Windsor After That Wedding

Eight days after the royal wedding we are in Windsor to catch up with friends, not at the castle, though they are staying opposite the castle. We are down the road in a pub bed and breakfast. Flags are flying everywhere and Windsor is busy, like it is every weekend, especially a bank holiday weekend. A sunny Sunday afternoon and everybody is happy, except the odd crying child; crowds, sightseeing and family outings don’t always work. We hear a father saying to his young son ‘We are here to discover the town, not to go to Legoland.’

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Legoland is way out of town, though you can catch the bus near the castle. We had already seen signs for motorists saying Legoland was full. But Windsor is not about plastic bricks, the castle is made of real stone with thick walls to keep out the aircraft noise; along with many other people the Queen lives under the flight path to Heathrow. The blue sky today is heaven for plane spotters. We sit on the footbridge over the River Thames, the bridge links Windsor and Eton, the little town is part of the school rather than the school being in the town and is well worth a wander. Today the river is busy, you can dine aboard a big boat or hire a little boat and get in the way of the sightseeing riverboats. You can also ride in the Windsor Duck for an amphibious tour.

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On Bank Holiday Monday morning the sky is heavy, the air misty. We can hear the roar as we step outside, but the clouds are so low the aeroplanes above us are invisible. We stroll the same way the royal wedding carriage drove and arrive at Windsor Great Park. The scaffolding is coming down where the cameras were last week and the Long Walk is back to normal, no crowds, just people and dogs enjoying The Queen’s back garden. If you wanted to you could keep going towards the bronze horse, away from the crowds; beyond lie gardens, forests and lakes. We walk up to the castle gates, open for royals, locked to the public. Everyone is taking photographs. Round the town side there is a queue for the castle, but only for ticket holders. There is another queue for people wanting to buy a ticket, it stretches down the hill out of sight, but all is civilised, plenty of people in uniforms to direct or advise you to come back first thing in the morning. Everyone wants to see the setting of the wedding.

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Opposite the castle is Windsor and Eton Central railway station, the branch line from Slough was built for Queen Victoria. The three carriages go back and forth all day, curving across the river. Below the station is the main coach park; visitors are funnelled in through the station concourse and out onto the busy street. We sit with our coffee just inside the entrance and people watch. Tour guides now have microphones and their followers have earpieces and a receiver hanging round their necks. Each guide has their own flag or totem to wave above their heads, we wonder if there will be jostling or fighting for the best spots.

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Down by the river the sun has come out. In the gardens there are fountains and children’s play areas, lots of families are having big picnics, or big families are having picnics. We buy an ice cream and watch a chap potting up plants for the roof of his narrow boat. The scene is peaceful and far removed from the tourist frenzy at the top of the town. On the other side of the river boat owners enjoy picnics on the fields of Eton.

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You can see more pictures of Windsor on my Beachwriter’s Blog at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

As it’s Windsor Week at Tidalscribe look out for Flash Fiction Friday

and Silly Saturday – Not The Royal Wedding

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Romantic Romania

The River Danube passes through ten countries. I always follow Grace’s travels, as she is one of my.local writer friends. Join her as she travels through Romania.

Anecdotage

The vast and beautiful Danube flows through ten countries-more countries than any other river in the world, also forming several borders including that between Bulgaria and Romania.

Crossing into Romania was a little like stepping into a fairy tale, or into a Constable painting, for while the roads, infrastructure and villages were better kept and looked a little more affluent than in Bulgaria the communities were also quaint and olde-worlde.

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I’ll admit to being surprised, having assumed Romania to be much poorer than its neighbour. Having said this, there were countless signs that Romania is stranded in a bygone age, such as hand-tilling in the fields, hay-making with horses and carts and horse-drawn transport.

The pretty, tree-lined streets of the villages are made up of tiny, single-story homes-many with tiled exteriors in intricate patterns. Outside many homes there are benches positioned to catch the evening sunshine, often occupied by a…

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Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue

Branching Out

Andrea: ‘Are you okay in here Mum, tea’s just brewing, do you want the crossword?’

Grandma ‘No, I’m fine, I’ll just have a quick look at my ipad.’

Millie: ‘Do you want a cake Grandma? Grandma, do you want a cake?’

Grandma: ‘What… oh sorry Millie, yes please, look at this sweet puppy…’

Millie: ‘Mummy says we’re not allowed to have screen time when we got visitors.’

Grandma: ‘I’m just showing you how well I’m getting on with my Christmas present.’

Steven: ‘Good heavens what’s that noise?’

Grandma: ‘Just a Typhoon taking off from RAF Northolt.’

Steven: ‘How on earth did you get that?

Grandma: ‘I think I’m their Facebook friend… oh, I’ve got 63 emails, I’d better check in case there’s anything important. … a new post from Wordynerdybird    How To Avoid Blocked Hashtags On Instagram…  I haven’t done Haashtags yet, what does that mean Steve?’

Steve: ‘You don’t need to know that, you’re not on Instagram or Twitter.’

Grandma: ‘Do you think I should be?’

Steve: ‘Noo… no, today we’re just doing Facetime.’

Grandma: ‘How far ahead are they in the USA?’

Andrea: ‘Eight hours behind, they’ll still be in bed.’

Millie: ‘No Mummy, seven now, their clocks went forward this weekend.’

Andrea: ‘Come on, don’t let Grandma’s tea get cold, have you told her how you got on with your project?’

Grandma: ‘Oh oh, there’s an amber weather warning.’

Anthea:  I thought we’d finished with the bad weather.’

Grandma: ‘Storm coming in from the Indian Ocean, ah that’s Western Australia. Lovely cakes, what was your project Millie?’

Steve: ‘Is that the police helicopter, sounds like it’s over our roof.’

Grandma: ‘No, it’s KTNV Channel 13, flying over Las Vegas… car chase, I bet he’s going to get away.’

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Millie: ‘Weather’

Grandma: ‘I can help you with that, I’m on North Yorkshire Snow Updates.’

Millie: ‘But Grandma, you live in East Sussex.’

Grandma: ‘But North Yorkshire has better pictures and more weather. I’m on East Sussex Memories, do you want to see that?’

Anthea: ‘Mum, how did you get on all these?’

Grandma: ‘It’s ever so easy, I just press LIKE, I have the whole world at my fingertips. Do you want to see The Great Karoo?’

Millie: ‘Is that an animal?’

Grandma: ‘No, a desert. You should ask Mummy and Daddy to get you an ipad, you learn such a lot. Here we are, New Malden Past, Present and Future, that’s where I grew up. I just need to work out how people get their old black and white photos on here. I’ve found two old school friends.’

Anthea: ‘How many new Facebook Friends have you got, hundreds?’

Grandma: ‘Only 99, but on four continents. Then there are my blogger friends. Let’s look at today’s new posts Koolkosherkitchen and Koolaidmoms. I need to learn more about the USA before we go to visit your cousins.   Smackedpentax, he’s English, takes lovely photographs. Tidalscribe Friday Flash Fiction Digital Dialogue – wonder what that’s all about?’

Anthea: Mother, what are you talking about, I preferred it when you brought your knitting.’

Grandma: ‘I thought you wanted me to branch out.’

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Pies and Pelargoniums

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Do garden centres send you into a frenzy of plant buying or do you go there to have your dinner?

To most people in the the twenty first century nurseries are where hard working parents drop off their children. Once upon a time nurseries grew plants in greenhouses and customers went to buy shrubs in the autumn, root stock wrapped in hessian, and bedding plants in the spring and summer. There was little chance of a cup of tea as you wandered along the rows of roses. The advent of container plants heralded change.

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In a previous town our local garden centre had a cafe; a few plastic garden tables in the corner and a kitchen run at weekends by two sixth formers from our son’s class; they cooked excellent breakfasts.

When we moved to our current address the local garden centre was in a different league entirely. It had a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, teas and every Thursday evening two dinners for the price of one. As our new house was without a cooker or table we soon joined the many locals queuing up at five thirty for the legendary steak pie made from their own cattle.

Since then the restaurant and seating area has grown even bigger; if there was a humanitarian disaster nearby this would be the place to send refugees for operational feeding. They could also camp there, making use of the vast range of garden recliners and hammocks.

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Our garden centre  sells more than plants and garden gnomes. As well as every gadget ever invented for your garden, water features and an upmarket gift section, you can also buy life size models of every creature from squirrels to gorillas, or perhaps a stone deer. I have yet to see anyone struggling to the till with a resin Great Dane, but presumably someone must buy these very expensive objects.

If all this shopping is too much you can stay in the restaurant and relax. Thursday evenings also brings local entertainment, usually a guitar or keyboard with the sort of music that makes me lose the will to live, but perhaps others enjoy it.

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More a way of life than a shop?  There are coach trips out to national gardens and coach parties calling. As well as the excitement of Halloween and Christmas displays with live reindeer, summer brings a real treat. This is how it goes. Arrive at dawn on Friday at the end of June, queue up ready for the doors to open at 8am. Then obediently follow the path to the desk where you can buy your special tickets for the New Forest Show, first come first served. The precious ticket allows you entry to the garden centre’s hospitality tent in the members’ arena. Free light refreshments all day, members’ toilets and a great view of the main rings with show jumping and carriage horses.

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And what about the plants? I always head to the reduced shelves, that keeps Cyberspouse happy,  find bargain plants and rescue them, but I also spend ages choosing more trays from the vast spread of colour and variety.

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This week real flower lovers will not be eating steak pie, they will be at the Chelsea Flower Show.  I would love to go, but I would hate the crowds and the truth is, only television presenters and the Royal Family are allowed to wander in the wonderful gardens. We can watch every evening on television, but miss the scent of the blooms, so back to the garden centre. Every keen gardener will be feeling creative and dream of their own garden winning a gold medal.

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In my short story ‘Recycling’, Amanda DuPres’ love of plants leads to Pierrefonds  Close being in lock down. Read it in

 

 

 

Wonderful Windsor Wedding

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The Japanese tourist gasped as the toddler hurtled towards the castle wall, beyond lay a steep drop down the grassy bank.

Before the Windsor Castle fire of 1992, the public were free to wander round most of the castle grounds. The Royal family still had their private gardens. You could pay to just see Queen Mary’s dolls house, or to go in parts of the castle. The free wander round made a pleasant outing for children or Australian visitors on a sunny day.

I don’t think anyone’s child has ever fallen over the wall, but ‘bad parents’ also had another child wander into the guard room in an unguarded moment, he was quickly ejected.

The town of Windsor in Royal Berkshire is still a great place to visit, a playground for those who live near or work at Heathrow airport. Why did the Queen have her castle built right under the flight path? The streets around the castle are thronged with tourists all year round, though not as crowded as today for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Though we often visit Windsor, we weren’t there today. I don’t like crowds, but I do admire the spirit of the stalwarts who camp out for days for royal events. Like millions of others we stayed at home and had an excellent view on television. Billions around the world?  How do they know how many people are watching in their own homes? My sister in Australia was and my daughter-in-law in the USA was up at 2am ready to switch on.

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You may have thought from news coverage that everybody in the country was avidly interested, but this is not so. In Britain, royalists and republicans are as sharply divided as Remainers and Brexiteers, but we chopped our king’s head off long ago, did not like the alternative and welcomed back the monarchy. Ten European countries still have a king or queen. Through many ups and downs The Windsors are still with us and Queen Elizabeth the Second is the only monarch most of us have lived under, seeing off many prime ministers and far wiser than most of them no doubt. Truly a spiritual head of the country, above politics; whatever anybody else believes I am sure the Queen truly believes in the holy vows she took on her coronation. She is head of the Church of England, it is our state religion and a Christian wedding is what took place today. Most of us don’t bother to go to church, but we do expect the church to be there in all its glory for special occasions.

The happy atmosphere and the vast crowds showed plenty of people still love monarchy and tradition. Humans love colour, pageantry, romance and drama. We enjoyed all of that today with sunny weather making it perfect.

I know nothing about Meghan or her acting career, but she seems a graceful and warm person who has slipped easily into her fairy tale princess role.

The wedding went perfectly; nine o’clock seemed early for full coverage to start, but guests were arriving and there were outfits to admire and the guessing game of who was who. People from all walks of life, no politicians, just the occasional prince from afar such as Prince Seeiso of Lesotho.

The bride had ten delightful little bridesmaids and page boys. Inside the church there was beautiful music. Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal church livened up the Cof E with his rousing sermon on love.

The sun was still shining as the bride and groom emerged from Saint George’s chapel and it was time for the beautiful horses to play their starring role. The Windsor Greys pulled the carriage, the Household Cavalry escorted them on their shiny black steeds, through the streets then back up the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park and the return to the castle for the Queen to host lunch, our part in the wedding was over.

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Friday Flash Fiction – Father’s Speech

 When Ken came to ask… no, tell me he and Julie were going to get married, I was surprised. They have been friends for a long time, but I didn’t know love was in the air. My wife did of course, being a woman; claimed to have seen it coming for a while. Either way, we knew our Julie would be marrying a wonderful man and there is no better base for a marriage than to be best friends as well. And they have been friends for a long time; I can remember Ken as a little nipper standing at the back door, asking if he could come round to play.

Julie was a bit of a tom boy when she was young; if they weren’t building something amazing with Lego, they were out there on their bikes or catching tadpoles. We never knew what she was going to come home with when she went out with Ken.

But Julie grew into a beautiful young woman who wanted Ken to take her to the pictures or the theatre. Now we all know that Ken was sadly widowed last year and Julie helped nurse Babs in the last months. She would not have wanted Ken to stay on his own and Julie was always there for him; the same as Ken was always there for Julie when she had all her troubles.

So we wish two wonderful people all happiness for the future; Julie my only daughter and Ken, my best friend since our days at Green Lane Infants School. He’s been a wonderful god father to Julie and I know he will be a marvellous husband.

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Bank Holiday Book Bonanza

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Charles Dickens and I have one thing in common, not literary success, but we have both been to Broadstairs on holiday. He enjoyed summer holidays in a house now called Bleak House, where you can still stay. My earliest holiday memory is of Broadstairs, two summers blended into one set of memories. There was only me at the time and Mum and Dad did not attempt to stay in a hotel again.

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On one occasion I opened the wrong door, to be confronted with a lady wearing black underwear, I had never seen such an outfit. With brilliant insight she said ‘Are you looking for your Mummy and Daddy?’

The hotel boasted child minding, so one evening Mum and Dad left me; probably only for a little cliff top stroll, I’m sure they did not spend all night in the pub, but whatever the supervisory arrangements were, I had enough time to take our clothes out of the suitcase and wash them in the large washbasin in our room – this was in the days before everyone expected en suite facilities.

Apparently I never wanted to leave the beach, drawn to the sea already, and had to be dragged off screaming or bribed with a ride on the ‘Peter Pan Railway’.

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Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate are all part of The Isle of Thanet, the easternmost part of Kent; an island formed about five thousand years ago and always a busy place, Stone Age, Bronze Age communities and then The Romans. The last ship sailed through the Wantsum Channel in 1672 and over the decades it narrowed, it is many years since Thanet was an island.

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The next time I visited the Isle of Thanet was when we took our toddler, in the days when we wondered how anyone coped with more than one child on outings, on a British Rail Awayaday to Margate. It was a sunny day, but fog descended halfway down the line and never lifted. We sat on the beach, but never actually saw Margate.

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When a branch of the family moved to Margate in 2015 we returned in sunshine; a great chance for Tidalscribe the beachwriter to explore more of the British coast. We were soon sitting in the cafe of Turner Contemporary Gallery, which had opened only four years previously, looking out over the sunny harbour. As well as being famous for Tracy Emin, Margate also claims the painter JMW Turner.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/mr-turner-exploring-margate-and-tracing-the-inspiration-behind-mike-leighs-latest-film-9823823.html

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May Bank Holiday Monday brought hot weather and hordes of visitors streaming out of the railway station. The Turner Gallery was gleaming white in the sun and as part of the Margate Bookie there was a book launch. Once again Dickens and I have something in common, we both have short stories in a new anthology. Shoal is a venture by Thanet Writers.

Writing is a solitary occupation; most of us are energised by meeting up with other writers in local groups or on line. To speak in public and read out your work is another skill very different from writing. Gathering people together, setting up a website, publishing and creating a book requires plenty of enthusiasm and yet another set of skills.

The launch of the anthology was very well attended and presented and the book is a delight. A varied selection, from the brief and poignant ‘The Pigeons’ to ‘Life and Times of a Zombie.’  There are flamingos in Pegwell Bay, an unhappy wife a hundred years ago and a fairy tale so much darker than Disney.

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https://thanetwriters.com/

Spend a day in Margate at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/