Beautiful New World


I am feeling my way into a new world. Gently nudging the edges so they grow, unfolding like petals. First, my house begins to feel like home. I find myself settling down for the evening,like my cats, rather than roaming round restlessly. I begin to potter in the garden, someone else’s garden true, but huge and in desparate need of care and attention. I pull out brambles, prune back unruly bushes, we cut the beech hedge in the front of the house and in doing so begin to feel a pride.
My tendrils reach to new experiences: popping to new neighbours for a cuppa, bearing a slice of cake. I am proud of the cake too; my first from the Aga!
Life has the texture of a holiday.
Visiting new villages, new towns most days. Walks, markets, new shops, even supermarkets tempt me to difference, to change habits of a lifetime.
How many times have you walked the isles of your local supermarket, cursing that they have changed the shelving layout? It takes longer to shop, but you see more. We are trying lots of new shops, market stalls for fresh vegetables, the Sherborne Pannier Market for fresh fish and bread, supermarkets in several different towns.

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Today, as I was driving back from a perfectly normal supermarket experience, I looked… Really looked! Rolling hills, a soaring buzzard, wide skies, a patchwork of creams, browns blending together over the farmland, describing the stages of harvest in their hues.
Pull in, stop and wonder a while!
Really! This is special! It’s beautiful and I live here!

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Dorset County Show


Moving house must be traumatic! For the past few weeks, I have concentrated on my feelings, the progress we are making, the packing and unpacking.

With the advent of the end of summer, the countryside explodes with shows and events. In early September, Dorset sets up for its greatest show…The Dorset County Show!

We had seen the tents, the toilets, the parking spaces being pegged out, put up and pulled in on the exhibition ground just outside of Dorchester. Clearly it would be big, but we had no idea how big!

My daughters came down for the weekend with Keoni. This seemed a great way for us all to experience this new way of life. So we piled into our cars and set off. There is a one way diversion around the show ground, but parking is very easy and free. As we drive onto the parking lot, I gasp at the size!

Fields and fields of neatly arranged cars span the horizon. It is well organised with plenty of efficient marshals and we are soon parked up and ready to roll.

As Keoni has fallen asleep in the car, we are able to push him round the first sections and gain an impression quickly. It brings back several experiences to me.
– a small show in Lincolnshire which my aunt took me to: I remember the men washing, combing and smoothing their cattle just prior to the show
– the village fete we attended the other day in Piddletrenthide, where people took their time to admire and discuss
– the ‘Grand Designs’ exhibition in Excel Centre, London (or indeed the Education Show in Birmingham) where you see more exhibitors of things related to the theme of the show than you could ever have imagined existed!
Country crafts, fine artisan cheese, life sized model horses demonstrating bridles, honey bees, log choppers, ploughs, combine harvesters, tractors, hens, sheep, country clothing, more food stalls than anyone could manage…the list just goes on and on.

We did not get round a quarter of it!

Keoni woke and loved it. He adores any large machinery, tractors in particular, and here he could climb on them, touch them and see them in every direction. He must have walked miles. Having taken in the first impression of tractors, he was drawn to the central ring where stunt drivers completed their show, followed by lovingly restored vintage tractors, a tractor dressed up as a police car (including siren) and finally the prize winning sheep, goats and cows paraded.

Cows! Some of the bulls were enormous! Beautiful sleek animals, whose coats gleamed in the sun and whose muscles rippled with pride as they walked their lap of honour.
Sheep! Their wool was such a variety of colour, so clean and their feet so trim.
Goats! They gained a dignity which the word does not usually imply!

There were pitches for local independent schools, for faster broadband connectivity, for artificial grass and straw logs.

As a way of learning about our new domaine, I would say it was excellent.
As a day out for the family: exhausting but great value.

A Grand Design to see the Queen


Flushed with success as Nonna and Poppy, John and I are happy to be asked to care for Keoni again for a day. Actually, it was all a bit of a mix up. My daughter and her husband are keen to move to Devon, but have lots of packing to do before they can. I have generously given them old sofas, chairs etc but as they have no where, as yet, to move to they are reluctant to take them with them.
I am reluctant to take them back. Everyone is agreed that selling this house is high priority and that it is crammed full of 28 years living. So they agree to hire a van, and take loads of stuff to the dump. Trouble is, I don’t realise that they will not be able to manage Keoni, so John and I have booked to go to the ‘Grand Designs’ show on the same day.
Still, toddlers love large spaces and new things. How hard can it be to take him too?
This particular journey across London, involves several trains. Right down Keoni’s street: he loves trains. We get to Waterloo without incident. John plans a short detour, purely for educational purposes. Today is the State Opening of Parliament. the Queen is in London. So we stop at Westminster station, with just ten minutes to spare before she is due.

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He loves the horses, the bells, the beautiful coaches. Even though we cannot actually see inside to be sure the Queen is there, it is worth the effort. The British do pageantry with a particular panache.

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By the end of the day, Keoni seems to recognise the headlines in the newspaper of the Queen’s carriage and happily ‘reads’ the paper on the train.
After our Royal Appointment, we head over to the Excel exhibition centre. This involves two more trains. By the time we arrive, he is asleep, which is great because it gives us time to get orientated and visit the stand we really want to see: oak frame houses. Part of the dream is to buy a wreck, knock it down and build our own house.
We are impressed by the range of companies and the standard of care and design they offer. For a short while we believe this will actually happen.
When Keoni wakes we dedicate our time to him, allowing him to tell us what to see. Favourite things are; houses you can walk into without queuing, garden seats where you can sprawl and a giant telephone.

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Armed with our information about timber framed houses, we begin the journey home.
Another successful day.

Too many beaches to choose from – Saturday 14th April 2012


Overnight, the sky has clouded, but the heat remains. We are no quicker getting out of bed, still recovering from our travels. Suddenly, I remember the couple we met on Bondi beach in October 2011 when we began our journey. They had been travelling for three months through Vietnam, Thailand and were on their way to meet their son in New Zealand. “Don’t do what we did,” they advised, “staying only one night over and over is so tiring!”. Damn right!
Still we are up by 10.30 and ready for action, of sorts.
I’d like to see the end of Jervis Bay peninsula so we drive past Hyams Beach to find a pay booth for Jervis Bay National Park, $10.
It is so similar to Wilson’s Promontory where we went with my Melbourne friend: beautiful, wild and full of beaches. We begin with Cave Beach, (yes, it had a cave!): half a mile of buttermilk sand, which brushes off like talcum powder. John rushes off to the sea, leaping through the waves. There are boogie boards and surfers in the sea, but I reckon the surfers were beginners because the waves were not that strong.
There is little sunshine, but it is warm enough to lie for an hour, people watching. We also walk the length of the beach and find crab sand ball patterns like we did in Northern Queensland. We nearly forget that we wanted to explore all the beaches.
Off to Green Patch, such a sweet beach with a stream down one side and greenish sea. We explore Jervis Village briefly, mostly related to the marine corps I think. Then there is Murrey beach and, suddenly we have run out of daylight. If only this was UK. Our summer days last until 9pm! Here we have darkness by 6 on a dull day!

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We have run out of food, so drive the 30km to Nowar, the nearest big supermarket and buy up.. What to eat tonight? Pre-cooked chook! It’s a Tudor feast with no vegetables just roasted chicken and some bread, all the better of not having to do any cooking myself.

Last one night stand – Wednesday 11th April 2012


One week to go!!
Next Wednesday we take the plane back to London and its the end of 6 months travel.
Today is also, thankfully the last pit-stop we make on our drive from Adelaide to Sydney: our last one night stand!

There’s a change in energy within us: less narrowness in vision. We are no longer just pushing on, we allow ourselves to enjoy it all again.

Tilba Tilba attracts us with a signpost offering a “National Trust Village” and a cheese factory. We love cheese. Cheese therefore becomes our lunch, a cheese platter of various flavours: olive, chilli, cracked pepper. Then we explore the village around the corner. Nearly every residence has turned itself into a shop with cafe. Offering leather good, jewelry, clothes, it makes an interesting stop. We buy some glass rings for our daughters.

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Mosquito Bay did not draw us with its name! However I had heard about the Jervis Bay Marine Park and I did notice that sign. Where we stopped was clearly a favourite fishing beach, with houses overlooking the bay.
“That’s the kind of house we need to buy in England,” we agree. Whether we could ever find the like, I have no idea.

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Our cabin in Clyde View Holiday Park is slightly more modern than last night, but still has a spartan air. The best thing about it is the location: absolute beach front! It’s a strange sand, fine silt pretending to be golden sand, but the firm quality makes it very good to walk along. We walk its length, and return via the town of Batehaven: a simple row of shops, several caravan parks and a feature of a rather run down looking bird and wildlife park.

Outback of beyond – Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th April 2012


Even cleaning our YHA near Adelaide had a certain pleasure. It’s been an unexpected refuge from all our traveling. If I’d stayed here back in October 2011, at the beginning of our trip, I’d have hated it! Cold, stark, scary, I might have said!
But now, it seems perfect!

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Back in Adelaide city, we hand back the keys, and linen to the YHA, and set off North. Partly because of the build up of Easter holiday travelers, and partly because we have not seen much of the ‘interior’ of Australia, we’ve chosen to drive down the A20 highway. This will take us through as near outback as we are going to get on this journey.
There are vast farms along the first part, before it gives way to the kind of landscape that puts me in mind of billabongs and jolly swagmen – and snakes, and spiders. It’s arid, yet somehow plants survive this semi desert.

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Miles and miles and miles of space….
At Nuriootpa, we stop for coffee and John has an inspiration. We are short on instant coffee but have loads of ground. What if we buy our own plunger from a charity shop. Then we could drink good coffee wherever we go. I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t we do this 5 months back?
This is the first time we have been in a car, able to carry a fragile object without a plane journey etc. when we fly back to UK in a few weeks, we can jettison it.
We’re in luck! The town has one in good condition: price- $2.50 a bargain!
As we head towards the wineries in South Australia, lakes and rivers appear on the landscape, making a welcome relief.

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We are headed for Banrock Station. Their wines are widely available in Uk via supermarkets. The tasting station must be far from the production factory, but gives out to the view above. Their ‘good earth’ label must be partly due to the fact they manage this wetland.
I sample almost all their range, before we sit to eat scones and drink coffee in their restaurant admiring the view.

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It’s the first time we has stayed in a cabin. This is an ‘executive’ one on a campsite near Lake Bonny. Although the kitchen cupboards have broken handles, the rest of it is spacious and reasonably comfortable. The best bit is the lake itself, on the edge of the campsite. It’s ridiculously hot, now we have lost any ocean breeze. Walking by the lake cools us, and is simply stunning, inspiring photos below.

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And as the sun sets, we cannot resist another sunset photo.

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The following day we realise we need to do nothing, nada, niet, rien! So the most activity we do is a load of washing. We’ve done nothing but travel for the last three weeks, and we have over 1500 km to go before we start to head home. Sitting still seems a wonderful plan!

Perfect day – Tuesday 3rd April 2012


All morning we relax in our YHA, just the two of us, no hurry! Watching birds, reading, drinking coffee. Once a couple of guys come up looking for a wildlife reserve and we search the maps provided by the YHA and help them find their way, and decide it sounds like a good idea.

The Cleland Wildlife Reserve is about 2 km from us. A perfect blend of natural forest and simple enclosures. A range of native animals are gathered here and they sell kangaroo food for $3 per bag!

The walk to the reserve is undulating and pleasant. When we arrive we become concerned that this may be more commercial than we had thought. You can hold a koala and pay for the photo and, of course, pay for the entrance fee, but that is where ‘commercial’ feeling ends.

We meet all kinds of creatures roaming round the park. Most kinds of kangaroo, in separate fields, and many small potoroos! Never heard of them? No well, they lookalike fat rats, but don’t tell them! A marsupial, naturally and very fond of kangaroo food.

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There was a shy bandicoot in with the echina.

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Tasmanian Devils lived up to their name by screaming devilish threats at each other during feeding time, and then devouring whole chicks, feather and bone. Apparently they behave like this during mating too and one female had a 10 inch gash across her back from when she was dragged by her partner to his den. It was treated and healing.

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Note: their ears go pink through aggression and return to greyish when calm.

Dingo feeding by contrast, was more like well trained dogs, except they too eat feather, bone and flesh of their prey.

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Several hand reared koala take it in turns to perch on a tree stump, being given a succession of eucalyptus leaves while the keeper talks to 2-4 people at a time about their lives and let us stroke them. Their fur is wonderfully soft and deep.

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Kangaroo abound here, separated only by their species. All tame enough to feed.

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Three wombat live here. Two were asleep behind glass sided dens, but the third was out and about, looking for all the world like a furry hippo.

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In one field emu joined kangaroo. They seemed more threatening, emitting a low rumble echoing in their chest at various speed or looking you accusingly in the eye. I think they wanted kangaroo food, but they went about it all wrong! Approaching with menace!
A second group of emu came helta-skelta towards us, possibly fleeing from some unknown terror. We took their minds off this as they developed an urge to demand a peck at our camera. John was not too impressed by this behaviour either.

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Melbourne Zoo – Tuesday 13th March 2012


“We all going to the zoo today,” I sing as I get out of bed this morning.

I am usually ambivalent about zoos. The pros and cons of keeping wild animals: I am easily persuaded it is a bad thing to keep animals if the housing is poor etc, but Melbourne zoo is exceptional. Well laid out, mostly excellent animal enclosures with lots of animal space and naturalistic surroundings. My Melbourne friend’s son clearly knows it well and runs on, fast as his legs will carry him, pointing the way to his favourite animals. Even when he falls and grazes his knee he doesn’t seem it off but develops a rather comic hobble.

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In the butterfly house he has extreme patience, holding out his hand until a butterfly lands on him. I am amazed by his stillness.

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There are lots of people looking at the elephants. I find myself next to him and can see he is finding it hard to see.
“May I pick you up so you can see better?”. I ask. “Yes”

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We have a great time at the zoo and I am amazed how much energy he has!
How interesting how different children build trust. Back in Blenheim, my ex colleagues two year old ran up and down the room in a frenzy of testing us out. Finally she thought we were ok and asked for a story on my lap. I get a great kick out of earning this trust. Maybe it reminds me of teaching. You need to gain respect of the class. It does not just come! Even when you are a headteacher!

So in the evening we play at pouring and making boats and luckily daddy does not get upset by the amount of water we both use and spill on his son!

Yea, I had a great day!

Bikes around the vineyards – Wednesday 7th March 2012


The sky was quite beautiful at dawn and promised a fine day. It was so good to go to breakfast that someone else had prepared and help yourself to muesli, salmon, croissants, fresh fruit and good coffee-mmmmm!

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The hotel hires out bikes at half the price of a tour company and gives us a map of the local vineyards and wineries.
It’s a glorious day and promotes a great feeling of Bon homie!
We set off just before 11.00 and it is only a few meters to the first stop. They come thick and fast, one after the other with only a short bike ride in between. It’s fantastic. To begin with we take it very seriously. It takes us about half an hour per visit, considering each grape variety, discussions the fermentation and aging, but, I’ll be honest, we became less concerned after lunch and happily accepted the free tasting moving swiftly on to the next.

We visited:
George Michel, Huia, Wairau River, where we had lunch with a glass of wine, Forrest, Gibson Bridge, Cloudy bay and Allan Scott.

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It’s ideal for cycling because it is so flat and has good cycle lanes. At times, I got so friendly with the hosts, I forgot I was supposed to be tasting. The cycling kept you alert with exercise and fresh air.
The region, of course, is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, but each winery offers other grape varieties too, and we did learn about the soil and climate.
It’s a totally relaxed way to spend the day.
The wineries may have been a little too close together because by the end of the day we pulled up, just outside our hotel and I gracefully slid off the bike onto the grass verge.
John made us coffee back in the room, but before it was ready he disappeared and was found in bed for the next two hours.

What a hoot!
Loving it!

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