We’re All Going On A Christmas Holiday

It’s a good day, our leave has started, we are now on holiday until the new year, eighteen non work days. A lottery win to extend that would be great.

Friday morning, we were off to Brighton for Helen’s full Nuffield Health health check that she had paid for a couple of years ago, via Hayward’s Heath. It was bright sunshine all the way, by the time her assessment was up the fog had started to roll in, and by the end of it we were unable to see the sea.

There was a midpoint as it got cloudy, I was left alone with my brain, with a view out to sea, and wrote this poem whilst I waited.


After which we were meeting Liam and Ellie for lunch at The Westbourne, near their house, which meant we had to find somewhere to park. The full rant on this can be found below

Lunch was good though.

Everywhere you (stop) look and listen there is something saying, or someone shouting, ‘get your booster.’ And to be fair the NHS texted me to say there was a walk-in clinic available at the Apple Tree centre on Friday until 1pm. Unfortunately, this text to tell me this was sent at 1.38pm on Friday. I’m currently trying to find a DeLorean that will go at 88mph to get me there in time.

The fog carried on hanging around after that. By the time we’d driven up to London on Saturday afternoon. It was what might have been called a pea souper in the past.

The Saturday night was the Madness and Squeeze gig, there was lots of other app related precursor, the full tale of which is below

We had taken the decision to miss Crawley Town’s home game on Saturday so we would be able to make it up to London for the gig without a mad rush. Only for the Crawley game to be postponed for Covid reasons, so we may be able to see the game (always assuming the muppets in charge in this country don’t lock down venues again due to Omicron).

You see things get stolen or “borrowed” from hotels all the time. But I’d have bet good money on the combination missing from our room never being guessed by anyone. The little holder for toilet rolls – the bit that clips on at either end and spins round – that was gone. The metal bracket it would clip on to was still there, screwed to the wall. And the little glass shelf above the towels. The one they usually put the plastic glasses on in the bathroom. Shelf gone. The two wall mounts with the slots in for the glass to slot into – still there.

It probably says more about the location of the Holiday Inn Express than anything else, but the security was the best of any IHG hotel we’d stayed at. The main door required room key card use to get in when we got back from the gig, and when I nipped across to the shop for drinks after breakfast. It was also needed to use the lift and the stairs. Yes, it’s obvious and simple, but they could do with it at more of their hotels.

On the drive up to Morecambe on the Sunday morning there was very little let up on the fog. M11 – fog. M25 – fog. M1 – fog. M6 – fog. Morecambe – fog. Some fairly light, other patches were thick, some so thick if you had asked me where I was, I could tell you I hadn’t got the foggiest. Yes, I did try catching the fog – I missed (mist). One of the worst places was at the M6 toll booth, coming out of there it is like Wacky Races at the best of time, but when there is fog where you can’t see the sides of the road there it’s like a spooky version of it, almost like Wacky Races meets Scooby Doo.

And the other thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter which lane we get in, it is guaranteed to be the official numpty lane. In the fog, there was a car in front of us trying to pay with their phone, despite it clearly saying card only and that it doesn’t accept Apple Pay or Google Wallet etc. They tried to pay half a dozen times with their phone before using their card. On the way back in the light it wasn’t much better. First there is the lane with the big red X above it that lots of cars were still queuing in until they were told to find another lane. And then there are the muppets who seem to think that lining their car up in the next postcode will make tapping their card easier. There were two in the queue in front of us who ended up hanging out of the car to their waists to reach across to the reader. Probably the same twats who can’t use indicators or who tootle along in the middle lane doing 60. (Someone in Lancashire is not a fan of this, as they have graffitied at least three bridges telling such drivers they were tools.)

Anyway, occasionally we did find ourselves above the fog on higher ground and it was bright sunshine up there. Which was causing the car’s map display to become dark (night mode). So, it went fog – day mode, sunshine – night mode. I’m not sure where the sensor for this is on the car, but it would appear to be fucked.

The first full day in Morecambe saw stops at Matalan, Dunhelm, Home Bargains, and Sainsbury’s. What do these four places have in common? They are all an almighty time suck turning morning into evening. Granted it didn’t seem like five hours. More like five weeks.

In the evening we went for a walk up to the front and along the promenade. No idea if the tide was in. All I could see were lights over the bay somewhere near Barrow-in-Furness.

Tuesday saw a trip to Kirkby Lonsdale, which is covered in the link below.


In the evening we headed out for dinner at the Morecambe Hotel, and for the second visit to Morecambe on the trot I nearly killed us all by pulling out in front of a vehicle I hadn’t seen. Nothing to do with the non-stop chatter in the passenger seat. It took a while for my nerves to calm down.

And then it was all over; and we spent most of Wednesday driving home. Although when we got to the M25 all the road signs had the message “Salt Spreading”. Having been up north for a few days, it did make me wonder if this was a new Covid variant affecting Cockneys only. It’s as likely as anything else these days

A Bit Of A Mad Squeeze

Usually, if you are going to a gig, you will be excited about it. And going to see Madness with Squeeze as support at the O2 should be a reason to be cheerful.

However, the O2 had been sucking any joy out of the build up (obviously helped by the other shit storm of the Government and their lackadaisical handling of all things Covid). First there was the e-mail ten days before the concert saying you had to have a Covid passport on the NHS app to get in. By now my utter distain for being forced to download apps should be well known. But having paid for tickets it was a necessary evil I suppose.

But it turns out it wasn’t as evil as what O2 were going to pull next. Four days before the gig there is another e-mail, this time saying tickets were available. But only on the O2 Arena app. No printed tickets, no pdf to download. App only. I was spitting feathers by this point. With much swearing I downloaded their app, only to then have to register, a process completed by clicking on a link by e-mail. Twelve times I clicked on the link before finding their e-mails were going straight to junk mail. Once registered I then had to link to my tickets, which was another registration process.

When I bought the tickets, many months ago, there was no mention of any of this rubbish. If there had have been I wouldn’t have bought the damn tickets, and it is a guarantee I will never buy tickets for the O2 ever again, and nor will I buy tickets for any other fucking venue that will force me into downloaded an app to be able to get into the gig. They can all go fuck themselves.

We had booked a hotel in Stratford (a third of the price of nearer ones) bearing in mind it was three stops on the tube. Only to get another e-mail from the O2, this one informing us of a tube strike on the day of the gig.

Fast forwarding to the day of the gig, we got to Stratford, and Helen had tried booking a few places for food without much success, so we got the bus to the O2 (as it turns out, a bit slower, but more convenient being almost door to door, than the tube would have been), and winged it. Ending up at Café Rouge, where there was no wait for a table outside under umbrellas and heaters.

Getting into the gig wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it might be, even with all my ranting above. The queues were massive at entrances A & B but being up in the clouds meant we were at the furthest point away at entrance H, where there was no queue, and both the NHS and O2 app worked, and we were on our way up in less than a minute.

It has been a while since I’d been to the O2, and I’d forgotten just how small the seats were in the gods. I’ve lost a fair bit of weight since the last time there, but they are still too narrow for my fat ass, and the legroom would only work if I were a foot shorter. Even Helen was finding the seat narrow. But whatever the confines of the seat were, there would be no way I would be standing up. Fuck it is steep up there. My head is spinning if I look down whilst stood up, and only just calms down when seated.

Looking around, there were a lot of people wearing fez’s, Madness ones. Which was good, as it showed exactly where the obnoxious moron sections were in the crowd.

If I though my seat was tight, I wasn’t having half the issues a woman two rows in front of us was. She really couldn’t get into her seat at all, trying half a dozen ways. Her other half (wearing tatty shorts) tried bending the arms of the seat out of the way – to no avail. She took herself off, not sure where she was going, or hoping to sort out, but her other half didn’t go anywhere. (She came back four songs into the Squeeze set, sat on the steps for a couple of songs, before cramming herself into an unused seat on the end of a row – whilst shorts bloke was fast asleep before the end of the Madness set.)

And then it was show time, Squeeze ambled out onto the stage and launched into an incredibly good set. The tickets for the show weren’t cheap, and I might not have gone for it if it was just Madness, but the chance to see Squeeze tipped the balance for me, and they didn’t disappoint. They rattled through twelve songs, with all the favourites there, and only the one I didn’t recognise in the middle – F-Hole, which sounded like it could have come off Nirvana’s Nevermind.

The full set list was, “Take Me I’m Yours”, “Up The Junction”, “Hourglass”, “Slap and Tickle”, Cradle To The Grave”, “F-Hole”, “Labelled With Love”, “Muscles From A Shell”, “Annie Get Your Gun”, “Tempted”, “Cool For Cats”, and “Coffee In Bed”, during which they went around and spotlighted the different band members and they all did solos.

To our amusement, the couple sat behind us weren’t Squeeze fans. They were seated before we got there and had given us filthy looks when we sat down as they had to stop dangling their legs over onto our seats. Getting there that early, you would have thought they were up for seeing Squeeze, but at no point did they applaud, sing, or move during the Squeeze set, just sitting there with faces slapped by a wet fish, and arms folded. They were strictly Madness mutherfuckers.

After an interval full of eighties and nineties singalong anthems, it was time for Madness. A phone rang in the red call box on stage and Suggs appeared there and answered it before appearing from the call box onto the stage to let the audience shout the intro to One Step Beyond before curtains dropped to reveal the rest of the band. As the roadies tried desperately to pull the curtains off stage, they were hindered by Suggs blithely wandering around on top of them.

Nearly forty years on from playing “Complete Madness” to death, they played most of that and much more beyond, although no longer with Chas Smith. It was a storming set, featuring two songs I didn’t recognise – “Baby Burglar” and “If I Go Mad” – both good, and there was a good reason I didn’t recognise them, as they haven’t been released yet and they are being introduced on this tour. There were some good visuals on the screens behind the band during the set, the highlights being them playing Gene Kelly doing the well-known “Singing In The Rain” clip from the film whilst the band did “The Sun And The Rain;” and various clips from “The Ladykillers” as would be expected with the tour being called that.

Towards the end of the set, they played four songs that I would have thought prime candidates for any encore, so when they said they were finishing with “It Must Be Love,” I wasn’t expecting an encore. Nor was I expecting the woman sat on the row in front of me to get up and be swaying and waving her arms from side to side. For crying out loud you silly bint, this is Madness, not fucking Paul McCartney doing “Hey Jude.” When it was finished, they piled off stage, and quite a lot of people left. Only for a bagpiper to come on playing “When The Saints Goes Marching In,” before going into “Scotland The Brave,” during which all the band came back onto the stage from the telephone box and did a two-song encore.

It was amazing, but then it was over, and they left the stage for real this time, and it was time for us to head back out into the night. Two great bands in a single night, and a top way to start an extended holiday break.

The full Madness set was “One Step Beyond”, “Embarrassment”, “The Prince”, “NW5”, “My Girl”, “Take It Or Leave It”, “The Sun And The Rain”, “Baby Burglar”, “Wings Of A Dove”, “One Better Day”, “Lovestruck”, “If I Go Mad”, “Shut Up”, “Calm Down Mr Apples”, “Bed And Breakfast Man / Woolly Bully (medley)”, “House of Fun”, “Baggy Trousers”, “Our House”, “It Must Be Love”, and then for the encore “Madness” and “Night Boat To Cairo”.

Back By Unpopular Demand

The first day of the new lockdown did see a dramatic drop in cars on the road. I’m not sure whether it was just down to the lockdown, or helped by the fact it was a bit foggy this morning. Despite the dense fog there was a large amount of similarly dense drivers out there who came drifting out of the fog background with no lights on at all. Regardless of the state of the nation or the state of the weather you can always rely on Crawley drivers to be complete morons.

At work there was the announcement they are closing the building I currently work in at the end of the year. The options will then be

  1. Work from home. (seriously, FTS)
  2. Travel to Interchange every day (easier by public transport, but a proper sh1tehole).
  3. Travel to the Hove office (next to Portslade station, at least one change of train, or lots of driving every day).
  4. Win the effing lottery. (No travelling again, well apart from holidays etc.)

Speaking of the lottery, they didn’t even send their customary “you’ve won a lucky dip” message this morning.

Helen bought me a beginner’s photography course for Christmas last year. It was a practical, in person course, to be held in London. I originally booked to do it the first Saturday in April, only for it to be postponed due to lockdown one. I rearranged for July, only to be postponed to September. That was cancelled due to lack of numbers, as was the October one I was rebooked onto, and so I was bumped to November. So, when the second lockdown was announced I was expecting another postponement. Therefore I was surprised when they said it was still going ahead.

It meant an early, nearly deserted train up to London and a wander to the south bank near the Royal Festival Hall. The stretch between the Hungerford and Waterloo bridges was emptier than I’ve ever seen it before, certainly at ten in the morning.

The course was worth the wait. I hadn’t got a proper manual with the camera, just a quick guide, and so didn’t know what most of the functions were for. I learnt a load about what the camera could do in different modes and settings, and there are a lot of them. Some seem quite useful, and expand what can be done, aside from the basic point, zoom, and click I’ve been doing for the last two years.

The three hours went quickly and once the course was over I took a wander across the river and walked from Trafalgar Square, along the length of the Strand and Fleet Street to Blackfriars, testing out what I had learnt. Then I made my way back towards Waterloo, as I’d seen a church close to it I’d never noticed before.

As I sat taking photos of it with different setting and exposures I was approached by a drunken Scottish tramp who shouted at me that he’d smash my effing camera over my effing head if I was taking photos of him. Also telling me it wasn’t the first time he’d seen me there taking photos. He wasn’t interested in listening to me or the truth, so I waved down a passing policeman and set him on the tramp. Such a shame as it put a real downer on what had been a good day until then. It was the first time I’d been to London since the initial lockdown started, and it was good to wander about the nearly empty streets admiring the buildings.

Spurs managed to win another dull insipid game and for a brief couple of hours were top of the league. But it brings no joy to me when we’ve still got that “see you next Tuesday” of a manager in charge. #MourinhoOut. No 49ers game as they’d already capitulated their way to another loss on prime time TV on Thursday night (well Friday morning here). But at least watching RedZone I could revel in seeing the Cowboys, Seahawks and Cardinals all losing as well.

I can’t say that my pre work weekly shopping trip on Monday morning was my most successful ever. I managed to buy myself a loaf of bread and a box of cereals, but nothing to use as filler for sandwiches, and no milk to put on the cereals. A bag of Twirl bites is hardly the breakfast of champions.

For a while there has been someone parking sideways across three bays in the car park at work. Not every day, but once or twice a week. This morning I saw who it was and it all clicked into place. It was Earl’s little sidekick, who isn’t just learning the IT trade, but also picking up parking tips from Earl, who mastered the art of parking like the car has been abandoned years ago.

Wednesday morning was a struggle as well. First up, I went out the door, closed it behind me, only to realise I hadn’t picked up the car keys, and not having the keys meant I’d locked myself out. Fortunately Helen is at home, as I couldn’t imagine Charlie being able to let me in. When I got in the car and turned the key I found that I’d left it in gear with the handbrake off when I’d parked last night. Fortunately all the other cars around me had already left.

Speaking of Charlie, I could probably do with him being in the office. Mainly so that as he wanders around he can keep the lights on instead of me having to slide across a desk and wave my arms every five minutes.

50 at 50 – Get Them All Here

I’ve collated the links for all the 50 at 50 lists in a single post for easy access.




Then in to a whole load of music related lists

A Song from each year


Northern Soul Songs

Hip Hop Tracks

Motown Songs


Record Labels

Most Played Songs

Then onto Books, TV and Film

Books – Fiction

Books – Non-Fiction



TV Shows

Fictional Characters

A bit of sport


American Footballers


Onto places


Pubs & Clubs

English Coastal Settlements

And finally


Quite a bit to get through there.

Important Information About Your Ticket

Those are the words that you want to see in your inbox, whether its Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday morning. After signing off the previous blog complaining about a lack of e-mails from the National Lottery, I got two on Thursday morning. However both of them read – Congratulations! You’ve won a Lotto lucky dip. They’re just taunting me now.

We found the probable cause of Charlie being under the weather last week, there was an enormous tick attached to him. When I saw big, it was a toss-up as to whether we were removed the tick from Charlie, or Charlie from the tick. Since separating the co-joined twins, Charlie has been back to his normal annoying barking self. Not content with trying to escape every night, he now waits until the lights are turned off before going off on a barking spree. Being so intent on trying to escape he forgets to go to the toilet and then barks the house down to be let out to go. This inevitably leads to the cat appearing in the kitchen to be fed. Then it’s back to bed, the light goes off and there is a whining cat outside the bedroom door sounding as if he’s being murdered. I open the door to deal with him and he’s in and on the bed like a bloody ninja, kneading the covers over the feet of a fast asleep Helen. He then has to be removed to one of the other bedrooms, and closed in so the dog can’t bother him. And then finally I can get to sleep.

I saw Lianne moaning on social media that it appeared that cold callers were back at work now. And I had a little vision of a call centre full of people ringing people up and going through this script.

“Hi, I’m calling from Temperature Check UK, and we’re doing a quick one question survey today. Are you cold?”

The sesame seeds are back. When rinsing with mouthwash last night a mystery sesame seed came out from between my teeth. This has been happening on a regular basis for months, despite not (knowingly) eating anything with sesame seeds in. The only respite for this was last week when I was working my way through a pack of sesame seed bagels; not a single sesame seed to be found whilst mouth washing. But now they are back and it’s bugging the hell out of me as to where they are coming from. If anyone has any answers to the conundrum, then I’d be glad to hear them.

Dress down Fridays, do you remember them? It happens every day now, jeans and t-shirt is the standard dress code here every single day – including weekends. If I went to try and dress down on a Friday then I would need to take some clothes, stab random holes in them and bury them for a month. Then they might just be trampy enough for a lockdown dress down Friday. I’m already showing the signs of having the unruly hair and beard for it.

As the poor attempt at lockdown and social distancing goes on, the greater the clamour for us to use tools and apps like Zoom, Houseparty, Kahoot, or Menti. “It’s easier to stay in touch, and you can see each other and interact in “fun” games.” I hated people before lockdown, so really, now that there is literally no chance of people being able to turn up at my desk or on my doorstep, what chance do you think there is of me using an app to connect to people? That’s right, absolutely none. The only upside of the lockdown is less people and less interactions. Why would I want to spoil that?

I’ve taken Charlie out for a couple of walks this week. Now, it may not be known, but I’m terrified of dogs, having been bitten over thirty times by all shapes and sizes of them. I’ve just about got used to Charlie, but it’s still a bit sphincter tightening when he starts being woofy and growly. Whilst out on walks he is like a magnet for other dogs, so I spend a great deal of time muttering under my breath “stay away, go on eff off back to your owner.” Charlie doesn’t encourage this, and he tends to ignore all dogs. However, on Saturday there was one little thing. Now, I’m not great on what the different breeds are, but this was some kind of pug or bulldog, because it looked like it had been smacked in the face with a shovel. This thing would not stop following Charlie around, sniffing his backside. Right up until the point where I had to drag it away as Charlie squatted to poo. Charlie looked much aggrieved that it wasn’t on the other dog’s head.  It did stop the other dog from following him anymore though.

I took a look in the mirror and realised I’ve got eyebrows that can be seen from space. I’m not saying they are bushy, but when I wiggle my eyebrows, we have a force nine tornado appear in the house. I even got a message from Denis Healy on the Ouija board saying “well jel”. But at least they’re not permed like some bloke from Kibworth on “The History of England”.

After three weeks of it being sat next to me at the kitchen table the framed jigsaw finally made it up in to the hall of maps. How long it will stay there based on the last wall fixture DIY I did is anyone’s guess. We’ll probably be revisiting this in a couple of weeks, when the frame, glass and jigsaw will all need putting back together. Meanwhile on Jigsaw World, I’m up to level 16 and only have a dozen or so left to do, all the larger ones on there at 294, 300 or 315 pieces. But they take a bit longer now, so it’s down to one a day.

I got myself a cheapo Fit-Bit equivalent back at the end of February. It would emit little buzzes as I passed goals. However as time has gone on, it seems to be less impressed with me as lockdown continues. It’s more of a Fat-Bit now and it turns on its bright white display in shock if I move at all, including turning over in bed, blinding all around. I might have to go back to wearing a normal watch for the rest of lockdown.

Monday; monotonous, maddening, melancholy, miserable, moaning, meeting-filled, moronic, muppet-filled, misanthropic, meandering, muddling, manic, morose, morbid, mysterious, monkey-tennis, murderous, malevolent, mithering, messy, moping, misfits, merciless, myopic, mundane, masochistic, mindless, misery-laden Monday. And Tuesday and Wednesday weren’t much better.

I hadn’t realised that the Do Not Disturb feature on Skype automatically turns itself off after twenty four hours. It’s like being in a video game, and you’re smashing it with a power up; you’ve just reached the big boss level and then the power up runs out and you’re suddenly overwhelmed and defeated. Only in this case with random Skype messages.

Ooh look another e-mail headed important information about your ticket; it’s a life changing £2.90. Damn it, another week of work is required.


In an attempt to try and reclaim the kitchen table from being a work environment, over the weekend I dug the partially done jigsaw out from behind the TV where it had been sat since November.

I had started it last year and done the border and the river, and then left it. I love maps so this was shouting at me to do originally, and I thought it would be easy, but it’s a lot trickier than it looked and I had been finding lots of other things to do instead of getting back into doing the jigsaw. We were looking at taking the case with us to Wales for the Christmas jigsaw, but having never got past the original burst of puzzling, it never happened. Probably a blessing with the space (or lack of it) in the car.

I spent the equivalent of two working days at the weekend doing it, and finished the last 50 or so pieces last night. The cover of the box had the detail of the jigsaw, apart from two areas covered by information about the jigsaw in the box. There was no glossy picture included, so some parts were put together by virtue of the pieces must be in there somewhere as I can’t find them anywhere that is shown. It was only once the jigsaw was completed and the box was empty that I noticed a complete image was on the bottom of the box. Grrr.

Usually once a jigsaw is done, I take a picture of it and the jigsaw is then broken up and put back in the box, but with this one, I’m now debating whether to get a frame and hang it up with the rest of the old London maps running down the stairs. When I lived in Manchester I had half a dozen of the old Waddington’s Jig-Maps hung up on walls, just backed onto thick card and then held in place by sticky back plastic in a Blue Peter styley. God knows what happened to them. Lost in one of the many flat moves over the years probably.

I must say it was quite therapeutic getting back in to the calm concentration of doing a jigsaw; even if I did lose all track of time, such as telling myself I’d only do another ten minutes and then leave it, to find two hours had gone by. However, the break from screen time was probably as good for me as if I’d been able to go out and visit a historic site, or go to writing group.

It did make me think of a Jigsaw playlist.

A.A.B.B. – Pick Up The Pieces One By One

Average White Band – Pick Up The Pieces.

Beth Orton – Pieces Of Sky

Guns ‘n’ Roses – Patience

Gladys Knight – Here Are The Pieces

Hot Chocolate – I’ll Put You Together Again

Jack White – Missing Pieces

James Morrison – The Pieces Don’t Fit Anymore

Kenny Thomas – Piece By Piece

Louis XIV – All The Little Pieces

New Young Pony Club – Tight Fit

Radiohead – Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Rick Astley – Together Forever

The Dave Clark Five – Concentration Baby

The Farm – All Together Now

The Rolling Stones – Jigsaw Piece

The Style Council – It Just Came To Pieces In My Hands

The Who – Join Together

Velvet Revolver – Fall To Pieces

Zhane – Piece It Together

Then there is the case of what will be next? There is a little Millennium Falcon one – a mere one hundred pieces, might take an hour tops, but then there is the case of the next big jigsaw. There is one sat in the shelves in the living room, where it has been for getting on for a year now; a colourful scene of the Italian village Riomaggiore. Another thousand piece one that perhaps can be more shared between Helen and me than the map one was.

Farm Street Church

With a name like that you would expect the church to be a little chapel stuck away on a cul-de-sac in a suburb. And when it was built it was on the mews of a back street. However it is only commonly known as Farm Street Church, its proper (and grander) title is The Church of the Immaculate Conception. It is tucked away between Farm Street and Mount Street Gardens in Mayfair, and from the outside it seems a typical Victorian Gothic revival style church in stone.

Tucked away between red brick buildings that are taller than it. And the back entrance onto Mount Street is even less prepossessing.

It is fairly unremarkable from the outside and is the kind of church that you might nip into if it was raining and the pubs weren’t open.

Then there is the inside. Now, before going in I knew that this was a Catholic church, built after restrictions were lifted in the early 19th century, and therefore I wasn’t holding my breath. First, because being a Catholic in England, most of the churches I’ve been to are austere little prayer cubicles; and secondly how could it compare to All Saints that we’d already visited earlier in the day.

What I didn’t know is that it was a Jesuit church, and therefore there is marble, stained glass, gilding, statues and general grandiose to be seen all around.

It is set out more in the style of a cathedral with chapels along both side aisles of the church. If it had gallery seating above the chapels then it would have been laid out and styled nearly the same as the JesuitKirchen in Vienna. The marble and statues were very similar. Unlike in most churches the stations of the cross weren’t subtle markers around the walls, they were large square bright paintings adorning the walls in groups to the south east corner and chapels.

The nave is high with clerestory windows to each side, with low aisles, probably built that way to allow light in when the building to either side were growing higher than the church. It is unusual in that the nave runs south to north instead of the traditional west to east. Again this would have been due to the surrounding buildings preventing the usual orientation.

The Jesuits found the site in the early 1840’s, and the church was completed by 1849 in a decorated Gothic style, the front of the church being inspired by Beauvais Cathedral. The altar was designed by Augustus Pugin, one of the most celebrated church architects of the Victorian era.

The church was damaged during the second world war and was remodelled in 1951 by Adrian Gilbert Scott, grandson of George Gilbert Scott, probably the most famous of all Victorian church architects, known for Gothic overkill on more churches than most people have had hot dinners.

Speaking of which, the Christianity of the church was somewhat of a reverse to that of All Saints. One of the first things we noticed as we came in from the Mount Street entrance (i.e. the back door) was a statue of a homeless person lying on a bench in the first side chapel. Conspicuous by their absence inside the building were any actual homeless people. They were huddled up in sleeping bags in doorways of buildings to either side of the church.

Although Helen pointed out that it was easy to recognise that it was a Catholic church as there were actually people in there praying, it wasn’t just tourists having a mooch about as it normally is in Church of England churches.

Farm Street church is another one that Simon Jenkins has written about, it making his book England’s Thousand Best Churches, and although he only gives it two stars (shockingly low) he does say about it “Not an inch of wall surface is without decoration, and this is the austere 1840’s, not the colourful late Victorian era.”

Standing in the central aisle the stained glass at either end of the church really stands out. As you would enter for a service you couldn’t help but notice the huge window behind the altar.

But you wouldn’t notice the splendid rose window above the entrance until you were returning from communion, or on your way out.

They would make an impression on you at the start and end of every visit.

The church is now home to the London LGBT Catholics and has been since 2013. This is how times change, as it had, albeit 116 years previous, refused a request for a six-month retreat there from Oscar Wilde.

On any normal day I would have been blown away by the church’s magnificence, and it is definitely one of the best non cathedrals I’ve seen in this country. Its only problem is that I saw it the same day as I’d been in All Saints.

Still, I would recommend giving it a visit if you get the chance (and you can find it.)

All Saints

No, don’t run away, I’m not going to be talking about the rubbish covers band from twenty years ago.

I’m going to wax lyrical about All Saints church, on Margaret Street in London. One a hundred yards away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, yet almost unnoticed. And I almost didn’t notice it. Helen saw it as we passed by at the other end of the road, and so we ambled down to investigate.

The above is all you see from the street, if you were walking down its side of the street you probably wouldn’t give it a second glance. But we did, and it looked different from the outset. There is some very nice intricate brickwork on the outside of the church, its outbuildings and the spire tower. It reminded us very much of the patterned brickwork on St Stephans in Vienna.

It was open, always a bonus in this day and age, we just weren’t expecting what was inside. Having had a couple of days to think about it, I doubt I have ever seen such a magnificent church that wasn’t a Cathedral. We went through the porch and just came to a stop, paused for a few moments and then said Wow!

How had I never heard of this church before. It was difficult to know where to look and investigate first. No matter how many pictures I took it is impossible to do it justice. If you are ever in London shopping, trundling along Oxford Street then take a short detour and half an hour and go and check this amazing church out.

It is a sensory overload of colours. Wonderfully detailed tiles cover every large wall space. The stained glass windows are large, intricate and full of colour, casting wonderful hues on the wall coverings.

The ceilings are all tiled and patterned, as are the floors. The choir and altar are bright and vibrant and the side chapel is gilded and dazzling.

The really remarkable bit about the church isn’t the splendid decoration. It is the fact that it has a proper Christian attitude. At first it may not seem so, as there are a number of signs saying not to sit or lie by the tiles as it can ruin them. Then you turn the corner to go through a series of archways to the nave and there are rows of kneeling pads laid out through the alleyways and along the rows of seats, and there are homeless people happily sleeping in the sanctuary and safety of the church. A priest is having a candid conversation with a visitor about faith on seats just in front of the choir steps. There is no miserable church helper trying to shepherd anyone out of the doors.

The church itself, unsurprisingly is a Grade I listed building. It was built in the 1850’s and is said to be its architect William Butterfield’s masterpiece. I can’t see how he would have been able to surpass this. The two buildings at the front of the small courtyard to the church are the vicarage and the former choir school – now flats for assistant priests.

I’ve been wiki-ing it up, and there was a chapel on this site from 1760, which was described by one of its former incumbents as “a complete paragon of ugliness”. In which case it couldn’t have been more different to its current incarnation.

There were funds raised to rebuild the chapel, and it teamed up with the Cambridge Camden Society to found a model church. It took nine years for the church to be built at a total cost of £70,000, a lot of money back then.

To not have heard of the church I must have been living with my head in a bucket. Simon Jenkins said about All Saints that it was “architecturally England’s most celebrated Victorian Church.” And the chief executive of English Heritage listed it as one of the ten most important buildings in the country.

The use of different colour bricks in building a church was unheard of then, and the decoration built into the structure making All Saints the first example of ‘structural polychromy’ in London.

It is certainly different to any other church I’ve been in in this country. Now I know it is there I would probably want to nip back in when passing close by. It’s only a ten minute walk away from the company I work for’s London office. It would be a pleasant detour after dealing with that shower.

Back Streets

There is always a lot to see on any visit to London. Though it’s amazing how much time is spent sharing the same spaces as countless hordes of tourists all sharing the same major attractions. Saturday was going to be spent, as far as possible between those crowded spaces. Quite often not very far away from them, but just one street back and the crowds become but a trickle, and there are still so many amazing buildings to be seen.

We took a route that started at the hotel over near Mount Pleasant, that headed past Russell Square and into Bloomsbury, across Tottenham Court Road into Fitzrovia (where we’d been out eating and drinking the night before), along to the outskirts of Marylebone village, and then across Oxford Street and into Mayfair.

Along the way we encountered lovely Georgian terraces, an occasional Tudor beamed building, humongous Portland stone edifices, giant red brick Victorian masterpieces, huge pink sandstone blocks, glorious Art Deco constructions, and a fair share of sixties and seventies concrete. A wonderful mix of styles and sizes, and a wonderful testament to just what a great city London is, especially when such things can be viewed at leisure without being trampled by throngs of tourists.

We started our walk along Calthorpe Street, crossing over Grays Inn Road again, onto Guilford Street and past the Goodenough college and great hall, and then Coram Fields. A space where adults are only allowed when accompanied by children, appropriate seeing as it is only a few yards away from Great Ormond Street hospital. We turned to head up to Coram Street, passing the massive Brunswick Centre, a space that could be considered brutalist concrete, but the way the flats seem to cascade down, with the boulevard through the middle reduces the harshness it may have had.

It is here that you step into an area where Art Deco is around almost every corner. There are some simple buildings on Coram Street itself, but one of the finest Art Deco buildings in London is just around the corner in Herbrand Street.

Now the offices of McCann Erikson, an advertising agency, this superb building was originally the home to Daimler hire group. The windows give a great effect of there being a slope up through the circular part of the building as if it was an early multi story car park.

We carried on around the huge Royal International hotel, up Woburn Place, past Tavistock Square, and back down Bedford Way into Russell Square, passing blue plaques for JM Barrie, Virginia Woolf, and a brown plaque for TS Eliot on the side of the Faber building. A cluster of Art Deco buildings sit behind Russell Square and to the north side of the neo-classical stylings of the British Museum.

They form part of UCL, and at the centre is Senate House, a 1930’s Art Deco behemoth, that lays claim to be London’s first skyscraper. It isn’t tall by modern standards, but it looks as if it could have easily been transported from New York.

It inspired works by George Orwell, and it was here that the Ministry of Information was based during the second world war which became the Ministry of Truth in his book 1984.

We headed past Bedford Square and across Tottenham Court Road into the warren of streets in Fitzrovia, passing close to where we had eaten and drank the night before; passing through little alleyways and past the ends of mews until we got to Eastcastle Street and headed west. Progress was slow as we ambled back and forth across the road to get better views of all the interesting buildings on either side.

We turned and headed up Great Tichfield Street to Margaret Street with the intention of turning to carry on heading west. Only to catch a church spire out of the corner of our eyes in the other direction. So we wandered along to have a look at that. Hemmed in between other four and five story buildings was All Saints church.

I won’t go into detail here as it deserves it own piece. But suffice to say it is probably one of the most spectacular churches I have ever seen in this country. We were definitely happy we have corners in our eyes.

We came back out and made it to Regent Street. This upper part is so much quieter than the run down from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly. As you turn the corner from Margaret Street and look north you get the view of John Nash’s All Souls church and the wonderful Art Deco BBC building, and the Langham to the left.

We were drawn down Mortimer Street and Little Tichfield Street before we headed back along Riding House Street to come out at the church. It was in use for a day of lectures, and so had lots of people inside and no opportunity to have a look around.

The Langham loomed large as we headed along Portland Place and in to Chandos Street, passing the very shiny Georgian Medical Society of London building, before making our way around Cavendish Square and along Wigmore Street.

The impressive buildings were still coming thick and fast, but it was getting to be time for refreshments. We veered off up Duke Street, passing the former residence of Simon Bolivar into Manchester Square, the other side of which sits the Wallace Collection. Definitely a place for a future visit. We walked down Fitzhardinge Street into Portman Square and around the outside to Portman Street.

We were now looking for food and carrying on walking past as we saw the prices on display, including a ridiculous sixty two quid for a two course vegan meal. Moving swiftly on, we crossed over Oxford Street and saw Ask, a much more reasonably priced establishment for us.

Fed and watered we carried on into Mayfair. Along Green Street where we could see another church building at the end. This one has however been converted and is now open as the Mayfair Chippy. We turned to go down North Audley Street and into Grosvenor Square. One of the two former US Embassies is now a building site covering the west side of the square. The other is now a restaurant next to the Italian Embassy.

Once through the square we headed down Carlos Place to Mount Street Gardens. Down in this part of Mayfair, gone are the Art Deco and Portland Stone buildings, replaced with finely detailed sandstone and Victorian red brick as far as the eye can see. Stuck in the middle is a Victorian Gothic church – The Church of the Immaculate Conception, or as it is more commonly known the Farm Street Church.

The outside gives no clue as to just what a staggering church this is. Again, I’m not going to go into great detail as I’ll be doing a separate piece on this church as well. It is an early Catholic church after the lifting of the ban on building them in 1812, and it is a Jesuit church, and it is as grand inside as ones seen in Vienna.

After being gobsmacked by a second church on the day we came out of the west side of Mount Street gardens and were met with a large Victorian red brick library one side of the road (still in use as a library) and a more modest church on the other. One that wasn’t in as good repair as others we had seen that day, and it wasn’t open.

Carrying on we meandered through streets and alleyways and market places in Mayfair, seeing some very nice items on sale in the shops, only to be scared away by 1.) the prices, and 2.) the excessive number of bouncers on the door of every shop, cafe, pub and even church. Though the last one was offset by the number or Mormon’s who were trying to sell their literature outside their church. Another spectacular looking building, but not one I was willing to run the gauntlet to have a look around inside.

And then we squirted out of the bottom of Mayfair and found ourselves on Piccadilly, opposite Green Park and close to the Ritz. Ending up near there was no accident. There was a direct bus from there back to Mount Pleasant, and we sat at the front as it crawled through Piccadilly Circus, and up Shaftesbury Avenue before it managed to build up some speed as it left New Oxford Street.

i didn’t make the mistake of the night before and we got off a stop later and headed back to the hotel to pick up the bag. Another bus down to Farringdon, only to find a twenty five minute wait for the next Three Bridges service. It hadn’t rained on us at all whilst in London, and half heartedly tried once we got back to Crawley.

It had been a great day out, but it was sofa time to rest up before the actual birthday arrived.

Vagabonds and Crazy Bears

Out of work at four on a Friday to rush to the station. Destination London. Of course, we missed the intended train, the guy in the ticket office seemed a bit dazed and confused and buying tickets for two days at the same time overtaxed his poor little brain. There was only nine minutes until the next train though, so it wasn’t that bad. But that was late, and then it got held up until it got past the point where the lines split, and only really hit top speed once we got to the tunnels on the other side of the M25.

It’s interesting how people react to colds now. A woman got on the train and sat down opposite us; replacing a haggard Dustin Hoffman lookalike who’d got off there having flown back from somewhere with a bottle of over proof rum and a family size box of Golden Virginia rolling tobacco. The train hadn’t even pulled out when Helen blew her nose; and the woman looked up in panic and scuttled off down the train in search of seats not next to people with sniffles (no not our cat.)

We were quarter of an hour behind planned time by the time the train eventually got to Farringdon, and there was a bit of a queue to get checked in at the hotel. Even with the quickest of changes and freshening up, and flagging a taxi we were going to be a bit late to the early evening drinks at Vagabond. Flagging a taxi didn’t help, as they took somewhat of a scenic route to get there. He also had the cheek to ask for a tip. Yet he didn’t appreciate “take the direct route in future as not everyone leaving a hotel is a tourist who doesn’t know where they are going.”

Have you ever been to a wine tasting? Some random turns up to your house with lots of bottles of wine they are trying to sell to you, and rapidly gives you lots of little tasters of different wines. By the end of the session you can’t taste the difference and wave your credit card at the seller only to get your statement and scream “HOW MUCH?”

Well, going to Vagabond is like going to a massive wine tasting. They have various locations around London – we went to the one on Charlotte Street – and you load up a card with cash and then set off to explore the massed rank of dispersing cabinets. There must be over a hundred different wines, and you can have tasters, medium or large glasses of any of them that take your fancy. All at different prices, the tasters (25ml) ranged from under a quid to over a tenner.

Two hours flew by in a red wine haze before it was time to head off for food. The good thing about 25ml tasters was that Lianne could have a couple of them and still be OK to drive herself, Marc and Allan home. Speaking of Allan, he thoroughly enjoyed the wine tasting, going around with Helen trying all sorts of wines, and as he doesn’t normally drink he was quite merry quite quickly. It was good he was out at all after having been injured when someone had driven into their van earlier in the week.

The original plan for food was we were going to go to Circolo Popolare. But they don’t take phone or internet bookings; only walk in bookings on the day. But it’s not walk ins in the sense that any sane person would know. All they mean is if you turn up at some point in the day you can book for any point later that day. When I wandered down before seven to try and get a table for later in the evening I was told that they were fully booked for the rest of the day, and they had stopped adding to their waiting list. The woman on the door was quite smug when they told me I would have had to have booked by half four to have got a table. All very well if you live or work in London, but no hope for anyone going out for the night.

Instead we ended up going to Crazy Bear. For a by accident choice of venue, it would have been difficult to have lucked out any more than we did. It was a very nice, very plush (if a bit warm) restaurant. The selection of food was amazing, although for three of the five of us, it was very much a hit and miss selection. With it being mood lighting in there, and the text in the menu not being massive, Helen, Allan and Marc all struggled to see what was on the menu. It was like having three blind mice. Helen used the camera on her phone to magnify the menu so she could read it. Allan tried using the torch on his phone to shed some light on the matter, only to give up and order Thai Green Curry because he knew it must be on the menu somewhere, and Marc was holding the menu up at all sorts of obtuse angles trying to get more light. Only glasses wearing Lianne and short sighted me could read the menus easily.

Everything we ordered, across three course and drinks, was lush. Even the accompanying sauces were so good that we uncouthly spooned all of the left over sauces out of their dishes and into our ever waiting open mouths.

Allan was flagging because of his injuries, so we headed back to Soho so that they could get the car and Lianne could ferry them off home. Helen and I wandered off through Soho, zig zagging through the streets, and around Soho Square, where there were signs of not so sweet FA being done; over Charing Cross Road, up new Oxford Street and onto Theobalds Road. We stopped to get a bus outside the magnificent neo-classical St George’s church, sadly fenced off.

We got a bus up to Mount Pleasant, but I missed the right street to turn off to go down the side back to the hotel, and so we had a bit of a detour, crossing Grays Inn Road twice (yes, I know, crossing it the first time should have been a hint and a half we were going in the wrong direction) and passing the Dickens museum and Great Ormond Street Hospital, before getting back to the hotel after midnight.

Time for a rest before wandering the city the following day.