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The older I get, the more cynical I get. It is not a fact I am proud of, but it is a fact. I disbelieve just about everything the establishment and the media tell us. I am convinced that we are manipulated into being the submissive, law-abiding robots that we have become. It grieves me greatly.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Thames Path - Richmond to Hammersmith Bridge


Selection of photos from a  walk along the Thames Path yesterday.  A very leisurely stroll taking in a few pubs.  The most exercise we managed was dodging all the cyclists, out taking part in annual the 'Ride London' event (link here).  

Information on walks along the Thames Path can be found on Transport for London's website (link here)



All Saints Church, Isleworth (I think)




A glimpse of Kew through the trees
North of the river

walking along the thames path walking walking walking walk walk walk walk
Syon House, London home of the Duke of Northumberland



Messing about on the river




Chiswick Bridge
Chiswick



A willow, far more attractive than the building it hides
Quintin Rowing Club

The Thames
The Ship, Mortlake - definitely worthy of a stop-off
Hammersmith Bridge
Swanee River





Salt Beef

We were fascinated by the cow on the roof - and I labelled it 'salted beef', thinking I was being incredibly witty.  I have just googled it - and is a sculpture, called 'Salt Beef'.   It was part of the 2002 Cow Parade (info here).  We didn't notice an astronaut on the neighbour's roof terrace though.  

So that is where all the pubs are (Stamford Brook)



The Bridge pub, Barnes - a lovely pub which we nearly missed out on because it looked 'a bit dodgy' from the outside. 


Friday, 31 July 2015

Beach Hut Heaven

This year I decided to rent a beach hut for a week at Broadstairs in Kent.  The huts are managed by 'Your Leisure' (Your Leisure website) on behalf of Thanet County Council and the cost for a week was a very reasonable £97.  I picked Viking Bay 
Viking Bay, Broadstairs

as it was the nearest to the town and a hut on the beach, rather than on a higher level.  I had never been to Broadstairs before, but they rented out beach huts by the week, so that was enough for me. 

When I arrived at the beach, I was a little put out that the beach 'huts' looked more like a row of Ikea friendly blue and yellow garages, than the picturesque beach hut I had envisaged, however the sea views could not be faulted.  


The beach hut was equipped with running water, a gas supply with gas trivet and two deckchairs.  I had bought a cooler, camping kettle and other supplies with me that I thought I might need for a week at the beach.   I hadn't thought of matches, but I asked a small group sitting nearby on the beach.  They didn't have matches or a lighter but asked me if I would photo them as a group.  I did so, not liking to admit that I didn't have my glasses on therefore they would be lucky if any part of them was actually in the photo.  Then one of them suddenly remembered there were matches in their hut and I was able to make a cup of tea.  I promptly returned the favour by offering to take a decent photo of them. 

Over the next week I had several friends come to visit me at my beach hut, all of whom loved it and have asked to be invited again next year (I have already booked the hut again).  We enjoyed lazy days, seagull free beach picnics and the occasional long walk to take in the scenery. They all also offered to treat me to fish and chips in thanks for the day out at the beach.  I turned the third offer down, even I can only eat fish & chips so many times in one week.  One guest bought a hut-warming gift of roses. I loved them and their bright pink hue went perfectly with my picnic set and camp chairs.  


beach hut roses
I had a lovely week at the beach.  It was relaxing and peaceful, the views from the promenade walks were amazing and everyone I encountered was friendly and full of advice.  One evening I wandered off for a walk, and a nearby family, thinking I had gone, very kindly put my deckchair away for me.  The coastline offers miles of sandy beaches with scenic views.  I had luckily picked a week of great weather. I have lived in Kent for 14 years and am quite ashamed that this whole coastline was so new to me.  It was really beautiful.  Kent and Thanet in particular have recently become far too closely associated with elections and Operation Stack, but it has so much more to offer, including a stunning coastline just over an hour from London.  

I had brought books, camera and a notepad to entertain myself, but spent most of my time people watching.  I was much amused by the fact that nearly every small child insisted on 'digging a hole' rather than building sandcastles, and then very quickly wandered off to play on the beach, leaving the adults to carry on digging domes and holes. 


Close encounters of the domed kind, not a child in sight

Until I booked the hut, I had not thought of holidaying in England, but am very glad that I did. Some of my fellow occupants wouldn't consider going anywhere else. Two neighbouring beach huts had been booked on an annual basis by the same families for years.  Another family from Yorkshire arrived later in the week.  The grandfather's father had been stationed in Kent during the war.  His family visited his dad during the war and then he and his wife started coming down when they married, and had come back every year since with their children and grandchildren.   

Despite the beach hut's initial failure to live up to my idyllic image of how a beach hut should look, by the end of the week I was hooked.  The huts have water and gas.  The level above provides a canopy over the beach huts which is helfpul for shade on hot days - and means you can eat in peace without the overly aggressive seagulls swooping down on you.  They may stand in front of you, glaring balefully whilst they try to hypnotise you into giving up your food and one did once hop onto the table, but the canopy provides some level of protection from their avarice.  
seagull free beach picnic

I swam in the sea nearly every day, it was a little chilly at first but soon warmed up.  There was only one day when the weather was not great, but my friend and I were not bothered.  It was still the perfect place to sit and admire the sea and a great base from which to explore the shoreline and nip into the town for a drink or a bite to eat.  


Bleak House
North Foreland Lighthouse, the last lighthouse in the UK to be automated
Stone Bay
It has been quite a grim twelve months for me, so a completely relaxing week by the sea was the perfect antidote.  Next year I may even stay down in Broadstairs for at least some of the week rather than commute every day.  If you are going to commute, however, commuting to the seaside is a lot more attractive than the crowded, gloomy trek into the city.  One of my favourite images from the week was of two teenage boys, who had drifted away from their group and were playing some game on their phones.   They may have still been glued to their androids, but at least they were outside and relaxing on a beach. 



Classy or classless

I had a short debate with a few of my cousins yesterday over whether we are working class or middle class.

I maintain that we are working class.  Several of my cousins insist we are middle class.  One finally decided to end the discussion by insisting that we are working class with middle class issues.  I am pretty sure that my family's issues encompass all classes and even enter a whole new class of their own at times.

We were all born into a working class family.   My grandmother lived in a two-up, two-down house with her seven children throughout most of their childhood.  A few of our parents may have had middle class aspirations, but I still think of myself as working class.  I don't understand why any of us would mind being working class and even less do I understand wanting to be middle class.

One cousin insists that we are middle class because 'we do pilates and we shop in John Lewis'.  There then followed a conversation about 'up down dog', which is apparently not the follow up album to the "Best of Barbara Woodhouse", but seems to have taken over from 'the plank' in the category 'how to make women look stupid whilst charging them for an exercise class'.  I do shop in John Lewis sometimes, but I have never noticed guards on the door checking which social class I belong to.  I may have Edinburgh crystal champagne glasses and Dartington crystal tumblers (wedding gifts which have lasted over 20 years longer than the marriage), but I use them for cava and gin from Aldi.



I even took the BBC's 'what class are you' test (link here) to see if that provided any insight.  It didn't.  When I say it didn't, I mean it disagreed with me, therefore it just isn't a very good measure of what social class I may be.  According to the test I am 'established middle class', mainly because of my  group of friends and social activities.  Although I may have friends who are accountants and university lecturers, I also have friends who are office workers, cleaners, drivers, and unemployed.  I find it odd that the more educated friends hold more weight with the BBC's scale.   If I earned slightly more, or lived with someone on a similar salary to me and went to the opera occasionally, I would apparently be in the elite class.  There is a reason to avoid opera for ever more.

My understanding of social class is clearly very different to the BBC's.  I am working class because I was born into a working class family.  I am working class because I need to work.  I am working class because I vote according to my conscience not because the candidate went to the same public school that I did.  To me, being working class is something to be proud of.  Workers' unions have provided us with voting, more equal terms for women, reasonable working hours, paid holiday, better working conditions and pay etc.  My mother and her siblings overcame huge hurdles and were all determined that their children would have an easier start in life than they had.  Their values are not always my values, they cared to much about what other people think, there was a tendency to value designer labels, where you live, the size of house you have and the type of car you drive over education and financial security.  They didn't have the education to understand the importance of an education.

But they also taught us manners, decency, honesty, family unity, closeness and a sense of belonging.  I will carry on being working class and will occasionally visit my cousins in their middle class nirvanas.  I will keep reminding their children that we are all working class really.  I am very comfortable with who I am.  I do think class distinctions still exist and there is, as has been recently researched, a glass floor protecting middle and upper class children whilst keeping down the brighter children from the working classes.   I also think that this is even more of a reason to affiliate with our working class roots.  I don't want the next generation to aspire to be middle class, with all the smug, Hyacinth style connotations that has. I want the next generation to be an educated working class, bringing with it better values to society and ensuring a more level playing field for all, rather than selling off all the state school playing fields for the benefit of cronies in property development.