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Friday, November 25, 2011

Meeting at M.K.C.C. and Trip to Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre

We had a meeting at Milton Keynes Christian Centre at 3.30 yesterday afternoon (Thursday) so I arrived at the Academy really early. I sat and waited in the carpark nearest the exit at the back of the building and  the Science Village where Carol works. Carol came out perfectly on time. On Wednesday,  when I came in to collect her, and sat, as usual in the reception area, she was stopped by various parents for them to speak about their children. She is very popular with the parents (well, most of them) and the children she teaches. We managed to leave in good time and then got to M.K.C.C. which is in Oldbrook (only a short drive from home and over the road from the Academy. We were meeting with the lady who is in charge of the Welcome group at church, as we are joining this team. We have been going to M.K.C.C. for over 18 months and want to get more involved. We were given a run-down on what we can expect and what we have to do. We are on the 'green' team and will be 'shadowing' someone on the 18th December, which is the church carol concert. Carol wants to help decorate the Christmas tree and is looking forward to this concert. As there are just under1,000 members of M.K.C.C.  there is a real need for a really first-rate Welcome team, as well as the fact that there are always new people turning up, so a pleasant attitude and smile are the first requirements of the job. We had tea and the lady in charge came out with  two mugs of tea and a really nice plate of little cakes, and Carol was keen to get the one with the pink icing on it! We thought that the meeting had over-run somewhat, as we had to get home to collect Daniel and drive him to the station as he needed to get to work at Paddington Station in London. This we did and managed to get him to Milton Keynes Central Station. There is a lot of roadworks around the station entrance and it means driving in where you usually come OUT as the usual entrance is closed off as the road has been dug up as part of the roadworks. This, hopefully, should be finished in the New Year.

Having deposited Daniel at the station we decided to go into the shopping centre as the annual Christmas display was on in the Middleton Hall. This has been a highlight of Milton Keynes Central Shopping Centre virtually every Christmas since it opened in 1979. We parked the car at Debenhams. This is a multi-storey car park, and it's quite an effort to drive up the spiral ramp and then then find a parking space. As you drive in you come to a barrier and have to take a ticket out of the machine and remember where you put this ticket as without it you cannot exit. On returning to the carpark you have to put this ticket in another machine which calculates the length of time of your visit and you pay accordingly, and the machine issues you with another ticket which you then use in the barrier when you drive out. It is absolutely essential that you remember all this when you visit otherwise you are going to be trapped within the carpark. Having parked we then walked down the escalator and into Midsummer Place, which is the newest section of the shopping centre. We noticed that the clock which is a major feature of this shopping centre was not working. How can I describe it? I should have taken a photo of it, but didn't think to. It was not working. A pity, as it is quite spectacular, what with a large frog which blows bubbles and a thing which moves along a sort of track-way and the whole thing plays music! Generally it attracts quite a crowd, and children seem to love it. There is a similar one in another shopping centre in Cheltenham (behind the Everyman Theatre, where I worked in the late '60's.) I think it was designed by the same person who did the Milton Keynes one. Anyway, there was a sign up stating that this clock was awaiting repair.

Group of animated chickens in the  Dickensian Christmas display in the Middleton Hall

We wanted to have something to eat. We decided to try the restaurant next door to Debenhams and directly opposite the 'Frog Clock' (for want of a better name.) If you go to YouTube and search for 'Frog Clock Milton Keynes', it does come up and there are several reasonably good videos, but the frog isn't that clearly seen. This is called Caffe Italia. Some while ago we had a couple or marangues there. Quite gigantic and incredibly delicious with cream. We bought some when we watched the Royal Wedding on television a few months ago. This time we selected something a good deal different. Carol had spaghetti bolognaise and I chose lasagne. I have to say, considering what we paid for it (with side salad, which we shared, Pepsi and garlic bread, totalling £21.45, it wasn't very good value as the meal whatn't particularly good in the sense that there were lumps of mince in my lasagne and it didn't seem cooked through properly. We won't be going back there again in a hurry. We went to Waterstone's and browsed the new books on display and Carol bought two pens in the in-store Paperchase concession (we like Paperchase, and Carol loves their pens.) We then walked along the main shopping centre, visiting Body Shop on the way and eventually arriving at the Middleton Hall, just outside John Lewis's department store. This is where the Christmas display has been set up (as it is every year.) This year it has a Dickensian feel to it. There is a 'street' of little stalls selling craft items, and we then arrived in the Christmas display. It is aimed at Children, but the child in both Carol and I were intrigued by the animated characters used in the display. The chickens in the above photograph gave us a laugh!

 The Teddy's teaparty. Sorry, it's not a very good photograph.

We waved at the little train as it went past. I have a feeling we must have gone a little bit over-the-top and this seemed to please the lady who seemed to be in charge of the train. She was a sort of conductor on the train. As it went past she asked if we'd like a ride. To which, of course, we replied that we would. We were her guest on the train, and didn't have to pay! So, when the little train stopped in the station and the passengers had got on, we got on! We went round and round the track, looking at the Christmas display and I took some photographs with our small Olympus digital camera which I just happened to have on me. I have up-loaded some of them here, but I'm afraid some of them aren't very good. I may go back and take some more. Incidentally, we went round the display on the train several times, and each time we were asked if we wanted to stay on the train! It would have cost us £1.50 each time (that is, one circuit, which isn't very big!) and after a while we'd seen all we'd wanted to and it was time to leave, thanking the lady and the train-driver for our free train ride! I think, due to the fact that there were very few shoppers around and even fewer paying passengers on the train, they were pleased to have some company!
 Waving Teddy

 View from the train as it went on it's way around the track

We walked back through the shopping centre, stopping in W.H.Smith to have a browse. And then back towards Midsummer Place and the car, parked near Debenham's. In all it had been a rather pleasant evening, just wandering around the shopping centre, and perhaps, most of all, having a free ride on the little train in the Christmas display!

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