Pictures: Devon September 2021 Tuesday 31st August - Friday 3rd September 2021 Three nights in Devon to visit Dad, coinciding with his birthday. London August 2021 August 2021 Pictures from London in August 2021, spent mostly by myself while the girls were in Japan, including further forays along the Wessex Ridgeway and a trip to Whitstable. London July 2021 July 2021 Pictures from London in July 2021 including day trips to Epping Forest, and then towards the end of the month the first few days of my walk along the Wessex Ridgeway. London June 2021 June 2021 Pictures from London in June 2021, including a day trip to the Midlands to visit Mum, as well as forays to Avebury for the summer solstice, and the Rollright Stones. London May 2021 May 2021 Pictures from London in May including day trips to Rye, Runnymede, Canterbury and Fyfield Down.
[Friday 3rd September 2021]
We left Devon in the morning to drive back to London, and on a bit of a whim - Chie's suggestion - we took a detour to stop off in Glastonbury on the way back. After a quick dash up Glastobury Tor to admire the view we went into the town centre for a browse around all the weird and wonderful shops there, and to have lunch (in a vegetarian cafe of course). It occurred to me while we were there that Glastonbury high street is probably the closest thing that exists in real life to Diagon Alley in Harry Potter - there are essentially shops selling ingredients for making potions - all sorts of strange and unusual things you certainly can't buy in our local Sainsbury's. This made for a very nice way to wile away a couple of hours, and a nice distraction from the drudgery of the driving. Although rather frustratingly when we got back in the car again Google Maps told us we still had four hours driving ahead of us - pretty much the same as it had been when we'd departed Devon in the morning, and we'd been driving for an hour and a half to get to Glastonbury!
[Thursday 2nd September 2021]
Took the ferry over to Exmouth in the daytime, then a multi stage feast in the evening, with seafoody starters and English sparkling at Dad's house, then a main course at the pub down the road, then back home again for birthday cake afterwards.
[Wednesday 1st September 2021]
Alas rather grey weather today, as pretty much our entire stay in Devon was. We pretty much stayed in and around Dad's house, just making a couple of forays out on foot, towards the end of the morning to go to the local coffee place, then to see Dad's allotment, then later on in the afternoon Chie and I went to the Anchor at Cockwood for a quick pint.
[Sunday 29th August 2021]
I got up very early this morning to go and pick the girls up from Japan. Mostly had a quiet day at home catching up, and I made a Sunday roast of sorts in the evening.
[Saturday 28th August 2021]
Spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon engaged in various cleaning and household maintenance tasks - got the new fridge freezer installed, had the old one taken away, and also disposed of the cupboard at the local tip.
[Friday 27th August 2021]
I fancied Lebanese food for dinner this evening, so went down to Phoenicia, our local Middle Eastern food shop, picked up an assortment of things, and took them along with some Chateau Musar to dine on the heath. That was rather nice.
[Sunday 15th August 2021]
Despite the luxury of a proper campsite, yet again I only seemed to manage a couple of hours sleep, and then fell foul of the usual wet feet issue the next morning, which made for another weary and rather sore trudge on day two. I was meant to walk all the way to Maiden Newton today, but gave up at Cerne Abbas, and got a taxi the rest of the way from there.
[Sunday 8th August 2021]
Sunday roast at the Vine, followed by a quick visit to the Southampton Arms, then wiled away the rest of the afternoon on the heath, looking at the rainbows in between the showers.
[Saturday 7th August 2021]
Went out and bought a hand trolley (sack trolley?) to help get the fridge freezer back into place in the morning. In the afternoon I felt like dim sum for lunch, but timed it badly, and ended up having ramen instead. Then a bit of a wander round some old haunts in St. James's, followed by a quick visit to Fortnum and Mason, then back to the Pineapple.
[Thursday 5th August 2021]
Finally went back to the dentist for a checkup after a long hiatus this afternoon, and afterwards went for a pint at the Duke of Wellington followed by dinner at Olivo.
[Wednesday 21st July 2021]
Chie and Erika flew off to Japan for the summer holidays today, I took them to the airport in the afternoon and waved them off there. Once back in London I headed more or less straight to the Pineapple where I spent most of the rest of the evening.
[Saturday 17th July 2021]
Walked to Brent Cross in the morning to meet Erika after she finished her Japanese school. In the afternoon went for lunch at a friend of Chie's in the far flung reaches of North London, although I neglected to take any photos while there. In the evening Lebanese food back at home.
[Sunday 11th July 2021]
The whole country seemed to be obsessed with watching a bunch of grown men running round a field propelling a spherical object with their feet this evening. I wanted to get as far away from the madness as I easily could, so went to the heath.
[Saturday 10th July 2021]
Had a surprisingly nice day out, considering we didn't decide what to do until the morning. We drove to Haringey first, for Cig Kofte (a Turkish dish I had been learning about at work recently) and Gozleme for lunch. Then from there we motored to Epping Forest - the first time we'd been there - for a wander around, and a coffee / hot chocolate break in Loughton Camp, a Bronze Age hill fort.
[Friday 9th July 2021]
Bumped into Jeremy this afternoon, whi I hadn't seen for a while, and we arranged to go for a late evening drink on the heath which turned out to be rather delightful.
[Wednesday 7th July 2021]
Received a parcel of lightweight outdoors stuff today, ordered in preparation for summer walking expeditions. This included a new lighter weight / higher capacity backpack, an ultralight weight sleeping quilt (alternative to a conventional sleeping bag) and an ultra lightweight / compact insulated jacket filled with "Aerogel" - the lightest solid substance known to man, apparently.
[Tuesday 6th July 2021]
Took the day off, to go and watch Erika's sports day in the morning, and spent the rest of the day tracing the course of the river Fleet, which runs (mostly underground) from Hampstead Heath to the Thames at Blackfriars.
Here's a video I made of the walk, which mainly consists of staring down drains:
[Monday 21st June 2021]
Today was the actual summer solstice, but initial ambitious plans to wake up at dawn and go and watch the sunrise didn't materialise, in part knowing I had the drive back to London ahead of me, but also because I could tell from the weather forecast there wouldn't be much to see. It was a 40 minute walk each way from where I was staying to Avebury, so even with a very brief attendance at dawn it was likely to mean a couple of hours of lost sleep, and I decided, boringly, to put safety first, thinking about the drive. I think next year I'll plan to just sleep rough somewhere, and/or go by train.
So this morning I after a reasonable night's sleep I had a cooked breakfast at my lodgings, checked out, and then went out for a bracing stroll on Knap Hill so it didn't seem like a complete waste being here in Wiltshire and having the day off, but somehow I wasn't really in the mood for a longer walk than that.
From there I drove to nearby Marlborough, as I felt in need of a coffee, then after that the long boring drive back to London.
[Sunday 20th June 2021]
It hadn't been clear whether my planned trip to Avebury for the summer solstice this year was going to be able to go ahead, and right up to the day there was messaging from the authorities which appeared to be trying to discourage people from going, although not at any point outright forbidding it. If I've learnt anything from the last year and a bit it's that when presented with this kind of situation you've really just got to grasp the nettle and get on with it, or else you'll end up never doing anything ever.
I'd decided to drive to Avebury, and was going to give Andrew a lift, and after some discussion about where I was going to pick him up we oddly settled on Belgravia. Perhaps not a very mystical / atavistic spot to set off from on a quest of this nature, but it was easy for him to get to by train, it would be easy from there to get to the M4 in the car, and had the added benefits we could have a nice lunch before we set off, and I could bring the girls along who then later on went to visit a friend nearby. All the Olivo restaurants were fully booked so we instead went to Noura, which was a bit of a disappointment for Erika who had her heart set on the Culurgiones (Sardinian pasta) at one of the Olivo restaurant, but I had been really missing Lebanese food, and everything today was just as good as I remembered it. We ordered a huge number of mezze, which seemed like far too much food to begin with, but we did our best to get through pretty much all of it, and it was probably a good thing that we had a big lunch as Andrew and I ultimately didn't have any dinner.
After lunch I dropped Chie and Erika off at their friends place nearby, and then we drove from there to Avebury. There was a diversion or two to deal with, so it was just after 5pm when I dropped Andrew off at his lodging in Compton Basset, with a plan for us to meet in Avebury.
I checked in at my lodgings for the night, a bit closer to Avebury in East Kennet, and then had a very pleasant walk, despite the rather disappointing grey weather, from there to Avebury. A route I was already partially familiar with having covered this on my walk from Pewsey to Avebury last September. This took me along the stone avenue to the south of Avebury, which always feels like a great way to arrive at the stone circle.
So I was at Avebury by 6:30, in plenty of time for the sunset, not due until 9:30. It was really quiet when I first arrived, and you'd hardly have known anything was happening were it not for all the traffic cones, and the police and security guards dotted around. On my walk to Avebury I'd heard music coming from up on the Ridgeway, where a large number of vans were parked, and I suspect the real party would be there, a little away from "civilisation", where to some extent the authorities would just leave them to it.
People did start to arrive in dribs and drabs though, and there was at least one group of people dancing and doing acrobatics, twirling sticks etc down in the field below us.
Andrew had brought along a couple of new camp chairs he'd brought, which were the target of some gentle ribbing from some passing solstice attendees, who opined that it didn't seem to be in the spirit of the event, and we ought to be communing with nature and so forth. I did sort of see their point, and although I initially found the chair to be comfortable, at one point I leaned ever so slightly over to one side and ended up tipping the chair over and spilling half a glass of red wine (yes it had to be the red at that point) on my white shirt. It looked a little bit like I'd just taken part in a ritual sacrifice actually. Anyway that made up my mind about the camp chairs and next time I'll definitely just sit on the ground.
There were also a couple of comments about my tweed suit which surprised me, again one or two people seemed to think it wasn't in the spirit of the event, but I had just assumed the attendees collectively would be anarchic and unjudgemental, accepting of anything and everything. I had got into the habit of wearing that particular tweed suit for much of my walk along the Ridgeway and so somehow it seemed appropriate to be back in it again now here at Avebury. Plus the fact it was ended up quite chilly this evening, so despite it nominally being the summer solstice I was pleased to have it. I suppose for some people a suit is just symbolic of mainstream corporate life and authority, regardless of the cloth it is made from, and again I do kind of see their point. Perhaps for next time I might investigate some slightly more new age friendly attire.
Not all of the passers by had issues with our camp chairs and/or my unusual choice of clothing, and several people stopped to chat during the course of the evening, which was really nice. We had a long chat with a couple of guys called Paddy and Jim, who were very affable, and later on I shared some of the Sauternes (good old Lafaurie Peyraguey) I'd brought along with an older chap, on the basis it was a bit like mead, and therefore tenuously appropriate. Which I suppose it was actually.
I also really liked the "happy solstice!" greetings from passers by.
The actual moment of the sunset was rather a non-event, some time around 9:30 I believe, but the sky remained persistently grey throughout, and we didn't really even get a glimpse of the sun. There was a bit of half hearted cheering at some point around 9:30 - I assume people were just going by their watches / phones... but perhaps it didn't really matter in the end. It was really nice just being there, whether there was a visual spectacle to behold or not.
I had half imagined people might just start to disperse as it got dark, but probably the opposite was true, and there was a bit more of the spinning things around (including now flaming torches being twirled around on sticks / ropes) and drumming etc. So that kept the atmosphere going, which was good.
It was getting a bit cold though, and eventually we decided we should perhaps head to the pub for last orders to warm up a bit.
Some time after that Andrew headed off back to his lodgings (for a scary ride in the dark) but I lingered on a bit longer, just sat in the field enjoying the atmosphere and watching the fire twirling etc.
Then eventually, a little before midnight, I started to make my way back to my accommodation. The walk back down the stone avenue was rather magical in the dark, and I no longer felt cold once I got moving a bit.
Rather than just heading straight back to East Kennet I diverted to the Ridgeway, interested to see what the encampment of vans was like. This was hugely atmospheric and kind of other worldly. There was no big central gathering I could see, just lots of little groups in various places, then darkness between them. This felt a bit like a dream in hindsight: it was at a time I might normally have been asleep, it was so dark and I had only occasional short bursts of faint images lit by torches or firelight... But more so that it just didn't really feel like something I could easily fit into the normal boring view of modern life. It was like having a brief glimpse of some other hidden society.
I wish now I hadn't booked accommodation, and hadn't planned to drive back to London the next day - but had instead been a bit braver and just planned to sleep in a field somewhere. I'm sure nobody would have noticed, and even if I had a bad night's sleep it wouldn't matter so much. It really felt like I wasn't getting into the spirit of it (once again) by going and sleeping indoors in a proper bed in a proper house, and that also meant I ultimately didn't get up at 4am to watch the sunrise (not that there would have been much to see given the weather), whereas if I had just been sleeping in a bivvy bag in a field getting up at 4 would have seemed much less of a wrench.
Anyway, as it was after my late night stumble in the dark I eventually made it back around 1am. Fortunately my room had its own private entrance, so I don't think I disturbed the owners or any of the other residents.
[Saturday 19th June 2021]
Erika drew a picture of the Blue Peter dog in the afternoon in the hope of earning a Blue Peter badge. Later on I went for a walk to the heath and saw a fox on the way home.
[Friday 18th June 2021]
Quite a winey sort of day.
Took delivery of a crate (yes an actual wooden crate!) of Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2001, my favourite dessert wine, conveniently in half bottles. I think this is the first time I've had wine in a crate, and it took a little while to figure out how to open it - I eventually managed with a combination of a flat headed screwdriver and the "claw peen" (yes I had to look that up) of a hammer.
Also a mixed case of Chateau Musar, of 6 different vintages from 1998 to 2019 arrived - I'd really enjoyed the previous mixed case I got from them last year, and it's impressive how some really quite old wines are still available, and comparatively very reasonably priced.
Here's a video of me opening the crate of Lafaurie Peyraguey:
In the evening I took some 2018 Louis Boillot Gevrey Chambertin to the heath to try (it was surprisingly drinkable already). It had been raining most of the day so the heath was wonderfully quiet on the heath, when I got there I pretty much had the top of Parliament Hill all to myself. The lack of people also meant there was some ornithological interest - I watched some kind of bird of prey hovering overhead, then later on a green woodpecker hopping about:
Later on back at home we had some Lafaurie Peyraguey, with strawberries of course.
[Monday 14th June 2021]
Erika had the day off school (a teacher training day) we thought we'd take advantage of that opportunity and take her to Legoland, thinking it would be quiet with other kids being at school. How wrong we were.
Video I took of Miniland, the part with the actual Lego in it:
[Thursday 10th June 2021]
This morning there was a solar eclipse, due to be at least partly visible from London a little after 11am. Alas the skies were a bit cloudy so it was a bit challenging to see anything at all, but I persisted for a while and eventually managed to get a few glimpses of it. It was hardly a "ring of fire" as advertised, more just the sun with a chunk missing out of it.
This video probably gives a better sense of it than any of the still photos:
[Monday 7th June 2021]
Erika had another day off school today (a teacher training day after the half term holiday) so the girls went into the centre to do some shopping, and I joined them for a little while for lunch. We finally got back to our old favourite - dim sum at Joy King Lau - after a very long absence. It was just as good as always.
[Saturday 5th June 2021]
I walked to Brent Cross in the morning, to meet Chie and Erika as Erika finished her Japanese school a little after midday. From there we motored up the M1 to the East Midlands to visit Mum again, and spent another very pleasant afternoon / early evening out in her garden.
[Friday 4th June 2021]
The girls were out for the evening until late, so I was left to my own devices. I decided to go and have dinner on the heath, despite the slightly inclement weather, and had a thoroughly lovely time of it.
Whilst out on the heath I decided on a whim to make a short instructional video about the barrow. I'd had a couple of glasses of wine by this point so you'll have to excuse the fact the narration isn't exactly razor sharp:
Oh and spurred on by that first, errr, effort, I also made another video about some of the trees in my favourite wooded bit of the heath:
I don't think I'm going to become a YouTube celebrity any time soon.
[Monday 31st May 2021]
I headed to Wiltshire today to explore Fyfield Down, the place from which the sarsen stones used to build the stone circle at nearby Avebury (as well as some of Stonehenge) are believed to have been taken from.
[Wednesday 26th May 2021]
Took the afternoon off to race down to Sussex to view a wood which was for sale, but dithered slightly when I got there, and ultimately found it had been sold already.