Royal Opera House
On 25th February a group from SPTC left Canterbury for London to visit the Royal Opera House, led by Kerry, assisted by Ian and driven by Janet, travelling via a short stop at Medway Services to pick up more members.
During the journey Ian told us that the week before he found out that the Cafe Rouge that we were booked into for lunch had permanently closed. After many ‘phone calls and emails he had succeeded in reserving tables at the Wellington Street branch of the same restaurant chain, although there was some doubt whether we would all receive the same meals that we had originally ordered.
Despite heavy, slow traffic in the Old Kent Road, we still had enough time for Janet to take us past Lambeth Palace, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square before reaching our destination outside the Waldorf in the Aldwych.
It was then a short walk to the restaurant where, with great cooperation from the waiting staff, I believe everyone received their first choice meals. Well done Ian.
There was enough time for a look round the Covent Garden market before meeting our guide, John, at the Opera House which was completed in 1858, the third building on the site, the previous two having burnt down. Both opera and ballet are staged in this building, which was closed for two years in the late 1990’s for extensive alterations and renovations, costing many millions of pounds.
The tour started in the Carriage Way Entrance lobby, which is opposite the old Bow Street Police Station and Magistrates Court. Ascending stairs that were designed to be wide enough to accommodate ladies’ wide crinoline skirts we arrived on a landing where there were two busts of past famous opera singers, Adelina Patti and Dame Nellie Melba.
We continued into the Paul Hamlyn Hall which was designed as a replica of the original Covent Garden flower market, incorporating some of the original pillars, and one end wall being mirrored to give the appearance of the room being much longer.
An escalator took us to the 5th floor where several costumes were displayed, including one that had been worn by Margot Fontayne.
On into the backstage area passing wicker baskets containing used ballet shoes which were giving off a distinctive aroma!! Then to the area where costumes are stored in covers on hanging rails, outside the workshop where they are made, altered and repaired. Some of the stored costumes dated back to 1965, and used many times as productions are repeated over the years. There are specialised cleaning facilities on site, and an atmosphere controlled storage facility in Wales.
Productions are planned 5 years in advance when performers are booked, and work begins on making new costumes or refurbishing old ones. Such productions also require in that time planning for scenery, music and everything else required to stage the performance. This includes the making of 1:125 scale models of the scenery sets.
We were able to watch dancers practising in one of the studios, and also handle some ballet shoes on which the dancers sew on their own identifying ribbons
It was now into the main auditorium being taken aback by the steepness of the seating, but also the magnificence of the gold red and cream décor. An army of staff were preparing the stage for that evening’s ballet, The Cellist, it having been used earlier for an opera performance. It required the sprung floor being fitted for the ballet.
The tour came to an end. John kept the information at the right level, not too much, with good humour, stories and anecdotes.
There was time for a coffee in the 6th floor café and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, before walking back to the Waldorf for the journey back to Kent
VINCENT’S JINGLEBELL CHRISTMAS,
BRICK LANE MUSIC HALL
13th DECEMBER 2019
It has been said by various people on various occasions that a visit to Brick Lane Music Hall should be available on prescription and I couldn’t agree more! I have lost count of the number of times I have visited this magical venue but every single time, I have come home feeling very much better than when I left and with my spirits most definitely lifted.
Founded in 1992 by Vincent Hayes, Brick Lane Music Hall was recognised by The Stage as “the East London venue that’s kept variety alive”. With a programme of constantly changing productions, there is plenty to captivate and amuse the audience and it would be hard to disagree with The Stage’s comment.
Our visit was to a lunchtime show and was preceded by a very excellent Christmas Lunch, all homemade at the venue. From the moment you enter this unique theatre, lovingly created from an old church, you are made welcome – all the staff seem to be genuinely bent on making your experience a very happy and comfortable one and they certainly succeed. With a cast of six singers and dancers plus guest artiste Victoria Yellop and the irrepressible Vincent himself, this show was full of music, comedy, great costumes and was just bursting with talent. Victoria, violinist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, gave us several solos and proved that as well as her mastery of the violin, she has a lovely singing voice and also a great talent for comedy.
Vincent’s Jinglebell Christmas was a marvellous mix of old and new, modern and traditional. It was a perfect addition to our Christmas festivities and on the way home, everyone agreed they would look forward to our next visit.
The trip began well with a full coach, many of whom had been to Thursford previously; but not many I think to The National Stud in Newmarket. This was a most informative break in the journey and with a most amusing guide to conduct us around. Needless to say the horses were magnificent. After a wonderful buffet lunch we moved on to the Park Farm hotel with it’s usual excellent food, accommodation and attentive staff. Once again it really cannot be beaten.
The next day after free time in the hotel and its grounds we were off to see the show itself. For the majority who have been before it was its usual spectacular self with a mixture of both old and new. For those who had not seen the show before I am sure that it was an event. The show really does deserves the title “Spectacular”.
Thursday brought a very interesting guided tour around the City of Norwich. There really is so much to see and experience here and our guide included an awful lot into an all too brief trip. Time then to head for home.
Both my wife and I and I gather many others, look upon a trip to Thursford as the start of Christmas. This really is the case and we look forward to more of the same next year.
Guilford and Watts
My friend Sarah and I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ for organising the trip to Guildford on 23 November, this year. Richard did a great job making sure everything ran smoothly; and credit must go to Janet, our driver, for dealing so calmly with some difficult conditions.
On our way to Guildford we picked up a Blue Badge Guide, who was an extremely knowledgeable lady. She had a lovely voice, was so interesting to listen to, and really friendly and approachable.
We had a short stop at Guildford Cathedral and time for refreshment, before being dropped off in Guildford town centre. A beautiful town (reminiscent of Canterbury in its heyday). The shops and architecture were fun to explore, and Sarah and I enjoyed a delicious lunch in the restaurant at the Tourist Information Centre.
Back on the coach we made our way to the Watts Gallery and Artists’ Village whilst enjoying interesting input from our Blue Badge Guide. The exhibitions at the Gallery were wonderful and, despite the rain, we were still able to enjoy some of the gardens and buildings. Our visit ended with a lovely cream tea and a look in the gift shop.
Sarah and I had a wonderful time from start to finish, and felt the whole day was amazing value for money. We sincerely hope you’re able to run this trip again, next year.
York & Beamish
5-Day Tour/Holiday – 9th to 13th Sept 2019
We are pleased to say that a total of 46 of us enjoyed this excellent holiday – there were 29 members of the SPTC who jointly shared the holiday with 17 members of the Dover Society.
Our coach arrived virtually on time. With help from our Driver Janet and our Tour Manager Iain, our cases were soon stowed and, joining others already on board, we set off at about 7.50am. After a further pick up at Canterbury, with everybody on board, our journey northwards to Yorkshire began. Our fairly long journey took some hours but, with a few welcome comfort/coffee breaks en route and a slightly longer stop for lunch at Peterborough, we finally arrived at our home from home for the next few days, The Parsonage Hotel and Spa (just south of York) at around 5.30pm. We were welcomed by the staff and provided with very much appreciated cups of tea/coffee then, after receiving our welcome packs, we all headed off for our rooms to unpack and unwind before dinner at 7pm. As a lovely surprise and courtesy of SPTC, Iain very kindly arranged for each of us to enjoy a free drink with our meal; much appreciated by us all.
The Parsonage Hotel and Spa is in the village of Escrick, just a few miles south of York. As the name suggests, it is a converted old parsonage but with considerable modern extended buildings at the rear. Its facilities include a Spa (of course), a large airy lounge, a bar, many function rooms, its own gastro-pub in the grounds called the Fat Abbot and extensive gardens/grounds to walk round; not to mention the village church next door. However, with our lovely trips out each day and dinner from 7 till after 9 each evening, regrettably we really didn’t have much time to explore or use any of these facilities.
Our meals at the hotel were generally good with our breakfasts being excellent and we all ate well.
On Tuesday morning, after a refreshing night’s sleep and a very satisfyingly filling breakfast, we set off for our day in the spa town of Harrogate. A few stayed on the coach for a short additional ride to spend their day at nearby RHS Garden at Harlow Carr, while the rest of us got off to meet up with a local guide for an approx 90 min guided walking tour of the town. Our guide, Harry, was a very knowledgable young man with a mind of fascinating facts about Harrogate and its history. He told us that his father was from that area but his mother grew up in the Folkestone and Hythe area, so he knew our neck of the woods very well and often visited. During the walk, whenever anyone discussed anything with Harry, he would inevitably respond with “fantastic, fantastic” – so I’ll remember him as being ‘fantastic Harry from Harrogate’. After the tour we all went off to explore Harrogate separately.
On Wednesday morning we had an early breakfast and set off at 8.30 for a 2 hour drive to “Beamish, the Living Museum of the North” in County Durham. This turned out to be an absolutely fascinating place covering approximately 350 acres with a collection of 304,000+ objects to see around the site which was originally opened c1970. There were 7 main areas for us to visit and explore: 1820’s Pockerley Waggonway; 1820’s Landscape; 1820’s Pockerley Old Hall; 1900’s Town with numerous shops, houses and a restaurant; Railway Station; 1900’s Pit Village and Colliery; 1940’s Farm. In addition there was the Regional Resources Centre; new Tram Shed and a 1950’s Town (both under construction); plus Trams, Trolley Buses and Petrol Buses all available to enjoy a ride in to get from one part of the site to another. The whole place was a brilliant and really well worth a visit – could easily spend a couple of days there.
After a great day at Beamish, on our way back to the hotel, we took a slight detour to visit to the famous Gateshead “Angel of the North” sculpture by Anthony Gormley. We were able to stay for a short while and get up close to take photos; wow!
Thursday saw us having a more leisurely breakfast and leaving the hotel a little later than before, as we took the relatively short journey into the City of York. This was basically a do-your-own-thing day, although a number of our fellow travellers took advantage of an available guided tour. We then set off in search of the Jorvic Viking Centre which turned out to be well worth visiting. Initially there was a ride in an open carriage hung from a computer controlled overhead monorail, which took us past various animatronic displays, with an ongoing headrests commentary the whole ride explaining what we were seeing. This was followed by a look round the static displays of the many items found during the original excavations of the site. A brilliantly designed and very interest-grabbing place to visit. After a coffee and some lunch, we spent the rest of the day doing some retail-therapy looking round the many shops in the city, including the famous Shambles.
On Friday, after our last breakfast at The Parsonage, we set off on our homeward journey. We had the using welcome comfort & coffee break stops en route, but our lunch stop was something a bit special. We visited Barnsdale Gardens, in Oakham, Rutland. This was where the BBC Gardeners’ World was filmed during the time when the late Geoff Hamilton was the programme’s presenter. He designed the many small gardens which are now maintained there for visitors to walk around, admire and enjoy. On arrival, we visited the cafe/restaurant for a very tasty cooked lunch and a cuppa. We then spent an enjoyable hour and a bit looking round the 38 lovely individually themed gardens. Many of us would have like a longer stay there, but home beckoned so we had to resume our journey.
Eventually after some hours, with a number of goodbyes our fellow travellers started to leave us, firstly at Medway Services, then at Canterbury.Finally we said our own goodbyes and sincere thanks to Janet & Iain, and made our way home to unwind and unpack. A very enjoyable holiday all round with lots of good memories.
Alan & Lynne Bostock
It is lovely to get on the coach and be greeted by many familiar faces of the SPTC club. A prompt 10.00 start from Maynard Road with Tony, our driver and Kerry as our host followed by a good free moving journey up to Eltham Palace signalled that we would have a very good day.
In the café on arrival we had a tasty roast chicken lunch followed by cheesecake or delicious toffee apple sponge pudding. We were then free to visit the beautiful gardens and the Palace at our leisure taking an audio-visual guided tour. A short walk through some of the garden to the 15th century bridge over the moat led us past luscious ferns, shrubs and fuchias and a superb display of nerine lilies. In the moat we saw huge carp swimming lazily under the arches of the bridge.
Our first sight of the Palace across the circular green lawn was very pleasing. The newer buildings blend in very well with the Great Hall built in 1479 by Edward 1V. How strange that we should choose to visit Eltham on the same day, October 9th, that Stephen Lewis Courtauld, the inspiration for the resurrection of the Palace in the 1930’s, died in Southern Rhodesia in 1967.
There is plenty to see of the art deco style in the rooms of the palace the most beautiful items for me were the insides of the doors of the dining room decorated with relief Greek key patterns and birds and animals from around the world all in black and gold.
The entrance hall was beautifully panelled with marquetry figures and scenes of foreign places. The Italian room showed paintings and frescoes on the walls of Italian scenes. The bedrooms proudly boasted bathrooms with endless hot water for the guests.
The piece de resistance was the hammer beam roof of the great hall the third largest in England – maybe not all original because it has been restored but very impressive to see.
A splendid impression of gracious living was given by the whole palace.
The gardens were typical of autumn with trees changing colour and dahlias in profusion on the terrace. The rock garden was spectacular, when seen from the upper windows, up the slopes on the far side from the moat to grassy areas above.
A wonderful choice for a very good and interesting visit enjoyed I am sure by all, many of whom were heard to say they would return.
At 08.30 on a wet Wednesday morning, 25 September 2019, a small group took off from Canterbury with Group Leader Kerry and Janet in the cockpit to visit Bentley Priory Museum at Stanmore.
In the 12th century the original Priory housed Augustinian Friars. The house was later rebuilt and subsequently used as a private residence, an hotel and school. It is better known today as the headquarters of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain . After a welcome cup of coffee our very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide Russell brought to life the vital role the activities here played during the Battle of Britain under the command of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding.
At the heart of this were the Filter and Operations rooms. With the aid of Britain’s recently developed radar system the Filter Room received information about approaching enemy aircraft from a chain of radar stations across the coast of Britain. This was then analysed and passed to the Operations Room who decided which fighter squadrons to dispatch to face the enemy. There is a lot more information and photos on the Museum website.
The entrance hall to this beautiful building has some lovely stained glass windows highlighting the period. The Rotunda in particular is a stunning area telling the story of “The Few” – the aircrew who flew and fought during the Battle of Britain with pictures of planes and pilots, medals and memorabilia and individual personal stories. Surprisingly only one Victoria Cross was awarded during this period.
There was a lot to absorb and after free time to explore and also visit the beautiful garden with a Spitfire and Hurricane parked near the drive, we partook of a delicious prearranged afternoon tea – four types of sandwich, scones with jam and cream and very naughty cakes!
We had a smooth journey home with few holdups so home in time for an early supper. Certainly as far as we were concerned, another interesting and enjoyable day out with Silver Phoenix Travel Club. Tally Ho!
Pat and Tony White
YORK & BEAMISH
With others from the Dover Society, I joined the SPTC’s trip to Yorkshire from 9 to 13 September. The hotel and the visits were very well-chosen in this attractive area. The Parsonage Hotel and Spa at Escrick is richly appointed amid well-tended grounds and offers in addition a smart leisure centre and a traditional pub, and I found the food first-rate.
We visited Harrogate, elegant and verdant, with its incomparable Betty’s Tea Rooms,. Beamish with its carefully re-created buildings and transport from a century ago, and York itself with its so many reflections of the past and its National Railway Museum.
A thoroughly good trip.
Encouraged by the sunny weather and the prospect of an interesting day ahead the coach, driven by Janet, hosted by Kerry Dunlop and with 22 SPTC members on board left Canterbury at 07.45hrs, briefly stopping at Medway Services.
The outward journey was better than anticipated and we arrived at Guildford Cathedral in ample time for a welcome coffee stop, later moving on to the pretty village of Laverstoke, Hampshire, and the enchanting Laverstoke Mill, incorporating as it does the working distillery of Bombay Sapphire, all set within a conservation area.
There was time for everyone to enjoy a light lunch in the Mill Café followed by an introduction to our guide, Maria, who gave an excellent & practical hands-on talk on the ten sustainably-sourced botanicals from their own magnificent on-site glasshouses……the very basis of the range of Bombay Sapphire gins so many of us drink today.
The tour then covered the vapour infusion production process in the Dakin Still House which, together with other, larger stills, and a 24hr/7day week production line produces 1000litres of finished gin per day, the majority of which is for the company’s strong export market.
An introduction to the long and illustrious history of Bombay Sapphire ensued followed by a complimentary gin-cocktail in the Mill Bar….all 22 of which had been individually mixed and influenced by our personal flavour profiles gathered during our time with botanicals……a novel idea indeed and a very welcome end to the day.
It was clear to us all that Bombay Sapphire is putting a huge effort into its public profile and it was reflected in a truly unique & happy day.
Photos by Kerry Dunlop and Jeremy Procter.
SUNDAY JAZZ RIVER CRUISE—23RD JUNE
With an oversubscribed outing Leo’s Pride Coaches kindly offered us the use of their new 53 seater coach….a very smooth vehicle indeed which on this occasion was driven by Janet.
Having changed departure times for logistical reasons it was pleasing that all 53 people were at both Maynard Road & Medway Services on time and we finally departed for London at 10.15.
While our journey to The Embankment Pier was slow in part we duly arrived at 11.30 which enabled us to board at midday.
Much to everyone’s pleasure our Silver Phoenix Group had been allocated a totally private area to the stern of the vessel, beautifully laid out in two tables of twelve & three of ten.
On being seated we were offered a complimentary glass of Prosecco, followed by an absolutely first-class three course meal, accompanied by a half bottle of wine per person….all served by very pleasant and accommodating staff.
The warm day was accompanied by a gentle breeze, as we set sail on our three hour cruise…a journey that enabled all of us to take in the breath-taking ancient & modern waterside scenery.
As we cruised the famous waterway taking in such famous landmarks as the O2 Arena, HMS Belfast and the Globe Theatre we were serenaded by a three-piece jazz group.
From various comments it was clear that the day was a very happy occasion which more than met people’s expectations.
Our trusty Janet was waiting for us opposite the ship as we disembarked, followed by an uneventful journey back to Kent…………..in-all, a lovely day out.
Call The Midwife
31Miles; the distance from Canterbury to Chatham. That is the length of rope used in rigging and equipping Lord Nelson’s ‘Victory’, built at Chatham Royal Dockyard. And, every rope created in Chatham has its own inner yellow lining, so it can be identified as Chatham made. Some of the fascinating facts we learned from Nan, our excellent guide in her Victorian dress, as we toured ‘The Ropery’. Three of our party were willingly ‘press-ganged’ to twist and make their own length of rope, using pulleys, wheels and belts.
After an excellent fish and chip lunch, we moved on undaunted by the rain with our very own ‘midwife’, to see and hear how the dockyard is transformed into 1950’s and 1960’s Poplar, in filming many of the sets for ‘Call the Midwife’, with a range of props, costumes, and paper snow. Our one hour tour ended in a re-created Nonnatus House, the nurses home. A lovely way to end our visit to the historical dockyard, brought to life by modern technology, enhancing the wonderful exhibits.
Because of a change of programme, completely out of SPTC’s control, our visit to Chatham Dockyard necessitated an earlier start than originally planned, However, it did include an extra item so our visit became divided into two halves with lunch in the middle. The additional item was a conducted tour of the Victorian Ropeworks, an 18th-century building which was at the time, the largest of its kind in Europe. This turned out to be a real added bonus. We learned about the 400-year history of rope making and the social history that went with it. Our guide, Brenda, dressed in the period costume of the 1830s not only showed us how rope making evolved but also the arduous tasks involved in its manufacture.
Brenda explained how women became part of the labour force, highly segregated and working under atrocious conditions. Members of our group were invited to try their hand in operating some early wooden machinery that twisted yarns into strands for making up a rope whilst everyone sung “what shall we do with a drunken sailor” to encourage their efforts!
After this, we were shown the quarter-mile long ropery which is still making ropes today
This very interesting tour took about an hour. We then had free time to explore the parts of the dockyard before our lunch at 1 pm. Unfortunately, it started raining at this stage which rather curtailed looking at many of the exhibits in the open however there was much to see undercover After a very good lunch we were divided into two groups for the Call the Midwife tour.
Our guides, dressed in the uniform of a midwife showed the locations where filming of the series had taken place. They also explained the process of how the popular series came into being from Jennifer Worth’s book to the scriptwriter Heidi Thomas, It was interesting to hear how the destroyer HMS Cavalier had been used in the various scenes that involved actions at the dock and aboard cargo ships. Because it was raining fairly steadily we didn’t linger too long at these various locations. Our guides had an impressive knowledge of the minutiae of various scenes that were filmed. Fortunately, the final part of the tour was inside in a gallery which contained a mock-up the Nonnatus House dining room, habits used by the Nuns, Debra’s wedding dress, a midwife’s bicycle etc, in fact, all the everyday items that one would associate with life in the 60’s. Not only was a huge amount of background information to the popular series very interesting, but seeing all the items from the ’60s evoked many memories for ourselves.
Despite the rain, it proved a very enjoyable day out.
BURN THE FLOOR – SATURDAY 1 JUNE
With Iain at the wheel on a lovely sunny Saturday morning we left Canterbury for Medway Services to pick up four members and then
continued our journey to the Orchard Theatre in Dartford. On arrival we enjoyed a superb lunch (of our choice) before going into the theatre. Kevin Clifton (also known as Kevin from Grimsby), this year’s winner of Strictly Come Dancing, proudly showed us the Glitter Ball before relating how he came to join Burn the Floor following a period of disinterest in ballroom dancing which he had been doing since the age of four years. Burn the Floor is Ballroom Dancing taken to another level. International style, incorporating all forms of ballroom – hip hop, latin, modern, classic – every form of the art, with a bit of gymnastics included, generally fast and furious, all of which can be performed in a closed Ballroom hold. It was amazing and quite breathtaking to watch. The energy expelled by every member of the company was outstanding. When the interval came after the first hour, it seemed all those in the audience were quite glad of the short breather, let alone what the performers must have felt. The whole of the second half included more of the same spellbinding action. The whole show, from start to finish was go-go-go. The music was familiar throughout and the great costumes were appropriate to the scenes.
As we returned to the coach the general topic of conversation was “and they’ve got to do it all again tonight – how do they do it?” Burn the Floor they certainly did = WE were quite exhausted but we had enjoyed it all so much. By the way, at one time during the show Kevin confirmed that despite all the rumours doing the rounds, he will definitely be in the next series of Strictly – this was met with a great number of loud cheers from the audience!
John and Betty Warman-Tee
Step Back in Time
At 8am on Saturday 23rd March 38 early risers left Canterbury heading for our venue for the day – Milestones Museum in Basingstoke, with Iain at the wheel and Richard as our host. After a coffee stop at Clackett Lane and with the motorway gods smiling down on us we arrived at the museum just after it opened at 11am. We were greeted by a member of staff who issued us with bright green bracelets and Richard also gave us our lunch vouchers for a meal in the museum cafe. We were then let loose to explore everything the museum had to offer.
The museum was built on the site of the old Thornycroft factory and contained a mixture of industrial, retail, transport and leisure memorabilia dating from Victorian times through to the mid twentieth century by skilful use of some original and some replica structures. There were also a number of period vehicles including commercial buses, trams, lorries and vans set around various street scenes containing shops, post office, school and even a pub that opened at midday to serve a pint to anybody that wanted one. There was also a sweet shop selling lots of old types of sweets like pear drops and sherbet lemons.
It was a real trip down memory lane for most of us and whilst walking around phrases such as “We had one of those” or “I remember my Mum using one of those” could regularly be heard. Being a Saturday there were also lots of children with parents and grand-parents wandering about. They especially liked the playground and the penny arcade which was full of old slot machines of various sorts. All were still in working order and could be used by changing todays money for a few old pennies.
At about 4pm it was time to make our way home and after a thankfully uneventful journey we arrived back in Canterbury while it was still fairly light. A good day had been had by one and all. Many thanks to all at SPTC who had a hand in the arrangements.
Madeleine & Chris Whitcombe
Those of us who travelled the short journey to Blue Town for this Andre Rieu New Year concert streamed from Sydney, Australia, had the most wonderful time – it was a perfect welcome to the New Year. The venue is delightful and is constantly being updated through the hard work of Jenny Hurkett and her enthusiastic band of helpers. As well as the theatre which doubles as a cinema, there is a fascinating museum upstairs, full of all kinds of memorabilia and throughout the building there are artefacts from the area. My very favourite is a mangle which one schoolboy on an educational visit apparently thought was a very large spaghetti maker!
We had arrived early and there was plenty of time for a warming cuppa and a freshly made scone or cake as well as looking at the museum. On entering the cinema to take our seats, we were treated to a glass of wine or a soft drink before we settled down to watch the film.
Andre Rieu has developed a very special and almost unique rapport with his audience. I go to all these streamed concerts and what intrigues and delights me as well as the performance is the variety of age groups in any of these audiences – I love to see the young children with Mum and Dad or Granny and Granddad enjoying themselves just as much as the older generation.
Andre told us that this year is the fortieth anniversary of the formation of his orchestra and I gathered a lot of the original musicians are still with him. With sixty players, this is the largest private orchestra in the world and I think there is no doubt he inspires loyalty in his colleagues and, from what we saw, they all get as much pleasure from playing together as the audiences do from listening. Apart from superb musicianship, there is also very much a sense of fun and I think it is this that makes the orchestra so popular and successful.
Joining the orchestra were seven wonderful singers, three tenors and four sopranos – like the musicians, these artistes are multi-national and all have truly glorious voices. The concert was the usual mixture of waltzes, marches, film scores, Christmas music, etc and a feature of all Rieu concerts is the seemingly endless finales – he must say good-bye half a dozen times before his screaming audience finally and reluctantly lets him go.
We all came home feeling uplifted and entertained – it had been a joyous evening. Our thanks go to Iain who had made all the arrangements and, as usual, drove us safely there and back. If you didn’t join us, you really did miss a treat!
On Wednesday, 19th December 2018, eighty or so people wound their way up the drive of the Judd’s Folly Hotel at Syndale Park for the inaugural Christmas Lunch of the Silver Phoenix Travel Club. In very pleasant surroundings, old friendships were renewed and new ones created over a welcoming drink of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Before long, we were shown into the dining area which was laid out in round tables of eight, all tastefully bedecked with Christmas decorations and bottles of wine and water.
The meal which followed was well-presented and beautifully cooked and everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it judging by the sound of chatter and laughter. Throughout the meal, we were entertained by a delightful singer and her keyboard accompanist (Songbird) who helped to enhance the happy, Christmassy atmosphere. The friendly and efficient service provided by the hotel staff enriched the pleasure of the whole occasion.
Thanks go to all those who organised this enjoyable event; we sincerely hope that this is the start of a long tradition of Silver Phoenix Travel Club lunches to mark the start of the Christmas festivities.
JACKIE & MARTIN CROWTHER
Didn’t we have a luverly time
the day we went to Thursford!!
Having all boarded the charabanc (sorry……coach!) we set off on the morning of Thursday 6th December from Canterbury on our trip to the Thursford Christmas Spectacular. After stopping for lunch in Cambridge we made our way to the Park Farm Hotel at Heathersett near Norwich where the service and surroundings are excellent. Our dinner was superb also.
Friday morning was spent relaxing at the hotel and its leisure complex for some of us whilst others visited Norwich for sightseeing and shopping. After lunch (equally superb) we set off for Thursford, eventually entering the gates with all of the surrounding trees lit up and leading towards Fantasyland which included many old steam engines from the Thursford Collection as well as a cornucopia of Christmas fun. Having revived ourselves with a glass of very warming mulled wine we took our seats for the Christmas Spectacular…..and well, what can I say? The Singers were superb, the Dancers were dynamic, the Musicians were magnificent, the Costumes were captivating, the humour was hilarious and ……Nessun Dorma was stupendous!!!
We all came back to Norwich on Cloud Nine and safely home to Kent on Saturday via historic Ely for a visit and lunch stop. I would thoroughly recommend both the Trip with the show and the Hotel for all Silver Phoenicians – a truly great start to Christmas…..
SHROUDS OF THE SOMME VISIT 12 NOVEMBER 2018
This promised to be an interesting trip and it was. We set off from Canterbury in the rain but Iain, our coach driver, and Kerry, our host, used their magic and we reached the Olympic Park in glorious sunshine. On board with us was Keith, who is a Registered Battlefield guide and retired Clergyman. He gave us a lot of information en route (incidentally much easier for some of us than standing at the venue).
The sight of 72,396 shrouded figures was mindblowing. They were all made by one man and each one represented a man from the British Empire nations who was killed during the Battle of the Somme but has no known grave. A lady was reading out the names of all those killed which made it very poignant. There was also a section of crosses representing each day of the war and showing the number of men from the British Empire nations killed on that date. A staggering 19,240 were killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
We then drove through Central London to the Imperial War Museum and Iain took us via the Tower of London and down Whitehall past the Cenotaph with all the wreaths laid the previous day by the Royal Family and other dignitaries.
Iain dropped us right outside the Imperial War Museum (which isn’t the easiest of places to get to under your own steam). We were greeted by a cascade of poppies from the top of the building down to the ground and across the grass.
There was an extensive exhibition on WW1 which covered all aspects and nations involved during the conflict. It cleverly showed things to interest all age groups with interactive displays, letters, armoury, uniforms, maps and much more. I saw a toddler in a pushchair who was looking for the buttons to press on the display she was in front of. There was also a lot of seating available for visitors to rest and reflect. One item particularly caught my attention. It was a letter from a 9 year old boy to Lord Kitchener offering his services and his bike to send messages. This offer was declined as he was only half the age of enlistment.
All in all a very enjoyable and interesting day.
Written by Janet Blake and vetted by Len Blake 13 November 2018
Harry Potter Studio Tour
The coach left Maynard Road Canterbury at 8:15am on Friday 31st of August 2018. With everyone excited for the day ahead of us the trip was very enjoyable thanks to our driver Iain Robertson and the wonderful host Kerry Dunlop. One of the stops en route was at Medway services where we picked up an additional 6 other people. Thankfully the traffic was on our side and we managed to arrive at Harry Potter World at around 10:45am.
The extraordinary world was breath taking and a wonderful experience for everyone on the trip. There were many interesting things to look at as well as explanations by the very helpful staff there. After an excellent first half we went and had lunch which you could buy yourself or, alternatively, bring your own. We then made our way round the second half where I found the miniature hog warts school particularly fascinating.
Our return journey was another enjoyable one thanks to our very nice group and reasonable traffic. Again we stopped off at Medway services to drop off 6 people. We then made our way back to Canterbury safe and sound thanks to our very funny driver Iain Robertson and the very well kept coach that we had the privilege to go on. This modern coach included a toilet, comfortable seats and you can even take your own mobility scooters and wheel chairs on.
By Poppy Ryder age 11.
Me and My Girl – Chichester Festival Theatre
The coach left Maynard Road Canterbury at 8.00am on Thursday 2 August. It was a beautiful morning with everyone in good spirits looking forward to a good day. After stopping at Medway services to pick up additional members we continued to Clacket Lane services for coffee. We then had a delightful journey through the Sussex countryside arriving at Chichester at midday. On arrival in Chichester we went our own way for lunch at one of the numerous eating places available.
The show commenced at 2.30pm and was extremely good with Caroline Quentin playing the part of Maria, Duchess of Dene and Matt Lucas as Bill Snibson excelling in the their roles along with an exceptionally talented cast. As usual at Chichester, the stage management of the show was excellent. Everyone left the theatre having enjoyed a lovely afternoon.
Despite having a major hold-up due to coming across an accident on our way home everyone on the coach was still in good spirits.
Our thanks go to Kerry Dunlop who hosted the day and of course to Iain Robertson for yet another safe journey in his usual patient way when confronted with traffic difficulties.
Margaret and John Knapp
5th August 2018
Visit to Brooklands, 4th June 2018
As is now customary for the SPTC, we left Maynard Road 10 minutes early on a devious route to the M25 devised by our ever canny driver – you know who! Arriving before 11am we were directed to the education centre, yes, we noticed a number of other groups of rather younger students, where we were given an excellent briefing, by a charming young lady, on the history of the world’s first designed motor racing circuit (1907) with its famous banked curve, financed by Hugh Locke King on his estate. She told us about the further development of the site for aviation (1908) for the early pioneers. For example, A V Roe made his first flight, followed by Tommy Sopwith and Harry Hawker from the airfield. In this period, the track also hosted motor cycle racing with 100 mile races with massed starts! No safety rules in those days then.
Activities at the site included development of military aircraft for the 1st world war and afterwards progress in the design and construction of planes for both military and civilian purposes. At the same time, development in cars continued with racing and land speed records on the circuit by many of the famous drivers, for example, Malcolm Campbell and K L Guinness. She gave us so much more information that it is difficult to summarise here but told that we should refer to the site map we had been given and told to explore. Punch drunk we repaired to the Sunbeam cafe for essential sustenance and devise a ‘plan’!
For personal family background reasons we decided to focus on the aircraft factory where we ‘clocked in’ (literally) at 11.30am and saw either replica or real planes including Bleriot’s famous channel hopping aircraft, Sopwith Camel, Hawker Hurricane, Hawker Harrier and with the Vickers Wellington bomber, salvaged from the bottom of Loch Ness (1985), taking pride of place. Around 1000 of these were made on site for the 2nd World War and, lightly loaded, flown from the site to a nearby airfield at Wisley for final fittings. We enjoyed visiting the ‘trade shops’ of the various stages of production, chatting to each of the expert volunteers before ‘clocking out’ at 12.16pm though, in that time, one of us actually made a plane – sort of, but would it fly?! We went to the restoration workshop to watch it being really done by the volunteers there. We then ‘relaxed’ by taking a Red Arrows flight in the 4D cinema – before our lunch!
After lunch, we visited the London Bus Museum and, although one of us is a Mancunium, our buses were very similar to the London variety, including the trolley bus I used to travel on and later those where you get on at the rear and where only the conductor pressed the bell. A trip down memory lane.
We continued our day by touring the display of the planes including the VC10 previously owned by the Sultan of Oman and appointed accordingly although the gold fittings had been replaced by chrome! Our day was completed by a personal tour of the Concorde by one of the many very informative, friendly volunteer guides. Did you know that, in flight, the speed of air intake at Mach 2 was too fast for the Olympus engines and had to be slowed down by baffles and that the heat, even at 60,000 feet, generated an 8 inch expansion in length of the plane?! Of course you did.
Now, what about all those cars to see! Would our bus driver be understanding if we were a little late, say 2 hours? Well, we know him and decided that they were for another occasion. Now, could he do Mach 2 on the M25?
Congratulations to Kerry and Iain for a splendid day out.
Another excellent outing with The Silver Phoenix Travel Club to see a matinee Performance of Tango Moderno (a new show by ex Strictly Come Dancing stars Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone) at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford.
Before the show we enjoyed a good two course meal in the theatre restaurant amidst congenial company.
Our stalls seats afforded a good view of the stage due to the steep banking. Although Flavia and Vincent did not perform as much as in past shows, their dancing was flawless and they were “on fire” for the classical Tango finale. They were supported by a some very talented young dancers and musicians.
The show, which was directed and choreographed by Karen Bruce with the help of Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, had drawn on modern pop songs including Shape of You by Ed Sheeran, Human by Rag ‘n Bone Man and The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars as a canvas for some fairly innovative dance movements.
Silver Phoenix Travel Club
The Silver Phoenix Travel Club’s programme kicked off in fine style on 14th January with an outing to see the Pasadena Roof Orchestra at the Mill at Sonning.
All of our customers were so keen that we were all on board and under way well before the departure time. Such enthusiasm and co-operation definitely makes life easier for the host, so my thanks go out to all.
Even the M25 traffic seemed on our side, so we were able to enjoy a welcome break at Clackett Lane Services and yet stll arrive at Sonning (near Reading) with plenty of time for drinks and a chat before going up for an excellent two-course meal and a complimentary glass of wine courtesy of SPTC – well, it was our inaugural trip!
The PRO is a well established band of accomplished musicians who concentrate on dance band music from the ‘20s and ‘30s. Some of you might remember their first hit, circa 1967, called “Home in Pasadena”- hence the name. They proved highly versatile and veered effortlessly down the jazz route with Louis Armstrong’s “Mahogany Hall Stomp” and Bunny Berigan’s “I can’t get started”. Several more numbers by Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers were punctuated by some novel humour to provide a little light relief from the serious stuff. Stand-out stars of the ensemble included the drummer, John Sutton, who was enjoying himself so much that he could hardly keep a smile off his face, Simon, the pianist, who was a natural wit, and of course the bandleader and singer, Duncan Galloway, who proficiently played the part of a matinee idol and potential lounge lizard….
Once again there was very little traffic on the return journey so all the stars were aligned to make this an excellent start for the club. Our thanks go to Iain and Richard who were responsible for the majority of the organisation.