Age difference

My wedding anniversary, yesterday, brought me to pondering how my dad must have felt.

My father was born in 1901. A different era to ours. He remembered the first cars, which had men carrying a flag to warn the pedestrians it was coming. He did not have to pass the driving test, none had been invented! Early planes: the First World War; telephones with live telephonists to handle your call and phone numbers which named your town and a simple two or three digit number.

He was a gent of a peculiar kind. He had slight difficulty saying a breathy ‘h’, but was well spoken. He always wore a suit, usually with a waistcoat, even when sitting on the sands at Scarborough, where we went on our annual holiday.

He rarely played with us as children, read stories with no expression at all and we knocked to enter his bedroom. I remember asking for a raise in pocket money about 10 years old.
“Why do you need it?” he asked quietly.
“I’d like to buy a weekly magazine and this will mean I can.”
Having explained my need there was no question about the raise!

A gentle formality! Lovingly remote!

Dad was a publican in London, mostly around the East End. He did not marry until he was in his forties. My mum was only in her twenties. What must people have thought?

I had never realised the age gap until I was a young teen and he had his seventieth birthday. I knew other friends had parents in their fifties and I was horrified! He did not look that old!

I never considered the age gap of twenty years anything other than normal. They seemed perfectly matched.
“Age is a quality of Mind,” he declared, quoting the title of a poem by an unknown poet.
If you left your dreams behind,
If hope is lost. If you no longer look ahead,
If your ambitious fires are dead –
Then you are old.
But if from life you take the best
And if in life you keep the jest,
If love you hold –
No matter how the years go by,
No matter how the birthdays fly,
You are not old!

All the family plans led to him dying before my mother. So it was inconceivable that she should die first- but she did!

My dad was a sentimental man, with such love for her. A shrewd businessman with a head for figures. Whilst a product of his age, he seemed happy to be in a world with younger people. I wonder how much he coloured my own attitude to age?

Ephesus- Monday 14th May 2012

Captain has owned this 45 foot yacht since she was built over 20 years ago, near the beginning of his retirement. Every year, he sails her around Europe. Beginning in the North West, around Britain, France, Scandinavia, and then over to the East, via Italy, Croatia, Cyprus.
These days he sails it for two seasons. From May to July and from September to November. Every fortnight a different crew arrive to cook and support the sailing, doing heavy work, but enjoying themselves hugely.
We know Captain through friends of friends.
However, the beginning of each season is fraught with the need to maintain the boat and she needs at least another day of serious engineer time.
As crew, we are redundant. The ancient site of Ephesus is a long taxi ride away and would cost order £100 so we opt to hire a car and drive off.
Best preserved after Pompeii and more visited than any place in Turkey, after Istanbul, Ephesus dates back 7 millennia. The roads, public toilets, amphi-theatre, library have been restored to something of their former glory, although photographs show just how ruined it must have been at the turn of the 20th century. Not all the restoration is a success. Frequently, the overuse of concrete, the mismatch of remains creates a strange, rather ugly.

In some areas, the remaining stones line up awaiting for their turn to complete the city further.

The library shows the elegance and grandeur of the city in days gone by.

There are streets with houses and even public toilets to admire!



The scale of the place is very impressive, even with the coach loads of tourists. Surely it must be far more crowded during July or August.
Near the main site is a rather lovely legend of seven Christians who were entombed for their faith. Some two hundred years later, they emerged to tell the tale of their ordeal and shortly after died. I was eager to see this and am so glad we did, as we found a fabulous restaurant just by.


Driving down the road, we came across a tortoise! What country do tortoises come from? Was it wild or an escaped pet?

Close to the marina, we stopped at Didima to see the famous Medusa’s head and found another great restaurant for our evening meal. The food was cooked in a wood oven just by us and tasted wonderful.

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.


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.

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.

Fremantle – Saturday 31st March 2012

I could live in Fremantle, it’s brilliant! The buildings are well proportioned and older than we have become used to in Australia. There’s a sense of solidity, grandeur even. But, on the other hand it is a very manageable size, has lots of art galleries and two lively markets, where things are really a good price. It buzzes with energy.
Initially we are attracted to the shops and the markets. Time to buy a few things to take home! All the while I look at the sky; huge clear blue, with a massive pattern of white cloud gently laid over it.

This homecoming work of art graces the area near the E-shed market. Love it!

I love the way the artist has provided a seat for interaction here.

Throughout Fremantle we find groups of teens undergoing the same kind of team building we had seen with business men and women in Perth. Seems to be a big thing here. This tall ship was also used by teens on a team building exercise prior to going to sea for a while.

Little Creatures Brewery has a great range of ales and offers a sand pit and toys for little ones while Dad and mum have a beer together! Great idea!
Opposite the brewery is an ‘eye’: well that’s what we call it in London.

It’s easy to spend the day in Fremantle: honestly I would have loved to spend a week there but…

On the way back we stopped at Cottesloe beach where we saw a wedding being photographed. Perhaps a little chaotic but lots of fun.
Once we got back to Perth, the serious work began. We have to find somewhere to stay for Easter weekend. For about three hours we scour the websites and maps to make a meaningful link within our journey of available accommodation. Sometimes we find ourselves dragged into the pros and cons of one particular place, endlessly we consider the price, always we look for somewhere with a kitchen to keep our costs down.
Motel rooms, hotel rooms, cabins, YHA are all considered.
Slowly the jigsaw forms a picture which we can live with. There is only three days missing from Easter Monday to the Wednesday but I am sure we have cracked the worst of it.
Breathe a sigh of relief and go to sleep exhausted!

Albany: a town with history -Friday 23rd March 2012

So, it was a commercial campsite,and it was windy, but the view from the van door over the estuary is so lovely. Hundreds of ducks, scores of black swans and tens of pelican inhabit these waters with many migrating companions.


We feel refreshed after our two night stay. As a final destination with the van, we want to head to Albany, and it’s only 50km away.
Proves to be a very large town, sprawling with history.
What a strange concept, for someone brought up in England. In UK things date back to 1066, well even earlier because there’s Stone Henge and Roman towns like Bath and remnants of Roman roads and Saxon kings and Sutton Hoo…so, local history has always been long, for me.
Albany goes back to 1840 with the first consecrated ground in Western Australia, an early goal, a whaling station (no longer used, of course) and a brig on which the first Europeans arrived (sadly a replica). Even things from 1926 are worthy of merit as part of their local history.
There is a large area dedicated to WW1 and the Battle of Gallipoli, where ANZAC landed in 1915.



This pie shop serves excellent pies but we are not persuaded to stay the night. Camp fees are twice what we have been paying and they seem overcrowded and unappealing.
Our strategy is to
1. Find some more sun- but the forecast is not favourable
2. Find somewhere pretty with space to stay
3. Find somewhere cheap

We end up far further East than we had intended at Cheyne Beach, 19km off the highway with immediate access to a beautiful white sand beach. At one end of the beach a mountain of seaweed has built up, but at the far end, it goes on forever, white, clean and squeaky. It’s true, the purest, finest white sand really does squeak underfoot when dry!
We walk for miles enjoying the space and tranquility.




Back at camp a family of kangaroos graze and it’s warm enough to have the van doors open while we cook. Things are improving but, we really want to end our travels with more sun. Tomorrow we consider heading back to Perth and then further North to find more warmth.

Christchurch – Wednesday 29th February 2012

Walking round Christchurch NZ city centre is a sobering experience. The outskirts appear to be thriving with all the usual suburban indications of traffic, garages, corner shops. What if there is a little boarding over in places? It seems, at first glance, to be few in number: we have derelict houses in parts of London.

But stop and look at these more closely. At first, I don’t like to pry. It’s disrespectful and as John raises his camera, I frown and move him on. But he is right- look again!

See how the lintel over the door is cracked, the glass in the windows shattered, one whole wall missing. This is way beyond mere dilapidation.

Just down the road, whole sections are laid bare waiting for re-newal. It’s strange to see the houses on either side in tact, unharmed, perhaps.

Here is a wooden house, crumpled. Someone has tried to salvage it: windows stacked this side; bundles of similar wood slats tied in an effort to regain order. By there is no order. The task was hopeless, overwhelming. Someone was forced to leave it.


Churches lost their steeples; their walls. Shops have cracks gaping. Office blocks stand empty with earth-movers demolishing them, systematically, methodically.

The casual phrase “the city centre is closed” transforms into harsh reality. The core of the city is encaged. The noise of bulldozers, pneumatic drills perpetuate. There is no bird song. A few scruffy sparrows show the same determination as the citizens of Christchurch to pull through and find some crumbs of comfort.



In contrast to the busy suburbs, the centre feels deserted. Huge swathes of offices and shops had gone. No work, no youngsters. They are re-locating to Aukland. Rents are rocketing, motels are full of business people. It’s a massive tragedy. We drink coffee in a street cafe, the owner says it is not safe for customers to come into the premises, but she has set up bright chairs and tables and has made incredibly good soup, smoked salmon bagels and a wide range of other treats. We et opposite the noise of builders working on the casino.

Around Cashel Street, clothes stores had burst through the rubble. Bright containers, two stories high with modern verandahs, made for iron girders, create a shopping centre. Banks, clothes and shoe stores and cafes predominate. Today there seem few people, apart from tourists keen to support and see.


It’s a brave statement. It’s amazing what has already been achieved. The infrastructure required, the methodical organization, the money! I’m in awe!
But I’m also desolate! Christchurch posed a huge dilemma for me. I oscillated between an empty hollow shock and sadness, an empathy and a warm disbelief of how indestructible the spirit of Christchurch is. How incredible the people who live there are.


The Fastest Indian and rain – Thursday 23rd February 2012

I woke early, hearing heavy rain, and despite turning over, the rain persisted all morning. There is something about being at the bottom of New Zealand. My Melbourne friend is correct. The light isn’t right! There is nothing ‘underneath’ us, except the Antarctic and some penguins!

We are still out of food, but cannot motivate ourselves to buy some. We manage a makeshift lunch: half a muesli bar, an apple, 3 crackers with Vegemite or cream cheese and a cup of coffee each.

Clearly we must get out of here! So we begin our routine of finding a bed for tomorrow night, and when that is completed, and the rain has still not stopped, we play Scrabble on the IPad, and are pleased it is such a high scoring game.

By one o’clock we feel it’s now or never, and leave to visit the Invercargill museum. Here we find the Fastest Indian motorcycle which was made famous by Burt Munro, and Anthony Hopkins, who played Burt in the film of the same name. It was larger than I thought, longer that is.


I enjoyed the photos of Burt’s life and was impressed by the machines he tweaked and improved with his engineering.
Here is the museum, we also saw a Moa skeleton, some interesting artifacts about the Sub Antarctic islands, many of which I had never heard. I was surprised they included a Marion Island. Why anyone thought these hostile islands should be inhabited remains a mystery to me- but very brave on anyone to try.

These gorgeous clothes were created recently with materials to match the animals and environment. An albatross dress using real feathers, a gentlemen’s suit with seal fur waistcoat, which the museum curator tried to reassure me was “just lying in the museum for years before the project”.
Most unusual, the museum has an area devoted to tuatara reptiles. They have a breeding program for this prehistoric animal and they are doing really well. We saw at least 4 tiny babies and several other generations, all doing well in their lovely enclosure. They are not lively, their metabolism is incredibly slow, breathing only a few times a minute and with a ridiculously slow heart beat.

When we got back outside it was still raining! So we drove down to Bluff, which really is the last town of New Zealand. It’s famous for oysters. Now, I have never eaten an oyster. I thought that if I were to try, it would be best to try an Bluff oyster, because I am told they are simple, the best! But it is not the season for oysters yet. I need to come back in May!

However, we have achieved a personal best. Driven from Cape Reigna, at the northern most end of State Highway 1 down to Bluff at the most southerly end, where, by the way, it was raining.

For once I refused to get out the car. It was grey and damp- no, wet! And cold! It was the first day on this entire trip, since October 2011, that I have actually felt cold. I mean, it has rained before, but not like this!

“Let’s go somewhere warmer,” I said to John. “What about Australia?” I suggest.

So we will…
Let’s turn back now, because we can’t go further, and slowly, very slowly, make our way home, to London.

I think we’ll get there by mid April!

Waimangu Volcanic Valley -3rd February 2012

Waimangu Volcanic Valley is a short drive from Rotorua and costs $34.50 to walk through. The entire valley was created by a volcanic eruption in 1886. Mount Tarawera destroyed the surrounding area and opened up a 17km rift, splitting itself in two. There are 7 craters in the valley and each is different.

But the area is so young in geothermal terms, it is still evolving. Within 15 years of the original eruption, hot springs were established and just 30 years after the devastating explosion, plant life had returned. There were further eruptions and huge geysers which existed for just a few years before blowing themselves out. The most recent activity was 1973!

There, that’s the guide book!

As you walk through the valley floor, descending to the lake created by the blast, you witness a wide variety of micro-climates. I could not believe how acid the crater lakes were here. 2.5-2.8!
Once again we were struck by the weird beauty. The colours were incredible. Some places gold and green; others pure brilliant pale blue in a white silica basin, and an eerie mist rose of the waters of the huge lake.





Again we could not believe when all the people were! The car park seemed full, the cafe was reasonably busy but not many walkers! Those we saw scampered on, whilst we marveled at these unique wonders.
It was a simply beautiful, natural park, full of amazing sights.

Strange thing: this evening a girl I met 5 years ago in China emailed to say she had a friend living in NZ. Happens to be just where we are headed next. Most amazing, I have just booked a dreadful backpackers in penance for paying so much on helicopters etc. but the reviews are dreadful. Phoned up new NZ friends and – joy of joys they are more than happy to see us! Yippee!

Captain Cook and the Coromandel – Monday 30th January 2012

The Coromandel Peninsula was made famous (to Europeans) by Captain James Cook, when he pulled up the Endeavor on a patch of this newly discovered land, to observe the transit of Mercury across the sun. By doing this he helped work out an exact position on his charts for the longitude of New Zealand so that others might find it in his wake.

(for those just dropping into this blog for the first time, John has been reading Cook’s diaries. He can tell you lots, I paraphrase!)

The important bit is that we are now near Cook’s Beach on Mercury Bay and all the road names have reference to Cook’s crew or their mission. Surely there must be a monument? Well, yes, there is. But a very inauspicious one: no more than a slab of concrete to mark the occasion, close to the beach and a small wooden board which gives the bare bones of the story. John is clearly disappointed!

But all is not lost! Up on Shakespeare’s Cliff (Cook named this too, thinking it looked like the Bard!) a slightly better stone slab affair refers to the navigational milestone and offers excellent views.


There are also gannets, hurling themselves into the sea, spearing fish. They fold their wings at a particular angle to enable them to plunge, maybe even to swim deep into the sea. Their aerobatic display is remarkable. You can see the bubble trail as they dive, and watch them eat their catch as they sit on the water before taking off to dive again. You can also see the shoals of fish move across the bay, desperate to get out of their way. But the gannets’ arial view beats the fish every time.

We walk down from Hahei after finding parking rather a problem, to Cathedral Cove, made famous, I believe from clips of the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe series of films. Perhaps this was the Caspian Sea?
It’s an easy walk but I wouldn’t want to be pushing three young children in a buggy as one brave man does. It takes us nearly an hour from start to destination.
And it is stunning! The arch so wide! A waterfall cascades at the far end of one of the beaches. No wonder so many people have made the effort.



Back up the stair, we divert to visit Gemstone Bay, a small rocky bay which is, nevertheless, picturesque. And Stingray Bay, although we see no stingrays. There are some lovely red crabs some 10 cm across which amuse us.


But all this time, even though we have had a fantastic time, with good walking and lots to see, we have actually been waiting: for the tide to turn! We have our shovel, and our old towels, so kindly provided by our host at the Aotearoa Lodge, but the time has to be just right.
And now it is!

We head off for the biggest event in the area.
Hot Water Beach as the tide becomes low.

It’s not difficult to find the correct spot on the long beach, everyone is there. They all seem to know where two hot water springs bubble constantly up through the sand and can be found at low tide. If you get too closets the source, it’s too hot to stay. Your feet burn! So we gather together to create our very own spa pools.




Even the sea has hot spots! The frustration when a final wave batters our dam down. The fascination to see the hot water bubble through the sand at one or two points. The surprise when you stand on a hotspot! The sense of unity amongst all these strangers from so many far flung places around the globe! They should do something like this for world peace!

Tall ship – Tuesday 24th January 2012

There are some things in life that you know, instinctively are special. When we saw advertisements for sailing in a tall ship, with all the square sails blowing and the rigging straining, John would look longingly. He loves boats, and has done a fair amount of sailing both in England and the Mediterranean.
Fullers Great Sights offer a day’s sail from Russell for $145 on a beautiful 8 sail tall ship, some 20 years old. How could we resist. The profit from these summer cruises goes towards subsidizing school trips for secondary school children, who get a week long sailing experience.
It was amazing!


John got to haul up the sails, steer the ship and learn about those very top sails, which he’s never been able to work out exactly how they are maneuvered into position.







The wind dropped completely at one point and we had to take all the sail down again and motor through, between the islands for a few minutes, before coming to our swim stop, and lunch.
I was most impressed with the excellent salad and barbecued chicken, the glass of wine (bought separately) and the scone and cream.
John and I swam over 100 meters to the shore, but we could have taken the dinghy. Many people simply swing out overboard, crashing into the sea, only to swim back for another go!
We took over 100 photos.



We came back rather exhausted but so very happy. Everyone left the ship with a big smile on their face! It seemed like saying goodbye to really good friends. We did feel rather too sun kissed, and my lips will take a while to settle!
However, we recovered sufficiently to walk up Flagstaff Hill, once it became totally dark. There we marveled at the Milky Way, and became amazed the Orion, not only clearly had his bow (which I have never seen before) but, seemed almost lost by the mass of other stars now clearly visible. For the first time I saw the Severn Sisters or Plaides and we found the Southern Cross and it’s pointer stars. What we could not understand was why these pointer stars twinkled so brightly, that through binoculars, we could see red and green! They certainly never moved so we are sure they were neither planes or satellites.
What an awesome day!