England ’86 – Part 3

And so we come to the third and final part of my day by day summary of the UK holiday my family took in 1986 (part one, part two). In this exciting episode we head for recently irradiated Scotland. Prepare for tales of blatent diary forgery, vandalism of historic sites and an encounter with the UK’s oldest living resident!

Saturday May 31st – Drove from Liverpool to wilds of Scotland with Uncle Tony. Memorable and spectacular trip through Highlands that I mostly missed by falling asleep. Checked into A-Frame cabin next to stream at Delny Highland Lodges.

Sunday June 1st – Church (of course) in repurposed Invergordon Nissen Hut, Presbyterians having grabbed all decent buildings. Then off to misnamed Black Isle (it’s a peninsula). Visited Clootie Well, picturesque ruins of Fortrose Cathedral and Chanonry Point Lighthouse from which we observed pod of dolphins. Then visited Fairy Glen which was quite nice. Aunty Mary and Uncle Doug arrived in evening.

Monday June 2nd – Entry begins with blatant fabrication about not just seeing but actually photographing Loch Ness Monster. Shameful! Drove to Loch Ness and attended the exhibition at Drumnadrochit. Particularly fascinated by bisected otter (it died of natural causes). Staged photo of fibreglass monster. Scanned the Loch from Urquart Castle but saw nothing. Lunch at Fort Augustus. Saw deer, went home.

Tuesday June 3rd – Went to the rather impressive Fort George. Dad vanished so I ran full mile around battlements looking for him. Still no sign so had lunch without him. Once he turned up headed to Brodie Castle and saw misprinted dinner plates. Then to Cawdor Castle which was hitting the Macbeth connection hard. Disappointed we didn’t get special treatment for being Cawdor Campbells on Mum’s side.

Wednesday June 4th – Drove across entire country and back to look at palm trees at Inverewe Gardens, despite having palm trees at home.

Thursday June 5th – Went to Landmark Visitors’ Centre at Carrbridge where told so much snow on the Cairngorm mountains they were considering re-opening skiing season. Diverted to the Cairngorm ski-lift to see snow. Got to top, spent two minutes throwing snowballs. then blizzard rolled in. Rode down ski-lift being pelted by snow in gale force winds. Brother spent half hour standing under hand dryer in mens’ toilets. Back to Landmark where saw a movie, walked through maze and brother saw a “facon” (or possibly “falon”).

Friday June 6th – Took advantage of services at Lodges to go for family horse ride. Dad’s horse (“Sally”) completely uncontrollable. Chased by cows. Didn’t know I was allergic to horses at time – diary says nothing but was probably miserable. Shopping in Inverness. Looked into visiting Fryish Monument but everyone too lazy and selfish to consider mere 10 mile walk. Set off for John o’ Groats but only got as far as Bonar bridge before giving it up as a bad job and turning around.

Saturday June 7th – Checked out of Highland Lodges and set off for Perth (many jokes made) via the Great Glen and Glencoe. Split between two cars. Various stops due to brother’s car sickness meant we fell behind – got caught up around Lochy Bridge where others had temerity to blame us for the confusion. Visited Glencoe – careful to keep quiet about Campbell connections as MacDonalds tend not to care about VERY CLEAR DISTINCTION between Cawdor and Argyle Campbells. Continued to Perth then Bridge of Earn where checked into chalets just adjacent to ruins of old bridge.

Sunday June 8th – Went to church, dropped Dad at the Black Watch museum then went through a car wash. Visited Huntingtower where the spiral staircases were built backwards because the owners wielded their swords left-handed (a fanciful tale told wherever there are backwards spiral staircases). Picked up Dad from the museum and went back to chalets.

Monday June 9th – Drove to Edinburgh. Made game of spotting buildings resembling ones in London – fortunate that no Scots overheard or we’d have been killed. Visited Castle, almost froze from wind chill. Fascinated by Mons Meg. Looked for place to eat, found The Witchery sited in building where witches apparently met to “talk to saten”. Ate at big table alongside dummy dressed like witch – most discomforting. Visited cathedral, walked through town for hours. No one wanted to climb Scott Monument despite gothic awesomeness. Fryish monument all over again.

Note: The Witchery is now a very swanky and quite expensive fine dining establishment and boutique hotel that no longer features dummies dressed as witches, no longer claims its location was ever actually used by witches and seems to keep very quiet about its origins as a 1980s tourist trap…

Tuesday June 10th – Toured various factories churning out pottery and glassware at Crieff. Ate haggis at cafeteria.

Wednesday June 11th – Visited Killacrankie and Blair Castle. Saw deer penned up with sheep. Impressed by sheer number of horns on display. Less impressed by state of dining room, roof of which had collapsed. Visited “friends” who lived at a coal yard. Built fort out of bricks in their sandpit.

Thursday June 12th – Drove around Loch Lomond in appalling conditions of pounding rain interspersed with thick fog. Carried on to Doune Castle – ignorance of Monty Python meant many missed joke opportunities. Caretaker showed us bats – sadly rather small and unimpressive. Back to chalets but Uncle Doug had keys so were locked out. Headed for another castle but couldn’t find it.

Friday June 13th – Went to Loch Levan and caught ferry to island with castle where Mary Queen of Scots imprisoned. After lunch visited Stirling Castle. Saw Wallace Monument across valley but no one wanted to visit it except me. Scott Monument all over again.

Saturday June 14th – Checked out of chalets and drove approx 700kms back to Warsash with Mary and Doug via Carlisle. Long drive even by Australian standards. Various stops for food, refreshments and brother’s car sickness. Mum and Dad got a day to themselves for once.

Sunday June 15th – Church (no escaping it) then to Sheila and Mike’s for lunch. Looked at Sarah’s shell collection. Mum and Dad arrived at some point during the day but I totally failed to record when.

Monday June 16th – Shopping in Southampton followed by walk on the beach. Found interesting rocks and built a miniature Stonehenge, which is the kind of thing kids did in the benighted ages before Nintendo released the Game Boy.

Tuesday June 17th – Headed off for the south west. Brass rubbing at Exeter Cathedral. Bought postcard of pipe organ lit up blue despite Mum and Dad hating it. Visited Powderham Castle. Scruffy looking man saw Mum’s interest in music box collection and activated them all. Scruffy looking man was 17th Earl of Devon. Introduced us to the famous Timothy (we fed her lettuce). Visit to grandparents of brother’s school friend Jason in Teignmouth. Checked into bed and breakfast.

Wednesday June 18th – Got lost in Plymouth looking for Dad’s second cousin as discovered by Radio Devon. Found him eventually. Went to Tintagel – only had time to look at fossil museum or King Arthur’s Hall tourist trap. Opted for fossil museum where waxwork posed in window turned out to be very alive owner. Over to castle where large American woman slipped and broke her ankle, having to be carried back to mainland across precarious bridges and walkways by two unfortunate men. Overcome by Arthurian mystique I nicked a stone from the ruined castle walls – have meant to find and return it for years. Up coast to Clovelly where walked up and down ridiculously steep streets and looked at tourist tat in Donkey Shop. Night at bed and breakfast.

Thursday June 19th – Caves at Wookey Hole. No sign of Chewbacca. Toured old paper mill, learned about paper production and played with old fairground machines. Dad extremely evasive on why he wouldn’t let me have a go on the “What the Butler Saw” machine. Drove to Glastonbury and visited the abbey ruins. Laughed at the same sign concerning the Abbot “vaulting the choir and facing it” that Mum had laughed at as a child. Visited more of those mysterious ‘friends’ and checked into a bed and breakfast.

Friday June 20th – Drove back to Warsash. Entirely failed to find a Roman Villa on the way.

Saturday June 21st – Shopping at Fareham in the morning. Mum, Mary and brother went to a bazaar in the afternoon. Brother bought me back a ceramic dinosaur which was very nice of him.

Sunday June 22nd – Diary makes no mention of church, but what are the odds? Drove to Frieth for garden party with Uncle Fran and Sally. Played with hammock in garden afterwards. Then back to Warsash.

Monday June 23rd – Bought pages for postcard albums in Fareham, and ordered even more of them. Had clearly devolved into some kind of postcard fiends.

Tuesday June 24th – Off to Winchester for the ‘Domesday 900’ exhibition celebrating (funnily enough) 900 years since the creation of the Domesday Book. Located in Great Hall and featuring lots of wax figures in Norman robes. Very impressive wood carving of the entire Bayeux Tapestry (an artifact that appears to have entirely vanished from history). Admired round table then paintings of King Arthur in W.H.Smiths. Saw ‘a play’ – a reenacted medieval mummer’s play maybe?

Wednesday June 25th – Helped (more likely hindered) Dad cut down a tree in Mary and Doug’s garden.

Thursday June 26th – Drove to the Weald and Downland Museum. Thirty-one years too early for The Repair Shop. Very impressed by mushroom shaped staddle stones. Visited ‘friends’ in Burgess Hill again – who are these people?

Friday June 27th – Into Southsea for the D-Day Museum. Tapestry not as impressive as the wooden one, but liked the tank. Across to Southsea Castle where we toured the bomb-proof tunnels. Went to a dance in the evening where the crowds and music made me extremely grumpy.

Saturday June 28th – Off to a medieval fair at “Stilbing-ton” which I presume must have been Stubbington. Was picked out of crowd to be a ‘squire’ and follow a ‘knight’ around while wearing extremely heavy chainmail and a helmet. Watched the ox roast roast. Stopped off to pick strawberries on the way home, then the car broke down 100m from the house.

Sunday June 29th – Church in the morning. Sheila and Mike came for lunch. Brother cut finger in bathroom when lightbulb spontaneously exploded – it certainly had nothing to do with it being hit by a damp washcloth we were defintely not throwing around.

Monday June 30th – Back to Fareham to order more postcard album pages (this is getting ridiculous). Got Dad a shoebox for some reason and went to “the predinked” (what?) to get prawn crackers.

Tuesday July 1st – Drove up to London to pick up parcels. Lunch with Tony and Grandmadge at the Italian restaurant with the sorbets, then “watering the ‘club’ oval” (whatever the hell that’s meant to mean). Drove back from London.

Wednesday July 2nd – Had a swim in the pool next door and saw the Fujifilm Blimp.

Thursday July 3rd – Farwell party at Mary and Doug’s. I’d like to say who came but totally neglected to record it, probably due to end of holiday depression.

Friday July 4th – Sombre drive to Heathrow. Lunch at the airport then boarded plane for home. Sadness mitigated by the 1979 version of The Plank at which I laughed so hard the rest of the passengers were laughing at me. Stop offs at Abu Dhabi and Singapore before finally arriving back in Perth.

So that’s it. A holiday the likes of which it’s hard to imagine in these cash strapped (albiet somewhat less-irradiated) days. I’ve been back to the UK on my own several times since and revisited some of these places. I hope to do so again once the international situation stabilises. In particular I mean to find that stone and return it to Tintagel – I don’t know what I was thinking.


England ’86 – Part 2

Here is part two of my day by day summary of the UK holiday my family took in 1986 (back to part one). I’ve already covered our trips to various manor houses, ancient sites and relatives, and when I left off we were hunkered down next to James Blunt’s windmill in Cley Next the Sea waiting for the radiation cloud from Chernobyl to arrive. What wacky adventures will we have next?

Wednesday April 30 -In the morning went out on a boat to see seals, but had to look at a bunch of boring birds first (undoubtedly at the insistence of fanatical twitcher Uncle Fran). Did eventually see a gratifying number of seals. In the afternoon went to look for fossils in the cliffs. Spend a few hours trying to dig out an extremely long bone that in retrospect was probably a tree root.

Thursday May 1st – Left Cley to head back to Frieth, but not before taking photos of James Blunt’s lambs at James Blunt’s windmill. Stopped off at ruins of Binham Priory, Castle Acre Priory and Castle Acre Castle, the later of which was extremely uninteresting. Had lunch at a motorway-side Happy Eater.

Friday May 2nd – Went to Windsor. Toured the Madame Tussauds “Victoria and Empire” exhibition at the railway station which was mostly waxworks of Queen Victoria getting on and off trains. Then went to the castle where we discovered that the Keep was closed, as were the Royal Apartments. We were however able to look at Queen Mary’s dollhouse and the dungeons (later to become notorious for hosting an entirely fictional species of venomous spider). Finally – for some reason – we went shopping for door knockers.

Saturday May 3rd – Headed out to Uffington as the Chernobyl radiation cloud passed over the country. Mum wisely elected to stay in bed. Saw the White Horse from close up which is arguably the worst way to see it, then visited Wayland’s Smithy which my brother found extremely creepy (either radiation getting to him or traumatic memories of The Moon Stallion).

Sunday May 4th – Church in the morning. A noticeably short service (possibly the Priest wanted to get away quickly to buy iodine tablets). Back to Uncle Fran’s to pack up and head for London. On the way I felt sick (undoubtedly radiation poisoning) and we stopped at a roadside parking area surrounded by “all sorts of junk”. Arrived at Grandmadge’s in Palmers Green in time for lunch.

Monday May 5th – Planned to walk around London but was wet in Palmers Green. Went into London anyway to see if weather was better. It wasn’t. Walked around London anyway. Mobbed by pigeons at Trafalgar Square. Walked to Piccadilly Circus via Admiralty Arch then went home.

Tuesday May 6th – Headed to Madame Tussauds. Many jokes made about Bob Hawke belonging in the Chamber of Horrors (parents dyed-in-the-wool Liberal voters). Brother and I most impressed with ‘Slush Puppies’ in restaurant. Mum – obviously ill from all the radiation – fell asleep during the planetarium show.

Wednesday May 7th – Hit up the Tower of London. Many photos taken of Beefeater who looked just like family friend back in Australia. Viewed crown jewels, spent rest of day chanting “move along please” in monotone like the guards. Visited Tower Bridge and were inside exhibition when a ship went through. Were unable to get out of exhibition to see ship go through as power was diverted from the lifts to the bascules. Contented ourselves looking out window at vertical road surface.

Thursday May 8th – Went to the Natural History Museum. Exhausted parents by insisting on looking at every exhibit including a “spcele sustmy” with computer games in it (unsure what’s worse, my spelling or handwriting). Had lunch, went to see the spiders. Spotted Uncle Tony in Children’s Gallery after which parents had to apologise to a random man with a vague resemblance to Uncle Tony. Moved to the Science Museum. Had to drag Dad away from the warplane exhibit. Went on the earthquake simulator at the Geology museum and watched a simulated volcanic eruption before heading home.

Friday May 9th – Went to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Was shocked that we were allowed into the Crypt and then just as shocked that the Crypt was not a maze of crumbling tunnels full of skeletons and cobwebs. Was very impressed with Christopher Wren’s model of the Cathedral and quite disappointed that the real one was so toned down in comparison. Climbed up to the Whispering Gallery then refused to go any higher. Andrew and Mum continued all the way to the top while Dad had to stay behind and make sure I didn’t plunge over the railings in a fit of vertigo. Left the Cathedral to get lunch but everywhere was closed. Continued to the Museum of London which turned out to have a restaurant. Ate soup and toured the museum. Went home and had dinner at Uncle Tony’s favourite Italian restaurant where they served sorbet in hollowed out citrus fruit (unarguably the best way to serve sorbet).

Saturday May 10th – Did nothing of interest except have fish and chips for dinner while Dad and Uncle Tony watched the FA Cup final (Liverpool v. Everton at Wembley. Liverpool won 3-1).

Sunday May 11th – Went to church then had ‘a boring day’. In the evening ‘a visitor’ arrived and we ‘showed her lots of things’ which is so cryptic it would fit into in a Dan Brown novel.

Monday May 12th – Picked up Grandmadge from her sister’s place where she had been ‘having a rest’ – presumably from two hyperactive step-grandchildren. Drove back to Warsash in the rain.

Tuesday May 13th – Went into Southampton and visited the museum in the Bargate. Lunch at the cafe in the Owen Owen department store. Walked along the wall to the Maritime Museum in the old Wool House. Hit up the Archeology museum and discovered one of the towers in the city wall has the same name as Dad. Convinced the museum to part with one of their only two maps of the walls and went to gawk at said tower. Gawked at ruins of Castle and went home.

Wednesday May 14th – Went into Fareham for haircuts at random barbers. Spent entire cut gazing in astonishment at “Willy Grooming Kit” openly displayed on counter. Particularly confused by inclusion of comb, having not yet reached puberty. Barber parted my hair and sprayed some kind of lacquer on it – went out of my way to mess it up as soon as we left. Mum dropped off camera bag for repair at a shop. Went squirrel spotting at Aunty Mary’s work but they were all scared off by the lingering scent of hair lacquer.

Thursday May 15th – Were meant to go to Arundel but brother was sick so did nothing except walk into the village to post letters. Dropped one on the way, found it on the way back so went back to post it. Looked around ‘Lots of Things’ – apparently a store in the village (did we use some kind of remote viewing to show it to the mysterious visitor on May 11th?)

Friday May 16th – Brother had recovered so to Arundel we went. Visited the world famous and quite morbid Potter’s Museum of Curiosities – I was particularly taken with the diprosopic lamb. Sated chronic sorbet addiction at lunch. Drove to mechanical music museum which for some reason Mum enjoyed much more than Potter’s. Bought a tape of steam organ music that was played incessantly for the rest of our stay in the country (I still know Offenbach’s Galop Infernal by heart). Drove to World War II airfield museum where brother and I got to test out a mechanical Spitfire simulator being constructed out of assorted junk by a couple of actual Spitfire pilots – in retrospect probably the coolest experience of the entire trip.

Saturday May 17th – Quiet day. Mum, brother and Aunty Mary went to do the flowers at Saint Margaret Mary’s but I – tired of providing unpaid labour – plead off as sick.

Sunday May 18th – My brother’s birthday. Party with all the relatives (after church, of course). Gifts included various Transformers and a postcard album, and the cake was a hedgehog with flake for spines and smarties for eyes.

Monday May 19th – Headed to Beaulieu. Took in the car museum including the “Wheels” ride-through exhibition on the history of cars. Most impressed with the future of cars which is (apparently) insect-legged pods on the moon. Played with the remote control cars and rode the monorail, which seemed an odd inclusion at a site devoted to the celebration of private transport. Visited the Abbey where a sign stated that the presence of ghostly monks could be detected by a smell of roses, placed right next to a giant bowl of potpourri. Listened to a steam calliope in the carpark and were handed passes to a free tour of a nearby stately home the next day.

Tuesday May 20th – Went to the free tour at Elmer’s Court which turned out to be a pitch for timeshares. Mum and Dad happily went through the entire presentation and tour of the facilities before telling the salesman that we were tourists from Australia and hence had no interest. Absolutely savage.

Wednesday May 21st – Drove up to London. Stopped for lunch at the Fleet Services on the M3 which – due to the bridge over the motorway – I thought was the most amazing place I’d ever seen.

Thursday May 22nd – Returned to the Natural History Museum to look at bats, then headed to the Houses of Parliament. Tried to see Westminster Hall but it was closed. Went to visit Westminster Abbey. It was closed. Decided to visit the Abbey Cloisters. They were closed. Cabinet War Rooms were open. Mum annoyed by brother and I bothering her while she listened to Churchill speeches. Stumbled over the Jewel Tower museum. Walked to Horse Guards then to Buckingham Palace.

Friday May 23rd – Got tube to Victoria Station then walked to Coach Station which was “dirty”. Had lunch there anyway. Boarded bus to Liverpool. Air conditioning and all but one TV broken. One working TV played Police Academy which I thought was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. Picked up in Liverpool by Aunty Jo (the Nun) who drove us – like a maniac – to the school for the blind of which she was principal.

Saturday May 24th – Packed a picnic lunch and headed for Wales. Forgot that it was a Bank Holiday weekend and hence every other person in Liverpool was also headed for Wales. Finally crept across the border after hours in traffic and pulled into the first layby we found. Ate our sandwiches in the drizzle and drove back to Liverpool. Spent several hours playing Robin of Sherwood in the bouncy play.

Sunday May 25th – After the inevitable church we drove to a manor house to see a flower show. Discovered it didn’t start until next week. Went to a different manor house that didn’t have a flower show but did have a miniature railway and a “disco bounce” (whatever that may be…). Did penance for disco bouncing by visiting an elderly Nun.

Monday May 26th – Bank Holiday. Went to Southport, bought some new bathers and had a game of croquet with the parents of a friend back in Australia.

Tuesday May 27th – Blackpool. So windy that my brother (a skinny child medically prescribed cooking chocolate to try and bulk him up) was almost blown away down the street. Lifts in Blackpool Tower weren’t working and (to my disgust) Mum and Dad refused to consider the stairs. Won 80p in a penny drop machine but could not resist the allure of greater riches and immediately lost it. Visited a “friend” who lived in some flats. Dropped in to the Formby red squirrel sanctuary on the way back where the opportunity to photograph a squirrel posing on a tree stump was ruined by a bunch of idiots who drove in with their radio blaring at full volume. SQUIRRELS DO NOT APPRECIATE FALCO!!

Wednesday May 28th – Drove cross country to York. Queued for an hour at the Jorvik Viking Centre, but were most impressed by the viking having a difficult time in the outhouse. Took in York Minster which was still being rebuilt after God smote it with a lightning bolt two years earlier. Examined the bosses designed by Blue Peter viewers. Went through the Castle Museum and climbed the mound to Clifford’s Tower. Bought a loaf of bread shaped like a hedgehog then drove back to Liverpool.

Thursday May 29th – Went into Liverpool where we visited both the “Cristen” and “ANGLEGEN” cathedrals (Anglicans, of course, famously not counting as “Cristens”). Had lunch in the cloisters then visited the Immigration Museum in the docks. Saw a barge.

Friday May 30th – Packed for Scotland and tried again for the flower show. This time it was actually there. Had a picnic by the nearby lake. Goodbye dinner with the Nuns.

End of Part Two! Check back soon to discover what pleasures and perils await in the bonny, freshly-irradiated glens of Scotland!


England ’86 – Part 1

Here follows the first part of a day by day summary of the trip my parents, brother and I made to the UK in 1986, culled from my diary and vague memories. I’m posting it mostly for my own convenience (what is a blog if not an online notebook?) but perhaps some others may find it momentarily distracting…

Friday March 21st to Saturday March 22st – Flying from Perth to London via Mumbai (or “Bombay” as it was called at the time). We bought fancy leather wallets decorated with the Taj Mahal at Mumbai airport (mine was pickpocketed before we even got back on the plane). Met by Mum’s family at Heathrow and driven to Aunty Mary and Uncle Doug’s place in Warsash.

Sunday March 23rd – Attended Palm Sunday Mass at Saint Mary Margaret’s at Park Gate

Monday March 24th – Shopping at Fareham. How exciting!

Tuesday March 25th – Trip into Southampton

Wednesday March 26th – Brother and I drive up the M3 to London with Uncle Tony. Stay with him and Grandmadge (Mum’s stepmother) in Palmer’s Green.

Thursday March 27th – Brother and I act as two of 800 altar servers at the Chrism Mass at Winchester Cathedral. Other 798 English altar servers harass us mercilessly because the hymns are sung to different tunes in Australia and we keep getting the notes wrong. I am also quite disappointed that Westminster Cathedral is not Westminster Abbey.

Friday March 28th – Good Friday Service, I presume at Saint Monica’s, Palmers Green.

Saturday March 29th – Driven back to Warsash by Uncle Tony. Take back roads rather than motorway and are hit by a vicious hailstorm. Back at Warsash attend Easter vigil mass even though I would rather be asleep. Sang like a crow in protest.

Sunday March 30th – Easter Sunday. Brother and I wake up early and look for eggs. Don’t find any because “they don’t do that in England”. In retrospect this is a damnable lie to cover for the parents forgetting to hide them. Pick up Aunty Jo (who is a nun – Oh, did I not mention Mum’s family are Catholics?) from Southampton Coach Station.

Monday March 31st – English relatives had kept back my birthday presents earlier in the year so we could have a fake birthday party for me today. Very gratifying. Hampton Court Palace catches on fire. Less gratifying.

Tuesday April 1st – Went to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Learned the Butser Bill Song. Visited the Butser Ancient Farm where they were experimenting with smelting iron. Got a really cool looking piece of iron ore. Went to Portchester Castle, but the castle bit within the walls was closed. Saw a set of medieval spurs that had been dug up only a few days before.

Wednesday April 2nd – Went to Portsmouth to see what was left of the Mary Rose, which was not much and mostly obscured by water cannons. Then we “saw bamby”. I presume this means we went to the movies and saw Bambi, but I have no recollection of it.

Thursday April 3rd – Dropped Aunty Jo back at the Southampton coach station, then went to an art gallery. Found a shooting range set up in the back of a truck by “the Regiment”, presumably as a recruiting gimmick. I missed everything, Dad (an Airforce reservist) effortlessly hit every target.

Friday April 4th – Went to Winchester. Visited various Military Museums and then the Cathedral. Was very puzzled about how someone could swim beneath the cathedral to fix the foundations.

Saturday April 5th – Got up “at 2:00am” to arrange flowers at Saint Mary Margaret’s. I hope I was being sarcastic when I wrote that.

Sunday April 6th – Church at Saint Mary Margaret’s followed by a long walk on the beach where my brother found an intriguingly shaped stone.

Monday April 7th – Visited Fishbourne Roman Palace, followed by Arundel Castle. Annoyed the guide at Arundel by immediately identifying the ‘unicorn horn’ as coming from a narwhal and ruining his spiel. Was quite impressed by the stuffed owl from an extinct species, apparently not realising that it went extinct because people kept shooting it to stuff and put on display.

Tuesday April 8th – The Tudor House Museum in Southampton.

Wednesday April 9th -Spent some time sitting in a car looking for squirrels in “a long driveway”. I suspect this was the driveway at Aunty Mary’s work.

Thursday April 10thNetley Abbey, Netley Castle and what’s left of Netley Hospital (not much).

Friday April 11th – Got caught by snow at Stonehenge. Retreated to Old Sarum and then Salisbury Cathedral.

Saturday April 12th – Back at Saint Mary Margaret’s, cleaning the brass work (we didn’t get paid for any of this).

Sunday April 13th – Church (naturally). Lunch at Mary and Doug’s friends Sheila and Mike’s for their daughter Sarah’s birthday.

Monday April 14th – The Dorchester Dinosaur Museum. Impressed in equal part by the dinosaur bones and a computer (it was 1986, give me a break). Stopped into another museum to identify my brother’s rock. Conclusion… it’s a rock. Visited the Roman Townhouse. Now, I know that at one point we visited Maiden Castle, but my diary doesn’t mention it. Maybe it was on our previous UK trip a few years earlier?

Tuesday April 15th – Went to the New Forest Butterfly Farm. Bought Mum a keyring with a preserved scorpion in it because that’s the kind of thing small boys think is awesome. Visited Breamore house and saw the cursed portrait that kills anyone who touches it and hadn’t been cleaned in over a century. Was terrified that Dad would volunteer to dust it.

Wednesday April 16th – Drove to Burgess Hill to visit ‘friends’. This is the first of several entries about going out of our way to visit ‘friends’. These were all people Mum and Dad happened to know but anyone reading the diary could easily assume we were involved in some kind of cult.

Thursday April 17th – Visited Broadlands House. Decided that a hidden movie theatre is the ultimate home accessory.

Friday April 18th – Drove to Wells via the Pelican pub at Serrington. Saw the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace where the swans are trained to ring a bell when they want food (which must get bloody annoying). Continued on to Cheddar Gorge where my brother saw a sign warning of falling rocks and spent the rest of the drive cowering in his seat with his arms over his head. Visited various caves and their associated tourist traps. Was not impressed by one of the caves having a concreted floor.

Saturday April 19th – Drove to Bath. Stopped at the Pelican in Serrington again which quite freaked out the staff who (it being 1986) had no convenient Bill Murray movie to reference. In Bath we started at the Georgian Pump House where we got to try the water (which was utterly foul). Visited the Roman Baths museum, then the Baths themselves, then the costume museum which Mum loved and I found extremely boring. Walked around town to see the Circus, the Royal Crescent, the bridge with shops on it and the Abbey which has angels climbing ladders carved on the front. Finally we hit up the toy museum which the oldies enjoyed even more that my brother and I did.

Sunday April 20th – Church of course. Then an auction in the Parish Hall where we tried to buy an “owl hand pointing” whatever that may be. Got a phone call from Radio Devon who we’d previously spoken to about finding some relatives down that way. I presume they had found some.

Monday April 21st – Trailed all around Fareham trying to buy plaster of paris for some reason.

Tuesday April 22nd – Visited Titchfield Abbey which was crawling with school kids (who let them in?). Then drove to visit the Bishop’s Palace at Bishop’s Waltham, but it was closed.

Wednesday April 23rd – Left Warsash to go and stay with Uncle Fran and his wife Sally in Frome.

EDIT: It turns out Uncle Fran actually lived in Frieth which makes some of the places we visited while staying with him much more sensible

Took in Avebury along the way where parents insisted we waste a whole load of time looking at the Manor House instead of visiting every single standing stone and Silbury Hill which was my preference.

Thursday April 24th – Drove to the Bekonscot Model Village, and then took in Stonor on the way back to Frieth.

Friday April 25th – Visited Hampton Court, which had suffered a major fire on my fake birthday a few weeks earlier. This didn’t bother me as all I was interested in was the maze. Watched some people play Royal Tennis. Around midnight UK time – while we were tucked up in bed back in Frieth – some engineers in the Ukrainian SSR carried out a very poorly planned safety test on a nuclear reactor at some place named ‘Chernobyl’.

Saturday April 26th – Assisted Uncle Fran in laying paving slabs in his garden, then went for a walk in the woods to see a badger sett. Over in the Ukrainian SSR the worst nuclear disaster in human history continued on its merry way.

Sunday April 27th – Skipped church. Haha, who am I kidding? After church visited Sally’s grandmother then went to Whipsnade Zoo, of which I have absolutely no memory. We then visited the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, which was a major disappointment in every way.

Monday April 28th – The Soviet Union broke its silence on Chernobyl. Rather than wait for the radiation to come to us in Buckinghamshire we drove off to meet it at Uncle Fran’s other house in Norfolk. Took shelter underground at Grimes Graves, then stumbled over the rather amateurish Iceni Village at Cockley Cley. Finally arrived at Uncle Fran’s house at Cley Next the Sea right next to James Blunt’s windmill.

Tuesday April 29th – Went in to Norwich. Visited the Cathedral and the Castle Museum where they apparently had dragons. Appropriately we went on to have dinner at the George and Dragon back in Cley, where I imagine the conversation centred around iodine tablets.

End of Part One! Check back soon for more radiation soaked adventures in Thatcher’s Britain!


Alive and Well in Switzerland

I have arrived alive and well in Switzerland and in the last 48 hours have not only suffered oxygen deprivation on top of the Jungfraujoch, but carried a CPAP machine across what feels like half the Alps. It is quite a thing to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and have a snow clad mountain peering through the window at you.

Because nothing ever runs smoothly for me, my phone is refusing to connect to the local networks, which will prove a problem if it continues to the UK. Also, while I carefully noted down Helen and Ali’s mobile numbers, I somehow neglected to write down their email addresses, so I’m kind of flying blind communication wise. Ah well, it’ll work out in the end.

I’ll see if I can upload some photos to my Flickr account, although it’ll be a while before I can annotate them.

Cunning, Flesh-Covered Androids

We have now entered the media blackout period for Saturday’s Federal election. Praise the lord for small mercies. If I had to watch another ad with Malcolm Turnbull droning …jobs. and. growth. jobs. and. growth… or Bill Shorten trying to convince us he’s not some sort of cunning, flesh-covered android I may well have gone spare.

It currently looks like the Libs will get back in, probably with a reduced minority. Not the ideal situation, but as long as they don’t get control of the Senate it won’t be a complete disaster. God alone knows what’s going to happen up there, what with the new Senate voting rules and the ever increasing numbers of insane micro-parties – let alone the fact that the double dissolution has put all the Senate seats up for grabs. Interesting times my friends, interesting times. Get your monkey paws ready.

I am currently in the last stages of preparation for my trip to the UK. Airbnb has decided that I am a human being rather than some sort of cunning, flesh-covered android which means I have organised some places to stay and will not have to sleep under a series of canal bridges. This, combined with getting enough stuff completed at work before I leave means I have not had time to do much else, hence the lack of updates.

I have started to develop the ability to recognise New Zealand postcodes. I’m not sure if this is for good or ill.

A Windmill full of Corpses

Spent much of the weekend down in Busselton at Ryan and Jackie’s place, along with Fabes who was kind enough to drive us both down there and back. Rather than appreciating the natural wonders and relaxing pace of the southwest, we spent all our time indoors playing games. Well, that’s the people we are, what are you gonna do?

The big hit of the weekend was Cards Against Humanity. I’ve been wanting to get a copy for ages and Paula was kind enough to give me one for my birthday, so we tried it out. The results were appalling, which is exactly what they should be. Good taste (and the fear of being raided by the Federal Police) prevent me from repeating the best combinations we came up with, but I can share a few of the slightly less offensive ones that had us in hysterics…

“When I was tripping on acid, an endless stream of diarrhea turned into the cool refreshing taste of Pepsi!”

“Bad life choices + a robust mongoloid = my sex life”

“Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, and here is a windmill full of corpses”

Such fun! We also learnt about Aaron Burr, object permanence and the three fifths compromise, so you can’t say it’s not educational!

Changing course entirely, here’s an unreleased KLF track I stumbled across the other day. It’s from 1989, was the basis for Last Train to Trancentral and Wichita Lineman was a Song I Once Heard, and is awesome! So everyone, Go to Sleep.

Melbourne – Part 1

I’ve been promising to write up what went down in Melbourne for weeks, so I’m going to damn well do it! So there! 😉

OK, first of all, the reason for the company pulling up sticks and relocating to the east coast for the weekend. One of our websites was nominated in the Australian Web Industry Association Australian Web Awards. This is the first time any of our sites have reached such lofty heights, so Dale coughed up the money for us to head over to the awards ceremony, being held at Luna Park on the evening of Saturday October 6th.

(Spoiler: We didn’t win. Boo! Hooray! Boo! Hooray! Call me when you’re finished).

While Dale did cough up money for the trip, he didn’t cough up a whole lot of it, so we ended up catching a red eye flight on an economy airline, scheduled to take off at 11:00pm on Thursday night. Due to various delays and incompetence the plane didn’t actually take off until 1:30, at which point we’d been standing around in the departure lounge for well over an hour. To make matters worse, bad planning on my part (combined with the burger I’d had at lunch not sitting too well) resulted in my having to pay $14 for a bottle of water and a ham sandwich. Bloody airports.

Anyway, we eventually boarded the plane – having to walk out across the tarmac like chumps to do so. Honestly, what is this? The middle ages?

The flight was about as comfortable as one would expect. That is to say, not very. I was able to snatch a few scattered hours of sleep, which was apparently more than the rest of my colleagues managed. We touched down at Tullamarine about 6:30, and fortuitously grabbed a maxi-taxi right outside the airport doors.

This (eventually) delivered us to the general vicinity of Hotel Tolarno. Happily all our rooms were ready, and Cleyton and I lucked out by getting the largest of the three. Dale and Janina were almost dead on their feet and immediately disappeared, while Cleyton, Bruce, Daniel and I wandered outside in search of sustenance. The hum of the city waking up in the morning sunlight was enhanced by a Paul-Kellyesque smell of burning leaves, which turned out to be a rubbish bin someone had set on fire. Welcome to St Kilda!

We located food in a bakery across the street (I indulged in one of those gigantor sized Red Bulls and a quiche), then retired to Daniel and Bruce’s room where we sat around mocking breakfast TV and shrieking theatrically every time they replayed a shot of Tony Abbot’s lycra-clad crotch (honestly, it was about every three minutes).

After a while Daniel and Bruce both started passing out, so Cleyton and I left them to get some sleep. Cleyton got his laptop up and running on the hotel’s wifi, and I set off on confront Melbourne’s tram network on a trip to the Coatman.

Happily I’d done my research and after picking up a Myki card at one of the dozen or so 7/11’s scattered along Fitzroy street found tram transport no challenge at all. I arrived in Glen Huntly just before 9:20 – and discovered that the Coatman doesn’t open until 10:00.


I spent the next forty minutes wandering up and down Glen Huntly road, taking photographs of anything that looked even mildly interesting. Eventually the Coatman opened, and with very little fuss I was assisted in locating a very fine coat, which cost me only $125. I caught the tram back to St Kilda, feeling quite chuffed with myself, then went for a wander – mostly to check out a rather impressive church spire I’d spotted on my way down.

After some architectural appreciation I headed back to the hotel. Cleyton was asleep so I did some quiet reading, which soon evolved into some sleeping of my own. We were woken about midday by Dale who was getting everyone together to go have lunch and do some business planning so the day wouldn’t be a complete write off work-wise (he rather nicely said that I could be excused so I could go and buy my coat. The fact that I’d already done so and had time to come back and get some sleep seemed to genuinely shock him). We ended up at the Italian restaurant just across the street where I had a very nice chicken and vegetable soup, and loads of garlic bread.

Business out of the way, Bruce, Daniel, Cleyton and I caught a tram into the city and went for a stroll along the Yarra. We ended up at Federation Square where some kind of concert to save the Kimberly was being set up (I later learned that the John Butler Trio and Claire Bowditch were performing – I should have hung around). We then headed into the city proper and, rather suspiciously, kept running into places particularly suited to Daniel’s interests (Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, the Apple Store, a games shop with an entire floor devoted to Ninetendo…). We eventually ended up at Minotaur, where I quickly realised that there was absolutely no middle ground – I could either buy stuff, and end up spending hundreds of dollars, or buy nothing at all. I reluctantly bought nothing at all.

By this point it was getting towards evening. Bruce was meeting up with some mates he hadn’t seen in ages, and wanted to get back to the hotel to get cleaned up first, so we caught the tram back. Cleyton got back online and I got back to my reading. Eventually Daniel came knocking and the three of us headed out into Saint Kilda to find somewhere to eat.

This wasn’t easy. We found plenty of places, but none seemed to appeal. We followed  Fitzroy street down to the bay, then continued along the Esplanade and eventually all the way down to the end of Acland Street. Eventually – sick of walking and quite hungry – we ended up at a little cafe about midway along Acland, and had quite an adequate meal before getting a tram back to the hotel at about 11:30.


The Voice

Back from Melbourne.

I’ll make a more detailed post when I’ve had some sleep, but in the meantime I’m happy to report that I was witness to this on Saturday…

In fact, I’m probably visible in the background of that clip, although I was on the far side of the road, and thus you’d need a Bladerunner level of enhancement to pick me out.

Oh, and I did make it down to the Coatman and got a kickarse new coat for only $125. Brutal!

Right, getting some sleep now…

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