Sunday, June 24, 2018

Harry Potter

The Harry Potter studio tour has family day written all over it. Admittedly, some of us are more committed fans than others (Andrew only found out which house he belongs to this morning, and Toby couldn't quite manage it), but if you leave the planning to me, you just have to take what you get. And, just in case you are interested, Joss is a Gryffindor, Beth and I are Hufflepuffs, and Andrew was sorted this morning into Ravenclaw. Now, if only Toby were Slytherin, we'd have all four houses represented. I'm not sure he has the required ambition....

It was pretty amazing. The studios where the films were made over ten years, are now an 'attraction'. Sets, props, effects, and butterbeer, which smells like butterscotch.

After several hours at the studio, we were driven to Oxford for a walking tour, focussing on the Harry Potter related places and people.

I do love Oxford. The Tolkien and Lewis connection would be enough to earn my affection, but it is so very beautiful, historical and bookish! The Radcliffe Camera (above) is part of the Bodleian Library. The bridge of sighs (Hertford Bridge) is just opposite.

This building is also part of the Bodleian Library. Libraries are the best.

Bookshops are also good.

Earlier this year my friend and colleague, Cynthia, discovered that there would be a Tolkien exhibition at the Bodleian, while we were here. Our tour guide suggested we go there before we had to return, but, sadly, we were there too late in the day. Perhaps it would have tipped me over; too much for one day.

Saturday, June 23, 2018


With most holidays it's hard to find the balance between having a relaxing and flexible break and seeing and doing all that you are interested in. The trouble when you travel so very far for a holiday, is that you want to fit as much in as possible. Today we left open, with no bookings or firm plans, so that we could all do whatever took our fancy.

This is the garden outside our bedroom window. Despite being in a very busy area, we woke to birdsong along with the plane and car noises.

After a leisurely breakfast, we walked down to Earl's Court station, and loaded up some Oyster cards. It is such a strange thing, to be a grown person who understands the language, but has no idea how regular things work! It's like being a child again.

A very helpful man at the station sorted us out, and then we were free to explore. Andrew and the kids went straight to Oxford and Regent Streets for shopping, and I stayed on the Tube by myself, to go on to the Bank of England, where I had some old notes to exchange.

The Royal Exchange over the road from the Bank of England
I'm sure I looked silly, wandering around with a smile on my face, but it was such a delicious feeling, to be exploring on my own.

I joined the others and went to a three storey shop full of M&Ms (!) and a sweet shop that I could smell from down the street. Joss, Toby and Bethany all bought sweets and clothes, but as those things are available at home, I left them to it.

I caught the Tube again, feeling so clever, and found the Wallace Collection. This was recommended by my friend Stephen, whose grandmother had suggested it to him years ago. I was so glad I went.

It was a building full of the most fascinating, beautiful, sometimes really old artwork, furniture and armour. I loved it all, but was especially fascinated by the armour and weapons.

By three, the shoppers were all shopped out, and I was keen to relax for a bit before going out to meet a friend (I have a friend who lives in London!), so Andrew went on a solo trip back to Buckingham Palace, to enjoy it without the crowds, and the kids and I caught the Tube home.

Jess used to work with me at Wagga City Library, and she very kindly met me after work for dinner. It was the loveliest evening. I meant to take photos of the food for my friend Sara, but I was too busy talking and forgot!

Step count: 25,396.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Fitting it all in

London is an awfully big, busy place. There are too many things that five people want to do and see, and not enough hours, or energy, to manage it. We are tiring ourselves out in the best way.

After a most restorative night's sleep, we were keen to get back into it and headed out to hop on and off the bus again. If the beautiful buildings weren't worth looking at, just the skill of the driver, weaving in and out of the traffic, would make it exciting.

We, along with thousands of other people, watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, then walked through St James's Park, down to the London Eye.

One of our party is not that keen on heights, so four of us went on the massive Ferris wheel. I don't think my Mum would like it.....

Joss was a bit scared, preferring not to look down, but I thought it serene, and the views were well worth it.

We went to St Paul's Cathedral, where you aren't able to take photos. Joss thinks it the best place she has ever been, and even Toby was impressed. We climbed all the way to the tippy top (and are feeling it in our legs this evening). We caught the Tube home, and were very pleased with ourselves for doing it.

It's strange being somewhere that is at once familiar and foreign. I am not a fan of asking for help, but it is necessary to be like a child when you don't know how things work. There are so very many tourists here, though, that at least we don't feel alone.

We go to bed this evening, having walked so far, seen so much, and loved it all.

The long, first day

    How I laughed when Bethany said she was looking forward to the plane! She was well and truly over it before we even reached Singapore, but everyone had at least some sleep during the second and longest leg. Towards the end, I had the feeling that we had always been on the plane, and always would be, but we enjoyed our movies, and it came to an end.

    We were dropped at our digs, where we were way too early to check in, so we left our bags behind, gave everyone a pep talk to keep them going, and headed off.

    We found cool houses and shops, told off a barista for thinking we were American, and hopped on an open-topped bus to see the sights.

    • Joss was pretty thrilled to see real Van Gogh and Monet paintings at the art gallery. I confess that I don’t enjoy taking poor photographs of beautiful paintings. Somehow, I don’t mind an average photo of the beautiful ceiling.

       I did start crying from happiness and a sense of history and beloved book settings coming to life. I’ll have to drink plenty of water the day we go to Thornfield (Haddon Hall has played Thornfield from Jane Eyre in three adaptations).

      We were upgraded at our accommodation to a three bedroom, two bathroom apartment. It is huge, and gorgeous; we really love it. We are now all showered, just about to find something for dinner, and very much looking forward to bed.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Hello strangers

It has been nearly six months since I posted! I haven't defected to the lesser socials, there have been no great revelations made on Facebook or Instagram. I have just been living my life; working full-time, sharing a car with the almost independent daughter, driving the two more dependent children to many extra-curricular activities, running three card classes a month, with associated preparation, and reading. It isn't that I dislike blogging, or think it unimportant, I just haven't considered it more important that those things, or sleep.

When I left work yesterday, there was hugging. We don't usually hug when we part at the end of the working day, even on Friday afternoons, but this Friday was different. I am not returning for five weeks!

We are going on a trip of a lifetime, and by 'we' I mean all five of us. Joss will be off to uni next year, and perhaps we will never all live together again. So, we are off on a joint adventure, and I am planning to share it here. Facebook and Instagram will get something, too, but it won't be the same, it never is.

We fly out on Tuesday, to places that seem dreamlike; imaginary and magical. I know they are real; I have been there after all (Andrew's and my trip was ten years ago!), but I am a person who reads largely for setting and place, and the settings that really tug at my heart are in the U.K.

I was a very unpatriotic young person. Actually, I think patriotism tends to be ugly, so I am still not patriotic, but I no longer suffer from the grass is always greener mindset that is the enemy of contentment. I have come to terms with Australian summers, and there is so much to love about where we live.

Last week, I drove Bethany's friend back to her farm in Wantabadgery, around forty minutes away. It has become my favourite drive. It was late afternoon, and the sun was setting behind me, lighting the dry grass and trees a vibrant gold which contrasted with the deep blue-grey sky, threatening rain. We then drove into the rain, and on the way home, the sun was behind the hills, giving them a luminous pink glow.

So, while we will be travelling to places that move me deeply, I am happy to call this place home, at least until I am called to my true home, for good.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Back to school

There has been an ad playing, on Instagram, where a woman does a happy dance because school is going back. I still have two at school, but I am far from doing a happy dance. Not only are school supplies, shoes in particular, frighteningly expensive, but our lives get so much busier during term time. There will be two lots of tennis lessons, piano lessons, maths tutoring, Saturday sport, Bible study and youth group. I have to make school lunches, iron white cotton shirts and pester encourage people to do their homework. It all definitely makes you appreciate the holidays! At least I am not having to get up five hours earlier than I am used to, tomorrow!

Andrew's parents came to stay for a week, which was lovely. It was especially relaxing for them as it was so hot; they pretty much couldn't leave the house! They had the house to themselves in the morning, too, as the kids didn't get up until lunchtime.

Facebook told me that a friend from school drove to Tasmania with her family, so we took the opportunity on their way back to have breakfast together as they drove through Wagga. Daphne hasn't changed a bit, despite the fact that our next school reunion will signify 30 years since we left. That feels at once astounding and perfectly reasonable. It was so lovely to see her, and her husband and two daughters. I think we should organise a much smaller reunion, just for old friends....

Pierre belongs to my hairdresser, and he is a tireless ball chaser. Really, tireless. I love it when his ears go inside-out, and I think sausage dog legs are just the funniest.

Our visitors left as the heavens opened. It rained for hours, slow and steady. We opened up the whole back door to enjoy it.

The rain was so heavy, the countryside disappeared.
The clouds lifted.

The colours popped.
This afternoon I rode home from work in the rain. It's so much nicer than the burning sunshine, though I can't wear my glasses!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Growing up, not out

Toby turned sixteen yesterday. He's significantly taller than I am, skinny as ever, and not at all keen on having his photo taken.

His chosen birthday dinner was enchiladas and malteser cake, which we shared with Mum and Dad and the Melbourne cousins. I didn't get any photos of him on his actual birthday; having us all sing to him was trial enough for the poor boy, but I did sneak a couple today.

See what I did here? It's a photo of his drone, he just happens to be in it. It sounds like a huge mosquito, and looks a little scary with those green eyes.

I find this next photo represents him pretty well. If he isn't moving (tennis, soccer, basketball, running), then he'd like to be gaming.

Now, he just has to sit the test for his Learner's permit, and we can start getting the 120 hours of driving required for his licence! Four drivers in the family!