A Weekend in London

I’m currently 40000ft above the eastern coast of Canada enroute to Orlando.

Exciting stuff, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to catch you up with the goings on of last weekend. Obviously I’m not going to be able to publish this en avion so I’ll try to do it as soon as I get WiFi.

So, last weekend then! I was up and ready early and trotted myself down to the railway station to be at Birmingham New Street for my train to London at 10.10. This was a bit different to past trips to London because Virgin have lost the rail contract so it was my first trip with Avanti West Coast. All ran perfectly though, so far so good. Long may it last.

I arrived at Euston and headed straight for the tube. This was a solo trip, blissful me time, and I discovered that my AirPods really came into their own. So nice to march around the underground listening to music with no pesky wires to get in the way. Love my AirPods.

Jumping off at Tottenham Court Road I navigated my way (thank you google maps) to my hotel for the night, Mimis.

Now I was expecting a bijou room given that it’s description on booking.com was tiny room with tiny rubbish but wow! They really weren’t kidding!

I reckon the whole thing, including bathroom was three metres square! It had everything I needed though, and some I didn’t (coffee machine – yuck!) and, most importantly, it was clean, quiet and two minutes walk from the purpose of my visit! Palace Theatre.

My Dad bought me tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for Christmas – such excitement! Love love love Harry Potter. Which is a good thing because the show is split in two halves, both approximately two and a half hours separated by about the same amount of time so you’re watching it for hours!!

I won’t give away any of the secrets of the show, but I can give you a summary of the plot because you can buy the book anyway.

***** LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS *****

So, it’s nineteen years since we last saw Harry et al and the gang are all grown up. Harry works in the Ministry of Magic and is married to Ginny Weasley and together they have three children, James, Albus Severus and Lily (significance obvious for even the most cursory of Potter fans). Ron and Hermione are married and have two children, the oldest of which is Rose. We pick up the story as Albus and Rose are starting Hogwarts (James is already there). On the Hogwarts Express Albus meets Scorpius, the very blonde son of Draco Malfoy. Upon arrival at Hogwarts, Albus becomes the first Potter to be sorted into Slytherin while Rose finds herself in Gryffindor. This pushes Albus together with Scorpius, who as a Malfoy had to be in Slytherin and the story begins.

Albus witnesses a meeting between Harry and Amos Diggory, now infirm and in a wizarding nursing home (imagine firecrackers going mad and crazy zimmerframes!) and learns the story of how Cedric Diggory was sacrificed in the triwizard tournament and he also discovers that Hermione, now the Minister for Magic, has a time turner. Together with Scorpius he decides to steel the time turner in order to go back in time and save Cedric in a misguided mission to make things right between Harry and Albus who have a difficult relationship, and give Cedric his son back. Along the way they fall under the spell of Delphi who introduces herself as Amos’ niece.

As you can imagine, things don’t go according to plan. They succeed in saving Cedric but back in real time things have gone awry so they go back again to try and put it right and yet again the real time is wrong. Among other things, when time is changed, Cedric becomes a death eater, Snape is alive, Dolores Umbridge is Headmistress of Hogwarts, Albus is in Gryffindor, Scorpius is the school stud, Ron and Hermione aren’t married and Hermione is living underground because she’s wanted for various crimes.

Anyway, the upshot of it all is that Harry and his motley crew have to find another time turner to go back in time and save Albus and Scorpius when they get stuck in Godric’s Hollow on the night that Voldemort gave Harry that scar and it turns out that Delphi is the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange and had an entirely different motive in helping Albus and Scorpius.

I loved it. The guy who played Scorpius absolutely made it for me. The way he chose to play the character was brilliant. They were all brilliant but he stood out for me.

During the couple of hours break I wandered off down Shaftesbury Avenue and had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. I had been here once before, but years ago and I couldn’t remember it. It was great. A bit of an odd choice, I guess, to go to on your own, but whatever!

Atmosphere was amazing.

Food was amazing!

London was vibrant and buzzing when I came out of the theatre and that’s the only time I wished I had a companion – a nice glass of vino would’ve gone down nicely. I had an early start the next day though so it was probably for the best.

After a poor night’s sleep (too hot and not enough pillow) I emerged from the hotel before nine am into a very Sunday morningish London. Streets were pleasantly quiet as presumably the revellers from the night before were snoozing away still. Not sure I’ve ever seen London so peaceful – it was lovely, almost like I had it all to myself. I was booked on a City Cruises boat to Greenwich at ten am so I meandered my way slowly in the direction of Westminster Bridge, taking in the sights on my way.

The boat trip was really good, again it was quite quiet and I was first on so I got a seat at the very front (downstairs – I may be from up North in the eyes of Londoners (I’m not, Birmingham is not the North, we’re in the middle) but I’m not hardy enough to be outside for long in January weather) so I got a great view.

The commentary was really funny and informative.

Did you know there are thirty two pods on the London Eye? One to represent each London Borough.

HMS Belfast which was built in the same shipyard at the Titanic in Belfast. She served in the Korean War but now she’s a museum. She’s sitting on what is now one of the cleanest rivers in the world (doesn’t look it, I don’t recommend drinking it) but in days gone by, the smell coming from the Thames, the Great Stink, caused by Londoners disposing of their waste in the river inspired the Victorians to design and build the sewer system. Prior to that the Thames had become ecologically dead. These days it has a thriving eco-system and Londoners’ waste apparently goes to Essex (sorry Essex!)

Apparently most rivers only flow one way, but the Thames changes direction twice a day and it rises and falls five to seven metres. This made London susceptible to flooding so a barrier was built to protect the Thames and Londoners from storms from the North Sea.

The designer of the Shard was offered one million pounds for his design of the tower. He said he’d prefer to take the Penthouse suite instead. He sold that a few years ago for thirty five million pounds. Shrewd!

Once in Greenwich I visited the Cutty Sark, a Tea Clipper that used to bring us tea from China and also wool from Australia. In today’s money the value of a full load of tea was six million pounds. That’s a lot of tea.

After this I made my way up to the Observatory, slowly! It’s flipping steep. I could’ve done with some crampons and a rope! It was worth it for the view though.

I probably should’ve got the audioguide because I feel like I still don’t know much about the Observatory, but I was kind of all informationed out by that point.

This is me in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

Phew, I was tired after all this. I did twelve and a half thousand steps both days, which, given that I was sat on a train for an hour and a half each day and in a theatre for five hours on the first day, I think is quite a lot. Could do with a holiday now. Oh ……….. well would you look at that!

Happy Birthday To me

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Green Girl Gardener is a whole one year old today! Where has that year gone? I knew it was coming up because about a month ago my iPhone calendar reminded me to ‘cancel WordPress if not using’. I just swiped it away, and that made me happy because it meant I’d been successful in my venture.

After I published my first post, hubby turned all Del Boy and declared that ‘this time next year we’ll be millionaires!’ Well I haven’t been successful in that way  (not that the intention was ever for that to happen), and I don’t even have that many followers/regular readers, but it still feels like an eminently successful year to me because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second of blogging. I’ve always been a closet writer (I still think there’s a novel in me somewhere) and this is a fabulous way for me to express myself creatively. It makes me happy to play with words, find the most amusing way to express myself, to conjugate to my heart’s content.

I think the blog has had its main focus on my gardening adventure, but I’ve also managed to bring other passions into it – crochet, cats, holidays, teddy bears, tennis. Hopefully I’ve provided some light entertainment on otherwise dreary days, and maybe I’ve even provided a little bit of education along the way (although probably not in gardening because I’m still right down the bottom of that particular learning curve).

I’ve found lots of fellow bloggers who blog on all sorts of subjects from crochet to mental health to cooking to travel, but most of all I’ve found fellow gardeners. Luckily (for me) most of them are far more experienced than yours truly and they’ve helped me identify mystery plants, they’ve offered tips and tricks either directly or through their own writing and they’ve opened my eyes to different kinds of gardening. I can honestly say that starting my little bloggy venture was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve complemented by space here with a Green Girl Gardener account on Instagram (@greengirlgardener if anyone’s interested) which allows me, when I don’t have time to blog, to share those random photos that I take when I pop out to check the garden before work, or when I spot a beautiful plant while I’m out and about or when I’ve created something scrummy with my own homegrown goodness.

I’m going to celebrate my first birthday by sharing some of my favourite photos from the past year.

I’ve tried to pick one photo from each month, but I’ve got so many photos that I love that I think I’m going to have to do another montage!

Above we have for July my Eupatorium (that had to be in there, didn’t it), Olive and Tink, our furry girls for August and my birthday planter for September. Then there’s the fox cushion I made for my mother in law in October and hubby and I in a cenote in Mexico during our November holiday. Next row shows my Hellebore flowering in December and my Christmas present greenhouse housing a hubby (a husband hut as my friend on Facebook quipped) in early January. Penultimate row is us with a friendly falcon in Malta in February and the Palace of Holyroodhouse during my trip to Edinburgh (which was also in February but I must’ve written my post in early March) and finally one of my raised beds all planted and netted in April, the iconic Universal globe on our fantastic holiday to Orlando in May and last but not least, the Confetti Fields that I visited in June.

Here we go again. Top row shows a Gazania which was the first sale table find that I blogged about back in July 2018 and an Eeyore house at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens which we discovered in August. Jump down a row to a wild pony in Sutton Park which we came across in September, I still remember how happy I was to have seen one because I was starting to think they were a myth, and my set of Clover hooks which revolutionised my crocheting life in October. Next up is a white feather in November which I think is my gardening expert Grandad popping down from heaven to check I’m not messing up the garden, followed by our yummy Christmas dinner in December, our furry girls keeping warm in January and me meeting my new baby niece in February. Fourth row shows a mountain of bears in March (that’s been added to since then!) and an elephant that I crocheted as a leaving gift for my boss when he retired in April so he doesn’t forget me and lastly a Gringotts vault at the Harry Potter studios in May and the start of my love affair with overnight oats as I started Slimming World in June.

It’s so nice to look back at these photos – yet another benefit to my blog. I also take more random photos when I get an inkling of an idea for a blog post and I find that quite often they evoke the strongest memories.

I’ll finish with a thank you. To all you lovely readers – friends, family, colleagues and fellow bloggers – thank you so much for reading, liking, commenting, complimenting and educating me for the last year. I really do appreciate it every time someone takes time out of their busy day to read my musings and ramblings, and I hope I can continue to entertain and perhaps amuse for a long time to come.

Wimbledon!

Whoop! The best fortnight of the year is here!

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Oh I wish it could be Wimbledon every day! I’ll watch any tennis – singles, doubles, men, women, mixed, wheelchair, grand slam, ATP 1000, 500, 250, challenger, Davis Cup – but there’s something special about Wimbledon. I guess it’s partly because it’s my home slam and also that it’s the tennis that I grew up watching (because no other tennis was ever shown on telly) but it’s not just that. It’s the tradition, the occasion, the royal connections. I think if you were to ask the players, if they could only win one slam, which would it be, most would immediately answer, Wimbledon.

First held in 1877, Wimbledon is the oldest slam, it’s the only slam still played on the original tennis surface, grass and it’s the only tournament where players have to wear the traditional white kit. The great Roger Federer was, a couple of years ago, reprimanded because the soles of his trainers were fluorescent yellow and had to change them for the rest of the tournament. Venus Williams was berated in 2017 for having pink bra straps on view and had to change the garment midway through the match (she was, of course, allowed to leave the court to do so!) The outfit has to be predominantly white, with the only real deviation being the players’ sponsorship logos. The All England Club staunchly upholds these traditions, and I hope they never change.

The first year I went to Wimbledon was 2012 when I got tickets to the Olympic tennis which was held there, and I caught the Wimbledon bug. I applied in the ballot for tickets to the Championships held in 2013 and I was lucky enough to get two centre court tickets. Since then Dad and I have both applied every year, and there’s only been two years when neither of us has got tickets. One year we both got tickets so we spent three glorious days in London and spent two full days in Wimbledon.

We arrived at Southfields tube station on Tuesday, the earliest we’ve ever visited the Championships, and excitedly joined the crowds walking up to the venue. Soon we were in and our senses were being assaulted by the almost tangible atmosphere that draws you into the occasion.

This year we had No. 1 Court tickets so we headed straight there for the 1pm start. We were on the very back row, ZC, but we still had a cracking view.

Having tickets for one of the show courts pretty much guarantees that you’ll see some of the big names in tennis and this year on No. 1 Court we got to see three number ones.

The ladies world number one, Ashleigh Barty playing China’s Saisai Zheng.

The ladies British number one, Jo Konta playing Romanian Ana Bogdan.

And finally my all time number one (with the exception of Sir Andy Murray), Rafa Nadal playing Yuichi Sugita from Japan.

All the number ones won reasonably easily. That’s the potential downside of getting tickets so early in the fortnight, there’s a risk that the matches might not be as gripping as later on in the tournament because the competition hasn’t yet been whittled down to the top performers for that year. The matches we saw were great and there were some brilliant rallies and exciting winners along the way but all three matches were won in straight sets without even a hint of a tiebreak.

This did give us time to have a bit of an explore of the grounds that we’ve not been able to do before when we’ve been engrossed in matches all day.

We popped out in between the two ladies matches and picked up the afternoon tea that we’d booked in advance.

We sat at the top of Henman Hill (Murray Mount, Robson’s Ridge) to eat our delicious picnic. I only had yoghurt and fruit for breakfast because I was trying to save Syns for the rest of the day so I was thinking about my rumbling tummy and not about taking photos of our food. This is what we had though.

Delicious! We’re not vegetarian, just cheese freaks! The sandwiches were on wholemeal bread so they would’ve taken care of my Healthy Extras. Pretty sure the rest of it doesn’t fall under Slimming World rules though! I couldn’t resist the scone with clotted cream and jam (cream or jam first? Always cream for me – doesn’t make sense in my head the other way round, you wouldn’t put jam on before butter!) but I did only partake of one of the cakes (the other three are in our kitchen now waiting for hubby to eat them being ignored by me) and I didn’t have any cream on my strawberries.

I didn’t want to miss a second of Rafa who was up third, so we took the opportunity after we’d eaten to pop to the Wimbledon shop before heading back to watch Jo Konta.

I got a jumper which I’m not going to be able to wear for some time given the current warm weather. I would go and take a picture to show you, but there’s a puddy cat curled up on my lap and she looks so comfy.

Speaking of puddy cats, I got them a present.

They love these bands and they carry them round the house in their mouths!

And of course I got a bear. Come on! It is me you’re talking to!

Looks right at home with his compatriots, doesn’t he? He’s called Rafa, by the way.

The grounds are meticulously maintained, no mean feat given the amount of footfall over these two weeks. This is the first year I’ve given more than a fleeting glance at the planting around the courts. There are living walls by the big screen outside No. 1 Court and there are hanging baskets and planters pretty much anywhere they could squeeze one in, all following the purple and green Wimbledon colour scheme.

2019 sees the debut of the new roof on No. 1 Court.

It’s looking like there won’t be any rain delays over the course of the tournament but the roof is still coming into its own. As I’m watching Andy Murray and Pierre Hugues Herbert play their debut doubles match, they’ve just closed the roof because of poor light to allow them to finish the match tonight. Jamie Murray wasn’t so lucky – he was playing on one of the outside courts without a roof so that match will conclude tomorrow.

Final picture for today, and a fitting end for a tennis post I think.

The late, great Fred Perry!

Enjoy the rest of Wimbledon folks.