Out and about

Hello there my little Christmassy Viperettes and Viperoos!

Sorry I’ve been quiet on the blogging front, but Mrs Viper has been forcing me to ‘live’. This has involved leaving the house and doing things. I know. Torture. I endure it for the sake of my loved ones.

Actually, some of it has been borderline enjoyable. I’ll give you a quick glimpse of my glamorous lifestyle. You can writhe around in envy if you like.

We took the Viperinos to a place in Derbyshire called Calke Abbey. It’s a National Trust place. You know the drill: big house, lovely gardens, overpriced shop. We had National Trust membership bought for us, so we do our best to get out and use it.

Sadly, we discovered that the house was closed for the day. I enjoyed peering through the windows like a Victorian ne’erdowell, casing the joint. They HAD opened the tunnels beneath the house, though. The Viper family love a good tunnel or two. The cellars, tunnels and servants’ passages were all atmospherically gloomy. There were recordings of old Christmas carols and the voices of actors doing their best “we’re below stairs, ma’am” voices. The kids were given fake candles to light the way. The six year old immediately went into her imagination and explained that we were being led by Mouse through tunnels in order to protect the Box of Delights. The smallest Viperino charged after her sister enjoying the adventure. Sadly, the lighting was so dim that I couldn’t get photos. Fortunately, there was a lovely old carousel out in the daylight, so have a picture of that instead.


This was a hand-cranked carousel. I’ve never seen one of those before. Charming, don’t you think?

We also went to visit Father Christmas in his grotto in the Calke Abbey stables. He was a charming fellow. He had a good discussion with the children about ballet. An erudite mythical patriarch. I approved.

We also made a pilgrimage to one of our favourite pubs for a Christmas meal. If you like traditional British inns, try The Red Lion, Hognaston, Derbyshire. The Red Lion I’ve been going there for fifteen years, whenever funds and time allow. The owners have seen my kids grow up. It’s a special place for us.


Lovely tree, isn’t it? Have a look how cosy this place is!

Love it. The food and beer are great, too. I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘family’ pub. You have to keep the kids on a tight leash. It’s quiet and homely. I tend to take the kids outside to look at the view while Mrs Viper waits in peace for the food. Hognaston village is so beautiful that it’s almost a cliche. There aren’t loads of amenities, but it’s worth visiting. It’s also near to Carsington Water, a reservoir with plenty of activities, and Hopton Hall, a place with decent gardens and holiday cottages. Give them a look if you’re into Derbyshire. We came to the area in the snow once and the drifts were as high as the hedges, I wish I’d got some photos of that, but you’ll have to use your imagination. Go on. Imagine. Done it? Good, we can carry on.

Here’s the menu.


Yes, I know, you can’t SEE the menu items. Look, this is just for atmosphere, stop being so picky! We all had Christmas Dinners. No, that’s not true, sorry. The smallest had a tiny portion of fish and chips. The rest of us tucked into the expected turkey and trimmings. It was great food for a small pub. Check out the main course.


Looks good, tasted good too. I was so full that I didn’t bother with pudding, but Mrs Viper went for a mince pie and coffee. The Viperinos shared a brownie and ice cream sundae.

You want that, don’t you? Yeah, you do.

Our final Christmas jaunt was to Kedleston Hall, for breakfast with Father Christmas. Another National Trust gig. To our disappointment, the main house was closed. That’s a shame because Kedleston is a beauty. The breakfast was good and Father Christmas was on decent form. I was more impressed by him at Calke, though. One day I’ll set up a website called ratemysantadotcom. In my opinion, the accent should be RP and the mood should be ‘forgetful but loving relative’. It’s a tough gig being a Father Christmas.

We ate the breakfast in what used to be one of the Hall’s kitchens. Have a look at this.


Not the best lighting. Bit blurry. Not sure about the angle. Look, we’re not professional photographers. You want good photography, go follow Zoella. You want depression, salty language and a great beard, you follow me.

You’ve been a good little reader, so I’m going to give you a treat. Let’s finish off with a cheeky picture of a beard and some pipe smoke beside the Christmas tree.


Phwoooooarrr! You would, though, wouldn’t you? Back off, Mrs Viper would slap you silly.

Not sure I’ll be blogging again before the big day. I’ll end on a sincere note: I hope you have a good Christmas time and I hope you’re as happy as you can be. Depression and all other mental illnesses are no respecters of holidays, are they? Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t be happy. Whoever you are, dear reader, I’m wishing you all the best. Peace and goodwill to all of you.



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