Monday, 11 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee and Transit of Venus

In the UK there was a long holiday to mark the Diamond Jubilee.  The Queen acceded in 1952 on the death of her father King George VI, as heiress presumptive. Note that Charles is the heir apparent though the law is being changed to give women equal rights. 

Had I been more mobile and sighted I would have gone to the pageant or flotilla on the River Thames.  I have gone on the river several times on my own and a trip on one of the commuter boats is a good experience.  London’s skyline has changed over the years and if you are visiting London you can recreate your own river pageant. The outlook for the weather was dire as indeed was the radio programming covering the events from the BBC.  Having no TV, I more or less paddled my own canoe (so to speak!) but nevertheless got involved in the community activities. 

Saturday 2nd June

There was a street party in the afternoon and with the road closed it was pleasant to chat to neighbours one knew and those who one did not know.  I was chatting to a woman using a crutch who just happened to be on the waiting list for a hip replacement at the same hospital and we compared notes.   There was an impromptu band playing old Beatles numbers from the 1960s. (Abbey Road is not far away) A lot of food had been prepared and cooked on a barbecue and we were lucky with the weather.

Diamond Jubilee Street party
London, 2nd June, 2012

Sunday 3rd June

I had been invited to the vicarage garden for afternoon tea.  It was to start at 3.30 and the weather forecast was grim.  We got to the vicarage garden at 3:30 and saying hello to the vicar, took a seat in a marquee. The heavens opened up at 3:37 and we had a noisy downpour.  As it was cold, part of the tent was heated and we all moved tables and chairs to be closer to the heaters and away from the rain.  I also happened to meet again the lady with the crutch.  It all added to the fun and knowing quite a few people enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones with cream and jam and a variety of cakes.  We were also given a Diamond Jubilee mug. 

News from the River Thames was bad and I felt sorry for many people in such a wet day.  The British are said to be sanguine about the weather but for many the pageant was not a great experience.  Meanwhile back at the vicarage garden we had treats and a helicopter flew overhead, although they had cancelled the official flypast.The vicar had tied up some plastic corgis (the Queen’s breed of dog) and there were Union Flags (Jacks) everywhere. 

Vicar's Diamond Jubilee Garden Party 

Monday 4th June
After bad weather it is my opportunity to walk in a garden and potter about.  I went with a friend to Burgh House in Hampstead, London NW3 (  and enjoyed a cheese scone with butter and a cafetiere of “organic & fair trade” coffee, alfresco in the garden. 

Burgh House
Hampstead, London

There was an arts & crafts fair in Burgh House and I chatted with a few of the stallholders.  One designed artwork for porcelain which was fired in Staffordshire while another designed patterns for embroidery.  I mentioned the Afghan men who had embroidered the maps of the world for Boetti and got some inspiration for putting my skyline of the London Southbank as “viewed” from a riverboat on a fine china dinner service. 

Burgh House often has functions and has many exhibitions of art and history.  It is not easy to find and it may take a few trips to remember the route.  From Hampstead High Street proceed along Flask Walk and start asking…

Leaving my friend outside an art shop, I managed to find Fenton House in Hampstead.  (  This is an interesting house with a large collection of harpsichords, clavichords and the odd spinet.  Last year a visitor from Australia had been practising Bach (Well Tempered Klavier) and it was a treat to hear this in the house.  Fenton House is staffed by volunteers and is a National Trust property.  On my previous visit, I chatted to a volunteer who had made her first trip to Meissen in Germany.  The house has a collection of porcelain from Meissen and elsewhere as well as a collection of pictures.

This was my second visit to Fenton House and in addition to talking about the musical instruments there was a garden party in the grounds.  The house has several gardens and is in a prime location.  From the top floor there is a view to the River Thames, though I can only make out some trees.  The house also overlooks the garden of Ridley Scott.

Fenton House has neatly clipped holly bushes and hedges and the shapes can be picked up on my peripheral vision.  There is an orchard and kitchen garden and there is a water feature which I did not find though a friend took a photo of it when we visited the house last year. 

Water feature
Fenton House
Hampstead, London 

Champagne was on offer in one of the gardens and though the hedges offer some privacy the eavesdropping from some tipsy folk was amusing.  I had an Earl Grey tea and enjoyed the sounds and smells of the garden a day after the rain. 

I worked my way to Hampstead High St and got the 268 bus to the O2 centre in Finchley Road, where I had another (clotted) cream tea with scone, butter and jam and was recognised by a couple who had attended the vicarage garden party.  Thankfully, the day had been dry – at least when I was outside. 

In the evening I joined my Twitter community in making comments about the concert from Buckingham Palace.  Some of the acts were quite dreadful and are best forgotten (Cliff, Elton, Paul… according to Twitter) I did hear Tom Jones, Grace Jones and Renee Fleming and enjoyed all three.  Tom Jones put many of the others to shame. 

Tuesday 5th June

This was the last day of the official holiday so I went for a walk recreating the exact walk I had done on 2nd January, when my left hip gave way. Five months had elapsed and that ghost has been laid to rest.

The Queen was on her own as the Duke of Edinburgh had a “bladder infection” The commentary of her journey to St Paul’s Cathedral had been dire on the BBC World Service and was on par with the dreadful BBC Radio5live. At least Radio4 gave a decent coverage of the occasion and Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury) was in reasonable form. 

After the flypast of Spitfires and other WW2 planes over Buckingham Palace, two of the aircraft banked and flew overhead.  I could hear the noise of a propeller craft and was able to do more plane spotting. A camera was fitted to one of the planes and a Youtube clip of the view appeared in my twitter feed:

Wednesday 6th June

I was up early to look outside during the Transit of Venus.  I had seen Venus in the night sky a few weeks ago and I could have followed the event live on the Internet. (

While the rest of the country was back at work, the Monarch was still on duty meeting heads of the Commonwealth.  My own jubilee started with phone calls and emails.  Later I was driven in a State Carriage of London Overground to Richmond. 

To Richmond ... in a state owned carriage (London Overground)!
6th June, 2012

The weather was variable and although planning to go to Ham House we decided to go to the theatre instead. (


In the words of obladi oblada, life goes on…