Saturday, July 12, 2014

Holiday anti climax

Now I have finished my holiday posts, I forget how to write something to publish daily that is not written much in advance and full of photos.

Work is absolutely awful at the moment. You cannot imagine the stress I have been under. Tuesday night, four hours sleep. Wednesday 3.5 hours. Thursday night a bit better with 6 hours. Tossing and turning, super hot body temperature in bed to the point where I get woken up. When can I retire? Oh, I am too young and I don't have enough money.

Yesterday was Little Jo's 7th birthday. We called her and she was getting her hair cut at a salon and we sang happy birthday to her over the phone. She was screaming, so Sister told us later. Oh, what have we done? Screaming in delight, apparently. Sister and Little Jo called in last Tuesday, just when my work issues began and I was less than my cheerful self, but we had bought her an animated toy dinosaur, a dinosaur birthday card and a dvd.

Mother is nearly dead from a bad cold. She has played it long and hard, for three weeks. We took her to the doctor last Sunday when we visited her, and then again when R did his duty of taking Mother out on Thursday, she was back at the doctors with another appointment, just for a check. R felt like slapping her. If the Abbott's $7 surcharge would dissuade her from visiting the doctor for what are really old age issues and for which there is no cure, maybe the $7 is not a bad thing. She doesn't seem to be doing so badly with money now, and pays $50 towards the electricity account each fortnight, which will repay what she owes and manage what she is now using.

ABI Brother (acquired brain injury) has once again got himself mixed up in some crazy investment, Townsville off the plan property, apparently. We had to in the past bail him out of a Henry Kaye scheme. We can only offer advice. I have spoken to him on the phone, written him two letters and while Sister was away in Darwin, once home and I told her, she and Bone Doctor said it was crazy. Bone Doctor's grandmother lives in Townsville. The locally knowledgeable Bone Doctor called ABI Brother and told him of the pitfalls. Sister did too. We were all called by the property manager as to why we were dissuading him and drilled to the point where we all thought it would be a good investment. The essence is ABI Brother owns his own home, can afford a reasonable car and holidays. He has done well, given his injuries. He is putting all that at risk by effectively borrowing half a million dollars to buy an outer suburban Townsville off the plan property. We have all given him strong advice, but at the end of the day, it is his decision. He is 54 years old. Earns a minimum income, and not a particularly secure one. Also, his brain does't not function as well as it should, he hears tax savings, and he is interested. Only have to pay $50 per week after tax benefits and rental. We have all expressed our opinions to him, but we can't stop him.

The property spruiker may well be right about the profits to come, and ABI Brother may blame us for his loss.

Hippy Niece has kicked her Maori partner out from Tradie Brother's home after their US holiday. Ah, he is Morman. Now it makes sense. But then they are going out on a date! I despair.

R and I were standing out on the balcony two nights ago. Something bright flew past. I knew not what. What was that, sweetheart? Dunno. We didn't trouble ourselves about it for long. It was Russian space junk. It seemed low on the horizon, it wasn't. It seemed nearby, it wasn't. It was certainly weird. It was quite spectacular but as I said earlier, my mind was focused more on work issues.

If you are poor or rich, no matter. Just offer me sympathy for having to work a crap job that I have done for thirty five years and have to continue to do so for probably another five years just to maintain my lifestyle. 

Reverse mortgages I hear you say?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Eurocruise 6&7&8/06 Manchester, Singapore, Home

While we were pleased our ever so long holiday was coming to an end, it was awfully sad to leave to leave family behind in Newcastle, and as they are R's direct family, not mine, imagine how he felt. But he made a decision as a young man to leave and has no regrets, well not about leaving Newcastle, which was, and I quote him, 'a miserable place. There was no work and no future for anyone like me'. He did not have to live through the Newcastle riots, the Thatcher years when 'uneconomic industries' were shut down but he also missed the time when under PM Blair,  Pounds and Euros were pumped into Newcastle which led to its revitalisation and reinvention. Greater Newcastle has a population of over 1 million and my opinion for what it is worth, is that it's a sophisticated place, with a large number of foreign students and tourists and the locals are very friendly. It does have its underclass though, and I expect quite high social problem numbers. From what I hear, it is ever so much nicer than Birmingham, the second largest city in England. I won't mention the weather, beyond that the River Tyne no longer ices over.

Geordies were horrified at the cost of the huge sculpture, The Angel of the North, but then there were all the car crashes as people slowed and stopped to gaze at it. They now embrace it and I consider the work by renown artist Anthony Gormley a brilliant piece of public art. We visited it last time, so this was just a snap from the train as we left. Note the colour of the sky, as we were leaving.

Rough trade at Northallerton as we passed by.

We had to change trains at York. York has the National Railway Museum. R asked, do you want to see it? There was no time although I could have planned to see it. Always leave yourself wanting.

We stepped out of Manchester Airport train station and saw our hotel a short distance away. The station is at the far end of the path. We could not get across the road and couldn't see any way to get to our ever so close hotel, remembering we were pulling heavy cases along. We backtracked to the station and asked staff. Staff directed us to a phone to be picked up by a courtesy bus. What a pity that information wasn't supplied when we booked. We did not have to wait long for the bus.

From our hotel, we had a wonderful view of the Manchester airport station. We were really hungry because unlike the East Coast Train, the Trans Penine Express did give us anything to eat or drink. So that is Trans Penine Express first class? We just wanted a sandwich, but the prices at the hotel for lunch or snacks was quite high. We found a well worn path across the road, where there was a dirt track under a flyover bridge to a petrol station that had food. Aren't we all class? The hotel was very nice but no cooling. We were quite warm during the night.

As I may have mentioned, our friends arrived into Manchester the day before and were collected by a friend who took them to his village pub, in Wales............just an hour away. They returned that evening and we had fine, albeit quite expensive, meal at the hotel and caught up on their news. It was nice.

As soon as I heard the word aqueduct, I wondered. Could it be the the same as the one of a You Tube video I once showed you and at least one of you said it looked scary? It was. They stayed in a pub with almost a view of the aqueduct. That would be the Pontcysylite Aqueduct in the town of Llangollen. Don't ask me how these places are pronounced. Ask John.

Manchester, a pause at Munich, and a longer pause at Singapore. Please, I just want to be home. Singapore had some carp koi in a nice pond and a butterfly house.

Singapore's Changi Airport is huge and driverless trains ferry people from terminal to terminal.

Cases full of dirty clothes.

Along with presents to be given, in our electronic age there was much paper work and brochures and maps.  I am writing this on the 8th of July and finally I have gone through it and it is bagged and ready to be put away, into a large travel box that no one will take any interest in as they go through my life in paper form once I am dead.

Remaining Pounds, Euros and Forint were converted to AU$88. I had to tell the lass where the Forint, HUF, came from.

Bless the welcome home from Little Jo.

And the fresh flowers of no great merit but it was a lovely gesture.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Eurocruise 05/06 The Blinking Eye

Our friends were leaving this afternoon for Manchester, but firstly we took them into town on the bus with a stop off for brunch at Sister 3's cafe. Sister three, the worse for wear after the previous night, had not fronted but her daughter had stepped into the breach. I am sure you will agree, this is a nice cottage garden we passed by on the way to the bus stop.

Grey Street leads down to the River Tyne and in town is lined with posh shops and fine dining establishments but it is all very discreet. You can't be  too flashy with your money in a working class town but there is money in Newcastle.

Dog Leap steps lead up to the Castle Keep, which I think is an old town gate or fort. We climbed it last time and had no intention of doing so this time.

While we menfolk in 2008 climbed the stairs up to The Keep, the womenfolk sensibly took to the gin in this pub.

To the right you can see the Tyne Bridge.

This bridge is for buses and trains.

Does the Tyne Bridge remind you of another one similar?

As well as many bridges over the Tyne, there is also a tunnel underneath and plans for another. This red and white bridge is a swing bridge.

The southern side of the Tyne is called Gateshead. I think the building you can see is an arts performance space. You can also see the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

Another view of the Tyne Bridge.

Sand, deck chairs, there are umbrellas there somewhere too usually means a beach, but this is a riverside beach.

The Gateshead Millennium Bridge is also known less formally as the Winking Eye or the Blinking Eye. The walkway lifts up to give passage to river craft too high to pass under. It is opened daily for bridge geeks. Ok, yes, I wanted to see it.

A wonderful building given a new life as a space for art.

It must be nearly fully open now.

Huge hydraulics operate the bridge.

We found a bus to get us back to the centre of town but we could not use our day tickets and had to pay again. Gusto in Newcastle looks a bit different to Gusto in Aomori, Japan.

On the edge of Grainger Market was Farnons Department Store. It has long gone, but it was where R worked his first job after leaving school.

From the number 40 bus home, St James' Park, home of the Newcastle United football team.

Sister 1's husband delivered our friends to the station late afternoon for them to journey to Manchester where they would be collected by a friend to stay the night. We journey to Manchester the following day. Unbelievably, family members turned up again that night at home for a final goodbye, but they pleasingly did not stay too long. Sister 1 has a daughter the same age as Little Jo, and she brought presents for Little Jo, even though they had never met. She also brought us a bottle of Scotch to send us on our way.

I wished I could click my fingers and be home. I was, well both of us, were well over our holiday.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Eurocruise 04/06 Old Durham Town and a riotous dinner

Sister 1 has retired from work, but for pocket money each week day morning and evening she escorts challenging children in a seven seater taxi to and from a special school. Read that as we don't trust a male taxi driver with six children, well an organisation protecting itself against any accusations. While we thought we would initially get the bus into Central Station to catch the train to Durham, we ended up deciding to get her seven seater taxi driver work mate to take us to the station. We were now a party of six, with our friends as well as Sister 1 and her husband. Given it was raining, it was a wise choice.

We bought the tickets from a  machine and what a complicated thing it was. Why can't I use my Oyster Card? Each of us seemed to end up with three magnetic striped tickets for a return train fare. The train was quite comfortable and the journey to Durham fast.

To interrupt the flow, the day before I had to tell our non Anglo travelling friend about the Geordie language, the word toon, but more importantly as the word is quite different, bairns. Babies and children into their teen years, are bairns. I had noted a puzzled expression on his face when the word bairns was used. Bairns is not a word that can not be spelt phonetically in normal English, but you could say bens and stretch it right out.

One entrance to Newcastle Central Station. It has been extensively renovated since we were last there. The entrance has been glassed in and it is quite modern inside and well laid out.

There goes our cab.

No stifling diesel fume build up, like at our Southern Cross Station. No, this was designed for steam trains.

It wasn't using the overhead wires, so it must be a diesel or diesel electric. For Victorian's, it felt and sounded  a bit like a VLocity train

Here we are at Durham.

Handsome station building and it is still raining.

Look down there. What is that building? We walked down the hill in the rain and crossed the Milburngate Bridge, vowing to get a cab back.

Ah, lookysee. Durham Castle is there somewhere, but the skyline is dominated by Durham Cathedral.

The River Wear flows through the township.

We took a short taxi ride up to the cathedral.

Very hard for a point and shoot camera to capture the full cathedral. The building was completed in 1093. Unbelievable. I felt a slight shiver as I entered the church. I don't know why and I had not experienced that in any European church or cathedral. There is a 66 metre (217 ft) tower to climb, for a fee, with all sorts of dire warnings about heart attacks and the difficulties of rescue. However, somebody's partner made the climb and was very proud of himself, even though, as he said, the views weren't anything special. Quite so. Wet and grey skies look similar from the ground to what they looked up in a tower.

We walked back into centre of town. Still it rained.

Town square, adjacent to the market.

We found a nice enough place for lunch and coffee but we didn't feel inclined to hang around Durham. The weather was just too awful.

I can't remember the details, but the trains arrived out of order and the one we intended to catch was behind what was supposed to be a later. It did not matter. They both went to Newcastle.

Heads down, peering at a phone screen, the same the world over, as life passes them by. Ok, I do a good bit of phone screen staring too.

I like the train livery.

Crossing the Tyne River, with a menage of bridges.

It was a huge family dinner that evening at Lau's 202, a chinese restaurant, which of course has western food too. Sister 2 only eats English food. There were about 15 adults and 6 children. This Art Deco building opposite was interesting.

We had again taken the 7 seater taxi to get to the restaurant and the chap said he would pick us up any time before 1am. I laughed. As if we would be out that late given we met up at 6. Well, the photo below was in the next day's camera shots, so it was taken after midnight. From here we went in two taxis to Sister 2's house in Elswick, which was half way home. I stayed about an hour and then with our two friends, went home in a taxi. R stayed on with sisters and had a 'family moment' that extended until 9am and he arrived home at 9.30 in a surprisingly good state. No time for sleep. We are out again this morning.