Monthly Archives: February 2010

Wendover & Gerrards Cross

Today we had something of a two centre day trip. The morning consisted of an antiques hunt in Wendover. Well, less of a hunt and more of a browse, really. Wendover seems to have carved out something of a local niche as a antiques centre, boasting a couple of large rambling buildings stuffed full of antiques in every corner. There’s also a military art gallery we visited on our last trip – paintings of WWII fighters and bombers – you know the kind of thing.

We visited the two main antique shops and from the second emerged with a bugle; a trapping that is becoming an almost inevitable purchase on one of our days out. Tara is now amassing something of a collection of the things.

A third stop in Wendover was that of the chocolaterie we’d eyed up on our visit last year. Although Wendover is a pleasant town, the weather was biting and damp, making a stop off for hot drinks and food and welcome and, we felt, a rather necessary requirement, although deterring further exploration of the area.

Putting off a more extensive wander around Wendover for a warmer month, we set off on a largely diagonal route across the area to Gerrards Cross on the A413. Gerrards Cross (GX) is a town we know very little about, other than we’d identified it having a cinema, which struck us as unusual, given it’s rather modest size (a population of some 7,000, according to Wikipedia).

Again we had a curtailed wander around the shopping streets of GX due to the weather, which offered a few nice looking cafes and a Cafe Rouge, although not a huge amount of great interest otherwise. There was a great amount of work going on over the railway line, where the ill-fated attempt in 2005 to build a Tesco over a tunnel has seemingly been restarted. There’s apparently a common, but again, it will have to wait for the summer months.

We spent the afternoon in the warmth of the town’s rather diddy Odeon cinema. Although there was a large half-term audience, they were all impressively well behaved, which perhaps reflects well on the purportedly well-heeled inhabitants of this area; one of the priciest outside of London, no less.

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Twitter: Whether to make a #hash of it

Like many Twitter users, I have a broad range of followers who I’ve picked up for a variety of reason over time, while the people I follow are similarly varied. I’m often aware that some of tweets I put out may be of interest to a few but may be intensely dull or irrelevent to others. I’m wondering whether greater user of hashtags might aid the tracking of themes for all involved.

For instance, the @imule account talks a lot about what’s going on locally; something that could be grouped under the occasionally used #WD3 hashtag. Then, if someone wanted to see what local things have been talked about recently, they need only search or filter for the hashtag.

Now of course you could search for other key words to find local content, however my feeling is there are too many of these to effectively keep track of what’s being taken about. Would you search for Rickmansworth, Ricky, SW Herts, South West Hertfordshire, Chorleywood, Croxley, WD3? Plus, there are likely a number of tweets that imply local content from their sender but where there’s nothing explicit in the content to indicate localness.

I also often find I miss interesting tweets by others due simply to the time of day that they tweet. For instance, I generally can’t check Twitter during the day. I’ve recently found myself wondering if several of the favourite people I follow have stopped tweeting. They haven’t; they’ve just tweeted when I’ve not been checking and either I’ve not had time to go through all the tweets of the day, or my Twitter app doesn’t download enough apps to go far enough back through the day to pick them up. I miss out on the tweets, only occasionally picking up on some of them later, and feel all the poorer for it.

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Empower the commuter

Commuting to and from London on a daily basis can at times be a tricky and frustrating experience, especially if there are problems on the line. Given a long day of work to contend with, I suspect most commuters, like me, just want the process of getting to and from work to be straightforward and as painless as possible.

How busy are trains from Watford Junction on the morning commute?
How busy are trains from Watford Junction on the morning commute?

I’m a big believer that passengers or customers, call them what you will, should be kept informed. This allows them to better manage their journey and might well help the service all. I was therefore impressed today to come across London Midland’s feature listing how busy peak trains are to and from town. Customers become empowered; they can see at a glance their chance of getting a seat on each service, which, if they’re like me, is a big factor when deciding when the travel.

I really wish this was a feature provided by all train companies, indeed the Underground too. Instead on the whole we gradually and through no end of trial and error try to piece together when works well and which journeys will be hell. However if the companies are collecting this information anyway – and let’s face it they must do to some extent – why not make it available and empower the customers?

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The Bricklayers Arms, Flaunden

The Bricklayers Arms, Flaunden
The Bricklayers Arms, Flaunden

This week’s Sunday lunch sent us back onto the local narrow, winding and pot-holed roads that criss-cross the Herts and Bucks countryside. Our destination has been well written up, most recently by Giles Coren in the Times. Yes, we were bound for the Bricklayers Arms, located in the wonderfully named hamlet of Hogpits Bottom in the village of Flaunden. Distress at the lack of necessary punctuation aside, it’s a fine hostelry in a pleasant part of the countryside.

These country pubs are notoriously popular so we were booked in for 12:15, when the pub was largely empty. It didn’t stay empty long, however, and as 1pm approached the tables filled and the pub was suddenly bustling with activity and custom; not bad for a village that from any direction is down some narrow, and in places, rather potholed roads. The clientele had clearly come specifically for the pub; the muddy boots by the front door identifying the walker fraternity; while the pub also seemed quite popular with families, although as the table opposite discovered it didn’t offer any child specific meals, just half-portions of the main menu.

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Berkhamsted

Continuing our exploration of the local towns and villages we today headed out for a short visit to Berkhamsted. Conveniently located around a half-hour’s drive away on the A41, I noticed good write-ups of the town while browsing reviews of areas on the Channel 4′s Relocation Relocation map of the best and worst places to live in the country. Berkhamsted repeatedly appeared in comments of Dacorum district as a bustling market town with an art deco cinema and as with Rickmansworth is located by the Grand Union canal.

In comparison to towns I’m familiar with, Berkhamsted reminded me a good deal of Kendal, from my own neck of the woods in South Lakeland. Both are historic market towns, abuzz on market day and full of family owned and boutique shops, with a ruined castle on the outskirts. It’s seems relatively uncommon to find a town these days that doesn’t have an homogenous high street of the same chain shops. Smaller towns can escape this curse. Rickmansworth does to a good extent and although only marginally larger in size, Berkhamsted has a far larger high street but retains a commendable proportion of independent shops.

A particular highlight for me was Berkhamsted’s art deco cinema, the Rex. The exterior is rather low-key; the majority of it advertising the Gatsby restaurant. The side of the building provides a discrete entrance to the cinema, and inside a stylish bar and box office awaits. Interestingly, the evening showings at the cinema appeared to largely booked up for some weeks in advance; a good sign of local support of their local independent cinema.

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Wedding #4 Oo, haven’t we done well?

We had a hell of a time deciding where to go on the honeymoon (which we’ve finally booked). First, we thought Canada for the moose and bears. Dan’s been there a couple of times, though, and it’s difficult to see all of it in one go,  so we downscaled to Alaska – similar content, smaller surface area. We poured over tons of brochures from our local independent travel agent in Rickmansworth, scoured all the websites we could find and consulted Alaskan tweeters, but it all looked a bit busy for a honeymoon in the end. We can spend a week zooming across mountains in a train and whitewater rafting when we haven’t just organised a wedding!

Thus, in an atypical move, we’re going somewhere nearer, hotter and better supplied with interesting archaeological sites: Malta. Not only does everyone there learn English, Maltese is virtually impossible to learn (or pronounce, looking at the place names, e.g. Xewkija), so my usual guilt at not being able to communicate in any living language will be less pronounced.

We’ve also booked the photographer and the band.  My mother’s working on the invitations, so pretty much all we have to do now is check the guest list, buy outfits and wedding rings, sort the flowers out and do the seating plan. Oh, and, most importantly, decide on the wording of the ceremony and what the first dance is going to be. But these things are all less pressing – we have six months to do all that.

Makes you wonder why people get stressed out about weddings.

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