Busy With Peak Beard

It’s been a pretty packed couple of weeks at and around home, and then in London. Last week’s visit to London was triggered by the opportunity to catch up with a Madagascan friend who was once a marvellous au pair for us when our kids were small. She is now living in the US but was visiting London with her husband. We had a lovely lunch at some very hospitable mutual friends. We then visited Kew Gardens with particular attention to the Orchid Festival.

When we lived in Kew, I treated Kew Gardens almost as an alternate back garden and visited them at least once a week, dragging one or more sons with me. The gardens have been developed in a number of interesting ways in the intervening 20 years but retain their beauty, neatness and scale. I shall plan a longer and more comprehensive visit later in the year when there is more colour and warmth outside the unique greenhouses.

Kew Gardens Orchids

A Small Sample Of Orchids From The Exhibition in Kew Gardens

That excursion was followed by dinner and an overnight stay at the house of some other long-standing friends in Chiswick. It has been a while since I have attended a London dinner party. After the last few months of early nights of rural entertainment, it was a shock to find myself drinking, eating and still deep in conversation at 2am. Given that interesting gins and tasty wines had been opened before 7pm, it was a wonder we got back to Gloucestershire in time for me to attend the next critical game in Forest Green Rovers’ attempt to stave off relegation.

Previous to all of this conviviality with Long Suffering Wife (LSW), I had ventured up to London to do a few things alone (while LSW fulfilled her book club commitment). As before, I stayed with eldest Son (ES) in my old Barbican flat; what an excellent arrangement this is turning out to be. After dinner with him I had breakfast with Middle Son (MS) and so was able to report back to LSW on their well-being and current hopes, fears and habits.

I also fitted in the Museum of London’s Fatberg exhibition – a fascinating and very topical 30 minutes of facts and societal concern – and a visit to the Charles I King and Collector exhibition at the Royal Academy.

The Museum of London Fatberg

The Museum of London Fatberg (A Foot Long Segment of the Biggest Fatberg Ever Found And More Interesting Than It Looks Here).

The Charles 1 exhibition was huge and impressive. The way the collection came together during Charles I’s reign, was dispersed after his head was cut off by Cromwell and then partially reassembled (and further reassembled for this exhibition) was fascinating. It also provided an opportunity to observe some interesting beard and moustache styles from the 17th century that I am tempted to reproduce with my own burgeoning facial hair.

Charles I and His LSW

Charles I With Peak Beard And His LSW

Of my New Year resolutions, perhaps that to grow a beard has been the one in which I have made most progress so far. Unsurprisingly, LSW has already vetoed the Charles 1 style handlebar moustache and, just today, she has started to make noises about the bushiness starting to exceed her tastes. The scissors are ready so peak beard is about to pass.

Peak Beard?

Peak Beard? Nearly Two Months’ Growth But Ready For A Trim?

Other events in London included one of the longest lunch (and related drinks) sessions I have had for a while. This was with another retiree with about 18 months more experience than I. It was fun talking about mutual ex-colleagues, the more frequent and extended holidays now possible without the constraints of work, and the possibilities of using some of the extra discretionary time we now have to play the credit card promotional offer ‘game’. Given the benefits, I need to try that by applying for, using and then discarding new credit cards; after all, I have the time to do so.

I also saw two films: The Shape of Water (a beautifully shot but simple love story) and Lady Bird (fine and very well acted but probably most cogent to a mother or a daughter). I had one other late night visiting a pop up art exhibition called PoptArt Gallery run by one of Youngest Son’s (YS) ex-college friends. These pop ups have been running for a couple of years and have become progressively more sophisticated. This occurrence was in a stylish private club. The art was as interesting as ever but the main attraction was to catch up with the organiser and to meet her friends, some of whom know YS.

London Graffiti

Noticed During My Walks Through London This Week: An Example of London’s Wonderful Graffiti (This By Bambi)

After all that rushing about in London, it would be very satisfactory to settle back into impending Spring in Gloucestershire (and do more decorating of the TV room of course!). Not much time for that though…. we are off to Cape Town next week. Exciting times……

The Quickening Pace Toward Christmas

In my working life there were, of course, deadlines every week, every day and, often, very hour. I have grown used to not facing them since retiring. Now, the days tend to drift by guided by to do lists with ambiguous or undetermined timelines and I can do what I want, when I want. That’s great. However, the last couple of weeks have seen a quickening of life’s pace, a variety of social events and a few deadlines that have shaken my reverie.

The main imperative has been to complete painting of the window alcoves in the upgraded TV room before arrival of the plumber to install new radiators. My inexperience in decoration led me to be surprised by the need for four coats of paint, day long drying times in between each and sanding down after each intermediate coat; that all created a lead time that left me feeling under significant time pressure. However, I managed to meet the deadline.

This early success (another 90% of the room remains to be decorated!) was despite a brief trip to London to enjoy a catch up with old friends from our time in Kew nearly 20 years ago. We enjoyed a delightful evening party with and then a lovely bagel-based breakfast in two different couples’ houses. Where we stayed overnight was almost directly opposite where we lived for several years.

An even longer standing friend, dating back to LSW’s and my first months in London 40 years ago, visited us in Gloucestershire. We had a few bottles of wine with her, Youngest Son (YS) and his girlfriend. That was sufficient to make the idea of going to the local village disco seem like a good idea. That turned out to be excellent with music expertly sampled from the last 40 years and daft dancing fuelled by inexpensive but powerful cocktails. We had such a laugh! My challenge with the decorating was more than matched by the challenge LSW faced in having to get up at 5am next morning to take YS and girlfriend to the railway station – ouch!

Other events this week have included celebration of the re-opening of the main road between our village of Horsley and the local town of Nailsworth. The closure has been for over 4 months and has been an economic blow for the local pub, The Hog. We had a few drinks there to mark the road re-opening and the end of the ‘rat run’ congestion in the lane outside our house.

I also saw the new Star Wars film with Eldest Son (ES) and YS. I’ve seen all the Star Wars films but I struggle to follow the plot that has run back and forth through them. ES and YS tried to educate me by getting me to re-watch the previous film earlier in the day and their guidance helped. The latest addition to the series is well-made and the formula worked again. It was rare fun to have an outing with two sons.

Amid all this hustle and bustle, dancing and decorating, I have managed a few long walks. The weather has been variable as we have approached the year’s shortest day but retirement offers the chance to get out and about whenever it perks up. I’m very lucky to find myself retired in such a lovely part of England and be able to enjoy it.

Mossy Banks and Big Skies Near Horsley

Mossy Banks and Big Skies near Horsley

Finally, Happy Christmas to you all. Have a great festive period.

Christmas Tree

Happy Christmas!