Can’t believe it – Tuesday 17th April 2012


So that’s it then!
The last full day of traveling.
Six months on the road, what an adventure.
When I started out, I didn’t even know what a blog was. Now it feels like part of my existence to write about my day.
The plan, initially was to record what I do, so that, when I am really old and may have Alzheimer’s, someone can read this back to me.
Forward planning, I call it!
So many new activities, sights, places, flowers, animals, birds…memories!

And, today it is raining! The shops are full of plum, amber, chocolate and russets to compliment autumn, and I am about to go back to Spring. This will be my longest summer ever! Three back to back.

We hang round much of the morning, waiting for the rain to ease. It is no hardship, I have loads of blogs to catch up on. Finally, we brave it, walking down the pavements to the Strand. Here we began our journey in October, forcing ourselves to have lunch when our body clocks shouted for sleep after the 24 hour flight. Then, as today we ordered Turkish Raisin Bread and Cappachino.

20120417-222028.jpg
We make our way through familiar streets and shops, commenting on changes occasionally. The New South Wales art gallery is just by the botanic gardens. We had noticed it in December. We enjoyed the galleries in Brisbane and in Melbourne.
There’s a wonderful floor of aboriginal art, none of which you can photograph. But a great collection of bark painting, of traditional stories and some modern takes in a naive style which is very appealing with bright colours and bold strokes.
Picasso, Rubens, Constable, Van Gogh, and hundreds of other artists are represented here. Yet I did not feel the thrill of their collection. Sadly it was rather trying to cover the range of styles and periods, in some way, instead of finding the best examples of each artist. That sounds very stuck up, and I really don’t know much about art! Anyway, we had a brilliant time, wandering through and pointing out our likes and dislikes.

20120417-222856.jpg

20120417-223028.jpg

20120417-223104.jpg
On the way home, a spider caught our eye.

20120417-223156.jpg
Funny thing about spiders: in England we say “if you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive”, I bet they don’t say that in Australia. Poisonous things!
In the apartment, we begin the tedious process of throwing out. We need to get our baggage weight down, and we have so many clothes which are more or less worn to shreds. After the first bout, John took a plastic bag of old clothes and began sidling up to bins to pop a pair of sock here and trousers there, until we found a wheelie bin that would hold the whole bag. Good job too! It felt worse than seeing people sidle up to bins and take out things to keep!
Now we start the thinning process again, debating taking home parcel tape, shampoo, olive oil and the like.
The fridge was next. All the vegetables were amassed and cooked into a meal that heaped high on the 12 inch dinner plate. John is frugal by nature, and hates to see waste, so it was no problem for him to eat all his!
And here I am!
Only the flight to go.
When I get home, back in London. I want to re-read the page, “how travel enlightened my view on retirement.”
It has…
I need to add to it.

I guess I need the next stage of the plan now.
Moving house!
I’m still not at all decided if that should be blog worthy. If you have an opinion, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading me.

Steam punk and sculpture – Monday 27th February 2012


I slept well and woke feeling much better. I ate a tentative breakfast and got up. All good so far.

Oamaru has a brilliant Victorian centre by the harbour. The buildings, unusual for New Zealand, are elaborate white limestone. For a large section of the town, Corinthian columns adorn the facade of banks and civic buildings, while down by the harbour, solid limestone blocks form warehouses, which today, are use for artistic creation.

20120302-201651.jpg

20120302-201807.jpg
Seem store wool bails, whilst others house potters, limestone scullers and a wonderful array of costumiers. We saw a warehouse dedicated to operatic and theatrical costumiers, which had no access irritatingly.
Oamaru has its own cheese factory, “Whitestone”. It’s cheese has won loads of awards and you can enter a viewing gallery to watch them go about their every day work. We were lucky enough to be there when they were straining the curds from the whey. For lunch we just had to have a cheese platter with an assortment of 6 cheeses. Despite my recent recovery, I found it delicious.

20120302-202415.jpg
It’s definitely a town with artisans. The Steam Punk HQ has graced the town with it’s metal sculpture. All has humour, all is larger than life, all is metal.

20120302-202618.jpg

20120302-202647.jpg
There are several outlets for limestone sculpture. None too keen for photographs, presumably industrial espionage is a factor! One is very animal inspired and I am not drawn to it. One is set alongside clothes and jewelry and I like some pieces a lot. The last is an artisan who is currrently at work, tapping away, costs the most of all and has some large pieces, none of which quite fit with us. For ages we discuss the merits of shipping some home, and which piece we both like, and how much we are prepared to spend. Eventually we return to the shop which had the mix of clothes etc only to find it closed for ‘sickness’ reasons. Damn! Be more decisive in future!
Oamaru also has a passion for penny farthing bikes. At least three places offer static bike to try out and the children’s playground is being built around this theme.

20120302-203325.jpg

20120302-203352.jpg
Near the harbour, we find Fleur’s other place but it is closed every Monday. So no meal out today!
Just when I feel well enough too! We settle for a drink in the lovely Victorian pub, which is nearly deserted.

20120302-203530.jpg
I am so pleased we stopped here. It’s a lovely, charming town and the Highway Mews is one of the nicest motels we have seen.

20120302-203721.jpg
They loan us two of the three DVDs for Lord of the Rings and we have film night, curled up together. I’m beginning to miss those ‘do nothing’ times.

Driftwood art and glacier country – Monday 13th February 2012


We need to do a little shopping today. I’ve now run out of memory space and need new cards. I’ve filled 4gb so far, whilst John’s camara used far bigger 8 gb at a time cards!
We visit the Warehouse and buy two new cards, but inevitably we find something else that we’ve been looking for…a small wetsuit for our grandson. He is only 17 months old and we wilL not see him for another 2 months so it feels impossible to guess what size, except there is only one size for people as small as him,so we buy it!
We also go to the supermarket to stock up on food.
At Honitika, where we stop for coffee a large clock tower greets us in the middle of the road. It’s clearly a jade place with factory shops at several corners, but the impressive area is the beach.

20120216-164726.jpg
A vast quantity of driftwood piles up on the sand, and this has been used for one of the best social art projects I’ve ever seen in a community. Take a look!

20120216-164927.jpg

20120216-164952.jpg

20120216-165015.jpg

20120216-165042.jpg
Brilliant eh?

As we approach Franz Joseph we stop at a beautiful ice blue river, made even more stunning by the contrasting orange crocosmia flowers, I realize I got them out of focus but I was leaning was below road height to get this!

20120216-165254.jpg
The motel at Fox Glacier is surrounded by small heliports but the room is clean and reasonably modern, I just wish they would stop using these 1980s bedspreads which we first saw back in the Blue Mountains YHA. Oh yes we also bought them in 1980 but it was trendy then!
We cannot resist a quick walk to see the glacier. The glacial valley is ridiculously steep and massive. It made the people like ants by comparison. I had imagined the glacier itself would slope gradually down to the river but it is a think vertical wall with huge boulders of ice crashed from it as it melts. Impressive!

20120216-165656.jpg

20120216-165726.jpg

20120216-165805.jpg
There ARE people to the right of the valley floor in the second from last photo. They must look like tiny stones! It’s that big!!

Last few days in Melbourne – 5-8th January 2012


There are so many small jobs to conclude before we go to New Zealand. The difficulty with our car hire: Hertzt not knowing that we have already paid a comparison website for the car, getting a refund on the nightie I had removed from the first flat we stayed at in Sydney in October, doing washing and researching in preparation for New Zealand.

It does not make for good reading but it is very much part of travel! There are hours on the net, completing this blog and trying to get up to date!

However, we cannot restrain from a visit to see Melbourne’s art gallery near Federation Square. In Brisbane we had seen precious few aboriginal art, including two wonderful pieces on bark.

20120111-205819.jpg
In Melbourne there is a brilliant exhibition of modern aboriginal artists and a more permanent 1970s exhibition. Both are wonderful and we are lucky to have a tour to explain some of the background.

Aboriginal art grew from the dot patterns which adorned body art. It tells stories from the dreamtime and from the culture. While being painted the artists sing. Many paintings are created by groups who sing together, telling the stories of old. The exhibition was good at explaining the dreadful, catastrophic effect of European development, not least the A bomb testing in the desert which relocated many tribes.

The older bark paintings, such as the one I have uploaded, describe in detail the ceremonies, not a line is wasted. Every detail records important aspects. Not all tribes can read each others stories. Today aboriginal art is highly commercial. Modern painters have the confidence to take the old stories and reinterpret them in their own style. Their colours are incredibly vibrant.

I was overwhelmed by the life of this art but had not brought my camera! How could I?

Our last day at the house was devoted to cleaning. Just about everything we could, was moved, dusted, hoovered or scrubbed.

A last BBQ ended our day, and we went to bed exhausted but pleased with our results.

Melbourne Art Gallery – Monday 26th December 2011


Melbourne has a great arts centre with two galleries, one for international artists and the other for Australian ones. Today we went to the main gallery. After such dreadful weather the entrance water feature made us feel cold!

20120105-225552.jpg
There are so many wonderful paintings and sculptures it is hard to know where to start. Picasso’s Green lady, several Constables including a wonderful oil sketch on cardboard of sky. Turner, his light sizzling through the canvas, but I was disappointed to learn he sometimes painted a light scene and then used it as a background to add features to order on. This made me feel slightly cheated by him!

20120105-225912.jpg

20120105-225930.jpg
The Pre Raphalites were well represented with several Hughes, including his son’s work, and Bruce-Jones including a stained glass window from a hospital in Salford.
Pisarro’s Boulevard de Montmartre, several Manet which look clinical against the Monet exhibits and lots of Rodin sculptures.
But the exhibition I enjoyed most was inspired by biology, called Dewdrops and Sunshine by Ranjani Sheetar. Look her up on YouTube to see how they had to place hundreds of different length pins into adjoining walls. My photos do not do it justice.

20120105-230512.jpg

20120105-230530.jpg
Two nets with beeswax globes such delicacy threaded from floor to ceiling to wall and, its shadows created a gossamer pattern that had incredible depth. The photos I took of this so understate the beauty of it, I will not share them!
Steel, muslin, tamarind paste sculpted together in almost birdlike shapes fly through the air with incredible grace, but are inspired by the unique patterns created by the mucus of a sneeze.

20120105-230901.jpg

20120105-230931.jpg
I just loved Ranjani’s work and urge you to seek it out because the 3 dimensional quality of this art is essential to its appreciation I feel.

Also in the gallery on the third floor was an exhibition of Pacific artists, mostly modern but all touching back to their ethnic cultural heritage. Masks, animals, shields of great colour, nearly all using natural materials. A most impressive room and the kind of thing we rarely see in England, more is the pity.

20120105-231340.jpg

20120105-231357.jpg