Saturday, November 3, 2007

Time for Torquay Talkie

Our next British job - teaching a bunch of Swiss boys in Torquay for two weeks.

And then ... ?

Well, somehow this feels like the beginning of a new adventure.

So I'm making another new start at Torquay Talkie. Go on over, have a look.

On the Yellow Brick Road once more

Back to Oz

Time to spend some quality time with the kids and grandkids back in Oz.

Little boys doing what little boys do. And our only granddaughter - who was just tiny when we went away.

We stayed with son, James, in this house right on the beach.

This is the view from the front door.

And this is the beach that we were right next to. Gotta love WA and it's beaches!

And then there was the fun of meeting grandchild number four for the very first time.

Many happy hours spent admiring young Taj! What a man! (The picture isn't sideways, he is lying on his mat.)

And on top of all that, James's new puppy, this ball of fluff that is a very new Pomeranian: "Charlie".

Now is that a lovable face, or what?

And so relaxed, too.

One more, because they just are so cute.

Two weeks of that, and it was time for the looooong flight back to the UK.

Sussex - castles and churches

Not only did Charlotte's family squeeze over to give us somewhere to stay, but Charlotte's mum, Susan - a very knowledgeable person in the local area, history and folklore - took us around a bit to show us some places.

We went to visit this magnificent old church at Lyminster, quite near Rustington.

Actually, we were really on our way to a knuckerhole. Susan had been to a Druid weekend camp where she had been giving a talk on dragons. After fire-walking, she had returned with a few of the coals from the fire to throw into a knuckerhole near this church, one of a number of such places in the area. You can read a little more about this in Wikipedia.


On another day we went to Chichester.

This road near the water is below the high tide mark. People regularly park here (despite warning signs - who reads those anyway?) and come back later to find their car inundated.

We had a lovely day walking around town, and looking at the cathedral.

Peter's Three Wishes

There were three things Peter had been hoping to do in England:

  1. Lie in some heather - done that!
  2. Drink a pint of Guinness in a real Irish pub - did that in Dublin.
  3. See a real English castle, drafty and built of stone, the real thing.

Arundel Castle

To our delight, Susan took us to Arundel for the day.

Arundel Castle is a must-see. So old and so well-preserved, with such a wealth of history right there on display.

That side of the castle is still the family home, still lived in and used. This side of the castle, where you can visit, had recently been used in the making of the movie, "The Queen", I think it was.

There was lots to see. We went up into the old Keep, as well as other parts that have been carefully restored.

There are great views all around, especially from the Keep, demonstrating what a great defense point this would have been.

Two-Way Church

Arundel has a most unusual church. It is half Catholic, and half Church of England. It is split along the short arm of the cross, and the smaller, top-of-the-cross section isCatholic, while the larger portion is Church of England.

Here we are in the Catholic section. I was particularly interested in these ornately carved seats that look as though they could keep you in the upright position even if you fell asleep - at least you probably wouldn't fall over sideways too readily.

And then we had to go out and a long way around to look at the other side of the church, which looked very normal except for a blocked off section at the top end.

I'm not sure if this sculpture in the castle gardens is a demonstration of what the angels think about all this.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Emerald Isle

When we told Max we wanted to visit him in Ireland he said, "What for? It's just more of the same, only wetter and greener."

He was right, of course, but we still wanted to see it for ourselves.

Cheap Fares

So we decided to investigate some cheap airfares - Ryan Air, in fact. Booking and actually getting a genuinely cheap fare.
First you have to jump around looking for those odd crazy fares that pop up without rhyme or reason. You grab one when you find it, and book it.
So then it's time for add-ons. Starting with the compulsory tax - which, oddly enough, seems to be more with lower fares. Then they want you to pay for insurance in case they cancel your flight or something. And they want to know if you would like to take any luggage - there is no free luggage allowance - and that will be an extra ten pounds for every fifteen kilo piece.
We chose to travel with only hand baggage - we were allowed one ten kilo piece each.

We decided against paying a few extra pounds for "priority booking". Ryan Air pride themselves on giving passengers the freedom to choose their own seats ... so in the unholy rush, when boarding is announced, if you have priority booking you get to join the queue that boards first.


We flew from Gatwick Airport, which is great to get to (you go on the train and the station is in the airport) but the security check queues were horrific. We noticed the people in our queue were all being asked to take their shoes off, but others weren't. We asked about this, and were told we had lobbed into the "random shoe line". Then, as we made it through the magic door without setting off any lights or alarms, we were unceremoniously requested to assume the position for a full and thorough pat-down ... none of this simple waving a wand over you that you get elsewhere.

However Peter's bag apparently set something off, and he was asked to give permission to have it searched. It is one of those back-packs with lots of little side pockets, and the officer rummaged through those until he came up with ... a bottle of shampoo that Peter had forgotten about and not declared (we thought we had left it behind in Sheffield) and it had a capacity greater than 100ml! That was binned, and Peter's phone and mp3 player then had to be swabbed for gun powder residue. (The funny thing was, when we were packing to return from Ireland we discovered a quite large pair of pointy scissors that had been there all along in one of the other pockets of his bag!)

A Foreign Country

It's easy to think of Ireland as being part of the UK - only it's not.

It's a foreign country, with a foreign language. But, being part of Europe, it is full of people from all over Europe, all colours and cultures, so that can seem a little incongruous. Apparently students in school all have to learn the Irish language, and in some schools it is the only language used.

Are the Jokes True?

You know how people say things about the Irish, and make jokes and stuff ... well this sign did make us wonder if any of it is actually true.

It's on the edge of a very busy road (we took the picture from the bus) where there is no footpath, and there is a railway line just over the wall there ... and we have no idea what it means!
Clever Map
However we did see one very clever thing that Peter was especially impressed with.

We went into Dublin city for the day, and - naturally - bought ourselves a map so we could find our way around.

Peter is one of the multitude of people who struggles with map-folding! So when we opened this little beauty and found this:

... well, we were most impressed! Open the map, close the map, open the map ... could have played with it all day! Now why aren't all maps made like that?

The Castle

We went to Kilkenny. But someone got there first and he was already dead.

Sorry. It had to be said.

We wanted to see a real castle, so we climbed aboard a bus and set off through the mist to have a look at Kilkenny Castle. We got to see plenty of green and wet on the way.

We were a little disappointed - it lost one of it's four sides during a battle yonks ago, and they didn't bother to rebuild it. We took the obligatory guided tour through the inside rooms - it was more like a palace than a castle.


What a delightful name for a little place in England!

Charlotte and her mother and brother live in this tiny end-of-terrace home in Rustington. This was really our first taste of home life in Britain - it's all a lot more squeezy than we are used to in Oz - and this lovely family all squeezed over just a little more so that we would have a place to stay.

Actually, as it's only a two-bedroom house, this little two-room chalet is where Charlotte lives, and she very graciously moved to the sofa in the house so that we could stay here.

The weather was beautiful, and the spacious backyard proved a great place to sit and chat and even have some of our meals.

But what has Peter noticed?

Something interesting on the ground ... English wildlife maybe ...

What's the big deal? It's just a slug. I didn't have one of those little rulers to put down next to it and show you the size of this thing. We have deadly snakes and stingy spiders in Oz, but nothing like this.

Again, no size comparison ... but this one is huge, and fat. AND it's just busy cleaning up where the cat was sick. What I wanted to know is - do cats eat slugs?

Meet the Folks

As a special treat Charlotte took us around to meet her grandparents for a spot of afternoon tea.

Another delightful English home and garden - we had tea in the conservatory - and gracious folks.

This was a very special meeting, though, because these folks have been avid readers of my Turkey Blog (keeping up with their granddaughter in Turkey) and so at least they already knew me quite well.

We were able to chat and laugh about things that had happened - as if they had been there too - and I was able to learn about

The Recipe:

for the delicious quince jam we were sharing on our scones!

If this is too small for you to read, and you have some quinces ready for jamming, then you need to go to, which is apparently one of the rare places you can get a good quince jam recipe.

Nothing is brighter than Brighton

Charlotte picked us up at Brighton railway station - bags and all squeezed into her tiny red car - and we trundled along the scenic coastal route (a decision we all instantly regretted as we were soon tightly traffic jammed). We paused along the way to have an actual look at the actual beach at Brighton. Not quite Bondi, though, ay?

We're back online!!

It's only been "a few weeks", but it seems like forever ... we have been to so many places and seen and done so much in that time. And we have had to snatch a bit of email time here and there.

We've been going to the local library for the last couple of weeks - they let you have a (free) hour, and only an hour - those minutes just fly by - and they filter evil things like this blog so I couldn't even see it!

So, finally time to upload some pics and tell a few tales ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Still here ...

Its been very distressing, these last few weeks, not having regular internet.

We've been travelling, and staying in places, and working.

In a few days we will be back on the internet. oh yes!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Out of Sheffield

What was it like leaving Sheffield:

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by...

'From a railway carriage' by Robert Louis Stevenson - a poem we all learnt at school (yes, in the 'old days').

We phoned for a taxi well ahead of time, and were at the station (with our big pile of bags) over an hour ahead of our departure time. It was all very relaxing. When the time came to climb aboard people around us offered to help! That was so nice. It was a lovely trip down to London, St Pancas, and we were patting ourselves on the head over choosing such an excellent method of travel.

Then we had to change trains. We had been given various versions of the distance between St Pancras and King's Cross Thameslink - 300 metres, 5 minutes walk ... to mention a couple. We had 25 minutes to make the change.

So we set off along the platform. I had my backpack, and the computer strung around my shoulders, and I was pulling a large and a small case. Peter was pulling two large cases and wearing his backpack and camera. Halfway up the platform we spotted a single trolley in the trolley stand and grabbed it eagerly. Setting off again, still with backpacks, Peter pushing the heavil loaded trolley and me still towing one small case ...

We stood staring blankly at the escalator and stairs, shifting our feet and wondering which would be even slightly possible. A helpful railway worker pointed out the lift hiding behind some construction boards further up. We pressed the lift button ...

"Your request - " bellowed an amplified voice as I steppedback in alarm " - has been noted and the lift will be here as soon as possible." For goodness sake, it was a glass lift, I could see it right there one floor below.

Weaving through crowds we headed out of the station, ignoring signs about not taking the trolley away from the station. There were roadworks and building going on, and higgledy-piggledy signs here and there not giving very clear directions. We crossed the street with our load but then had to come back because the pavement was all boarded up. We trundled off down the rough street dodging other hurrying (but less encumbered) travellers. It was onl a couple of minutes before or scheduled time when we pushed our way into Kng's Cross station and scanned the information boards - but no trains to Brighton ... wrong station!

Back out into the street looking for "Thameslink", and trundling along the rough, narrow, crowded pavement. The traffic in this area was quite heavy, and we were protected from it by miles of continuous metal railing ... and there was the station on the other side of the street! We had to go way up the street to find a traffic light where we could get across.

Right on the time the train was due to leave we came panting (literally, and sweating quite a bit!) into the station, and approached a railway worker to ask which platform. She told us the train was still at the station "... but its stairs!" she said, pointing. Two flights of stairs, no lift, no ramp. Peter lugged the cases down the stairs two at a time ... as the train pulled out of the station.

There was another train in fifteen minutes ... we needn't have rushed, we weren't necessarily booked on that particular train. Like the bus system, the train system in England is run by several different companies and on different systems. We had had seats actually booked on the Sheffield train, but not on this one.

And so we arrived safely in Brighton, and were met by our good friend Charlotte who took us to her home in Rustington for a few days.


Friday, September 14, 2007

One More Time, for the memories

Summer School is over. Tomorrow the students (and us) all head off in different directions back to their own countries or to begin courses in Sheffield Uni or Sheffield International College.

There was a get-together, a banquet, a chance to say 'thank you' to everyone involved.

We were just settling down to our last sleep in our student room ... and guess what?

One more fire alarm. That makes 8, I think, in our six weeks here. On with shoes and warm clothes, and outside to wait for the fire trucks - and yes, the fire trucks still show up.

Time to Travel

Tomorrow: catch the train to Brighton.

Monday: take a plane to Ireland to see cousin Max. Return on Friday.

The following Tuesday: to Australia to see the kids and grandkids. Returning after two weeks.

October 15: Working in Torquay, Devon for two weeks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Leeding the way

The last student outing for this summer school - a bus trip to Leeds. I had no idea what is at Leeds. It was less than an hour's trip.

The bus dropped us off, and as usual we were given a photocopied map to make sure we found our way back. Unfortunately, the drop-off point wasn't even on the map. So we walked until we came across some of the streets that were on the map.

Someone had said something about one of the biggest shopping malls being in Leeds. I'm beginning to think the Brits just don't know about shopping malls. Anyway this was just one of those arcades that you walk through and "ooh!" and "aah!" but no one would think of buying anything here.

Then we came across the market. Nice old building. Inside - well, it's a market full of stalls of cheap junk. One of the good things about living out of a suitcase is that you don't feel in the slightest tempted by this stuff.

Someone said the Royal Armouries was the place to see. So we trudged through town and across a bridge following the occasional little sign. That's the RA on the left beside this quiet little canal cul-de-sac.

The whole area was remarkably deserted. We saw very few people other than our students who were off the bus we came on.
But here there were a number of barges moored - very clean, and pretty-looking as they appeared to be inhabited.

This lady was showing off her barge-towing horse and giving quite a (long-winded but) interesting talk on the ways and traditions of barges and tow horses.

Inside the Royal Armories museum there was this huge tower displaying arms. Lots of swords and spears, helmets, shields and other bits and pieces artistically arrayed.

There were several floors on themes such as "Tournament" and "War". This apparently friendly fellow was in the tournament room.

This armoured helmet obviously belonged to a very sofisticated bloke.

But I can't help wondering if this chap was a bit of a comedian and wanted his opponents to die laughing.

There were stuffed horses and riders, and tents set up for a jousting tournament. There was going to be some sort of theatrical display, but we didn't want to hang around that long.

We did however chance upon a monologue by a chappy in the "War" room, dramatically telling about the Christmas Day during the First World War when the opposing sides briefly ceased hostilities for a game of football in No Man's Land.

We wandered back through the city. By now it was Saturday afternoon, and the place was packed - almost as crowded as Istanbul on a quiet day. There is a large section of town which is walking streets - shopping mall - only. Maybe that's the big shopping centre they were talking about.

Again, the place is full of old majestic buildings, mostly in pristine condition, but in stark contrast to things like this massive TV screen.

We heard music and followed our ears - Morris Dancing! Now there's a sight you don't see every day!

Time To Move On

One more week of teaching here and then we are moving on, leaving Sheffield and Yorkshire. It's been nice. Certainly Sheffield is much more "green leafy" than we expected. Not that keen on Leeds, but it's ok.