Change of address

How did you get to this page? I left weeks ago!

Please follow the link   

See you at the new address.

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Our second grand-child is due any day now. David and Madeline live nearby but when Lillian was born in 2007 they lived on the other side of the world in Scotland. The Farmer and I were due for a holiday so we decided to include a visit to Scotland via a friend’s wedding in Amsterdam and a visit to Turkey to catch up with our old neighbours.

Izmir Bay, Turkey

The visit to Broughty Ferry, Scotland,  was planned for the end of the holiday. We figured that Madeline and the baby would be home from hospital and settled in at home. I had arranged for my mother to come with us to Scotland so that she could meet her first great-grandchild. Our son Richard was also flew up from London to be with us.

It was the end of June but the weather in Scotland was grey, wet and cold. We hired a car and went on short trips (just in case we got a phone call to say the baby was on the way!) This is a smoke house and shop in  Arbroath. The town is famous for its ‘smokies’- smoked herrings.


But babies won’t be hurried. They come when they are ready and Lillian didn’t arrive until the day before we were due to leave and catch planes to various destinations. She was worth waiting for!

Maybe she will arrive on Madeline’s birthday. That’s the 6th October or maybe on the 11th, Richard’s birthday.

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Man skirts

There were a couple of anniversaries last week that I want to tell you about. 

The first was brought to my attention by Google. The mighty search engine announced that it was the 50th birthday of the cartoon family The Flintstones which first aired on September 30 1960. Like cartoon characters everywhere Fred Flintstone and his friend Barney Rubble wore the same outfit day after day, year after year. The whole population of Bedrock, man, woman and child wore dresses. They had no choice. That’s the way they were drawn. Fred was always in the sabre-tooth tiger fur dress with natty tie and Barney in a simpler brown triceratops leather dress with leather fastening at the neck. Shoes hadn’t been invented.

The second anniversary last week was that of French Vogue. It was the magazine’s 90th birthday and to celebrate a masquerade ball was held in Paris for fashion’s elite.

US clothing designer Marc Jacob was one of the guests. Unlike Fred and Barney he did have a choice what to wear and his choice was the skirt.  The photo on the left is one of Marc wearing an everyday what-I-wear-around-the-house outfit. To show he is no wuss he teams the skirt with clod-hopper boots.

 I was looking at the photos of the Vogue bash in New York Times Magazine on-line. There is a photo of Mr Jacob and friend. Both are in black, wear masks and carry evening bags. See if you can pick Marc.  (photo here) Did you choose the one with the boots?

There is a rumour* that Marc and fellow countryman and clothing designer Thom Browne are working on a secret project. They have been asked to design the outfits for Team USA for the 2012 London Olympics. Their ideas so far for the US men:

Olympic Games Opening Ceremony outfit for young, buffed athletes

Olympic Games relaxed style for coaches and other hangers-on









 Once the jeering cheering dies down and the Games are over will Marc and Thom have convinced men that skirts are a good idea? And will the clans north of  Hadrian’s Wall say, ‘We wondered how long it would take you sasanchs to start wearing the skirt kilt.’

*completely unfounded

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Baby bump

I had coffee with my daughter-in-law and grand-daughter, Lillian this afternoon as we do most Thursdays. Madeline’s baby is due any day now and  the baby bump is very obvious (that’s some minor celeb. & not my d-i-l on the left, by the way trying to look more pregnant than she is). As we walked down the street to the Eurobar I noticed the way women looked at Madeline and smiled. They were sort of ‘Oh, I remember how that feels.’ and ‘Ahhh’ and ‘Another lovely baby almost here’ smiles. All the smiles radiated empathy and good wishes. One young woman actually wished her good luck and congratulations and when we got to the cafe the waitress commented on how Mad’s shape had changed since the previous week.

As we sipped our coffees Madeline told me how a woman she didn’t know had stopped her in the street and said ‘Not long to go now’ as she rubbed Madeline’s belly! The woman probably had all those warm and fuzzy feelings described above but she went that step too far. So ladies, keep those good wishes to smiles and words. Leave those baby bumps alone.

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The girl

Here’s the situation: You’re on the train on a Saturday morning. More and more young people get on at each stop. You guess they are late teens/early twenty’s. They wander up and down carriages looking for a seat. Seems that you have chosen a busy day to travel. Coaster 2010, a music festival is being held at Gosford, one stop past your destination.

One particularly noisy group is in the seats behind you. The chief protagonist reminds you of that boy you taught in grade 4 (sorry, but it was usually a boy and there was one each year). That boy who was always interrupting the lesson, calling out loudly without thinking, needing to be noticed. This ‘boy’ is in his early twenty’s. He reminds you of an over-grown Labrador puppy, unable to keep still or quiet. He is sooooo loud you long to tell him that you’ll keep him in at playtime if he doesn’t quieten down. But then help arrives.

One of the boys, not Mr Loud,  has a girlfriend who gets on the train at a later station to the group behind you.  Naturally she is guided to the ‘right’ carriage, very loudly, by the puppy on the phone. When she’s settled in she lets him tell her, and the rest of the train, about a movie he’s seen (with quotes), about the apps on his i-phone and how the universe was formed! She gives him the equivalent of a pat on the head and then gets out a pack of Uno for them all to play and things quieten down. You’re glad she’s there. She gets on well with the five young men, never sinking to their level of crude language but easy-going and friendly. She seems to be her own person and they obviously like her.

When you get off the train there seems to be no short cut to your destination, the shopping centre. It’s the first time you have been here and from the train it looks very close to the station. It’s hot but you decide to walk as you can see some shops in the distance. Then a voice behind you asks where you are going. It’s the young woman from the train. She doesn’t know the way either but she is waiting for her two friends to pick her up. ‘The girls will drive you there’. She extends a hand and introduces herself. You’re impressed. Her friends arrive and are introduced and you get in the little car with three very pretty young women and are driven to the shops. Faith in humanity restored.

Pick me, pick me.....

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Dear Oprah..

Dear Oprah,

Let me tell you how excited we Aussies are at the news that you are coming to Sydney in December with a whole group of your pals. When we heard this on the local news the nation cheered and yelled ‘Good on ya, Oprah!’

 Apparently this one visit will be the saviour of our tourist industry. Believe me, since the Japanese have stopped coming things have been pretty grim. Yes we had great crowds for the Games of the XXV11 Olympiad held in Sydney and declared ‘the best games ever’ by IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch. unfortunately not even the sight of our gold medal winning women’s beach volley ball team battling it out against the Brazilians on Bondi Beach was enough to bring the tourists back Downunder.

 Remember that brilliant ad campaign of the 80’s? The one with Crocodile Dundee, aka Paul Hogan, in a pair of very short shorts, offering to throw another shrimp on the barbie? It was designed to bring in tourists from the US. You yanks flocked here in droves. You loved that bloke.  Trouble is, Oprah, subsequent tourism ad campaigns with slogans like ‘Where the bloody hell are ya?’ only put people off. They think that we Aussies are an unsophisticated mob. They don’t realise that we are just very laid back. One word sums us up. Casual.

 So what to wear in Sydney for your visit? With that important word casual in mind, my advice would be to leave the Jimmy Choos in Chicago and wear what we all wear every day, thongs*. Remember also that jeans are very versatile and can be, and are, worn on every occasion when one is not wearing shorts. They can be worn out to dinner, to the opera. The only time girls wear a frock is to the (horse) races. Then a little strappy cocktail number is de rigueur  worn with a fake tan, stilettoes and a fascinator. As a concession to the effort made by their partners blokes wear jeans instead of shorts. Thongs are still ok, though.

 Oprah, you did say on the news that you were practising saying ‘mate’ before your December visit. May I suggest a little trick that I’ve found useful to disguise my English accent? It’s all in the vowels. Think of a as i so then mate becomes mite. Draw the word out a bit, miiiiite, and there you have it. You’re talking Australian like a native. I’d be happy to pass on more tips if you would like to contact me. No worries.

 Finally, Oprah, I noticed that you didn’t immediately don the Akubra hat given to you by the Australian tourism minister. You just sort of tucked it under your arm as if to say, ‘What the ….!’ Let me tell you the Akubra is an Australian icon on a par with the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, koalas and didgeridoos. All of which you will no doubt get to see on your visit. It’s going to be a busy couple of days.

I don’t think I am giving away any secrets if I tell you that there’s a strong possibility of fireworks on Sydney harbour with lights on the harbour bridge spelling out ‘Thanks Oprah’. The Sydney Opera House has of course been renamed the Oprah House.

See you in December ( maybe at your show if you have any spare tickets you could send me?)



*not those  lacy, nothing-at-the-back-but a bit of string knickers                                              

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Catch the post

For the first time in a decade I have made the deadline and posted my Christmas presents to family in the UK. Australia Post’s deadline for sending parcels by sea-mail to Great Britain is today, 21 September.

To beat the deadline it means that you have to start doing your Christmas shopping before there is even a Christmas tree, decoration, card, or santa to be seen in the shops. It is a slightly surreal feeling as you look around and think ‘Where are the crowds?’ 

Fortunately, there was still enough Christmas wrapping paper left over in the cupboard from last year when James and Cara were here and they bought extra supplies that they didn’t use. I had just enough gift tags, with one to spare. So all I needed to  buy to wrap the presents was some brown outer wrapping paper. Then, voilà, each parcel was neatly wrapped and held together with tape ready for its long voyage to the other side of the world.

So this is a personal pat on the back. Well done me!

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Cats in the wall

Son James and Cara are doing up a flat in London. They move out of their rented flat today and in with Anne and Chris, Cara’s parents until the builders have finished in their new place. I say new but really the flat they have bought must date to at least 1915 as that’s the date on a newspaper they found in the wall. I don’t have any more details on the newspaper but one can only imagine that the journalists in 1915 would have been struggling to find a bit of good news to report in the first year of WW1.

James and Cara got a bit carried away with the ‘we’ll just strip this old wall-paper off and give it a coat of paint’ to ‘all this artex has to be stripped off..and that ceiling needs replacing…so does that one. Oh no! There’s a big hole in this wall and a lot of mould.’ And that, dear reader, is where they found the old 1915 newspaper. They also found a dead bird, still intact with all its feathers. I’m not sure how long it had been there or if it got there of its own accord but it reminded me of the cats that were bricked up in walls of new buildings many years ago in England to keep away the witches and ward off the evil eye.

James and Cara’s little bird looked a lot less fierce than this mummified cat which was found in the wall of a house in Devon last year. The interesting thing is the cat had been discovered before by a previous owner who had re-interred it when the renovations to the bathroom were completed! I’m not sure if I fancy knowing that there is a dead cat in the wall of my house but as the newspaper reports there are no witches around either. See the full story here.

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Tuesday’s choice- Rajasthan India

‘I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.’ – Susan Sontag

This Tuesday’s armchair travel photos were taken on a visit to Rajasthan, India in 2006. I was celebrating one of those big number birthdays so I got to chose the country to visit. The farmer and I travelled Rajasthan with ‘Imaginative Traveller’ on a tour called Amongst the Maharajahs. Rajasthan is a dry, rural region in the north west of the country. The landscape is hilly, drab and inhospitable in contrast to the friendly brightly dressed people.

These women were filling their water pots from the communal tap in the village of Narlai. The people of this village seemed to love bright colours.

I’m not sure whether these turbans are one very long sausage of fabric wound around the head or already made up into a turban. The red one is worn at such a jaunty angle to suit the wearer that I think it’s his own design. I love the way the red is repeated in the cloak and in the print on the trousers.

‘ He’s more interested in that old pipe than in my chapatis. I don’t know why I bother, really I don’t.’

The fifteen century Jain temple in Ranakapur was the reason for the groups visit to the area. It is India’s largest Jain temple and every inch of it is covered in carvings. Inside the temple there are 1444 sculptured pillars. The temple is dedicated to Adinath and each day the statue of the deity is washed and dressed in a suit of gold armour. The temple feels very light and open with its many pillars. 

 Our small group of 14 travelled mostly by private bus. Our ‘Imaginative Traveller’ guide was a local from Jodhpur. He was a country boy and really enjoyed showing us around the little villages as well as the big tourist attraction forts and temples. It was a great way to see India.


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Take the slow train

There are two choices when travelling by train from the city of Newcastle to Sydney. There is the slow train, a journey of 2 hours 30,  and there is the very slow train, 3 hours. We’ve had promises of a Very Fast Train but that seems to be a promise reserved for election years only and once the election is over all promises are forgotten.

Still, there is a lot to enjoy on the 160 kilometre journey. The route the train takes is mainly through native bush with frequent stops at tiny stations. The grey-green bush can look very uninspiring but if you look closely there is always something of interest to see. On Friday from the train I saw the deep red flowers of Gymea Lilies just starting to open. These native flowers grow on tall, thick stems up to six metres high from a cluster of sword-shaped leaves. There were also a few low-growing wattles still covered in yellow flowers. In one area part of the bush had been cleared beneath a row of electricity pylons. I counted sixteen kangaroos busily eating the new grass shoots. It gives you an idea of the speed of the train when you get to count that many kangaroos. They must have been used to trains as none of them lifted their heads or stopped eating to investigate the noise.

The most scenic part of the train journey is from Gosford to Brooklyn where the railway line is closest to the coast. Gosford is the main town between Newcastle and Sydney and many people who live here commute the 70+ kilometres to Sydney. Much of the city is set around a wide bay and you get a good view of the town as the train line skirts the bay on the way to Brooklyn. The train crosses the Hawkesbury River bridge with water on both sides. The river flows out to the Pacific Ocean at Palm Beach, just a few kilometres to the right of the picture. It is the famous beach where the TV series ‘Home and Away’ is filmed. The little settlement of Brooklyn is most famous for its oysters and its marina. I’d like to take one of the Hawkesbury river cruises from there one day. The train does not often stop at Hawkesbury River, the station for Brooklyn. I think the stop may be ‘on request’.






From Brooklyn the train enters a series of tunnels carved out of the sandstone from  which the Sydney basin is formed. In places the cliffs drop down to the Hawkesbury river. These would be interesting seen from a boat, I think.








Once the train reaches Hornsby it is in the outer suburbs of Sydney and buildings and  houses close in on the train line. The train slows as it joins the steady stream of train traffic to Central Station, Sydney’s main railway station.

The Newcastle-Sydney train is scenic and slow. For scenic and fast (30 minutes) I want to try the sea-plane


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