The Potpourri
The Weather

"The British live under tupperware" Bill Bryson  

London's a great walking city. Year round. Yes, ok, we do get some rain, especially in the winter. But less than you'd think. Rome gets more average annual rainfall than London. Chicago gets twice as much! In any case, all you need to do is bring your trusty brolly along and you'll be right as rain, if that's the expression I'm looking for. And as for cold weather...well, I'll let you in on a secret: London is at its most brilliant on a crisp winter day! Just bundle up warm and everything will be tickety boo. Especially if you shove yourself outside a caring cup of tea afterward!

"There's no such thing as bad weather,
only wrong clothing"     Old Estonian Saying

"...there are long violet hazes in the winter. We do not have those blue skies of the Mediterranean nor those subtle, rippling gradations of blue that miraculously start across the Channel in France, but we have a sudden blue that can be as bold as a sailor's collar, or even lyrical and angelic. Our long sunsets are sad, tender, and often melodramatic."
London Perceived    V.S. Pritchett

And here's a useful link - the BBC's Five Day Forecast for London:

Looking Way Ahead...
It's a good time, a special - indeed wonderful - outing. 

The Dickens Christmas Festival Explorer Day in 2009...
And if you can't make it this year (Saturday, December 5th and Sunday, December 6th, 2009)...well, there's always next year.

I'm talking of course about the Dickens' Christmas Festival Explorer of the great seasonal highlights of the early winter.

The Festival takes place every winter on the first weekend in December. And - as a matter of fact - our Explorer Day goes down there both Festival days - Saturday and Sunday.

To go on it meet the guides, Alison and Simon, by the ticket office of Victoria  Railway Station (TBC). This year - 2009 - the meeting time will probably be 9:30 am. And almost certainly it'll be the same next year, 2010.

As to what you see and do...let me put it this way: Rochester is a very special place even without its many and thrilling Dickens connections. It’s very old – spans the centuries in quite a wonderful way. It was originally an Anglo-Saxon village. It has a wonderful Norman castle. It has the second oldest cathedral in the country. There's a wonderful mediaeval bridge, to say nothing of several mediaeval gates. There are magnificent Elizabethan houses...including Satis House, which is so centrally important to Dickens’s masterpiece, Great Expectations. Its guidhall is Stuart. As is its Corn Exchange. It has a Georgian theatre. To say nothing of streets that are straight out of the 18th century (Minor Canon Row, e.g., plays an important role in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens’s last novel.) Its high street is Victorian. And of course, there’s also the river – and just over the river, Strood, with, e.g., its 13th century Knights Templar House (Temple Manor it’s called). Finally, the place is just full of fascinating old nooks and crannies. In short, it would be well worth a visit even without its Dickens connections. But factor in Dickens – and you can’t do otherwise because he and his books are all over the place – and Rochester shoots up into the realm of the not-to-be-missed!

And – the icing on the cake – is of course that our visits are timed to coincide with the Dickens Christmas Festival.
In the words of the Medway tourism office, “Rochester comes alive yet again with the celebration of the "Dickensian Christmas." Members of The Dickens Fellowship, The City of Rochester Society, and many other's join in and dress up in Victorian costume and parade the streets of Rochester and the Castle gardens. Meet the many characters from the famous Dickens novel "Christmas Carol," Ebenezer Scrooge, Ghosts of Jacob Marley, past, present and future! Nowhere in the World will you see this extraordinary festival, celebrating the life and times of Charles Dickens at Christmas. Hear the sounds of Christmas carols, the CORUM handbell ringers and the Cathedral Choir. Walk up through Rochester High Street and into the Castle gardens to visit the craft fair or have a go at ice skating! The smell of Hot Roasting Chestnuts, and many other smells of traditional cooking wafting through the air. You'll never know when it's going to snow either, there's a snow machine that blows artificial snow over the crowds in the High Street to bring you that Wintry feeling, just in case the real stuff doesn't turn up! In the evening there is the "Candlelit Parade" through the High Street with the Dickens Fellowship proceeding through the High Street holding their candlelit lanterns, it's a spectacle not to be missed.” 

Me again, David, I mean, writing this - I don’t know exactly what “route” Alison takes, but the basic format is – as always with our Explorer Days – perambulatory, peripatetic, annecdotal history – and biography and architecture and geography, etc. etc. etc. - that explores the best of the place, gets you into lots of those nooks and crannies that you probably wouldn’t find off your own bat, etc. etc. And of course she also interweaves into the mix lots of Festival doings.