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Not Santa’s Grotto … but the Pope’s Grotto!

Popes GrottoThere used to be a pub in Twickenham called the Pope’s Grotto.  About 100 yards from where I lived, it played a huge part in my life since the age of 17 until I moved to Glasgow in 1996.  I met my ex-husband there (probably best to skip over that!) and it is somewhere I will always find someone I know, even to this day!

In recent years it has been transformed from a friendly local pub to a modern hotel, now called the Alexander Pope, with a reputation for good food and a family friendly atmosphere.  It just isn’t the same but this picture, taken c.1981, is just how I remember it!  One main memory that stands out for me is that it was THE place to be during the power cuts in the 1970’s.  Instead of sitting at home in the dark, people flocked to the pub in their droves where candles provided the lighting and there was a “blitz type” spirit and atmosphere that seemed somehow magical.   I also remember it was a meeting place for many on Christmas lunchtime – the chance to catch up with friends before heading home for the obligatory turkey dinner!

Happy memories indeed.  I hardly recognise the place these days but one of my customer’s has asked me to write a piece on their blog about a job they’ve just done there which made me very nostalgic for those simpler, happier times!

Not Santa’s Grotto … but the Pope’s Grotto!.

The transport of my youth updated

Those of you who know me well will know that “I don’t do buses”.  It is a very long time since I was forced through age, lack of money, and lack of alternatives to get from A to B other than by the good old Red London Bus.

It was however a fundamental part of growing up in a place like Twickenham, which is just outside of London, and we had our regular routes that we used to travel, always joking about the fact that you’d wait half an hour and 3 would all turn up at once.

The old hop-on, hop off buses were the ones I used most regularly and the No. 281 was the route that took me to college in Kingston, along past Twickenham Green, through Teddington High Street and over the bridge to the town centre.  There was always something exhilarating about standing on that platform as you approached your stop, the wind in your hair and the sense of danger lurking just around the corner.

It was a sad day then when these old-fashioned spectacles were replaced by the boxier, more modern version with automatic doors that make that horrible “whooshing” noise as they opened and closed (and don’t get me started on those ridiculous bendy buses!).

It was with delight then that I read this morning that a new version of the old hop-on, hop-off is being introduced on some routes from next week.  A sleeker, curvier version of its predecessor, it boasts 3 passenger doors and 2 sets of stairs to the upper deck. 


We are also going to see the return of the bus conductor on these routes – not to take fares but to supervise people getting on and off the rear platform, although I’m sure the PC brigade will have a field day on this one!  And, as it is topical of course, it is 15% more fuel-efficient than the existing hybrid buses and 40% more efficient than conventional double-deckers.       

With the current trend of remakes in the film industry, how long do you think it will be before someone decides to remake Summer Holiday, this time with Justin Bieber in the Cliff Richard role – heaven forbid!!!

After something like 35 years …

Tomorrow is a big day!  After something like 35 years since this photo was taken, I am meeting up with Martin again – I’m so excited I’m not sure I’m going to sleep tonight!

Martin was the “boy next door” when I was growing up in Twickenham (except he actually lived round the corner!) and we were extremely close for a very long time.  Circumstances were such that we eventually drifted apart and so it will be very interesting to catch up after all these years.  I know he is now happily married and living in Lincolnshire somewhere (and he’s a grandfather!).  I’m pretty sure we’ll soon revert back to those 2 carefree 17 and 18 year olds when we start reminiscing though!  This is the “before” picture – watch this space for the “after” picture – it’s probably going to be emotional!!!

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