Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

See Part 1 to see just how tired I was before we even got here.

So after Port Isaac, my brother was keen to go to Tintagel Castle, the birthplace of King Arthur and later home when he was king. This place was stunning. The castle costs 5.50 it get in and you are paying for the opportunity to have your first heart attack.  Seriously, it is ASTOUNDINGLY beautiful and amazing. The castle ruins are impressive and indicate a massive fortress. However don’t even bother if you are vaguely unfit. To access anywhere involves steps

and steps

and steps and steps

and hills and inclines and hills and steps.  It is a workout. If I did that everyday I would be a stick insect.

The steps are so steep that to climb them, in some areas, you are lifting your leg to the height of your knee to ascend. I didn’t realise how steep they were going up until I came down them. You have to hold onto the rails and the stones or else you will fall, the drop is so steep.

However, if you’re there, please go.  It is amazingly beautiful.

Possibly this would have been an easier day had I not been exhausted from Doc Martin land prior to visiting here. Tintagel was a hysterical town. It is HEAVILY Arthur themed, so most shops are called Ye Olde and everything has an Arthurian theme. For the Adelaideans, imagine how tacky Hahndorf is with the german influence and then you have an idea of the tacky you endure before you get to the real deal.

Like this:

Just work out for a few months before hand.


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Easter Saturday – On Good Friday, my brother, Andrew; sister-in-law, Michelle and nephews Alexander and Phillip had all arrived in Exeter prior to Mater and Pater’s 50th party on Sunday.  Prior to this, Michelle wanted to visit Port Isaac, which is the location for the fictional town Port Wenn in the British television series ‘Doc Martin’.  Also, for those keeping tabs, it was used in the film, ‘Saving Grace.’ For those of you who haven’t seen either, both are well worth viewing.

I was keen to go. The place actually looks beautiful and, despite the fact that the weather changed from bright and sunny in Devon to misty and overcast once we crossed into Cornwall (which is a sign, surely, that Devon is the best place on Earth) the place is simply gorgeous. Take a look. The pictures are far more impressive than anything I can write.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

So it was a magnificent village however it was heaving with tourists, I am sure largely based on the popularity of the television show. The town itself now has a large contingent of art galleries and expensive tourist traps. I had to pay 5 pound for a pack of batteries as there was no supermarket or corner shop.  Ouch. Still worth it for the pics I got.

We decided to walk up the top of the hill to take better pictures. So here’s the Port Wenn Trek of death, AKA the road to Port Gaverne (I think. I needed to consult the map. We were heading on a the trail to port something.)

So see the house on the immediate left of picture 1. We started a mile before that. Then walked up the hill past the brown house in picture 2 and up, up, up the cliff to the end of the hill on picture 2.  (Seen better in picture 3)  then we continued along the hill towards Port Gaverne (I think). If you look at the hill on picture 4 you can just see a path and steps up the hill. Yep we went there.

I was impressed I managed it to be honest. Beautiful but exhausting. Would never have done so without all the fitness training prior to the holiday. (Annoyingly hitting an impasse since holiday with the flu of death and now tennis fricking elbow!)  So please take a moment to marvel at the beauty of the place and marvel at the incredible walk I did.

Because that was part 1. My brother was determined to kill me. Next stop Camelot.

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My parents, my Uncle John and Aunty Jean and My Uncle Albert and Aunty Eileen all were engaged on the same day.  They all married the same year, although different dates obviously.  And all of them, against the odds, are celebrating fifty years of marriage this year.

So this year,it was decided that the families would reunite to celebrate the momentous event. So the Australian contingent returned to the UK, there being less of us than there are of them. It was decided to have a formal dinner and invite the families. Today we went to St Olaves hotel to celebrate together.  In the process of organising it though, one family had to drop out due to illness, so the family pics are a lot less in number than there would be.  There are trillions of relatives over here.

Back row: (L to R) James Sr, James Jr, Hannah, John, moi, Dad, Michelle, Andrew, Alexander, Pete, Sue  Seated: Mum, Jean, Jen.

It’s a strange thing, families. James Sr and James Jr I havent seen for 15 years.  Last time I saw James Jr he was a five-year old asking me what it felt like to cross the equator. Oh yes, I reminded him of that. Lives go on and people get on with it. You’re united by blood and don’t know each other all that well. Initially there is that horrible awkwardness as you struggle to work out what to say to someone you really don’t know.

Then everyone got drunk and you couldn’t stop us all talking.

Highlights of the day included me convincing Deb’s children, Maizie (12) and Jasper (7) to try to enjoy Jerusalem artichoke soup. Given that their favourite food is chicken nuggets this is a considerable achievement. That they enjoyed it was even more of an achievement. Jasper telling me he heard the Easter Dinosaur last night. It’s working. Family gossip galore which I am far too discreet to reveal (plus wouldn’t mean anything to anyone) but was delicious. The wine was excellent. Jean and John are notorious for not allowing anyone to leave their premises sober. Other than the designated drivers, they did their reputation proud.

The biggest highlight obviously was the families getting together to celebrate 5 children, 9 grandchildren, two countries and 100 years of marriage. An amazing achievement by anyone’s standards.

Not that they read this however congratulations Allen and Yvonne and Jean and John (and Eileen and Albert, who were sorely missed.)  50 years of being with the same person, through thick and thin. Amazing really!

You get less for murder.

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Just so you know, in case you do not know me, I am absolutely respectful and involved in celebrating the true meaning of Easter.  Everything you are about to read has tongue firmly in cheek. Oh, if it takes off as an idea for whatever reason, copyright owned by me, Nigel Vanstone. A man with a love of chocolate and young cousins who take what he says quite literally.

Happily discussing Easter with my cousin Jake, aged seven.  “Have you got me my Easter Eggs?” I ask. “No”, says he; “You’re too old for easter eggs.”

“So how am I going to stave off the Easter Dinosaur?”, I ask, eyes wide. “What’s the Easter Dinosaur?” he foolishly asks.

Funny you should ask. (And bear in mind, this all comes off the top of my head.)

The Easter Dinosaur is a Tyrannosaurus Rex who walks the Streets of Britain, sniffing out for Easter Eggs.   The Easter Dinosaur loves Easter Eggs and spend his Easter Sunday looking for eggs. As he doesn’t have anyone to give him eggs and the Easter Bunny is scared of him, he has to roam the streets searching for other children’s eggs.   Any child who does not have enough Easter Eggs at the bottom of his bed on Easter morning is sniffed out and eaten by the Easter Dinosaur.  The Easter Dinosaur is tough and grumpy when he doesn’t get his eggs.  You can tell the Easter Dinosaur (as opposed from the other dinosaurs roaming the street) as he has a tail that is coloured purple with pink spots, much like an Easter Egg.

Hence, I explained, I needed an egg for Easter.

“But you’re not a child.” Jake states, matter of factly.

Mental age should be taken into account, I think.  Anyway in the process of staving off the Easter Dinosaur I went completely mental at the incredibly cheap prices for all the eggs. I mean, seriously, they were soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cheap. This lot cost me 35 quid (46 Au dollars!)

Oh, and Doctor Who starts on Easter Saturday. It’s like they magnified Easter greatness by a million.

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Zoo Much

In an effort to help my cousin Deb get ahead with her study, we took her three children to Paignton Zoo.
Their gran, Jen, is the cousin with whom we are currently staying. Even though we weren’t meeting up with the kids until 830, Jen was beside herself that we would miss them. As such all of us were up and dressed and showered by 630, staring at each other while we waited to catch the bus. In any event we were at the bus station waiting for the kids at 8. I was homicidal.

The kids rocked up half an hour later and, phew, thank God we were there to meet them. Dodged that bullet. So off we went to Paignton zoo. Jen’s rationale is that we wouldn’t be back till 7 as the children would marvel at the animals and we would need to be there at 930 to fit everything in. This possibly was what they did when they were younger however now it was more a drill camp march, see the animal, move on. The rate they were going through the zoo we would have been finished by 12.

Fortunately Paignton Zoo has a trick up its sleeve when it comes to seeing its animals.  Death hills. Seriously, you have to walk miles up incredibly steep hills to see anything. I am not a fan of zoos to be honest. I find them rather depressing places. However adding an element of “will your grandparents survive this hill?” adds much-needed excitement to a otherwise uneventful day. Walking up mount Everest to see the skankiest looking elephant is no ones idea of a good time, least of all the elephants. I was worried that my parents and Jen were going to peg it on these hills.

Because the weather was so warm (it really has been hot here. They should employ me to come visit places and bring sunshine) all of the animals were sleeping in their huts. Except for the seagulls. The wetlands were full of them. I don’t think they had been invited.

Despite this, despite the extremely early awakening, despite the lack of animals, everyone actually enjoyed themselves. No one died on the Death Hills which is always a good thing in a zoo.

And I managed to get this really nice pic of everyone. Pure fluke obviously but, nevertheless, impressive. As though I planned it.

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Killing The Children Of Britain

On the way to Plymouth I passed this children’s park. It was filled with kids as it was a rather excellent day. At the risk of sounding old, it was not a park I remembered playing on as a child.

I have no idea what the hole thing is for but, most importantly, is the alleged see saw to the left of the hole.  The see saw rotates and moves up and down as the children sit down on it, clinging on it for dear life.

Clinging on being the operative word. The centrifugal force of the spinning see saw throws the children off the swing with such force. One child fell with such force I thought he was dead until he got up after about a minute and tried to get back onto it. I saw three children being thrown from it. I was amazed. If this had been Australia there would be no way that ride would continue.  The public indemnity insurance would be a nightmare.

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The UK has been a fascinating place this Easter (and wait until I get onto the Royal Wedding) in terms of its gearing up for the Easter celebrations. As a result of the Easter break, plus the day off for the Royal Wedding, there is a potential three-week break for UK school kids (and teachers).  The Easter break is heavily promoted and, what is really cute, is that if you’re not into giving eggs at Easter, the chocolate companies have you covered.

Presenting Easter if you have an egg phobia

Aero Lamb: presumably as lambs are synonymous with spring time. Plus aero is a bubble filled chocolate.  And it’s delicious. I actually ate this.

No regrets.

Smarties Eggs: I know technically it is an egg however Smarties get points for making the eggs look like a rabbit and bumble bee. PLUS I hope you can see the strings on the eggs. They are designed to be hung from trees. I thought that was cute. Think they are full of smarties but not sure. The cousins ate them.

The Milky Bar Cow is delightful. A cow made out of white milk chocolate. The work of Genius. How is this related to Easter? Spring, too, I guess.  Who cares. That tasted nice.

Cadbury Caramel Bunnies: No idea. I bought to be a completest. I loathe caramel. Speaking of:

Cadbury Creme Egg Twister: Cadbury Creme Eggs are insanely popular here. A Cadbury Creme Egg is milk chocolate outer shell with a white and yellow fondant filling that looks like a real egg. They are disgusting, unless you like reallllllllllllllllllly sweet chocolate. Despite the fact that I loathe them, they are huge here. you can get Twisters, a real egg, Mc Flurries with them in it, Ice cream with them, muffins…. the list is sadly endless.  They are produced almost instantly after new years until Easter each year. 1 and a half million are produced a day. Bleh.

Me. I’m expecting eggs.

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The Scene Of My Final Repose

~Edvard Munch~
From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity

When I first  came to England I came here and was stunned. I want to live here when I am rich enough. I have never loved an area so completely and quickly.

If I never reach that dizzying wealth, then this is where I want my ashes scattered. No words are needed.

Presenting: Steps Bridge, Devon.

Can I just add, while this is indeed lovely, when it is winter and the place is full of mist and snow it is even more beautiful. I will live here one day.

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Poohing On My Heritage

We went to Plymouth today and, if you remember, Plymouth is a bit of a hole. It is redeemed by the most amazing views from the Plymouth Hoe of Plymouth Sound.  The Plymouth Hoe is the site where Sir Francis Drake famously took on the Spanish Armada after, in a fit of epic coolness, finishing his game of lawn bowls.  When I was 19 and returned to England the very first time I visited Plymouth the Hoe and the Sound literally took my breath away with its beauty. It was an expanse of loveliness, ocean as far as you could see while you are surrounded by fields of green, luscious grass. It truly was beautiful.

I have a fondness for the Hoe as a result, even while Plymouth remained a dump. And then we went there today and this travesty greeted me.

An eye! A fricking eye!! On the place Sir Francis Drake went bowling and right next to the Drake statue. It’s appalling. Evidently everywhere is getting an eye now. I’m not actually sure what you would see at the top of it. The sea, on one side, which will look the same from the ground, just higher. Or rubbish Plymouth on the other.

I refused to go on it as part of my political protest. I’m hopeful that my lack of funds will inspire it to go bankrupt and they can get rid of it.

People were lining up to go on it.  I weep for Britain.

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I went to Sidmouth today with my aunt.  My parents had gone on a recce of the hotel where we will be having the fiftieth celebrations. Their loss, as the weather was amazing. I must say though I am getting annoyed by the English proclivity to live in the sun when it appears. I understand they don’t get a whole lot of sunshine but has no one heard of skin cancer here.  Seriously it’s been mad. I deliberately walk in the shade when I can but, for the most part, the English route of walking anywhere is the path with the most minimal shade possible. It’s a gift.

Anyway Sidmouth is a very sweet seaside town. After walking miles on the beach (the tide was out quite a ways. I was expecting a tsunami at any moment) there are a series of steps climbing the cliff face called Jacob’s  Ladder. It is a seriously impressive workout to get to the top of the ladder. I was pleased how easily I scaled it however my bladder was bursting so I was inspired. At the top of the steps is the prettiest gardens and coffee shop. You sit in the gardens and look out at the beautiful views. Even I, who am cynical about such things, was taken aback by the beauty of the place.

For example:

The coffee shop was amazing. Buy your tea and coffee and sit in the beautiful gardens.  While buying my pots of tea (see, told you I’ve moved on) I saw a cake that I figured they would have to cut in half to serve. I was wrong.

Presenting the biggest slice of cake in the universe. Fresh cream and strawberry roulade.

Thank god we walked up all those steps. My lord. That’s a dinner plate that cake is on. I had a quarter, my aunt, God love her, had half and we left a quarter for the birds. Cost: A pound fifty!!!! Completely mental!

And it tasted bloody lovely. Even better with the price.

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