Tag Archives: Travel

Delightful

Our seedlings are doing well. There’s a minor leak-glitch in the automatic watering system I installed yesterday, but nothing that can’t be fixed by a little PTFE (Plumbers) tape. A five minute fix. Otherwise our drip system works perfectly and will do the necessary job of keeping our plants suitably refreshed and thriving without wasting water while we’re away in July. Mrs S is delighted and so am I. A little green on the deck creates a pleasant space for work breaks where we can rest our weary screen-dried eyes on the local scenery. It’s also become a place where, when the weather is suitable, we can dine on tea and cucumber sandwiches. Which feels very civilised. There’s just something about sandwiches with the crusts cut off and one bite H’ordeuvres for supper that act as a balm to the soul. Must be a cultural thing. To paraphrase a famous quote from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam;

A glass of wine, a plate of sandwiches and thou, talking softly to me in Victoria.

Another thing that I found utterly delightful this morning was Alberta UCP leader Jason Kenney’s statement that Justin Trudeau is “an empty trust-fund millionaire who has the political depth of a finger bowl.” Who “Can’t read a briefing note longer than a cocktail napkin, OK.” Although I’d be inclined to observe that even the shallowest finger bowls generally have more gravitas than the empty-headed talking points regurgitated by Trudeau.

Which rather throws Trudeau’s comparison of people who do not agree with current CO2 driven climate dogma to advocates of Female Genital Mutilation into sharp relief. Which is a cheap way to demonise people who don’t agree with what a lot of researchers now consider very shonky ‘science’. Hells bells, even the latest IPCC report has downgraded the predicted impact of any human effect on the climate. By repeating the failed dogmas Trudeau is like the talking toy recently marketed to promote his popularity. Yes, our darling mop top is pretty, but he’s also pretty vacant without his team of advisors and handy teleprompter. Even with them he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the box by a long chalk. As the last couple of years have amply shown, he just just isn’t up to the job of being Canadian Prime Minister. Even a half way competent one would have called in the witless Provincial Premiers Horgan (BC) and Notley (Alberta) and firmly told them to stop playing les bougres risibles with Canadian jobs. He’s got to go. The Federal elections in 2019 can’t come soon enough.

Not so delightful has been the news that Amsterdam is going to try and cut down tourism by restricting holiday rentals and putting up hotel taxes. Fortunately this won’t interfere with our travel plans this year as the changes don’t come into effect until January 2019. Talk about being a victim of your own success, eh?

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Trip planning redux

Well, now here’s a thing. No sooner have Mrs S and I returned to Vancouver Island than we’re talking about another trip overseas. This time back to Europe.

At the moment we’re talking about flying direct to that shopping centre with an airport attached, Schipol, and using good old Amsterdam as our base to go gallivanting around Northwestern(ish) Europe. However, this is purely the discussion phase; we have to cost out the trip and keep track of our funds. Germany will be expensive, if we decide to include parts of it. I have business to attend to which cannot be put off any longer in the UK, and Mrs S is going to pop into London to visit with Youngest for a few days. By the end of the week we’ll have a better idea of where and when, although my UK visit is going to be limited to the northwestern Midlands. I’ve found out one of my Uncles is still alive and sinning, and I’d like the old boy to know all is good between our respective branches of the clan before he slips into the long night.

Not much else happening otherwise at El Sticker’s Hacienda. I’m already missing Australia, or rather the sunshine and warmth. And the awesome Asian fusion food. Tip for my last remaining reader, in Canada, Gourmet means with extra cheese. In BC most ‘curries’ are just big, very chewy chunks of meat in sauce, not a melt in the mouth spicy sensation at all. In Oz, getting a decent genuine curry is no problem. Why, in some places one almost might be in Manchester’s famous ‘Curry mile’ the quality is that good. Although that’s changing. Which is slightly saddening.

Nevertheless, one thing did tickle my funny bone this afternoon. Mrs S and I went out to purchase a slow cooker for preparing winter curries etcetera and noticed that you can purchase a marriage license at a store called London Drugs. Which kind of begged the question, where do you purchase a divorce? The spares department at Canadian Tire? (Although I daren’t look, herself is watching) You can certainly buy fishing and hunting licenses at most semi-rural grocery stores here on the island. So why not?

Hang on, she’s finding this just as funny, so in the word of the old joke*, I’ll just risk the one eye. Holy Maracas Batman! Divorce for as little as three hundred and thirty bucks? Two hundred for filing with the court plus ten bucks for registration. Eighty for the final registration and another forty for a certificate. Bloody hell, that’s quite a… sorry dear. I’m getting a look now. If you’ve been married for over ten years you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Returning to the less domestically dangerous topic of slow cookers, or ‘crock pots’ as they are called this side of the pond, the smallest we could buy was four US quarts capacity. Which is a tad over six and a half Imperial pints or a large gulp under four litres. That’s a lot of Chicken Madras and no mistake. So batch cooking a few stews will be on the agenda too. Our freezer can handle the overflow. Set everything going first thing and be ready for a substantial supper around six. Well, that’s the plan. Whether said scheme survives contact with reality is another matter.

There is such a concept as too much of a good thing.

TTFN.

* From the old English folk tale of Lady Godiva. The legendary Peeping Tom and a friend are lurking behind a fence with a large knot hole in it as the naked form of Lord Leofric’s wife rides through the streets of Coventry in her one woman tax protest. “Tom, don’t do it mate! Don’t look!” Urges Peeping Tom’s friend. “If you look at her naked flesh, you, you’ll go blind!”
To which the errant tradesman ties a strip of cloth over one side of his face like a crude eyepatch and replies. “Well in that case I’m only going to chance the one eye.”

On a jet plane

Well we’re back in soggy old Vancouver BC with our body clocks threatening to send their mainsprings twanging off into infinity. It’s a fourteen and a half hour flight from Sydney to Van, but what really catches you out is crossing the international date line. Now all of this shouldn’t have been so bad, we could have got some sleep on the flight but for two modern parents who didn’t have the skill to stop one little girl grizzling and crying very loudly for over twelve solid freaking yours. Wail, wah, moan, bitch went mommy and daddy’s little fucking princess. She was unhappy and everyone was catching a slice.

Personally I’d like to see a complete ban on children under ten years old on long haul aircraft. Especially if they haven’t been properly sedated first. Or fitted with some form of sound suppression.

Then there were the insomniacs in the row behind who chose to have a less than considerate conversation, along with lots of wriggling and thumping on my seat back as they played with their tray and in seat entertainment as they got up and down to continually visit the lavatory or stretch their legs. Should the tray be up? No I’ll put it down. Oh hello Mrs Miggins we’ll have the lights on and what was that crossword clue again? Sorry, could you say that more loudly, I don’t think the other ten rows heard you. And this was in Premium Economy. You’d think people willing to stump up the extra for a ticket might have more consideration. I did try to get some sleep, but to no avail.

The resultant lack of repose means that since landing I have been less than my usually sunny self and even positively hostile to any Vancouverite ill advised enough to cross my path. Maybe I should be wearing a t-shirt which says “Warning. Jet lag.”

Notwithstanding, I will be returning to the Fabled land of Oz despite all these travel teething troubles. There is talk of happy tidings if a certain young gentleman can get his act together and ask Eldest the right question. They’re doing plenty of horizontal jogging if all the clues I observed are any guide, so I’ve already given eldest my tacit approval. Nothing verbal, just a candid bit of eye contact and a gentle nod over his shoulder at her. However, we will see what we will see. Their friends all seem to know whats in the offing, so it’s probably one of those open secret thingies.

Note to self. Add decent set of noise cancelling headphones to travel kit.

In the immortal words of Mr Schwarzenegger:

If you see Sydney….

…. Don’t tell him we’re passing through again. Busy embarrassing Eldest’s friends and have just done doing the beach barbecue thing with Kangaroo meat. Aside from that we’re just pootling around, going to outdoor opera events, learning our way around the local trains, buses and bars. The usual tourist stuff. Walking Sydney Harbour Bridge, but not paying to get vertigo at over 150 Australian dollars a pop. With the help of native guides and spent a day at the beach. Our native guides are a complete gas by the way and have treated us with grace and generosity. Despite all the ballistic missiles failing to rain down on Hawaii. We’re all cool. Figuratively

The thing I really, really like about Aussies is their complete lack of ‘side’; generally speaking they either like you or not and aren’t shy about letting you know. Which is very refreshing.

The automotive news is interesting, with talk of ‘million mile cars’ specifically vehicles designed to be continuously upgraded and maintained like modern airliners currently are. Cars designed for leasing for ride sharing rather than individual ownership. Not there aren’t private cars which have actually done a million miles already. Wonder if this is a bid to sidestep the proposed bans of private vehicle sales of internal combustion engined vehicles. Riight. We’ll see how that works out.

Off time travelling tomorrow back to BC where we will land four and a half hours before we took off from Sydney. Don’t ask.

Bunyips

There is a mythical monster in Australia, one that is even feared by the biggest killer of humans, the Estuarine Crocodile or ‘Saltie’. I write of course of the Bunyip, that terror of tourists, ravager of ‘Roos and consumer of the cutest Koalas. The name appears to have devolved into slang, where having ‘a case of the Bunyips’ is a minor but undefinable health inconvenience akin to being a bit upset or nervous about something.

On that subject; Mrs S woke me the other morning while we were staying in a pleasant little off the beaten track B&B to confess that she had felt a ‘presence’ which had disturbed her otherwise unblemished repose the previous night. I knew what she meant, as I’d felt the same thing too, as a vague sense of unease, a sense of something not quite right drifting across the room. She characterised it as an unhappy feeling with no material stimulus of connection that clouded her consciousness. For myself I had a sense of a disturbance in the unseen just as I was drifting off. Then it was gone. All sins forgiven.

Rather like the Interweb being on the fritz across Southeastern Australia. Which has something to do with lightning strikes over the last few nights, so we’re told. Lots of fried routers, or should that be routers with fries. Thanks Telstra. Mobile phones seem to be working though. At least they haven’t succumbed to the heat and rain. Although our recent heat wave has apparently been ‘boiling’ Fruit bats alive not far from our current location. Someone should have told them about drinking plenty of fluids staying in the shade and slapping on the SPF 50 sun cream.

Oh yes, we actually had rain yesterday afternoon en route to last nights picturesque little lodging. First big drop hit our windscreen like a paintball round with a loud ‘Spack!” Then another and another for twenty seconds until it was like automatic fire. After about a minute this bombardment settled down to regular rain which the windscreen wipers could cope with. That lasted about thirty minutes then everything dried up again until the evening when the wind it blew and the rain it did fall, but by then we’d consumed a couple of bottles of a very quaffable Savignon (Not Sauvignon, it’s a hybrid grape) and couldn’t have cared less. Temperatures have now returned to the mid to high twenties Celsius. So the Fruit bats will be back to their normal habit of shitting out of the trees instead of falling out of them.

In the wake of the recent brief heat wave have come brief but very intense storms flooding over the Blue Mountains, which is where we rest our weary heads this very eve. Thunder, lightning, high winds and torrential rain have paraded past our windows in the last three hours. In the wake of these storms followed an almost ethereal sunset and a single truncated pillar of a rainbow.

The local Aboriginal peoples claim this land has magical powers, and after the last few hours, I’m inclined to believe them.

BTW: There is nothing ‘intrepid’ about this trip. Indeed I have gone to great lengths to avoid any hint of derring-do, knight errantry or bravery against hostile elements of any shape, form or substance. Indeed, we have employed all the magical arts of modern techno-magery such as air conditioning, bug repellent, booking websites and the financial assistance of Mister Mastercard to avoid having to be even slightly courageous or resourceful. Courage is a fine thing and a useful tool, but should be kept in reserve for those occasions when you cannot help but need it. Let it be known that if the Bunyips come calling again I will have made strenuous efforts not to be there when they arrive.

That’s all for now. Back in Sydney to begin our last week in the Fabled land of Oz tomorrow. So perhaps we’ll have a more reliable Interweb connection by then.

On the road again

Well we’ve waved TTFN to Melbourne for now and are now on the fourth leg of our Australian Jaunt, dodging ‘roos and Drop-Bears with the added threat of bush fires today. We hope to dodge any large scale fires by hugging the coast as much as possible. Which has paid off so far as we’re heading toward sundown.

Rather ticked off at the car hire company for being a bunch of chiseling cheese parers. Decided to have a go back by painstakingly highlighting every last single fault which they had not spotted in their pre-rental checklist, photographing every single ding or rock chip, as I’m sure the bastards will try to charge my credit card for every last tiny scratch. They didn’t even wash the bloody thing properly. However, I’ve already spoken to my credit card company, and they agree there’s dodgy dealings afoot.

A stern but polite letter will also be going out to the hire company’s head office like the previously mentioned franchise practices I’m not happy with. I did ask them to countersign my updated damage report, but the staff refused. That too will be in my very detailed report to their head office. People who try to cheat me nowadays tend to lose. My ducks are all patiently sitting in a row, each carefully recorded piece of evidence awaiting every attempted incidence of overcharging. You might say I’m being a bit paranoid, but my attitude simply reflects previous experience with car hire companies. Trust does not figure largely in the relationship.

Regardless of the aforementioned, we are now well on our way and have been doing even more “Oohing” at the big sky scenery and deliciously turquoise seascapes. Yes it’s hot, with me taking plenty of roadside time-outs to snooze through temperatures topping 42 Celsius according to the cars thermometer. Well, we’re not in a rush and have made lots of time for this trip, so an impromptu snooze is just the ticket. Tomorrow the temperature is predicted to drop to something more comfortable in the mid 20’s as we round the corner into New South Wales and decide upon whether we’re going to bother with Canberra.

Wildlife sightings have been reduced to spotting roadkill, with two ‘Roos and a couple of Wombats today. Wombats are about the size of a Vietnamese pot bellied pig covered in dark brown fur. There was one bloody smear that could have been an incautious Koala, but it was hard to tell. All we’ve seen of live Australian fauna is cattle and sheep. Oh, and the many Parakeets and Lorikeet variants with the odd Fruitbat around dusk. Beware the Fruitbats, they’re like Socialists, they shit on everything.

Reading has been restricted to my rather dog eared copy of the Gulag Achipelago, Alexandr Solzhenitzyn’s chronicle of his arrest and imprisonment in the Soviet Prison system. It should be compulsory reading for anyone studying ‘political science’ at University. Full text pdf here if you want your eyes opened about totalitarian collectivist government. I first read it in 1975, along with his fictional follow-on “The First Circle” having cut my teeth on the disturbing A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich at school. Hardly holiday reading, unless of course you’re me, but interesting first hand perspectives from someone who survived the Soviet system of thought crime and punishment. Anyone thinking of creating thought crime offences should take careful note.

More cheerfully I can report on my first experience with the notorious Australian “Meat pie” which is as close as the Aussies have to a national dish. The flavour, for my last remaining British reader, is akin to one of the old “Fleur de Lys” latterly “Pukka” steak and kidney pies with a smidgeon of Bovril, encased in pastry that would probably sink a German WWII pocket battleship. Quite tasty, although a little heavy for a hot day.

Anyway, that’s it for now as supper time beckons and I’ve been saving my appetite. TTFN.

Glad to be here

We’re enjoying Melbourne, even if it’s a tad on the expensive side. The food? Lots of Italian, Vietnamese and Chinese, but if you get a chance, seek out one of the little Fusion eateries just off the main tourist trails. Stay away from the tourist traps along the Yarra, they aren’t worth the price. Seek out the unusual and your taste buds will thank you for it.

Sleep patterns are being a little messed up by phone messages going off at (to us) odd hours from Youngest, who has returned to her job in the soggy old UK and is already missing the warmth and suffering from the ravagers of jet lag, poor lamb. All we can do is urge her not to sign anything important until she’s fully compos mentis again.

What we’re also enjoying are the pleasant temperatures, currently around 22 Celsius, which we’re told will peak out on Saturday after we’ve left Melbourne to Sydney on a little road trip at a scorching prediction of 41(Yikes!) Celsius. Which is warm for even Victoria, where we will hide from the heat on a boat ride or so before wafting up the coast for our last week in the sun. All ahead SPF 50 Mr Sulu and mind those photon torpedoes.

North America on the other hand, seems to be not enjoying any heat at all, with sub zero Celsius temperatures as far south as Mexico and Florida. Which happened last year and the year before that. Can’t speak for Australia of course, because we weren’t here. However we’ve enjoyed our time down under so much that even now plans are afoot for another antipodean Xmas. At least if I have any say in the matter. Cold is nice occasionally, but only if it comes as a breeze from the air conditioning unit. I think I’ve outgrown any emotional attachments to White Christmases, because aren’t they supposed to be racist or something. Not that it’ll stop the snow falling. Weather’s like that, very politically incorrect.

As far as weather is concerned the old tune “But baby it’s cold outside” is appropriate in the Northern Hemisphere at present. Which song is annoying all the right people because it’s about ‘rape culture’ which some neurotics out there have transposed onto normal human courtship behaviour. Weirdo’s.

All the above notwithstanding. Before we push off, I’m going for a pamper at one of those fancy mens grooming places for a spiff up with hot towels to clear the pores, the whole nine yards.

Appy Nu Yah

… and all that shizzle. Was amused by one of those ever so cuddly posters that read “Imagine what could be achieved if seven million people respected and loved one another…” Mrs S an I had a chortle at that one because the sum total ‘achieved’ would be zero.

Sorry chums but that kind of ‘harmony’ is not good for human progress. Conflict on the other hand, demonstrably brings the greatest advances in living standards and society. Why? Because in times of harmony and complete human cuddliness human societies stagnate and even degenerate. It’s my observation that we’re a funny old species because we need a good old shouting match to clear the air and work out new strategies every so often. If only to check that the ‘new’ isn’t just the same old tat dressed up and given a fresh coat of paint. Without the societal pressures that engender change, everyone tends to sit back and go; “Oh, that’s all right then.” and just carry on with the same old same old.

Anyway for the moment our little clan is sticking with the old standard of out with the old, in with the new. Bye bye 2017, hello with more of the same for 2018. Facing up to new challenges and not backing down too readily from a scrap. At least that seems to work.

Anyway. We’ve seen the Melbourne fireworks (The 9:35 prelude and the much louder display at midnight). Drunk some bubbly. Gone “Oo.” And “Ah.” with the rest of the crowd. Stayed up until midnight. Seen the horseback Police patrols and watched a little girl dance to the sound of a Didgeridoo in the middle of Swanston Street. It’s 2018. Despite all the prophets of doom and exploding fireworks barges further up the coast we’re all still here. Happy New Year you lot.

Melbourne

Well here we are in the cooler climes of jolly old Melbourne and despite nutters occasionally driving vans into crowds, thinking it will somehow advance the cause of their religion, Mrs S and I are safe and sound. We’re more at risk from some of the local rogue skateboarders. Seriously.

Being ten degrees cooler than up in Cairns comes as a bit of a relief. Much as the lack of sunshine is a little bit disappointing, we’re enjoying the free tram travel throughout the city centre north of the Yarra river. Which means we will be watching the fireworks from somewhere in town. Not sure from where, as the city Fathers (Mothers? Who actually gives a shit, really? It’s a freaking free New Years firework display) have decided that there are to be several sites. All we have to do is stroll out of the hotel lobby, round the corner and watch the show tonight.

The local Police have determined that there shall be a ‘ring of steel’ around the city centre so we mere mortals who just want some old fashioned fun as opposed to the miserablist regime of those who claim to represent the religion of being blown to pieces can do so without too much aggravation. No one, at least anyone with any sense, would give a monkeys about any religion if they didn’t want to kill everyone who disagrees with them.

Speaking of aggravation, if like me you don’t like hard sell, avoid the Italian Restaurants in Hardware Lane. The restaurateurs who inhabit this one little bit of Melbourne take the absolute Biscotti with added double Espresso. Seriously, talk about pushy, we had trouble getting half way down the bloody street. It’s not that the food isn’t all right, it was just the sheer in yer face insistence that pissed me off. The only thing that kept me from flipping the whole damn lot the bird and walking away this evening was Mrs S. One guy followed us half way down the bloody street for heavens sake. Guess where I won’t be going back to?

Today is street market day at Queen Victoria Street market. Which might seem a little strange, but I love street markets. There’s a vibe, a buzz that goes with them that I find somehow seriously addictive. Might even visit the Old Melbourne jail where they hanged notorious bushranger Ned Kelly.

G’day mates.

Minor hitches

Have somehow managed to pick up a small case of sore throat. Perhaps I mistook it for a large case of beer. I don’t know. Must see if I need glasses. Which has led to a mildly unpleasant 48 hours. However my mild fever has broken and aside from a minor frog and a few aches and pains, that’s it.

Seriously chums it’s too darned hot, it really is. The temperature feels like the low forties Celsius, which I’m told is usual for this time of year, and the humidity even has the Wallabies in hiding. I’ve been tasked with pootling down the the local ‘Bottle-o’ (Off licence or liquor store) and keeping the ‘Eskies’ or cool boxes full of beer topped up with ice for tonights party. Which in the words of Jonah Lewie, is why you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties. Why? Well you wouldn’t want me to report that some crafty so and so had scarfed all the best vino now would you?

The Stepkids on the other hand are thriving on this oppressive heat. By thriving I mean they’re using the pool sunbathing and making themselves useful for their antipodean Aunt and Uncle.

TTFN

Regards.

A very hot and sticky Bill. Merry Christmas, solstice, Yule, whatever.