23 August, 2013

Travellers at East Surrey Hospital - Update

A quick update - not a lot had happened in the meantime (by any authorities) - but plenty of laudably energetic progress by the traveller folk -
Traveller Bridge
- they have constructed a very nice (and perfectly effective) bridge over the ditch and have begun making a nice little camp right by the children's play area in Whitebushes (also right where the football coaching takes place on a Saturday morning for all the local tweens)...
Travellers invade playing field
I know it's Friday afternoon, but does anyone have a bit of time for some action now?  Other than the demonstrably industrious?


Update - Tweet from @RedhillCouncil - 
Council officers on site and working to have them evicted - fence was damaged to gain access.

Update - Tweet from @BarbaraT09
police have arrived to Whitebushes Common

Update - Happy ending! Great job everyone! Tweet from @colh8756
police have just removed 9 travellers from Whitebushes common


Electric car charging point Southwark
This is a public electric car charging point!  Spotted in Southwark - today!

Travellers at East Surrey Hospital...

...spotted yesterday evening, still there this morning...

Update - you have got to love Twitter, I've already heard back from the police and the council...they are working with the land owner to resolve the situation... ;)

22 August, 2013

Done a bit of housekeeping...

...that's a bit better, the edges of the blog were looking a bit faded and tatty (and half the widgets had stopped working)...! ;)

Tobacco Dock, the Tiger and the Boy

Tobacco dock
So I had a bit of a poke around Tobacco dock the other day (it doesn't look like it's actually (officially) open but no-one stopped me sneaking in)...the thing that got my feet to wander in that direction was this-
Tobacco dock
-(you might have to click to zoom in)...clearly someone was a bit annoyed about the prominent blue sign luring people in under false(?) pretences (there were clumsily arranged barriers everywhere blocking entrance) -
Pennington Street lorry park
- the most frequent offenders almost certainly being the large number of drivers of lorries and vans taking a break in the unofficial "Pennington Street public lorry park and truck stop" (i.e. the entire street) - every cab had a snoozing person lounging in the shade...anyway, I wandered in a little further, up a flight of stairs -
Tobacco dock
- it's actually very smart in there, but has the feeling of an empty office block, or an abandoned shopping centre (just waiting for the walking dead to come stumbling around the corner)....One really cool find though, not far from there -
Tobacco dock
- a large bronze statue of a boy and a tiger -
Charles Jamrach - Sculpture
- there to commemorate an incredible story...in the mid 1800s a German guy called Charles Jamrach was running a highly successful (in fact, the largest in the World at that time) exotic pet shop located on the "Ratcliffe Highway" (later just "The Highway" as it is known now) called "Jamrach's Animal Emporium".  On one fateful day in 1857 an adult Bengal Tiger managed to escape and (during it's bid for freedom) paused to grab a passing eight (or nine) year old boy who had spotted the animal and decided to go and give it a pat. The tiger attempted to flee with his snack (and probably would have been successful) but for the quick action of Jamrach who "came running up and, thrusting his bare hands into the tiger's throat, forced the beast to let his captive go".  The kid got £300 in damages and the tiger went on to become a star attraction of Wombwell's Travelling Menagerie (which toured the fairs of Britain - and was invited to the royal court on no less than five separate occasions - three of them before Queen Victoria)...!

Amazing...! ;)

21 August, 2013

London Traffic Light Timer

Traffic light timer
Such a simple and useful idea, just outside the office in Wapping we are lucky enough to have some of the new-ish (I believe they started to be rolled out in the run up to the 2012 Olympics) traffic light timers installed (next to the green man) that give an indication of how long you have to scramble across the road before the millions of speeding trucks will mercilessly crush your broken (jay walking) body into the road surface for daring to venture onto "The Highway"...we could do with some of these on King William Street, Tooley Street and Borough High Street traffic lights (to save everyone taking their life in their hands each day)!

20 August, 2013

Tonsillectomy at East Surrey Hospital

Chick and Steiff post operation
So on Monday, after repeated episodes of tonsillitis, Thomas had finally been scheduled in to have the offending tissue sliced out...(this is after -sometimes almost weekly- doctors appointments, gallons of precious antibiotics, dozens of duvet days, painful periods refusing to eat and too-frequent amounts of time off from pre-school, followed by specialist appointments, consultant appointments, follow up appointments, pre-op appointments and eventually -the official decree that maybe it was in his best interest)...

Put it this way - to get the go ahead to perform a tonsillectomy is not a decision that is taken lightly in this day and age...

The weekend before the fateful Monday we made sure Thomas had a -super- good time, eating and drinking (pretty much) what he wanted (including a McDonalds cheeseburger happy meal with Fanta - *gasp*), going out on a few fun trips -
Disney Planes Poster
- including (first ever trip out to the movies!) Disney's Planes in 3D (which shouldn't be mistaken for a Pixar film (it's not in the same league) but Thomas totally loved - which was the point of the exercise) and making sure to fill him up on Sunday night with his favourite food - a hearty home-made roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings to help him get through the pre-operative fast to come with minimum discomfort...

Monday morning we were up at the crack of dawn (well, about 6am) to give Thomas his last drink of water before the operation and to pack up all the electronic entertainment bits (DVD player, Kindle, Innotab and Nexus 7 plus associated chargers - it could be a long wait!) and handed baby-sitting duty for Poppy over to our kind neighbours (until my folks arrived to take over - thank you everyone!)...and then we headed over to the hospital (only 5 minutes away) and up to Outwood ward...

We were second to arrive and Thomas was told by the lovely nurse who greeted us that he could choose whichever bed he would like (which was great), he ran straight in and grabbed the bed next to the window opposite the entrance and made himself right at home (quickly finding the controls that moved the bed all over the place - to great delight)...fairly quickly the nurse came in with an instrument trolley needing to get a pulse, O2 and temperature check (which he sat perfectly still for), we then had to answer a list of questions - "Any wobbly teeth?", "Any allergies?", "Is he diabetic?", "Has he had a general anaesthetic before?", etc.) and then were told we had a bit of a wait ahead for the surgeons to come and see us.

Thomas used this time productively - first finding a huge box of Lego and building an incredibly detailed "Water Maze - with *TRAPS* that squirt you, Daddy!"-
Thomas in Outwood ward
- then a kind lady (apparently appointed by the hospital purely to help the kids enjoy themselves) paid a visit and (quite unbelievably) suggested Thomas might like to do some painting - in bed - which (of course) he agreed to wholeheartedly (Flyingpops and myself exchanging "Urm, do-they-know-what-they-are-letting-themselves-in-for?"-type looks) - before long he was wearing waterproofs, merrily slapping too much paint all over page after page of A4 (and into his hair, and onto the sheets, and onto the table) - while we were trying to carefully transfer sopping, dripping bits of rainbow coloured paper to the windowsill without causing too much additional mess and attempting vainly to suggest he switch to a smaller brush)...oh and at some stage in the middle of all this, Thomas decided that (as long as he was going to be required to lay in bed) he may as well be wearing his pyjamas...fair enough!

The doctors arrived (almost before we knew it), asked *exactly* the same stream of questions as the nurse before them, asked us if we had any questions for them (bit late for that now, I thought), asked me to sign the bright yellow-"Yes, it's okay to slice up my child" waiver sheet, smiled encouragingly, told Thomas he was being very good (and that they liked his pyjamas) and left...Next up was the anaesthetist, who asked us all the same questions *again*, told us he was happy for both of us to come and watch Thomas being drugged, told Thomas he was being very good (and that he liked his pyjamas) and then also left.  Lastly, the nurse came back, checked Thomas' O2 and pulse rate again, told Thomas she liked his pyjamas and told us we were second in the queue for Theatre (cue - "No-it's not that kind of Theatre, Thomas" - conversation)...

We waited, painted, drew, played a bit of Tiny Thief (Thomas cackling at his skill stealing some butterflies all by himself) and the new Cbeebies Android game (which is amazingly good) and then the nurse appeared to lead us (on foot) around to surgery...so far so good...

When we were called through to the anaesthetist, Thomas took the trip on his surgical bed...the crowded, tiny room was crammed with equipment and cables, just barely big enough for the bed (and all the adults involved in the process), we were asked to chat to Thomas briefly while they managed to slip the cannula into his hand totally without him noticing (which I know from experience would have taken an incredible amount of skill - so thank you to the anaesthetist for that!  He actually gazed at it in astonishment when he got his hand back) and then they put a little see-through sticker over the top to hold it in place (with a couple of teddy bear pictures on it)...a little flush with some saline and then a *huge* syringe of white goo was being pushed into his arm, the anaesthetist talking quietly to him about "sleepy cow milk making him drowsy" and in a -heartbeat- he was fast asleep, just twitching a couple of times before total unconsciousness...not even enough time for us to say "Sleep tight"...we weren't prepared for that...

It was just under two hours later that we were being called to the recovery suite to find Thomas curled up asleep, clutching his Steiff and Chick, a tiny Oxygen mask tucked over his nose and his cannula bandaged up - matching bandages, as we only noticed a little later on, having appeared during surgery both on Steiff's wrist and ear and on Chick's wing (a *very* nice touch)... ;)

When we rolled back into Outwood ward lots of nervous parents looked up and (judging by the looks on their faces) took comfort from how content Thomas looked...he was only allowed about ten minutes sleep though, before we were being told to wake him up and make sure he was able to take a drink of water okay (poor little thing - but he must have been terribly dehydrated by that point)...he came round, very floppy and heavy limbed...we managed to get some water into him okay (I had to physically hoist him up and hold him upright) and one of the doctors came and managed to get him to mutter "yes" in answer to "Are you feeling okay Thomas?"...twenty minutes later he was running up and down the ward, glugging blackcurrant squash and eating biscuits, asking the nurses for jelly and ice cream and fighting other kids for toys...

It was, quite simply, a redefinition of the phrase "he took it in his stride"...

We were allowed to leave right on (estimated departure) time (once he had satisfactorily demonstrated to the staff that he could eat, drink and go to the toilet) which annoyingly fell in the middle of him enjoying a nice macaroni cheese dinner with (further) strawberry ice cream desert (which predictably he didn't want to leave behind)...

The only complaint of the *day* from Thomas...?  About half past seven at night, chewing on some cold cuts - "Daddy, the thing is...my throat hurts a bit eating...that's the problem with this chicken leg"...we gave him a dose of paracetamol (he's up to 4 year old dose size now, which is *twice* his 3 year old amount) and popped him into bed (for the night after his operation - a snug camp with loads of cushions, on the floor in Mummy and Daddies room)...and he didn't wake up once... ;)

Dog Poo Fairy - Keep Britain Tidy

Dog poo fairy
Spotted this in Whitebushes the other day - "Keep Britain Tidy" sure has come on a way since I was a kid...! If memory serves the catchy line used to be something like "Please take your litter home with you" (slightly lacking in the amusement/shame stakes in comparison)...

19 August, 2013

Barons' Cave - Reigate

Reigate - Barons Cave
So last, but certainly not least, we walked up past Boots (on Reigate high street) up the stairs into the (so called) "Castle Grounds" (it's actually a park and what's left of the original 11th century Norman Castle - which is the hill (motte), a big ditch at it's foot, a pond (which was part of the wet moat) and the underground bit we had come to see - all the other original features were demolished in the 18th century when this mock castle gate was constructed) -
We followed the trail of handy bat signs along the paths to the steep steps that led down into Barons' cave -
Reigate - Barons Cave
Reigate - Barons Cave
- passing a group of about 30 people(!) coming out, our group was much smaller (again about 10 people, a similar number to our tour of the West Cavern) and upon having our tickets checked, everyone (except Thomas and I, who had our own) were handed torches or lanterns (as peering up into the cave it quickly became clear that the whole place was lit only by tiny candles and was going to be *dark*)-
Reigate - Barons Cave
The caves are full of carvings/grafitti, some of them accompanied by dates (going back to 1700s, which is likely when the caves were first opened to public visitors as an early tourist attraction/curiosity - coinciding with the construction of the folly above)-
Reigate - Barons Cave
Reigate - Barons Cave
Reigate - Barons Cave
The first section we were shown to was a long, winding stair that leads all the way to the top of the Motte from the main entrance (which was right at the bottom of the dry moat), terminating at the highest point under a stone pyramid (which was built at some point after the 14th century as it's roof and supports are made of brick, which didn't start to be used for construction until this point) -
Reigate - Barons Cave
Here a tiny bit of sun light filters through -
Reigate - Barons Cave
- allowing you to imagine what it must have been like to be a Norman soldier, climbing out of the caves up into castle with it's commanding view over the valley...(this entrance is now sealed)...so we trundled back down the steps and into the second section of the caves -
Reigate - Barons Cave
- where they have a map of all the caves that used to be on the wall in the underground cave/pub called Batchelors (which I actually visited a couple of times, many, many years ago - now closed down and filled with rock - as it was unstable and apparently ran underneath the main bus route, which the Council wasn't that keen on) - today it's the site of a Kebab shop...Oh, and also in that section -
Reigate - Barons Cave
- (of course!!) was a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex...no explanation was offered other than that one of the guardian cavers happened to have it laying around at home (as you do!) and thought it might look nice in the cave...the guide made it quite clear that historians were pretty certain that no T-Rex was really roaming around during the Norman conquest and we weren't to start thinking about it...
Reigate - Barons Cave
The last section of the cave, down another flight of stairs (getting really rather cold now) -
Reigate - Barons Cave
- (that's Thomas' breath you can see in that shot, being lit up by his torch) -
Reigate - Barons Cave
- was almost certainly a large wine store for the "Barons" of the name of the cave, it's like a 'fridge down there, and also a very secure location for something so valuable (that would have had to have been imported from France)...but there is no actual evidence that this was the case...the other theory that seems realistic is that the cave was an emergency exit from the castle above (or a way to flank an unsuspecting surrounding besieging army)...both of which are perfectly plausible... And that was that! From there we walked back to the surface (and the welcome sun, after having got seriously chilly underground)... An amazing day out, I heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in history (and the secret places that lurk beneath)...Thomas absolutely loved every single minute of his adventure...! ;)

Update - Oh and in case you were wondering, I didn't fire the flash a single time underground (in any of the caves) and all the shots were hand-held... ;)

16 August, 2013

Ooo! Free drink bottle!

Free drink bottle!
...thanks office! ;)

Reigate Caves - West Cavern

Reigate West Caves
So, next up, after our exhaustive poke around the East Caves, we stepped over to the entrance to the West Caves to await our guide -
Reigate West Caves
- with about 10 other people...we only had to wait about five minutes, but were warned that the tour could take quite a while (at least 40 minutes - in the end I think we were underground about an hour)-
Reigate West Caves
- after a quick safety briefing (by our two guides - this chap did all the talking, the other chap stood patiently at the back of the group shepherding - i.e. - making sure none of us got lost/left behind - which was frequently me trying to get a decent shot of something in the pitch black - my apologies!)-
Reigate West Caves
- and then we were in! The very first bit of the caves you enter is actually a long gallery used (today) as a shooting range!
Reigate West Caves
According to the guide the bricked up areas on the right and left used to be used by a local band to practice their playing, but they gave up when one of the side tunnels collapsed in protest (which would, admittedly, be fairly discouraging)...
Reigate West Caves
This is where the targets are set up (right at the end of the gallery) - ironically the marksmen have to bring in their own (heavier grade) sand to place behind them - as the sand from this mine isn't quite up to the job of effectively stopping a bullet - well, according to whoever regulates this sort of thing, anyway...
Reigate West Caves
The guide then went on to confess that (in the black area on the right of this shot) there is another bricked up tunnel which runs along the back of most of the shops in Reigate High Street...apparently some of the cavers (presumably just for a laugh) carefully measured out exactly where they thought the back of one of the high street building societies should be and managed to give the manager a bit of a scare by making loud banging noises clearly audible *inside* his cash-filled vault...You would just *have* to do it though, wouldn't you? Given the chance? ;)
Reigate West Caves
From there we proceeded down a steep, low tunnel (watching my head) into another steep gallery (really steep this time) but very high ceilinged -
Reigate West Caves
- which used to be filled with bunk beds (more WW2 Air Raid Shelter space), you can also see the standard Anderson Shelter-style steel/corrugated iron plates (most likely steel, as it's damp down here and there is little visible rust) bracing the sandstone wall on the right  -
Reigate West Caves
- this area was also complete with it's own emergency entrance (now bricked up with breeze blocks) but which would have opened at ground level somewhere behind Church Street (all associated ladders/stairs have also long-ago vanished)-
Reigate West Caves
Next, we went into one of the largest areas of the caverns, used during World War 1 to store explosives, it's now (another) firing range -
Reigate West Caves
Reigate West Caves
Reigate West Caves
Reigate West Caves
-complete with spent rounds in buckets-
Reigate West Caves
Reigate West Caves
-(by now Thomas had mastered the art of "light painting" pitch black objects for me with his torch while I kept steady and long-shutter-cycled)-
Reigate West Caves
- all around this area were still the carefully excavated candle stands, there to provide light for the original miners, from there, moving deeper into the cave we passed into (yet another) firing range-
Reigate West Caves
- this one looked like it was used for air-rifles (judging by the pellet tins)-
Reigate West Caves
- and then we made our way into the last (and deepest section) - Reigate West Caves
- through a very low passageway -
Reigate West Caves
Here, the tour (in years gone by) used to have to halt, due to the sheer volume of sharp fragments of broken glass and twisted rusty metal-
Reigate West Caves
Reigate West Caves
Reigate West Caves
- they have actually left a few areas untouched so you can see the extent of the mess...all this was left over from the cavern's "middle age" when it was used as a wine and beer store (although quite how this many valuable bottles managed to get smashed is a bit of a mystery)...anyway, volunteers spent many, many hours digging and sieving and eventually managed to clear out 99% of the dangerous material from the sandy floor, and now visitors can walk the extent of the caves -
Reigate West Caves
Right to the back wall, where the valuable sand ran out...(and the mine then closed)...
Reigate West Caves
- on the way out again (passing another group coming in) we were given a demonstration of how the caves were (painstakingly) carved -
Reigate West Caves
- and then we were back out in the daylight!  Time for a spot of lunch, and then on to the last of the caves - Barons' cave (under the site of Reigate Castle)...! ;)