Category Archives: England

From OMG to OILS!

May I just say — the roller coaster nature of life some days/weeks/months lately is adding to my quotient of grey hair. And smoothing out to much milder dips and swoops would be rather nice.

Two days ago, I discovered that thousands of dollars had disappeared into thin air — out of our bank account in a scheduled transfer — but then missing from the destination bank. Minor panic and some genuine anxiety set in. It wasn’t until last night when I could call across the world at 10 PM to that bank that was just opening at 9 AM in Australia that I discovered what had transpired. Apparently quite a lot of people were left feeling just an anxious as me when their own transactions also disappeared into thin air.

My personal explanation to my husband’s parents this morning? “The bank farted!”

There must have been some sort of security situation for the bank to completely lock down bank transfers — but five days later — the money was all back in our accounts and we had to REPEAT the original transactions. Can you imagine how many people were inconvenienced who were buying houses or businesses or cars or doing something much more complicated than our own personal banking? Still, it’s an uneasy sensation to not know what the heck is going on with your OWN money. A serious OMG moment.

Then today, a friend in France sent me an update from Brittany Ferries about an issue that might affect our own sailing in a few days. Under the ‘you couldn’t make this up if you tried’ category — the harbour in Portsmouth had been SHUT because an unexploded World War II bomb had been discovered this morning!

“Portsmouth to Caen/Ouistreham – Caen/Ouistreham to Portsmouth
16/11/2016 – We’re sorry to inform you that your sailing from Caen/Ouistreham to Portsmouth this afternoon at 16:30 has been cancelled. An unexploded bomb has been found in Portsmouth which has resulted in the harbour being indefinitely closed and your ship is therefore unable to arrive or depart from the port. The Royal Navy are currently in the process of dealing with the situation. Please call us on +44(0)1752 648637 for advice and to discuss alternatives. Once again, we’re very sorry for this inconvenience and we thank you for your understanding.”

brittanyferriesroutemap

I called Brittany Ferries for an update as instructed on their website — the Royal Navy has snagged the bomb and are going to haul it out of the harbour late this afternoon to detonate it. They said that yes, there would be a backlog of departures and arrivals that lasted into tomorrow, but they fully expect everything to be fine within 24 hours and weekend sailings should be normal. Whew! #europeanhistoryneverreallydisappears

What put me in a ‘Happy Space’ today was having a ramble through a huge homewares store after lunch and discovering a substantial art department! The ranges of paints made me say, ‘Oooooo!’ out loud and the woman who walked by at the end of the aisle had a wee giggle at me.

oilpaintsattherange-highlarge

You just never know when you wake up lately — you never know… but there is ALWAYS an opportunity for another espresso — right?

expressoatrange-highlarge

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Sometimes You Stop — Simply Stop

When nothing is working, flowing, creating any joy or satisfaction in your life — sometimes it is necessary to stop — simply stop.

The past few years have been a bit like that and it reached a cymbal-crashing crescendo this year. We knew in our bones that we were never going to settle into Australia, our options seemed to be narrowing instead of expanding no matter how we tried to manifest change, and we finally gave in and realised that we needed to sell our JUST renovated Mid-Century house, downsize, and go back to Europe.

Mid-Century dining

Mid-Century dining

Amidst all of that, my darling husband Mark (and yes, he has given me permission to discuss this) began facing the facts about his chronic depression and anxiety and he began treatment. He hasn’t worked at all this past year and it’s been a real juggling act financially. But I don’t actually care about that because the charming sweetie that I met almost 23 years ago is back — well and truly back. Having the gift of time was a blessing and it brought a clarity that may not have arrived if he had been juggling work and 3+ hours per day of commuting. So hooray and then some!

The lovely house sold in 7 weeks, settled 8 weeks after that, and we had a lot of decisions to make about what to sell or donate or keep and ship overseas. None of that was easy, there were moments of frustration, but at the very last minute everything FLEW out the door — from cars to refrigerator to furniture. Hooray again!

On that last night before the movers arrived at 8 AM to put our now-reduced household items into a 20 foot shipping container, we each slept for 45 minutes at most. We stayed up all night long to make SURE that it was all packed and ready — and there was still an overlap in spite of our best plans.

Once the men had left and the house was clean and ready for the new owners, we took the train from Ballarat down to Melbourne and checked into a pre-booked apartment by the sea in our old neighbourhood — the beachside suburb of St. Kilda. Something told me that we would need a few days of decompression before we got onto a long-haul flight across the world — and that was more accurate than I could have imagined. I was shattered and on the verge of being seriously ill. But we slept and ate and walked in short bursts until I was just about back to normal after 5 days.

Sunday in St. Kilda

Sunday in St. Kilda

On Melbourne Cup Day, we headed for the airport HOURS ahead of time and eventually got onto our 25 hour flight towards London. By the time we arrived, we had been awake for over 40 hours!

Again, I knew that we would be two zombies when we arrived at Heathrow at lunch time on the 2nd of November, so I booked us a hotel nearby and we checked in and slept, slept, slept. The next day we headed to Mark’s parents’ house on the east coast of England. That’s where we are now — still resting, still recovering after 10 days, getting ready to leave here on Sunday.

We’ve slowly and carefully picked a new car, bought insurance, reopened accounts, sorted out the banking, purchased proper winter clothing, and done mundane things whilst being spoiled rotten by Mark’s darling family. We are feeling very blessed.

The new car...

The new car…

We’ve arrived about 5 weeks before Christmas and it is rather cheerful to shop for winter coats and shoes in gaily decorated malls — especially when the temperatures outside do actually feel Christmas-y!

christmasreindeeratroyals

These aren’t new ideas, but when life becomes overwhelming — sometimes you just HAVE to stop.

We HAD to stop fighting the fact that nothing was coming together in Australia and it was no longer a good fit for either of us. We had to stop avoiding the fact that Mark HAD to get himself back to a happy and healthy state with therapy. We HAD to have those necessary hotel breaks in Melbourne and London or these two over-50 (and then some in my own case!) folks would have been in a state of total collapse. We HAD to stop thinking we’d bounce back after 2-3 days here in England and be ‘right as rain’ in no time. Um — no — it’s taking a lot longer nowadays!

You’ll notice that I have hardly posted for the last 3 and 1/2 years compared to the stream of information and photography prior to that. Australia wasn’t our cup of tea on so many levels — and I’ll leave it at that.

I have a book to finish and it might be a few weeks until I get back into the groove of posting a few times a month — but keep watching this spot. There are NEW things on the horizon!

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Being Brave and Bouncing Back

Global turmoil and sudden economic instability are beginning to feel less like out-of-the-blue events and more like a set of ongoing challenges to deal with in perpetuity.

To look specifically at the UK and realise that the ‘architects of destruction’ — Cameron, Gove, Johnson, and Farage — have ALL resigned in the two weeks since they schemed and plotted to unravel the decades old alliance with Europe — who could have even imagined such a thing? No matter who ends up inheriting the reins of power as the successors to BREXIT, they will need to have carefully considered solutions ready to implement without delay.

Enough of politics for now…

After our ‘body-blow and mental angst’ reaction to BREXIT — my husband Mark thought he was prepared to just summon up a stiff upper lip and stay in Australia even if it wasn’t our first choice. But then, after two or three days of feeling shell-shocked by that decision, he told me that he hadn’t realised how badly he was going to feel if Europe was totally off the table as an option. That was an interesting admission from the sort of man who usually just gets on with things without whinging. I’m going to be honest — we were both wandering around in a fog and deeply depressed.

We’ve had a variety of ups and downs and rapid changes in our 22 and 1/2 years together, so it isn’t surprising that we were able to brush ourselves off, infuse ourselves with some bravery, and bounce back. It is clear now that whether or not BREXIT is ever actually enacted — there are going to be several years of transition. And during that transition period, we still have a chance to get back to Europe, get back ‘in the system’ in one country or another, and sink our roots into a part of the world that brings us joy.

I called our previously chosen real estate agent, he came over on Tuesday night and we signed our listing papers, and on Wednesday he brought the staff of his office through on a brief tour so that they knew what the house looked like and what the pertinent features were.

In the weeks ahead, I plan to keep you apprised of our progress as we hopefully sell quickly because the market is simply plummeting right now. Brexit didn’t just knock the stuffings out of the financial markets in the UK — it bounced half way around the world and punched us in the gut, too. The value of our tiny pensions have dipped, the banks are suddenly tightening up the money supply, and according to our real estate agent — the values of houses here in our town are a stunning 16% lower than they were a mere six months ago. The time to go is now — not a few years from now.

Wish us luck — seriously! Good vibes add to the energy of success and we need to summon up as much of that as possible. And where are we heading? First stop — back to our beloved France!

Watching the Tour de France on television in Australia.

Watching the Tour de France on television in Australia.

And perhaps Mark will be watching the Tour de France LIVE again next year instead of on television. He would love that.

Allons-y!

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By The Sea in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK

By the sea is where I wish I was right now. But in lieu of that reality, here’s a flashback photo essay from a trip to the lovely seaside town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk in the UK.

By the way, not ALL beaches are sandy. This one is a perfect example of that. Enjoy!

 

Medieval Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK, built in 1520, with the village memorial cross to the left.

Medieval Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK, built in 1520, with the village memorial cross to the left.


 
A seagull sitting atop one of the medieval brick chimneys on Moot Hall,.

A seagull sitting atop one of the medieval brick chimneys on Moot Hall,.


 
Fishing boats on a gravel, sometimes called shingle, beach in the UK.

Fishing boats on a gravel, sometimes called shingle, beach in the UK.


 
Close-up of a the beautifully coloured pieces of stone comprising a gravel beach, sometimes called a shingle beach, in the UK.

Close-up of a the beautifully coloured pieces of stone comprising a gravel beach, sometimes called a shingle beach, in the UK.


 

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Photo of the Day: The Overwhelming Urge To Sleep!

Giving in to the overwhelming urge for a nap, this older couple simply parked on a street in England, locked the car, and gave in to that urge. They were completely oblivious to the amused pointing and kindly laughter of everyone passing by. Sweet, eh?

 

An older couple in England were apparently overwhelmed by the urge to sleep!

An older couple in England were apparently overwhelmed by the urge to sleep!


 

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Hot Pants and Big Hair

It was such a retro look that my head fairly well snapped when I saw it on ample display in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the north of England. Really ‘Big Hair’ on women of all ages. I don’t think I’ve seen such a generous use of the teasing comb and cans of hairspray to create that sort of back-combed volume since the 1960s.

What was even funnier was that we were in a vintage bookstore at one point during our four weeks up there and there was a book on sale that was a ‘Look Back to 1960s Newcastle’ — and all of the women in that book would have been the mothers or grandmothers of the people we were seeing on the streets. Some of the folks in the North of England seem to have gotten stuck in a time warp!

Regional trends included the messy buns — the sort of teased up and pinned up look that Brigitte Bardot used to do so well — or tight buns — teased up and smoothed into not-a-hair-out-of-place firmness with gel or hairspray. And we saw this look on women from teenagers to senior citizens. We were checking out at the grocery store one afternoon and it was everything I could do to not snap a quick pic with my iPhone of the middle-aged check-out clerk who had a bright red beehive hairdo that was towering above her small face!

Then there was the range of hot pants on display (on some icy days in February?) — thankfully on the really young girls and not on the middle-aged gals who shared their love of Big Hair with a large percentage of the Newcastle demographic. Interesting too that once we returned to London and Norfolk from our month up north, we never saw a beehive, teased bun, or hotpants look down there!

Apologies for the graininess of some of these. I did snap a few of them on my phone!

 

Teased up back-combed hair on young girls in a Newcastle mall going from the most bouffant on the left to the least voluminous on the right.

Teased up back-combed hair on young girls in a Newcastle mall going from the most bouffant on the left to the least voluminous on the right. This was taken on an icy cold day at the end of February.


 
Interesting fashion and hair at the hardware superstore.

Interesting fashion and hair at the hardware superstore.


 
Two young girls with teased chunks of hair sitting on the floor in a shopping mall.

Two young girls with teased chunks of hair sitting on the tile floor in a shopping mall.


 
Hotpants (even on the coldest winter day!) and big teased up hair are very popular amongst the teenagers of Newcastle in the UK.

Hotpants (even on the coldest winter day!) and big teased up hair are very popular amongst many of the teenagers of Newcastle in the UK.


 

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Ice Cream in Winter — By The Sea?

When Mark and I met in London at the beginning of 1994, I commented one afternoon on an activity that the Brits engaged in — quite regularly — that I considered to be quite odd behaviour given the weather.

That activity? Eating ice cream — LOTS of it — usually in cone form — in the dead of winter. No matter how icy the temperatures were, we saw people in every city we visited perched on a ledge eating an ice cream cone or sitting on a bench at the seaside doing the same thing. There might be ice on the roads, occasionally even a smattering of snow, but there they sat, bundled up to the eyeballs and eating an ice cream.

What I found even odder, and sweetly funny, were the people who would drive to the seaside to purchase their ice cream from a mobile van or a beachside hut and then sit in their car with the heater running as they gobbled it down whilst watching the icy waves crashing upon the seashore.

 

Even on the coldest winter day, British people seem to love to go to the seaside to sit in their heated cars, staring at the crashing waves in freezing temperatures, and eat an ice cream cone.

Even on the coldest winter day, British people seem to love to go to the seaside to sit in their heated cars, staring at the crashing waves in freezing temperatures, and eat an ice cream cone.


 
The lighthouse at Whitley Bay, a seaside town near Newcastle UK, on a stormy winter day. B&W

The lighthouse at Whitley Bay, a seaside town near Newcastle UK, on a stormy winter day.


 

So here we were on a wintery day two years ago in the north of England, at Whitley Bay on the seacoast just outside of Newcastle. The wind was so high that afternoon that it knocked me sideways when I got out of our own vehicle! The second picture that is just of the seaside and the lighthouse is a more accurate idea of how bleak it was that day. Absolutely no one was game to sit on those seaside benches to watch the waves on that particular afternoon. Brrr!!!

But back in the parking lot — yes — the Mr. Whippy van was doing a good business. The lot near the lighthouse was full of people happy to sit with their engines running and the heater on as they ate their ice cream and watched the crashing surf beyond. Crazy, eh? Or just sweetly eccentric perhaps.

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