“Under Offer”

The English system of moving house has a strange rhythm.  The first part is to choose an estate agent (real-estate) by asking a few to come in and guess – I mean value your property.  When this ranges over half a million GBP, I began to wonder what on earth the world was coming to!

House prices have soared!  We have lived here for 24 years and I find it staggering to hear what they think we could be offered for the property.  Anyway, we chose the midrange agent and set them off on a merry-go-round of viewings which mostly meant that we had to leave the building each Saturday while families came to consider if they would like to live here.

Of course, we could stay in, if we chose, but I felt I did not want my grandson emptying out his toy box or made anxious by strangers.

Three weekends of this has resulted in an “offer”.  It is usual in England to haggle over the price a bit and it took a week to agree a price.  It’s a good price!  

Now we enter the next phase, where solicitors, surveyors, estate agents, building societies all bid for a share in our profits.  Searches on the land, services, building controls, and boundaries of each property in the ‘chain’ have to be made.  Those who need a mortgage will need an additional survey from their lender.  The ‘chain’ becomes a vital element and we all nurture it.  One weak link may result in a family quitting and we might all have to start again!

We are lucky because there are only three of us in this chain.  John and I have decided to rent for a while to get to know our new location better.  Who knows we may hate it and choose to return to London!

The renting market is wretched.  Even at the upper end of it.  We have seen two converted barns so far.  one in a fantastic location but very small and dark.  The other is a dreadful location but a reasonable size and bright.

No one will take us seriously until we ‘exchange contracts’ when the chain of sales becomes legally binding.

Thank you Laura for your comment which made me come back to the blog for an update!  I am not sure if it is very interesting yet, but if I feel it is, I promise to update again!  Meanwhile, I am having fun taking grandson Keoni to the South Coast, under the name of research to get to know the county, or round a children’s petting farm!ImageImage

Traveling Again

Despite the fun I am having with my grandson, despite the reunion with lots of friends, John and I are off again; this time only for a fortnight.  A friend of a friend owns a yacht, and he needs crew.  So we fly to Turkey on Saturday.  Hopefully the boat will already be in the water, for it has been in dry dock for the winter season.  Our plan is to sail from Turkey to Greece, where another crew takes over.

We’ve sailed like this before and I am very excited!


We will travel out with friends who introduced us to the owner several years ago.  So there will be five of us on board altogether.  I’ll take photos and update you when I can.

Yippee!  A retiree’s life is never dull.

Versatile? A nomination.

I’ve seen a few people, just occasionally saying things about Blogging Awards, but it would never happen to me.  Fellow bloggers nominate others when they feel they are doing a great job.  Wow!  Amazing talent some people have!  They deserve it – there is some fantastic stuff out there.

So when Laura Maisey, wrote to me, I simply could not believe it.  Thanks Laura.  Laura’s blog has taken the form of an alphabet until early May.  Now she has finished the series, she continues to write humorously about her studies and cooking adventures.  I like her sense of humour.

So, what does this nomination mean?  Well, apparently, the form is to tell Laura, and you, seven things about myself…umm…

I’m intense at times.  Determined to achieve.  I laugh a lot when things go wrong, because I know it’s the best way to face adversity. I was brought up in a pub in the East End of London.  I married when I was 19 and I still have the same husband, John, who I love.  I learned to ride a horse at the age of 40 and became passionate about it, mucking out on a Saturday, taking my road aware exam, winning rosettes at the dressage, taking out hacks – the works: then almost overnight stopped, partly through a back pain and a sore knee.

Next, I need to nominate 15 bloggers for the award!  This is hard. How do I judge versatility?  NO, I can only tell you what I like to read.

So, here we go…

Victor, I have to choose you!  I have been following you for the longest and I love your travel stories.  Victor eats at some of the most interesting restaurants and shares his meal with us.  You will find him on http://victortravelblog.com/

I love seeing other people’s photography and some of my favourite sites have brilliant photos.  Smallfox  have some stunning nature pictures.  Whilst I was in Australia, this blog often inspired me to think of places to go, especially the advice on Jervis Bay, near Sydney.

Another ‘companion’ I felt along my journey was Mummarazzi, who shared photos from Melbourne zoo and whale watching, which I really enjoyed.

Another favourite photography site is the wonderful Photobotos who present guest photographers and reveal their secrets of how they achieve such incredible photos.  Some of their stuff in out of this world.  Have a look for their underwater guests.

Davesnature is my next nomination. Alongside each beautiful photo is some information about the bird or beast.  Simple and stunning, I always hold my breath when entering his blog, because the photos are so wonderful and I love the informative way he explains his life and work.

Check out the work of PhotoNature who has some stunning photos of birds in flight.

The photos found on Steven are awesome.  He has a particular way with light which I find very beautiful.

Nik Bond is my next photographer.  He makes me laugh because he tells us how he has set up his shot in such a way that I get a perfect picture of his flat and flatmates!  He tells me all the technical stuff, but honestly it is his prose that I look forward to.  Quite simply he is a brilliant experimenter.

Shards of China is a very different kind of blog.  This is an expat based in Shenzhen, China, who writes about all aspects of life.  A professional writer, I believe, who comes across with great insight into China and life.

Scott Brill holds a special place in my blog reading.  His Pieces of Me and Other Sundry Things is incredibly varied.  At times he has me moved to tears with a description of Aspergers, which I found so true from the children I have taught.  Other times his photos of family life simply lift my day.

I hope Shelley will forgive me for nominating her. Her blog is quite personal, written mainly for members of her family when she travels.  I seem to have dropped in by chance, simply because she was the first blogger I found who declared themselves retired!  Destination Now helps me keep track of my first blogger friend.  Shelley volunteers for several months of the year and then arranges fantastic voyages in exotic places for other times.  I genuinely feel she has become a friend but I have never met her. We give each other encouragement from different continents!

Then I have picked up a few active people who I admire simply because they are so vibrant:

Second Hand Surfer put me right when I was beginning my Boogie Boarding and misnamed the activity!  He takes some great photos, and recently has a portfolio of people shots from Costa Rica. 

Then, there is Kyle Simmons who’s Climbing Bum blog puts me to shame.  But I nominate him because he always spares the time to reply to my mundane comments and because he has the best adventures ever and, if I were 35 years younger, I would ask him to take me too!

Malou is so refreshing.  She writes of her family life with such joy and enthusiasm.  Her family are very lucky to have her because she finds such pleasure in simple things.  She describes living in Holland brilliantly.  As she is a Filipino originally, she brings a fresh perspective to her observations.

Finally, I would like to nominate Sharansblog.  I’ve only just discovered this one, while I was browsing the ‘retired’ topic – which is often very dull and littered with people who want to make money from retirees.  This is a remarkable blog: honest and startling.  I’m really pleased I found it.


So, there you have it: 15 blogs I have enjoyed reading.  All of them I nominate for Versatile Blogger.  The trouble is, Laura, I am not sure how to tell them that they are all brilliant. Apart form including their names here.  

You are all fantastic.  Some of you have become familiar friends, whom I have never met, I look forward to hearing from regularly.  Others inspire me with tales of adventure, whilst others inspire me with photos, reminding me what an amazing world we live in.  Thank you all for your bogs!Image

The Great Barrier Reef – Thursday 10th November 2011

I gave up learning geography at the age of 12 or 13. I remember learning about stalactites and stalagmites because I was taught that tights fall down and mites grow up! Both are found in caves. How dreadful that I also remember most of my friends chose geography over history because they wanted to go on the field trips.

John has taught me plate tectonics and the effect of erosion but my knowledge of places has always been sketchy.

I thought the Amazon and the Nile sounded impossibly distant, romantic and unattainable. When we were wealthy enough we visited each, swimming in each river was pure joy and unforgettable.

The other ‘out of this world location’ in the same impossible-I-should-ever-get-there category was the Great Barrier Reef.

Today we spent all day there, snorkeling in three different areas of the Opal Reef.

Now, John and I have travelled a lot and we have snorkeled before, in Egypt, for example and in Greece. Both wonderful, but our understanding is that lots of day trips of this nature promise a unique time but all the different companies end up in the same spot and the water becomes infested with people competing for the best locations!

We chose ‘Wavelength’ out of a dozen or so trips on offer because they specialize in snorkeling and do not do dives. They limit their passengers to 30 and even better they have a marine biologist on board.

It is very smoothly operated: as soon as you board, Lycra sting suits are issued, flippers, goggles and snorkels all come out. All in very

English: A variety of corals form an outcrop o...

Image via Wikipedia

good condition.

Our first stop is “beautiful”, the fish are wonderful. They swim in shoals, or pairs over the coral reef, rich in , diverse in shape. No other boat joins us. We are free to swim for one hour, wandering at will over the incredible landscape that is revealed below. Although I have taken photos in a cheap underwater camera the images will not be digital and are not developed yet so I cannot share the visual impact with you. I will try to paint the picture in words and borrowed photos

English: Table coral of genus Acropora (Acropo...

Image via Wikipedia

Next, ‘Ray’. This time the marine biologist took us in groups. She dived to bring up sea cucumbers, coral branchlets, a coral mushroom and talked us through each before carefully replacing them. Of course there are things she cannot disturb, then she dived below us to point before coming up to explain the tactics for survival each element of life uses.

It is really hard for 15 people to ‘gather round’ in the water. We don’t always have control of our movements. Our speed and direction vary and we often bump into each other. Nevertheless, the information was very interesting. Imagine the mushroom coral, open both sides like the gills of a Portobello mushroom. It exudes a clear sticky gel as a sun block! Sea cucumbers do exactly the same. The colour of the coral depends on a symbiotic relationship between the animal and plant which make us the coral reef.

Our final swim was rated by Australia’s National Geographic as the best snorkel location in the world. By now we were close to the edge of the barrier, near the open sea and the force of the waves was stronger. The variety of coral, fish, colour texture was incredible. From lace plates built into huge towers, to brain coral coiling over itself. It is incredible to see this variety, impossible to describe.

English: Common Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellari...

Image via Wikipedia

My favorite part was seeing an anemone of white tendrils, inside which was Nemo, or his relation. T my horror the Clown Fish are now endangered! Following Disney’s film, people came to poach them. S now they are quite rare. Isn’t that dreadful? Nt the message of the film as I recall it! Luckily the one I saw had a baby. So all isn’t lost. Our guide said she visited it every day just to make sure it was safe. Ahh!



Mossman Gorge – Saturday 5th November 2011

It’s always the same, when you want to wake really early! You can’t get to sleep or you sleep badly. When the fire alarm sounds at 1 o’clock we leap out of bed and out of our room to muster! But there is not a soul anywhere about! No-one even bothered to check what is happening. Apparently, someone was smoking in bed, the receptionist tells John nonchalantly. We don’t bother to ask if she is worried that no one reacted.

Described as “a good first experience of rainforest”, I am not sure what I am expecting from Mossman Gorge. But we feel seeing it at 6.30 a.m. will enhance the experience. The car park is tiny, there is a picnic area and several signposts indicating walks, some described as 15 minutes long!

I think we are shocked that it is so organized. The path is concrete, or metal grid with stone or metal steps and handrails. Every so often signs inform you of flora or fauna. There’s a lovely river, rushing over huge boulders and in places, small sandy beaches. Clearly the coach groups swim here, but we are looking for turtles or tree dragons or birds. There are very few.



We take our time, savoring the silence and searching each space to ensure we capture the shape of the leaves, the tiniest sounds, the eerie quality of the light.

Eventually we reach a 2 km path with has a more natural quality. We heard amazing bird song but could not catch the birds among the dense leaves. Best was a kingfisher who called us for ages and they waited while we took his photo.


It took us 3 hours! As we arrived back at the car park, the buses were just arriving. It would not have been the same with people! Some magic would have been lost. Some beauty eroded!

Port Douglas -Friday 4th November 2011

Actually, when you open the blinds, it’s pleasant enough and the room is huge! Let’s go and explore before we write any complaining emails about our lack of kitchen and the misnomer of an apartment!

The Ramada resort has pleasant paths through palm filled courtyards, a pool of concrete with a swim up bar and a waterfall. One path leads to the side roads and just round the corner is the beach. Built as a top luxury hotel, it has sold off rooms to private buyers. That is clearly what we have!

4 Mlle Beach: find sand with tide well out, it is very gently shelving producing tiny waves as the energy of the sea is trapped by the Great Barrier Reef. Not a building to be seen, except the look out at the far end of the peninsula.

The edge of the beach is fringed with coconut trees and palms. It’s beautiful! There are hardly 8 people over the entire stretch. We wander away from lookout point.

It’s blissful! But what strikes me is that not one of those people are in the sea, not even paddling!

The stinger season has just begun. There are two to beware of: one you can sure with vinegar, the other you need CPR!

Beware the Box!

We chat to a local lady who jokes this is her beach. She thinks there are only 5 or 6 stingers around so takes her chance, but we don’t actually see her in the sea!

For lunch we begin to realize one hand basin can be for washing dishes, there’s just about enough plates and cutlery to make a sandwich.

The town is only down the road, but it is a mile long road and very hot by now with a humid heat, so we are very glad of the car. There is so much to learn: what does 2P mean at raring zones? 2 hours free parking! Brilliant!

It’s quite different from Newcastle. More compact, lots of clothes shops, an attractive shopping street. At the end of which we randomly turn right and discover a park set against the sea on two sides. There’s a swing set, and picnic benches and a sort of shelter with a bench under it. We go to investigate.

It’s an outdoor barbecue! A public hot plate, just press the green button. Well, of course, John cannot resist this and presses. All my neurosis fly out! Health and safety: what if a child touches it while it is hot? Green issues: what a waste of fuel if we have nothing to eat here! Or what if we now run out of fuel? I need to leave this area.

Crazy reaction! We sit for a while. Keeping an eye of the BBQ, watching the sea and the fisher folk. But the BBQ still calls John. He goes off to collect the chicken, red pepper etc and we cobble together a brilliant meal,


Later that day we take a bottle of wine down to “our” beach. One or two walkers go by but it is deserted. We find two patio chairs left by the side of the beach and sit facing the ocean. We face East and watch the sky turn pink, purple, dark.

This is retirement. Not fussing about kitchens or BBQs. Sitting and marveling about the beauty of our world. Pure magic!




A plane, a car and some heat- Thursday 3rd November 2011

Up early; packed; check out of the YHA and catch 9.30 train, off to Sydney Airport. We’re going to fly to Cairns!

But it takes forever to do this in reality. There are no problems but it takes 3 hours in the train and a further 3 hours in the air.

The car company picks us up and we have a nice new Getz!

The drive to Port Douglas is fabulous. The coastal section is really special with brilliant views as the road hugs the cliff, or the beach. There are enough bends to make it a very exciting drive, interesting handling, and views of the sea. It’s just a pity it went dark!

We are excited to be getting an apartment, and stop off to buy chicken and steak, arriving at the resort about 7pm.

It’s a bit wired. We have a text message asking us pick up the keys from another hotel around the corner, more so because a voicemail says we need to phone for a code and the key will be in a safe. This is getting like a game show! But it works!

The Ramada reminds me of a Thai hotel we once visited. A large open foyer with cane armchairs and a live cockatoo on a perch. But our room was a shock!

The advert had used words like apartment and suite so we had assumed that it would have a kitchen. There was certainly mention of a fridge but I was not expecting a small bar fridge. To add to the mystery we were provided with plates, cutlery, lovely wine glasses…

It’s a huge bedroom, well decorated in monochrome with a twin basin corner bath room, but we feel furious! How will we afford to eat if we do not have a kitchen?

We’re tired! We’ll sleep on it! We have no idea what the area is like, or even what the view from the window will be. Just shove all the food into the tiny fridge. I cannot bare the idea that it might all go to waste!


Someone stole our milk! – Wednesday 2nd November 2011

From our YHA bedroom there’s no telling the weather. You can tell its morning from the stamps up and down the corridor to the men’s shared bathroom and the frequent sound of rushing water. But no, that’s not true! Last night I could hear the same sounds, but then I knew it was the young lads being violently sick after their beer. I don’t envy them their drinking, binge or otherwise, I just wish I did not have to hear the end result so graphically!

We email, smooch around go down to make coffee in the communal kitchen. It’s our last day and we are keen to manage our food resources so there is no waste. But to our horror someone has pinched our milk. The bottle is there but the liquid has virtually disappeared.

Our own children used to do this all the time. Why? “I didn’t finish the peanut butter! Look the jar is still there!”. Yes but it’s empty! Just throw it away and add it to our shopping list and we can buy some more. This tactic is not going to work with a bunch of boisterous youths.

I agree young people, (Oh my goodness how old am I today? saying this.) young people should have gap years, travel does broaden the mind and boosts self confidence etc. but that was MY milk.

Right, let’s go out. (No use crying over spilt milk!) the local bus service is free. We jump on for mile or two and arrive at the shopping mall. There’s Coles (of course) and a few cares. We eat IRS and drink coffee – with milk, we nose around the bottle shop, the chemist, al uninspiring stuff.

The surf is up and the sea is full of Lycra clad surfers making the most of it! I once went in the surf waves like this in Ecuador, swimming. I learned to swim under the waves but was often bashed about. I must admit that now I feel a fear for their power. I don’t think I’ll be surfing!

We discuss our next venue. We arrange to hire a car. We pack. We’re readily for more adventure, perhaps away from YHA. I’ll return to it but I need a break. I’m not in the 18-26 bracket. Even my children are older than this. I love the way their energy, their enthusiasm, their ‘grab it’ attitude – until it comes to my milk.

Oh I am a sour puss today!


Newcastle -Tuesday 1st November 2011

WASHING: The more time we spend in YHA, the more it smacks of university life. $3 per machine, fish out some man’s undies and hang them up, hope the cycle won’t mangle the clothes but will clean them. $3 per drying hour – do we need an hour? Don’t want them fried just dried. When you come back the nice man has placed his previously, neatly hung up clothes in the dryer and dumped my nicely dried clothes is pile on an old sofa. So, I iron them all and it them to air on the railings of our bed and survey the scene.

OUR ROOM: piles of clean clothes, electrical wiring, plugs, adapters, shoes, wash bags and a full bottle of wine jostle for floor space alongside our half full suitcases.

This is minimal living with a horrid twist- NO storage!

Ah well! Out to find food, back to store it in the communal fridges, eat honey sandwiches, go for walk ( uphill) into town, but it eerily quiet.

Today is the Melbourne Cup. The equivalent of Ascot in the UK. Here in Newcastle, people have taken the day off work to dress up in posh frocks with hats and gather in pubs and hotels to watch it. We sit opposite one such gathering to watch from the other side of the road. The noise describes the race:
“They’re off” – shouts of hooray
“They’re running,” – clamor of exclamations
“Very close now!” – noise raises to fever pitch
“The end!” – Huge cheer, sighs, relief

And they all begin to trickle out in groups.

We walk over the hill, along Nobby’s beach to the lighthouse. We paddle in the sea until we see the jellyfish. We admire the concrete swimming pools including one for kayaking! The beach is good.

My attempt at Spanish Omelette is a disaster and sticks to the pan. There is no spatula or any kind of equivalent to scrape it off!

Still Christmas accommodation is sorted, near Melbourne, so not too bad really.


Journey to Newcastle -Monday 31st October 2011

Packing: how come each bag seems heavier and fuller? We have not bought much, except wide brimmed sun-hats, and we are wearing them! We drag the bags back up the hill to Katoomba station and wait for the train. Although the weather was bright from first light, there is a strong wind blowing, so we wear our coats.

The journey back to Sydney takes about 2 hours. At times we see views of the Blue Mountains which by now are familiar. We see Sydney on the horizon, spiking with sharp towers. The train is packed but the journey is uneventful.

The most extraordinary thing about the journey out from Sydney to Newcastle is the quantity of water! Frequently there is sea to the right of us and lake to the immediate left. The train seeing to pick its way between the two on its narrow track. This second hour of journey is relieved only by the numerous waterfowl or boats.

Luckily the YHA is a stone’s throw from the station. It’s another 1930s building, again with a ballroom. Despite its architectural grandeur, it feels older, more unloved that Katoomba. We are not given towels and share a bathroom. This is fine for John because the men are just next door to our room, but the ladies is at the other end of the house. What if I need to go in the middle of the night? (And I do sometimes!). The sheets are thin, the kitchen smaller and untidy. Our room is more spacious but has no storage facilities at all.

The YHA is just 200m or so from the peninsula, where there are good waves for surfers on one side and smooth water for swimmers on the other. However, we go on to find the waters infested with blue stinging jelly fish, many of which are washed up on the shore.


It’s ‘pizza night’, eat all you can for $7- a good challenge when washed down with a bottle of red wine. It takes me a while to feel relaxed here. I’m beginning to worry about ending up in a place like this for Christmas! (so I’ve started searching the net)

The only reason we are here is because Qantas pulled their strike and we had to rebook. I’m supposed to be up in Cairns!

Ah well, a lesson in life! “make the best of what you’ve got: whatever it is!”