food and Sub Standard Service!

But this is exactly what happened to us mid August of this year while dinning in a popular establishment in South Cornwall! Some of the food order was taken incorrectly and inevitably those dishes arrived to our dissatisfaction! The Waitress who was obviously embarrassed was no where to be seen, at which time the Manager stepped into the Fray and tried to correct the problem by reordering the incorrect dishes

When the reordered food returned the side dishes were forgotten and the Grilled Salmon which was supposed to be on a bed of Cold Salad was served on a  hot plate  of wilted lettuce leaves After lodging another complaint to the manager serving us! A Female voice from across the room indicated loud and clear that “We were making a Fuss and that she had experienced good food and service over the last week” From which I politely replied, “Madam you are not at our table, therefore you have No Say in the matter”!

A moment or two later a Portly gentleman decided to voice his disapproval at our table side! I politely indicated that unless he was willing to pay for our dinner, that this matter was also none of his concern! After trying to save face  he walked away in disgust shaking his head and muttering to himself!

So all in all one might say this was an evening to remember! or forget, I’m not sure which!!

On reflection I find it amusing  that such a popular establishment could make so many Unprofessional Mistakes!  The Irony of this whole episode, is how readily some clueless Brits, get themselves involved in other peoples affairs, when wiser heads should prevail!  It has now been over 40 years since I left Britain, and nothing in this area seems to  have changed much” When in Britain the requirement still seems to be! Don’t rock the boat, one must simply Take it, leave it, or go without” (and oh yes Don’t forget to leave a tip, and don’t expect any discounts on the bill) Bon Appetite! and have a nice evening!!

Secret British Tours

Friday, October 4th, 2013

_mill_garden-and-castle

Touring is all about seeing new and wonderful things! trying to incorporate the lesser known places of interest along with all the major venues! Often times it’s these lesser known places we visit, that turn out to be far more interesting! We like to call them Secret Places, or better still Hidden Gems! We seldom incorporate them into an itinerary mainly because we love to surprise our tour groups with an unscheduled or impromptu visit to one of them!

Mill Gardens by Warwick Castle is one of those Hidden Gems! because we try to arrive early morning around 8am seldom do we have to share this wonderful setting with others! As one wanders this half acre of a fine English Garden the many beautiful varieties of flora, simply explode into a vision of color!  follow the path down by the river, (where you could  half expect Alice and the White Rabbit to appear!!)  there is  another path leading to yet another magnificent view of the Gardens and river Avon, all coming together to give you a view of  perhaps the finest majestic backdrop one could ever wish to see! that of Warwick Castle itself, all beautifully captured in this enchanting natural setting!  A truly unforgettable experience! And all part of a Secret British Tour!

United Kingdom: Something for everyone!

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

map_of_great_britain1

Britain is made up of the United Kingdom of Great Britain (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) together with the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Britain is a diverse nation full of contrasts; whichever direction you travel you will find a wide variety of landscapes and diverse cultures to explore. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are all unique countries with their own customs, cultures and traditions. There’s something for everyone in Britain  from the wealth of natural and historical heritage to the vibrant and cosmopolitan towns and cities.

A Changing America!!

Monday, July 1st, 2013

flagWhat happened to the pioneering spirit, the sense of pride hard work and accomplishment, that built these United States!

We became the Greatest Nation on this planet, by not being a Welfare State, by not holding our hands out for freebies all our lives, We became the Greatest Nation on Earth by hard work determination, and a sense of accomplishment! And from it, the pride and self respect that comes from setting goals and reaching them, by improving ones self! and ones position in Life!

Is the Welfare Check that’s handed out each month ones only incentive in life! Is accepting entitlements from Cradle to Grave ones only ambition! Should we allow ourselves to fall Victim to any Political Party that stifles individualism, and offers only dependency and dead end class oppression?? What we don’t seem to understand is the price we are paying for a Free Hand Out ! When one is given something for Free! your Obedience is usually required in return!! and that price and obedience is inevitably the erosion of our Rights Liberties and Freedoms!

It’s sad to see the desire to better ones self by individual work ethic being destroyed, by ones willingness to take what one can get from the system, without having contributed to it! Sure there are certainly those that Genuinely Need a Government Safety Net! but far too many Do Not!

Falling into this trap of taking and not giving! with total dependency on the system! will not only destroy ones self in the end, but ultimately the very system one is sucking from!

Nothing in this World is Free!! Someone is paying for the Free hand outs, Question is ? Is it you!!! And do you even care??

History of the British Post Box!

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

In 1840 Rowland Hill suggested the idea of roadside letter boxes for Britain. Letter boxes of this kind were already being used in countries such as France, Belgium and Germany. However there were no roadside letter boxes in the British Isles until 1852, when the first pillar boxes were erected at St Hellier in Jersey at the recommendation of Anthony Trollope, who was working as a Surveyor’s Clerk for the Post Office. scot1

In 1853 the first pillar box on the British mainland was erected at Botchergate, Carlise. A similar box from the same year still stands at Barnes Cross, Bishop’s Caundle in Dorset. It is the oldest pillar box still in use on the mainland. Most of the early boxes were similar in design to the Channel Island boxes, but there were some interesting variations. Only photos and a few odd parts remain of London’s first pillar box which was at the corner of Fleet Street and Farringdon Street. In 1856 Richard Redgrave of the Department of Science and Art designed an ornate pillar box for use in London and other large cities. An example of one of these boxes, which would have been painted bronze, is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum. A less ornate version was used in other towns and cities. In 1859 the design was improved by moving the aperture from the top to below the rim and this became the first National Standard pillar box. The one exception to this standard is the Liverpool Special of 1863.

Green was adopted as the standard colour for the early Victorian boxes. Between 1866 and 1879 the hexagonal Penfold became the standard design for pillar boxes and it was during this period that red was first adopted as the standard colour. The first boxes to be painted red were in London in July 1874, although it took 10 years before nearly all the boxes had been repainted.

In 1879 came the cylindrical design of pillar box, which apart from a few recent experiments has changed very little since. The early boxes had no royal cipher and are known as ‘anonymous’ boxes. This oversight was corrected from 1887 when the words POST OFFICE were also placed either side of the aperture.

The cylindrical boxes came in two sizes, ‘A’ (larger) and ‘B’ (smaller). The oval type ‘C’ boxes with separate apertures for town and country first appeared in London in 1899. Lamp boxes, for use in areas where the amount of post is small, first started to be used generally from around 1897. Although designed to be attached to a lamp post they may also be found attached to telegraph poles, their own post or even set in a wall. The first proper roadside wall boxes had been in use from about 1857. Ludlow boxes, named after the Birmingham manufacturer James Ludlow, were made for use at sub-post offices between 1885 and 1965. Manufactured from sheet metal and wood with distinctive enamel plates they were more prone to rot than cast iron boxes.

In 1924 oval signs showing the direction to the nearest post office were used on top of pillar boxes for the first time. It was also in 1924 that the first experimental Telephone Kiosk no. 4 was produced which incorporated a post box and stamp vending machine.

Pillar boxes for airmail letters were introduced in London in 1930. The first of these was sited outside the General Post Office in King Edward Street, London. Originally these were simply a type ‘B’ box painted blue with an oval sign saying AIR MAIL placed on top, but from 1932 they were produced with a double collection plate, one for collection times and one for air mail postage rates. This service lasted until 1938 when the first box to be erected was also the last to go.

During the short reign of Edward VIII in 1936 only a relatively small number letter boxes were made, with the larger type ‘A’ pillar box being much rarer than than the narrower type ‘B’. It is believed that there is only one surviving example of an Edward VIII Ludlow type letter box. In 1935, towards the end of the reign of George V, a new design of lamp box was introduced with a flatter roof. Another design, with a rectangular front, was introduced during the reign of George VI.

In 1954, after it had been pointed out that Elizabeth II of England was only the first Elizabeth to reign over Scotland, the EIIR cipher was not used in Scotland. Letter boxes were made with just a Scottish Crown on instead.

There was very little further change in the design of letter boxes until an experiment in 1968 with rectangular boxes (Type F). These were made from sheet steel and proved not to be very hard wearing and so a cast iron version, the Type G, was introduced.

For their next design in 1979 the Royal Mail went back to the cylindrical shape, this time without the familiar pillar box cap. This box is known as Type K. Finally, on modern postboxes the words POST OFFICE have been replaced by the words ROYAL MAIL.

It is possible to collect real letter boxes but there are many smaller letter box related items that can be acquired. These include:
money boxes – models – fridge magnets – biscuit jars – teapots – sweet boxes – badges – key rings – salt & pepper pots – thimbles – postcards – toys – Christmas and birthday cards – wrapping paper – games – etc.

Demise of The British Pub

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

pub-pic

Many pubs across Britain have closed their doors! Brewery Owned or Free House, one can see them everywhere, boarded up and abandoned as you drive through Townships and Villages throughout the land! Their once prominent hand painted signs still swinging in the breeze, are now faded and weather beaten! Revered colloquial names like The Plough: the Cock and Pheasant: The Bell: and  The Highwayman , All names from another time, a fading  past! Gone are the colorful  flower baskets, with signs offering home cooked food and  locally brewed Ales and Ciders, where weary travelers could rest from the days journey!  The British Pub was once very central to local village life, offering a warm retreat from the hardship of the day! a social gathering place for people from all walks of life to share in the spirit of community! The Laborer in the field could rub shoulders with the Local Doctor! Banker or Known Land Owner! It was the one place where your station in life was accepted by all!

This is now vanishing due largely in part to Socially Changing Drinking Habits: Ever Increasing Alcohol Taxation: The Smoking Ban In Public Places: and Stiffer Drinking and Driving Laws! While one can argue if the Government enforced changes are necessary! they have all in fact aided in the Demise of The British Pub in recent years!  It is estimated at one point, as many as 2000 pubs a year were closing, At that rate the British Pub would cease to exist! While there are still estimated to be approx 60.000 still operating throughout the land, there numbers were twice that 50 years ago! In resent years Brits have witnessed The village parish church close it’s doors due to dwindling congregations! Along with Sunday cricket on the village green! The once familiar Blue Police Box (tardis to some) the yellow A.A. and blue R.A.C. boxes, Additionally the red phone box, sub post office and red post box! have either gone forever, or on the endangered species list! And now the British Pub another piece of, quintessentially British Culture is rapidly disappearing! I know you’ll agree with me, that it’s close to Last Call, at many a fine British Pub, And that familiar refrain from The Landlord of “Time Gentlemen Please!!”will also be on that long list of forgotten traditions that makes Britain uniquely British! Let’s all raise a glass and drink to their memory by visiting a British Pub soon!! “Cheers”

British Capitol Freebies !

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

london-regent-street

Art

Many of London’s biggest and best cultural attractions are “Free” to enter, and the number of museums offering “Free” entry is staggering. Donations are often more than welcome, and special exhibits usually cost extra.

Major Museums

British Museum

Imperial War Museum

Museum of London

National Gallery

National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House, and Royal Observatory

National Portrait Gallery

Natural History Museum

Science Museum

Tate Britain

Tate Modern

Victoria & Albert Museum

Smaller Museums & Galleries

Burgh House and the Hampstead Museum

Clown’s Gallery and Museum

Courtauld Permanent Exhibition (Free on Monday only)

Hogarth House

Houses of Parliament

ICA Gallery (�2.50)

Museum of Childhood

Serpentine Gallery

Sir John Soane’s Museum

Theatre Museum

Wallace Collection

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Concerts

St. Paul‘s Cathedral, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, St. George Bloomsbury, and St. James’s Church have regular lunchtime concerts, as does St. George Bloomsbury on Monday, Hyde Park Chapel on Thursday, and St. Giles in the Fields on Friday. There are regular organ recitals at Westminster Abbey.

Of the music colleges, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall, the Trinity College of Music, and the Royal Opera House have regular recitals; the Trinity College of Music holds recitals at lunchtime on Tuesday.

For contemporary ears, the area outside the National Theatre on the South Bank (known as the Djanogly Concert Pitch) reverberates to live world music weekdays at 6 PM, and on Saturday at 1 PM and 6 PM.

You can catch decent open-mike nights for unsigned acts and singer-songwriters at the River Bar (just south of Tower Bridge) every Wednesday, and Roadhouse (in Covent Garden) every Monday. Blues lovers should not miss the legendary Billy Chong Blues Revue band jam every Monday at the Globe pub in Hackney. The Palm Tree, in Mile End, is another great East End pub that hosts accomplished local jazz players on weekends.

Film, Theater & Opera

If all seats have been sold, the English National Opera sells standing tickets for the back of the Dress and Upper Circles at �10 each. Check at the box office.

Standing tickets with obstructed views for the ballet or the opera at the Royal Opera House start at �7.

Sloane Square‘s Royal Court Theatre, one of the U.K.’s best venues for new playwriting, has restricted-view, standing-room-only tickets at the downstairs Jerwood Theatre for 10 pence (yes, �0.10), available one hour before the performance.

The Battersea Arts Club (BAC) has pay-what-you-can night on Tuesdays.

The Prince Charles Cinema in the West End shows weekday movie matinees for �3.50.

Offbeat Experiences

Go to the Public Record Office in Kew or Islington if you have a few hours to kill and want to track down some ancient branch of the family tree. Even if you don’t have any leads, browsing through sheaves of ancient ledgers is great fun.

London has some of the finest parks in the world, and enjoying them won’t cost you a pretty pence. Keen ornithologists can join free bird-watching walks in Hyde Park, while dedicated strollers touched by royal nostalgia can take the 7-mi Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk through Hyde, Green, and St. James’s Parks.

There are free spectacles throughout the year, but one of the most warmly enjoyed is Guy Fawkes’ Night (November 5), when parks throughout the country hold spectacular fireworks displays.

On New Year’s Eve thousands of revelers descend on Trafalgar Square and the South Bank to watch more free fireworks. The Underground usually runs all night, and is free into the new year.

Finally, set aside some time for random wandering. London is a great walking city because so many of its real treasures are untouted: tiny alleyways barely visible on the map, garden squares, churchyards, shop windows, sudden vistas of skyline or park. With comfortable, weatherproof shoes and an umbrella, walking might well become your favorite free activity here.

Affordable Sightseeing

Join real Londoners on the top deck of a double-decker bus. You can use your Zones 1 and 2 Travelcard or buy tickets from machines at the bus stops for the following routes:

Bus 11: King’s Road, Sloane Square, Victoria Station, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, the Strand, Fleet Street, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Bus 12: Bayswater, Marble Arch, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards, Whitehall, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Westminster Bridge.

Bus 19: Sloane Square, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner, Green Park, Piccadilly Circus, Shaftsbury Avenue, Oxford Street, Bloomsbury, Islington.

Bus 88: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tate Britain.

Tower Bridge London, England
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