Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

New Year’s Resolution no.3

….was to blog. So here I am. Blogging. About what? I’m not sure yet. Maybe about my newly discovered love of beautiful art? Maybe about my renewed fascination with the history of Ham House because of my fabulous new book about it? Maybe about cake?

Well, let’s start with the cake. Here is a box that once contained a chocolate orange cake.
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Danda had one peice. Someone else ate the entire rest of the cake, thinking it might help with her cold because oranges contain vitamin C, right? That someone else had been sworn off sugar because of the sugar headaches and achy teeth caused by their new job as a cake maker. The someone else now feels chocolate guilt and wishes not to be named.

Talking of new jobs, it’s been an interesting year. In the space of twelve months, the following things have happened;

1. Got two new jobs. One I disliked. One I loved. Thankfully I am now in the one I love!
2. Lost a good friend to the murky depths of Texas’ capital punishment system.
3. Went to France (for lunch), Italy (for my birthday) and America.
4. Visited the NASA space centre.
5. Became a ghost tour guide.
6. Made this (the website, not the art)
7. Became addicted to Candy Crush, Breaking Bad and Modern Family.
8. Purchased the most expensive (but most worth it) book I’ve ever owned.
9. Discovered pretty art and fabulous painters (current favourites are Sir Peter Lely and Van Dyck)
10. Got to know the life of the river better, via my walk to work. (And learnt about the importance of knowing the tide times!)
11. Got reacquainted with my childhood best friend when she came to stay in the spare room.
12. Had a cold for a month.
13. Watched family jet off for a new life under the Australian sun.
14. Met a fellow blogger for the first time.

There has been a lot of change in the last year, some of which I’m still getting used to. Here’s to 2014! I wonder what will happen.

The adventures of Daddy and Yaya…

…are soon to begin! Yaya and his Mummy and sister are having a lovely time in Stralia. Of course they are. We knew they would. Look.

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Daddy had stayed behind to tie up loose ends so we kind of still had hold of the children a bit. But yesterday finally came and Daddy got on the ellaflane and off he went. 

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(Goodbyes with Mia at the airport)

Here’s to their new life!

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The years that you were ours

Dear children,

For years you have been ours. From little tiny babies to walking talking children, we have watched you grow.

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You’ve tested our patience and taught us things we had forgotten in our adulthoods.

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Things like the joy of a cool outfit.

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The tastiness of plastic toys.

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The fun of sitting in a suitcase.

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The apprehension of learning to swim.

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The excitement of being given a present and spending more time playing with the cardboard.

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The uncontrollable laughter that bursts out when you do your hair up the same.

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The simple honest love that children haven’t learned to hide yet.

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The beauty of a small child’s face.

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But you have started to grow now, children. You speak. You walk. You make pictures.
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You make Lego.

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You stick stickers.

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You tell us about school and nursery and make up games for us to play for your amusement. You know our faces and you want us to read you bedtime stories. You come for dinner and look sad when you have to go home. You have likes (the colour green and snakes) and dislikes (having your photo taken).

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But these years have been precious. These were our years.

Last night, you got on an ‘ellaflane’ and flew to ‘Stralia’ to begin your new life. And that’s that. England will be a distant memory. Yaya will remember it better as he is five. Your other family will become real people and we will become the Skype crowd. We will still love you and send you gifts in the post but you will be terribly, terribly far away.

These years have been ours.

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Your next years will belong to someone else.

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Yesterday

I have an announcement to make. Yaya is leaving for greener pastures… He’s off to Australia with his little sister on Sunday (and mother, of course) so yesterday, Danda and I headed over to spend the afternoon and evening with them, which looked like this….

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Most important thing first. Let’s unpack the Lego set and get building.

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Isla grabs the stickers and she’s happy.

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Yaya and I with our serious faces on, trying to figure out the 43-stage instructions for the Batmobile.

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In the meantime, Danda keeps Isla happy by drawing Winnie the Pooh.

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After a good hour or so and a lot of intense concentration, Yaya completes the Batmobile! I didn’t help putting it together. I was more like on-hand Lego-peice-finder and instruction-book-page-turner.

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Yaya playing with the Lego he made.

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Close up of Isla watching a ‘nake’ on TV (snake)

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Out for dinner and Isla is proudly wearing the Supergirl hat that Dad drew for her.

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My warm goats cheese and roast veg salad with chicken. Those little bread thingies round the edge were so good.

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Yaya’s version of a smile.

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Isla mixing her babyccino and icecream together then spooning some of it into her icecream cone, which then drips out of the bottom.

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Room On The Broom with Danda. They were told to lie in bed to listen to the story but there was too much to see in the book so they slowly crept over and were all huddled together listening.

When we had decided it was sleep time, Isla and Yaya and I had a little chat about how I wouldn’t see them again before they go on the  ‘big ellaflane’ to ‘Stralia’ so I’ll see them in a little while when I come over for a holiday.

“Are you coming on the ellaflane with us?” Isla asked.

“No. You’re going on the aeroplane first, on Sunday,” I replied. “I’m coming later.”

“On Monday?” Yaya asked.

“I’ve got to go to work on Monday,” I said, doing a sad face. “It will have to be after Monday. Maybe in a few more weeks.”

I know,” said Yaya, his eyes lighting up. “Come on Tuesday! You should come on Tuesday, Lauwa.”

“Ok, Yaya. Tuesday sounds good. I think I’ve got a day off so that will be fine.”

They both puckered up, ready for a kiss goodnight and Yaya assured me that they would telephone me on the computer from ‘Stralia’. After a brief chat with Isla about how she loves ‘nakes’ and that there are loads of massive ‘nakes’ in ‘Stralia’, it was goodnight time.

Palm House (Part 1)

It’s Wednesday and time for my guest blogger, Rambler5319, to take over again. Enjoy!

 

Not just any palm house – the one in Sefton Park in Liverpool.

The park’s history goes back to 1867 when the council bought the land from a local earl. They paid £250,000 which in today’s money would be of the order of £40 million (some calculators go much higher than even this!) Imagine any council even thinking of spending that amount of money on a park today. Actually it wasn’t much different then as there were protests about it being a waste of money. Time, though, has certainly proved its benefit to the people of the city and further afield.

A big competition (international) was held and the winner was a French landscape artist named Édouard André and Liverpool architect Lewis Hornblower. (Hornblower had designed the Grand Entrance to Birkenhead Park – designed by Joseph Paxton – the first municipal park in Britain and he’d also worked on Princes Park just across the road from Sefton Park.) It was opened in 1872 by 22 year old Prince Arthur (3rd son of Queen Victoria).

About 24 years later, the city council received a donation of £10,000, from a rich local man, Henry Yates Thompson, to build the Palm House. It opened in 1896. It’s an octagonal shape and built on a base of red granite which they brought down from the Isle of Mull. At each of the corners there is a statue of a famous person chosen by Thompson. Naturally he picked mostly botanists and explorers. We’ll do a tour round the outside this week and go inside next week.

Let’s start with a view looking at the front entrance to the Palm House.

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The statistics are amazing: it’s 25m high and there are 3,710 individually-cut panes of glass. It was painted in camouflage paint in 1939 to prevent the glass reflecting moonlight which would help enemy bombers locate areas of the city.

The structure fell into disrepair during the 1980s and following a big campaign and raising funds and grants it was re-opened in 2001. Just think about this – in order to refurbish the place they had to remove all the plants and then dismantle the whole structure (made of cast iron) so it could be sand blasted. The firm that did this part had to number every single piece of metal so it could be put back in the right place. Talk about jigsaws, this must have been one tough job. (I certainly wouldn’t have fancied it!)

We’ll go clockwise round the building looking at the guys who are commemorated in bronze and marble and see some of the beautiful gardens and flowers. I wonder how many of these you know?

1. André le Notre (1613-1700)

A landscape artist who designed the gardens at Versailles for Louis XIV. Also designed St James’ Park in London

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As you can see he’s in marble. Now I’m not a sculptor but check out the scroll he’s holding. I reckon that must be quite difficult to do.

2. Captain Cook (1728-79)

Famous as an explorer, navigator & cartographer and for his voyages of discovery particularly Australia and New Zealand. He was a captain in the Royal Navy. On his 3rd Pacific voyage he was killed when fighting with Hawaiians. The sad thing is that he had actually left the islands but a mast on his ship (Resolution) broke and he had to return to make repairs and it was during this time that the quarrels started which ended in his death.

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Check out the inscription on the base of his statue in pic below: “Constantly at sea from his youth he passed through all the stations belonging to a seaman from an apprentice boy in the coal trade to a post of captain in the British Navy”. In other words he started right at the bottom and worked his way right up.

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3. Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594)

The base says he was “the son of a poor shoemaker near Antwerp”. He was a Flemish astronomer & geographer. He invented the system of mapping which we still use today and by which your mobile phone knows exactly where you are: lines of latitude & longitude. We almost forget how revolutionary this was because we’ve never known living when it didn’t exist. The nearest I’ve ever come to it is when I lived abroad in a place that, for a while, didn’t have street names. People navigated by buildings or geographical features including the taxis. It moved on rapidly and has a totally modern system with street names and a GPS guided taxi system which was considered one of the most sophisticated in the world when introduced four years ago.

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4. Carl Linnaeus (1707-78)

He was a Swedish botanist, physician & zoologist. He is the founder of the system of categorisation of plants called taxonomy or type classification. Interestingly, it is said, his family conversed in Latin so his familiarity with the language when naming plants is perfectly understandable. Apparently the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau sent him the following message: “Tell him I know no greater man on earth”. That’s quite a compliment isn’t it? Goethe, the German author, wrote of Linnaeus: “With the exception of Shakespeare and Spinoza, I know no one among the no longer living who has influenced me more strongly!” Wow, talk about being respected by your peers. This guy was a giant.

However he also had a massive ego. In his own writing he made statements about himself that might surprise you. He wrote in an autobiography: “No one has been a greater Botanicus or Zoologist. No one has written more books, more correctly, more methodically, from his own experience. No one has more completely changed a whole science and initiated a new epoch. No one has become more of a household name throughout the world…”

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5. Charles Darwin (1809-82)

Probably the most famous of the names in this list. He wrote the book On The Origin Of Species in 1859 upsetting the church and Victorian society in general. Whatever your views on him the “Theory of Evolution” remains just that – a theory. Nuff said.

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6. Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)

Explorer and discoverer. Popular views credit him with the discovery of America but that should be qualified of course to the European discovery of America. Native Indians were already there and other nations can lay claim to having visited the place long before Columbus: Norse explorer Lief Erikson is believed to have been there around 1000AD & some believe the ancient Phoenicians could have visited. Obviously the name America doesn’t come from Columbus but from the feminine version of Italian explorer Vespucci’s first name Amerigo. Why if Columbus discovered the land was it not called Columbusia or Columbusland? How did that not happen?

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7. Henry the Navigator (1394-1460)

He was the 3rd child of King John I of Portugal and his wife Philippa of Lancaster (sister of Henry IV of England). In the complicated intermarriage of Royal families in Europe, Philippa of Lancaster was a daughter of John of Gaunt – the “Gaunt” comes from the anglicising of his birthplace (Ghent) in Belgium. He himself was a son of the 4th Plantagenet king, Edward III, and Philippa of Hainault. (Now there is a Hainault in north-east London but this one is a county in Belgium. Philippa brought Belgian weavers over to England to start up businesses in Norwich. In the late 16th century another wave of weavers arrived fleeing religious persecution in Holland & Belgium. Interestingly these guys brought their canaries with them and local people also began rearing them. And that historical event is how Norwich City’s football team got its present-day nickname – The Canaries. So now you know where it came from.)

Henry was born in Porto and from the age of 21 he began exploring the coast of Africa. He was intrigued by the Christian legend of Prester John who was allegedly a descendant of one of the Three Wise Men (who visited Jesus at his birth). Supposedly PJ was the king of a Christian nation which had been lost among the pagans of the Orient. His kingdom was said to contain the Fountain of Youth! It’s no surprise he didn’t find it or that people are still looking for it today, not in Africa, but in the consulting rooms of the plastic surgeon!

In 1420 Henry was appointed a governor of an organisation called the Order of Christ. This group had succeeded the Knights Templar which had been disbanded by Pope Clement V in 1312. He remained in charge till his death in 1460.

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8.John Parkinson (1567-1650)

In his time he was a famous herbalist and one of the first English botanists. After moving to London in 1581, at 14 yrs of age, he became an apprentice apothecary. He then rose up the career ladder eventually becoming apothecary to James I and later Royal Botanist to Charles I.

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Here’s one last statue. As you’ll probably recognise, it’s Peter Pan.

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And here’s the inscription on the base

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It says it was on the Royal yacht but I wonder just where on the Royal Yacht “Victoria & Albert” they put this. Looks a bit hefty to me but perhaps it was just the Peter Pan himself part at the top and no base. Interestingly Queen Victoria had 3 Royal Yachts named Victoria & Albert: the first launched in 1843, just 6 years after her accession; the second in 1855; the third launched in 1899 but was not ready for service until 1901 which, sadly, turned out to be 7 months after her death.

Anyway there we are, that’s all for this week. I’ll have to keep the flowers outside till next week when I’ll do the inside of the place itself.

A dream I had last night

I had a strangely long and obscure dream last night. It went like this.

My friends, Sophie and Jay, and I were in Australia. We were travelling and having an adventure type of holiday. I remember us going to a shopping arcade place which had those cloth bag things which are brightly coloured and part of the general attire of people who have recently returned from a gap year. At one end was really expensive stuff so we never went to that end.

Suddenly it was our last day and we had to get our flight home at 2.15pm. It was only a few hours off and I started to panic. Sophie and Jay didn’t seem too worried and next minute, we were doing that thing I’ve seen on TV, where you have suction pads on your hands and feet and you climb up the side of glass buildings. I had the hand bits and was climbing up and when I got to the top, Sophie and Jay were already there somehow.

When I started looking for the suction things to climb back down I couldn’t find the feet bits and I started to panic again because I thought we’d miss the flight. I really didn’t want to miss it because if we had to buy tickets to get the next flight it would cost at least £70 (!).

Somehow we were back down the side of the building and it was 1.15pm and we rushed back to the hostel where we were staying and asked the people at the desk there if it would be faster to go by train or taxi. They said taxi so I ran to the room to get my backpack. The other two already had theirs with them even though they hadn’t gone to get them. Such is the way of dreams ….

When I came back to the reception, Sophie and Jay weren’t there. They had gone for lunch somewhere. I panicked. I saw their bags but there was only an hour til the flight. I didn’t have time to wait for them! I ran outside, flagged down a passing taxi and jumped in.

I got to the airport with ten minutes to spare, yelling at them to hold the plane. I checked in and started to run to the gate but it was really just one big room with one gate. So I just stood there and one side of the building was glass so I saw a small plane come in and land on a grassy area right next to the building. The other passengers and I marvelled at its smallness. There were only about twelve seats.

We walked out to get onto the plane but suddenly there was a swampy bit we had to cross so we got wet up to our knees. I also realised that in my rush I had forgotten to check my bag in so hoped no-one would notice it.

As I got on and sat down and strapped, Soph and Jay were there too and Jay was pregnant. She had been pregnant the whole time, I think, but I had been unaware of it for some reason. And Sophie was saying to me, “I can’t believe you left us,” and I was going, “Well, I looked for you all over. If you two were going to be stranded in Australia, there was no point me being stranded there too, just for the sake of it.”

They seemed especially annoyed that I had left them with Jay being pregnant.

We were just strapping ourselves in and having this discussion when my alarm beeped and when I opened my eyes, I was genuinely surprised that I wasn’t on a plane.

Strange.

Analyse that, psychologists.

Things I did yesterday

1. Giggle with glee at a programme about little fluffy baby penguins.

2. Fall asleep for about half an hour in the bath… Oops.

3. See a man have a new willy built for him out of his forearm skin and muscle on Embarrassing Bodies.

4. Get home from work to find one of my lovely neighbours had left cake on the doorstep. Mmm.

5. Read a story about ferrets getting married (yes, married) in Chat. Where else?

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6. Make a beautiful soya latte. It I might say so myself.

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7. Get mega involved with an episode of Crystal Maze and get a bit shouty at the woman who was flapping around trying to the puzzle in the Aztec zone and getting it all wrong.

8. Sign up for a local stag beetle conservation project thing.

9. Daydream about taking a city break to Amsterdam.

10. Have a really vivid dream about a friend who lives in Australia and her telling me she’ll never move back to England and that I should move to Australia too. In the same dream I was trying to work out how to reheat fried eggs and scrambled eggs without overcooking them.