Corfu Day 7 – Day Tripper

The pick up time for our one day coach trip round the island was 10.30. The pick up place was the Aktaion cafe.

But then it wasn’t the Aktaion. We got a fax (they still have faxes!) saying it was along from the Aktaion at the statue of Kapodistrias. We knew where the statue was, but “along from” could mean anything. Several roads come together at the statue. We picked a spot; four other people picked a different spot. We conferred and decided to cover both and make sure the coach waited so we all got on. Numerous coaches came and went, and eventually one arrived and tooted its horn. We hurriedly crossed the road – yes, the others were right.

Our guide for the day introduced herself as Angela and we got on the coach. The only two seats together were near the back, across the aisle from each other. I took the one next to the biggest guy on the bus, because I am a gentleman. Also, I couldn’t sit straight on any seat on the coach, bar two or three, due to length of leg, so sitting sideways was all the same to me, big guy or not.

Kevin not looking at Mouse Island

Kevin not looking at Mouse Island

The coach headed for the windmill (see Day 6’s posting), then inland a bit to the south of the peninsula, passing “Mon Repos”, birthplace of Prince Phillip, and coming to halt ten minutes later at a view point overlooking the airport and Mouse Island. This seemed a bit soon for a halt, but I hadn’t realised two things: (i) Mouse Island is a noted beauty spot; (ii) some people had already been travelling for three hours. The coach had started picking up at Sidari in the far north east and continued picking up all round the coast. We six in Corfu Town were the last.

The coach came back up the peninsula, then turned south for Achillion Palace, full of statues and pictures of Achilles. We had been thinking about going there anyway, on the City Bus. This visit gave us all we needed, so there would be no need for a return trip. The road past the palace is one way, being narrow and full of coaches taking tourists in. We thought it was narrow at the time. We hadn’t seen “narrow” yet…



The coach took us west across the middle of the island. The south is too far for northern residents to travel on a one day coach trip, and anyway consists entirely of resorts full of young people, who even when drunk are not that entertaining. At least, that’s what we were told.

Angela pointed out the village of Pelekas, apparently beloved of Kaiser Wilhelm II prior to the unpleasantness of 1914-18, but we wouldn’t be going there because the roads were too narrow. We nodded understandingly. But we still hadn’t seen “narrow” yet.

We followed the main road north and into the small town of Paleokastritsa. This was our lunch stop, with an option of a short boat trip to some caves. We opted for a walk across the beach and a slow lunch in a taverna set a bit back, which no one else found. We spotted an inlet which looked similarly isolated and took the road round to where we guessed it would be. Steps led down onto a small beach called Amrelaki, deserted except for one guy. A sign offered motor boats for hire, and the business was doing spectacularly well that day, as no motorboats could be seen.

At this point I spotted that the guy had taken off his clothes for a swim, and appeared to have forgotten his swimming trunks. We decided discretion was called for and left.

The coach had taken the boat trippers to another beach for their boat, and the pick up point for the rest of us was now the pavement opposite some shops, with a nice shady wall to sit on. Our next stop was only a mile away, on top of a hill, the Monastery Theotokus. There was a traffic light in the village controlling who went up or down what turned out to be a narrow road. We still hadn’t really seen “narrow”, though. The monastery had an Orthodox Church, of course, with icons and church bling. It also had an olive mill. This is like an olive press, but bigger, with two vertical millstones about a metre in diameter in a stone bowl even bigger (if it wasn’t bigger, the millstones wouldn’t fit, would they?).

Looking down on Paleokastritsa

Looking down on Paleokastritsa

From the monastery we drove for about half an hour round hairpin bends and Angela announced that we now had a good view down on Paleokastritsa. We drove for another half hour round more hairpin bends and Angela announced that again we had a good view down on Paleokastritsa. Were we ever going to get away from Paleokastritsa? Then Angela announced a final rest stop at Lakones. Make sure you have a good wee was the subtext of what she said.

But first we had to get through Lakones. As the road narrowed, we stopped at a traffic light. When it turned green, the coach edged forward. In Lakones we got on intimate terms with the walls of buildings on both sides of the coach. If the road had been straight, it would have been hard enough, but there were bends, and parked cars, and occasionally cars parked on bends. But George the driver got us through – what a star. I suspect he had a Tardis simulator, or some other relativistic device to shrink the bus without us noticing. I will never again complain about the traffic lights in Camelford. “Narrow street? That’s not narrow, let me tell you about narrow,” I shall say in the Bridge on Wool…

It occurred to me to wonder, after we got through Lakones, how small the roads to Pelekas must be, if George couldn’t get us there. Donkey tracks, do you think?

From now on it was dropping people off, from Sidari, round to Roda and Kassiopi, down to Kalami, where we had a brief halt to photograph the nearest point of the Albanian coast and what was purported to be one of the villas rented by Gerald Durrell’s family. Then Ipsos and Dassia, and then there were just the Corfu Town six left and it was dark outside. The coach came in along the New Port and turned into town on roads I recognised, before letting us off at Kapodistrias.

At the end of it, having seen some of the notable sites and the resorts and hotels to the North, we were glad to be based in Corfu Town.

Corfu Day 6 – To the Lighthouse

The holiday rep came to see us just after breakfast. We wanted to discuss and book a couple of interesting looking excursions and it seemed easiest for her to drop in. We ended up with a coach tour of the island tomorrow, on the basis that if we see something especially interesting we can arrange to go back another day, and a cruise to Parga and Paxos on Sunday.

Continuing our explorations, we decided to go away from the Old Town, heading round the bay to a windmill. We passed a number of tavernas, not always sure whether they were open but empty, or closed for the season. As we reached the windmill, there was a handy taverna where coffee and beer were available. I’ve been trying the local Corfu Beer (that’s the name of the brewery, not just a description). There are four varieties that I’ve discovered so far: Pilsner, IPA, Red and Dark. The handy taverna served Dark, so of course I had to try it, to add to the Pilsner and Red that most bars seem to have. This leaves just the IPA, though I might have had that early in our stay, when I wasn’t paying attention.

A sea wall runs from the windmill into the bay and is a place where you can go swimming for free. Other stretches of beach seem to be owned by hotels and bars, but here locals, mainly elderly, peel off to swimsuits and potter about in the water. If you like pot bellies and speedos, this the place for you. At the end of the sea wall is a thin tower or thick post, depending on how you look at it, with a light on top. On our way back, half way round the bay, I realised that I should have taken photos of the windmill and lighthouse. So this is what they look like from a distance.


And to prove I can do close ups, here’s a lizard on a wall.image




Today’s local culinary speciality was gyros – shredded lamb served with thinly sliced raw onion, tomatoes, flat bread, tzatziki and chips. (Ignore what it says in Wikipedia about gyros being a sandwich.) After yesterday’s excess, we passed on the dessert.

Corfu Day 5 – Turning Japanese

Today we found St Spiridon’s cathedral – hardly surprising since we had chosen to walk down St Spiridon Street on the assumption that the cathedral would be somewhere along it. We almost missed it, since it was part way along the street with other buildings adjoining it on each side. None of the wide open spaces I’m used to in England.

People were going in and out, so we went in, and then came out. A choir was singing at one end. A queue of people were lined up to do I don’t know what. It all seemed very active. I prefer my cathedrals quiet and museum-like.

So we went to the Museum of Asiatic Art where for €6 you can walk around for hours looking at art from many Asian countries. The biggest part is Chinese, mainly plates and bowls in bronze, pottery, stoneware, porcelain and enamels. The timeline, starting at 30,000BC, is well explained in both Greek and English. Then you go on to India, where most of the art is carved figures, representing gods, warriors and sex, often all at once, followed by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand and several other countries, finishing up with Japan. In fact, when we came to the spiral staircase where Japan continued upstairs through six more rooms, we called it a day.

There was a temporary exhibition of Japanese drawings of courtesans and Kabuki actors, which included – as a sign sternly warned at the entrance – some explicit ones. There were just two, in fact. There was no such warning about the equally explicit Indian wood carvings in the permanent exhibition.

After yesterday’s sofrito, we tried souvlaki for dinner – essentially meat cubes cooked on skewers and served without the skewers but with sauté potatoes. We also had dessert, a big mistake. The desserts were huge, but tasted really good, so we had to eat them…

Corfu Day 4 – History

Today (Sunday) we went to the Archeological Museum of Corfu, a daring journey right to the edge of our map. It was closed. It’s been closed for ages, with no indication of when it might reopen. Should have used a well known search engine, not relied on a clearly out of date guide book.

So we turned around and headed back towards the Old Town, determined to get our history fix by visiting the Old Fort. On the way, we heard a cacophony of car horns, so we stopped to see why, expecting boy racers angry with each other. Instead, the lead car, a black Mercedes, was decorated in white ribbons, and leading the hooting. The next half dozen cars were making just as much noise. A wedding procession, we surmised, the hooting indicating much joy at the marriage and also, possibly, “We are all together, please don’t cut in.” (Except that someone did, in a black pickup truck, the scum.)

Entry to the fort costs just €4 and for that you get to wander around fallen down walls, pop in to various chapels and churches with displays of art both Byzantine and modern, and climb to the top of the Land Tower. This is built on the highest hill, nearest to the land. The other hill, more out to sea, is called with classic logic the Sea Tower, but the ways to it are fenced off. From the top you get a good view of Corfu town and a clear sight of the airport. We also reckoned we could pick out the Bella Venezia and even our room window.

Kevin on the bridge to the Old Fort

Kevin on the bridge to the Old Fort

Coming down, we discovered that some of the cobbles in the steps were made of marble and worn to shiny smoothness by many feet. Thank goodness for Shell’s “Hold the handrail” rule, ingrained over years of HSE training, because it stopped me going flat on my back.

The fort has its own cafeteria, so we had lunch there, until the wind blew the last few crisps off my plate and onto the floor, where they were seized by pigeons with very feathery legs.

After siesta In the hotel room, we went for a walk to the port area. Round the corner from the hotel we found a horde of chattering children with their mums and dads, all waiting to get into a cinema. Waiting, mind you, not queuing. In Britain there’d have been a line of people along the pavement, but this is not Britain. A scrum, spilling out into the road, is what it was, and into the road we had to go to get by. But that was okay, the road was only the major route around the Old Town.

On our artist’s impression of a map of Corfu, there seemed to be a road round the New Fortress that I wanted to take. We overshot it, since it looked so unprepossessing, and had to backtrack. If it had started out unprepossessing, it got worse, narrowing as it rose alongside the walls of the fortress. But a girl on a motorcycle came the other way, which reassured me (if not Diana) that we weren’t on a road to nowhere. Suddenly, we were in a very narrow alley and heading back downhill, sometimes on steps, but we couldn’t get (more) lost since there were no side alleys. We emerged onto wider roads by the port, which after all that was very dull.

Plunging back into some more tiny roads in a different part of Old Town, we came to a large, bright pink building at the top of some steps. Painstakingly working out the Greek letters spelling “Metropolitan”, we deduced it was the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. We decided not to go up the steps because it didn’t seem right to get mixed up in the wedding party there.

So we went up some other steps and round the cathedral and along some dimly lit streets and ended up at a taverna where we ate a classic Corfu sofrito – very tender beef cooked in a garlic sauce and served with chips.

Back at the hotel, Diana insisted upon margaritas before bedtime. “Make sure there’s salt,” she said. “It’s not the same without salt.” Or perhaps it didn’t quite happen that way and maybe someone else suggested margaritas. Who can tell?

Corfu Day 3 – Plumbing

The Bella Venezia Hotel occupies an old building surrounded by modern ones. It apparently survived bombing and destruction in 1943, alone among its neighbours including the original hotel, and became the hotel in 1985.

It fronts onto N. Zambeli street and has a courtyard garden around two sides, where breakfast is served in the morning and drinks at more or less any time after that. Our room is on the second (and top) floor in one corner. We have a view one way onto an apartment block with rusting balcony rails that stands higher than the hotel and the other way over the rooftops to the west. The windows are high in the room, such that Diana can only see upwards, unless she stands on something.

It has interesting plumbing. A sign over the toilet rolls says “Please use bin for waste paper.” English custom and practice, not to mention middle class sensibilities, lead one to interpret that as meaning don’t put any other things such as tissues down the toilet. However, if that was meant, why not put the sign where you’d see it if you were about to do that, rather over the toilet rolls where you wouldn’t? This is where our careful preparatory reading paid off. An early episode in Gerald Durrell’s “My family and other animals” (set in Corfu) has Margot using toilet paper from a convenient box by the side, to the alarm of the family, and her own mortification as she discovers this is the “used” box…

We still couldn’t quite believe it, but Diana checked, woman to woman, with the hotel receptionist, who confirmed our misgivings. What I tell you three times is true.

After breakfast we headed for Guilford street (not quite the Surrey city), which we’d crossed yesterday and thought looked interesting. We aimed for the start of the street, but went too far and had to loop back, but no matter – we’re not on a tight schedule, as I may have remarked already. Guilford was another narrow, paved street (so we were on car alert of course) containing lots of small shops and lots more restaurants, including a bakery and pie shop recommended by our guide book, which we noted for later.

Guilford opens into a square with even more restaurants, plus the Catholic cathedral and the Municipal Art Gallery. The cathedral was quite small as cathedrals go, but of course the prevailing religion is Greek Orthodox (my spellchecker nearly gave me “Orthodontist” there – a beguiling concept for a religion) so this isn’t really surprising. The art gallery had a show of recent local Corfiot artists and a couple of the pictures stood out. One, entitled “Red”, was especially hard to interpret. Was it a horde of Crusader knights storming ashore in a sea of blood, St George pennants flying? If so, who was the dark skinned young person in a white t-shirt trying to hold up a red and white striped police tape against them?

We found the local bus station in San Rocco Square, and the ticket machines that showed an all-day ticket costs only €5. We headed off to find the long distance bus station, taking a back-street route alongside the New Venetian Fortress because it looked more interesting. As we were hesitating, looking down twenty feet on a road not marked as distinct on our map, an elderly man appeared up some steps carrying three bags of fruit and veg. He asked if we needed help, telling us how to get to the New Port and to the Old Town. Before long we found out he was an artist and had five children, one of whom was a sculptor. He hauled out his Samsung tablet to show us photos of his work, his daughter and her work, which was actually very impressive. He was pleased we were British, because so was his wife. We talked a little about Ellie and Tris. After about thirty minutes he went on his way and we continued to the end of the road, from which we could see down into the coach station, but not actually get to it. The end of the road is meant literally, as the only way to continue was down some narrow unofficial steps made of old bricks, breeze blocks, stone and concrete.

The old gent had been shopping in the market, so we did a u-turn on the lower road to find it, giving up on the port for the time being. Some of the stalls were closed already, but there were enough open to see what was going on. We could have bought fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, herbs, and I don’t know what. Our idea was to walk through the market and then find a restaurant, but we never made it. Once again we were trapped by an enthusiastic waiter.

Diana and the waiter

Diana and the waiter

“Would you like small snack?” he asked. Small snack was exactly what we wanted, and a beer and an orange juice, which they freshly squeezed on the spot. The small snack arrived – bread, tomato salad, mixed plate of prawns, tzatziki and potato salad. Excellent, just what we were after, and we tucked in. Then he produced a plate of hot whitebait and calamari. “That will be enough,” we said hurriedly. It was actually very good. He offered coffee on the house, so we had that as well.

My desire to get to the hotel without looking at the map failed, but we found Guilford again and took a small alley, which led us to the Anglican church. Our old gent had mentioned this when we said we were staying at the Bella Venezia. “Only 50 metres away. My wife went there.” The gate was open, but the door locked.

After a siesta of sorts, we went down to the hotel garden and on impulse, since it was past five o’clock and sort of approaching sundown, decided to have cocktails. I had a phase of making them at home a few years ago, and do a mean martini (mainly because I’m too cheap to keep olives in the house), but this is the first time we’ve had cocktails when out together. Sad, isn’t it?

Yes, we’re going to … Corfu

Day 1 – Exeter

The flight to Corfu was very carefully planned to go from Exeter. In fact, we chose Corfu precisely because the flight went from Exeter. And then we found that this oh so convenient flight took off at 7am, with check in at 5.

So we drove to Exeter the day before and stayed in the airport hotel, which was clearly used to early starters since breakfast was available from 4am.

Day 2 – To Corfu

We woke up on time. Flight was fine. Arrived Corfu airport at around midday, local time. Tour rep on hand as soon as we passed through Customs to give us a welcome pack and take us to our pre-booked taxi, which went straight to the hotel, where we checked in without problem. They gave us a welcoming fruit punch in the garden while they took our bags up to our room. There was no wrecks and nobody drownded, in fact, nothing to laugh at, at all.

After unpacking and lounging around for a while, we ventured out on foot into the town in search of a late lunch. We were armed with a free map with the street names in English, which made it easy to read, but hard to translate into the street signs which are naturally written in the Greek alphabet.

We found a restaurant on the edge of the Esplanade – or rather, it found us. While pausing to look at a menu, an enthusiastic waiter bustled up to explain how wonderful the menu was. Would we like to sit down here, or across the road? So we went across the road and our lunch turned out to be enormous. If brunch is a morning meal this was more a “dinch”. Diana had a tuna salad which contained chunks of a delicious big tomato. I had an excellent “Greek Pizza”, about a metre across, made Greek by the feta cheese coating it. The waiter remained busy, talking to every potential customer from one end of his outdoor patch to the other, his motto clearly being “They shall not pass”, and crossing the road often, balancing trays of food one way and used crockery the other.

Late in the afternoon we resumed our walk about town. The Old Fort was just across the road from the restaurant, so we meandered over to it. Like many attractions, it is open 8am to 8pm, but we just marked its location for a later visit. We have a fortnight, no need to rush. We then decided to walk round the old town, sticking close to the sea and then cutting inland at the New Venetian Fortress. (“New” is a comparative term here, as in New College, Oxford.)

New Venetian Fort

New Venetian Fort

The road we wanted was Velissariou, a wide, major road according to the map. The tiny alley that seemed barely big enough to squeeze through, but in the right place, didn’t seem promising, but I surprised myself by managing to read the Greek street name. What looks like a B is a V, then there’s a lambda and a couple of sigmas, and you can deduce the rest. It turns out that a science education is great preparation – all those Greek letters used for symbols and constants.

Velissariou turned out to be wide enough to let cars through. This was disconcerting, since the road was paved with very attractive flagstones, for all the world an archetypal pedestrian area. For the rest of the world, maybe. Not for the Corfiots. We were continually dodging cars in a road less than half the width of Molesworth Street*.




The next street we needed started by going up 20 or 30 steps. Diana was doubtful, but it came out where I expected, at the end of the road of our hotel. We finished the day with a toasted sandwich and a beer/coffee in the hotel garden.

What have we learned? That the map of Corfu Town is an artist’s impression, and that it is possible to read Greek.

* If you don’t know Molesworth Street, you’d better come to visit us, and find out.

’Tis the season to be jolly

We need to be better organised this year, we said. Get the Christmas cards out with our change of address before people start sending things to Woking. We were firmly agreed on that.

So on December 18th, our cards caught the last post for Christmas delivery.

This year, Ellie and Joe were spending Christmas with Joe’s parents in Petersfield and came to us from 21st to 24th, so we started Christmas eating early, with a large roast ham for when they arrived, followed by a large roast beef the next day and a large curry at the Raj the day after that. We didn’t want to inflict too much turkey on them, you see, with no doubt a turkey to come at Petersfield.

We have a family tradition that goes back countless years to the time when Ellie and Tris became too old for Father Christmas, but we still wanted some of the thrill of opening lots of small presents, and at a more reasonable hour of the day. So Diana invented the “Christmas Box”, which is, quite literally a box – at first wooden, but latterly cardboard – into which everyone puts some wrapped but unmarked presents. Then we take it in turns to pick out a present based on size, shape, weight and solidity (or squishiness) and open it. There is a joy in watching a sci-fi action movie fan open what they are sure is a DVD to find a romcom. But that doesn’t matter. When all presents have been opened, the fun begins. ‘Swap you this romcom for that Michael Moorcock Elric novel?” Usually, everyone ends up with a bunch of stuff they quite like.

This year, since Ellie and Joe would be gone by Christmas Day, we had the Christmas Box on the morning of Christmas Eve, followed by brunch, followed by scrutinising with an intense scrute the road conditions as shown on traffic websites, trying to find a route not under water for some of its length. Ellie decided to take the safe option on the motorways and they got to Petersfield very easily.

For Christmas Day, having eaten a lot of meat, Diana, Tris and I opted for a side of salmon, despite Diana having tracked down and captured a half-price turkey in Tesco. We ate that on Boxing Day – well, some of it.

When Tris opened the front door on Boxing Day to go for a walk, she called out, “Dad, I think you need to look at this.” “What is it?” I said. “I think it’s obvious,” she said. Across the path, broken in two, lay the cast iron gutter from the porch, brought down in the storms. Either the storms, or local vandals swinging on it. (I know what I’m telling the insurance company.) The gutter was, we believe, original and matched the one on the neighbours’ porch, with which ours joined up. Closer examination revealed that where the two bits of gutter had been joined, a third, very small bit had broken off the corner, meaning that I couldn’t just put it back up and slap in some sealant.

When I was at school, we discovered that a full-sized piece of chalk when dropped on the floor would always break into three parts. Being good scientists, when we observed this phenomenon, we had to go on to perform a proper scientific test with a large enough sample of chalks. By the time we were satisfied, we had used up most of the box. We had to use up the rest of the box to demonstrate the finding to our unbelieving fellow pupils. Sorry, I digress.

I await the call back from the roof and gutter specialist I telephoned after the insurance company said their people were very busy, what with there having been a storm across Britain and all.

On Friday, Tris and I went in search of a pool table. She needed some practice ahead of returning to Oxford and trying out for the university women’s pool team. Having dropped in on the Bridge on Wool after WREN board meetings, I knew they had a pool table. We went in and I looked round to where the table should have been. “No, we’ve taken the table away over Christmas because we have functions on,” said the person behind the bar. “Come back on January 2nd. Sorry.”

We crossed the road to the Swan and found an unoccupied pool table. While Tris put in 50p and set up the balls, I bought some drinks and just as I was paying, the barman said, “Sorry, but some joker nicked the white last night and the brewery hasn’t sent a new one yet. Have your 50p back.” We drank the drinks (mine a not very nice pint of St Austell Dartmoor) and used one of the reds as a cue ball, watching it closely so we used the same red each time, to play a not wholly satisfactory game (which Tris won easily).

We walked back up the hill, looking in on the Molesworth Arms and failing to spot a pool table, before being forced into trying the Churchill Bars, in which lurks the local Conservative Club. There were half a dozen customers, all sitting round the bar. We walked past to where I had once seen a pool table, and my heart sank as I saw loudspeakers and lighting stands. “We’ve got a function on…”

Which doesn’t bring us quite up to date, but we had a lazy weekend, nothing to see here, move along, please.

A Week of Dining Out

For my birthday a few months ago, my Mum, brother and sister and families gave me vouchers for a meal at Margot’s Bistro in Padstow. I tried booking a table in the early summer, but they were booked up for weeks ahead, so I left it for a while. Then it occurred to me that our 30th wedding anniversary would be a good excuse for a posh nosh so in September I made the booking and on Tuesday we turned up, Diana and I, and Tris, of course, since she hadn’t gone back to Oxford yet.

We parked in the quayside car park, which is run by the Padstow Harbour Commissioners and charges 24 hours a day, every day, unlike the municipal car parks. (Padstow Harbour Commissioners also run the car park outside our favourite Indian restaurant in Wadebridge, with a similar charging policy. Their reach is long. You don’t mess with the Commissioners…) It was a short walk through the town to Margot’s, which turned out to be a small place with only 20 seats. We were expected, since they had taken the trouble to text me asking for confirmation of my booking that morning. And that was just as well, because the place filled up.

The service was suitably attentive, but not overbearing. I decided to celebrate with a glass of champagne, while Tris and Diana went for non-alcoholic drinks and we toasted thirty years, and the next thirty. We all chose the same starter, seared Cornish scallops with mixed leaves, herb oil and parsnip crisps. Plates arrived with six scallops arranged around a pile of mixed leaves with the crisps scattered over the top. They were beautifully cooked, seared on one side and moist through.

Diana and Tris had the whole baked lemon sole with new potatoes, tomato and chive butter sauce. I broke ranks with roast breast of Cornish chicken with spring onion mash, crisp ham and tarragon cream sauce. We added a side dish of mixed vegetables. The main courses, too, met with approval. For pudding, Tris had iced coffee parfait with brandy snap and chocolate sauce, Diana had saffron poached pear with clotted cream and jelly, and I had sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and double cream. Mmmmm!

We finished with coffee, tea, chocolate fudge and caramelised walnuts. The bill came to quite a lot, using our vouchers and then some, but it was worth the money. I took away a copy of the day’s menu as a souvenir (which is how the descriptions of the food we had managed to be so detailed).

The next day, we had fish and chips (and mushy peas), Tris’ last chance of them before returning to Oxford for the term. There are two fish and chip establishments in Wadebridge – Barney’s (owned by the Barnecutt conglomerate) and Rick’s (or Jon’s, depending whether you look at the sign on the road-side, or over the shop). We tend to use Barney’s because Rick’s/Jon’s mushy peas are rubbish. However, Barney’s hasn’t been great the last few times, so maybe we’ll try the other one some time soon, except for the mushy peas. Fish and chips also has the merit of being fairly rapid and low effort, and since we’d spent the day packing all Tris’ stuff and clearing space in the garage to put the loaded car into overnight, we were in need of something “low effort”.

On Thursday morning we set off for Oxford, managing to leave behind only the bike lights, helmet and bungee clips (which will go up by post this week). We stopped at Gordano services in Bristol for lunch (sandwiches, pizza) and then again at Chievely services for a cup of tea and a bun before heading into Oxford. Our unloading technique is pretty slick these days and we had Tris established in her room in under three hours. We then headed up to Cowley to stay with Ellie and Joe overnight. Ellie cooked us a pleasant beef curry and we slept on an Ikea sofa-bed, which was fine. In the morning we came home, a journey slightly disrupted by a warning message from the car to check the oil level. We couldn’t check it immediately, being on the motorway, but pulled in at the next service area. “Feed me one litre,” demanded the car. We decided it could wait while we had lunch (mushroom soup and sandwich), mainly because the petrol station came after the cafe. We arrived home and flopped. Supper was beans on toast.

On Saturday evening, we walked into town for dinner at the Granary. This is mainly a breakfast and lunch restaurant, which also opens on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from six until ‘the chef gets tired’. Evidently he got tired very early this Saturday, since it was closed when we got there a bit after seven. We went down a side street to another restaurant, to find that also closed, and then made for the Glasshouse, which was pleasant enough, but not up to Margot’s.

On Sunday, I cooked dinner. Our (short) week of dining out was over.


Last week was culture week in the Smith household. On Wednesday 11th, Diana and I went to see Simon Armitage read his poetry and talk to the audience at Wadebridge Library. We wrote it up for the poetry website, Write Out Loud, so I won’t repeat myself. Click on this link to see what it was all about.

Diana with Simon Armitage

Diana with Simon Armitage

On Thursday 12th, we were invited to a talk by Ges Wallace of Tate St Ives on the relationship between contemporary artist Linder and sculptor Barbara Hepworth – not an entirely random topic as the Tate is currently running an exhibition which it describes as: “The artist Linder brings together a group of her own collages with seven sculptures by Barbara Hepworth.” Ms Wallace enthused about Hepworth but seemed taken aback by how literally Linder’s work seemed to express her ideas. I’m always a bit dubious about art that uses collage and found objects. I remember seeing an exhibition by Sherrie Levine at the Guggenheim in New York three years ago, called After Rodchenko 1-12. The work was described as “appropriation”, seeing as how the twelve pieces were all originally by Rodchenko. At least Levine acknowledged the origin. Linder’s collages used images cut from magazines with no (apparent) attribution to the image creator.

We also saw a video of a new ballet, The Ultimate Form. “Choreographed by Linder and Kenneth Tindall of Northern Ballet, and performed by Northern Ballet, it is based on Hepworth’s monumental sculptural work The Family of Man 1970 and features costumes created by cult fashion designer Pam Hogg and a new score by Stuart McCollum,” as the Tate describes it. It was “slow dance”, but impressive. We had the time to see the skill and power of the dancers – much better than the frenetic jiggling of the professionals’ pieces on Strictly. The costumes were a bit reminiscent of Seventies film sci-fi, though.

This was all provided gratis by Mercedes-Benz South West, who laid on drinks and refreshments as well, with a couple of chefs cooking up a rather good stir-fry and rice on the spot. I think they think we’re good customers…

On Saturday, I played bowls for Wadebridge in a friendly against Lostwithiel. Yes, at the end of my first season I was picked for a team. A list went up a few weeks ago in the clubhouse, I put my name down and was picked. Lostwithiel Bowls Club is outside the town, on the way to Restormel Castle, and has great views down into a valley and up to the hills. It rained on Friday and Sunday, but Saturday was great. My rink (number four of five) won by one shot on the last end, but my lift went (and I with it) before we found out the final score for the match. Next Saturday is the final day of the season, and features an internal match between the President and the Captain. I’m in the President’s team.

Is bowls “culture”? It has its own culture, shall we say, not least the use of handwritten lists on clubhouse notice boards, rather than anything new-fangled electronic, such as email.

Sunday represented the cultural highlight of the week. Diana, Tris (returned from a jaunt to Oxford) and I went down the Regal Cinema in Wadebridge for the evening showing of… Kick Ass 2.

What’s Going On?

My last posting was the middle of June. It’s now August. Anyone would think we’d been doing nothing for nearly two months. Well, that’s not quite true. There’s been

  • my 60th birthday,
  • a trip to Oxford,
  • selling our Woking house,
  • moving the remaining contents to Wadebridge,
  • disposing of surplus furniture to charities in Woking and Wadebridge,
  • a visit by Ellie,
  • clearing removal boxes from the house in time for –
  • a week’s visit by Diana’s brother Martin and his family,
  • various surfing trips to Polzeath beach,
  • more tidying up of removal boxes in the garage,
  • putting up tool racks and shelves in the garage and
  • disposal of further items to charity and the recycling centre.

Plus, I discovered that the reason the trackpad on my laptop had ceased to click was that the battery directly beneath it had expanded fit to bust. So when I moved my mouse, it thought I was in the middle of a click-and-drag initiated on the trackpad and just highlighted areas. This, as you might imagine, made doing stuff on the laptop a trifle problematic. Anyway, I got a new battery, at great expense, and am back in action. Will blog more on some of the above at a later date.

Anyway, we no longer have a Woking presence, we are permanently in Wadebridge, and would love to see friends and family here. We accommodated five with Martin and family, so we’ve proved we can do it!