Sunday, August 30, 2009

The first paragraph is a very brief summary and the rest is a much longer review.

We booked and stayed one night in August 2009. Hotel 55 was extremely easy to find coming out of the station. The garden facing room ensured a peaceful night, though there is room noise from neighbouring rooms using shower/bath. The bed is one of the most comfortable I have ever slept in at a hotel. The bathroom was smart, the shower powerful but make sure the plug is open in the sink when you turn the tap on, to reduce the chance of the vigorous water pressure causing a spillage. The staff were welcoming, patient and very helpful. Continental breakfast was available in a very light and airy conservatory. This is definitely a hotel we would return to if we needed to spend the night in London and will recommend to friends.

We booked and stayed one night at the hotel in August 2009. Hotel 55 is a very easy hotel to locate. On leaving Ealing North train station, (a very quaint almost rural feel to it), one turns left and walks along what is Station Road, the car approach to the station. (From the Hotel 55 website it says walk along Queen's Drive, which is the road with a row of shops in it but one can just as easily just stay on Station Road, which runs parallel, the only advantage of the former is it affords one a pavement. On reaching a set of traffic lights, which are in view within 100 meters of walking away from the station, there's just the matter of turning right and the hotel is the first on the right.

The hotel itself is boutique-ish but I would almost say a little tired. Unlike premium hotels, where all maintenance is kept from the eyes of guests, tools, equipment and large laundry bags were in view from the stairs as one climbed to the first floor. Reception was very helpful, especially as I was not listening when told our room number and not see it tucked under the stapled receipt; I also forgot about the room card feature, where it must be placed in a holder on the wall to activate the lights, air con etc., which necessitated another trip to reception. The two staff we had dealings with were genuine in their desire to help us have a great stay.

The room was on the far side of the building away from the road, I had booked this and we had what was referred to as a Garden Facing room. We did not open the window and were unaffected by any road or train noise (the station being only a few hundred metres away but we wouldn't have known that if we hadn't arrived there and walked the very short distance to the hotel).

I did have visions of sitting looking out over the garden but our room was directly above the long conservatory, where the Japanese restaurant was situated and continental breakfast was served; we could only see a few bushes from where we were. I did wonder whether we were given that room as it was the only one not booked or because we didn't book directly with the hotel, where the price was only a few pounds different, but that would be disingenuous of me given that we really enjoyed our stay.

The room was small but there was room to get around the bed and room in the passageway from the door to put cases for opening. The bed was King Size and extremely comfy, with it's orthopedic mattress. The flat screen had a good picture, though with interference on Channel 5 in particular. The direction adjustable lamps were bright.

The bathroom was smart with a bath and shower at one end. The shower was powerful with slightly adjustable jets via the showerhead. The water in the sink was very strong an,d if the lever is pulled too briskly, water will shoot out of the sink, but once is enough to teach one not to do it again. A small shower/bath gel and shampoo are provided, along with a good quality mini soap. The towels were the white fluffy ones that are a pleasure to use, stored in a rack but with two hooks on the back of the doors where they could be hung.

It was nice to have complementary bottles of water, a small still and larger sparkly, given that it was a hot trip on the underground.

I initially thought that we didn't have a fridge but there was one, just that it was tucked away in the wardrobe, along with a safe. The wardrobe had a reasonable sized section to hang clothes for a number of days, given that half of one side was occupied.

Wifi was suggested as being available and I could see and connect to it; unfortunately the connection reported No Internet Access. As I always have a tethered option with me, which is a much more secure option, I didn't take it up with reception. There was a wired network point on the vanity shelf in the room as an option too.

Continental breakfast was served in the conservatory where the Japanese restaurant operates lunchtimes and at night. It was clean, tidy, smart and airy, very comfortable with seating also out on the decking looking over the garden, though I didn't see the tables out there laid for breakfast. We didn't get to try the restaurant as it was closed for a week for staff holidays and opened the night after we were there.

This is definitely a hotel we would return to if we needed to spend the night in London and will recommend to friends.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Catching Up on Old Times

A few things occurred last weekend that got me to thinking. 

I had a surprise visit on Friday evening from my old friend Rob.  Whenever he comes back to see his family he always takes the trouble to call by and arrange to go for a catch up over a drink.

As well as being good company Rob is a font of knowledge and my one connection to a previous life, that of gaming.  Not the gambling sort of gaming but Role Playing and various board games played, in pre-internet days, through the post via ‘zines (a form of printed newsletter, named from fanzines, magazines created by fans of a subject.  Produced invariably by students or people who could not afford glossy professionally printed material; zines were often run off simple typewriter created stencils using an early duplicator or, in rare cases an early photocopier).

I used to spend a huge number of leisure hours pouring over aspects of role playing games such as Dungeon and Dragons and paper based science fiction games such as run Galactic Society Four, developing characters, studying statistics, or developing businesses or running whole empires. I am convinced that this use of my brain enhanced my cognitive abilities and was, in part, how I could do things I would never consider feasible now,for example, attending Greek and Japanese language classes in the same week for the better part of a year, ( I have always found language learning extremely difficult).  When I think back I cannot recall another time when my brain was so active, though I am aware that the googles of nostalgia and the aging process will have something to do with this.

Our conversation today was that of friends and would not have been riveting to an audience. Much of what we talked about was to catch up on other old friends, in the main people Rob had remained in contact with and I had not.  I learned about what had been happening in his life and filled him in on mine.  I always really enjoy hearing about what Rob has been doing, as it is almost like a view of an alternate world - no, it is a view of an alternate world – one where maybe I would have done similar things if my life had taken a different route.  I am not looking for change and don’t want this read as though I do, it’s just the latent story teller in me speculating, just as I speculate when sitting in a cafe, here or abroad and wonder what is going on in the lives of the people I see.  Sometimes I will witness an encounter and imagine a story line that precedes and proceeds from it, I occasionally do the same about my life.  I would love to be a writer and this is part of how I try to develop my skills.  I imagine my name on the spine of a book on the shelf in my local library or bookshop but in that dream lies madness; having tried to compose fiction at different times and forms I am confident in my lack of ability to string a narrative together.

The range of topics rpgs, prog rock, books, music,comics all leave me feeling nostalgic, from programmes and general tastes that have come around again I guess it’s a certain amount to do with the age I am at. 

Saturday, August 01, 2009

All at sea

Jer's Boat Launch 019 In the seaside  village of Porthleven in Cornwall in the UK, where I have lived all my life to date, I have thought of there being two groups of people: those who farmed and those who fished.

My family and most of my associations when growing up were from the farming side, even though the Methodist Chapel I attended through my childhood was a predominantly fishing orientated one. Consequently I never developed links with the sea and had never been on a boat I the harbour.

I say had never because this weekend was something special that changed that.  My best friend Jer bought a boat designed and built in Porthleven by someone I knew when growing up.  The boat was called Girl Ruth (and yes in a moment of synchronisity I know the actual Girl Ruth it was named for). 

After a couple of years of work Jer had the boat ready as above and the day for launch arrived.

First it needed to be taken from Jer’s home down to the harbour

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The person in the yellow oilskins and driving his tractor is one of my personal heroes – that’s my Dad Spencer, (or Spencer Cornet as some children used to call him when he was still selling ice cream).  Dad and my youngest brother Chris restore old tractors and go on tractor runs and local shows; specifically Ferguson T20 tractors as in this picture.

The route the tractor took was down to the main street of Porthleven, down it past Fore Street Methodist Chapel and into the shipyard, in preparation for reversing it down the slipway.

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The big challenge would be in lowering the boat carefully down the slip while maintaining control at all times.  I was not concerned in the slightest with the launching, as Dad can get his tractors to turn on a pin, he is such an excellent tractor driver (comes from growing up with them I guess).

The boat is one designed by Dennis Swire, a ship’s architect of many years standing.  The interesting thing about this all wood boat is that Dennis designed it for himself and it was built in the village, at a guess in the late 1960s when the shipyard functioned as such.

Dad reversed it slowly across the road and down the slipway.

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The weather wasn’t sunny but the rain was only very light so everyone who came to watch were able to do so without getting soaked.  Eventually the boat was ready to be floated off it’s cradle. At this point  a number of seagulls hoved into view, thinking that the boat had just come in and there might be scraps to eat.  Aboard her for the launch were our best friends Wendy and Jer and our Godson Neythan.

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This was quite a momentous day already with the launching of Jer’s refurbished boat but more was to come for me, after a snagging check.  Jer sensibly had advice and guidance from another local fisherman Robert, who came along side and accompanied the sea trials that came next.

Jer asked for volunteers to go on the boat’s maiden voyage since refurbishment and I jumped at the chance.  As I  said I fell into the farming camp when growing up, so had never been to sea from the village.  I had a few slight qualms about how I might feel, being in a boat many times smaller than the ferries I have mostly travelled in previously in different parts of the world. 

We set off into very calm waters off the village, which was good – given that the harbour existed in particular to give shelter from storms that ravaged shipping in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

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In all the time out and back I was mesmerised.  I had seen a film made of a boat trip out of the village but that is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes.  Everything was fascinating and I only wish I had a more powerful camera to be able to zoom in places, but am happy I got some decent shots with the 5 megapixel Touch HD phone.

The boat rolled up and down as it crested the swell and turned but not once did I feel anything other than excitement and fascination,  (no doubt this will change one day when the weather is less friendly). All too soon we were back at the slip and the trip was over.  Before I accompanied Dad back up the road, with the now empty trailer, I took a quick shot of what it must have looked like when we went out.

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It was a fun day out and I hope to be able to try that again.

About Me

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Cornwall, United Kingdom
A married Cornishman who is getting an inkling of what he wants to be when he grows up. I currently work for the NHS. [See bottom of page for Blog Archive and Links.]