Thursday, 26 December 2013


Yes, that's right, I spent Christmas morning on the beach with my wife, eldest son and his girlfriend. We got up early and were on the train just after 8a.m. a quick change at Central station and then on to the ferry to Manly beach. A short walk along the main shopping parade, lots of cafes and food shops already open and of course, St. Matthew's church, just a little way from the beach. I just had to go in and say a prayer and talk to God for a moment, giving thanks for all the things he provides in my life. The important things. Family, health, food, shelter and the ability to enjoy all of those things.

The weather when we left was uncharacteristically cloudy and threatening rain. Yes, honestly!
Well, I have travelled half way around the earth, to another continent and I am going to be on the beach on Christmas day no matter what chummy. It was amazing, when it did rain we were either on the train or the ferry. Then when we were walking, it stopped! Magic!

After reaching Manly beach we went on the short walk to Shelly beach, a lovely spot and one of our favourites. Beach shelter set up, down to swim gear, snorkelling equipment sorted, into the water. At first it seemed quite cool, but we soon got used to it and were so glad we did. We saw loads of fish, many different species and colours. The best of all though, were the three huge flatfish that we saw. They have the absolute perfect disguise, blending in so well with the sand that they are almost impossible to spot until they move. When they did, they provided the wow factor of the day.

We eventually returned to the beach shelter and dried off. Lovely sausage sandwiches, both pork and kangaroo, some chicken and lamb. the weather then started to look like rain again, so we packed up and started the walk back to the ferry. Lucky or what? It started to rain, but not heavily, we timed our visit to perfection. Back on the ferry and a half hour trip to Circular Quay, the hub of Sydney's ferries.
Back to our Australian home, happy to have done another "first", Christmas day on the beach.

In the evening, a wonderful Skype conversation with our youngest son and his girlfriend. That was so lovely to talk "face to face" with them again after being here over a month. The time seems to have whizzed by as we have done so much already. Still lots of time to enjoy this marvellous place, lots to do and see.

Until the next time, take care of each other, all the best, Grandad.......

Friday, 20 December 2013

Bondi Beach

Well, it is one of those places that you have to visit if you are in NSW Australia, near Sydney. You can't travel half way around the world and not go there now can you? It is an easy train ride from where we are staying (change once) then a bus ride. Now, the train rides go well, but the buses are quite crowded, no one really queues, but pushes in, (I can do that with the best of them chummy, drawing pins secured to elbows a bonus) in a free for all to get on the bus. Once on, a shortish trip to Bondi beach ensues, the travellers are then deposited on the road opposite the beach.

Bondi beach is probably known throughout most of the civilised world it seems. Iconic? Well it would be described by some as such I suppose. The best beach? Debatable at the very least. Visited by tens of thousands of people each year without a doubt. Now the truth about it all dear reader, from a beach lover and connoisseur of the same. Read on........

Bondi beach is a lot smaller than you might imagine. It is also crowded, (even on most weekdays) but not overly so, unless of course you are foolish enough to go there on Christmas day when all the tourists and locals descend upon that patch of sand, just to say they were there on that wonderful day.
I hasten to add that I will be some distance away, on a beach where I can go snorkelling and see fish swimming around the rocks and be with some of my family on that very day, the 25th of December.

Having had the great good fortune to have travelled around the east coast of New Zealand's north island, I can honestly say that any of their beaches and coves are far superior to Bondi beach in just about every way. They are bigger, longer, with far fewer people to spoil the place and with water just as clean and clear. Whilst the weather in New Zealand may not be as reliable as Australia, when the sun shines, (which was a great deal of the time when we were there) the beaches are absolutely splendid.

Now, more on Bondi beach itself. As I said previously, it is smaller than I expected, but no worries. However, the shops and cafes and bars abound, usually patronised by young people, all trying to look nonchalant whilst desperate to be seen in the right attire. Thankfully, due to my mature years, I no longer have to present myself in such a manner, can wear what I wish and behave in a way only the over 60's can do and get away with it! Compared to Manly beach, Bondi is found wanting in my humble opinion. Manly, not suffering from the "look at me everybody" style of patron is a real bonus, also the nearby Shelly beach (just a short, pleasant walk away from Manly) is great for snorkelling as there are rocks nearby, therefore fish to see and it is also good for youngsters as long as they are supervised because the  beach shelves fairly steeply after the first few yards.

To summarise, Bondi, been there, took the photo's. Would I go back again? No, in all honesty, there are far better beaches, one of which I will be gracing with my presence on Christmas day. Smug mode assumed until further notice.

Until the next time, take care of each other, all the best, Grandad.........

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Hello again dear reader!

I can not believe that it is only a week until Christmas day. Being over the other side of the world at this time of year is amazing. perplexing, unusual, a real first (definitely not the last time), and a little disorientating if that is not too strong a word. I am sitting here in just a pair of swimming trunks after preparing the evening meal for everyone to come home to after work and for us all to enjoy, the weather is fine, sunny and really warm. We went for a lovely walk along the shoreline this afternoon, bought supplies and goodies from the shop (ALDI rules!) however we also went to the local shopping mall to get superb veg, great ham and other bits. Supplies over here are so much better that the stuff that is supplied in our "supermarkets". Prices aren't that much different either, but you get much better quality, and dare I say it, really good friendly service everywhere. Try that one in England?

Tomorrow, BONDI BEACH! We are getting a travel card that we can use on buses,trains, light railways and ferries, all for about 5 to 6 quid in old fashioned money per day! Brighton council take note, as it is half price for retired/pensioners. Try that one in England as well? Takes about 1&1/2 hours to get there. Picnic packed, backpack sorted, breakfast tomorrow and then sun, sand, sea and total relaxation as it will be devoid of people as they will all be at work still!

The best part about being here at Christmas, no mad people trying to get that perfect gift for someone. No-one really acting differently to the rest of the year. No decorations everywhere  you go, no carols everywhere you go, just a subtle background noise in various places. Absolutely blooming marvelous! What does happen is subtle decorations/lights on people's balconies and around the shopping areas. Me? I am spending Christmas morning on a remote beach somewhere, swimming, sunbathing and just being bloody smug about it all.

Until next time, if I can be bothered, take care of each other, all the best, Grandad......

Thursday, 12 December 2013


Well dear reader, Grandad is back from his excursion to New Zealand, now returned safely to Sydney. New Zealand, what a place! Fabulous countryside and coast, easy roads to drive on, the friendliest people I have ever met and a terrific place to visit, live and love. We only had time to explore some of the north land in the north island, to see this country would take at least three months for each part, even then you might only touch upon the surface.

The beaches are plentiful, sandy, not crowded and the sea beautiful both in colour and temperature. Parking nearly everywhere is entirely free and easy to find. All in all I suppose I drove not very far in local's terms, doing 1,106 Km in total, which is about 687 miles in real money over 8 days. Don't forget, Grandad has a lazy breakfast, usually followed by a swim in a cove/beach somewhere and then explores the area a bit more.

We have seen glow-worms, (they only exist in New Zealand and Australia), been kayaking up to raging waterfalls, down rivers and back again. Walked through forests, mangroves and seen herons nesting in trees and an owl just sitting on a branch while we took its photograph. Been swimming in the Pacific ocean, body surfing in the waves on a surf beach, driving through tropical forests and also saw a large pod of whales off the coast of Hokianga harbour from a vantage point at Pakia Hill, just before descending the road to Oponomi. There we saw wonderful sunsets and rainbows, all viewed from our verandah and the beach a few yards away, before enjoying dinner and a glass of wine or three.

Apologies to all those avid readers of my blogs, but we are so busy enjoying ourselves that I hardly have time to paint or draw, let alone write a blog for you to share our journey. Do I feel guilty? Not a bit chummy!

Until the next time, take care of each other, all the best, Grandad.......

Saturday, 30 November 2013


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

What can I say? A lot actually. This is the first and hopefully not the last time that I have visited this fine city. Having taken the train, (electric, no noise, clean, with available seats despite being rush hour), from the suburb of Rhodes where I am staying, to the CBD (Central Business District) of Sydney at a reasonable and fair price (unlike England), I emerged from the once again incredibly clean and tidy station of Wynyard. Emerging with me were an amazing cross-section of people, workers, tourists, people of nationalities and cultures too numerous to mention, all heading in different directions according to their daily plan.

So, exiting the station and walking down George Street, one of the main streets in Sydney, we stop at "The Rocks", say cheerio to our son who is off to work nearby and set off to explore on foot. The Rocks is an area of supposedly up market shops and outlets designed to rip off the tourist and other unsuspecting souls, just as we do in good  old blighty! So, being of wise and cynical mind, we head off to the outer areas to see the real places of interest.

The thing that strikes me most of all is the amazing contrast between the "old" and new buildings. There is some lovely architecture, all reminding me of England at its best and then alongside is the concrete, glass and steel high rise monstrosity which looks as if it was built by a two year old with not enough standard, same colour, Lego building blocks to finish the job. These high rise office blocks are not of course exclusive to Sydney but are found in most cities of the world, much to my disdain.

However, Sydney has some wonderful parks and green places, all havens from the traffic noise and hustle and bustle of the everyday world. One of these is the Royal Botanical Gardens. This is an amazing place. Situated just a few strides away from Sydney Opera House (more on that structure later) it is a place where you can enjoy a picnic, lots of places to sit and just look at all the wonderful surroundings, fabulous plants and trees, no cyclists or dogs allowed (great), fantastic structures and architecture, all beautifully tended and everywhere completely litter free. Also, because there are no dogs allowed, therefore no dog shit to step in, courtesy of irresponsible owners as is often the case back home. Curiously and happily, I have only actually seen two dogs since I have been here, another reason to like this place immensely. Dog  lovers, I offer no apology whatsoever and expect bad comments on this post which I shall of course delete.

We walked in light rain over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a lovely structure designed to take trains, cars, buses, taxis, cyclists and pedestrians, all in separate areas. Sixteen people lost their lives building this bridge, the rivets used to hold the structure together number in the millions and were all fitted by hand. Walking back again, we toured the Circular Quay, another rip off area for tourists, from which ferries transport workers and tourists alike along the Parramatta  River to various destinations and it is a great place from which to see all the famous sites. Again, more on this later.

To end this post, I have to say that this is a lovely city and one that I will have to return again many times before I have to go back home.

Until the next time, take care of each other, all the best, Grandad.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Well now, it has been  a little while since my last post. I do hope all my faithful followers will forgive me and understand that I have had a lot to do to prepare for this trip. Where is Grandad? You might well ask. Presently, I am on the other side of the world to where I live, visiting loved ones and enjoying a well earned and well deserved holiday with my good lady wife. Yes, you have guessed correctly, we are in Australia!

The flights were absolutely wonderful, business class and worth every single penny. Collected and transported by limousine to and from the airport. Special priority check-in, executive lounges with superb food and wine, great champagne and spirits. Then, priority passport and security clearance, priority boarding, escort to our seats and welcome aboard! Nothing has been too much trouble, anything that you feel you require is on hand within moments. Lie-flat seats, additional mattresses, pillows, loads of films to watch, food cooked to order, wine list that anyone would be happy with, Dom Perignon or Moet Chandon champagne and as much as you want. 30 year old brandy and whisky, snacks, liqueurs, super cheeseboard and fine chocolates. Magic!

It all makes the journey seem so easy and enjoyable. The time difference has not seemed to have affected us, as we tried to adjust during the flights to Australian time, which is currently 11 hours ahead of England. So we are just as we would be, body clocks all sorted.

This really is only our second day here in Sydney, but we have already sussed out the local shops and produce. The food here makes England look like a 6th world country. The meat, vegetables and fruit are of the highest order and quality, with very little difference in cost which has surprised us a little. Yesterday we went for a stroll though one of the many parks here, crossing rivers, walking through mangroves, (yes, really!) and enjoying the warm sunshine and clear blue skies. For my artist friends, who shall remain nameless, (John, Dave and Rod), the sky is a wonderful, cloudless, ceruleum blue, with just a touch of cobalt blue at the top.

I must go now, as we are going to the pool again to cool down and relax. I know, it is tough, but someone has to do it, so why not me?

Until the next time (which will be very soon), take care of each other, all the best, Grandad.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

"Bread and Dripping and Buppy Sugar"

"Bread and Dripping and Buppy Sugar"

Well now, do any of you know what I am talking about? If so, you probably are of the same era as myself, brought up in a post war time of austerity, making do, mending everything and never throwing anything away because you could never know when you might need it or indeed if a replacement could ever be obtained.

The title leads me on to a favourite subject of mine, food. I can clearly remember the delights of having toast spread with dripping, which, for those of you that have no idea what that is, I will enlighten you. It is beef fat, pure beef fat, saturated of course! Did it taste great, you bet your life it did, it was Sunday tea, after the lunchtime roast, not every Sunday, don't forget, my parents could not afford  meat every weekend, it was a special treat. 

Now, after that superb repast, what to have for sweet? Yes, you have guessed it, "Buppy sugar". What the heck is that I hear you say, well once again, I will enlighten you. It was bread, spread with the thinnest coating of margarine you could imagine, then dipped in the sugar bowl. a minimum coating of sugar was obtained, but the amazing damage to teeth that occurred is legendary. A child of the fifties, the metal in my mouth is probably worth a King's ransom in these days of scrap metal being in such great demand.

As for the fat, did it do me any harm? Well, all I can say is that I am still here and enjoying life, not overweight, teeth sorted and still my own, thank goodness, not many can say that dear reader!

Until next time........

Monday, 4 February 2013

Grandads Back!

Grandads Back!

Well dear readers, have you missed me? Some have but I have certainly missed you! The time just slips away, I have so many interests, art, rc aircraft, cooking, winemaking, etc, that the blog has suffered from neglect a little.  Not only that, but my personal life has been rather taking over my time for the last few months and I have now discovered that I have a bone broken in my hand that was an old injury and has failed to heal!  So waiting for an operation, good old NHS which the government is doing its best to try and destroy in my humble opinion. I bet Cameron wouldn't have to wait 5 months, they would ask him when he might like to have it sorted, today or tomorrow? Wish they would ask me that.

I have faithfully put out food for the birds over the Winter. The pleasure of watching Robins, Starlings, Wagtails, Blue tits, Great tits, Pigeons, and our resident cheeky squirrel (nicknamed Sid) has far outweighed the cost of the food. I am hoping to put up some nest boxes in the next month and perhaps rig up a video camera or two, but the broken hand does not help when trying to do these things.

In a couple of days, it is the birthday of the girlfriend of my eldest son. Did you follow that? Her name is Scarlet, one of my favourite colours to use in my art and a beautiful name in my opinion. I am decorating one of my rc aircraft in scarlet and white, also fitting it with lights for night flying. I will try and post some pictures of it soon. Well, that has just made Scarlet world famous, happy birthday!

Until the next time dear reader.......