Monthly Archives: November 2011

Rocco’s 4th birthday

Rocco is four! His birthday was celebrated with a party for family and friends at the Firehouse PlayCentre in Waltham Abbey. Later the family met at his house and had a delicious vegetable “shepherds” pie.

Rocco the pilot!

Rocco and friends having lunch

It s all downhill now

the firewoman drops by to make sure Rocco is having a good time

More pictures in my gallery.



Our annual christmas break with the Crockers, Burkes and Forman-Pecks is no longer a yuletide holiday because of the super-abundance of grandchildren we all share and the numerous birthdays that occur around this time. Going away in mid-November, though, did little to blunt our enthusiasm for festive activities like eating and drinking.

the old barn

inside the new barn

On this occasion we were in Stow-on-the-Wold, staying at the Old Forge Barn where Nathan celebrated his 40th birthday. Like many of the barns we have stayed in the place was enormous with high ceilings and large open fireplaces and the usual minstrel’s gallery. Open-plan is the byword for barn conversions and in this case that also applied to the bathrooms and toilets.

The open fires, of course, always excite us and this time was no different. I was in charge as usual but Ray couldn’t resist a stint of throwing cardboard boxes onto the fire which promptly caught the chimney alight and necessitated a visit from the fire brigade.

the well that the locals fought over between Stow and Broadwell

We only had a long weekend so activities ¬†beyond eating, drinking and talking were limited but we did an autumnal walk through fields and a stream via an ancient community well to Broadwell and, on Graham’s advice, we visited Chipping Campden as being a less commercialised Cotswold town.


The towns and villages (especially Wick Rissington but not Moreton-in-the-Marsh) were all stunning, the buildings glowing with their honey-coloured stone. It is no wonder our ruling classes like to live here and work in London – a mere two hours drive away.

On the way home we stopped at Burford again and bumped into the Crockers with whom we then went to Asthall, the home of the Mitfords. Diane’s dad, Bill, played with girls when he was a child visiting his uncle Richard, the bailiff for the estate. We also went to Swinford where Farve built the new house that the sisters hated so much because it didn’t have the library that Asthall had. Four of the sisters are buried in St. Mary’s church and there is also a stained glass window that relates to Diane’s great-uncle.

nancy, unity and diana. deborah, of course, is still alive and at chatsworth

By this time I felt a strange alienation to the almost perfect countryside around us. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it but more that I didn’t feel a sense of being part of it or it belonging in any sense to me. I think it was the overpowering presence of feudalism that pervaded everything about us that was responsible. Maybe that is why this place is so popular with David Cameron, his neighbour, Jeremy Clarkson and the rest of the Chipping Norton set.

halloween and bonfire night

They both come together but Halloween, the american invader, seems to be catching up and maybe overtaking our home-brew bonfire night which, nowadays, seems to be about bigger bangs. The ¬£50 firework that we witnessed and heard at the Crossley’s annual do would have helped Libya to a speedy armistice if exploded over Tripoli. No more Guy Fawkes, though, as money or sweets are more easily obtained through trick or treat than begging with a make-shift dummy.

Our Halloween however was Tove’s early and alternative birthday party and celebrates her curious affection for skeletons. So plenty of ghosts, witches, pirates and other curiosities. The magic show was brilliant.


olympic site

It’s been on my doorstep long enough and I’ve passed it often enough on the tube or along the Eastway but, finally, I visit the Olympic site. It is Happy Monday and Sheila and I are with Louisa and the grandkids and we take the Docklands Light Railway to Pudding Mill Lane to the View Tube. This is a shipping container converted into a cafe and a classroom. From here we walk the Greenway, Victorian London’s main northern sewer to Old Ford and have lunch at the Counter. It is a glorious way for seeing the Olympic site taking shape.

the northern outfall sewer passing over the Lea

the venue for the Olympic helter-skelter competition

there seems to be a lot still to do

We all got very excited at seeing a long slow-moving sinister train that we were sure was carrying nuclear waste. This has long been a local concern.