London…..Moira has landed! (And she’s eventually writing about it!)

After two smooth, uneventful flights, and a restful night in Seoul, I landed over an hour early at London Heathrow airport. It was then an easy (but long) ride on the Tube to Leicester Square station. On exiting the station, I knew that I was indeed in London! Busy people everywhere! I had a short, but enjoyable, walk to Charing Cross station, and then it was off to Hither Green station and the home of my nephews.

By now, my body clock was on 3 am (Seoul time) and I was starting to feel weary. I alighted the train at Hither Green and discovered I was on the platform that needed me to walk up and over the lines…..quite a few steps! Sigh! But…lo and behold! There was a beloved nephew waiting for me, to carry that big suitcase up and over! Hooray!

After some hugs, a much needed cup of tea and minimal chats, it was up the stairs to the loft, to the view of the city of London out of the window and to sleep!

This was actually my last ever visit to this home…..a place where I have been so kindly looked after for quite a few years now.

Yes, my nephews have sold their home (that’s not their portaloo!) They have bought a detached, bigger home with more yard, a bit further south! So on my return from the Cotswolds, I will be getting off the train at a different station.

It just so happened that my first day in London was young mr T’s last day at his old school….not just breaking up for summer but for ever! His school has a tradition that on their last day of primary school, the year 6s and their families go to the nearby park, have picnics and endlessly squirt each other with water pistols. This has gradually morphed into anyone from the school and their families joining in……so we did!

We finished the day with a very delicious bbq, joined by another couple of friends from LA. (And T had a warming shower after all that squirting!!)

Bright and early the next morning my nephews, the LA visitors, a car and a camper van set off for 3 days of a music festival in Essex. After a leisurely start to my day, I caught the train into the city of London and visited somewhere I’ve been meaning to visit for years…..The Victoria and Albert Museum.

As it was lunch time when I arrived, I headed to the very busy cafe first, to purchase a fortifying pot of tea! As I munched on my brought-from-home lunch, and drank my tea, I chatted to the ladies either side of me…the tables were very close together! One side was a mother and daughter from Sicily, so we could talk about all things Italian, but especially Sicilian. I mentioned how I loved the Inspector Montalbano books, set on Sicily. They informed me that the author, Andrea Camilleri, had just died that day, at the age of 93! The ladies on the other side of me were English ladies who visit the V & A often. We discussed their favorite exhibits, and in the end they helped me decide what I should see. (I’m not up to doing the whole V & A!!) One lady had the Glass as her favourite section, the other’s favourite was Jewellery. So Glass and Jewellery it was!I thought by consulting the above sign that it would be an easy task to find my first choice….Glass! But little did I know that level 3 is not 1 straight forward level…oh no! I went up stairs, around corners, downstairs, up stairs again, through alley ways and eventually found Glass. This means, of course, that I actually saw all of level 3, albeit some areas quickly! Glass was last! (Of course) Here is my wanderings in photos…..

And then I found the glass…..

My photos don’t reflect the beauty of this gallery well enough, but I enjoyed it all.

I then set off in search of Jewellery, which I found quite easily; but so had many, many others and it looked too squeezey to be able to see, so I gave it a miss.

By now, I had wandered around the museum for at least 3 hours and I was exhausted, so I decided to call it a day! As entry is free, I will return again, maybe first thing in the morning, and visit some more sections of this amazing museum.

And I’m up, up and away!

So, here I am at gate 61…..about to board my flight to Seoul, part 1 of my trip to the UK.

Just had a lovely 2 and a bit days in Sydney…catching up with most of the family ( those that were around. ) I also repacked, did washing and slept a lot!!

Now I’m leaving my car in the good care of my first born niece, along with all my stuff for Kiama!

Her husband was flying out to Melbourne at a similar time this morning, so I was even escorted on my bus and train trip!( And case carried up stairs!)

Now…. I’ve had a coffee, I’ve been through passport control, through the new style security, through the long boarding tunnel

And now, after 5525 steps, I’m in my seat and ready to fly!

Yay! Thank you Father for bringing all this about so smoothly! Good bye my dear friends and family! See you soon.

Luverly London : 2 and 3.

One of the reasons London is lovely is because I’m staying here with family! It is so good to be with loved ones in amongst meeting new people whilst travelling, and the boys look after me soooo well.

My week back in London ( stay 2) started off very action packed….

Firstly, I needed to return my hire car to the nearby Europcar place, then..

We caught the train into the city, had a delicious chickeny lunch, followed by an excellent coffee!

Followed by the matinee performance of “School of Rock”, which was enjoyed by all 4 of us!!

Then on return to their lovely home…

It was the annual Street party, with all the neighbours. Simon’s cake came third in the cake competition, but was the winner in my eyes!

Needless to say ( but I’ll say it anyway!) I was very tired on Sunday and had a lazy , PJ kind of morning. But I did have the energy to photograph T’s work with Lego.

I then caught the train into Westminster and attended the 3 pm evensong @ the Abbey. It was more special than usual, as it was the last Sunday for the choir boys before summer break and 3 were leaving the Abbey school. Their parents and families were all there, as well as extra visitors like me! The singing was superb, and whilst it’s not my normal kind of church, I’m glad I went. It’s an incredible piece of architecture!!

I came home to a delicious bbq, eaten outside in the summer evening warmth.

On Monday, I finally ticked an excursion off my “Must do in London” list. I walked from the boys’ home in Hither Green to Greenwich. A very pleasant walk, which I started after dropping T off at school, before the day got too hot! The route is mostly via parks, with some leafy residential streets along the way and a commercial Street in Blackheath. ( Where I stopped for refreshments. )

I was stunned to see brown grass as I got to Greenwich Park…a sight I’d never seen in the UK before!

I kept on walking through Greenwich Park, past many other tourists, and school groups; past flower beds, the Greenwich Observatory, paused for a pot of tea, and my picnic lunch, then continued on , with amazing views of the city of London before me! I passed the line signifying Greenwich Mean Time and walked down the hill to the Queen’s house and the Maritime museum.

I finished off my adventure with a walk through Greenwich until I found the DLR station, from where I caught 2 trains home! To say I was pooped is an understatement! But I’d finally done it!! And enjoyed the excursion too!!

Tuesday dawned late for me, after my big day on Monday, but after doing my washing, I ventured out for a shorter adventure: Notting Hill and Portobello Road. Never having explored this London “village” before, it was fun to walk from the station, past some swanky homes and around the suburb made famous by the movie of the same name! Although it wasn’t a market day, there were enough stalls and shops plying their wares, that I got the idea!! A great afternoon, and I found “the” bookshop!!

Wednesday was a quiet stay at home day, apart from taking Mr T to school and picking him up afterwards. My big effort was to cook dinner that night…chicken snitzels with roast vegetable salad! The boys approved, methinks!

I had somewhere else on my “to do” list that I wished to visit today…the Chelsea Physic garden. My good friend, SAR, had told me about this amazing garden years ago and today was my day to see it!! Yay! I walked past the Chelsea Pensioners’ home on the way and caught a Scottish send off for one of its clients.

I continued my walk and spied on some cricketers and found where Oscar Wilde had once lived.

Finally, I found it!

I then spent a lovely 3 hours ( at least) here, including a very informative ( free) tour along with only 2 others…1 each from Melbourne & Sydney! My picnic lunch has never been eaten in such beautiful surroundings. As the above sign states, this garden has been around since 1673, and was established to study and preserve plants that were both good and bad for human health. It’s on an amazing ( & valuable) plot of land, that backs onto the Thames, and is, of course, in Chelsea!! A wonderful afternoon…. Followed by a walk along the Thames for some distance and then I met the 3 Boys for end of school year celebratory burgers, in Covent Garden! Along with the other million Londoners and tourists enjoying the summer evening! πŸ˜‚

The next day was my pack up, leave and travel by train to the Cotwolds day! So that’s what I did!! I left from Paddington station so I couldn’t resist a little Bear hunt!

So that ended my Second visit to London!

And the Third visit was very short, restful and low key. I arrived on Wednesday evening, after my house sit and 2 days in Oxford and then spent the next 2 days, washing, almagamating all my bits and pieces into luggage I could carry, eating well and last-time chatting with my family.

Suddenly, it was late Friday afternoon and time for me to catch the train into the city, then head off by another train in a north easterly direction to Harwich, where I was catching the night ferry to the Hook of Holland! That is , where I JUST managed to catch the ferry, after missing a connection, not finding a taxi and…….well that’s another story!! 😊

Housesitting : Cotwold’s style!

Having stayed in The Old House as a guest last year, it was no surprise at how beautiful this place is!

But there were still lots of adventures and surprises ahead for me in the fortnight to come! That’s the joy of Housesitting really, the surprises!

I arrived by train to Moreton-in-marsh, and was picked up by Mr Dee and 1 of the 2 Dee daughters. After a great sleep in a new room that wasn’t available last year ( The Office), I spent Day 1 learning the ropes before the owners ( the Dees) left for their holidays early the next day.

Mrs Dee gave me a wonderful colour coded spreadsheet to help me know what’s what! This was not going to be like any other Housesit I’d done…as well as the pets……There was a huge , beautifully weeded and maintained garden; mostly self sufficient but the zucchinis needed watching and constantly picking before they got too big and so did the French beans!

Then, there were the constant flow of guests….The Old House has 2 double bedrooms with ensuites, the pink room and the yellow room, and these include a continental breakfast.

Then there’s the self catering room, called The Office, that’s at the back of the house, with a lovely new ensuite and a currently-being-built verandah between the room and the bathroom.

Next door to the Old House is The Cottage…a self catering home with room for 5 guests, with kitchen, dining room, lounge & 2 bathrooms.

There’s no way that I could have managed all this by myself, of course! But I didn’t have to, thanks to the presence of Mrs Dee’s (Bulgarian) aunt , Jana. She lives there with the Dees and does the cleaning and the washing of sheets and towels, making up of beds, and the continental breakfast usually, so she continued with those jobs. That left me to do ” front of house”, welcome the guests, explain the “rules” and facilities and generally answer questions. Jana is not confident with her English, so hence that being my job!! As I explained to our guests: Jana did all the work and I did all the talking!! I did, however, help with the hanging out of laundry, feeding & watering of the animals, shutting up the chooks at night, collecting eggs, picking beans, zucchinis and any other vegetables we needed and walked up to check on the horses each day. I was also the driver! The Dees generously gave me 1 of their cars to use and I took Jana to places she needed to go, did shopping and also used it for my personal use.

Jana and I turned out to be a very good team! We worked well together and had many laughs!! She learnt some new English words, albeit with an Australian pronunciation!! I learnt a few Bulgarian words and we taught each other much about our respective countries. We were very thankful for the constant intervention of Google Translate, which helped us sort out quite a lot!!

I got to eat a lot of Bulgarian food and I cooked a couple of my favourite dishes for her. But the thing that bonded us most, was becoming Chicken Grandparents together!! One of the hens was broody so Mr Dee sat her on a clutch of 7 eggs, in her special house by the back door. Jana watched over her and made sure she ate and drank and then 6 days after the Dees left, the chickens started to hatch! 3 black ones with little white top knots and 1 yellow chicken!! Yay!

We set about building a safe environment for them to grow up in! After shifting their house around a couple of times, we happened upon the perfect spot and then built walls and a chicken wire roof and made it as fox proof as possible! We also encouraged the hen in her parenting role, as she was doing a great job! They are bilingual chickens as they were spoken to often in both Bulgarian and in English. What fun!!

Of course, it wasn’t all work and no play! Jana had a day off each week , where I supervised the breakfast, and packed up afterwards. She visited Leamington Spa one day and went to 2 National Trust homes with her friend, Elaine, the other. Plus she had a couple of other half days of shopping in Moreton-in-marsh.

For myself, I went 4 times to Stratford-upon-Avon to see plays! 2 by Shakespeare and 2 by other playwrights, but all performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. What treats they were! The first time, I went in the afternoon, wandered around, then had dinner before seeing Miss Littlewood. The other 3 times, I left “home”about 6 pmish ( having welcomed the new guests!) and indulged in coffee and cake before seeing : Macbeth, The Duchess of Malfi and The Merry wives of Windsor. Wonderful, wonderful and what an opportunity! It’s only 20 mins drive to Stratford-upon-Avon, and the parking was only Β£2 each time!!!!

Were there any difficulties?? Not many really….1 lot of guests got under Jana’s skin for some reason so I needed to do a lot of placating, the garden started to get quite dry with all the glorious summer weather, but that was easily fixed with a hose or watering cans but generally things went along well. Except for the last Friday!! There was no water! No water for our home , no water for Hidcote Boyce ( our little village) , no water for the surrounding district! No water all day!! This news was received well by one room of guests but the others were a little put out!! Oh well! Our biggest concern , however, was flushing the toilets and Jana had 2 rooms to clean! There were spare sheets and towels so not being able to wash that day was survivable! So, we went and had morning tea with Jana’s friend Elaine, who lives at the top of the village. ( It’s a street really, Hidcote Boyce) Then I had a brainwave… Why don’t we cart water from the spring up near the horses, down to the house for toilet flushing and bathroom cleaning! So we did! We found a large bucket, 2 large watering cans and 1 small watering can, and we carted water. I convinced Jana that as she was doing the cleaning, I should walk up and down the street with the water receptacles! Once all was clean and sorted , we left a watering can in by each toilet, for flushing!! Just as I’d convinced myself that a quick wash would be fine before the theatre, the water came on about 5 pm! Praise God! So I could actually have a shower! Yay!

I had some lovely visitors whilst I was in Hidcote Boyce, too! Simon, Adrian, Tyler and an aunt and uncle of Adrian’s from Adelaide came and stayed for 3 nights next door in the Cottage. It was lovely to have them next door, and they enjoyed the use of our big garden, too! I was busy for some of the times so they explored a lot of the Cotswolds without me but we had a ploughman’s lunch together on the Saturday in Chipping Campden and a delicious Sunday roast at the nearby Ebrington Arms before they drove home. It was good to be able to pop in next door for a cuppa, a chat and even a meal!

As it seems to always happen, whilst the family were staying next door, I had 2 other visitors for the day also! My friend Geraldene, and her sister Erina, were staying near Heathrow airport for 3 days after a long cruise they’d been on, and before they flew home. So Lachlan organized some train tickets for them and they came to the Cotswolds for the day! We all had a lovely day, and the timing worked well with my Housesit chores. We had about 5 hours to spend, so we couldn’t see everything, but I showed them some of my favourite spots! Starting with morning tea in Moreton-in-marsh!

We drove through Stow on the Wold, Upper Slaughter, Lower Slaughter, before staying in Bourton on Water for lunch and a prolonged walk. We finished off with an icecream in Chipping Campden.

The ladies happily snapped away with their cameras and enjoyed the very scenic tour!

Then it was back to Moreton in Marsh for the ladies, to wait for their train, whilst I drove back to Hidcote Boyce, ready to welcome the next guests!!

Most days I was busy until 11am or 12 noon with jobs about the place, and I needed to be around to welcome guests from about 4 pmish; but often I’d take myself out on an excursion between those hours. ( Some days I stayed home and read, watched Netflix or slept!)

Nearby were 2 beautiful gardens open to the public….

Hidcote Manor

And Kiftsgate

One day, I went further afield to another mansion with beautiful gardens….

Baddesly Clinton

My favourite nearby town was Chipping Campden… beautiful buildings, historic buildings, interesting shops, a deli/cafe that sold great coffee, many pubs and eating places, a library staffed with 2 wonderful ladies and 2 huge churches….

The list could go on and on, but I should finish now, methinks!

I’ll leave you all with some photos of the village of Hidcote Boyce, a small village but with some wonderful homes, mostly beautifully restored, or currently being restored. There’s even 1 thatched cottage…with a post box in it’s wall, which is serviced 6 days a week by the postman! In case you haven’t guessed, I’ll state the obvious…..I loved my time at The Old House!

Music, mountains and memories in Wales: Part 2.

Mountains and memories.

So many of my life memories have involved Wales over the years. The first I heard of Wales, ( that I remember) was in 1969, when Mum, Dad and I watched the investiture of Charles, as Prince of Wales, on tv. Next, in 1971, on my first day of high school I sat next to a girl ( Karen) who became my bestie all through high school. She had emigrated from Wales when she was 9 and I loved to hear her tales! Then one of my sister’s travelled to Wales a couple of times and shared her experiences, which also wet my appetite. As I mentioned previously, a niece travelled to Wales with her choir to compete in the Llangollen Eisteddfod. Lastly, when I first went to Orroroo as a teacher, one of my colleagues ( later my husband!) rode on most of , if not all, the Little trains of Wales and described them in great detail, and with great enjoyment!

So, I had all these memories swimming around in my head as I headed to Wales!

I visited the town my friend grew up in,and drove around her area. But sadly I couldn’t get any photos in Cwmbran, as I chose to go there in a peak hour traffic time and there was nowhere to pull over! But I have it all in my mind! Sorry Karen!

I also ate some of the Welsh food from Karen’s childhood…faggots, mashed potatoes, peas and onion gravy ;bread pudding and my favourite; Welsh cakes!!

I visited Caenarfon, and walked around the Castle walls, having my daily flat white in the Castle’s shadow..

I tried to find my sister’s favourite spots…with an especially picturesque drive to a little village in the mountains looking for the White Horse Inn that she fondly remembered. I found the village, with spectacular scenery, and the renamed White Horse Inn, closed and undergoing renovations.

Near there, was Betws-y-Coed, a delightful mountain town, recommended by a nephew & his partner, as their favourite town in North Wales. And I could see why, gorgeous!

Also included in my Welsh wanderings was another couple of catch-ups with some of my Shropshire friends, the Scotts. I travelled through beautiful Snowdonia to visit Dan at his wonderful work place, at Pensarn. We then had a wonderful walk along a sandy beach at Harlech, followed by fish and chips next to the impressive Harlech Castle. An extremely picturesque day, and great to see where Dan hangs out!

Later on, as I drove from North Wales to South Wales I stopped for lunch with Claire, Jacob and Isaac, in Aberystwyth, viewed Claire’s art studio and then wandered the streets looking for the perfect coffee with the boys! ( After an extremely dodgy episode of parking the car!!)

And then there were the trains! Unlike Malcolm, I didn’t travel on all of the little trains ( and there’s quite a few!!) but I did go on 2 : the Ffestiniog railway (where I travelled from Ffestiniog to Porthmadog and return)and the Mt Snowdon railway! ( From Llanberis to the summit of Mt Snowdon and return) The scenery enjoyed from the train windows was wonderful in both cases….but going up Mt Snowdon was breathtaking!! It was quite a hot day by Welsh standards (30Β°) and the little carriage of 8 of us was warm, but we could see forever… the coastline, to distant mountains and close, down valleys and across fields…. amazing! And all the while, the rack and pinion railway (I think that’s what Malcolm said!) pulled us higher and higher! Unlike many visitors who reach the top of Mt Snowdon ( by foot or train) we had an absolutely clear view from the top also! No clouds at all. What a great trip, it was so worth it! To top it off, the pay and display ticket machine in the car park wasn’t working so I even had free parking!

Travelling from Aberystwyth to Cardiff, I chose the scenic route, via the Pembrokeshire coastline, which didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed a break in a pretty little part of Fishguard along the way.

And then there was the capital city of Wales, Cardiff…I enjoyed some great days exploring by boat, by bus and by foot, involving many stops for coffee or tea, or to visit a library!

Except for my day of driving through the beautiful Brecon Beacons national Park,and except for visiting the “book town”of Hay-on-Wyeand finding Karen’s hometown of Cwmbran, I mostly pottered around on Cardiff’s efficient public transport system of buses that passed very near my AirBnB’s door!

Thank you, Wales! Apart from being much warmer and drier than anyone had told me about…you didn’t disappoint! I now have my own myriad of memories to add to those from my past! 😊

PS: I haven’t titled each photo individually, but you can ask me about them on my return!

Music, mountains and memories….in Wales. Part 1.


It seems that I’ve known about the Llangollen international musical Eisteddfod forever. A niece’s choir had once competed there, others had talked of it, and so when I knew that I was visiting Wales, I searched for dates for this year’s Eisteddfod and wonderfully it was when I was going to be around, yippee!! I bought a day pass for the Wednesday, as that was when I left Shropshire to move onto Wales, thinking, I’ll leave about 5 pmish and then drive on to my Airbnb 1.5 hours north of Llangollen, arriving in daylight. Well, at least that was the plan…!! Once I arrived at the beautifully situated car parkI was entranced! There were so many people from so many places!! There was a splendiferous choice of food and beverages with friendly and helpful people serving it. Music was everywhere, on little stages placed all around the extensive grounds. Small groups, large groups, adults, children and youth, some singing, some dancing and some playing instruments, classical, jazz, modern and traditional. And this was all before I entered the huge pavilion where the countless categories of competitions took place! It was music heaven! To top it off, when I first sat down in the Pavilion, I was pleased to see the current event was Primary school choirs! Perfect!

The day’s programme in the Pavilion had reached an end by 4 pm but I was reluctant to leave this musical feast. I went and enquired about cost and availability for a ticket for that night’s concert, found out it was within my budget! I quickly sent a text to my Airbnb host telling him that I wouldn’t be arriving until late at night, not to wait up and went back in and continued the party! I found a high school band from Brisbane playing on a side stage, followed by an excellent jazz quintet and then some folk singing Opera excerpts! Wow! And then the concert….. 2 world class pianists ( a man from Sweden and a woman from Wales) played amazing works for 4hands…brilliant! ( On impressive looking/sounding grand pianos!) They were followed by the 3 finalists in the under 28(?) solo vocal competition. Wow!

To end a thoroughly stupendous day, we, the audience, along with many on stage sang an old Beatles song ( we’ll get by with a little help from our friends) in unison with other “choir’s” around the UK, to help celebrate the NHS turning 70!

This is my little hire car at 10:19 pm as I reluctantly left Llangollen and ventured on to my Airbnb. It’s very interesting driving through a country you don’t know, to a place you don’t know, at night! But thanks to Google maps I got there, safely, with only 1 unplanned detour! I quietly tiptoed up to my clearly labelled room, with only PJs and toothbrush, and was in bed by 1 am! What a day!!! 😊

The next few days I had a marvellous time exploring North Wales and it’s beauty, and I’ll share this in future posts; but on Saturday, the final day of the Llangollen international musical Eisteddfod, I found myself wending my way through the very scenic country side ( at least I could see it this time!!) back to Llangollen for a second helping of my music feast!!

Saturday held promise of yet more musical goodness! First off, I watched 6 different cultural groups perform songs, dances and instrumentals which told a story about their particular culture. Great performances from India ( x2), Ireland, Indonesia, Scotland and Zimbabwe. Sadly, my programme book is not here with me so you’re spared great details of the performers, their marks from the judges, and who won the prizes!! And also, the above 6 photos do not do the groups any justice. Sorry!

Next up, was the open choir competition…there were 17 competing choirs, from around the globe, each singing up to 12 minutes ( or was it 8?) of songs; 2 songs or 3, depending on the song! It was a long time to sit and listen, and I did miss 1 choir for a toilet and tea break, but it was wonderful, nevertheless! There was an amazing array of music sung…some presented dramatically, some traditional in presentation, whilst others had intricate moves that complimented their songs. Although a lot were in English, many were sung in that country’s own language, or in the composer’s language, or a mixture of them all. The costumes, too, were many and varied; sombre, bright, thick or thin, we saw them all! Oh what fun! I’m not sure how the adjudicators got through it, but they did! Funnily enough, I often agreed with their choices!

But to finish it off on a high note ( figuratively speaking, that is!) , we were entertained with the male voice choirs, and superb they were!! The winners of this section happened to be one of the Welsh choirs…well deserved indeed!

Sadly, without my programme, I am unable to remember how many choirs exactly, but around 6 or 7. They , too, had a time constraint and most choirs sang 2 or 3 songs. If you’re thinking that it would have been a programme of was anything but! The men came from around the world, were in different sized choirs, sang a variety of music, stood still or did actions, wore suits, or did not; but the quality of the presentations was superb.

By the time we heard the judges’ scores and comments, the prizes were handed out, and we were quickly “guided” out of the huge pavilion, it was getting close to 7 pm. That night’s grand finale concert started at 7:30 pm, so organizers were quickly setting up for that, but this time I did not stay…time to drive back to my bnb in daylight and flop into bed.

I was privileged to have had 2 days of wonderful, world class music. But in addition to that, the organisation was world class, too! I have never seen such constantly clean & tidy toilets at an event with so many people. With beautiful fresh flowers, too! So, too, the whole grounds. The whole Llangollen community participated in some way , including school children of all ages. They sold programmes, picked up litter, worked as ushers, collected tickets, answered questions, parked cars, looked after guests and more! All with smiles! It was most impressive! Thank you, Llangollen, it was a wonderful Eisteddfod! A wonderful, once-off experience!!

Social Shropshire!

It’s hard to believe there was a time when I didn’t know where the English county of Shropshire was….and I didn’t know anyone there! It all started to change in 2014 when I stayed overnight at an Airbnb in Minsterly ( near Shrewsbury) with a lady called Jo, and her husband Nigel. It was just a quick overnight stay to break the journey from the Lake district to Brighton. We got along famously! And I also realized that there was some stunning countryside to explore….next time, I said to Jo!

Next time turned out to be last year, in 2017! This time I stayed for 3 nights, and armed with my hosts’ suggestions I explored wonderful countryside, ( Long Mynd, Church Stretton) saw a very old bridge at Ironbridge and explored Brother Cadfael territory in Shrewsbury. And our friendship grew!

As I was leaving, I asked for a church to go to nearby. Jo suggested Pontesbury Baptist, and I went! I met a couple whose son was about to embark on a year of study at Adelaide University! Amazing! We swapped email addresses, I told them the name of my church, arranged to catch up with their son, Jacob, and thus started another friendship in Shropshire! With the Scott family! ( And especially Jacob)

Some time after this fortuitous meeting, I travelled around the Hebridean islands with 5 other passengers! 2 of these, Brian & Beryl, live in Shropshire! So that’s 3 lots of friends I needed to catch up with this year in Shropshire!! And I had a great time doing so!

I stayed 4 nights this time with Jo and Nigel and we enjoyed catching up on each other’s doings over a cuppa or 2! Jo also gave me a whistle stop tour of old mining areas near her home, including some spectacular views down narrow little lanes and old churches bristling with history. She also shared a lot of family history and that of the area.

On Sunday, I revisited Pontesbury Baptist church, but not as a stranger this time! It felt like going home! And I knew 13 members of the congregation! After a wonderful service, I went back to Asterly for lunch and an afternoon with the Scotts. As is usual with busy families, 4 of the family were driven to Shrewsbury to play in a brass band by their Dad, so a smaller group of Scotts and I sat down to a scrumptious lunch in the garden. We talked, drank tea, talked, the musicians arrived home, we ate chocolate from Adelaide and goodies from Egypt ( Dave had just returned from there) , talked, drank coffee, and then…….Jacob arrived home from Australia!!! His Dad had collected him from Bristol airport. So we talked a little more and then I left them to it! What a lovely day with a lovely family! ❀️

The next two days in Shropshire I spent with Brian & Beryl! Each day they picked me up in their car and we explored a wide variety of Shropshire’s delights!

We walked up and along the Stiperstones, going past the Devil’s chair and with amazing views of surrounding countryside.

After a refreshing cuppa, we then drove around in search of Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle! It was proving to be elusive but a local Walker put us on the right path and we found it !!! Along with more stunning views and some amazing native orchids!

By then , we were tired, hungry, thirsty ( our water all gone!) and 2 of us had streaming eyes and noses from Hayfever, so we found a lovely little pub and had an early dinner! 2 pint glasses of iced soda water helped my thirst and scratchy throat! So good! ( And the food was too! ) My kind tour guides delivered me home at about 6.30pm, whereupon I took myself straight to bed…..tired but happy!

Our touring on the second day took us from an 11th century Abbey ruins, to 1st and 2nd century Roman bath house and settlement ruins to a wonderful 18th century manor with surrounding parklands. So much history, and all within a few miles of each other.

Stop 1:The Haughmond Augustinian Abbey.

I wonder if the skilled craftsmen who built this huge edifice, and carved the statues ever thought that people would be admiring their work a thousand years later!

Stop 2: Wroxeter Roman City.

Ok, so we’ve now stepped back another thousand years…to see the remains of the 4th largest City in Roman Britain……….Viroconium it was then called! It was originally built as a legionary fortress but later became a thriving civilian city. Absolutely amazing…and the restoration and cataloguing of still-being -found ancient bits and pieces is expertly managed by English Heritage. As well as all the signage, audio tour, displays…all very well done.

Stop 3: Attingham Park: built in 1785.

After a refreshing cup of tea, and a slice of Bakewell tart, we spent quite a long time looking through the big house! As with many country houses the fortunes of the Family rose and fell over the years and most of the artworks and antiques were sold to pay debts! Then the National Trust took it on last century and have gradually bought back treasures and restored much of the home to its former glory. Whilst we visited, there was an interesting display about the home’s use as an adult education college after WW2, with photos and commentaries from past students. As you’ll see from the above photos, I found the huge kitchen, pantry and staff areas in the basement fascinating!

We then had a short walk outside to see the newly restored walled garden. During the last 10 years the staff and volunteers have worked hard to bring the huge walled garden back to life, with fruit, vegetables and flowers now filling 3/4 of it. I think this rabbit was looking for the walled garden too!

By then, we were pooped! So we found the car and drove to B & B ‘s home where we sat and recovered with a cooling drink and nibbles in their small, but very productive back garden.

After a delicious dinner prepared for us by Beryl, they then drove me home through the evening gloom!

So there you have it… My very sociable adventures in Shropshire!!

Luverly London : 1.

When I see this sight out of my Loft window, I know I’m in one of my “happy places”. The glow in the distance is Canary Wharf, London, and I’m at my nephew’s home in Hither Green! I’m staying at S. A. & T.’s home 3 seperate times this holiday, and it’s always a joy!

I started my time in London by going to the dentist! Yes, that’s right! Nearly all the way from Adelaide to London I had a very sore mouth. I messaged my nephew ( from Dubai) and he kindly got an appointment at his dentist for my first day in London. My thoughts were confirmed, an infection in the gum around my tooth implant. Some antibiotics, special mouth wash and 5 days later it was better! Hooray! ( And not too expensive either)

Apart from walking to and from the dentist, finding the best local cafe and picking T up after school, that was my first day in London!!

The next day I decided to hunt for elephants…. And I found 3!!

Elephant Parade is a world wide organisation that raises funds for, and awareness of, the rescue and care of Asian elephants. It involves artists world wide and involves an “Elephant Parade” in various major cities, followed by auctions. I’ve managed to catch this one in London. I found these 3 today, but have plenty more to hunt out later!!

These 3 beauties were near to other streets and squares and shops in London that I hadn’t explored before! Often, they are places I’ve read about in books, or from past or present news, or places that had been recommended by others. What a joy to be wandering around London. Here’s a snapshot ( or 2!) of some of those spots.

This last photo is too small to see what amused me, I think….the 2 blue plaques on the buildings…1 for George Frederic Handel living ( and dying ) there and the other was to say Jimmy Hendrix lived there! Both musos…with contrasting styles!!!

Friday dawned warm and sunny again ( but after a lovely cool, good-for-sleeping night) but I just pottered around “home”, sorting and repacking, washing and having a little walk to the coffee shop. After S came home from work we walked to pick up T and then walked onto a beautiful, local park. It was a perfect afternoon to be out, and T found friends to play with. A bit later on, A walked down to meet us in the park with very yummy, wood-fired pizzas! What a perfect end to a lovely Summer’s day! 😊

Dubai: city of many contrasts.

The contrasts are not just between old and new buildings, rich and poor people, heat of outside ( 38Β°) and air-conditioning of inside..there are many contrasts between what locals do, and where they shop and places for tourists, with contrasting prices as well!!

I like to think I act as much like a local as possible in most places, but is does get tricky when one is in a transit city after a 12 hour flight and one is very tired!!!

For example: like the locals, I recharged my Nol card in the ticket machine, ( approx$7) with local money from an ATM, before catching the auto, driverless train to my hotel.The trip went well, I got off at the correct station ( world trade centre) , shunned the suggested taxi ( I could see my hotel in the near distance) and walked the 10 mins to my cool ( temperature wise) hotel!

But having booked in 6 hours earlier than check in time at 7:30 am( no problem Madam) , to my very reasonably priced hotel Ibis, I then blew all my good work by being a tourist and buying the $22 hotel buffet breakfast! Because I was tired and hungry and jet lagged!!

After a restorative breakfast, shower and sleep, I then headed out for an afternoon’s exploration of the older area of Dubai, some souks, the Dubai creek and just a general wander around. Last time in Dubai, I went up the tallest building in the world, went for a desert safari and dinner and visited a couple of upmarket shopping malls.

So off I went, and just before the Gold souk ( souq) , I was hungry again!! Ah, some local dates and almonds would be good! I popped into a little shop which sold both( and Saffron madam!) , But obviously for gullable tourists and the charming man tried to convince me I needed 1 kg of each!! “Oh no, just a little please, ” I said, “just 100 gm of both”. Somehow or other I ended up with far more than 100g, but thankfully not as much as 500g!! He threw in some free chocolates(?) and asked for 250 madam! 250dirham!!! What? That sounds a lot, but I paid and left, and then discovered I’d paid $92!!! Thankfully, the dates are succulent! I hope that my family in London like dates and almonds!!!! ( The free (?) chocolates were delicious)

Later in my wanderings, I needed more water and I spied a little van being used by locals, some buying large (1.5 l) bottles of water…perfect! I asked for a large bottle of cold water and a banana, and the man asked for 250, madam! Surely not!! Is it because I’m not a local? Then the man next to me pointed to my 5 dirham note and said “that’s enough”. Oh, he meant 2.50! That’s better! For 92c, I had a huge bottle of water and a delicious banana! Yay! That’s more like it!

I’d read in a travel article, that the best way to cross Dubai Creek was to travel like the locals, on a little boat called an Abra, for the cost of 1 dirham (about 37c). So I did!

It was wonderful! As always, it was cooler and very pleasant on the water, and one got to see some of the older parts of the city. There are lots of Abra waiting and you are directed to which one is leaving next. When the Abra is full, it leaves!! It was a very pleasant 10-15 minutes.

I then walked around the textile souk, where I got very expert at saying ” no thank you! ” “From Australia, yes, we have Kangaroos!” ” No , I don’t want a pashmina” All with a smile, of course! How exhausting!! 😊