Friday, 23 May 2008

Sightseeing - at home!!

With all this travelling around the world, seeing wonderful, historic or exotic far-away places it’s strange when we stop and think about what’s on our own doorstep!!

Yesterday we travelled up to London to see the hit musical Billy Elliott – what a really, really great show and what wonderful talented youngsters there are about!! If you’ve not yet seen the show – then get some tickets and treat yourself to something quite special and spectacular!

But on the way we had an hour or so to spare so we walked around Parliament Square and across to Westminster Abbey, built before the time of William the Conqueror who was the very first English Monarch to have his Coronation there in 1066 – that’s followed by well over 1000 years of superb British history!!

There lie the mortal remains of English Kings and Queens down the ages including notably Queen Elizabeth I. You’ll also find the tombs of many, many other famous people like Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Handel and the Explorer David Livingstone, Sir Isaac Newton, William Wilberforce and many others, all under one roof! And there are memorials too to folks who aren’t actually buried there like Winston Churchill and William Shakespeare.

There really is so much to see and take in and we didn’t have time to get round everything – the Nave was also closed to the public as there was a Service going on so we’ve decided to go again soon and make a day of it and see everything properly.

Amazing what you find right under your nose, isn’t it?!!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Billy Elliott - the Musical

We're scooting off to London on Thursday to see the hit musical, Billy Elliott for our birthdays - courtesy of Andrew & Sue.

The plan is to travel up by train to arrive in London around 10am-ish and to have a mooch around and a light lunch before the (matinee) performance begins at 2.30pm. Then afterwards find somewhere nice for a relaxed dinner maybe around Covent Garden or wherever the fancy takes us.

I know that Shirley's been wanting to go since we were in Sydney where some of our friends there had booked tickets for the (Sydney) show and enjoyed it immensely. So I'm sure we will too!

So Andrew, with grateful and very many thanks to you and Sue, I'll send you the bill afterwards!!

Sunday, 18 May 2008


Well we returned safely from Venice last Friday afternoon – somewhat poorer than when we left home on Monday!!

Venice is simply one of those places you just have to see and experience – there’s nowhere quite like it anywhere else in the world; waterway streets, no cars or traffic and much quieter than any other City on earth even with thousands of tourists tramping around. It’s also strange every now and again when you hear a police or ambulance siren and then catch a glimpse of a speedboat travelling very fast, lights flashing! Yes, the ambulances are boats too!

And the history of the place – well it just reeks of history, famous people and all plus that unique feeling whenever you go to Italy, the wonderful and colourful Italian language, the yummy food, the people and all that. Here, the Venetians have a very distinctive culture and heritage but it’s still has the magic of Italy nonetheless.

We walked and walked, getting lost very frequently and losing our way down endless narrow streets and across countless canal bridges even with a map!! I couldn’t imagine trying to find my way around Venice without a map which you need to read close-up as the streets and alleyways are so small!

Shirley and some very pricey gondolas!

We did most of the main sights, St. Mark’s Square, the Basilica di san Marco, the spectacular Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s Palace), the picturesque Grand Canal and even a trip across the Lagoon to the pretty fishing village of Burano, an island mini-version of Venice famous for it’s lace industry and we experienced a horrendously expensive ride on one of the famous Venetian gondolas!!

Armed with some great ‘foodie’ recommendations from our friends Elaine and Sandy Downs, we enjoyed eating at a couple of really nice restaurants, the Osteria San Marco and Alle Testiere both of which were absolutely superb – many thanks, E&S!!

And yes, we even did the famous Harry’s Bar where we enjoyed one of their original and speciality Bellini cocktails followed by a light (but very expensive!) lunch; well, you just HAVE to do these things before you die, don’t you?!

So, a lovely few days spent in the sun in a fabulous, historic and unique place – but if you’re thinking of visiting, start saving now!! It’s really, really expensive but probably worth it overall.

Friday, 9 May 2008

The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys

This evening we’re off to the Lakeside Country Club in nearby Frimley – dressed to the ‘nines’ in black tie and tux; it’s the Provincial Grand Lodge of Surrey’s 2008 Festival Dinner and Dance which is the culmination of 4 years fundraising by masons throughout Surrey aimed at raising £3m for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, colloquially known by all UK masons as simply ‘the Girls and Boys’.

The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, originally formed in the 18th Century, is one of the principal Masonic charities whose aim is to support the education of the children of freemasons in the event of ‘distressed circumstances’, for example on the death of a father who is a mason. Latterly it also provides support, where funds permit, for the children of non-masons.

My Lodge, Noel Money Lodge No. 2521 with only 31 members has made a contribution to the ‘2008 Festival’ and raised over £21,000 towards this – we will be honoured to receive an award at this years Provincial AGM which recognises this. We will be among only a handful of Lodges to be so honoured.

The Masonic ‘Festival’ system operates throughout the UK and is a ‘rolling’ scheme whereby Provinces (Counties) are nominated to support one of the main Masonic charities – there are four such charities namely the Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

The Festivals run for 4 years during which time Lodges within a Province specifically target their fundraising towards supporting the nominated charity. At any given time, a number of Provinces may be supporting the same charity and thus fairly large sums of money can be donated to support the work of the charity.

I have some personal experience of the RMTGB. Many years ago one of my Uncles living in Newcastle sadly passed away at a fairly young age, leaving a wife and 3 sons – although I didn’t know it at the time, he was a mason and his youngest son, a very close cousin of mine was sent away to the Royal Masonic School at Bushey in Hertfordshire where he received what was virtually a Public School education completely free.

.... but I'm sure that tonight's Dinner and Dance, attended by about 1000 Surrey Masons and their families will be fun - and besides we don't hand over a cheque for over £3m to someone every day do we?!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Prostate Cancer

A very close, longstanding and dear friend has just been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer – he’s currently undergoing treatment and the good news is that this is very much a treatable cancer PROVIDED it’s caught early enough.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men – so guys, finding out about it is cool and could save your life or the life of someone you love.

We should know that apparently the risk of getting prostate cancer increases as you get older. Most men are diagnosed over the age of 50, but it can affect men from the age of about 40.

As men, we are two and a half times more likely to get prostate cancer if our father or brother has been diagnosed.

FACT: (Now here’s a sobering statistic) In the UK 35,000 men are diagnosed every year

Early diagnosis can improve a guy’s chances of finding a successful treatment, yet most of us men do not know what symptoms to look for and do not go to the doctor to get them checked out when they have them.

FACT: In the UK, one man dies every hour

Prostate cancer has, until recently, been overlooked as a serious health issue facing men which means that not enough research funds have been targeted at solving the problem, so we still don’t really know how to prevent it, screen for it and treat it effectively.

But guys, WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT – first and foremost put your fears and modesty aside and

Go see the Doctor and GET A CHECK UP

– and do it regularly too; maybe once a year or so but whatever DON’T LEAVE IT or put it off until ‘another day’ – by then it might just be too late.

You can never be too busy to look after your health and besides I care about my friends and want them to grow old bones!!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Venice bound!!

Things are taking shape here for Shirley's 60th birthday next Sunday - oh and not forgetting mine the following day too!

So we're off to Venice for a few days on Monday - our first visit to this historic and rather unique place which everyone seems to rave about!!

We're staying at the Hotel Palace Bonvecchiati which is in Calle dei Fabbri and close to St Marks Square and the famous Rialto Bridge - we have all the guide books from friends who have been there and we're brushing up on our Italian!!

We leave on Monday and return on Friday when I expect we'll be two very foot sore and weary tourists!!



Well things seem to be settling down now after the sadness of the past few weeks – Shirley’s step-mum Winnie seems to be ok and we popped down to Rainham to take her out to lunch last week. She also seems to have everything under control in the aftermath of the funeral etc. so we are less concerned than we were; Shirley calls her every other day to say ‘hi’ and have a natter.

Spring has arrived at last! Actually it’s been VERY warm these past few days with temperatures in the low 70’s – I heard on the news this morning that yesterday the warmest place in the UK was Nottingham at 77 degrees!! Now that IS warm for early May! I don’t think the birds and bees and the trees know what is going on – it was still quite unseasonably COLD only last week!!

Now here’s some really GREAT news!

Andrew’s company, tda Interiors has just ‘won’ an award as the 6th fastest growing ‘starter’ business in Australia – actually he says they got the numbers wrong and he thinks they should have come 4th!!

The prestigious award is an annual thing sponsored by BRW, Australia’s influential and leading business magazine – it’s under their Fast Starters 2008 programme. Andrew and James are featured in an article in the current edition – exciting stuff huh!!

Well done the 'tda team'!!

Oh and whilst on a similar topic, the UK Times last week produced their 'Rich List' for 2008 - and I'm proud to say that I know PERSONALLY, no less than 2 guys on the List; one is No. 40 and the other joint 777th with a comparitively modest worth of only £90m!! So you can maybe guess what the guy at 40th place is worth!! Yes, it has a 'bn' after the number!!

I'm already writing the begging letters!!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Tales of (the ficticious) Samantha

I couldn't resist just a few lines about Samantha - as recalled by 'Humph'

Samantha spent several hours down in the gramophone archive earlier, choosing four of the very best, and those magnificent hits are about to be given an airing for the teams' delight. She'll soon have them swinging along to the music.


Samantha has drawn my attention to several misunderstandings in past introductions to this round, as she takes her preparation work for it very seriously. She insists we spend hours in the gramophone archive researching records, and I can't tell you how long she keeps me down there. However, she retains her sense of
humour, and if I ever do slip up she always gives me a reassuring smile when I put it incorrectly.


Our regular scorer, Samantha, can't be with us today as she's away helping an elderly neighbour clear out for a house move. This morning she sorted his box room and later she's going to join him in the attic to have a good rummage in his trunks.


Samantha spent some time in the gramophone archive last night sorting through the jazz section. When I arrived she kindly got my vintage collection out and spread them on the desk for me.

Samantha and I spent a few hours in the record library earlier and enjoyed a good long root in the singles section.


I spent a frankly unrewarding half hour down there this morning, until Samantha generously offered to help me out. Strictly speaking, her contract doesn't cover research, and by asking her to have an unpaid poke amongst the record stack I might have put her in an awkward position, but she didn't mind.


She accompanied me down to the Gramophone library earlier where she quickly uncovered the greatest hits ever, and what a treat for my old years they were.


As ever, Samantha spent a few hours browsing among the shelves in the singles archive this week, and as a result of a rewarding poke in the country section, she was thrilled to discover a mint condition 7 inch Boxcar Willie.


As ever, Samantha spent some hours down in the gramophone archive selecting the team's discs. You know, she puts in a lot of hard work on this round and she gets a bit fed up with silly comments about the way she 'checks the teams' 7 inchers' or 'pulls out my reproduction equipment and twists my knob'. Samantha tells me she tries to take no notice of these pathetic, puerile critics, but it isn't always easy to ignore her knockers.


Samantha has spent a rewarding evening amongst the shelves down in the gramophone archive. As ever, her keen eye has spotted a firm favourite or two, and she couldn't resist getting them down.


Samantha has been busying herself down in the gramophone archive, pulling out a 7 incher for each of the teams, and checking closely for damage. She was disappointed to see one or two where worn almost flat through over use. Fortunately, she has a couple of fine 45s in reserve for just such an emergency, and will be getting them out soon to put things right. what an earth is a GRAMOPHONE!!??