Monthly Archives: February 2011

Europe Travel Plans And A Health Hiatus

The bulbs are beginning to bloom in the garden as I write this from the family home in Norfolk UK. So in spite of the icy temperatures both day and night, spring certainly is on the way. A bit of a health hiatus has been forced on me and these next few lines offer a brief explanation about why nothing has been posted on either blog for several weeks.

All of my writing and photography uploads have had to go on hold for a short time because I came down with pneumonia twice in a 10 week period. I’ve been intensely ill, it’s is so BORING, and frankly, I am sick of being sick. Thank heavens for multiple rounds of strong medication, the wonderful medical care I received from the doctors and nurses at the Ballarat Base Hospital in Australia and the prompt attention of the local NHS practice here in England.

Now, for the FUN news — there are going to be some VERY interesting travel entries coming up quite shortly! We’re about to launch ourselves off into some long-term travelling and we have a wonderful first location for short-term work lined up in Edinburgh at the end of March and potentially into April. We’ll come back to Norfolk in mid-April to do the large pack-up prior to going to the Netherlands on the ferry. Then we will ramble across Germany before our next locked-in time period from the 20th of April until the first week of May in Berlin. We are quite excited about that! After that we will travel around middle-Germany for awhile and then begin to loop back toward France.

We have a longer term assignment of a month or more in Normandy that should have June and perhaps part of July sorted out. And our next very interesting “yes — please do come!” host after our time in Normandy is in rural Tuscany. I have a feeling that we will be there for more than a month as well. Right now I am on the laptop for hours every day, sitting here diligently planning all of our adventures, trying to set up a time-slot for each of the people we hear back from, and shopping for a left-hand-drive car.

We’re leaving a few gaps for pure-and-simple travel in France and I’ll be looking for some more work hosts on our way back across the country toward Italy. And before we leave France this time, we also plan to go down to the Limousin to meet a transplanted British man who is real estate agent and we’ll look at some run-down houses to potentially buy, renovate, and then sell on.

Did you know that the buying and settling/closing process in both France and England takes about 90-120 days??? There are no 30-45 day turn-around times over here the way they do it in Australia or the USA! If we find something to buy as an investment, we would put in the contract and the deposit, go off and work somewhere for awhile, and then come back a few months later when it’s time to sign on the dotted line at the notaire’s office. Sheesh!

We’re going to leave our Brit-drive car here with the family if they are fine with that and take our LHD (left hand drive) car (which we will purchase in the next week or so) over to the Netherlands on the overnight ship. We are already booked and paid for with another lovely cabin and good meals. It is so much more civilised than flying!

Mark got his British driving license this month and I just got my new NHS medical card in the post last week. Ooooo — paperwork and official documents. Such excitement! (grin!) But it just means that we are getting more and more officially European now. We have made no firm decision about where to settle and don’t plan to for many months ahead as we weigh up the housing costs and employment options in each country that we visit.

Life is good over here other than the non-stop cold & damp and the annoying chest infection. It seriously took us over a month to feel like our bodies and consciousness states had arrived in this place and weren’t floating in the ethers on the way over. And it wasn’t just me either. Mark said that he didn’t feel quite right in his body for the longest time.

Even though we have chosen this huge change and were excited about moving back here, this has still been a huge adjustment process. Something as simple as shopping in a new country has been a grand adventure (smirk!) — even for everyday things like groceries or health food items. Buying a car in England took a lot of time for paperwork and bank transfers — and don’t even get me started about how crazy it is to try and get car insurance in a timely manner!

Time to end this now and go make a nice hot cup of tea.

Hope that all is well in YOUR corner of the world!


Photo Break – A ‘Holy’ Use for Wool

She would love this, I thought to myself and then I heard myself say it aloud. I was thinking about a woman that I know who is positively obsessed with wool and the items that she can create from it.

This display in the gift shop at the St. Edmundsbury Cathedral in the town of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk actually made me chuckle out loud a bit too loudly for that subdued atmosphere and I glanced over my shoulder to see if the two elderly women at the cash register were glaring at me. Indeed, they had stopped talking, but they were smiling sweetly at my amusement.

And now for your amusement, here is what I was laughing at.

Holy Socks

Copyright ©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the copyright of all text and photos on this website. All rights reserved.

Photo Break – The White Car Eco-Initiative in Amsterdam

The White Car — an Amsterdam initiative from the 1960s through late 1970s designed to lessen traffic congestion by reducing the number of private cars in the city centre. According to the write up at the Amsterdam Historisch Museum, this was a “playful yet serious response to this problem.”

Members of the White Car Association could rent one of the cars at stations which were scattered throughout the city.

This 1960s version of a ‘car’ may not be particularly attractive, but it is very similar to the ‘green car memberships’ which exist in many larger cities around the world today. Funny little thing — isn’t it?

The White Car: a 1960s Amsterdam Eco-initiative

Copyright ©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the copyright of all text and photos on this website. All rights reserved.

The Peaceful Ghosts of Tivetshall St. Mary

The glorious front facade still stands, but quite how I do not know. The structural side walls have long since detached themselves or crumbled into the soil, yet the arches continue to soar upward and reach for the heavens. The only sound we heard that afternoon at Tivetshall St. Mary in rural Norfolk were the birds and a very distant tractor. The ruins are silent, peaceful, and not the least bit eerie.

Ruin of St. Mary's Church at Tivetshall, Norfolk, UK

How the world has transformed itself in the centuries since this structure was registered in the Domesday Book in 1086 as an already established church. It must have seemed that it would live on forever as an active parish church, but the records of 1702 indicate that there was already great concern about the amount of decay that was evident and worry about whether the church might simply fall down.

It did not fall down though and, fragile though it might have been, it stood there in a Norfolk field for over 240 more years.

East Anglia was abuzz with activity during the 1930s and 1940s as airfield after airfield was created to deal with the war in Europe. Each day, waves of military planes flew across the English Channel and then, if they were lucky, those planes returned after their bombing runs were completed. In spite of the German bombs that rained down on the East of England during World War II, the stone walls of St. Mary’s remained upright and the roof remained intact.

But a mere two years after the end of that war, a military plane flew too low over the fields one day in 1947 and pulled up at the last minute to avoid hitting the woods beyond. The staggering amount of vibration from the plane roaring overhead simply shredded the last bit of strength in the old church and the tower of the church collapsed into the nave. The roof collapsed immediately.

There were witnesses to the event who happened to be on site that day, but the military refused to take any credit for the damage or offer any compensation. The decision was made to completely abandon the church.

The tiny community of Tivetshall had long been home to two parishes and now the stained glass windows and other valuable items were stripped from St. Mary’s and moved down the road to St. Margaret’s where they were reunited with the parishioners who had already found a new home there by the late 1800s due to the safety concerns at St. Mary’s.

This is a completely serene place and well worth a stop if you are driving through the Norfolk countryside. The gravestones may be tilting from the shifting soil, the names on many of the stones have completely weathered away, and it is only when you trip over a partially sunken grave-curbstone that you realize just how many people are buried there.

An infant's or child's gravestone in St. Mary's churchyard

War memorial at Tivetshall St. Mary, Norfolk

Rather poignantly, the churchyard is strewn with a large amount of very tiny stones, most no more than 8 inches wide and 8 inches tall, for infants or children, but almost none of them are readable now.

Yet looking around at the stones of the adults, most of them lived well into their late forties, fifties, sixties — and there was the occasional tombstone indicating an eighty-plus resident.

It was a very visible testament to the fact that they were nurtured by their community and that for the most part, these people lived long and productive lives.

I am highly sensitive to such things and I can honestly say that with the single exception of the stark white war memorial for those soldiers who never came home from World War I, there was no sense of sadness, longing, regret lingering in the air of the churchyard.

There is simply an atmosphere of peace, a lovely and historic ruin, and a very sturdy bench to use whilst you sit in contemplation.

Copyright ©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the copyright of all text and photos on this website. All rights reserved.