Yesterday I stood in The Mall to attend the procession of the Queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, then queued for 7 hours to see the Queen lying in state. It was a long day, but am very glad to have done so, both as a Royalist and as a mark of respect to the Queen and her 70 years of service to this nation.
Met my church friend Beryl at Victoria station and we got to The Mall around 11am. We were very lucky to get to the front row (well she got the front row and I was 2nd row). After viewing this very emotional event, I decided to join the queue to see the Queen lying in state. Beryl was not interested, as, like many, she had heard the headlines about it possibly being 5 miles long and 30 hours queuing time. Undeterred I crossed Lambeth Bridge(where we saw those very first people in the queue – who had been queuing since Monday night and had been featured on TV) and trekking 3 miles down river to the edge of London Bridge – where I joined the end of the queue! After about half an hour, the queue started to rapidly move and we eventually stopped around Waterloo Bridge. This was where we were finally handed wristbands (I think they must have run out earlier, which was quite concerning to those of us for a while, as there would be nothing to stop any criminal queue jumpers).
My Facebook Summary: For those that may want to know the queue took 7 hours, but am very glad to have done it. It was a very moving experience, there were remarkable things to see along the way and you got quite a few minutes for the actual walking past. To describe the queue experience: The 2 – 3 hours along the river is quite alright and moves surprisingly quickly, some people even had a beer & you chat to all your new queue friends so time goes surprisingly fast! once you cross Lambeth Bridge and hit Westminster Palace grounds, things do slow down, the 2.5 hours of shuffling along queue lanes was a bit tough going, but then you finally get to the airport security and the police there cheer you up! their bag scanner tried to eat my bag and they thought this was very funny. Once past there, you know you’re in the last hour and the end is in sight.
Tips are: check where the end is on the “Her Majesty The Queen’s Lying-in-State – Queue Tracker” YouTube page or Twitter link. Wednesday night I heard it was around the Tate Modern(that’s shorter than where I started, but a similar time length) and make sure to get a wrist band! A friend ended up joining the queue at 6:30am Thursday morning and got there at 11am. My niece queued on Thursday night just before 10pm, the queue by then was in Southwark Park (past the Tower of London) and queued for nearly 11hours, walking at 8am in the morning. A couple of hours after her, David Beckham spent 12 hours queuing(what a Super Star that man is) and later that day they ended up closing the queue for several hours due to reaching capacity, queue times increased to 24 hours, but are now down to about 11 hours.
Here in the UK we have dropped ALL COVID entry requirements to enter and exit the country. You can come here vaccinated or unvaccinated and without needing a PCR test, you can enter by plane, train or car. As a keen traveller I was interested in finding out which other countries around the world still have COVID entry requirements and what they are. So I made a list of them using the UK government travel information website. The list features 233 countries of the world and their entry requirements.
Legend for the list :
NONE = no COVID requirements are necessary to enter ie. you can visit unvaccinated or be vaccinated with a dose that has likely expired (as will be the status of many UK residents who were vaccinated in 2021).
VACCINATED = you are required to be vaccinated against COVID to enter the country. Currently the most contentious nation with this status seems to be the USA, where COVID is endemic and they have also officially acknowledged that immigrants entering via the southern Texas border do not require the vaccine.
PCR TEST = you can enter the country whether vaccinated or not, but a negative PCR test is required to enter and possibly to leave.
CLOSED BORDERS = the borders are still closed for these countries, entry and exit is only permitted for nationals – whether you are vaccinated or not.
QUARANTINE = some nations are still requiring a period of quarantine to visit.
Note: the “Conditions” column is meant to list other conditions of entry and still needs filling out. As requirements change on a weekly basis, this is an on-going work in progress, but maybe you will find it helpful for travelling or just to give you some ideas about where to go. Please double-check with the Foreign Office website for the very latest information.
This is the account of my lone and somewhat disastrous first attempt to climb Scafell Pike in November 2007. It was quite an adventure and I’ve retold the story numerous times over the years, but here it is written down for the first time, proudly presented in the knowledge that most regular Lake District hikers will consider this tale sheer idiocy 😀
That day I was alone, nobody knew where I was or where I was going, as I hadn’t told anyone. The mountains were quite empty too, being November 2007. The day before I may have told my Dad I was heading to the Lake District, but that was about it. My provisions included some chocolate, some biscuits, some bread “sandwiches”, some Kendal Mint Cake and some water. The weather was quite pleasant to start with and I set out reasonably early for once. Having not hiked a proper mountain for a quite a while, I thought it would only take a few hours to climb England’s highest mountain and using the official Scafell Pike Ordnance Survey map, assumed the trek to be fairly straight-forward. How wrong I was!
I started listening to Grime tracks driving home late at night on BBC Radio 1 about 5 years ago and despite the off-beats and random lyrics, I found the genre bizarrely kind of grew on me. Anyways, today I was inspried to write a “Grime” song 🙂 I’ve written various songs and lyrics over the years, but never in the style of rap or grime, so I thought why not give it a try and what better subject than for it to be about than my Dutch friend who is an expert in crypto currency(he was one of the first people out there to buy bitcoin, years ago, way before it was easy to do so on Coincase.com etc). Must’ve spent a whole 10minutes writing the lyrics and recording this in my best London accent 😀
Anyway, here it is (click below). The backing track is Lost Souls by Lee Grizzle.
This is my account of hiking in the Knoydart Penisula from Inverie to the Sourlies Bothy and the slight disaster hike it became. There was obviously lots more arguing, more yelped worries and genuine panic (from me at least anyways) than mentioned, but just use your imagination. I’ve had several disastrous hikes, been lost in wilderness-type areas many times before, but this is probably the best one so far, seeing as I was accompanied by my wife, Bronwyn.
The Knoydart Penisula is on the North-East coast of Scotland, not far from the Isle of Skye and is considered the last wilderness in Britain – nowhere else in the UK can you hike for 2 or 3 days and not see anyone else nor be disturbed by any roads or cars. There’s no mobile signal either, no phone boxes, nothing 😀
Access to the Knoydart is from a small village called Inverie, which you can only get to by hiking 27 miles cross-country or by taking a 45min ferry from the port of Mallaig. So why go to this place? Well, the original reason was the same as most visitors there – to see what is claimed to be Britain’s most remote pub “The Old Forge“. Having visited “The Nutshell“, the smallest pub in Britain, in Bury-St-Edmonds and various other unusual pubs, Bronwyn thought I’d like to see this one too.
Back in December 2019 I signed up for the Loch Ness Marathon! it seems a long time ago now, but it was meant to be a surprise for my nephew-in-law, Dominic, whose words “I’d like to do that one” inspired me to do so. Anyways here we were at Loch Ness in October 2021 and allegedly all ready for the run – well I’d roughly followed my own trademark 3 month marathon training plan to do it anyway. Must admit I was not filled with confidence about this one, but we drove up to Loch Ness from London via a fine airBNB in Penrith. We arrived around 7:30pm Friday night in rain and pitch dark via a country back-road at the Forester’s Lodge B&B at Inverfarigaig, which is half-way down on the East side of Loch Ness…
Apparently my wife(Bronwyn), was getting tired of my request for chicken pie and mash potato every few evenings, so she requested that we challenge ourselves to eat a different dish for dinner every day for a month. I think she also wanted to improve and/or expand her cooking skills. The rules were simply that when together we must have a different dish every day for dinner. The only exception being if one of us were away from the house, then you’re allowed to eat what you like. As it was November 2020 with a Tier 4(which soon became a Tier 5) Lockdown in London and there weren’t any pubs, restaurants or entertainment venues legally open + both of us would be in the house most nights(aka trapped with no excuse or escape), so 1st December seemed like a good time to start this challenge.
Update: We made it to 4 months (March 31st) and now Bronwyn wants a month off for some chicken pie 😀
We managed to get through the first month without many problems, I did happen to be away for dinner a couple of nights(caring for my mother), so had Fish & Chips), but other than that it was quite fun and rewarding to try to think up and cook such a variety of meals. I then suggested we carry this on to make the challenge 3 months long, as that should be much more challenging, so we did.
Once we hit the 3 month barrier, I then wondered if there was some kind of World Record for this, but haven’t found the answer yet. Anyways we’ve decided to keep going and maybe try to travel the world – so far we’ve been to England, Scotland(Hogmanay), Wales(St.David’s Day), France, China, Japan, Korea, Israel, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, the Caribbean, . Any suggestions or comments are welcome 😀
Here are the meals we have eaten so far :
Dec 1 Chicken Kiev Dec 2 Pork loins with cous cous Dec 3 Dry Chicken noodles Dec 4 Spaghetti Bologonese with pork mince Dec 5 Venison and beef special anniversary dinner at The Richmond Hill Hotel 🙂 Dec 6 Left-over bologonese mix but with salad + jacket potatoes Dec 7 Thai green curry Dec 8 James’ nice chicken/celery pie + pastry top Dec 9 Dominoes Pizza Dec 10 X Ate separately (James had pie & pizza left-overs, Bronwyn Steak & Ale Pukka Pie). Dec 11 Beef meatballs with harissa sauce Dec 12 Chinese from The Chef takeaway Dec 13 Beef brisket roast Dec 14 James’ Israeli chicken Sofrito Dec 15 X James ate at the Wetherspoons pub before lockdown and had a panini. Dec 16 X James ate Fish n’chips with his Mum. Dec 17 Pork shepherds pie Dec 18 Chicken, olive + tomato + potatoes bake Dec 19 Indian Cottage takeaway Dec 20 Katsu curry by James Dec 21 Pork chops with mashed potato and carrots Dec 22 Sausage casserole by James Dec 23 Beef burgers from mince by the Bronwyn Dec 24 Gammon and pease pudding Dec 25 Christmas turkey + vegetables + trimmings 😀 Dec 26 Turkey stew by James Dec 27 Turkey curry Dec 28 Turkey casserole Dec 29 Chilli con carne Dec 30 Fallafel and cous cous salad (James) Dec 31 Roast lamb leg
After seeing various Strava artwork such as last year’s 127km London Reindeer, decided to do my own! Most of these artworks seem to be done by cyclists(prob due to the distances involved to create the actual shapes), but I wanted to run it and somewhere local.
After scouring the local area on Google Maps for hour and not finding anything at all promising, finally came up with a random design! There’s some guy in Australia who has done a load of them, but I think that’s because his city(possibly Melbourne) is grid structured, so it’s a lot easier to draw with, whereas London streets are all over the shop! Anyways at first he was going to be a toucan, but ended up being a wizard 😀
Anyways, I call him “The Wizard” or the “Sutton Strava Sorcerer”! 😀 my wife says he looks like a Dementor from Harry Potter!