On the way to Melbourne Airport, we noticed a few people in crazy costumes. It’s the weekend of Melbourne Comic Con. We left home during the weekend of Manchester Comic Con. What are the chances of that?
We saw some pandas, an unexpected bonus. No, not real ones. To celebrate 2017 Australia-China Year of Tourism, there are about twenty pandas at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.
The first laugh of the day was provided by Etihad’s poster – we all know about tolerance in middle eastern countries.
It was a long flight from Melbourne to Manchester, lots of hanging around and sitting and not much sleep. Plenty of time to read, watch films and TV programmes, play games, eat the meals, enjoy some of them but mainly to reminisce and think about the last ten months’ adventures.
Jenny met us at Manchester Airport with Martha and William and it was lovely to see and to spend most of the day with them all! Best of all, though, were the spontaneous hugs from a couple of children who haven’t seen us in the flesh for a significant portion of their lives. Jenny and Liam have done a brilliant job keeping us in their lives, thank you very much!
We went for a walk to a local place for breakfast, the idea partly being for Liesel and me to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. Martha is a very competent scooter user.
We watched Martha and William swimming in the afternoon, both very happy and very competent in the water.
The Welcome Home evening meal was Pie and Roast potatoes. Gorgeous! We should go away for ten months at a time more often…
Now we have a tonne of boring but necessary admin tasks to perform, household appliances to kick into action, medical appointments to keep and, when we have a moment, many boxes to unpack from last year’s house move!
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twisted distortion and interpretation of Theresa May’s “hostile environment for illegal immigrants”, his work visa was revoked, and he was forced to move back to Australia.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.
It was time to go our separate ways. Pauline and Andrew took the high road back towards Chch as Pauline goes back to work on Monday. Liesel and I took the low road deciding to stay on the east coast rather than go west, because the weather forecast looked so grim. In fact, on this Friday it was raining. A lot. Every time we thought we were heading towards brighter skies, the precipitation found us again.
So we saw a lot of the countryside through frosted glass. Not literally frosted, it was still fairly warm, but… But not all was lost: we were able to listen to music on the way and what a wonderful variety of tunes: Neil Diamond, Rosanne Cash, Björk, Paul McCartney, Anna Neale, Tasmin Archer, Terra Naomi, Pink Floyd and eventually, at last, David Bowie! The shuffle mode should be random, you’d think, but the number of tracks played by certain artistes bears no relation to the number of tracks available on the device. Ian Dury? Bic Runga? Murray Gold? The Unthanks? Dozens of tracks, zero plays today.
We spent some time in the museum at Owaka and we learned that there is nothing new even in these days of modern technology.
“Turn it off and turn it on again” was a recognised solution even in the 1920s.
With a name like that, of course I had to cross the road and have a quick look. The person inside looked quite nice actually and the place, apart from a few cobwebs, was spotlessly clean.
We ended up driving all the way back to St Kilda, Dunedin and since our usual(!) Airbnb was booked, we ended up at Adrian Mole’s place. No, that’s not right, it was Adrian’s Motel.
The following day was a total contrast. Blue skies, a few fluffy clouds, sunshine and a perfect day to go for a long, long walk on the beach. There were many more people here today, incluing children playing in the sea and even a guy trying to surf. Liesel later saw a sealion too.
Pauline confirmed by electronic communication that these birds with clothes pegs where their beaks used to be are indeed oystercatchers.
We drove to Moeraki where we found the Boulders on the beach. I remarked how funny it is how memory distorts things. I’m sure that the last time I visited this place, there were just a few, very large boulders on the beach. Today, there were far more, they were all smaller than I recalled, and some were even in the sea, as the tide was in.
Our stopping point for the night, in fact, two nights, was Oamaru. Another motel, to boot.
I went for a walk to book tickets so that we could later on go down to the the blue penguins coming ashore for the night.
I thought the tower at the fire station was quite interesting, being taller than most of the buildings in so-called Victorian Oamaru.
We went to the penguin colony for 9pm and joined hundreds of other penguin-hunters.
On the rocks, a seal was basking but the announcer assured us that seals don’t eat penguins, as they have a very similar, fish-based diet. She then gave a list of predators by way of explaining why the penguins would arrive in groups, known as rafts, each comprised of about 15 penguins.
No electronic equipment, cameras, phones, laptops, tablets were meant to be used as the lights disturb the penguins. So I took just a quick one or two from the back of the stand, with no flash of course, just using their own lighting system which apparently doesn’t affect the penguins: they just think it’s moonlight.
A whole day in Oamaru was a great opportunity to explore this fascinating, old town. But it rained. A lot. I did go for a walk leaving Liesel behind to take care of the laundry, thanks, Liesel. The museum was closed so I visited Steampunk HQ instead and this really was a lot of fun. There are some clever people out there, turning old, rusty, metal objects into new, working gadgets. Many come from outsde our own galaxy and some are even brought here by time-travellers.
I had a go on this Metagalactic Pipe Organ and amongst the various noises and sound effects, I did manage to knock out the five-note theme from Close Encounters as well as the beginning of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue.
Bosca is made from the ancient bones of plains gorillas. These bones lay in the soil, became rock then iron ore.
This iron ore was mined by huge steam-powered shovels and smelted in great coal-fired crucibles to create cast iron and steel.
These materials were used to build the works of men: bridges, machines, cars, planes and ocean-going ships.
When these machines broke down, their bones were used to create Bosca.
Bosca is the distillation of millions of years of struggle.
The sculptor was Chris Meder, responsible for many of the exhibits here.
The Portal Experience was great fun too. Up to six people stand in a small space where the walls, ceiling and floor are mirrors and hundreds of lights are reflected hundreds of times to give the illusion of floating in space. Magic!
I took a selfie but this isn’t me and Liesel, it’s me and someone else. Liesel was still in a cold, lonely motel room. Where I joined her sooner than planned after leaving Steampunk HQ because the rain was like a big hairy spider: it was torrentialler. I stopped on the way back to buy us hot coffee and hot chips.
The rest of the day was spent fairly horizontal, reading (me), watching Doc Martin (Liesel), snacking (both), napping (both) and blogging (neither).
After two days walking pretty much solely on concrete, we thought we’d do something different today.
We went for a walk, but we kept to the area close to our Airbnb. It has the feel of a village about it, you wouldn’t really know you’re in Tokyo.
Rikugien Gardens has manmade hills and a manmade pond. We walked around the park slowly, making us of the many benches on offer. We passed the tea house, resisting the temptation to have matcho tea.
The weeping cherry tree would of course have been prettier earlier in the year. The large American commented ‘oh shoot, this is like being outside’, purely because the toilet had no door and no windows.
Komo-maki is the fine art of putting straw belts around trees to catch and remove harmful insects, as they climb down looking for a warm place to stay for the Winter. Even these purely practical items are turned into works of art.
This hut is about 150 years old and it unusual structure includes pillars and beams made from rhododendron wood. You could almost imagine kicking the central pillar over, it looks so fragile, yet it’s obviously doing a great job.
While we’re pleased we got away from Anchorage just in time (it is now snowing there!), we do miss the Autumn colours. Tokyo hasn’t quite got that far yet, so when you see a red tree, you know it’s special.
There were, of course, plenty of fish in the pond, many of them hanging out by the bridges, presumably waiting to be fed. But it was a delight to see a couple of turtles in the water and one sunbathing. I hope he was sunbathing and not just starnded on the rock because I would feel terrible about not having helped him back in to the water.
We thought about walking around these gardens again but instead, decided to move on to the next one.
On the way, we stopped for a coffee and, as with most cafés and restaurants, there was a box underneath the seat in which to place our bags.
Some of the roads in this area aren’t wide enough to accommodate pavements, but those that do, just like in Shinjuku, have a tactile strip, presumably for visually impaired people. Follow the yellow brick road and you will be taken straight to the pedestrian crossing or another hazard.
In Kyū-Furukawa Gardens, we walked on more large boulders, some gravel, up and down steps, much better for Liesel especially than all that flat concrete.
The birds here were quite a bit louder and there were no ravens to drown them out.
As we crossed one bridge, there was a splash in the water. No, not one of us, probably just another koi hoping for a hand-out from a human. Being later in the day, there were many more people here, and passing them on some of the steps was quite challenging The ‘keep left’ rule didn’t always work.
It was here in the shade that I did some typing. No distractions other than the birds, some clanging over there where some construction was taking place, the sight of elderly couples and of young couples enjoying their time together. (I typed too soon. The raven is over there, cawing louder than a Deep Purple concert.)
Here is a 15-stone pagoda, but I think it weighs a lot more than fifteen stone.
This English looking house was designed by and English architect, and even though we’ve only been in Japan for a week, we felt it looked out of place. It’s funny how quickly different things, sights, buildings become the norm.
Even the rose garden could have been plucked from Hampton Court – apart from the Japanese text on the identity cards.
Number plate of the day, possibly the first car ever manufactured.
So far, we’ve avoided all Japanese TV, apart from a dodgy game show they had on the flight into Tokyo. But we had a treat in store. The evening entertainment back at our b&b was provided by David Bowie. His 2000 Glastonbury performance was broadcast last week on BBC4 last week and Jenny and Liam recorded it and sent it to us! I could have waited until we returned home, but thanks for sending it!
If you’re having problems with image sizes, sorry, you’re not alone, we’ve been having problems with the WordPress app: it’s been crashing a lot, lately and it doesn’t always accept our changes to images, so some pictures will appear huuuge while others may seem way too small. We can only view the blog on our phones right now, so we have to hope for the best, to a certain extent. Here ends the public service announcement.
A few more-relaxed days while Asa and Gideon are at school. We’re into our final week here in Anchorage and so we have been planning our trip to Japan. We? A million thanks to Liesel who has been so much more pro-active in this respect.
I walked around the neighbourhood a couple of times, even though it was drizzling slightly.
We watched Star Wars on TV, Chapter 4, ie, the first one made but later enhanced with more special effects. I particularly enjoyed the ‘ding’ sound when the startrooper bangs his head on the door frame, definitely not in the initial release.
We had lunch with Amrit and her husband Siri. He’s a retired teacher and has spent a year demolishing a house and recycling anything that could be reused.
We ran a few administrative errands in town under cover of battle grey clouds. In fact, I was reminded of chilly, grey, cloudy November days at home. In food news, we had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. I think those two statements might be related.
Pizza: we each customised our own pizza. We? I am indebted to Liesel who made mine perfectly!
In wildlife news, I saw some crabs in Sagaya, a nearby supermarket with, by luck, a Kaladi coffee bar.
In sailing news, here are some yachts correctly sailing with the wind.
And in gardening news, this is a great idea and a great pun!
Gideon went to a birthday party where the highlight seems to have been consuming a whole bowl of pilfered Doritos! Kids, eh?
Asa went for a bike ride, something we weren’t too keen on: suppose he got kidnapped by a bear? Liesel and I went for a walk with the dog. It’s alway great exploring a new city, you’re always finding new things. I didn’t know about the Martin Luther King memorial until today.
The snow on the mountains is a few more inches lower down. It’s now officially a race: does the snow reach Anchorage before we leave? Or will we have to beg, borrow, buy or steal snow shoes? Watch this space!
Another thing you don’t expect to see in the city centre, a long way from the railroad, is No 556, an S-160 class locomotive. It was one of 2,300 locomotives built for the US Army in 1944. They lacked the typical steam engine domes because many were sent to Europe where the bridges and tunnels were much lower than in America.
No 556 was built in 1943 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania. They were stripped down for war action and acquired the nickname ‘Gypsy Rose Lee’ locomotives, after the famous striptease, burlesque dancer.
In the evening, we watched Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark on TV. Asa and Gid played video games where far too much was going on for us old farts to keep up with. Learning to use the X-box controller really is, for us, beyond rocket science. We happily accepted that Gid had no homework and that Asa had finished all his.
Sunday morning, Gideon played a couple more games of Futsal. In the afternoon, while Asa was having his cello lesson, Gideon and I went to a nearby school where we had a go at soccer.
Calm down, girls, but these are the socks I was ‘encouraged’ to wear. With shin guards that flew out whenever I kicked the ball.
I displayed limited ball skills, but it’s fair to say, my goal-keeping days are well over: mainly because I didn’t want to get my clothes dirty by diving onto mud where the grass used to be.
But he really is good with the ball, and this was a good way to pass an hour while Asa was bowing away.
We happily accepted that Gid had no homework and that Asa had finished all his, so we went to the movies and the choice today was Goosbumps 2: Haunted Halloween. It was very funny, scary in a cartoony way and I think the boys liked it!
Back at home, Asa revealed the Time Capsule that he’d made for his project. Fallen Autumn leaves stuck to an oak chest with real mammoth blood.
Then, an hour bedtime, Asa realised that he did have more homework to do, after all. Kids, eh?
Once upon a time, a man went into the car registration service center. The clerk asked him “What would you like your six-character number plate to be?” The customer thought about it for a long time, umming and ahhing. The clerk got fed up with waiting.
A very lazy morning: I ate breakfast while messing up a Sudoku puzzle. In the afternoon, I walked to the coffee shop and back, enjoying the sunshine but not so much the cold. It’s borderline right now: too cold without a jacket, too warm with it.
It’s Socktober: a campaign to donate socks to homeless people. Elsewhere it’s Inktober, a challenge for artists all around the world to draw an ink picture every day and post it online. And it’s Stoptober, the campaign in England to help people give up smoking. But I like Socktober as a word…
After dinner, we went to Aaron and Jodi’s. They were packing for their trip to New Orleans. Asa and Gideon went to bed after we watched a couple of episodes of Flight of the Conchords on TV.
Gideon likes to go to Campfire, the big breakfast party at school. Which is fine, except that it starts at half past seven. Far too early for civilised people. Liesel drove him while I stayed behind to look after Asa, who then walked to school on his own.
Liesel had another physio appointment and we walked there as it’s not too far from the house. We took the dog, Zipper with us, and while Liesel was being treated, Zipper and I found the coastal trail. Zipper pulled a lot and sniffed everything. I didn’t.
Someone had a placard in their front yard which I thought was quite sad.
After meeting up with Liesel again, we walked home via a baker slash coffee shop that we’d been to before: Fire Island: On the way, we passed dear old Star, the reindeer. Not the same Star that was here before, apparently. Like the good Doctor, Star regenerates every few years.
It’s a pity he, she or it has to be behind such a dense fence though, with just a small area of dirty perspex to look through.
But we did like this park bench, seemingly inspired by Vincent van Gogh.
At Fire Island, we had a second, late breakfast.
In the evening, we took Gideon to play Futsal. He and his team wear the red shirts of England, hooray! It’s an indoor version of soccer, similar to 5-a-side football that I was no good at, at school. The indoor court is probably about the same size as a basketball court. The ball is smaller and less bouncy than a soccer ball and the goals are smaller too. But there are still five players on a team.
Klaus and Leslie met us there to look after the boys while Liesel and I went out for a Thai meal with Bob and Margot. Bob was Liesel’s boss in Anchorage until I dragged her kicking and screaming away to London. It was good to see them again, and Liesel and Bob caught up on news of many old acquaintances.
We collected our charges from their Opa and Oma. I read Gid the first chapter of The Wolf Book after which he pretended to be asleep.
Here’s the first of today’s bonus pictures:
My Dad had a Vauxhall Viva with the number THO666H, and you can imagine what teenage me and my sister thought of that! It was seen on TV once. No, not as a getaway vehicle on Crimewatch. More innocently, in the car park at Epsom races.
And here is the optical illusion of the day. I’ve seen it posted several times on Twitter and Facebook recently, so here it is, just so you know what you’re missing.