Category Archives: UK

Tea With Queen Victoria

Tea With Queen Victoria At Osborne HouseJust imagine if you could be transported back in time and have Afternoon Tea with Queen Victoria.

This is what it felt like for us a few weeks ago when our best friends won a competition in the local paper to visit Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, which was the country home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, a lovely place that was designed by Prince Albert and where the couple could get away from the affairs of state in London and escape to have a family life.

The day started with a short drive to the Red Funnel ferry terminal in Southampton to catch the 9am ferry for the hour long crossing to Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

It was a lovely day with clear blue skies, but oh boy was it a cold day, frosty and cold and the winter sun did little to warm you up.

Osborne House is only a couple of miles from Cowes, and so we arrived shortly after 10am, to be greeted by lots of people in Victorian costume as there was a special Victorian Christmas festival taking place all weekend.

We enjoyed listening to a military band, the “girls” went on a carousel, and then we looked around the house itself, which has a lot of artifacts and memorabilia of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Then early afternoon came the time for our Afternoon Tea with Her Majesty, but to be truthful we didn’t realise until the staff at the restaurant said “ah you are the people” that it was indeed a private reception with Queen Victoria, and we were led upstairs to an apartment which the public don’t generally get to see, and where the mother of the “real” Queen Victoria used to stay when she visited the Royal Family at Osborne House.

The room had a lot of memorabilia, and was very interesting in itself. In the centre was a large table, with a wonderful selection of cakes and scones.

We didn’t have long before the Queen arrived, and were briefed by her servant as to how to act and respond in front of her, which was all very important, because although this was only someone playing the role of Queen Victoria, the location and experience gave the feel of being in another time and it all seemed very real.

The Queen arrived, walking slowly, accompanied by a finely dressed lady who was introduced as Lady Ponsonby, one of her closest friends. Lady Ponsonby had been a “lady in waiting” for the Queen, but had married a wealthy man and as such had left the Queen’s employment, but they had remained good friends.

Queen Victoria herself poured the tea for us all, she said that the liked to play “ma’am”, and we helped ourselves to cake and scones which were delicious. It just seemed impolite though to be eating while the Queen was talking, a little bizarre.

Her Majesty gave us many insights into Osborne House and her life with Prince Albert, which really did make history come alive.

After almost an hour, it was time for photographs, and then to bid farewell to the Queen, and off to spend time looking around the rest of the house and grounds and then back home.

Even though they were only actors playing roles, with this being in a genuine setting and also a private party rather than us just being part of a larger audience, it did feel very special and very much like we were living in a time warp.

I understand that this was only the second time that this had been offered at Osborne House, so I feel very privileged to have been part of it.

More Photographs Of Us With The Queen

 

Photographs Of Osborne House And The Victorian Christmas Festivities

 

A Pint Of Ale In Beer

Beer, DevonBeer is a small fishing village on the south Devon coast and we drove here after our trip to the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth to enjoy the view and also to have a bit to eat as it was late afternoon.

We have been to Beer several times before, and we enjoy the narrow winding streets, old buildings and above all watching the fishing boats that are pulled up on the shingle beach.

It seems strange these days to find fishing boats that aren’t kept in a harbour, especially in the UK, but the boats at Beer are launched from the shingle beach on wooden rollers straight into the sea, which gets deep very quickly. When they return, they head straight for the shore, where a winch is attached and rollers place underneath them so they can be hauled up the steep slope to where they are out of the reach of the waves.

We were hungry when we arrived, so having parked the car we headed straight for The Anchor Inn where we ate last time we visited earlier this year and where we had enjoyed the food. This time the food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Debbie’s lasagna was part hot and part cold and seemed like it had been microwaved.  I had a mixed grill which was ok, but having ordered the steak medium it was definitely well done and a bit chewy.

Having eaten we took a nice walk along the shingle beach, and for late October it was a lovely afternoon and there were quite a lot of people around enjoying what was probably one of the last nice days we will have this year.

You can learn more about Beer on it’s official website, and below are a few more pictures that I took for you to enjoy.

The Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary

Walter our sponsored DonkeyWe visited the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary in Devon back in April and it was such a foggy day that it was quite a bizarre experience walking around and seeing donkeys appearing out of the mist.

Today the weather was much nicer, and definitely not bad at all for the end of October. It was fairly cloudy, just a light breeze, some sunshine, occasional sprinkles of rain, but overall pretty nice.

Debbie wanted to sponsor a donkey for a Christmas present last year, and in April when we spent a long weekend in  Devon to see the donkeys, Walter (our sponsored donkey) just hid inside. Mind you it was a chilly damp day.

Walter is rather shy, and this time when we visited we went straight to where he lives, and even though he was outside, he made his way inside soon after our arrival.

Thankfully, one of the helpers there, a lovely lady from The Netherlands, led him out again, took some pictures of us with him, and also took some more pictures for us of him inside.

We were very fortunate to be able to spend quite a lot of time with Walter and his half-brother Timothy, and we learned a lot from this lady, as well as from several other helpers when we went back in the afternoon.

The Donkey Sanctuary was created by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, MBE in 1969 to help save donkeys from around the world, and this place can only be described at HUGE! There are over 400 donkeys at this location alone, and numerous fields and stables where they live. They even have a hospital on site where they can treat donkeys that have injuries.

Some donkeys have been rescued from a life of abuse, while others have been donated to the sanctuary when their owners have no longer been able to look after them properly.

Some of the donkeys (like Walter) help with children who have disabilities, and they truly are lovely gentle creatures and are great with children.

Here are a few more pictures from our day at The Donkey Sanctuary.

Half Term In Devon

Heaven In DevonWe are spending the last week in October in Devon. It’s also half term week, and since we can only go away when the schools are on a break, it does limit us to when we can take trips, but staying in a converted farm building which is off the beaten track, we expect a lovely quiet week.

It’s only a couple of hours drive from where we live to this lovely tranquil spot, which is about a mile off the main road down a single lane track, and it’s so quiet here, you literally could hear a pin drop. It certainly is a little bit of “Heaven In Devon”.

The drive wasn’t bad, a couple of slow spots but nothing major, and we stopped at Greendale Farm Shop shortly before we arrived to buy some food and also to sample their Fish & Chips which are supposed to be excellent. Indeed they were, good portions, freshly cooked and well priced too.

Greendale is a lovely farm shop. It’s well stocked with lots of local produce, including freshly caught local fish and lots of local cheeses and meats. Outside there are hundreds of chickens running around, as well as an Ostrich and other animals, great entertainment for the kids.

Having stocked up with fresh bread, local milk, cheese and butter etc, we headed off to our destination, unpacked and walked around the property before hopping into the hot tub to relax.

The owner has a lovely large house with acres of grounds, and outside the door of our converted farm building (the left one in the photo) is a lovely patio garden, and beyond that a large field.  Guests are allowed to walk around the grounds, and there is a lot to see, including gorgeous sunsets (weather permitting).

More tomorrow as we head out to the nearby Donkey Sanctuary and visit another of our favourite beauty spots here, Beer.

The Man Upstairs Just Can’t Please The British

It Seems that The Man Upstairs Just Can’t Please The British these days, and as a result we are seeing some really odd weather patterns.  One thing is certain, it’s not typical weather for June!

I suppose it all began back in March when the national news was reporting that much of the UK was suffering from a shortage of water, due to low rainfall for the previous two winters.  Rivers and reservoirs were low and in some cases had practically dried up, and as well as issuing bans on hose-pipes in most of the south of England, the water authorities stressed the need to conserve water, to avoid the need to turn off the supplies and take emergency measures.

I remember one year back in the 1970’s when this happened, and the water was turned off to houses.  People had to queue at standpipes in the street to get water, and these were only turned on several times a day.  This meant using every container that you could to carry water back to the house, to limit flushing of toilets, and no baths or showers of course.

Things were looking rather dire, but I guess enough people offered up prayers to the man upstairs, and after a few weeks of glorious sunshine at the end of March, as Easter arrived the heavens opened, and the UK saw rain, plenty of it.

Not only did the drought situation end, but with it raining for practically a biblical 40 days and 40 nights in a row, the lakes, reservoirs and rivers filled up, in many cases to normal levels and above.

FInally, probably after lots of people complaining about all the rain, we had several weeks of nice weather, with lots of sunshine, and no rain, but then the ground dried up, making it hard to work in the garden, the grass grew tall making it an effort to cut, and I suspect that a lot of people were complaining about this, and finally the man upstairs had enough.

So when the Queen’s Jubilee weekend arrived, he had no doubt had enough of the complaining, and turned on the taps again, causing peoplewanting to go to the celebrations to get wet, and in some cases causing events to be cancelled.

The whining continued, and so in the past week we have seen almost continual rain, with the same forecast for the next seven days as well, and yesterday parts of the south of England saw a month’s rainfall in a matter of hours.

Is this just an unusual pattern of weather that we are experiencing, or is there really someone upstairs who has had enough of our complaining, and after thousands of years has come to the conclusion that mankind will never be happy and grateful, and it’s time to drown out yet another summer.

I know that over Easter we bought a lot of wood and built a deck in the back garden, and having completed it couldn’t even sit out there for the next month because of the rain. I am seriously thinking that we maybe ought to have thought about building an ark instead.  It might be more practical in the long run.

Do you enjoy seeing the funny side of religion? If so you might find this collection of Religious Jokes amusing.  I am sure that God (if he/she does exist) enjoys playing tricks on us mere mortals.  What do you think?