Travel Home Base to UK
The weather in Western Australia has finally turned good, and we are heading off into a Northern Hemisphere winter. Are we mad? Probably. But, with lots of family and a promise of new experiences (that being falling snow and below zero temps), we will, for sure, have a great time. We’ve got the front garden planting started, and a plan for the back, and we’re enjoying the close proximity to all the facilities, which allows us to cycle everywhere we need to go. There is still more improvement that can be made in that area, but we are making good progress. So now we head to the UK, for my big sisters 50th Birthday Bonanza, and Christmas.
Some planting and tidying of the front and side gardens, with more to come.
Will was busy tidying the shed and sorting our bicycles. Great racks Will. (Steadyrack)
Our first travel adventure, leaving home on foot, and making use of public transport. It was too easy. The weather was a beautiful 27C as we walked down our street to the train. We walked straight into the train, which took us into Perth and the bus port. Another short walk, and we were on the bus to the airport terminal. No stress, no car park fees, and cheaper than taxis or Uber. All checked in, and so much time to relax, get lunch, and have a pre-trip drink.
Leaving home in the warmth to go to the cold seemed wrong. A few drinks might help.
The flights were as expected, with a fast change over in Bangkok, we had no issues. Both of us managed to get some sleep, so we were a bit dazed and confused on landing, but not totally munted. Four degrees on arrival, at 6.30am, and luckily sister Sue, was ready and waiting (in her slippers) with the Ranger Rover’s heated seats on full. The big job for arrival day, is to stay awake as long as possible, pass out (hopefully at night time), and then the jet lag is minimal. Sue cooked us some breakfast, we can’t remember the middle part, and went out with “the crew” to Chinese. Somehow we managed to stay awake till about 11pm, and slept like zombies.
A busy first day, bloody cold, but great to get here for the festivities. Also, being first, we got the best room at Castle Oud.
A warm fire, a warm house, and a warm welcome from the doggies.
Sunday meant more arrivals, and the street Christmas drinks, so Sue and I did the meet and greet of the Christmas gathering, while the guys did the airport collection. Another massive day, still getting over the journey. The rest of the week, was busy with Birthday party prep, more airport runs, and hire car duties. In amongst it all, Will and I managed to pick up two Brompton Folding bikes. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, Will has been researching and investigating folding bikes for a while, as an alternative to having a rack and bikes on the back or roof of a car. So we’d chosen Brompton’s, from the list of manufacturers, and organised the purchase months ago. It was very exciting to finally see them in the flesh, and to have a mobility device to save the stupid dick knees.
Kirsty and Hayden arrived and were thrown straight into the street Chrissy drinks. It was a welcome indeed. They only made it to 7.30pm. Newbies!
Dan at Stows cycles gave us a great demonstration, we loaded them up, did a test run across the road, then headed off, following Madame Google. After a year off the pushies, we hopped on these buggers with 16” wheels, and rode 16 miles (27kms) back to Castle Oud. Not without a short lunch stop at The Kingfisher in Chertsey, for lunch and a butt break.
In the busy week before The Party, I took Sue’s vesper to the physio, Kirsty got a hair cut, and we had one more visit to Stows Cycles to collect the packing boxes. We also had a go on a pretty amazing electric bike. Might be next options.
Finally, it was Birthday weekend, and with just about all the family from Oz here, (Sue called us the Oudrageous 12, a play on her surname and how many of us there were) we carefully packed and prepped to leave. Hayden and Kirsty were with us, travelling in the hire car, but we had a few bits of last minute shopping to do. While we did that, the rest of the team, packed up the camper (hired as another bedroom at Castle Oud) and headed off to North Cadbury. The Colquhoun clan, got back to the house to pack our gear, only to find it totally locked up, and that our key (just cut) didn’t work. Luckily, Sue and Brad have two large golden retriever dogs, with a cool dog run, and large dog door. It goes into the dogs own room, which is usually kept locked, but thankfully was not, as that was the only way in. Before any of us could suggest Kirsty try to get in that way, as she’s the smallest, Will had dived head first into it, and managed to wriggle through to let us in. Saved, we now have clothes to wear on the weekend.
Will was quite determined to be a golden retriever. Luckily he didn’t get stuck.
Well, what a weekend it was. 54 guests, all staying in a magnificent 600 year old Manor house, and living like it is our home. Everyone was asked to bring food to share, drinks to share, and to take on some jobs to help get things done. It was a feat of amazing organisation, lead by the birthday girl herself. On top of the drinking and dancing, there was a bake off, a quiz night, golf off the roof, fishing in the private lake, and please let’s not forget the Karaoke, EVERY night, till the wee early hours. It was incredible. Us Aussies, had never experienced anything quite like it. My sister is truly amazing. Thank you Sue, so so much.
Upon arrival at North Cadbury Court, the “Concierge” greeted us and showed us to our rooms. They also confiscated alcohol and food goods.
This place is full of old memorabilia, books and paintings. Some of us just couldn’t resist. Go Debra, go! And just look at “The Bar”. Luckily you can’t see what is under it. Oh dear god!
Big Saturday, bake off, quiz, dress up, and get it on. The young boys, looked gorgeous in party suits, and hats were a must. The Aussies didn’t win the bake off, even with fairy bread.
My sister throws a mean shin dig, with awesome music, and heaps of fun. The young people are not conditioned for this level yet. But having a rests are acceptable.
Sunday night shenanigans. Most people had gone home, but those left, kept the party going. Hayden did his best to teach the Poms how to do a “Shoey “.
Sunday required oxygen for some, but was a good time to explore the estate and the village. The church was beautiful and we were lucky enough to hear the pipe organ in action. The local pub had a little fire going, and was very welcoming, and they gave out roast potatoes as bar snacks. Yummo!
Monday meant we were all out of the Manor, and off in different directions. The weather, which had been pretty reasonable ( fine and bloody freezing) was turning, and not long after heading east on the A303, it actually started to snow, really lightly. Poor Will had to drive in it, while Hayden, Kirsty and I were fascinated by the little flakes. A first for all of us. We drove all the way to the east coast, to Ramsgate, where Will’s cousin Alison, and her family live. Hayden and Kirsty were going to stay with them, and were meeting with a bunch of Kirsty’s relatives, who she had never met. A challenging and difficult thing to do on your own, but they ended up having a great night.
Real snow! First time ever! Pretty and cool.
Will and I spent a couple of relaxing days, at Sue’s getting ready to head back over to Ramsgate, to house sit for Alison and co, while they enjoyed a warmer, sunnier, Christmas in Australia. We also have the responsibility of taking care of their cat, Minkle. The hire car has been returned, and we are going to cycle and train it, to Ramsgate. A bit of a trial of travelling with the little folding bikes. Public transport in London, UK, is not really cheap, but again, my incredible sister managed to find us tickets for almost a Third of the price. So Thursday mid morning, we loaded some clothes and gear into the Brompton bike bags, unfolded the new kids on the block, and cycled off to the train station. Ten minutes later, and nicely warmed up in the 3C, we were standing on the platform refolding our bikes. Stage one, easy!
Some of the Oudrageous 12, a UK shopping centre, it was huge, we dropped the hire car back, before heading off to Ramsgate, is that Lara Croft from Tomb Raider?
Bromptons all packed for first adventure, and next minute we’re at the train station.
Stage two, was not quite so easy, as we had to change from the overground rail, to the Tube. This entailed, carrying/rolling the bikes down and up stairs, through tunnels, and all the while trying to figure out precisely where we needed to get to. The Tube is bloody busy, and people are in a hurry. It was a bit stressful, trying not to fall down the stairs (bloody stupid dick knees) and get the hang of walking on the right (fast walkers like to zip past you on your left? Doesn’t seem right to me.). No photos, we were too stressed out and focused.
The fast train to Ramsgate wasn’t actually fast, it took 2hrs, but it was very comfortable.
After getting to Kings Cross station, which is also St Pancras, (and frickin huge) stage 3 was actually not that bad. Once on the train, the little bikes tucked behind the seats, and we could just relax and enjoy the ride (or have a little power nap, like Will did). We made it to Ramsgate and unfolded the bikes, attached the bags, and followed Madam Google to Alisons’ house. Easy! It did take us about 4 hours all up, instead of driving, which would be anywhere from 1.5hrs to 2 hrs, depending on traffic. But it is possible.
This is Margate, from the train. Looks interesting.
It was an easy ride from the station to our house sit. Cold, but easy, and we’re getting pretty good at folding and unfolding the bikes.
Alison and the family are officially on holidays, so it was curry and drinks to celebrate, with a couple of their friends. It was a very nice night, and we drank a few too many bottles of good red wine. Oops! Friday we went for a walking tour of Ramsgate, which looks pretty nice. It has some interesting architecture, lots of old English pubs, and a nice coastal strip. It takes a bit of getting used to seeing the beaches with different sand or pebbles. No crisp white sand here. The stupid dick knees held up okay, and the walk was a bit over a kilometre, which is more than double what I could handle a few months ago.
We liked the seafront area, and a quirky little coffee shop called Vinylhead, playing music on vinyl of course.
Adding to the holiday start, we all went over to Margate, only a few miles away, and went ice skating. Well, let me just say, that Will took it for team Wiljen, as after the walk, I wasn’t confident the knees would hold up. The kids had a ball, and Will managed about 6 laps without incident, before the time was up (saved by the bell). Outside, the wind was howling off the North Sea, and it was freezing cold. Luckily, Alison found us a nice little boutique pub, where we sat and warmed up with a couple of fancy ales and a bag or two of “crisps” (we call them chips). Next door, was an authentic Italian pizza joint, and we totally pigged out on some fantastic pizzas, way more than we probably needed, before heading home and having an early night. This crew are off in the morning, to Australia.
The kids are experts hey? We used to be like that, what the hell happened?
The fair looks good, but the wind was howling, and it was frickin freezing. Thank goodness for Nanna’s beanies.
Saturday morning was full of excitement, last minute packing, and instructions. Minkle, Will and I waved them off, before having another coffee and planning our day. Minkle decided he’d just chill out on the clean washing, so we thought we’d make the most of the clear blue skies, and ride over to Broadstairs, 3 miles away, along the coast. There is a bicycle trail, called The Viking Trail, which runs for 25 miles around the Isle of Thanet ( the little protruding piece of land we are on). The small section we took, was pretty good, but had many places where we were supposed to dismount, which was confusing. Just before Viking Bay, at Broadstairs, one old Coote even yelled at us to get off the bikes and walk. He was quite relentless, and he didn’t even give us a chance to agree and take action, he just kept yelling at us. Couldn’t even get a “fuck off you old bastard” out. But it was a good ride anyway.
A beautiful, crisp day for a ride. A very scenic coastline, with limestone cliffs, and interesting houses.
Not much was open in Broadstairs, it is the off season, so we found a coffee and a cake, and then rode home. Alison told me Ramsgate was flat. She was wrong ! There are lots of small hills, and on small wheels, they are a little challenging. By the time we got home, we had had enough. So we ordered curry in, and watched Strictly Dancing, as requested by Zoe, Alison’s daughter. I had to message her the winners. It wasn’t too bad either.
We found another little Brompton, out for a ride in Broadstairs. Super!
Sunday was looking a bit dark and miserable, so we took a while to get motivated to take a walk. In the end, we wondered down to Witherspoon’s (a popular franchise establishment), where we had a beer and a burger. We stopped for another beer at The Queen’s Head, and just as it started raining, we walked home via Waitrose. Some soup and crusty bread for an easy dinner, and a few more beers, and we had a pretty relaxing day. Minkle, is enjoying my nice warm lap, and I can see how easy it would be, to become a crazy cat lady, should I find myself alone……let’s not let that happen people!
Minkle and I have formed a bond, and we both enjoy a snuggle on the couch. Especially in this cold, and after a wonder around town.
Monday, what a massive day! Training it back to sister Sues, with the little Bromptons, then getting ready for “The Big Shave”. Another great event my sister has been organising, to raise money for her friend Louise. We met Louise on one of visits, as she is a dog walker. She has taken good care of Sue and Brads dogs for ages, and has become a good friend. Louise is going through her second lot of cancer, and the event is raising money to help Louise with some alternative treatments. Will and I decided to join the support crew, and help raise money by having our heads shaved too.
On this return train journey, we decided to ride from Kings Cross to Waterloo station. We were both a little nervous, as we’d heard many scary stories, but as it turned out, it was quicker and easier than the tube.
The guys went first, and bids were made to shave heads and beards. Nick and Roger went first, and £50 pounds was paid for Nick’s beard to go. Will and Brad were next and they got £170 to loose the beards. I’ve still got mine…
Mum and I were the third crew up, and I was super happy that my hair was able to be saved to make wigs. It took a bit longer than the others, but worth it. We were all terrified that we’d have munted shaped heads, but we all came out looking great. It was a very emotional night, and we are so honoured to be a part of it. Louise was happy to have the most hair out of all of us.
What a crazy night! It was amazing to see so much community spirit, with about 50 or so people coming out, having a laugh and a few bubblies, and donating what they could to help Louise. All together, on the night, we raised £1,600, and adding that to the crowd funding site total, we were up to £9,400. It’s still going up, and not too late to add to it if you want to. Just follow the link:
So two weeks left to “chill” out, and enjoy Christmas with most of our family. It is the first year, in about 20, that Mum, Sue, John and I have been together. I’m sure as much as I’ll miss those that aren’t here with us, it will be very special.