A quick trip to Aussie.

Tuesday 26 March 2019 – Brisbane, Australia.

It is almost six weeks after the fact and I am sitting in an Air B n B in Settle, North Yorkshire drinking a glass of cheap Australian shiraz, snarfling down chocolate and pondering catching up on a couple of incomplete blog posts; or just staring blankly at Twitter. As always, it has been a busy couple of months; though at least I have got the keys to my flat now, so there has been some good news! More on that in the next post.

in mid-March I made a last minute trip to Australia (with a side visit to NZ) to see my son, Dom. He needed to spend some proper time with his dad, time I did not had on the last couple of trips back to New Zealand. Time well spent.

I flew Cathay Pacific as it was the best value I could get for the flights and times I wanted to make. I have flown with them before, more than once, and they have been pretty good. They were not bad, but I don’t think I will fly with them again, the entertainment was awful. There was one film I wanted to watch, about three I tolerated and no TV shows I had not seen or wanted to see. Not a heck of a lot for 50 or so hours of flight time, thankfully I had books and music, and the ability to zone out for short periods.

I arrived in Brisbane early morning, picked up a rental car, then Domenic, and we headed up to Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. I had rented a fairly basic beach side apartment for us for three nights. It was pretty perfect, Caloundra is not a bad spot, in fact given my hatred of Queensland it as an amazing spot. The beach is glorious, the apartment was over the road from it, there was decent coffee by the beach and some pretty good beers to be had a ten minute walk away. Things must be looking up.

We did not do a lot for the first couple of days, hung out, watched TV; I got to watch some NRL rugby league for the first time in years, which I very much enjoyed. We spent a bit of time on the beach and in the sea. The water was amazing, so warm compared to my last sea swim when I was scouting flats in St Leonards-on-Sea last summer.

I just loved the beach, golden sand, warm and soft under foot, clear warm water and small but not bad surf. I swam more times in those three days than I have in the last three years.

In an effort to keep cost down, and us out of pubs, we shopped in the local supermarket and ate in for the first two nights, only walking up to a bar near the beach in the later afternoon for one pint.

It is all pretty casual here, this is a beach town with a surfer mentality. Not used to wearing flip flop / jandal / thongs for prolonged periods I got a bit of sand / jandal rash and could not wear them for long periods without pain and bleeding. Walking barefoot on the sea front was not a problem. I liked this. I miss walking barefoot. I was the whitest person for hundreds of miles I suspect.

For our last full day we took a drive a short way inland, into the coastal hills, and the tourist road from Meleny to Mapleton. Our first stop allowed us a view over the Glasshouse Mountains.

These 13 small hills were formed million of years ago by volcanic activity. The cool thing is that these hills were not pushed out of the earth, erosion over million years left these very hard rock hills behind.

We spent half the day cruising around the area visiting a few scenic places. My favourite was the almost dry waterfall at Mapleton Falls. We took a bush walk among the trees and I really liked these massive palm trees. The name of them has long been forgotten unfortunately.

We also discovered this very unafraid lizard down by Lake Baroon.

We arrived back in Caloundra in the evening and went for a walk before heading to the pub for dinner, our one night out.

The following day we drove back to Brisbane, stopping to do some shopping on the way. The following day I flew to Auckland for a couple of days to see mum and the family and then back to London and work.

It was really cool I got to spend some time hanging out with Dom, we mostly had a good time together, talked about a lot of things and I left feeling happier about how things were going in his complicated world. We both really enjoyed the days hanging out by the beach, chilling, swimming, eating with no pressure to do or achieve anything. If only life could be like that all the time. 

This post was finished a further two weeks later! I am not good at this blogging malarky anymore 🙂


Sunday 13 January 2019 – Brisbane, Australia.

I am going to strike while things are hot. Having just written my first post in over three months I am going to start and will aim to finish, this, a second.

When I was in New Zealand in May I committed to mum that we would come over for Christmas. Come October when I finally got around to booking tickets the intention and desire for Christmas was still there. I knew it was going to be expensive to fly either side of Christmas, but wow. It was a lot, a very large lot. Made infinitely more expensive and complex by our desire to go to Brisbane, then Auckland, finishing in Singapore. Our original thinking had also included a week in Japan, but we soon gave up on that idea. With added work restrictions on timing and duration I ended up having to call mum and tell her we could not afford to be there for Christmas, but would come over in early January. Which is what we did.

Fast forward to Friday 11 January, and we were finally off. British Airways to Hong Kong, then two hours later Qantas to Brisbane, Australia. Arriving at 6:00am on Sunday. We completely lost Saturday somewhere.


We had 29 hours in Brisbane. A very quick trip, here to spend a little time with my son Dom and my granddaughter Cadence. Unfortunately things had conspired against us and Dom and his partner had to finish moving house this weekend. They were moving from south of the city to Murgon, a town three hours north. I wasn’t willing to make that drive after 27 hours of flying and little sleep, and then repeat the drive back to the hotel a little later.

It was convenient in the end, we met Dom in a park as they were passing through town, and I only had a short drive to make to get there. It was great to see Dom, his partner, Tabithe and their daughter Cadence again. Cadence was very shy this time, and was not very interactive, and very unhappy with me taking photos. She is two years old now, and more self aware. The move has been a bit disruptive for her, but she did enjoy the late Christmas present we brought over with us.


After an hour or so with them in a quite warm park El and I drove back to the hotel and had an afternoon nap. We needed it. It was late afternoon when we arose. I had booked us in a hotel that was close to the Brisbane River, on the northern, city side. The South Bank is quite a popular tourist destination, similar to London’s version, there are numerous eating places and things to do, alongside a relaxing river side walk.

The sun sets really early in Brisbane, and with no daylight saving to extend the day, getting out for a walk early was important, I had a bit of a plan in mind and wanted to get the first part done in daylight. We walked through the botanical gardens (a recurring theme for the holiday), though just along the riverside path. Thankfully it was a bit cooler on the riverside and in the late afternoon. Crossing over on the Goodwill Bridge we stopped at the first restaurant we came across that had a free outside table. Even though we had been eating pretty much non-stop since we left London, I was still hungry!

After eating my bodyweight for the second or third time in the last two days and supping a couple of very nice Australian wines we set off into the early evening dark for a walk along the river.

It is a very busy place, and there were a lot of walkers, riders and electric scooter users wizzing their way along the path. Even the beach and pool was still busy.


The most bizarre thing on the South Bank is this Nepalese Peace Pagoda. It was assembled in 1988 for the World Expo after having all its component pieces made in Nepal. It is quite lovely.


Crossing back over the river we walked back through the downtown area, past all the closed shops and surprisingly closed restaurants. It was a Sunday night I guess, and we certainly did not need any more food. Back at the hotel we stopped for a glass of wine in the river side bistro, before heading off for more sleep. Day one of our holiday was complete.

Monday morning we were up early, I think I woke up about 3:30 am. Lying in bed until a reasonable time to get up. Yesterday we had found quite a nice cafe up the road so went there for breakfast. 

Our flight to Auckland was at 13:00, but we headed to the airport at hotel check out time, got checked in early and waited for a third flight in three days. On our way to Auckland.

Queensland, a brief foray

Saturday 05 May 2018, Brisbane and Gold Coast, Australia.

I have strong feelings about south east Queensland, and they are not overly positive ones. I go there to see my oldest son, and middle child, Dom; and his daughter Cadence, my second grandchild. If they were not there it is not a place I would visit; even though the beaches are stunning. Anyway, Dom, Cadence and the rest of his family are there so here I am visiting. This was a tough trip, a complicated trip, though ultimately a good and joyful trip, circumstance made it what it was. It is not my story so I am not going to detail it here, but maybe with Dom’s permission, one day I will.

My flight left Sydney at 1:00pm Wednesday, it is a surprisingly long journey of 1 ½ hours to Brisbane. Flying over those lovely Manly and North Sydney beaches and up the coast makes it mostly enjoyable.

Like in NZ I have a rental car. There is slightly more public transport on this strip of coast, but it does not go where I need it to go, this is a car country. I used to be entirely confident (perhaps overly so) driver, but this trip I have not enjoyed driving at all. I particularly hated this Kia rental car, and for the first time I found driving to be quite stressful and unpleasant. Made worse by not being able to sync my phone with the car sound system.

On the first night I stayed in an apartment/hotel thing, with a view of the hospital. Keeping up the tradition on this trip of great views from hotel rooms.

My room was pretty good though and I enjoyed my one night stay, being close to the hospital and far from anywhere else I just stayed in my room. TV, beer and photo-editing, I didn’t need a lot else. Though the hotel restaurant ‘The Stuffed Badger’ was excellent, good enough to mention here. Nice food, good beer and wine and great staff, if you are ever near Brisbane Hospital I recommend it. However, the coolest thing about the hotel was the car lift to the underground car park, I have never used one before, it was a bit exciting. Even with this piece of shit Kia.

The following day I drove down to the Gold Coast, I have two nights in a hotel near Broadbeach beach, not too far from where Domenic and Cadence, my granddaughter live. I decided to stay somewhere nicer than the motel I stayed in last time I was here. I spent a couple of hours with Domenic in the afternoon before checking in to my room.

The sun sets early here, it is autumn and it is dark by 6pm. I took an evening walk along the beach to the main restaurant/bar strip. This area is totally different to how I remember it, though it has been a very long time since I was last here. I am guessing that on this strip five years is considered a long time. I had a bit of a play with some out of focus blurry shots, trying to capture a mood, or an impression rather than something crisp and clean. I wanted the colours to tell more of the story.

Though further up the beach, at the next life saving tower it was just too well lit for any imagination to be allowed.

As you could imagine the coast is very touristy, the focus is families, and groups, hen and stag parties, corporate ‘dos’; not for solo travellers wanting some space and alone time. I struggled to find a bar or a cafe where I could eat a meal, take a drink and sit in a quiet corner on my own, read a book or write. I found somewhere with a booth that was barely good enough. After one pint I ate and left, buying a bottle of wine to take back to my room. Though the experience of not finding a space drained me so much that writing or photo editing was not doable, so I slumped in front of a TV series I downloaded off the BBC before I left London. You didn’t think I was going to try Aussie TV did you?

Friday, I didn’t have a lot to do so went for a walk around before finding a different cafe on the same strip for breakfast, which was pretty good.

You certainly cannot argue that the beach here, and for miles, both north and south, is not magnificent.

Though the construction right behind the beach is frightening.

I had a quiet, ‘me’ day, I met a friend from when I lived in London in 80’s for lunch at a nearby mall, but did pretty much sod all else for the rest of the day and evening. I finished last night’s wine in my room after a listless and un-enjoyed meal in the same seat in the same place I ate in last night.

After checking out on Saturday I visited Dom and Cadence for a couple of hours. It was really nice to hang out with them again, even for a short time. It was Dom’s birthday yesterday; the main visit for my trip. It was  great to see you son 🙂

Though I am not convinced this place is really safe.

On the way back to Brisbane Airport I caught up with my Deana, my ex-wife and the mother of my children. We took a walk along the banks of the Brisbane River, which was nice. The last time I was here was the early noughties, soon after a massive flood that had devastated the recreational area along the side of the river. Like everything in south eastern Queensland, it had all changed in the intervening years.

I hit the airport early, too early to check in; but I was worn, the two week ‘holiday’ was busy, and tiring and the jet lag and too much food and drink was catching up. I just wanted to be home.

I will be back in again in December, with El , with a bit of holiday thrown in too. Japan maybe…

An Opera House and a Bridge. Sydney.

Tuesday 02 May 2018, Sydney, Australia.

Flying into Sydney from the east, from over the Tasman Sea on a sunny day is one of very few pleasures there is in travelling to Australia. The city is stunning from the air; the long sandy beaches, that glorious harbour surrounded on most sides by dark green bush, and by a not unattractive city on the other. Sydney is one of my favourite cities and I spent a bit of time there on various work and social trips in the past. I was looking forward to this very quick visit; less than 24 hours on the ground.

My original thinking was to spend two days here, see a few people and then hire a car and spend a further two days driving north to Brisbane. However, the cost of a rental car between cities was insane, so the plan was changed to a single night and a catch up with an old bestie.

I chose a mid-day flight from Auckland, missing the rush-hour Auckland madness, and the rushing, busy business folk heading to meetings ‘across the ditch’.

This dropped me into Sydney early on a sunny afternoon. There is now a train from (and to) Sydney Airport, something that did not exist when I used to visit in 90s, and it is a double decker!

Airport trains are the best things in the world for a traveller, and this one takes 20 mins to get to downtown Sydney. Brilliant, and my hotel is a five minute walk from the station. Someone thought the train was ‘Wack’, but not me.

This a glorious looking city, though the view from my hotel room is not the best, a bit like the view from my Auckland hotel.

I was meeting Nicole for a drink and dinner after her day at work. I had an hour to spare after I arrived so decided to go for a walk around the mid-town area. I used to know this part of town really well, but with so much building over the last 20 years, I hardly recognised the place, and immediately went the wrong way.

The old Grace department store was reopened as the Grace Hotel sometime in the 90s and I used to stay there as it was close to the office. It is still one of my favourite hotels, though it has been a long time since I stayed there. it was the first ‘posh’ hotel I stayed in.

George St Dymocks. I always love a good book store, and this was a perfect place to meet someone.

The Queen Victoria building, inside it is a premium brand mall. Not a lot of shopping from me, but the building is lovely and I have not been here for a very long time so it was worth a quick visit.

After a brief walk around I met Nicole for a drink and a meal in a very nice south Indian restaurant. The downtown area of Sydney has a lot more places to go out for a drink and a meal then I remember. The attitude to drinking, in this part of town anyway, seems to have changed from 20 years ago. There was a good vibe in the air for a Tuesday night, and I am really liking the feel of Sydney. Dinner was great, it was great to catch up with Nic. I haven’t seen her in a few years, so there was a lot to catch up on!

I was up early on Wednesday morning, deciding to get out for a walk before breakfast and my flight to Brisbane at lunch time. I took a wrong turn out of the hotel again (perhaps my north/south compass has finally aligned itself with the northern hemisphere?), either way it was a good option as I got to see a bit of downtown I would not have seen if I had headed straight to the Opera House, which was my final destination.

Heading through the back of ‘The Rocks’ area I discovered a small remaining section of ‘old Sydney’, old terraces and a sandstone church that have so far survived the rampant and hungry bulldozers of developers. It was really nice. For a busy, tower-ridden downtown, Sydney does not feel too crowded, though there are a lot of tall buildings, there is some sky and some air. These streets just behind downtown, quite empty early in the morning, seemed like I was a million miles away from the centre of a big city. Like a small rural backwater town.

Back down to the water front and I was confronted with another set of hoardings and more construction, the path around the ferry terminal was closed off to pedestrians as another waterfront something was being built. Construction is endemic, London, Auckland, Sydney. Someone should make a t-shirt. No unspoilt view of the bridge from here.

The sun was in exactly the wrong place for a ‘good’ photo of the Opera House, but meh; I like flare, so I was happy.

The public spaces along the harbour front are brilliant. That bridge. Those Ferries. That Opera House. All wonderful, all photogenic. The light was harsh, but who cares. Who would not be happy here, it was 8:00 am, the air was clear, it was warm with a nice sea breeze. Coffee shops everywhere, and people seemed to not be miserable. It was an enjoyable walk, especially for pre-breakfast.

Sadly I had a flight to catch so after walking round the Opera House I headed back up towards the hotel. Stopping for a really nice breakfast and coffee at an outdoor cafe, surrounded by construction and all the noises they bring. These polenta cakes were amazing!

Love Sydney.

Baby Cadence – grandchild no 2.

Monday 21 November 2016 – Beenleigh, Queensland, Australia.

My eldest son, Dom, has lived in Australia for a couple or so years and his partner has recently given birth to their first child, and my second grand child and first granddaughter. Yay Smile Cadence was born on 10 October and was quite small at 5lbs, she is now five weeks old and has just hit 7lbs; the birth weight of my three children. Like her father Cadence was born with a cleft lip, though unlike her father she also has a hole in her soft palate. She and her parents are going to have to face a few rounds of surgery, and I very much feel for them. Though if the surgeons are as good as those that Dom had 25 years ago, in the not too distant future you would never know there was anything wrong.

Cadence’s birth was the reason for this trip, I did not visit Dom in Australia when El and I went to New Zealand earlier this year, so I promised to come over when the baby was born. Same as I did when my first grandchild, Mason, was born in New Zealand two and half years ago.

Much as I love Dom, Queensland, especially around the South East, is not really my sort of place; it is not a place I  rush to, and when I do go I do not stay for long, so this was a quick trip. I arrived at 1:00am on Saturday and left again late afternoon on Monday. My sister had a conference in Sydney on Monday so came out for the weekend from New Zealand to see Cadence as well. She arrived on Saturday morning so I picked her up from Brisbane Airport at the same time as I collected my rental car and we drove straight down to Beenleigh, on the southern outskirts of Brisbane.

We arrived just after lunch and I got to have my first cuddle with my new baby. She is very alert and gave me a few (probably windy) smiles. She is lovely and I was quite happy Smile



On Sunday morning Dom and I dropped my sister back at the airport and then we drove into Brisbane to look at the building site he is working on. He is an apprentice plumber and was very enthused and engaged in showing me the work they are doing on a newly finished block of flats, and a new site next door. I learnt a lot about plumbing; and am very proud of him 🙂



After lunch Dom, his partner, one of her other children and myself went up to the Daisy Hill Koala Sanctuary for a walk around and to look at the koalas. Unusually they were awake; they are fabulous looking creatures.


There was also a very domestic looking kookaburra as well, I am assuming it was a live one !


After a quick feed we went for a walk in the trees, though it was really hot and quite draining. Not good for Cadence to be outside too long !



Dom had the day off on Monday, Cadence was having her first round of immunisation shots in the morning, so I went round there early so I could see; she was very upset by it all; and I do not blame her one little bit!


Though she did settle down soon after. She is a very placid and calm baby; well she was when I was there…



My quick trip was then over, I left at lunch time and drove back to the airport to return the rental car and catch my flight to New Zealand. Stupidly, very stupidly, I tried to carry a load of stuff from the front seat of the car to the boot; my cell phone slipped from my grasp and smashed on the ground. Shattered screen and dead…. I was very annoyed with myself! I had been planning on buying a new phone next year; once I was back in paid work. I really didn’t need this right now. So I ended up buying a very expensive phone in duty free in Brisbane airport. More expense I didn’t really want. I know I could have gotten a far cheaper model than I did, but I knew I would not be happy with it in the end. At least this new phone has a really good camera….


This photo of a photo of Dom from the same age shows that Cadence’s cleft lip is quite similar to his, though a mirror image.



Both beautiful babies.

Whales ! – A quick stop in Queensland.

Sunday 20 July 2014 – Brisbane, Australia.

After an early walk with my mum on Friday morning I packed up the remainder of my stuff – I have accumulated enough extra bits and pieces to be taking a second bag back to London. Surprisingly I did not buy anything in New Zealand – apart from essentials like wine and four packets of Tim Tam biscuits to take back with me 🙂

My daughter, Meliesha was taking me out to the airport so mum and I met her at the newly renovated Lopdell House in Titirangi. I used to be on the committee of the local community arts council in Titirangi and we had a gallery in Lopdell House. The gallery has recently re-opened after the renovations and the new space is so much better than the old one, with some really nice natural light. Mel, mum and I met on the new roof terrace and some lovely views over the start of the Waitakere Ranges and the Manukau Harbour – and such a glorious winters day to be up there.

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After saying my farewells to all I was dropped at the airport for my flight to Brisbane, Australia where I am going to spend some time with my oldest son, Dom. I was on time for my flight, unlike the plane – though you can see it has just landed in the distance.

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It was a good flight over the Tasman and I was only a little bit late landing. I have decided to rent a car while I am here as distances are long and public transport not quite at London standards. I drove down to the small town of Beenleigh, which is about half way between the Gold Coast and Brisbane airport. Dom has been back in Australia for three weeks now and has started work as a plumbing apprentice, he is living with his mother, my ex-wife and I am going to be staying there as well. Thankfully we are on good terms ! I have been gifted a lovely head cold by my mum, so did not stay up too late on Friday night.

Last night we kicked around a few options for things to do while I am here and decided that if the wind dropped we would spend a pile of money, do something mega-touristy and go whale watching. Luckily it did, so we did…

I am not really one for large scale organised tourist activities so it was a bit strange to be forking out almost 200AUD to go whale watching with SeaWorld. We arrived 2 minutes before the boat left, so grabbed a quick coffee before getting on board. IMG 0127

The journey started from the harbour created by the Spit and there was a good mix of bird life on the low tide sand banks while we waited for the boat to head out.

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It took about fifteen minutes to get through the harbour and out to the open sea, to the south was the ugly expanse of hotels that is Surfers Paradise and to the north, where we spent most of the trip, was South Stradbroke Island.

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We spotted our first whale soon after getting into the ocean. The humpback whales spend a little bit of time in the large Gold Coast bay as they head north (and then back south again) in their migration from the winter Antarctic oceans to their breeding grounds off the coast of North Queensland. I was testing out my new Canon G16 camera today and was pretty pleased. All the shots were taken at maximum optical zoom, any closer photos posted here have been cropped.

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I was not sure what to expect from the experience, visiting animals in the wild is never a guarantee for any sort of action, nor any close up shots. The boats are not allowed within 100 metres of the whales – of course the whales can come closer to the boats if they desire – though this did not happen for us.

The trip started off fairly slow, with some distant viewing of solo whales and small pods. So I did do a photo swap with Dom while I had the chance 🙂

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We followed one whale for a while and when it chose to dive, we did get the opportunity to get the ‘tail shot’. Though this means the whale has dived deep and could be gone for up to 45 minutes !

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We soon spotted a small pod of whales in the distance and motored over to have a look. Often the whales are spotted in the distance when they blow out water as they exhale, and all hundred or so of us on the boat were scanning the water for the tell tale spouts. This group made it easy to spot.

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We were told that this group was likely made up of a mature female and two or three young males seeking her attentions. She was obviously getting frustrated with them as she started to bang her fin on the surface, a humpback whale signal for leave me alone ! It was very cool to watch.

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After a few minutes of banging her fin, she decided to give up and took a dive.

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We were looking around for a while when all of a sudden there was yelling from some of the other visitors and I turned round in time to see a humpback just smashing back into the water after a breach – when the whale ‘jumps’ out of the water.

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According to the whale expert on the boat they do not see breaches every time they go out, so this was really exciting for us. The whales breach for a variety of reasons, most likely to clean barnacles or other hitch hikers off of their skin or to have a good scratch of something that is itching. Whatever the reason, it was very cool to watch and we were lucky to see three or four of them. They are also really hard to photograph as you never know exactly where they are going to appear.

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After the action was over and the whales disappeared beneath the surface we waited for a while before this group finally re-appeared on the surface.

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But they did not stay long and this was our final view of them. We turned around soon after they left and headed back to land.

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It was a great outing and I was really pleased we did it. We saw way more than we expected and the breaches were amazing to watch.

Back in the car Dom and I cruised down the the coast as far as the coastal road allowed before heading in to a mall for some lunch. After lunch and still with a few hours of day left we took a drive up into the coastal hills and visited Mount Tamborine. We stopped off for a beer near the top and I took a photo back down over the coast and the other side of Surfers Paradise to the one seen earlier in the day, this was the last photo I took in Australia for some reason.IMG 0128

After popping in to visit my ex-brother in law on this 40th birthday, Dom and I went to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane to join 38,000 others to watch the NZ Warriors lose to the Brisbane Broncos in a NRL rugby league game. It all started so well (the Warriors ) were 12-0 up after only a few minutes.

On Sunday Dom and I went for a posh lunch in a restaurant in Sanctuary Cove before heading to the movies to see Transformers 4. It was OK, longer than I expected, but I mostly enjoyed it. The CGI is getting pretty special these days. And that was pretty much it for my holiday. In the early evening I drove back to Brisbane Airport to return the car and with a massive head cold boarded the plane for the shorter of the two flights back to London. Amazingly I had a whole row to myself and actually slept for a good couple of hours on the flight. I was very pleased !!

I had a good time in Aussie, it was great to spend some time with Dom, and really pleased he is doing well over there. It was good seeing my ex, Deana and I really appreciated being able to stay at her house as it saved me having to find accommodation that would have been quite a distance away.

I had three hours in Singapore airport and caught the little train over to terminal two to see if I could find the Kobo e-reader I left on the flight to Singapore from London. It had been found and was in lost property. Sadly lost property is on the other side of immigration and there was not enough time to get out of the airport to get it. Though Singapore Airlines are going to send it to London for me to collect, nice one!

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The almost fourteen hours of flying to London was pretty awful, I did not sleep at all, and the plane was very full. I watched a few movies (Lego movie) and seven episodes of the new TV series ‘Believe’, but was hugely relieved to land in London !

It was a very short, very busy and very enjoyable trip to NZ and Australia. It was great seeing my family again and the new addition, Luca.  I love you all and look forward to seeing you again soon.

Yay – off to New Zealand !

Sunday 02 February 2014 – Hong Kong / Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand.

Last week had finally seen some wintery weather arrive, a cold wind and rain made walking the streets of London on the first week after I finished work less fun than I would have liked. Though, I did make it out for a quick look at some street art and the purchase of a new record.

The great news for the week was meeting El at Camden tube station after she finished work on Thursday and heading off to Heathrow Airport to start a two week trip to New Zealand –  22 hours of flying to Sydney, with a lay-over in Hong Kong.

The first leg took eleven hours and was not too bad, the plane was only half full so we were not rammed in like sardines as usual. Service was good and the food and drink not too bad, though of course I did not sleep as much as I would have liked. We arrived in Hong Kong on time and were whipped off the plane and with a group of others taken aside and asked if we would like to be put on an earlier flight to Sydney – we did ! This meant only an hour of transit time – yay.

I had been to Hong Kong once before, in 2007, and did not have the best of experiences. No fault of Hong Kong’s, but I spent eight days of my five day trip in a private hospital with a serious bacterial infection of my liver. I am quite keen to go back there and see the city, it looks amazing, but there was no time on this trip to stop. I did snap a couple of photos out the window of the airport terminal. Good to see the smog has not left the city!

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The flight to Sydney was another nine hours, not as long as the first leg, but those hours really dragged and made the flight seem a lot longer. The plane was also very full which always make the flight less pleasant. It was a nice plane though.

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We arrived in Sydney two and half hours earlier than originally expected at 7:00 am, it was a bit of a haul though customs but we were soon out of the airport and on to the (very expensive) train to Circular Quay. We had a hotel in “The Rocks” area of downtown Sydney and were very fortunate to be able to get in to our room so much before normal check in. After twenty four hours of travelling a shower was definitely top priority.

We had heard that the view from the roof was pretty cool so we headed up there before we left for a walk. El ha has not been to Sydney before, but as we only have twenty four hours we wanted to focus on the harbour area.

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Apparently sunrise over the opera house was well worth the early rise, but there was a very large cruise liner between us and it, hopefully it leaves before then.

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We went for a walk around the opera house and over to the botanical gardens when we got a call from El’s Sydney friends and we arranged to meet them in Manly where they were having lunch, which worked for us as we were heading over there later in the day to visit my friend Nicole.

I love the ferry ride to Manly, one of the best harbour crossings, it has great views of both the Opera House and the harbour bridge and on a great day it just a magic trip. It was a great day.

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We had a very nice lunch with El’s old London friends, Mel and Ian and then shared a bottle of bubbles with Nicole before heading back over to the city side in the late afternoon. We were both knackered after the flight and feeling the effects of jet lag and no sleep. It was great to be able to catch up with Mel and Ian and Nicole in one of Sydney’s best locations, plus get to see the harbour all in one go. Stupidly I did not take any photos in Manly, though I did get a few when I was there last year.

We had a walk around the harbour side for half an hour and then meandered back to the hotel to try and get some sleep in, before getting up at 5:45 for the sunrise at 6:15. The cruise liner had left while we were out.

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We had a reasonable amount of sleep, but I was definitely a bit thick in the head when we got up on time for the sunrise. It wasn’t particularly spectacular, but it was pretty and I am glad we got up for it.

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After a monster breakfast in the hotel (well, I had a monster breakfast) we took a cab to the airport, it was only slightly more expensive than the train – and so much easier! We had a late-morning flight to Auckland that was frustratingly delayed, though not by much. With the time difference we did not arrive almost 6:00pm. The airport was busy and it took ages to get out, which was annoying. Auckland airport always seems to be a slightly different configuration each time I fly in, and this one didn’t work at all well – massive bottle neck at customs….

My sister picked us up and we drove up to my mum’s where the whole family were waiting to join us for tea. I was very happily surprised to see my daughter was there, she arrived back in New Zealand for Christmas with her BF and I was not expecting to see them until next week. It was great to see all three “children” together in one place for the first time in over five years. They are lovely !

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It was wonderful to see my family again, and introducing El to them was a wee bit nerve wracking, for everyone I suspect, but it all went well and it was a nice evening. Two weeks will seem like a very short time I think.

Street Art – Sydney

Some of the street art I spotted on a quick trip to Sydney, Australia.

Most of the art was found in and around the main street of Newtown, though the first three are from Manly.

I am not entirely sure of the order that WordPress uploads photos, the bulk were inserted into the post in one go, and the order seems entirely random to me, I guess there is some science to it !

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This mural is the most well known and has been here since 1991. I really like the next image as well, which was painted on the next wall, they go so nicely together and I really like the message.

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I really liked how this door had been hung upside down 🙂


There were a whole series of large monochrome photos on some walls as part of an old exhibition, though most had been badly torn – I kinda liked the effect though.

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Yes I was here, I was never her though!


A few days in Sydney

Sunday  – Tuesday 12 – 14 May 2013 – Sydney

I was not up too early on Sunday, I took half a pill as I was desperate for a sleep and it was really noisy sleeping so close to the street, the half a pill made no difference sadly and I was still feeling tired – my state for most of the Sydney weekend.

The weather was as fabulous as yesterday which was fine by me as today we were taking a trip into Newtown, one of Sydney’s inner suburbs and a bit of walking around was planned.

I walked up Manly beach again to Nicole’s place and snapped a shot up both ends of the beach. You can see why people live here !



And this is not a bad way to get to work in the mornings either!


Newtown has a bit of street art and some cool shops and is one of very few Sydney suburbs I could happily live in. It is also the scene of some very drunken evenings with Australian work colleagues back a couple of decades. Especially here…




The street art was pretty cool and there was plenty of it around, I will put some more up on another post, but I particularly liked this.


This mural is one of the better known and oldest ones, painted in 1991.


Next to this, and a more recent addition is this mural, which makes the first more poignant.


We walked around for a couple of hours before meeting one of Nicole’s Sydney friends, Azra. She showed us a bit more street art before we stopped for lunch and a wine in the sun. Soon it was time to head back to Manly for the evening – much as you don’t want to, you have just got to love that harbour bridge…


On Sunday evening we met up with Nicole’s friend Aaron in one of the Manly pubs, Manly has all been tidied up since I last visited in the mid-nineties and the old pubs are quite nice now. Sydney even has a decent range of micro-brewery beer as well, a huge step up on my last visit, though I stuck to wine and seemed to drink a wee bit more than my share. Loved this cider product from lunch.

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Nicole had taken Monday off work and wanted to take a car for a drive up to the beaches north of Manly. She had not driven since arriving in Manly at the end of last year and wanted to have a wing man for the first attempt. Go Get is a car rental company with a difference, I have never heard of this before, but apparently there is a similar model in London, so I guess I am just behind the times. To use Go Get you sign up on-line and get sent a swipe card that unlocks the cars. Cars are left scattered all over the city so to use one you just book a car, find where it is parked and swipe yourself in. When you are finished you park it and let them know where it is. I have no idea how it is charged though! A great idea as the car was just round the corner!


The morning broke cloudy and was a little cool as I walked up the beach towards Nicole’s place.


We had breakfast before finding the car and heading out of Manly up the coast. We drove up to Palm Beach where we spent a couple of hours walking around and in my case, drinking a damn good coffee. Palm Beach is better known to fans of the (truly awful) soap ‘Home and Away’ as Summer Bay.




We had a great morning out, Nicole’s driving was not too scary:) and we made it back to Manly in one piece! I found this as we parked the car, an oldie but a goodie.



I had a major lie in on Tuesday morning and left my hotel at the last possible minute at 10:30. Nicole was at work for the day but I had made plans to catch up with a couple of other friends in Sydney, starting with an old recruiting/mountain biking buddy Michelle – who also happened to live in Manly.

I was then on the ferry over to Sydney city where I dumped my pack at Nicole’s office and then walked up town to meet with Winnie, an old colleague for lunch in the park.


One the way I walked through St Marten’s Place.


And past the under-renovation town hall. I love how the building has giant pictures over the bits being worked on. I have never seen this before and think it is a absolutely fabulous idea and I would love to see it elsewhere. Downtown Sydney is pretty cool – well warm, but cool all the same.


After lunch I walked around the Museum of Contemporary Arts.


Visiting artist Guan Wei was painting this mural “The journey to Australia” in the foyer, I really liked it – along with his other smaller works in the museum.


There was a really good exhibition of photos from Canadian Jeff Wall in the museum and the space was just massive, a wonderful venue.


It is impossible to visit Sydney on a sunny day without being lured across Circular Quay to the iconic Sydney Opera House. The building is just so cool it is irresistible !



And that was pretty much it.

I had a final catch up with Nicole for dinner at the uber popular Jamie’s Italian restaurant, the food was fabulous and I would have liked to have lingered and enjoyed the food slowly over a wine or two but the airport and my flight/s to London were calling.

I had a fabulous time in Sydney, Manly and Newtown were cool spots to visit and it was great to spend some time with Nicole again. till next time !!

Needing some sun – off to Sydney

Saturday 11 May 2013 – Sydney

I was up very early for my flight to Sydney, I stayed at mums for my last night in NZ and she gave me a ride out to the airport which was much appreciated. I have my normal backpack and a massive suitcase that is just heaving with stuff I ‘need’ in London – though I did manage to sneak a small bit of vinyl in there. I guess it means I will have to buy a turntable in London 🙂

Through good planning I met my bro-in-law Allan, whose house I had been staying in, at the airport as he returned from a work trip to Perth. It was a nice change to share coffee with someone and it was nice to be able to thank him and wish him farewell.


Though Air New Zealand seems to have gone ‘low cost’ on the route to Sydney the flight to Sydney was a good one, we arrived early and by some miracle both my bags were together on the baggage carousel and I was on the train into town before the scheduled arrival time! With further immaculate timing I jumped straight on a ferry at Circular Quay and off to my final destination – Manly, in record time.

It was a glorious day in Sydney, much as I love Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, Sydney Harbour on a great day has to be the best in the world. I had a great view of the bridge and sat outside on the deck for the entire thirty minute ride.


One of my closest and most treasured friends, Nicole, now lives in Manly and there was no way I was going to make a trip to New Zealand without spending a few days here. I have booked myself into the Manly Beachfront Apartments and have the budget room – I think there is only one of those. It is right on the street and is approximately one foot larger than the bed. However, it was cheap for Manly and that was all that mattered, though I had to pay extra for wifi which always annoys me! It’s location over the road from Manly beach is just perfect and sort of makes up for the cost.

Once I had dumped all my stuff in my room we took a walk around town, had some lunch and walked up to Shelly beach for a coffee.

I really liked all these cast figures on the rock wall alongside the path.

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Manly is a stunning town, I can see why Nicole (and everyone else) lives here, twenty minutes on the ferry from the centre of Sydney, yet it is a small slice of paradise here. We had a walk around then I went back to my hotel for an afternoon nap. Once refreshed I walked up the beach side to Nicoles place, stopping to watch these guys play volley ball as the sun set.

We had dinner and a couple of wines at one of the local cafes, before saying an early good night and I went and crashed back at the hotel. The two hour jet lag between NZ and Sydney always mucks me around.

It was a good day, good to be on the way back to London, good to relax and enjoy some sun and good to see Nicole again.