Last weekend was a big David Bowie commemoration. We should have been celebrating his 74th birthday but instead, the world marked the fifth anniversary of his death.
I watched Lazarus, the musical that was one of Bowie’s final pieces of work, online, a recording of the London performance that I saw twice with our friend Helen, with Liesel joining us on one occasion. Liesel and I also saw Lazarus in Melbourne, and that seems a long time ago now.
And yes, it was just as enthralling for me the fourth time round.
Photos from TV screeens will never be as good nor as clear as those taken inside a theatre, of course. But you’re not supposed to take pictures in a theatre, apparently.
I stayed up late to watch A Bowie Celebration. This concert was put together by Bowie’s long-term piano player Mike Garson, and was shown online at 2am our time. Sadly, it was postponed for 24 hours, so I had to stay up late for a second night in a row, and that hasn’t happened for a long time. Actually, I grabbed a few hours kip before getting up, just in time, to enjoy three hours of wonderful and sometimes very moving music.
In real life of course, I would have run up to the stage and stolen the set list. Luckily, we can see the full set list here. Also in real life, Liesel would probably rather not let me run up to the stage!
It was good to see Ian Hunter perform his tribute to David Bowie, Dandy as well as All the Young Dudes and what’s scary crazy is, he’s 81 years old and still rocking and rolling. Many other Bowie alumni took part, including Tony Visconti (although we never saw him) and Rick Wakeman (confined to a very small box on the screen). Yungblud never worked with Bowie of course, and I think he was trying to do a Covid test on himself with the microphone.
[Added two weeks later] I just found a list of some of the best comments from the Chat that accompanied the show. I couldn’t keep up with all the comments, there were far too many participants. ‘I small pot’. ‘Warszawa here’. ‘I got front row tickets’. ‘How do you mirror this show to TV?’ Mike Garson disappeared for one song: ‘Mike spilt coffee on his pants, changing now’. ‘Paid for a live concert, the energy ain’t there’. ‘I’m in space’. ‘The woman in front of me won’t sit down’.
Other than those two events, there were about twenty shows on radio to enjoy, BBC and elsewhere, never mind what was on TV. I’m still catching up of course, and what with a slight backlog of podcasts, it’s a good job we’re in lockdown and I don’t have to go to work! Always look on the bright side, as they say.
[10,000 words omitted]
Well, if Robert Heinlein can use that device in his novels, so can I in a blog. I could have written so much more about the David Bowie weekend but that’s for another place. Maybe.
The week was full of four letter words: rain, snow, cold, wind, dull, grey. Despite that, we did venture out a few times, but again, we confined ourselves to our own postcode.
The river was surprisingly low early in the week, we could even see the bricks that make up the weir. And our old friend the heron was sitting there wondering where all the water had gone.
But no need to panic. Within a couple of days, the river was as high as before, totally hiding the weir and covering the island. Anyway, our friend flew off, of course, and we next saw him standing on the grass. So here’s a bonus portrait of the heron.
One day, we’ll go along with some fishes in our pockets to feed him.
The larger volume of water just a couple of days later was enough to shift large bits of, if not whole, trees.
There’s a new lake in Wythenshawe Park.
A few seconds after taking this picture and putting my phone away, those two dogs had a really good time running through the puddle and shaking water over some other passers-by. A big puddle, yes, and the grass on both sides was under water too. Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, we’ll have to turn round and go back the way we came.
The sentiment on the back of the van: seconded!
In other local news, as well as coffee this week, I bought some bagels from Salutem. Possibly the best bagels I’ve had since we were in Anchorage over two years ago. Anchorage: that city so well-known for its bagels.
The drizzle didn’t prevent me from walking to the GP for a quick visit. I certainly didn’t expect to see flamingoes, but there they were, two of them, large as life in somebody’s garden.
To be honest, I’m not sure they’re real life flamingoes, I couldn’t see a pond anywhere nearby.
Yes, it was only drizzling lightly, but the puddles in Sharston Road were out in force. You have to time it right as you walk on by.
I’ve always wondered, given that Manchester is famous for its rain, why is its drainage so bad? This should be the capital city of run-offs and storm drains.
The end of the week saw the start of the 19-day long Celtic Connections. Liesel and I have wanted to visit Glasgow for a while for this music festival, but obviously, not this year. Instead, we’ll enjoy it online, like everything else. But we’re certainly not alone in wanting to be able to see live music again, sometime.
One day this week, I poured out my breakfast cereal only to realise I’d finished off the milk in my first cup of tea. Fresh milk would be delivered later, so I was reluctant to open the emergency bottle of long-life milk. And there’s no way I was going to separate the Shreddies from the muesli and the blueberries, not to mention the Weetabix crumbs, and return all the cereal to the various correct containers. Only one thing for it. I poured on the last of the Christmas Baileys and had a very nice start to the day, thank you very much.
This week on Radio Northenden (newly updated website, go and have a look), we went back to school, had a few lessons and said thank you to our teachers. Catch up here.
In lockdown, we’re allowed out for exercise and for food shopping and to collect medication. As requested, the GP sends our prescriptions electronically, directly to the pharmacy. One day this week, we got extra steps in by visiting one pharamcy, walking to the other branch then all the way back to the first, where we finally collected what we’d been in for in the first place.
The occasional coffee to take away is fundamental to our mental well-being, as well, of course. All our shopping is done online, it’s all delivered by some very nice young men and, last week, by a very nice young lady.
When you’re lurking inside a pharmacy while the staff are failing to find what you came for, all you can do is admire the tat on sale, such as this little ladyfish.
I was in danger of succumbing to a full-on panic attack when my PC lost touch with the internet.
After failing to fix it by turning the PC off and on again, I went for a walk to breathe and to calm down and to try and think of possible solutions that didn’t involve a sledge hammer.
24 hours later, everything was back to normal. I have no idea what it was that I did but I tried to set things up as if for the first time. And tried again. Plugging and unplugging everything that I could think of. And tried again. Then it was all working again. So I don’t know what went wrong and I don’t know how it was fixed.
We enjoyed a few local walks this week, in the cold but sometimes in bright sunshine. Quite rightly I suppose, Liesel’s Mom queried why I went for a walk in the graveyard. Well, it was somewhere different to go. The gravestones were very slippery though, like a field of miniature ice rinks. In the sunshine, the distant stones resembled a rather sophisticated stoney toast rack.
That picture was a mistake, phone in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some people in the family are a bit better at taking pictures though. Just look at this one taken by Helen during a storm in Manly.
This week marks what should have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday. Jessica Lee Morgan kicked off the celebrations on her regular Tuesday night online show.
I continued celebrating the great man on my own radio show on Friday afternoon . Listen back here: songs that David Bowie covered plus several of his songs covered mostly by female singers.
Another day, another walk and we have a new visitor, or maybe a new inhabitant, on the river. Is it a cormorant?
He didn’t move from his stone, despite quite a few people walking by on both sides of the river. Stone? Actually, it looks more like an old Roman plate, when you zoom in.
Nice to see the cheeky grin on the shutters outside this closed beauty parlour. But hooray, the coffee shop next door, Salutem, was open.
The new year started off with some sad news for us. Sarah’s mother Myra passed away in her sleep. We saw her online last month on the occasion of her 90th birthday, and she was looking forward to celebrating in real life later on. We’ll miss our occasional visits to London with her, to the National Theatre, to the British Museum, to Pizza Express. And her occasional visits to Manchester. Martha and William love saying the words ‘Great Granny’. Yes, even when she was locked in her room at Premier Inn, hanging out of the window asking for help, she remained positive and upbeat.
We enjoyed a mini-heatwave, a few days when the temperature approached 30°C. So we went for a walk one evening when it was just a little cooler. We kept to shade as much as possible, avoiding the worst of the ultraviolet (there’s one) rays.
We found some blackberries in full bloom so I’m sure we’ll be back later in the year to enjoy the fruits. And, just a little further along the road (please don’t tell anybody where), we found some wild raspberries too, just a bit too far back through the thistles and brambles to approach in our besandalled feet.
Liesel pointed out the fireweed and explained that when this flower blooms, it will snow six weeks later. Quite an education (there’s one)! I suspect this is just Alaskan folklore, but, as a precaution (another one), I’m keeping my snow shoes handy.
The evening presented us with the first of the week’s technical faults that could have developed into an immensely vexacious (boom) affair. My Kindle displayed an error message that I’ve never seen before. Fortunately a hard reboot fixed it, which meant that I could continue my struggle with ‘Middlemarch’. After trudging through 11% of the text though, I’m sorry to say, I was so discouraged (aha), I gave up. I very rarely give up on a book once I’ve started. On the other hand, How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford is very readable.
Standing outside our luxury block of luxury apartments, looking up at the blue sky through the oak tree’s foliage, in a slight breeze on a hot day, is delightful. One branch is dead and bits of it fall down now and then. Maybe it was malnourished (oof) when it was younger.
Now that things are slowly opening up again, we enjoyed a couple of days out at National Trust properties. For the first time since the lockdown was implemented, we went to Dunham Massey. This is usually a very busy, popular place, but on this occasion, we had little problem keeping a safe distance away from people. We try to keep our levels of anxiousness (da-dah) down, but when you’re breathing the same air, the risk is always at the back of your mind.
I always investigate the sundial near the main entrance but it has never occurred to me before that the statue supporting it might be offensive: a ‘Blackamoor’ with white bulging eyes. There’s white privilege for you.
The deer were very prominent today: I suspect they’ve become used to people not being around, recently. Other visitors were indulging in the questionable (badoom) activity of approaching the deer and stroking them.
We paid a quick visit to Jenny to drop off some food items. It was an ideal day to deliver butter: 30° or so! We had a quick chat with Martha and William through the window, and I managed to get a good photo this time!
Technical issue number 2. My PC still runs Windows 7, which has not been supported by Microsoft since January. So I was surprised one night when turning it off, it said it was installing an update. My heart sank. This was not authorised (ooh) by me. Next time I booted up, it gleefully told me that Microsoft Edge had been installed. Ever since, it’s been nagging me to accept its terms and conditions. Why? I didn’t want it in the first place! I’ve been uninstalling a lot of unused software recently, and this is another candidate for the chop. But why am I worried? Because once when I uninstalled iTunes from a PC, it also took away that machine’s ability to play CDs. Technology’s great, when it works.
I can’t remember the last time I had a twelve hour sleep with only one interruption. But this happened at the weekend and I can only say I felt fantastic afterwards. Even the smell of freshly baked scones didn’t disturb my slumbers. Thanks, Liesel! We drove to Quarry Bank Mill, the second of the week’s National Trust venues, under changeable skies. Sunny and blue for a while, then cloudy and grey. We mostly avoided the rain and enjoyed a fabulous walk around the gardens. The mill itself is still closed, but we were able to buy a coffee, so that’s encouraging (bazinga).
At one point, we could look down and see the rain in the valley. We felt just a few spots but took shelter under one of the rocks, which strangely, was reminiscent of the painted rocks in the Kakadu, albeit much cooler. Growing out of the cliff-like rock, was this tree, just clinging on by its finger-nails.
As well as all the pretty flowers, they grow a lot of food here, but I was dissuaded from scrumping an apple.
The third of our technical issues was on TV. BBC iPlayer usually just plods along and does its thing, once you’ve navigated to the programme you want to watch. But again, our hearts sank when we saw this. Could our Freeview box be on its last legs? Was a transmitter struck by lightning in one of the ongoing storms? Anyway, it was soon rectified and hasn’t recurred. It briefly interrupted our enjoyment of the Glastonbury Festival. This year’s 50th anniversary festival has been cancelled due to Covid, but the BBC are showing several performances from previous years.
So far this year, we’ve watched or re-watched quite a few of our favourites, most of whom we’ve never actually seen in real life. So, thanks to David Bowie, REM, Florence and the Machine, Christine and the Queens, Adele and her potty mouth. Coldplay persuaded the Glasonbury King, Michael Eavis, to sing My Way and sang a couple of Bee Gees songs with Barry Gibb. Dolly Parton is always good value too. As well as many of her greatest songs, she performed Yakety Sax on her saxophone. Elbow’s songs are often pretty straightforward, but Guy Garvey’s voice and his magnificent instrumentation (ooh, another one) always make the performance something special. Even from the comfort of our own living room.
What? You’re wondering how I can just briefly mention David Bowie at Glastonbury and not dwell a little longer on the subject? At the time of writing, I have watched this programme twice. It’s the first time the full performance has been broadcast on normal TV. He enjoyed it, we fell in love with his bass player, Gail Ann Dorsey all over again, the band was all together.
The set list:
Wild is the Wind
Little China Girl
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
All the Young Dudes
The Man Who Sold the World
Station to Station
I’m Afraid of Americans
We still miss Mr Bowie, and many of us think that the equilibrium of the world was upset by his early death in 2016. So happy we still have his music.
The heatwave came to an end and the rain returned.
It was a quiet Sunday, but I was definitely wabbit by the end of the day: wish I could justify my state of exhaustion (yes).
Liesel’s been busy knitting a beautiful hat.
Radio Northenden broadcast its 50th show today, Monday, and I, Mick the Knife, was invited to take part, have a chat and pick three songs on lock, three tracks that I like to listen to while on lockdown. Thanks for the opportunity, Sanny, and I hope I’m not too embarrassed when I listen back later!
So there’s a 50th, and here’s a 300th. Yup, you are reading the 300th post on this blog so as a bonus, to celebrate, here is a list of 300 words, each of which contains all 5 vowels. I’ve been collecting these for several years. In fact, the first one I was aware of was while still in education (ding). A teacher at school accused me of being facetious (dong). I very nearly said, “Did you realise that ‘facetious’ contains all five vowels?” But luckily I realised just in time that that would just be confirming her ridiculous opinion.
I’ve been adding to the list pretty much ever since then, moreso recently, as I know how fascinated Liesel is(n’t) when I announce a new discovery. Most of them are from books, some from subtitles or dialogue (ooh) from TV shows and, this week, in the space of ten minutes, I spotted a few on my Twitter feed.
In (more or less) the order I noted them down, here are 300 words all containing at least one incidence each of A, E, I, O and U:
This year’s Easter Sunday featured no eggses for Liesel and me, but we did enjoy watching William and Martha playing with bubbles! Yes, of course, we would love to have been with them in their garden, but we’re all still in lockdown thanks to Covid-19. And it looks like we’ll be here for several more weeks, too.
We’re not getting out very often, in fact. I go out every two or three days for a walk and Liesel comes out less often. It’s nice to see so much support for the NHS. We clap for the nurses and doctors and porters and cleaners and all NHS workers every Thursday night, some people bang pots and pans, some let fireworks off, some blow vuvuzelas, but Liesel and I are just happy to lean out of a window and politely applaud. There is more support and gratitude expressed out on the pavements of Northenden too.
Stay at home, says the wall, but if I had followed the instruction, I wouldn’t have been able to read the instruction and it’s this sort of paradox that leads to rifts in the spacetime continuum.
As Spring progresses, we’re seeing more and more colour, hooray! Even the oak tree outside our flat is now showing some foliage: I was beginning to think it was a deceased deciduous but no, it’s doing alright! I wonder how the baby oak tree is doing in our old garden in Chessington?
Sit down with a cup of tea, because here comes a story about a potentially risky and ultimately pointless adventure. Regular visitors will know that I go to donate blood every twelve weeks or so. My appointment loomed and they kept sending me reminders, telling me it was still safe, that they were taking extra precautions to protect the staff and us donors from coronavirus, and it all looked ok for me to go along as normal. However, travelling by bus into Manchester didn’t seem to be such a good idea given the current isolation regime. So Liesel kindly offered to drive me in, despite the fact that she, as a more vulnerable person, is definitely meant to stay indoors. Well, I suggested, if you’re driving into Manchester anyway, why don’t you offer to give blood as well? That’s a good idea, said Liesel, and she proceeded to register online.
Everyone she told said it probably wasn’t such a good idea, really, but the messages we were now both receiving from blood.co.uk gave us confidence that this would be one of the safest, cleanest places we could possibly visit, outside our own home. Dear reader, if you can, please consider giving blood, you never know, you might need it back one day!
Blood day arrived, and we drove along almost empty roads to the Blood Donor Centre in Manchester. The man in the booth raised the barrier and we parked in a surprisingly crowded car park. Liesel went first, answered a few questions, and when she went in, I was requested to go and wait in the car: they didn’t want too many people inside at the same time. Well, of course, Liesel had the car key, so I couldn’t sit in the car. Instead, I took some exercise, walking round and round the car park, taking photos, enjoying the sunshine and changing direction whenever I saw another person within about 50 feet.
The time of my appointment arrived and I went in, answering a few basic questions. I didn’t see Liesel, so I assumed she was either still being processed or was in a back room somewhere. The nurse did the usual finger prick test and asked a few more questions. Since my last session, I’ve seen the GP about my shortness of breath issue, which has resulted in a number of medical tests. My next appointment has been postponed, because of The ‘Rona. Because it’s my heart that’s being investigated, they said they wouldn’t take my blood today. Well, that was very disappointing, but understandable: they don’t want me keeling over and having to visit the hospital over the road. They’ll be in touch in six months. I left with my tail between my legs. The receptionist nurse said that Liesel had donated, so that was good. It was also wrong. They’d tried, but they couldn’t find a vein, told Liesel she was too dehydrated and sent her away.
What a palaver! All that time and effort: giving blood, we thought, is one of the few things we can do at the moment for the benefit of other people. Oh well, it was a day out.
Yes, I was daft enough to watch this Bug Box for a few minutes but saw nothing more interesting than a couple of flies.
The hedge around our apartment block is still covered in brown leaves that we feel should have fallen off last Autumn. But, for the first time, this week, there are signs of life. The new leaves are red rather than green, but a few days sunshine should sort that out. Looking forward to a lush, green barrier very soon.
Again, we have to enjoy the children’s activities from afar. Here is Queen Anna and apart from reluctantly taking off this costume at bedtime, Martha has been living in it for days!
On Liam’s birthday, we had another Zoom session, I won’t say how old he is but it’s the same age as Martha, just with a zero afterwards.
People have asked and yes, we do sometimes miss our garden in Chessington. I don’t miss my 30-year war with bindweed and dandelions, they were always going to win. But I would like to apologise to all the bees and butterflies that could have enjoyed the dandelions in my garden, if only my preference wasn’t always for other flowers (or weeds).
There’s not enough Martha in our lives at the moment, so we watched a different one perform from home on t’internet. Martha Tilston has been one of our favourite singer/songwriters since the early 2000s: I think I first saw her at Kingston’s Rose Theatre before it even acquired that name! Liesel and I have seen her live several times and we look forward to doing so again. But this online show was fantastic, we really enjoyed it, she sang many of our favourite songs.
We even had a glass of whisky to accompany the show. It was only fitting then that we have a music session the following day. Liesel and I took it in turns to play some long neglected CDs:
Brave, the Disney film soundtrack
Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
Martha Tilston, Bimbling
(some of) D#rty F#n M#l# (which, correctly, Liesel described as gross)
Beatles, Let it Be Naked
O Brother, Where Art Thou? film soundtrack
From the last of these, one song in particular struck a chord:
Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way
If we keep on the sunny side of life.
PS As I write Sanny has just played this very song on Radio Northenden, at my request, so I shall add that mention to my 15 minutes of fame as predicted by Andy Warhol. And by coincidence, Andy Warhol by David Bowie was the first song played on today’s show, the penultimate one. You can listen to all 14 shows here.
A Mermaid greeted us when we went to look after William this week. Of course, it was Martha, not a real mermaid, and it was a shame she had to change into her uniform to go to nursery!
We endured a foggy drive to Chester Zoo this time, but unusually, on arrival, there wasn’t a cold wind in the car park. William set the pace as we walked around, often hanging around in the same area, especially when it entailed standing in the mud. He was as excited to watch a squirrel scurry by on the fence as he was to see the elephants.
The monorail is now being demolished, which is a shame: that was always a good way to pass some time, queueing up for a ride.
We did feel sorry for the penguins, though: someone’s taken the plug out of their pool and they were plodding around, looking a bit forlorn.
William slept in the car in both directions and as soon as we dropped him off at home, Liesel and I went home. We had plans, things to do, places to be.
After waiting for a bus for too long and witnessing several going by in the wrong direction, we decided to drive into Manchester instead. We’d like to use public transport but it’s just not a good or reliable enough service in Manchester.
We enjoyed a burrito at Listo Burrito, infamous for its burritos, apparently.
A Bowie Celebration brings together several musicians who have worked with David Bowie at some point, whether playing live or on record. The Bowie Alumni Band was brought together by Mike Garson, who performed with Bowie over a thousand times. Tonight, the band played at Manchester’s O2 Ritz. Doors opened at 7pm. We arrived in very good time, to join a long line of even more eager people, all hoping to snare one of the few seats available. It’s an old dance hall, really, so it’s pretty much all standing around.
O2, the telcommunication company, obviously provide the wifi at this venue. But I got a better signal from Gorilla, a place over the road. We tried not to stare too much at the fellow audience members, some even older than me, many wearing Bowie t-shirts from his numerous incarnations. There were a few young people too but we saw nobody with the red Ziggy hairstyle or the Aladdin Sane lightning flash on their face.
Inside, we went upstairs and stood at the front of the balcony, overlooking the stage and the dancefloor below. We watched as the venue filled while listening to a Mike Garson record: Bowie Variations, which I can highly recommend.
Even though we were standing, we were able to lean on the barrier and we resisted being squeezed out by other people. Sadly, we’ll never see David Bowie live in concert again, but this would be a good second best. We’ll never see Beethoven in action either, but we still enjoy his music being played live, though not necessarily by people he actually performed with.
Tonight, the band played the whole of the Diamond Dogs album, sharing the vocals between three great but very different vocalists: Mr Hudson, Corey Glover and Sass Jordan.
It was loud, but very faithful to the original album. I sang along of course, and noticed a couple of faux pas on the part of the professionals. It should be ‘fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats’, even I know that!
I remember buying and playing Diamond Dogs for the very first time, in 1974, amazed that after Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, Bowie could still come up with some fantastic lyrics and wonderful tunes. Tonight we were both reminded just how much his music has a jazz influence, especially with Mike Garson in the mix.
What a shame George Orwell’s widow didn’t allow Bowie to turn 1984 into a musical, the original idea. Diamond Dogs is a mix between that and his own perception of some future dystopia: but not too far in the future.
We thought there’d be an interval after Diamond Dogs, but no, they kept going. Space Oddity next. By now, I had a slightly sore throat from singing along and my tinnitus had been turned up to 11, but it was worth it, such an emotional show for me, and for many others, no doubt.
Suffragette City was very exciting, and if you’ve never heard 1500 people in unison shriek ‘wham bam, thank you ma’am’, well, it’s very therapeutic!
Rock’n’roll Suicide always brings a tear to the eye.
Everyone sang along to Heroes, another opportunity for the lacrimal glands to kick into gear.
Two hours and twenty minutes of wallowing in the past, fantastic. A good review and more photos can be seen here.
It was a most enjoyable show. But for the sake of us old codgers: a seated venue might be better. And please turn down the bass a tad because we’re already losing the higher frequencies, thanks!
I don’t know. We don’t go out in the evening for a while and then we go out twice within a few days! The 2020 HSBC UK National Track Cycling Championships finals took place at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester this weekend. We attended one session, on Saturday evening, and we undoubtedly witnessed some cycling stars of the future. My favourite cycling team is now Team Terminator: they’ll be back.
The commentary was pretty good, if a little cheesey at times. But there was no ‘turning the screw’, nor ‘putting down the hammer’, nor ‘ lighting the afterburners’ but as Liesel pointed out, these clichés usually apply to road races. One of tonight’s races did ‘go down to the wire’, so anyone playing ‘cycling commentary bingo’ didn’t totally waste their time. Proud to have been part of an ‘awsome audience’, though.
In years to come, we’ll be looking out for the new British Men’s Points Race Champion, ‘the Welshman from Wales’, Rhys Britton. I don’t know the name of the model sporting this rather delightful bobble hat, quite a distraction from the racing, to be honest.
Other names to look out for are Lauren Bell who won the Keirin, Hamish Turnbull, the new Sprint champ and Ella Barnwell, the new Scratch Race champion, taking over from Laura Kenny, who wasn’t here to defend her title on this occasion. I was watching the Derny bike rider leading the Keirin races and I thought, I could do that. If I were looking for a job.
It was an exciting night but next time, I think I’ll take my real camera, the medal ceremonies were just too far away for good pics. The music and the roar of the crowd weren’t too loud today and the tinnitus was not affected, you’ll be pleased to know.
In a change to normal programming, we looked after Martha and William on Sunday while their parents went on a secret mission.
The Ice Cream Farm was very busy today, the water was in full flow thanks to the numerous older children ready and eager to turn on the taps, use the Archimedes screw, open the sluices and generally send water to places it’s not supposed to be.
We played in the sand for a while too. Not ‘we’, I mean ‘they’, of course. Any sandcastle I might have built was soon demolished by William.
The children wore themselves out in the softplay area. Here is Martha carrying the balls to some small cannons, from which she was able to shoot across the play area, trying to hit the targets while missing the other children, mostly.
We drove home and despite the extreme state of exhaustion, sleep eluded us all. And indoors, Martha used Liesel’s crochet hook to demolish a skein of yarn.
Jenny and Liam joined us for dinner on their return, and afterwards, Liesel and I spent over 12 hours untangling the yarn. Next time, we’ll make sure Martha untangles her own tangles.
Two bits of good news. My replacement bluetooth keyboard has arrived, and it works perfectly so, once again, I’ll be able to write blogs and other nonsense while away from home and not in a library or internet café! Plus, my first toad-in-the-hole in the new luxury apartment came out very well. Very nice, very tasty, as they say.
But it didn’t prepare us for what occurred the following morning. There I was, still in bed, Liesel came in, threw back the curtains and said I had to see this.
‘What, rain?’ I asked.
‘No, snow,’ she replied. Lo and behold, it was snowing. I said I wasn’t going anywhere today, thank you very much. Well, the snow didn’t last long and didn’t settle, but when I did go out for a walk later on in the sunshine, I was surprised at how cold it still was outside. I didn’t walk very far today. Brrr.
We met our friend Helen in Surbiton for breakfast. I thought the lights were faulty in the restaurant but it was pointed out that buses stopping outside were blocking the sunlight. Obvious, really, no need to go on womansplaining, you two.
They took the bus into Kingston and I went for a walk to and beside the Thames. It was a good few degrees cooler by the river, I had to put my jacket on. Many people were messing about on the river, skiffs, yachts, dinghies, sailboards and I was surprised there were no collisions nor people overboard.
The sky and water and everything looked a bit grey and drab. The award for the most colourful restaurant today goes to the Thai Busaba near Kingston Bridge.
I walked as far as the bandstand in Canbury Gardens, before turning back to meet Liesel and Helen in the town centre. I think I’d given them enough time to do whatever shopping needed doing.
There was no music on this late October afternoon, but that is a main attraction during the warmer Summer months.
I watched a couple of guys playing tennis but they weren’t taking it too seriously. The man packing up his angling gear didn’t seem to have caught anything for his tea, but maybe sitting on a cold, lonely riverbank for a few hours was an end in itself.
There are some boats moored on the river in the town centre and as I returned, I passed by one that was belching smoke and stench direct from Hades.
I really wanted to put an upturned bucket over the chimney to force the culprits out. One of the first things Helen commented on when I met them, fortuitously outside T K Maxx, was the smell (from the boat) that had by now permeated the town. I took refuge in the Bentall Centre for a while where by comparison, even the smell from Yo! Sushi was acceptable. We all met up again in a café for coffee and cake: well, I’d had a reasonable walk from Surbiton.
We took Helen home to Chessington. And yes, of course we drove by our old house. The neighbours are building a loft extension and we are so glad we won’t have to put up with that!
Back at the b&b, we were relaxing, reading, listening to the radio, when my phone rang. That is very unusual. But it was the Rose Theatre. The other day, we’d tried to buy tickets for the show tonight, a jazz concert celebrating 60 years of Ronnie Scott’s Club in London. It was sold out so we put our names down for any returned tickets. And how lucky were we?
Back to Kingston then and to the Rose Theatre. I always look around to see if there’s anyone I know, and tonight I was delighted to find Stella and Ian. We agreed to meet after the show for a drink.
Before the performance though, I looked at the exhibited photos from the Canbury Camera Club and some of them were fantastic.
The music was fantastic, some well-known and some new (to me) tunes from 60 years at Ronnie’s. They also told the story of the club which I’ve only been to 2 or 3 times. The thought of it now still evokes thick smoke and cool dudes saying ‘nice’ a lot. Tonight at the Rose, though, we just enjoyed the music and the stories. The band was led by James Pearson, the club’s Artistic Director and Natalie Williams was the vocalist, even emulating Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing very faithfully.
Stella, Ian, Liesel and I walked along to The Druid’s Head, a pub that has certainly been cleaned up a lot since the last time I was there. We had a good chat and in my case, a welcome pint of Old Peculier.
The next couple of days include the long and uneventful drive back home, a walk to the Post Office and beyond, lots of tidying in the spare room, some writing and the usual end of month admin tasks (paying bills).
I did go for a longer walk one day, to Wythenshawe, to the Park and around in a big circle. It’s a pity we live so far from the nearest tram stop, it would be nice not to have to rely on buses all the time.
I do like a splash of colour and while the Autumn leaves are gorgeous, a blast of red from rosehips cheers up the place (and me).
Our car might have a couple of slow punctures, an issue that should be addressed imminently you’d think. But other than a couple of times having to add some air, they’ve been holding up. But when the time comes to get some new tyres for the car, I know exactly where we’ll be going. They sure know how to attract customers in this part of the world.
Oh, hang on, we don’t have a 4×4 or a prestige model so I guess we won’t be enjoying a free Jaffa Cake after all.
Grandchildren’s Day during the half-term break means we get both Martha and William to look after, hooray! We took them to The Hideaway in Partington, a nice softplay area and indoor playground.
Yes, of course this reminded me of the old David Bowie song, There is a Happy Land and when I sent the lyrics to Janny and Henny, I was accused of being delirious. What a strange family.
There’s a ‘planetarium’ here too. Inside, Martha and I lay down on the floor to watch a series of films projected onto the hemispherical ceiling. Aimed at young children, I think some of the concepts were quite complicated: a space shuttle launch, all the planets, what causes the tides. Martha’s favourite planet is the one with the rings, Saturn, although she sometimes forgets its name.
William spent a lot of time climbing, and he’s not afraid of asking for help when he can’t quite manage!
We had a lovely dinner, again prepared by Liesel, including stuffed tomatoes.
Jenny told me that her boss also attended the Graphene lecture last week at the Royal Society. Not Lemn, but Dame Nancy Rothwell DBE DL FRS FMedSci FRSB FBPhS MAE, the President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester. I didn’t look that hard at the time, it was so unlikely I’d know anyone. But I would have said hello if I’d seen her there that evening: we go back a long way. She’s done very well since the days we were contemporaries at Queen Elizabeth College in London. Without consulting my old journals, I don’t know how often I would have stomped on her feet at the Sunday night discos in the student bar. Good old Nancy! Good times!
On the way to join Jyoti and Chris for breakfast, I was again reminded of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Other than that, the walk and the tram ride were uneventful. Yes, Jyoti is back in town to spend time with Chris and so we decided to pester them too. Actually, Chris suggested the venue, The Auction Rooms. Liesel and I arrived first and there was already a queue of people waiting to be seated. So, a popular place with locals: always a good sign.
It was wonderful to see those two love birds, gazing into each others’ eyes, holding hands and, in another place, the Morality Police would have been on the scene, blues and twos, no doubt! Chris had to work (we keep forgetting some people have real lives with jobs and everything) so the three of us went to the Museum.
The Revolutions: Records and Rebels exhibtion was previously shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Now in Melbourne, it includes reference to the fight for Aboriginal rights in the 1960s. It was fascinating, lots of memories for me. Unbelievably, at the time, I wanted to be a little older than I was. Not so keen on that idea, now!
Yes, it was all very interesting, and it’s just so sad and disappointing that some groups of people are still having to fight for equal rights, you know, real weirdos such as women, black people, gay people, Australian Aboriginal people. But we did leave with some fund-raising ideas for the WI.
The ’60s music was good, too, and we enjoyed watching The Who at Woodstock, just 50 years late to that particular party.
There’s a replica of the first ever computer mouse, invented over 50 years ago.
I never knew until today that there was a road named after a top Australian rock band. AC/DC Lane is popular with visitors, partly due to the street art in the area. As usual, the creative work is ruined slightly by the boring, unimaginative tagging.
Vegetarian Paul McCartney would probably not be too happy with this tribute to his old band.
We wandered around the 19th and 20th century Aussie art display in the Federation Square complex. We would have stayed longer, but at closing time, even we were politely asked to leave. The then new Sydney Harbour Bridge was still under construction but the painting’s finished.
I was disappointed not to see any works by Michael Andrews: maybe we just missed him by a room or two, but this depiction of the red centre is quite evocative.
On the way to the old Young & Jackson pub, we made a detour to another lane, where the street art is striking. One of the main news items at the moment here in Australia is about Freedom of the Press. The police raided the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the home of a journalist, in an attempt to discover who leaked some secret information. Someone was quick off the mark with this image.
Many years ago, my Dad told us about a pub he’d visited at the end of the Second World War. I don’t think he remembered its name but he said it was opposite Flinders Street Station. He told us about a painting on the wall inside, a girl called Chloe. After three or four visits to Melbourne, it was time to track this pub down. If it wasn’t Young and Jackson, then I don’t know where else to look. He visited when he ended his war, serving in the Royal Navy, here in Australia.
It is an old pub, yes, and it’s seen a few changes in the 74 years since Dad was here. But I was really pleased to find Chloe, now 144 years young, on the wall in the upstairs restaurant.
Chris joined us for an early evening meal, before he and Jyoti went home. Liesel and I walked over the river to revisit the Arts Centre.
I’ve seen Lazarus twice in London, Liesel just the once, and it was just as good and fun and entertaining but a little sad this time: the David Bowie songs are timeless and always magnifico. The stage set was totally different, and both Liesel and I had a much better view of the stage on this occasion.
Fewer people sung along than I expected, so I had to project more to compensate. No, I didn’t, I was sotto voce all the way.
What an unexpectedly busy day then: a museum, an art gallery, some street-walking, a couple of meals out and topped off with a musical performance. Thanks, Melbourne!
And so we come to the final, full day on our travels. We’re looking forward to being home, not necessarily to the 24 hour journey getting there.
After a bit of a lie-in, we went out and enjoyed egg muffins for breakfast. Thinking about home, and being away, it was disconcerting to see this on the wall.
I had to visit the Optus shop to query a large mobile phone bill I’d been sent even though I’m on a different kind of plan. No need for the AFP to come after me when I get home, I’ve seen what they’re like at the ABC. Thank goodness the bill is for the previous user of my Aussie phone number: forget it, nothing to worry about, the clerk will sort it out. So, fingers crossed.
We visited the ridiculously expansive Queen Victoria Market, walked around for a bit, passing time until Jyoti and Chris joined us.
I bought a couple of apples. Jyoti bought a new coat. We admired the Melbourne skyline. We bought coffee.
Yes, Melbourne does like its coffee, there are so many coffee places to choose from, we even saw Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese coffee shops in close proximity this morning.
We listened to Rhys Crimmin busking in the market, he’s not too bad, played the didgeridoo as well as guitar, harmonica and a drum, a good old-fashioned one-man band.
He performed the Men at Work song, Down Under which always raises a smile.
Again, poor old Chris had to go home to work, leaving the three of us to have a jolly good time. We walked to Royal Park and it was very pleasant, the Sun was out, it was warm, I tried not to whinge too much about being forced, well, requested, to wear jeans today rather than shorts. But we’ll soon be back in an English Summer and I can get my legs out again, for everyone’s delectation.
This view reminds me of the album cover for Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge. So yes, now I have that music in my head.
Final day, last supper. Round at Chris’s with his missus, to coin a 25-year old phrase.
Our Aussie adventures conclude with this sunset as seen from Chris’s apartment.
So we bid farewell to Jyoti and Chris, and to our final Airbnb up on the 9th floor looking over an alleyway into an office block.
And farewell to Melbourne, to Australia, to our adventures.
A year ago in London, Liesel visited a physiotherapist by the name of Emma. Emma’s partner is also a trained PT, and he is Australian. Under some peculiar, twisted distortion and interpretation of Theresa May’s “hostile environment for illegal immigrants”, his work visa was revoked, and he was forced to move back to Australia. And naturally, Emma went back with him. So Britain has lost two fully trained physiotherapists for no good reason.
They are now living and working in Melbourne. Liesel tracked Emma down and made an appointment to visit her
So, the three of us took a tram to South Melbourne. While Liesel was being poked and prodded, Jyoti and I had a quick walk, to get some steps in and, yes, of course, we had a coffee at one of Melbourne’s famed coffee shops.
I always like a good pun when it comes to a shop name and hairdressers and barbers are particularly good at it.
Every now and then, we come across a shop named after a David Bowie song or album. Well, here, we not only had the album, the neighbouring shop was named after one of the songs on that album, albeit abbreviated so as not to offend your nan. Queen Bitch. No, not your nan, that’s the name of the Bowie song.
We caught the tram back to the iconic Flinders Street Station. We didn’t go into the pub over the road that my Dad had told me about: he’d been there after the war, in the late 1940s!
We crossed the road to Federation Square, to spend time indoors again.I had been here once before, when the geometrically and architecturally interesting buildings had first opened, in 2002.
I visited Australia in November 2002 specifically to see the Total Eclipse of the Sun. It was a trip that Sarah and I hoped to make together but she died eighteen months earlier. I was in two minds about whether or not to make the trip on my own, but now, I am immensely glad and grateful that so many people encouraged me to go for it. I had a good time, but it was emotional too. A Total Eclipse, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road and on through South Australia to Kings Canyon, Uluru, Alice Aprings, Ghan to Adelaide. A great trip, but the detailed blog remains to be written! And now, back to the present…
“The Clock” is a 24-hour long video comprised of thousands of clips from films and TV programmes. As it proceeds, the shots of clocks in the various clips accurately reflect the time now, in the real world. The joins were seamless, and although there was no single storyline to follow, it was a very interesting 90 minutes that we spent watching it (minus a short nap, each). Where else would you see Ricky Gervais and Joan Crawford together? Snippets from films not seen for years, decades even. Christian Marclay is responsible for this colossal labour of love, but surely he must have employed many researchers? Yes, we thought about returning later in the day to see a different segment, but that will have to wait until next time.
ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is based here too. Yesterday, Chris had suggested visiting this collection of film and TV related exhibits, and the zoetrope in particular.
As it spins, a strobe light gives the illusion that the individual models are moving up and down.
One display celebrated Australian film and TV. The selection was OK but I was disappointed that The Paul Hogan Show was not represented. My flat mates and I used to watch that on late night TV with a tube of Fosters, and it was the funniest show evah!
I did enjoy watching an 18-year old Kylie Minogue with sister Dannii perfoming Sisters are Doing it for Themselves!
The whole place was very reminiscent of the old MOMI, Museum of the Moving Image, in London, but this was much more interactive.
The piano from the 1993 film, “The Piano” was here, but I wasn’t allowed to play it. I’m not sure Michael Nyman would have been allowed to touch it, to be fair.
Replicas were made for the film. A light one, to carry up the hill. And a heavy steel one to film sinking in the sea.
There is an Aussie TV fantasy drama that I now want to watch: Cleverman. They employed Weta Studios to design the special effects, and the aboriginal mythology underlying the story looks fascinating.
And now for the next edition of a favourite irregular item: Toilet Talk.
I saw this sign in the toilets and I thought, if I pee twice, I could save eight litres of water. Also, if I’m walking out in the woods and need to go behind a bush, when Liesel rolls her eyes I can just tell her that I am saving 4 litres of water! All this on the day that Network Rail have decided to abolish the six shilling charge for using the public toilets at Waterloo Station. Six shillings, 30p, Liesel will confirm I’ve been whingeing about this charge for years.
Bollards! It’s a shame that these large blocks of concrete are required to protect buildings in our cities, but I do like the fact that someone solved the Rubik’s Cube here.
We visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre because it was time once again to shake our heads in disbelief and despair, weep for the past and feel absolute shame at what our British ancestors are responsible for. Australia is the only commonwealth country still without a treaty with its original people. Small pox, massacres, kidnappings, stealing their land, oh it’s a horrible story.
This chap cheered us up. Diprotodon was the largest marsupial ever to live, about the size of a rhinoceros and is thought to have died out about 45,000 years ago. So chances are, it did live alongside humans for a period. Two metres tall, three metres long, but what a cute, cheeky face.
The other day we found a Chocolaterie and Ice Creamerie. Today we passed by a Fish and Chipperie. But our destination on Lygon Street was Milk the Cow Licenced Fromagerie. It was just along the road from Reading’s Bookerie, where I’d met Barry Humphries, as mentioned before.
Milk the Cow is a combined cheeserie and winerie and actually, my Cider Flight was fab, delicious even.
Four slices of different cheese each accompanied by a specially selected cider. With crackers and bread. Very nicerie, very tasterie.
We passed many, many other restauranteries on the walk home, some with very long queues of people. Our ice creams were just the right size: one scoop was enough, a second would have melted far too quickly.
The worst thing about Melbourne? It’s a great city, it feels a bit like London in places, with its nooks and crannies and alleyways and arcades. But, we have walked through more clouds of cigarette smoke here in the last couple of days than we have during the previous several weeks. There are non-smoking areas, but there are probably more smokers per capita here than in any other city we’ve visited.
Now it’s time to say farewell to Victoria – the place to be. Goodbye to Victoria – the education state. And cheerio to Victoria – the only state named after a Kinks song. Two of those three slogans appear on car registration number plates, or regos.
In the morning, before the Sun came up, we were greeted by the Moon and Venus.
Several shots were taken of which, this, the first, is probably the best. An easy distraction from the task of packing. The only extra item I had to squeeze into my pack was the apologetic bottle of wine from a couple of nights ago.
At about 11pm, we heard a very loud, humungous crash. We checked on Jyoti, she hadn’t fallen through or out of bed and everything else seemed to be OK in our little apartment.
When we left the building in the morning though, we had to limbo dance under the Police Crimescene tape around the entrance and the neighbouring passage. We could see no evidence of a car crash or any crime. We’ve found nothing in the news so can only be grateful we weren’t delayed for interrogation.
We took a tram, then a Skybus to the airport. The flight to Sydney was uneventful apart from the disappointment of not being offered any tea or a snack. Don’t sit in row 22!
It was a joy to be collected by Helen again and although it was warm here, it wasn’t as hot as Melbourne had been. And Manly looks magnificent as it always does when the Sun’s out.
Most of the afternoon was taken up with watching some fighting on TV. Adam’s a big fan of UFC. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, is better/worse/bloodier than boxing, takes place in an octagonal ring, usually over five 5-minute rounds of jabs, kicks, holds, bars, parries, jumps, punches, with elbows, knees, feet, fists all involved. I don’t think this will ever become my favourite sport.
Despite discouragement, I went for a walk in Manly, keeping to the shady side of the street. I watched people playing and/or sunbathing on the beaches.
Helen walked down the road and we met at Fish Bowl where we collected bowls of rice plus veg plus sauce for our dinner. At the grand old age of 31, I still take twice as long to finish a rice-based meal as everyone else. Ridiculous.
We watched “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the new film, on TV, which we found very enjoyable. I was especially pleased to see Kenny Everett portrayed, back at “Capital Radio when it was good” which I am trying to get everyone to adopt as its official name. And of course now, we just want to hear all those old Queen albums in full again, especially A Night at the Opera.
Monday in Manly was mainly medical matters, refilling prescriptions (me), typhoid and hepatitis A jabs (both), dental check-up and clean (both). My plans for a massage made the cutting-room floor: no need to stir up typhoid and hep A juices unnecessarily.
So here I am once again, in Manly Library, typing away in the corner, this time sitting next to (inter alia) books by Keith Waterhouse, who I used to enjoy reading, gulp, decades ago.
Meanwhile, Helen and Liesel have gone to a shopping mall to do some shopping. I missed out there. (Didn’t really.)
The results are in, they have been independently verified and certified and all the judges agree. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (pts 1-7) was the final track we heard in the car. Partway through the Ss, nowhere near the Zs. We’ll pick up this alphabetical trawl through our music on another occasion. Meanwhile, Liesel and I have decided we do need a much wider range of music, by a larger selection of artistes. We need to find a way to balance out the discrepancy in volume between loud and soft songs. And we need a random shuffle that is truly random, that doesn’t discriminate against certain people or certain tracks or even some whole albums.
Oops sorry, I usually warn uninterested viewers that this “Music News” is about to appear. But I didn’t this time. If only there were some way to go back in time and fix it.
That’s two nights here, time to move on, to move on. First stop was Cape Otway Lightstation. We spent more time here than anticipated, it was so fascinating. Jyoti was delighted to find another warning sign depicting her favourite kind of animal. Not.
The seas are quite rough here, it’s easy to see how so many ships came to grief along this coast. Cape Otway was often the first sight of land following the long voyage from Britain. It also marks the point where the Bass Strait meets the Southern Ocean, although the ‘join’ isn’t as obvious as that seen at Cape Reinga in NZ.
The path to the lighthouse itself was not in use but the ‘Caution’ tape confused some people: they thought there was no access to the lighthouse at all. And with an air ambulance, some police cars and other medical staff, it was easy to suppose there had been some kind of accident.
Alas no, the lighthouse was open and as always, I began to count the steps as I climbed, but was distracted by someone running down very, very fast. So I’ll just say, there are about 967 steps to the top of Cape Otway Lighthouse.
Although this is the wrong time of year to see whales in the ocean, we did actually see one outside it.
And against all odds, we saw a kangaroo too.
One thing we weren’t prepared for was how much this area was involved in the second World War. Trouble not just from the Japanese, but the Germans were here too, laying sea mines between Cape Otway and Wilsons Promontory, attempting to prevent access to Port Phillip Bay and Melbourne.
A large area is devoted to understanding the local aboriginal culture. In the Talking Hut, Dale told us about the local history. He’s of aboriginal descent, his great (x3?) grandmother is Bessie Flower, the first ‘educated’ aboriginal woman. Dale is white, he also has Dutch origins.
Outside on our short Bush Tucker tour, he showed us which plants were safe to eat, and we sampled the salt bush (salty), the local rosemary (sweet, then very bitter), the ‘lemonade’ berries (fizzy). The attractive red berries are not edible, but when he squeezed one, the juice was pure magenta dye. Will we eat these leaves out in the wild? I suspect not, we’ll be far too cautious.
He told the story of his 5-year old son going out into the bush, catching a small bee, tying a filament from a particular plant around it, so that when it flew back to its nest, he could follow it. He then pulled a lump of honeycomb from under the stones. One root which resembles a turnip can be cut up and is used for relief of toothache.
When I was at school, we were told that Aborigines had been in Australia for between 20,000 and 40,000 years. It is now thought that it’s more likely to be 100,000 years, although the evidence is flimsy right now.
Cape Otway has the second purest water in the world: the actual purest is on Tasmania. It also boasts the oldest known farm in the world, at 6000 years of age. It really is a place of superlatives.
As we drove away from Cape Otway, we continued to look in the gum trees for a you-know-what. I was driving and when I saw something cross the road in front of me, I braked and we came to a halt. It took a moment to register, it was so unexpected, but there it was: a koala. We didn’t want to frighten him, but equally, we wanted photos, so we all leapt out of the car.
The old-looking koala walked off into the woods surprisingly fast. On seeing the picture, one of my daughters compared his hairy ears to those of a grandad’s. I have no idea to whom she is referring.
At Castle Cove, we enjoyed the sunshine and the views and this was the venue for our long beach walk of the day. Keep on the path. Snakes. We walked down the steps, noting that the sea was rough, the tide was high but even so, there were quite a few surfers.
The rock wall at the top of the beach was beautifully stratified, very soft sandstone and it had a greenish tinge due to iron. There were a couple of small caves, too small to explore and in the middle of all the sand and rocks, this pretty, solitary plant,
Gibson Steps gave us our first sighting of the Twelve Apostles, the iconic limestone stacks formerly known as Toots and the Maytals, no, formerly known as the Sow and Pigs.
What we saw was in fact Gog and Magog, east of Castle Rock. We walked 1.1 km along a further section of the Great Ocean Walk, through the visitors centre, to see the actual Twelve Apostles. It was late in the day, the Sun was low, so we saw the stacks in silhouette. Even so, what a remarkable sight. We walked as far as we could along the path to the Castle Rock lookout. And as if things weren’t scary enough already, this is one of the signs.
As it was Jyoti’s birthday, we thought we’d buy a cake at the café at the visitors centre. But it was Sunday, it was late, it was closed. We began the 1.1 km walk back to the car, away from the Sun now, so a little more comfortable, especially with a slight breeze. L&J were ahead, and some Japanese people pointed to the ‘porcupine’ crossing the path and by the time I caught up, the echidna, for that is what it was, was in the bush.
What an exciting day: a koala and an echidna! And then, as we were driving awa from Gibson’s Steps, in the rearview mirror, I saw a kangaroo crossing the road.
There are many other places to visit on the Great Ocean Road, but as it was late, we headed straight for our new b&b in Nirranda. A shopping trip in Peterborough was disappointing, the single, solitary supermarket mostly specialised in fishing bait.
The b&b is built from old shipping containers. I thought surely a metal wall would make it really hot inside. And so it proved. Thank goodness for the ceiling fans.
We didn’t realise at the time, but we shared our room with a grasshopper. We’d seen ants and flies and heard a mosquito or two, but we didn’t know about this chap until the morning.
I let him out into the garden. One moment he was sitting there, the next, gone. Probably the strongest jumping leg muscles in the world. Well, it is a superlative area. Witness the petrol price at Lavers Hill: $1.70 per litre, compared with $1.20 to $1.30 elsewhere.
Liesel and Jyoti went shopping, all the way to Warrnambool, which takes its name from the whales that thrive in the ocean here. Just not at this time of the year: we’ll have to come back to go whale-watching.
Later, when J&L and I had eaten lunch, I tore down the large curtain from the living room window to take with us. We’d decided to walk to the nearby beach, about a mile away. Well, it was hot and there was no shade but it really did take much longer than the advertised 20 minutes.
This bush looks weird, we thought, and we certainly weren’t going to taste its leaves. It can only be described as a turd bush, since its fruits (?) look like animal droppings.
The dusty, stony, gravelly path continued on and on, up and down, disappointment every time the sea failed to come into view over the brow of a hill.
But then, the end came in sight.
Holding tight with both hands, I started my run-up towards the cliff edge. Suddenly, I heard someone yell “Nooooooo!!!”
Apparently, you can’t go hang-gliding just holding on to a curtain, you have to use specialist equipment such as a hang glider with landing wheels, a harness and a helmet. Oh well, I tried.
The walk down to the beach was difficult too. A very narrow, steep and sandy path. We were all wearing sandals, not the best footwear for such terrain.
We gave up, discretion is the better half of Valerie, or something. It looked like a nice beach to walk on too, what a pity.
We drove to The Arch, an unusual rock formation, but we couldn’t work out how it got its name.
We drove to London Bridge, an unusual rock formation, but we couldn’t work out how it got its name. Especially since London Bridge has fallen down and it’s now just another stand-alone stack.
There’s a beach here too, another nice looking beach, ideal for a walk, but we’re asked to stay away because of the penguins. We didn’t see any penguins of course, but there were plenty of footprints in the sand. Penguins or other birds, we don’t know.
On the path back to the car park, I spotted a small black lizard, probably a skink, but it might have been something more exotic: my hasty photo just shows a black blur in the grass.
We drove to The Grotto, another unusual formation. As we went down the steps to see what is really just a hole, a young girl ran up by us, and then she ran back down past us. She and her two friends were planning to swim in the still water but I did take this picture.
And finally today, we drove to the Bay of Martyrs, part of the Bay of Islands. I walked down to the beach, attempted a selfie with the Sun setting behind me, over the sea.
For supper tonight, my contribution was to pick tomatoes from the plants in the garden. The courgettes weren’t quite ready yet and we didn’t fancy the rhubarb. We had cheese and crackers and chutneys with red, red wine, a belated birthday party for Jyoti. Almost. Still no cake.
Before going to bed, we all went outside to gaze at the stars and to listen to whatever animal was making a noise like fff-fff-fff-fff over and over. In fact, it was still doing this later on when I got up briefly. By this time, the Moon was up too, so only the brightest stars were visible.
Jyoti and I were sitting on the step outside the house, drinking our teas, shooting the breeze, watching the trees, when Liesel told us we had half an hour left. Uh? To pack and to move on. We were away with five minutes to spare. Bit of a shock to the system though: both Jyoti and I had totally forgotten that this was moving day.
We had a pleasant drive to our next b&b, but I did have an agenda. We need a new electric plug adapter since the old one broke. I tried fixing it and it worked well for a while, but here’s a tip: sticking plaster, Band-Aid, Elastoplast, doesn’t reliably stick to plastic for very long. And another tip: if you need tin foil to help make an electrical connection, try to use pieces larger than the torn-off bits from the blister pack containing your drugs.
As if lilies aren’t enough, we soon drove by a farm with a strange collection of animals: sheep, goats, llamas and camels.
Warrnambool didn’t provide us with an adapter. “Oh no”, said the man in the electrical shop, “we don’t sell that sort of thing. Try the Post Office.” I thanked him through gritted teeth for his help.
It’s hard to know exactly where the Great Ocean Road finishes. The GOR, B100, ends at Allansford, near Warrnambool. There, we joined the A1, Princes Highway. On the other hand, some of the literature for Port Fairy considers it part of the Great Ocean Road. Either way, when we arrived at Port Fairy, “The World’s Most Liveable Community”, we’d definitely reached the end of the world’s largest, and arguably the world’s most functional, war memorial, for this trip.
It’s a cute little town, enhanced by protective/advertising hoardings at the base of the lampposts.
After a coffee break, we went to sit by the beach for a while. Yes, sit by the beach. Not on the beach. In the car, in the car park, looking at the beach. Why? The wind was strong and cold.
I still went for a walk, solo, and found two memorials, close to each other, both emotionally moving but for very different reasons.
We checked in to our new, first floor, b&b and wow, we have a view over the beach. But the wind was still strong and we decided not to sit and be blown off the balcony.
I fancied another walk, and I thought the lighthouse at the far end of Griffiths Island would be an ideal goal to aim for.
Short-tail shearwaters or “Mutton birds” nest on the island, but again, we’re here at the wrong time of year.
I did wonder whether these nesting holes might currently be occupied by snakes or other squatters. And then out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. A kangaroo was hopping across the field.
This was the first one I’d seen in the wild, although J&L had been lucky a few nights ago.
I followed the track to the lighthouse, but the amorous couple sitting outside deterred me from walking right up to the door.
The track followed the beach for part of the way, and I was surprised to see volcanic rocks sitting amongst the soft, white sand.
It was warmer now, the wind had calmed down and I thought maybe J&L would go out for a walk later.
While I was out, Liesel and Jyoti had been planning ahead, making plans for the next month or so. Bookings were made, despite issues with various websites and credit cards.
Unfortunately, up in our b&b, out on the balcony, the wind felt just as strong as ever, though not as cold.
We were talking about our various medical issues and the consensus is, we’ve been pretty lucky and injury-free. Liesel’s piriformis is still a PITA and it affects other muscles at different times. Other than that, a few insect bites, a couple of broken nails, cracked heels is as bad as it’s been.
Now is the time for those viewers not interested in the musical soundtrack to our travels to press the yellow button on your device and be transported to a totally different place.
We didn’t bother connecting my device to the car’s Bluetooth at Uluru because we were only there a couple of days. But with a new car in Melbourne, it felt right that we should play the whole Slim Dusty album for Jyoti’s enjoyment. We then returned to the alphabetical playlist. Picking up where we left off in New Zealand with Nomad Blood. At the time of writing, we are in the Rs. Q was interesting. The first one was a mistake: somebody at the CD factory had entered the song title as Que est le soleil? instead of Ou est le Soleil? And of the genuine Qs, 4 out of the 6 were 2 versions each of 2 David Bowie songs. What will we do when we’ve reached the end of the Zs? And will we even reach the end of the Zs by the time we return this car?
This has been a very pleasant way to end the year, notwithstanding a minor lurgy that seems to have passed from Liesel to Mick. It’s been very quiet, on the whole. But there was that one night when I was woken up by the sound of a hundred squirrels foot-tapping and gnawing in the roof. Followed by hedgehogs (I think) (I hope) stomping on the gravel right outside our window. This set off the terrier next door which also sounded like it was in the room. I got up to investigate: Liesel slept through the whole lot. In the dark living room a deep voice growled, “Be ye not afeared, ’tis only I, Andrew”. He was sleeping on the couch for a while as it was too hot in his bedroom.
And so, when I returned to my room, assured that nothing untoward was occurring, I expected to drift away peacefully and slowly to sleep. The birds had other ideas. Sensing the imminent arrival of daylight, they all began shouting and squawking at each other, cheeping and chirping, whistling and warbling. I like being woken up by the dawn chorus, but preferably when I’ve had some actual sleep to begin with.
The four of us went to Diamond Harbour for a walk. It faces Lyttelton on the bay. The drive via Dyers’ Pass was spectacular as always, and you have to admire the cyclists riding up the steep slopes on such a narrow and busy road. There’s not much room for manoeuvre either, with a ditch close to the side of the road in some places.
Being a harbour, it’s quite hilly and poor old me experienced his old trouble again. I got out of breath really quickly and felt my heart was about to explode: the long-lasting side effects of my blood pressure meds from a few years ago, I suspect. Anyway, mustn’t grumble. But I probably will.
Phwee-ooooh!!!! These tissues are rubbish.
Stoddart’s Cottage was interesting, there was a lot of local artwork for sale and a few exhibits from the olden days. The lady running the place was quite friendly but not a fan of cyclists riding on roads. She used to live in Chessington: what are the chances?
Plans to walk up to Mt Herbert were revised, mainly because it was too far to go in one day, but partly because of my breathlessnessness, not that I’m complaining. Much. Liesel felt pretty good and Andrew was coping with his dodgy hip OK, too.
Orton Bradley Country Park was a short drive away and the car was parked in the shade. We did manage to walk up to Big Rock, literally a big rock at the top of the hill. Pauline and Liesel both climbed to the top of the rock but I chickened out: it was too steep for me in my sandals and I don’t like going back down afterwards, plus, being a little tired and short of breath didn’t help.
Chphhh-choooo!!!!!! Hoooo!!!! Yee-uk.
On the drive home, we stopped off at Governors Bay for a coffee at She Universe café. Well, I say coffee and café but really the main attraction at this chocolaterie was the chocolate drinks. Pauline and I had dark mochas which came complete with a chocolate teaspoon. Yes, decadent and very tasty but any hope of it being a cure for my lurgy were soon dashed.
Ah-ah-ah—shooooooo!!! Well, bless me.
I’d been sneezing all day, for couple of days, really, and there had been complaints about me causing tinnitus in others and potentially setting off seismic activity.
We were beginning to think that I’d picked up Liesel’s bug from a few weeks ago, albeit with slightly different symptoms. It might explain my breathlessness issues, the sneezing, which I’d put down to hay faver, and the slightly sore throat.
There is a campaign to save the jetty at Governors Bay, which extends over mudflats. It is in a much worse state than we expected, and we weren’t allowed to walk on it.
The Botanic Gardens were nice and quiet and provided shade from the hot sun. Amongst my other ailments, my sunburnt schnozz was now peeling and not very appealing.
The Avon is the main river that flows through Christchurch and we walked along its banks for a while. We thought about taking a boat out, or hiring a punt, but, no, sense prevailed, we stayed on dry land. Visited a pharmacy for some drugs for myself.
The Groynes is the name given to a recreational park to the north of Christchurch. (We went by car, not by public transport. I wanted to travel on the Groynes train, but that pun, alas, fell on deaf ears.) There are walking trails, fishing ponds, children’s play areas and best of all, boats for hire on the lake.
Liesel and I took out a double pedal-boat, as did Pauline and Andrew. It was gentle exercise, we enjoyed watching the fishes, including eels, which the boat-hire man fed by his little jetty. There were kayaks available, but having fallen out of one such in Sydney Harbour a few years ago, Liesel wanted me to stay dry this time.
Those of you who were with us in Anchorage will recall my many failed attempts to take a photo of a dragonfly. I had several opportunties here out on the water today, so here are a couple of the best shots.
For a few days now, we’ve been talking about visiting a ricketty house which I thought, here in Chch, didn’t really narrow it down much. Chch is a common abbreviation for Christchurch, recognised worldwide, in Chch. Anyway, Riccarton House, for that is what was meant, was closed today, but we were able to take a hike through Riccarton Bush.
Canterbury’s sole remnant of kahikatea floodplain forest, Riccarton Bush has national significance. For 300,000 years, the shifting gravels of the Waimakariri River triggered a changing mosaic of podocarp forests across the Canterbury Plains. In response to a continual cycle of flooding, forests established wherever suitable conditions were created, only to be destroyed in their turn. These 600-year-old kahikatea trees are the latest generation of a forest that established on this site 3000 years ago. They have survived through two cultural periods, Maori then European, that saw widespread fires sweep the Plains and native vegetation give way to pastoralism and cropping.
The paths are well-made and it’s a very peaceful place. I know I was having a bit of a whinge about the birds singing a few days ago, but here, in this forest, it was lovely to hear them, even if we couldn’t see them very easily. Pauline did, but she knows better what to look for and where to look.
There is a great, fun scheme going on where small rocks are decorated and left in places for others to find. I found one of Sophie’s rocks in a flower bed at Riccarton House and duly reported it to the relevant Facebook group
where I was told that someone’s 4-year old had re-hidden it! My task is now to hide it somewhere else, for the next lucky person.
I do feel bad now about the ‘pet rocks’ that I buried in our garden, back in Chessington, all those mnonths ago. No, not really.
The evening was rounded off again with a few hands of 500, accompanied by chocolate and Baileys. It’s a fun, fascinating game, until you begin to lose concentration, which I did. That’s my excuse, anyway. My partner Pauline and I won the first game, then Liesel and Andrew won the next two! Still, one out of three ain’t bad.
How did Sri Lanka get on in the Test Match against New Zealand, then? Well, it was an exciting game, but there was only about twelve minutes play on the fifth and final day. The score was as follows:
New Zealand won by 423 runs
New Zealand 178 & 585/4d
Sri Lanka 104 & 236/9
NZ claim series win by winning second test in Christchurch.
And so, as the lawn mower of destiny cuts the last few grass blades of eternity and the final slice of bread is burnt in the toaster, I notice it’s the end of the year. On a personal note, I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for eleven months now, with encouragement from many people, especially Liesel, my lovely wife and travel companion.
As I write, it’s mid-afternoon on December 31st and we’re planning to go out later, maybe to a movie, maybe to a show, what we end up doing, I really do not know.
In any case, a million thanks for reading this blog, and I hope you continue to do so in 2019. Liesel and I send you our very best wishes for the new year and we hope our adventures keep you entertained, informed and educated, the way Lord Reith would have wanted.