Sunday, January 01, 2017

Wishing the Royal Family Happy New Year






Setting an alarm on holiday feels a bit wrong but that’s what we did. We set off to Sandringham to see the Royals walk to and from church. Something I’ve done a couple of times on Christmas day but never on New Years Day. On Christmas Day, you have to get there before 8 and stand for 3 hours before they arrive. Not on New Years Day.

We parked in an empty car park and walked the familiar walk to the ‘wellwishers’ area which is cordoned off by a little rope. There was hardly anyone there, it was great. We got there at 10:30 so only had to wait 30 minutes until they walked to the church. We did a couple of laps of the field to keep Sailor and Penny warm as it was going to rain all day…and it did just that. We set up camp half way between the house and the church. Everyone had a front row pitch, there was no pushing or shoving, no tutting at the fact I’m so tall. It was perfect. The Princess Royal led the family with Sir Timothy Lawrence, then the Earl of Wessex and Lady Louise. I said Happy New Year to the Princess Royal and she looked at me and said it back. Woohoo. The Duke of Edinburgh and the Countess of Wessex arrived by car but as we were so close, we could see them clearly. New Years Day is the day to go to Sandringham.

The service on Christmas Day is a lot shorter than the New Years Day service which lasted an hour. On Christmas Day, half the well wishers leave after the Royals enter the church but it’s when they return that they often stop and speak. So we were able to walk straight up to the corner pitch, the best spot as you are close to the cars and the walkers. We sang the songs that played on the speakers and started to freeze our socks off as the rain and wind became more persistant.

The family walked back and I said Happy New Year to the Earl of Wessex and likewise he looked directly at me and wished me Happy New Year. So that means I’ve now spoken with Harry, Camilla, Edward and Anne. Few more to go. By this time we couldn’t feel our extremities and we were already soaked through but pleased Sailor and Penny got to see the Royal Family. I’m sure they loved it.

We walked the blue route of Sandringham Wood. It’s well paved and a lovely walk. By the time we couldn’t get any wetter or colder. You only know how wet when you go to the toilet and then can’t reapply clothes because you can’t feel your fingers and every piece of clothing sticks to you. A lunch stop and then back in the car to dry off and warm up with the heating on full blast.

On the way back to the cottage we took the scenic route along the North Norfolk coast and looking at the various seaside resorts to Cromer. I especially liked the villages with works missing like ‘Wells Next The Sea’.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reflections on 2016


I get very excited about New Year and have deduced its because I’m an obsessive ‘finisher’. I love reflecting at the end of a year and then look forward to a new blank sheet of paper for the year ahead. I strangely prefer ‘even’ years too. So what did 2016 bring?

·         Sailor and Penny’s first time on a ferry when we visited Isle of Wight, cottage holiday in Cornwall which was beach filled, cottage holiday to Nortuumberland where Sailor and Penny visited Scotland for all of 30 seconds when we crossed the border, turned around and went South again. And then a first, Norwich cottage holiday for New Year.

·         Multiple afternoon teas – Fortnum and Mason has to be the best, then Betty Bumbles vintage tea rooms where we had fish finger sandwiches and Royal Horseguards hotel for Alex’s birthday.

·         Visiting our favourite country in the world for Ali’s birthday, Iceland.

·         More stalking the royals by visiting Kensington Palace, watching the Order of the Garter in Windsor Castle, Patrons Lunch and receiving one of the infamous picnic baskets where we ate in the rain, polo in Windsor and then the state opening of Parliament.

·         Seeing mum’s face when she found out that we were taking her on the Orient Express for her 60th birthday.

·         Visiting Parliament twice, lunch in the Ivy, Duxford air museum and Scott Polar Research Centre.

·         Making every signature bake of the Great British Bake Off and entering my first and last cake competition. I can’t cope with the pressure.

·         I discovered my love of suffragettes and can’t stop reading about them.

·         Completed an Olympic Triathlon for my Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Challenge, and a starlight 10km raising money for a hospice.

·         Watching Cricket  at Lords and revisiting the Olympic Park for the first time since 2012 and watching the anniversary games.

·         Staging a street party for 100 Rainbows, Brownies and Guides to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. In return for sending cards, Her Majesty sent a letter to the Brownie Pack congratulating us on our 40th birthday.

·         Mad’s and Erica had a wedding upgrade and we loved attending.

·         Brownie Wizard of Oz holiday, Christmas Brownie Holiday, Remembrance day parade, Christmas Craft day and Christingle.

·         And the most astonishing…Ellie and I winning the Civil Service Award for diversity and Inclusion. Something I will never ever forget and continues to be in shock.

A phenomenal 2016. Let’s see what 2017 brings.

A castle, flood alleviation scheme and Ali loses her phone/ cards






We haven’t used our English Heritage membership for a couple of months so Ali planned today, with castles and a beach walk. We drive for an hour and a half to Framlingham Castle, owned by an unfortunately named Bigot family. Free to park for English Heritage members and free audio guide, thank you very much. We walked through the portcullis entrance into the walled castle without keep. It has a poor house built into one side of it. You can walk around the top of the castle walls. I thought this was a good idea until I got up there and started walking. Gosh it’s high, hence no pictures from the top. I eventually found Ali, Penny and Sailor inside the moat! It wasn’t full.

Onwards to find some lunch but instead we ventured to Aldeburgh and got distracted on a walk of the flood alleviation scheme…on holiday. It was lovely walking through the reeds…until Ali realised she had lost her phone. Ali retraced her steps while I continued with Sailor and Penny. We avoided the pebble beach on the walk back as greyhound feed and pebbles don’t mix. Alas, Ali has not found her phone (having done the walk twice). We then cancelled all cards and for the twelth time, phoned Ali’s number and someone picked up!

It’s Ali’s lucky day, a gentleman had found it and took it home, 30 minutes south of Aldeburgh. So we had a surprise visit Wickham Market to meet the lovely John. So we missed our second castle but Ali was so relieved to have her phone and cards back. Now I’m going to ask her to buy a lottery ticket…just in case.

Back at the cottage, we sipped pink Moet Champagne and watched TV waiting for 2017. Ali has a nap for an hour which is turning into a tradition, she did the same last year. She woke up in time to watch the countdown, then the fireworks in London and then Auld Lang Syne, then bed.  

Friday, December 30, 2016

Off to the country


A bit of a last minute booking, but this year we decided to spend the New Year doing something we love best…staying in a cottage in the countryside. We keep telling ourselves that it’s a way to take the greyhounds away from the fireworks but I think it’s probably more for us. We arrived at Barn Owl Cottage in Horsford when it was already dark so not too much to report but the cottage. Our first stay in a purpose built cottage, it has been built just for this purpose. We are in the accessible cottage. It’s a little small for two greyhounds and 2 adults, but has everything we need for exploring Norfolk tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kinky Boots





I’ve wanted to see Kinky Boots for ages, so you can imagine my reaction when I found out that Ali got us tickets for our anniversary. Off we went to London to the Apollo Theatre. It’s got a very 1930’s style to the theatre. We had fabulous tickets in the stalls. What a show! I honestly can’t imagine how they dance in heels that high, I can’t even walk in heels. The atmosphere was amazing and at the finish, everyone was on their feel for a standing ovation. What a show. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

English Christmas day






It’s tradition to have an English Christmas day but we all got up so late, that the stockings had to wait until later. Mum, Dad, Ali and I had to be at breakfast church at 10. Then home to start a stocking marathon that had to be done in instalments between breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs which was meant to be in the morning but we eventually had breakfast at 1pm. We had traditional Christmas dinner in the evening with whistle crackers, where we formed a Shackell-Smith choir and tried to play tunes. In the evening we played Heads Up and we were in stiches.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

French Christmas Eve


We celebrate French Christmas on Christmas Eve. Mum, Dad and Brigitte arrived mid afternoon and the festivities started with baked camembert, fish for main (or Indian for the Shackell side), then cheese course and Chocolate Log made by Brigitte. Absolutely stuffed, dinner lasted 6 hours..so a typical French Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fortnum and Mason’s savoury afternoon tea – oh my gosh





As a pre Christmas surprise for Ali, I booked us a table at Fortnum and Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon for afternoon tea. We visited at Christmas a couple of years ago and there is something quite magical about walking down Piccadilly and looking at the lights and window displays, then going into Fortnum and Mason’s. We opted for a savoury afternoon tea this time which was stunning and a must for all future visits. It’s not as sickly as the sweet version. We had repeats of all items, I especially liked the savoury scones, while Ali dug into the fish treats on the top plate. We have never had space for the cake cart, so they gave us a box to take some home. I really do love the Diamond Jubilee tea room, the service is impeccable and the food divine.