Posts Tagged ‘Thames’

My walk to Ham House

I do this walk once or twice a week when I go to Ham House to volunteer and I love it. Once I’ve got out of town, I hit the river and this is the best part of the walk….

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Through Buccleuch Gardens….

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Out the other side and along the edge of Petersham Meadows…

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Petersham Meadows on my left and the Thames on my right…

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Cows in Petersham Meadows…

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Ducks on the path…

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The Thames, behind a ton of forage-able dock leaves….

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Horses came here recently!

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Marble Hill House on the opposite side of the river so I know Ham House is soon….

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When I see an open space in the trees ahead on the left, I know Ham House is only another minute away…

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Sure enough…

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The little bridge….

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The trees are hiding the house…

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Horses from the riding school next door….

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Almost….

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There it is!

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To the right of the front door, the windows you can see at the bottom here, those are the kitchen windows! I spend all day looking out at feet!

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I take the side gate around the building (that’s my kitchen window again, bottom left)…

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… Which brings me to the door the volunteers use to get in, the black one on the left….

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I then go down a few steps to the bathroom area….

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… Into the eerily quiet and empty downstairs, which contains the bathroom, the beer cellar, the kitchen and the mess rooms…

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Turning left, I get into the scullery, which then opens out into my favourite room in Ham House….

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The kitchen! This is where I spend all my time baking, the room I know most about and the place where I feel most comfortable, whilst working at the…

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Beautiful and huge old table, built in the kitchen in 1610 using elm wood from an elm tree on the estate. This table is my favourite thing in the house. And probably my favourite table of all the tables I have known.

Readers, if you do not yet have a favourite table, I suggest you get onto it.

And that is my journey, once or twice a week. It’s quite nice, as it happens.

O is for…

I’m handing over to my regular guest blogger today for O. here goes. Enjoy it…

 

O!

 

The title might seem a bit strange since all the other letters so far have referred at least to a word or phrase.

Some of you might remember a post from 2.1.13 called Toponymy where I told you about the furthest points north, south, east & west in mainland Britain. The info came largely from a really interesting present I was given at Christmas – A Dictionary of British Place Names (A.D. Mills). For this week I’ve decided to return to it and have a look at some of the entries under the letter “O”.

First entry in the “O” section is Oadby (appears as Oldebi in the Domesday Book of 1086). The “-by” ending means village or farmstead and the first part is the English version of the Scandinavian name Authi.

Another one is not exactly a place but it gets an entry because of its geographical and historical significance – Offa’s Dyke. It was a rampart forming the boundary separating England & Wales. As you may know Offa was the ancient king of an area called Mercia during the latter half of the 8th century AD. He was quite an aggressive king conquering large areas of central England and finally Wales. He built the 150 mile long Dyke to stop the Welsh sending raiding parties into English (=’his’) territory. Mercia was a large kingdom occupying the Midlands area of England: its southern border was with the West Saxons (just east of Bristol area) and East Saxons (a much smaller kingdom north of the Thames and south of the area inhabited by the East Anglian peoples). Mercia’s northern boundary appears to have been at least as far as a horizontal line through Liverpool but may have extended much further up before meeting the southern boundary of the kingdom of Northumbria (today the NE of England).

There is a 177 mile footpath you can walk if you fancy it that follows the line of the original dyke. Lonely Planet have nominated the dyke as one of the must see sites for 2013. It has also been listed in the top ten great wall walks “in the world”. (The rest can be seen here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/themes/best-in-travel-2013/the-worlds-greatest-wall-walks/ )

Those of you who know your history will remember that the area of North Wales is very probably where King Arthur’s ancient kingdom (5th/6th century) of Avalon was located. The locations of many of the stories about Arthur can be traced to places in the North Wales area. One of the books I’m reading at the moment is called The Keys To Avalon (Steve Blake, Scott Lloyd) and it does a fantastic job of debunking many of the claims about King Arthur (father Uthyr Pendragon, mother Eigyr) being related to areas in the south of England around Glastonbury and even as far north as Scotland. They do it simply by returning to the original Welsh source documents used by the early writers and showing how misinterpretations of some words have caused misleading info to bed itself into major historical works. It also shows how political manoeuvring in some cases and straightforward commercialism in others contributed to some areas or places being claimed as the “real” locations of parts of the Arthurian story. It’s a good read but you’ll need perseverance to keep going through some of the necessary but difficult sections of Welsh etymology.

I was surprised to read the entry just a bit further on – that of Ogbourne Maizey. It had an entry in the Domesday Book as Ocheburn (stream of a man called Occa) and later as Ocheburn Meysey. This latter name comes from the family name de Meysey. It is first mentioned in records just after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and has a variety of spellings: Meysey, Meysy, Maisie, Maysey & lastly Maisey. It is first recorded in Gloucestershire having been given Lordships of the manors of Hampton Meysey & Marston Meysey by the Conqueror himself. Tradition says that the de Meysey family came over with William the Conqueror. It appears to have come from Brittainy (or possibly Normandy). The family does have a crest & coat of arms so it seems LLM may have some very important ancestors. However treat this information carefully as it could be seen that your family displaced existing lords of the area of their homes and lands simply because of its connections to the conquering nation which gave grants of land to its own people. I’m wondering at this point, as LLM has just done a volunteer stint at a massive country house estate (Ham House), whether she is actually subconsciously returning to her thousand-year old ancestral roots. Something in her genes might be saying: “I belong here!” Hmmm… I wonder how long before we will have to address her as “Milady”?

Next is Old Wives Lees; this has to be one of the most unusual village names. Originally called Oldwoods Lees no-one seems to know how it became corrupted into its present form. The highest point in the village is called ‘The Mount’ and this area was used in the film Last Orders (2000) starring Michael Caine & Bob Hoskins. The Pilgrims’ Way – a 132 mile footpath from Winchester (Hampshire) to Canterbury (Kent) – passes close by and was used by those going to the Canterbury shrine of Thomas à Beckett (Archbishop of Canterbury 1162-1170 who was murdered by supporters of Henry II).

Oswestry (Shropshire) means ‘Tree of a man named Oswald’ and I suppose you can see how easily, over many years, you get from Oswald’s Tree to Oswestry. There is a possible connection to St Oswald who was king of Northumbria in about the 7th century although it is clearly in Mercian held territory (see Offa’s Dyke para above).

Odd as it may seem there are 3 places in England called simply Over: one in Cambridgeshire, one in Cheshire, one on Gloucestershire.

Next a couple from across the Irish Sea: Owenavorragh (in county Wexford) meaning “river liable to flood” and Owendalulleegh (in Galway) meaning “river of two milch cows”. At first sight you might be tempted to think they have Welsh connections because the start of both is “Owen” but the etymology splits the names after the first two letters. “Ow” meaning river.

Final entry in the “O” section is Ozleworth meaning ‘Enclosure of a man called Osla’ or surprisingly ‘enclosure frequented by blackbirds’.

And there you have it a brief survey of some interesting places beginning with “O”.

Pathways

I’m on the move this morning, off to visit my favourite 5-year-old and her little sister so I don’t have time to write anything properly. Instead I’m going to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I really love taking photographs of paths leading off into the distance. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because of the potential for adventure, the invitation to explore an unknown world. I’ve taken tons of them so I thought I’d share a few.

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At the start of a hiking trail in St Leonard du Bois in France.

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At a lake in Northern France.

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At Boxhill, Surrey.

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On the Thames Path, near Ham

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Next to the river, Ham.

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On a little path I found when exploring the riverside around Richmond.
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The path down to the river, from near Richmond Park.

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Walking to Twickenham.

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In a friend’s back garden in Norfolk.

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Finding more hidden pathways next to the river, Teddington.

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A path cut into the edge of a rock in Portugal.

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On a walk near Gomshall, Surrey.

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Amongst the ferns in Richmond Park.

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In Highgate Woods, north London.

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Corridors under the floor of the Colluseum, Rome.

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On Tooting Common, south London.

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In between houses in Kew, West London.

Getting festive – day 2

Yesterday, the Christmas fun continued with a little bit of ice skating, which was tons of fun. It was at Hampton Court Palace, which might be the most beautiful place to ice skate ever. It’s next to the Thames and was built in the 1500s. It’s just amazing to think how long it’s been there and who’s lived there.

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About the ice skating itself, I have just this to say – I was brilliant, Danda fell three times. (Danda would like it to be known that he resents this remark.)

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I obviously wore my cool penguin jumper, purchased the day before, and was the envy of all the other skaters.

We then went for dinner at a nice restaurant with Yaya and his little sister, who’s at an age where she wants to get involved with conversations but can’t quite talk properly. There is a constant stream of noises, which go something like this:

“Lalala, haha, Yaya my frah, watchin tee bee, an wizzy wizz, an the big, waaaah! Daddy yikes boo, Mummy yikes wed, haha! And the wawa, raaaaah! Bearbear, poohbear! Poohbear home, sad. Me see, me see! Loklat for Isla? Laulau, laulau! Book, reeree me?”

That last bit was her asking me to read her a book so we read a hide-and-seek lift the flap book, which she LOVED.

She then discovered the salt and pepper shakers and decided it was time to expand her culinary horizons by shaking pepper onto her fingers and licking them. She had about three goes before she started to look for her apple juice and gulped it hungrily! When her kids meal of chicken and chips arrived, she then proceeded to dip each of her chips into her apple juice before eating them. Always talking though, always talking.

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O, to be two and so easily pleased for dinner. Pepper on the fingers and apple juice drenched chips.

Danda and the blackberry

This is a story. A story that I am calling Danda And The Blackberry. It contains adventure, daring, far away lands and valiant mission.

One day, a few months ago, I was out walking. I was listening to Vanessa Paradis’ ridiculous but catchy hit, Joe Le Taxi as I roved. I was pottering up and down hills and following the river through London and having a lovely time. The summer was at that lovely not-too-hot, just-a-slight-breeze stage. The leaves on the trees were green and I stopped often to photograph the beautiful flowers.

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I was having a lovely time. That’s when I saw it. The single ripe blackberry on the blackberry bush…

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Ah! I thought. Look what the summer day hath delivered unto me. I shall pick this single ripe blackberry and present it as a gift to somebody.

But to whom should I give this beautiful gift of the summer’s first blackberry? Hmmm.

And that’s when I thought, I shall give it to Danda. Because he is a taxi driver, he is quite often on the move and I thought he might be in the area. I gave him a quick call and he was nearby but he was taking someone to the top of the hill that I was at the bottom of. So, thought I, I shall race to the top of the hill and hopefully see him there.

Off I sped, bearing the summer’s first blackberry aloft. It was quite a long walk and really quite steep but I was on a Blackberry Mission and determined. As Danda drove up the hill, I walked as quickly as my legs would take me. He was held at a red light for ten seconds or so. This gave me the edge. Holding the blackberry gently, I power-walked through fields and past trees. I was determined. Danda’s taxi was approaching the top of the hill just as I hurried to the end of the path and out onto the pavement.

It was like someone had organised us, like chess peices, to collide at exactly the right moment. We reached the bend in the road at the same time and waved. Danda drove a little further down the road to drop the person in his taxi off while I stood panting a little and trying to regain my composure.

A minute or two later, Danda was back. He pulled over and I climbed in the back.

“Danda!” I declared with great aplomb, “I have brought you this blackberry from the Alaskan wilds, from whence I have come after my long exploration there.” (Not really, I had just been wandering around aimlessly by the Thames but that’s beside the point. Stick with me on this one.) “I have brought this, the first blackberry of the summer, to you, as it reminds me of your summery disposition and your great love of blackberries.” (He once said he’d had an apple and blackberry crumble which was tasty.)

He looked a little uncertain about the grandness with which I presented the blackberry to him but nevertheless, he took it, popped it in his mouth and ate it.

I waited, with baited breath for his verdict.

Silence.

“Danda. What of the beauty of the blackberry? Do you approve of it?”

“Mmm….” He said, nonchalantly. “It’s a bit sharp….”

Silence.

“Do you want a lift anywhere?”

Eating artwork for lunch

Yesterday, for Danda’s birthday, we had fancy lunch next to the Thames river, in a place called The Bingham. I was quite excited when I booked it as it’s one of those super swanky places that you never think you’ll eat in. I had done a bit of research though and found out that their lunch menu was very reasonably priced. So we had a lunchtime booking and I was very much looking forward to it.

They have a Michelin star, by the way, did I mention that. O yes, they have a Michelin star.

I started the whole thing off in a rush because I decided to bake thank you gifts for my neighbours who helped me break in the other day when I locked myself out, remember? There I was, baking away, then suddenly it was half eleven and the booking was at twelve and I was still in my jarmies!

I practically threw the baked goodies at my neighbours as I hurtled by, yelling “Can’t stop! Sorry!” Then we ran for our lives and arrived, red faced and sweaty, a few minutes late. Not the grand entrance I was hoping for!

This place is lovely. It’s quite grand and, to start with, there were no other diners.

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About four or five waiters and hosts and what have you, hovered about, checking if we were fine and if we needed anything.

We were given some lovely fresh-from-the-oven bread to start…

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…and then an amousse bouche. No, erm, amooze boosh… No… Amuse bushe…. Ok! I’ll admit. My non-fanciness was giving me away! I had heard of this but I’ve never known what it was. I’ll never become the Masterchef Champion of the World at this rate. I did some research. It’s a goat’s cheese mousse, with tomato mousse and cheese and onion sprinkles on top.

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I know what you’re thinking. And I was thinking it too. Cheese and onion sprinkles! What on earth!? But it’s ok. Just roll with it. They have a Michelin star.

Next were the starters.

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Chicken soup with Jerusalem artichokes (and other stuff which I don’t remember) and a small beautiful ham and cheese toastie. If I were ill or just miserable and grumpy, I can’t imagine anything better than this beautiful beautiful little soup dish.

The other starter was a pig’s head and rabbit terrine with a pear and chicory salad. I was initially a bit scared of the “pig’s head” part but decided to face the fear and do it anyway. There was some kind of mustardy dressing thing on this which was gorgeous. And the terrine was really meaty, no snouts or eyes as I feared.

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The mains were great, just the right amount for lunch and unbelievably tasty. They were a partridge dish with blackened figs and a crostini with game pate on it. And some greens, I forget which. I was too busy eating the amazing figs and trying to contain my excitement.

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The other main was a butternut squash risotto. That sounds quite ordinary, doesn’t it? This was NOT ordinary. It had a parmesan mousse and some teeny baby shitake mushrooms and some clear squares of jelly which were beautifully sweet but I couldn’t remember what they were! Anyway, the whole thing was amazing.

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Lastly, we had dessert and it was no less fabulous. Danda loves cherry and chocolate together so he got a chocolate ganache thing with cherries and a sweet lemon sorbet.

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I had a giant marshmallow thing with strawberry sorbet hidden in the middle. It sat in a bed of summer berries and raspberry juice. It was phenomenal.

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Lastly, just when we’d ordered espressos and thought we were done, they brought this beautiful board of sweeties.

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What you can see is a vanilla macaroon, an orange and ginger jelly, a passionfruit marshmallow and a Baileys chocolate truffle. I scoffed most of it without an inch of decorum and I don’t care who knows it.

Overall, this might be one of the tastiest and most beautiful lunches I’ve ever had! Really great service, amazing food and a beautiful view of the river. What more could one expect from lunch?

A day of sport

Yesterday started well. I went for a swim which, I don’t mean to boast, was worthy of a gold medal. I was on fire. It’s this new thing of putting my face under the water which has revolutionised everything. When I got out I was panting and my arms were a bit shaky and I felt amazing. Brazil 2016, you better watch out. Step aside Rebecca Adlington.

Then my friend and I went to the ExCel centre in East London to see the Paralympics. I was bursting with excitement. Woo woo! Bring on the Paralympics!

We arrived, picked up our tickets then made our way to the entrance. There were security checks first. Bags on conveyor belt, walk through metal detector thing. When my bag came out the other side, the security man said he needed to check it. I saw a list of stuff I wasn’t allowed to bring in and realised why they were searching my bag. You’re not allowed to take liquids in and I had all my swimming shampoo and face washes in my bag. I just always keep them in there so I’m ready to go swimming. The shampoo I have that’s specifically for washing chlorine out when you’ve been swimming was actually quite expensive. And they took my Body Shop Body Butter. If you know what one of these is, you’ll know that you do not come across them willy-nilly. They are amazingly good moisturisers which last forever and are quite pricey. I also have a men’s body wash and shampoo in my bag most of the time in case any male friends decide to join me last minute.

All these were taken. Not taken for safe keeping then you get them back when you leave. Just taken. Goodbye lovely toiletries of mine. It was a short but fruitful union. I hope life (the bin) treats you well.

This took me a while to get over and I could be heard loudly declaring, “I’ve broken friends with the Paralympics.”

Then my friend kind of got bored listening to me moan and reminded me that it’s just some soap. Yes, it is. But it hadn’t started well.

The first thing we went to was the table tennis.

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There only seemed to be one or two games going on and I think we must have just been watching the end so we lingered a bit, to see who’d win the match we were watching, then left.

The next thing we found which was about to start was the Sitting Volleyball.

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As we had missed the bit where the commentators explained the rules etc, we spent quite a lot of time trying to work out why exactly it was sitting. When they walked onto the pitch, some things were obvious, like some guys had the lower parts of a leg missing, some had those amazing metal spring things that they wear for running and some were walking a bit awkwardly, so I presumed they may have had a prosthetic limb. My eyes are pretty bad though so some of it was guesswork. I thought some might be deaf but then I found out about the Deaflympics, so I am presuming deaf people only compete in that and not also the Paralympics.

Anyway, once I’d figured out that my eyesight was too bad to know conclusively what disability each had, I just cheered for Rwanda (my friend cheered for Brazil as we had decided to support one team each) for the first round. It’s a very exciting game to watch. With things like Powerlifting, it’s great when they lift big weights and you admire their strength but there’s not so much activity. With the Sitting Volleyball, it’s really lively and the crowd really got involved. Lots of whooping and leaping out of seats and cheering.

We watched a few rounds and at the point where my team were getting a bit thrashed, Aran suggested we watch something else, all satisfied with his team’s win.

Next, we decided it was Cup Of Tea Time. There’s a point in every day where this time occurs and it’s no good denying it. You have to give in, exit your day for a little while and get well acquainted with a mug of tea. It’s essential for the continued success of your day and is scientifically proven to increase your mental abilities and the likelihood of you taking over the world.

So we rested our eyes, drank tea and accidentally ate a massive late lunch. Mine was a pea, mint and grilled courgette risotto.

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Aran got a burger with a side of chips. These chips were the massivest (it’s a word, alright) chips I’ve ever seen. They were unbelievable. Here’s the photographic proof.

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So once we were fed and tea’d, we headed back into the foray and made a beeline for the judo. We’d had our eye on this since the beginning. Aran has done judo as far as black belt and I was looking forward to having someone who could explain things to me.

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It seems to be that to win, you have to throw the other person on their back. Sounds pretty violent but ok, I can roll with that. If you get the other person on their back but it’s only a half-throw, you can do another half-throw and it will make a full throw….. Pardon? This sounds like the ramblings of a madman. A half-throw? Or you can do a strangle…. A what? A strangle? Yeh, says Aran, non-plussed, like this. He proceeds to cross his arms over in front of his neck, grab the shoulders of his t-shirt and pull up, putting pressure on his neck.

O good, I thought, a sport where The Strangle is a well-used move. Anyway, I was probably being naive, I didn’t know anything about judo so it probably sounded worse than it was. But no, Aran assured me that there are lots of serious injuries when people do judo….

So I stopped asking questions and just watched and trusted no-one would break a limb.

It was quite good to watch actually. The men, I found, were a lot rougher. Lots of sudden jerks and people flying across the mat and slamming onto their backs. The woman seemed to have a lot more body contact. They’d have each other in a tight grip, to-ing and fro-ing here and there and the throws tended to be more of one person holding them tightly and going down with them, but trying to make sure their opponent was underneath and landing on their back. The men just threw their opponents clean away from themselves to the other side of the mat. Both were exciting to watch. We stayed there for quite a while and the crowd really got involved. Lots of Mexican waving and oohs and ahs and gasps and cheers. It was great.

Well… Apart from the group of teenage boys behind us who did not shut up for one second. A snippet of their conversation went as such:

“Look! Look at that position!”
“CAN I HAVE YOUR NUMBER?!”
“Hahahaha.”
“Phwoar! That Chinese girl!”
“Banter!”
“Why didn’t your brother come with us?”
“He’s a loser.”
“Shall we move to the seats behind?”
“Haha! Yeh, come on guys.”
“I dare you to move to those two down there.”
“No, you move there.”
“Nah.”
“Woah, did you see that? Look what they’re doing!”

On and on and on, it went. A mixture of inane nonsense and an over-excited enthusiasm for the fact that two women were grappling in front of them. After a while, I became irrationally furious with them and then remembered why I’m not a fan of big crowds.

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En masse, great. I’m in there, I’m cheering, I’m Mexican waving. When you stay in one place long enough that you become familiar with the people immediately around you, and they are annoying, I lose faith in the crowd as a whole. I think it must be full of ridiculous teenage boys talking nonsense.

We made a hasty exit and went on the search for something we’d seen on the train in. I think it’s called the Sky Train but I forget things quickly so can’t be too sure. It goes across the Thames river and to the O2 centre, formerly known as the Millenium Dome. It was amazing to be so high up but the view wasn’t terribly exciting as it’s mainly a business area. Lots of tall buildings and construction sites. Not what one would call ‘beautiful’ but still quite cool.

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We got off the other side near the O2…

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….found the tube station and headed home. I don’t mind admitting that I fell asleep on the train.