Archive for the ‘UK’ Category


Writing this in Heathrow lounge.

Despite Volcanoes, airline pilot strikes and other events, it appears I will be leaving at 930 for Melbourne.

Will write more from Singapore if I get a chance. Last time was extremely dodgy  in terms of actual time in the Airport. And I have to buy some cigarettes for a friend. Because I simply do not have enough to carry.

I brought two suitcases and a carry on suitcase and a laptop. I have no idea where the weight came from. I was wondering if it was clothes….. Certainly there are presents for people but nothing for me, relatively speaking. Other than Doctor Who DVDs I haven’t got anything for myself.

And yet, the luggage kept building. Fortunately didn’t have to pay excess luggage (I was 2 kg over and they didn’t weigh my carry-on, thank you God.)

Just so you know, the tennis elbow is taking a major hit today.

More from Singapore. Maybe.


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Last full day in Britain. Have spent it going to Winkleigh to visit graves and thatched cottages.

Have spent the day packing and unpacking. My first pack was 8 kg over weight… eek… but have now managed to get it 3 kg under weight. No idea how i managed that. Sending a 4 kg parcel to Australia does not equate to a 11 kg loss.

Not knocking it. Much more to do so this is short and sweet today.

Really sad to be leaving. Far more than last time.

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The Genuine Article

Perhaps this may not apply to American readers, but the Australian and New Zealand (and English, natch) readers would be aware of the genius that is the Devonshire Tea.

Cornwall has recently trademarked its cornish pasties so that, unless it is made with Cornish ingredients and/or in Cornwall, a baker cannot call it a Cornish pasty. It’s just a pasty. Curiously this is a seriously big deal here in the UK.  While I agree it is positively anal, I am also aware of the steaming piles of excrement I have been served that allegedly is a Devonshire Tea.  As such I am advocating Devon trademarks the tea name. This would, also, be a big deal.

A Devonshire Tea is a pot of tea, milk, sugar if you will, two scones (either plain or fruit), a pot of jam and a massive pot of Devonshire clotted cream. Something like this:

Did you spot the fatal error in the presentation of the Tea? Yep, not enough cream. The pot should be twice that size.  You don’t mess with Devonshire people when it comes to their cream, as the tea shop owner found to her horror when she presented this measly amount of cream to the table. I’ve never seen a group of old aged pensioners bay for blood before.

The ideal of the proper Devonshire Tea is to smear a bit of jam on the scone, then pour teetering piles of cream onto the scone, preferably bigger than your mouth. The problem with a proper Devonshire Tea is you need clotted cream. If the cream is not thick enough that a spoon can stand up in it (and no, really whipped doesn’t count) then it’s not a proper Devonshire Tea.

That’s not to say it’s not nice to have jam and cream on scones. It’s bloody nice in fact. It’s just truly sublime here. And I’d encourage all of you to visit this magnificent county and have a proper Devonshire Tea here. You will thank me.

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Leaving, Sorta

Technically I am due to return to Australia on Thursday. The Iceland volcano may have other ideas. I would be dead pleased if I did get stuck here. Great excuse. So knowing my luck, there will be no interruption.

The nice news is I do not have to get off the plane and start work. Hurrah. I was expecting this. No, I get a whole day off to acclimatize. I am very chuffed.

Been spending the last few days in Exeter saying bye to people. Went to my beautiful Stepsbridge today then had lunch at the Nobody Inn (cute name), a beautiful 19th century pub. The architecture was magnificent. Wonderfully there was a 93 year old regular, complete with his own chair perched by the bar, who had a pint of beer and shot of whisky kept continually topped up. In his younger day, this regular looked not unlike Winston Churchill. I think that would be a nice way of ending, being the local legend at the pub and always kept liquoured up. All the staff and locals adored him. The barmaid teared up when we discussed his passing.

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Sunday Afternoon Pics

No one reads the blog on a Sunday so I’m having an easy post. Here instead are some pics that I took and liked on the trip.

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Grave Matters

Spent the day visiting graves of long ago relatives. Fascinating measure of  cultural identity, graveyards.  The British graveyard is, at times, completely forgotten and in disrepair. Given the age of the graveyard it is not at all surprising as the relatives that buried their kin are now long dead too. However the most recent graves have this fascinating cultural quirk of adding garden gnomes, giant plastic bees, scarecrows, lanterns and other paraphernalia along with the requisite flowers and religious statuettes.

For example (and I’ve cropped the names out for the sake of privacy, hopefully,)

In my minimalist mind, I find this over the top. However it is a clear indication of love and care and affection for the departed person. As such who am I to question it.  I do, however, find it a curiousity. It seems a recent thing (ie last 20 years or so) and, in the same way that a hundred years ago graveyards were defined by fields of gray slate, so will today be defined by accessories.

However, in Switzerland, graves are defined completely differently. firstly they are tightly packed, tombstones are within inches of each other. presumably due to the lack of space available?  And instead of fields of grey slabs, these tombstones are works of art. the more ornate the better. Truly Swiss graveyards are amazingly beautiful

For example:

Bit of a difference, really.  To be honest, I prefer the Swiss version. I just couldn’t afford to be buried there, I’m guessing.

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Teensy weensy blog post today just to let anyone who cares that I got from Charlotte to Exeter alive but rattled after 24 hours of non stop travelling. Normally it doesn’t take that long but, to my extreme annoyance, I arrived in Toronto to find that I could have indeed caught the earlier flight to London that I chose not to select as I figured I would be late for it. Or something. Do not expect grammatical excellence. I have had two hours of sleep.

So I was watching all the people board the earlier flight and looking forward to my three hours of waiting for my later flight. Toronto airport has evidently won the award for the most improved airport. You wouldn’t know it to look at it. It’s got three shops and no toilets between the 17 million miles between the airplane and customs. My wee was past my eyelids by the time I’d cleared customs.

Flying is fine but sleep is elusive. I’d have slept on the bus home but it was equally packed. And I was sitting in front of the toilet so whenever anyone went to the loo my knees kept getting hit. And the bus was filled with people with prostate problems. Even the women.

I will go to bed now. My aunty is torturing me with watching the British Soap Awards and I can feel my brains seeping out my ears.

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London, Albeit Briefly

This was meant to post but somehow got missed. In terms of chronology it was before the Toronto post.

Returned from Zürich today. Zürich remains quirky is the best word for it. I didn’t realise how much I missed being able to understand every word in a sentence as opposed to three-quarters of every sentence.  I was surprised how much German I did know though and was able to converse, albeit not confidently yet. Spookily I think a month of immersion and I’d be fluent. I was dreaming in German which evidently is a good sign. Or a sign or madness. I forget.

Flew back with British Airways who lost points for serving a packet of crisps as a snack.  I’m in a hotel in Heathrow waiting for a ridiculously early flight to Toronto tomorrow. The night has been spent with thousands of tradesmen parading through my room which was not as fun as it sounds. None of them were cute. And they took forever. And they wouldn’t move me to another room.

And they stitch you up really, as it’s miles to walk to any services. So if you don’t want to pay for overpriced room service drinks and food you’re stuffed.  OR not, as the case may be. Anyway After the technicians were finished I was too tired to do anything and decided on an early night. America, on the other hand, had other ideas. Just like last year, the night before I was due to fly out I was making last-minute arrangements.

If I was organised I would be dangerous.

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You may have noticed there was a Royal Wedding yesterday. It had a bit of press.  Unlike the last Royal Wedding, which I think was Edwards, people actually cared about this one. Well, sorta.

Being in Britain leading up to a Royal Wedding is a fascinating affair.  Unlike the Silver Jubilee or Charles and Diana’s wedding  there wasn’t an obvious outward showing of British pride. Very few shops had bunting, very few shops had Union Jacks.  some had displays and obvious excitement  but they were the exceptions, not the rule. They were more an oddity for their display of support. (I am talking British towns here, not London obviously, which has been a sea of Union Jacks since Monday.)  The overall opinion it seemed was ‘thanks for the public holiday.’ (Another fascinating quirk over here. As it is a public holiday and not a bank holiday, people who work do not get paid extra. Shame. ) In fact the overall impression of the interest in the Royal Wedding seems  to consist of “I want to see what she wears.” and if they were really interested, “I want to see what her hair looks like.”

But thanks for the public holiday.

Today was a different matter entirely. not only did people I know who had steadfastly refused to watch it, sit down glued to the tele but the great British Pride came out at last. “We do this better than anyone.” God Bless the Royals.” “We’re the only country with a Royal Family like this.”

It was rather sweet, even of they were hypocrites. Watching the wedding though it became apparent though that the whole affair was a dissection of everyone’s frocks. No one liked Eugenie and Beatrice’s outfit and I was particularly appalled at their panda eyes makeup.  Everyone like Kate’s dress but I was not won over. It was a bit too Bride of Christ for me. However, wowser, her sister looked amazing. And ohmigod, whose idea was the minibuses? “Useful coaches” they were described as by the BBC.  The genius of the useful coaches were how the minor  royals all fell out of them.  No one can exit a minibus with decorum.

The genius of the day was how  it united everyone. When I went to finish packing during the boring bits, ie the singing and the brother being really pious, there was no one on the streets of Exeter. You could have heard a pin drop.

In a weird quirk of timing I ended up in London that evening. Unfortunately I had to be up at 5 for a plane but man, that town was partying. The mood was incredibly jubilant. It’s a shame they can’t marry royals on a daily basis. The country would be back on its feet in no time.

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Royal Wedding tomorrow. I gotta go to bed! One from the vaults.

In the interests of continuing visiting television locations as they look pretty onscreen, today Jen and I visited North Tawton, which is the location of the Jennifer Saunders comedy ‘Jam and Jerusalem.’

This is likely to be less known to practically everyone as. as much as I love this show, it didn’t rate more than three seasons which is a tragedy. It’s the story of the Women’s Guild of north Tawton. A Women’s Guild for the Australians in the room is similar to the Country Womens Association. I am not sure if there is an American equivalent however essentially the Women’s Guild is a groups of (predominantly aging) women who have meetings with guest speakers who do not arrive, compete with  each other for the best cake and provide community support in their small country towns. The show was utterly charming, gentle humour as opposed to Abs Fab over the topness. As such it slipped under most people’s radar.

The show was special to me as it featured Devon heavily. Unlike Doc Martin, the show revolves around the real location of North Tawton. As such it references locations and items that have special significance to me. North Tawton is a small town in Devon, with a main square and church  and a couple of pubs. In short, a typical small country town. And it was magnificent.

Don ‘t get me wrong. To visit it would take literally minutes it is that small. The central locations used in the show are within spitting distance of each other. But, while pretty, it’s not the reason to visit the place. The town is charming cos of its people. They are friendly and will engage in conversation as they live in a town where the pace is slow and the life is relaxed and they are not rushing to the mall or overwhelmed by business.  The country town filled with lovely people, actually interested in what you’re up to or your opinion of the weather or the royal wedding or the cheese factory or the crops or the latest orange juice.

I am sure most country towns are like this or, at least, I hope so. What other country towns do not have is the Devonshire accent and the rolling r’s and multiple a’s. Centuries of Devonshire charm still untainted by the big smoke. Tractors drive down the main street. The farmer avoids the man on the motorized wheelchair, addressing him by first name.  People fill their window sills with bric a brac. The church is the main source of community. The police station the other.  Completely delightful.

It’s just incredibly expensive. We had a look at the prices of houses and , woohoo, dearer than Exeter, the capital.  Clearly the show was not that unpopular.

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