England jaunt 2010

My 3 weeks in England in November were fantastic even if it did get off to a rocky start when i landed at Heathrow. I wrenched my right arm getting my hand luggage out of the overhead locker and couldn’t move my arm at all for the first day. [It is still not 100% right and apparently ultrasound has found a tear in my rotator cuff – hopefully i will be able to avoid surgery].

I arrived at Heathrow at 2.30pm and my aunt and uncle Anita and Tony, who live in Kent, picked me up. I had seen them briefly in March when they came to NZ for a holiday but before that it had been several years. We spent a couple of hours the next morning trying to sort out physiotherapy for my arm. I had taken out travel insurance via work and they had given me an emergency contact card that was at least 10 years out of date! The insurance company and all contact details were void! Anita selected a physiotherapist and i just went [which helped tremendously although still in pain, i could continue the trip and attend the workshop].
The biological preservation workshop at the Horniman museum in London was FANTASTIC! I learnt sooooo much. I feel confident now that shove a dehydrated 19th century specimen in a broken jar in front of me and i could fix it! From preservation fluid determining to making glass containers/cutting and grinding glass, rehydrating and refixing biological specimen, making glass rods and mounting with them or glass plate mounting and on and on. Following are some photos from the workshop. All specimens were from the Natural History museum in London that needed tending to.

The Mole task [2 of them]: rehydrate, re-fix, remount and re-house.

L to R top row: Dehydrated moles in jar; jar opened; moles rehydrating in water and Decon90 surfactant; moles rehydrating [took a day and half]; myself cleaning mould of the moles claws

L to R bottom row: ; another of cleaning the moles; using vacuum pump to remove all air from specimen; mounting moles on glass plate; mole mounting completed.

The grub task: Clean lipids off, determine preservation fluid, renew fluid and clean and re-lid jar.

L to R top row: Original specimen lacking preserving fluid and ‘dirty’ with lipids; jar opened; scraping old lid sealant & paper; cleaning jar; preparing to clean specimen in ethanol;

L to R bottom row: grub clean and in cleaned jar awaiting fluid top up; sealing lid to jar; touching up sealing; injecting top up of preservation fluid in to jar [hole capped afterwards] with polymer rod bung].

Completed Specimens

Full set of photographs available online:
Moles and for Grub [just click the word links]

My first weekend in England although fraught with pain which was halfway controlled with some very strong Voltaren, was still exciting. Anita and Tony took me to Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn. The colours in the gardens were AMAZING and the castle is such a pretty thing even though undergoing much upgrading during the time the Astor’s owned it in the early 1900’s.

Hever Castle
Click HERE for my Hever Castle photos on flickr

On 5th November Anita and i went in to London so i could get the hang of the train/tube/bus system there, which i had been stressing over for weeks. I hate the unknown and it was totally unknown to me, however after one day of commuting i thought it was all pretty cool and efficient and i handled it with ease. We visited the Natural History museum and saw Darwin’s ‘cocoon’, and as much as that was fascinating, the architecture of that building is breathtaking! I also got to the Victoria and Albert Museum but alas - for 1 hour only!

Click HERE for my Natural History museum and V & A photographs on flickr.

6 -8 November Anita, Tony and I went to stay with my cousin [their daughter] Emma who lives at Kings Newton [near Melbourne pic below] in Derbyshire. It would be about 13 years since i had seen her and it was fantastic to catch up and meet her wee daughter Amelie [3 ½] and lovely husband Andy. Amelie and Emma had made cupcakes especially for our visit and had put our initial on each one! It was a fantastic weekend and we went for walks around Kings Newton and Melbourne... Thomas Cook of travelling holiday fame was born here in 1808. It is such a lovely wee place.

I left Emma and Andy’s on Monday 8th Nov. and Anita and Tony dropped me off at Elizabeth and Nigel’s house at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. They are Mike’s [my partner] aunt and uncle. What fantastic hosts they were also, considering i’d only met them for 2 hours previously when they were last in New Zealand! They carted me to Kenilworth Castle in the pouring rain even though they’d been there before and Elizabeth gave a fascinating account of the history of the place, [that’s me in the fireplace in Queen Elizabeth 1st private anteroom - see below]. We were pretty much the only ones there and the atmosphere was fantastic! It’s a ruined castle but oh so very pretty and extensive.

Click HERE for my Kenilworth Castle photos on flickr.

The next day Elizabeth and I went for a walk around the beautiful and historic St Mary's Church and Warwick [click HERE for this set of photos]. She then dropped me off to Warwick Castle which is the opposite of Kenilworth. It was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror and quite complete... i had a fantastic 7 hours there including walking around the ramparts to see the amazing view, the dungeon, ghost tour and gaol tours – all up $NZ40 to visit but SOOOO worth it. Click HERE for my Warwick Castle photo set on flickr.

Getting my head cut off at Warwick Castle (c:

The three days with Elizabeth and Nigel was topped off with a lovely dinner out the night before i left them. Back to London on the 10th by train from Leamington Spa and then to Kent to touch base again with Anita and Tony. The next three days were a whirlwind of smaller museums in Russell Square and Holborn districts, London.

The Foundling Museum [above]: London’s original home for abandoned children and Britain’s first ever public art gallery [it was here i observed the 2 minutes silence for Armistice day at 11am & had a huge meringue!]

Petrie Museum of Egyptian archaeology – [above] OUTSTANDING! [Entrance below red sign in photo]. Photos of artifacts in museum here

Sir John Soane’s Museum [above]: Architect [1753-1837] John’s actual home, has to be seen to be believed. Chock full of antiquities including the sarcophagus of Seti I [reigned 1290-1279 BC] in his basement.

The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons [above]: one of the world's oldest anatomical collections side by side with the latest advances in surgery to reveal 400 years of medical history. A MUST SEE, full of specimen jars!

13th Nov i finally got to meet Ron and his lovely wife Jan.

I have been corresponding with Ron for many many years after connecting along the line of some genealogy research. We had arranged to meet on the steps

of St Paul’s Cathedral which would have been fine had the Lord Mayor’s Procession not been on! I couldn’t cross the road for and hour and a half! Some tube stations were closed and the amount of people in London was mind boggling. However, this turned in to an amazing day ending up walking along South Bank and watching fireworks and getting home around 7.30pm

14th Nov i left London again, this time for Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire to stay with my former sister in law Carolyn [us below], her new husband Chris and their dog Ruby.

This was a lovely trip via tube and train and I was so excited to be seeing her as it had been farrr too long! Again what fantastic hosts! I have been so lucky to have such warm caring people around me every step of the way to make the trip one i will never forget! Berkhamstead is AMAZING! [Click HERE for my Berkhamstead photos on flickr]. If i could get a museum job there, you could pick me up and plonk me there and i’d be as happy as if i had no ties here. The historic feel of the place is mind blowing and everywhere you look just screams heritage. Carolyn took me for jaunts around in her cutie wee car with heated seats [bonus as i experienced the coldest frosts there the whole time i was in England, -4]. We even ended up driving down a walled Roman road [see below]

Ashridge Forest [deer were running through here]

Roman road - muddier and more rumpty than it looks, especially in a sportscar!

which was rather scary as we didn’t intend to but crikey it was amazing! They took me to see the movie ‘Made in Dagenham’ at The Rix theatre which is also historic and itself has been filmed in for movies.

We also visited Tring [picture below and click HERE for my Tring photos on flickr], another beautiful wee rural town to see the Natural History museum , visited a couple of cemeteries and scoffed a lot of fantastic coffee!

It was memorial week whilst i was there and so everywhere i went there were parades, poppies and moments to remember soldiers long dead – i revelled in it. I love how the English embrace the importance of their lost military and civilian members. It puts New Zealand to shame.

And so my trip to England was nearly complete. I left Berkhamstead and back to London on the 17th. That night Anita, Tony and I had a lovely meal locally in Kent [see below]and i insisted on having an English wine. New Zealand wine is so popular over there!

I returned to New Zealand leaving on the 18th and arriving on the 20th November. I had no jet lag and i attribute that to my lovely Mike buying me a pair of noise cancelling headphones which i wore the whole time on the flights there and back.

It was an amazing time. I achieved everything i set out to do on the trip and i am so indebted to all the lovely, lovely people along the way who made the trip a memorable experience for someone who is a total whimp when it comes to travelling or experiencing anything alone! The weather was coldish but with my new coat all i needed was a t-shirt underneath! A week after i got home...all the snow struck England – i was most certainly lucky!

©2010 Sarndra Lees


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