June 17, 2011

...a turning of us over ...

"Spring" by Szarlene -- Image Source*
For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity William Penn

Perhaps it is pointless to say that funerals are not on anyone’s list of enjoyable outings. I thankfully, have not been to many and until just recently, I have never had to help anyone plan for one. All I can say is what an eye opener. There’s no need to go into details, suffice to say, I will be investigating funeral plans.

Yesterday, 16 June 2011, was the funeral for Angie’s uncle Reg. The sky was overcast, with the occasional spots of rain, but it felt like at any moment there would be a down pour. We made it to Watford Junction with no problem but while we waited for the next bus the heavens opened so it was good to have a bus shelter to stand in.

Once on the bus, we sat and watched for signs to indicate where we would need to alight. I had Google maps open on my phone, but that once again failed me. The map showed we were reaching the destination and as I reached to push the bell the bus flew past the stop we needed. There were no signs for the crematorium and the street signs, well, I have bemoaned the lack of street signs in London, so it cannot be entirely surprising that this filters out into the rest of the country.

So now, stuck on a bus, we are dropped off at a stop about a mile from where we wanted to be. We walked back to a foot bridge over the M1, and started walking back up the residential side. At nearly half way, we came to a pedestrian crossing, so we swapped sides, to be back on the side we needed. Moments later, the foot path ran out.

There was no other choice but to keep going. Picture if you will, two women, both in dresses, stockings and silly shoes, walking through the rain, with umbrellas and bouquets of flowers, in marshy, boggy, knee high grass, weeds and thistles. Picture further the trucks flying along the M1 sending up sprays of water. Image if you will how foul the language was. We must have looked a sight.

As we reached a truck pull in area, I turned to Angie and said “I wonder if anyone has called the cops to report two women walking along the M1 in the rain with flowers” and not a minute later our Good Samaritan arrived. A lady had driven past us when we were in the worst of the marshy area, doubled back and come to offer us a lift. I know. Looking back on accepting the lift, it was probably a stupid thing to do, but at that point we were so grateful to her that we took her up on the offer. Five minutes later she dropped us off in front of where we were supposed to be.

All of this was hysterically funny once it was over.

I think yesterday we had a few people playing silly buggers with us. From the stories I’ve heard, Reg was a cheeky bugger and I know Mama, Nanna, and Pop all had wicked ideas on humour. Perhaps Angie’s mum Marina, and her Nan were in on it as well. It would explain a lot. Besides, I like to think they’re all up there, gossiping, making introductions, watching out for us. It’s a comforting thought – at least for me.


June 11, 2011

Oxford Royal Wedding Weekend - 29 April 2011

I wonder anyone does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful.  One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all... like an opera. William Butler Yeats

The day started quite grey. Ironic given that today is the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Doesn't matter who you are, you don't want it to rain on your big day.

Angie and I were up reasonably early as we had decided in early March, just after the wedding plans started coming out, we would get out of town and head for Oxford. We headed for London at 10 am, arrived at Paddington Station (where you can buy your own Paddington Bear) boarded the next train at 1150 and were on our way. With modern technology and Twitter, we were able to keep up with the wedding and find images of what some of the guests had worn.

Not far out of London, you start to see some dramatic changes in landscape. The tall buildings start to shrink, the buildings in general start to become less compacted. Farms and fields start to take over. It seems the primary crop is something with a yellow flower. As I write this, the name escapes me. Maybe canola. Perhaps in pandering to the stereotype, this is the kind of England I love.

Only an hour or so later you cross the Thames and come into Oxford Station. Neither of us was entirely sure which way to walk from the station so Angie asked a bus driver who pointed us in the right direction. A short, five-minute walk, took us into the town and the accommodation for the next couple of nights. A pub called Eurobar. We checked in, were shown up to the rooms, and were just in time to see the kiss replay at Buckingham Palace on the BBC. People might turn their noses up with the talk of the wedding but I find it exciting because it is the first one I am doing to be able to remember. Mary Donaldson doesn't count.

We didn't stay in the room very long, deciding instead to find lunch and start exploring.

The first place we came to Magdalene (Maud-a-lyn) Church. I'm not sure how old it is but its form was not traditional either. It isn't in cruciform, it’s just rectangular.

The headstones didn’t really help shed any light on the age as every single one was damaged at the same level. I doubt that floods would have done it, but i also doubt it is human damage because even the most dedicated vandal wouldn’t be this specific.

We sat outside the churchyard, near the Martyrs Memorial and attempted to eat our sandwiches without being attacked by the damn pigeons.

From where we were sitting we worked out where were compared with the museums and other sites we wanted to see. Our plan for the rest of the day was to wonder around and see what we could find.

The hardest part of navigating Oxford is the lack of signage around the various colleges. We walked into one of the colleges near the memorial and ran into a group of Americans talking loudly into mobile phones, trying to work out where they were.

A little further up the road is “The Eagle and Child”.

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to meet her to talk and drink. The pub isn’t very big. Once in the front door there is a narrow hall with two small rooms on either side. These had the usual antique looking pub paraphernalia and almost straight away you reach the bar. The bar faces into a large room with a fireplace and light fittings that would have once run on gas. We sat to one side of the unlit fireplace and had a pear cider and hot chips. It was amazing to sit in the same room as these two men.

After our pint we continued up along the road. At a fork in the road we came to another church. Again there were many old graves. Two covered in tarp but you could still see that they were subsiding. The church had closed for the day fifteen minutes before we arrived. We around the other side of the church and found more headstones, but these were so old the dates had worn off. The overhanging trees and the slightly dimmed light gave an opportunity for some arty shots.

Walking back towards the street on the other side was a hall where “Big Issue” people can go. Lying on the footpath in the shade was a big, old timer. Part sheep dog, part something else. He looked up at us, gave us a look and laid back down again. He was a gorgeous old fella.

Across the road and a little way along is a Roman Catholic church. We walked in and I was lost for words. The height of the dome, the colours, the carvings, were amazing. The couple of photos I took don’t do it any justice. Of all the artefacts and items in the church, the little box with a tap, marked Holy Water was my favourite.

Next to this church is a hospital that has been closed down. It will probably be turned into posh apartments for the wealthy. I did get a nice picture of the alms box in the wall.

As we were looking at the hospital, it started to spit with rain. We took shelter at a bus stop but decided to keep walking while it wasn’t too bad.

The English are funny when it comes to rain. For one you would think they’d be used to it. What we Aussies call drizzle and is only annoying because it can’t make up its mind as to stop or get heavier, the English call a down pour. It really is adorable.

By the time we reached the short cut up the side of the Lamb (another pub) it had all but stopped.

The walk we wondered down is called Museum Lane and brings out across the road from the Pitt-Rivers Museum. Of course the rain was unsure what it wanted to do with a few heavy drops falling on us. We decided to play it cautious and head back in towards the main street.

When we got back to broad St we found ourselves standing diagonally across from the Sheldonian. A fine name for a building. This is one of Sir Christopher Wren’s first buildings and the first one open to the public (I believe). It is a very grand building with some monumental masonry heads on the gates.

On the roof of one of the buildings a little further up the road stands a statue of a man, created by Antony Gormly. The figure creates a double take when you first notice it and it’s also quite amusing o watch everyone’s reaction as they walk by.

Continuing our meander around the streets we came to Ship Street. I have the notion in my head that it was part of a port and that Broad St itself was once part of the Thames. I’ve been reading about the Thames in Peter Ackroyds book so I may have this confused with something else. The reason I mention Ship street is because of the lovely, somewhat tilted, potentially Tudor building on the corner. The building and its throng of pigeons.

Further up Ship Street is a vintage shop called the Unicorn. I didn’t go in, owing to its small and cramped size but Angie had a quick look and saw some things she quite liked.

I need to back trace for a moment. I’ve completely missed out part of our walk on Broad Street. Across from the Sheldonian but a little further up the street is Trinity College. We were craning our necks trying to see in when the guy at the gate struck up a conversation. Asked where we were from and did we want to go in. We nodded we’d like to and with that said he designated us as students and we were allowed in for £1 each. I quite liked the duck sleeping next to the water spewing gargoyle. Walking out from one doorway you find yourself in a quad. As we entered a group of girls was hanging out one window, while a group of boys hung out of theirs opposite.  I wasn’t quite sure what their discussion was on but I think it was about what they should do at the end of their exams.

Decorating the doors of the quad looked to be the colours of the houses for rowing. The path then leads out onto a lush green lawn and back around to the main entrance. As we made our way out to the main gate a young guy, with his parents looking to be unpacking into his rooms.  I can only imagine what it would be like to study at Oxford.

Returning now to Ship Street.

Reaching the end of the street we turned right I think and found ourselves coming towards the Radcliffe Camera. Apparently nicknamed “Radder” in the 1930s. It was closed by the time we arrived so we walked down one side towards the church of St Mary the Virgin, where again we had just missed out, time wise, on going in.

The church is the site of the trial of the martyrs – the monument I mentioned earlier. It dates back to 1086 and Anglo-Saxon times. Amy Robsart is buried in the church. She was the wife of Elizabeth I’s favourite, Robert Dudley. Amy died in suspicious circumstances – she was found at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck. Many believe she was pushed and it caused quite a scandal.

As we wandered down the same side again we passed a lamp post in the middle of the walkway. We each passed on either side and as we did, Angie noticed a carving on the doors to one of the houses. It looked a little like a woodland creature within a tree. On either side of the doorway were two carved fawns. Cheeky, smiling lintels. Both of us laughed and made comment about how it was like Narnia and the “Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. Right as we were turning away from the door a couple were walking towards us. I quickly took a photo of them as they looked like the painting “American Gothic”. The whole five minutes in this spot seemed almost surreal.

Turning around we wandered up the opposite side of the “Radder” and wound our way back towards Broad Street. As we did, we came across a scene which, would be instantly familiar to any fan of Inspector Morse – ‘the Sigh’ – linking two buildings of the college together. It was a popular spot for photos as we were coming through.

By now it was almost 19.00hrs and we decided we would go on the ghost tour we had seen advertised. It is a sad irony that by this point in the year, the sun does not dip his head till after 20.00hrs, so the idea of a ghost tour doesn’t quite work. It doesn’t matter. We found a bench to wait on and watched a group of cyclists in wet suits, kit themselves out with glow sticks and ride away.

Just before 19.30hrs we saw a group progressing down the road being led by a man in a dress coat and top hat. This was to be our guide, Bill Spectre.

Bill started the tour near a cross in the road in Broad St. As we stood there, listening to his story of Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, the martyrs, I could feel my left arm getting warm – the arm closest to the cross. I was just about to mention it to Angie when the significance of the cross was revealed. The cross marks the site, just outside the city walls of the time, where the three men were burnt at the stake. So much for not being a ghost tour in receding sunlight. I don’t think the rest of the tour is much worth recording as Bill proved to a bit of a ham – that and I’ve viewed enough Jonathan Creek to be sceptical of tricks, as well as trying to work them out. it was priceless though, near the end of the tour, to watch four grown men, running up the street, beating coconut husks together, imitating horses, Monty Python-esque. The tour finished about 21.00hrs.

We started our walk back to the pub where we were staying at and found a nice pizza place for dinner. Fed and watered we fell into beds, watched some tv and fell asleep. I think, quite easily, we did about 8 or 9 kilometres today.

I find I forgot one very important part. I refer to the door, lintels and lamppost I mentioned earlier. Turns out our excitement about it being Narnia was correct as C.S Lewis did indeed find his inspiration in this little corner of Oxford. It really is easy to see why – the whole place screams of history, old gods, magic and a world I truly wish I could have experienced, even though I know it would not be entirely the wonder my imagination holds it to be.

June 09, 2011

k.d.lang @ Royal Festival Hall London - 3 June 2011

The first time I saw k.d.lang live I was 16. My uncle took myself and my friend to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre and we called him Dad. It made sense to us. Writing this now, I don't know for certain if this was the first time I'd been. It doesn't matter.

14 years later, I will still pay whatever the asking price of a ticket is, and I will not let anyone or anything stop me from getting to a show.

I broke my Facebook embargo that night to say people should hold onto their dreams no matter how unattainable or fantastical they may seem as I had had one of my dreams come true. At the end of the concert I got to shake her hand and she said 'hello, thank you' to me. I could have died happy and yes, I have washed my right hand since that night. It just goes to show what can happen in a lifetime.

The concert had come to an end. k.d. walked to the front of the stage and a lady stepped forward with her had out stretched. In response, k.d. stepped forward and took it. From there a heap of people came to the stage all putting their hands out. I was watching from the other side of the stage and feeling slightly jealous. Within seconds, k.d. was on the same side of the stage as where my seat was. I figured, one in, all in and stepped forward with my hand out. As I've got further up, she took my hand, said 'thank you' and looked me in the eye as she did it. There's not much else to tell, it was all over as quickly as it had started.
All picture copyright to me.

Stage all set up and ready to go.

Support act - Lil Miss Higgins - please google search or youtube them. They're fantastic.

Bushey Rose Garden - 8 June 2011

The garden was opened to the public in 1937.

The garden holds historic importance for Bushey and its surrounds. It has been listed on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. The garden was created by Thomas Mawson in 1913. Before it was a garden, it was the site of an art school run by Victorian artist, Sir Hubert von Herkomer from 1883 to 1904. Lucy Kemp-Welch took over the art school until Herkomer took the building back in 1912.

Many original features of the garden remain - including the sunken garden, water fountain, summer house, rose temple and pergola.

The original seven foot bronze panel was stolen in 1967 - this recreation is situated at the end of the pergola. The German inscription, roughly translated means "happiness lies in the home".

Detail from bottom left hand side of the panel

Welsh red sandstone make up the cloisters near the lawn. No records exist to explain how they arrived at this location.

These roses appear to be a hybrid cross with peonies. At least to my very untrained eye.

Rose buds

This rose caught my interest because of its pink petals amidst the white petals.

Copyright: Pictures are my own. Words have been adapted from leaflets available at the Garden. For more information, go to http://www.hertsmere.gov.uk/environmentplanning/parksandopenspaces/busheyrosegarden_3/latestupdates.jsp 
Perhaps, not the most accurate of sites to reference, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushey 

June 07, 2011

Hatshepsut's Tomb

By the time we reached the tomb of Hatshepsut we'd already been through the Valley of the Kings (photos for which I can't find) and the temperature was getting to be terrible. I think it was about 45C this day. Perhaps stupidly, I didn't realise that this temple had been rebuilt and was not original. I guess I should have been able to tell from the 'cleaness' of the stone.

Even zoomed in, it is difficult to see what this picture is of. Coming down the side of the mountain are workers moving rocks etc to build a people mover to make it easier for people to reach the site. Presently, when you arrive, their is a little shuttle train that runs you to the steps. The worst thing about this, are the tourist groups who jump the queue and push the others out of the road.

Hatshepsut's temple against the rocky cliff. New or old, it is an incredible thing to behold.

Looking back towards the entrance from the steps of the temple.


Looking straight up at the temple from the bottom of the stairs.

Ange and I had a good look around the temple but headed back to the cafe after a short(ish) while. When we got there, it was interesting how many of the Egyptian guys tried their pick up lines on us. Ange was asked how many times she had sex in a day, and she randomly pulled a number out of the air, to which the young guy replied that he was like a stallion and he could go for longer than that. It got to the point where we had to take it in turns being married to either Bruno or Joel. It was crazy.

The only negative to going to this temple was that we weren't told it wasn't included in the ticket price we'd already paid and so we all had to pay over another 35LE. Which is probably only about $10 Aus, but surprise bills are never nice.

Luxor and Karnak - 21 September 2010

I'm skipping a few days, as most of the time on the Fellucas was spent sleeping, reading, and swimming. We arrived in Luxor a few days later and met up with Drew and Dazy (the truck).

One of the largest sections of remaing wall


Pillars looking out towards the Nile

Original colours - the blue is still incredibly vibrant

I seem to have a thing for shots through doorways

The only heiroglyph in Egypt depicting the birth of a baby. Quite small inn size, so I had to zoom in quite a lot to get the shot.

Our tour group standing in the courtyard



Bruno getting up to mischief