Something will go here one day soon...Gaiety, merriment and dancing, etc.



December 8th 2013 - We decided to visit the French Christmas Market in Church Street, Twickenham, which was very pleasantly festive, but we were really pleased to see that there was an artists’ open day on Eel Pie Island.  This occasional event showcases the work of the many and varied residents of this former music venue. We had been meaning to attend one open day for years, but always seemed to just miss it.  We had walked over to the island a couple of times before, but on this occasion, much more of it was open  Pictures below.

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November 16th 2013 - I had been promising Alice a visit to this little-known-to-tourists part of London for two or three years, and we finally managed it, walking from Sloane Square by a very circuitous route to Victoria station. Many of the roads are ones that I used to use when working in the area over the previous 2-3 years, below

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October 2013 - Above and below, we had two weeks on the Adriatic coast of Croatia.

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September 22nd 2013 - A busy two-venue day, visiting the American University (above) in Richmond, followed by a tour of nearby Bushy Park House later on (below).

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September 21st 2013 - A bit away from our home area, we decided to visit a couple of Open House buildings in Carshalton, travelling there on the Heathrow-Croydon express X26 bus.

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July 22nd 2013 - A formal bulletin confirming that the Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a baby boy has been displayed on an easel at Buckingham Palace.  The message, signed by key medical staff, was taken by a royal aide from St Mary's Hospital in Paddington where the baby was born The presentation of a note, confirming the gender of the child, has been a long-standing tradition for royal births. 

July 14th 2013 - Following a ten-minute train journey to Shepperton, we walked through some shady residential streets to the New Walton Bridge, the first new (well, replacement) Thames Bridge for 25 years. We then walked about 5 miles along the river in the downhill direction to Hampton Court.

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July 13th 2013 -  It is slightly pretentiously called Hill Fest” nearby Hampton Hill’s summer event, but we had great fun, starting with a climb up the spire of St. James’s Church, followed by a guided tour of our local thespian sophistication, Hampton Hill Playhouse, home of Teddington Theatre Club.


July 7th 2013 - The car in front of us hit a traffic island and eventually burst into flames. This happened at about two o'clock on Sunday afternoon. We were traveling on the X26 express bus from Teddington to Hatton Cross.  I was left with two thoughts after this incident, which delayed our journey by 45 minutes.

Firstly, why didn't the bus driver keep his full consignment of passengers better informed about the bus company's plans for us, and secondly, why were so many people who were obviously in possession of the very latest technology so oblivious as to where we were?

The driver had to ask the passengers for the name of the road. (Staines Road, Twickenham, at the junction with Court Close Avenue).  We sat in sweltering heat with the bus stationary and the air conditioning turned off. The X26 bus is mainly used by passengers traveling to Heathrow to travel abroad, so many were getting rather anxious about missing flights. Surely, in view of these special circumstances the bus company could have arranged for taxis to get us to our destination?

I was greatly bemused by my fellow passengers who had phones, which some used to call friends, relatives and employers, but they seemed to have little idea of where we were. Overheard conversations referred variously to Teddington, near Feltham, or even Hatton Cross and all points in between. One girl was unable to order a taxi as she was unable to give the postcode of our location, which was demanded by the taxi company.  Eventually after the emergency services had left, the bus turned round, to avoid the car wreck and used a slightly different route to complete our journey.

I did wonder if people have started to rely on phones and satnavs so much that they can't exist without them, not even noticing  their surroundings. We were traveling to Hatton Cross purely so that we could walk along the river crane back to Teddington, so I just calmly sat reading while life as we know it ground to a halt all around us. Alice was several seats further back.  It only took us two and a half hours to walk back along a shady riverbank, compared to one and a quarter hours for a short bus ride.  The 'X' of X26 must mean exasperating!

June 30th 2013 - Flickr, the photo-hosting web site we use for most of the pictures here, have redesigned their interface and it looks a lot better. 

Here is an easy way to see our recent events, all in chrono-wotsit order.

May 2013 - We have been busy, with visits to Kew Gardens, Canizarro Park in Wimbledon, Hampton Court for another bird count, Bedfont Lakes Country Park near Heathrow, a puzzle party in Devon, and last week we joined the anti-badger-cull rally in London, our first ever political activism!  We love badgers and very strongly oppose the cull.  Why can’t the farmers be subsidised for the cost of electric fences?  It must be cheaper than sending up a police helicopter all day over central London to observe us down here.  Lots of pictures of protesters and their witty placards below.

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Oh, and we went to see a Big Band at the local theatre.  And best of all we spent an afternoon in Battersea Park, then walked along the Thames to Waterloo, to the Royal Festival Hall, where we watched Cuban-Country-Dance-Party music from The Mavericks.

28th April 2013 - We undertook a Great Quest.  We decided to try and find the grave of Alice’s paternal grandmother, who was buried in Battersea New Cemetery in 1956.  We had the exact plot location, but were unable to find a specific headstone.


26th April 2013 - A very sad day for me, one of my great heroes has died.  The BBC notes,

    "US country singer George Jones, who had a string of number one songs between the 1950s and 1990s, has died aged 81. Jones publicist, Kirt Webster, said the Grammy-winning singer was admitted to hospital for fever and irregular blood pressure and died on Friday.  Nicknamed Possum, his signature song was He Stopped Loving Her Today, a track about love and death.  He was married to Tammy Wynette between 1969 and 1975 and the pair recorded several songs together in the 1970s.”

Famously, one of George’s wives once confiscated his car keys to stop him driving while drunk, so George went into Nashville on a lawnmower.  There will not be another one like George.

26th April 2013 - I have visited a couple of local  cemeteries this week. They are always a good place for a quiet walk, and at the moment, as spring seems to be finally here, the cheery trees and daffodils look wonderful.

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Below are pictures from Twickenham cemetery, and above are pictures from Oak Lane cemetery in the centre of Twickenham, although I did not realize that this latter one even existed.  It is a charming, slightly down-at-heel place supported by a local Friends Group. I found it enchanting. One particularly poignant slab bore the inscription, "of Charlotte a beloved child who died 1848, aged two years, also of 5 other dearly beloved children who died in their infancy.”

I did a quick bit of research on the former before going, and all I could find was the same information, endlessly and boringly copied, referring to the grave of Francis Francis, writer, with its fisherman’s basket, and a monument to many music hall acts of the 1930s who had retired to Brinsworth House. Almost none of the articles mentioned (apart from the Borough site) that immediately behind Francis Francis’s slab is a monument to his son, who died age 25 while swimming in the Boca Grande, Mexico. Nor does anyone mention that there are actually two monuments to the cabaret stars, several hundred yards apart. Again nobody mentions the grave of the wonderfully named Sophia Elvis Whiteley, who died in 1894, nor the fact that the late wife of a prominent local politician is also buried here.

22nd April 2013 - I just came across this article about local terrorism a hundred years ago via the local paper. Sadly such acts are nothing new. It seems ironic now, in view of the low turnout at some elections.

21st April 2013 - (See also 16th April just below). I had wanted to explore the area roughly SW of Hampton Court Palace for some time, ever since discovering that George Arthur Gale who built our house in the early 1900s had built an estate on "Roughwood and land in rear, Ember Lane, Esher, Surrey” in about 1933. Not really knowing what to expect, we enjoyed an interesting afternoon, walking over five miles, looking at suburban between-the-wars domestic architecture.  The circuit walk can be started at any one of Hampton Court, Thames Ditton or Esher stations.  Allow two-three hours, unless you stop for refreshments along the way. Or unless you run all the way round.

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16th April 2013 - As part of my research into the history of Frederick Freake, the 1900 and 1908 Olympian who played polo for England, I walked four miles, exploring the area formerly occupied by his childhood home in Twickenham, Fulwell Park. The house was just north of the Staines Road.  A little further to the north is the River Crane Park, pictures below. I was very pleased to see how nice and SAFE the area has become, no litter, dog mess or yobs.

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14th April 2013 - Below, pictures from our visit to Kempton Nature Reserve.

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12th April 2013 - As co-compiler of 'Record Hits', an early book of pop chart statistics, I felt that I should comment on the apparent furore being caused by the significant number of downloads of the Judy Garland song 'Ding Dong The Witch is Dead'. This is in the light of it being used anthemically to note the death of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The BBC has chosen in the past to decide that certain records are not suitable for radio airplay, and while I have never supported such decisions, it would not be unprecedented for a ban at this time.  The BBC has become progressively lenient in what it thinks is suitable for us to hear.  There are even collections of such banned records now available.

I do, however, think that there may be another way around the dilemma. I think that at a few seconds short of one minute, the record falls foul of a ruling that chart records should be of a minimum length, and this one may be too short. (UPDATE: 14th April - now officially the first sub-one minute chart entry.)

25 years ago, at the height of a similar outrage over the Sex Pistols' recording of 'God Save The Queen', I remember the historian Macaulay being quoted in NME, "We know of no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality."

'I love Margaret Thatcher' by the Nonsensibles, a 1980s Burnley punk band has been reissued and is climbing the chart too. There is no sight of Joe Brown’s 1960s hit, "What A Crazy World We’re Livin’ In”.

9th April 2013 - I am not overtly political, nor overly in fact.  I vote, not always for the same bunch, but do little else politically.   I can’t remember ever commenting politically here before. Today, one of the 3000+ comments on the BBC website about Margaret Thatcher is from me. I was shocked by the hurtful and wicked comments that some people left.  I said,

    "All these nasty spiteful negative comments speaking ill of someone who can't answer back are truly shameful. Mrs. Thatcher did her best to raise the standards for this country, and these anonymous people have let her and the nation down badly, as well as themselves.”

There are currently 150 pages, each with about 20 comments.  People can then vote them positively or negatively.  I sorted them to read the ones which got most negative scores.  I was shocked to see that a balance of 15 people had voted negatively for mine, putting it on the third page of most down-voted comments.  I did not even really express a political opinion!!

6th April 2013 - We have annual membership of Kew Gardens, and there is always something new or seasonal to see, so we have never quite got around to visiting Kew Palace and the Royal Kitchens, used by ”mad” King George III and his consort Charlotte. We got an email from Kew telling us that the 5 additional entrance fee had been scrapped, so you can now see the inside in the pictures above.  We also saw two very obliging displaying peacocks, as well as origami boats on the lily pond, and some very overdue signs of spring uncoiling itself...

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3rd April 2013 - Alice had a day off, so we did another London Footprints (LF) walk, this time around the very grand turn of the century houses in Bedford Park and Turnham Green in West London, before exploring Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve, (as an alternative to the business park at the end of the LF walk).  As an inveterate cliche-hater I still find it hard to avoid a phrase like tranquil oasis”. It is a wonderful secret place, set in the middle of a triangle formed by nearby railways. We then walked along the Thames at Strand-on-the-Green to Kew Bridge.


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31st March 2013 - We spent the weekend in Hindhead, looking after Michael, Alice’s father, who had just recently come out ofhospital.  In between Alice’s nursing duties we had a couple of walks in the area, 4 miles around Golden Valley & 5 miles around the Devil’s Punchbowl, where we looked at the work involved in returning the new old A3 to nature, now that the tunnel underneath is open.  Pictures above, maps below.

View Golden valley, Hindhead, Surrey in a larger map . View Devil's Punchbowl, Hindhead, Surrey in a larger map 


18th March 2013 - Last night I watched a fascinating documentary about the first murder on the railway. While researching the history of our house I came across the transcript of the trial of the accused, from the amazing Old Bailey Online website. Apparently 50,000 watched the execution of the accused.

16th March 2013 - We saw The Ladykillers” at Woking theatre, our second theatre outing in 48 hours, after seeing Dennis Waterman’s daughter Hannah at Richmond last week in the always-excruciating Abigail’s Party”. It was slightly spoiled by the chain-smoking of most of the cast, which really was unnecessary as they were more than competent at reviving the spirit of the mid-1970s.  I thought the show was better than the TV version.  Alice’s sister is currently teaching the play for A-level.

I have added a page about my new breadmaker.

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13th March 2013 - A spring day which varied from sunshine to snow-blizzard saw us walking from Barnes Station to Kew Bridge, 7.5 miles. Pictures above.  The walk came from London Footprints, greatly recommended, we did one around Fulham last summer, equally good. We saw the bizarre tent-like tomb of explorer Richard Burton filled with artefacts from his travels and visible through a glass inspection panel in the roof, and also, by chance, that of Henry Addington, Lord Sidmouth, prime minister 200 years ago.

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9th March 2013 - With no sign of winter ending, despite the calendrical approach of spring, we braved some of our favourite elements and visited Brompton Cemetery near Earls Court (where does the apostrophe go...?) in West London.  It is known as one of the Magnificent Seven of London’s Victorian graveyards, forming a ring around the edge of London. The inner city burial grounds, mostly churchyards, had long been unable to cope with the number of burials and were seen as a hazard to health and an undignified way to treat the dead. It was a fascinating place, including the graves of many famous people.  It also inspired Beatrix Potter, as she used several names from headstones for her characters.  It is bordered on the west side by Seagrave Road, which appears to be just an accidental pun.  To the SW it is dominated by a rather characterless football stadium.  Fortunately there was no game on Saturday to spoil the peace.

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As we were walking along the NE side totally by chance I happened to notice the grave of Sir Charles Freake, (d. 1884) who was the grandfather of the owner of our house early in the 1900s.  I wrote about the history of our house at length in our 2012 Christmas Letter, but I have subsequently added a dedicated page here.  Read it, and learn about the connection between a former owner of our house and the first man to score a football own goal...

8th March 2013 - "Phablet” surely must be one of the worst literary contrivances of all time, supposedly meaning a tablet-sized phone. Surely 'Tablerone' is far better?  I relish the thought of seeing idiots on trains and buses putting a Tablerone in their ear.

7th March 2013 - It is a sad day in the Watson-Laird household. We have just heard that Kenny Ball has died aged 82.  We like his music, but he has a special memory for us.  In the late 1970s I was co-compiler (with school friend Clive Solomon, later manager of pop band Pulp) of two books on pop chart statistics, Record Hits volumes 1 and 2, both long out of print.  In November 2002, the BBC website said of the book,

    "Pretty unremarkable to look at until you realise that this book was the predecessor to the Guinness books and when you look inside, each page was typed. Artists are listed in alphabetical order and there are chart stats plus an index of artists and song titles. Now that is dedication to a project." - Jo Tyler.

I was responsible for manually alphabetising every record which ever made the British Top 50, and that was in 1976, long before the availability of home computers!  It was all done on strips of paper, then labouriously hand copied.  Alice still asks me why Kenny Ball was left out. I can only assume that I dropped him on the floor... Bizarrely, he did appear in the part of the book for which I was responsible.

28th February 2013 - Another visit to Hampton Hill Playhouse, this time to see "The Odd Couple (Female Version)” based on the Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau film.  We love having a small theatre so close, but I do get annoyed by inevitably having a hypergelast just near us in the audience.

27th February 2013 - I'm sad to say that I've only just recently realised that the line in the old hymn is "rock of ages cleft for me" and not "rock of ages left for me".  Searching for the latter, in quotation marks, shows that I'm not quite the only one. Ah well, at least I don't have to learn anything else today. Read about other mondegreens.

24th February 2013 - With our friend Thelma we carried out a (bitterly cold!) bird count and survey in the grounds of Hampton Court. Map below.

23rd February 2013 - We visited Kew Gardens again, this time mainly for the Orchid display in the Princess of Wales greenhouse.

21st February 2013 - I have just received an email from a writer, if anyone can help with this fascinating request please contact me.  I attended the schools mentioned below in the early 1960s, but cannot help personally.


      I came across you on the internet upon googling York Road Primary School, Dartford and I am wondering if you might be able to help me?

      I apologise for emailing out of the blue with a random request, but I am wondering if you by any chance remember a student of St Albans Road Infants School and subsequently York Road Primary School by the name of Patrick Mackay?

      He would have attended from 1959 through the early 60's and went on to commit several horrific murders. I am currently producing a documentary on the subject and would really welcome speaking with anyone who has any memories of Patrick Mackay.


11th February 2013 - It was Alice’s birthday, which she always has round about this time of year.  We climbed 300+ steps to the top of The Monument, which we now know is the tallest free-standing Doric column in the world. It is 202 feet tall, and the same distance from where the Great Fire of London started, in 1666, long before Alice started having birthdays.

We then spent the afternoon very thoroughly exploring St. Paul’s Cathedral, including another few hundred steps up to the famous Listening Gallery.

9th February 2013 - We had a wonderful dinner at Anothai” in nearby Hampton Hill.  It used to the Royal Elephant, but we understand that it recently closed and reopened with a new chef, direct from a 5-star hotel in Thailand. The food and service were both wonderful.

7th February 2013 - After several months of covetousness I bought a Google Nexus 7 tablet.  Having worked in IT for most of my life, it takes something rather special to impress me technologically, but this gadget is stunning.  There is an astonishing selection of free software available for it.  I have read endless reviews of it over the last few months, and they are universally in praise of it.  It has 32Gb of storage, a screen which is as clear as reading a glossy magazine, and it includes a GPS device far better than the dedicated device we bought 12 years ago.

It is very nostalgic to remember the time, 30 years ago, in 1983 when I ran a system for word processing and database management for an entire company on 29Mb storage.  And that cost $65,000 then! The processor was as big as a radio-gram on top of a sideboard, if you remember them, and it ideally needed an air-conditioned room, because it gave off so much heat. My boss put it in my office. You can read about it in the IBM Archives.  Even my MP3 player has 8Gb.

So that I do not drone on too much, the rest of my Nexus 7 comments are here.

4th February 2013 - At a recent gathering of friends there was a quiz all about Teddington.  Compilers, our friends Alan and Hilary, kindly gave me permission to reproduce it here.  Alan is a local lighting cameraman and FCP editor who works in numerous areas of broadcasting and video production.

Our 2012 adventures are here.


I started this web site in about 1998.  As of Autumn 2016 it is getting its biggest ever refurbishment. 

My goals are to include more current information, more pictures, no dead links, consistent format and typeface, better readability on more screens, and to get rid of characters that display badly.  But no free beer.

It is a bit untidy and experimental ...but just wait...

Text first, then pictures to be replaced.