Here’s some advice for your ‘to do’ list.
Hampton Court Palace – do this only if you think its worth seeing inside of some parts of a stately home and being denied the really interesting bit for a serious wad of your cash.
U2 – spend whatever it takes.
But first some toilet humour.
We enjoyed our night in Walton on Thames and our first experience of ‘porta-potty’ life.
If you have not been camping on a campsite there are a few potty lessons I have learned over these first few days that may be worth recording – for posterity as well as your amusement.
- It turns out most campervan/caravan types are of a similar age to me. Interestingly this makes the toilet block a place male social gathering at 3 a.m. I am told there is another such gathering at 5 a.m. for the over sixties.
- Even though there are only two of us, the awning would have been useful to allow for me being banished to stand outside while her grace carried out her ablutions.
- Choosing a restaurant is no longer just about the food. The availability of toilets is an important aspect. Places like Costa and Starbucks with their ‘one loo for all’ closets don’t feature in camping life.
- Our porta-potty now has a robot voice (a bit like a baby Dalek). He likes being out at night but does not like going back in the cupboard. This has filled our evenings with amusement when there is nothing else to do.
Having survived our first night without facilities we set off for a full day of activities in the West of London. Key to our decision making was, as stated, excellent and clean sanitation. Hampton Court Palace seemed appropriate being a) posh and b) nearby.
Now my good lady loves her Royalty tosh. She just loves all the Kings and Queens of Engerland of Olde, Henry the Eighth and his fifty wives etc. She’s the girl who thinks William and Harry are ‘a credit to their mother’ instead of two privileged layabouts like the rest of the modern world.
So we forked out £20 apiece to see the grand palace where Henry VIII letched after numerous women in the name of the Bible (which he had to rewrite in order to fulfil his desires). The gardens were lovely and you had pretty much full access to them. The palace access was the usual … a handful of made-up rooms (all of historical significance I will grant) and a lot of barrier rope saying ‘No Public Access’ to areas you just know have the stairways to the turrets and other cool places.
The ticket price could have been £23 if we had been kind enough to donate £3 to the ‘upkeep of the palace’. I can’t quite fathom was the £20 is going on if they need every visitor to donate to its upkeep. We passed in any case.
For lunch we crossed the road to Henry’s Burger in the village. A bit trendy for us old fogeys – most of the clientele were about 20 to 30 years old, looked like a burger never passed their lips and were, in fact, eating breakfast. So not in bed by ten then?
The burger was decent. Almost everyone is serving a good burger now. They achieve the softness of McDonalds by using Brioche buns and create a stack to tempt the eye by skewering it down the middle. This allows them to pile on the ingredients … which is no bad thing.
But they still make the meat too thick and cook it too long for me. What you get it a lovely soft bite at the start, a jarring of the jaw as you hit well done burger, and a clash of teeth as you hit the soft bottom half unexpectedly. I had a sore head after eating it.
It was delicious. I am being harsh. The chips were rubbish … frozen fries in a cute little deep frying basket.
We returned to the palace to play briefly in the maze and then made our way to Twickenham by bus.
I was a fan of U2 in the 1980s but grew out of love with them when they got all preachy and tried to be a moral compass for the Western world. I think it is good that people like Bono try to make best use of their privileged position by being a good role model, but that doesn’t need to be so blatantly anti-capitalism. It’s capitalism that allowed an average young musician to become wealthy enough to take the time to ‘travel to Africa to see it all for himself’.
Anyway, U2 were good enough to recognise me in their audience and played 95% unpreachy, good old rock-n-roll. The 5% preachy was appropriate and well thought through. I even enjoyed some of it.
Having missed U2 paying throughout their heyday, this was a bucket list gig and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The ‘call to attention’ drum intro of Sunday Bloody Sunday quickly followed by the Edge’s lone piper guitar and Bono’s pleaful voice kicked off something I can describe as the largest mass-participation event I have ever experienced. They made Twickenham seem intimate and you couldn’t help being part of the hysteria. Tens of thousands sang their way from start to finish, helping Bono through the second half of the Joshua Tree (as he was less familiar with the tunes), they waved their iPhone lights in all the right places and bounced up and down whenever the drums gave them a rhythm to match. The worms under the Twickenham pitch must have been popping up everywhere to see what the fuss was.
We got home by midnight using the local bus service and a taxi for the last couple of miles. My sleep was disturbed by Elevation.
In the morning we set Sybil to avoid motorways and made our way down to Portsmouth. We located the road with the most motorcycles per mile in the Universe and, coincidentally, the most police vehicles per mile also. In fact we counted six police vehicles of various types in five miles of the A32 south. It was a beautiful part of the country so no hardship for them I guess.
We lunched at the village tea room in Southwick where we met a lovely couple who gave us loads of advice on places to see in Cornwall. They also let my wife pet their massive dogs so she was happy. We have missed Harry.
Two doorstep bacon butties, tea and a cake set us back £20 but it was excellent and the setting was lovely.
For dessert (cake is not dessert – it’s an accompaniment to tea) we waited until we were on the Portsmouth promenade. We had a whippy ice cream while strolling through the seaside mania that comes with good weather. Young boys were being chased by the police for obtained free entertainment by jumping in the water (sad times) while the good folk of Portsmouth were putting their money into the hands of dodgy traders offering a chance to die on one of their shoogley-bolted rides on the seafront.
Still, Portsmouth is very pleasant and watching the shipping activity is fascinating when you consider the history behind the city.
Our final destination this day was to the New Forest where we intended to camp and take our bikes onto the ‘extensive cycle routes’ through the National Park. Sadly I had an argument with a tree which grew an extra branch while we left our Daisy parked beside it, and that damned branch hooked the rear wheel of one of the bikes as I pulled out and bent it out of line.
Evening cycle scuppered! Halfords tomorrow and the road West.