My blog is not about politics. It is about recording events which occur within my world, which affect my daily life or which I believe need to be written down for me to reflect back on at some point in the future.

The referendum which took place in the United Kingdom on Thursday 23rd June 2016 is one such event.

I arrived back in England as the polls were closing and, like most people I know, went to bed thinking the result was a forgone conclusion. While it was likely to be close, the British people would vote to remain.

As we now know, they did not!!

This is without doubt the biggest political upheaval that I can recall. We have had recessions; several of them. Wars. Terrorist attacks. Various governments of differing, and occasionally extreme, views. But never have the British people made a decision which cannot be reversed or undone.

The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. In 1975 there was a referendum to decide if we were to remain which was won by a sizeable majority. The club we joined was all about trade, a “common market” which allowed the free movement of goods, services and people between member states. However, over the years it became more of a political movement adding additional member states and, most significantly, creating a single currency which came into existence on the 1st January 1999. At some point its name was changed to the European Community (EC) and then European Union (EU).

As the remit of the EU changed and the organisation grew, many people of all political views, and large sections of the popular press, became increasingly hostile to an organisation based on main land Europe which had such an apparent hold on the lives of the British people.

In an attempt to draw a line under the EU issue the current conservative government, lead by David Cameron, made the decision to “renegotiate” our membership with the EU and then give the people the opportunity to either Remain or Leave. We now know how that ended.

The United Kingdom now has to negotiate its exit from the EU and its new position in the world. It has to negotiate trade agreements with all other markets and it has to close the legislative gaps which will be exposed as Brexit becomes a reality. All while attempting to maintain a stable economy.

Brexit LogoHow will this play out, only time will tell.

I suggest you hold on tight as it is likely to be a very bumpy ride.


Road Trip, December 2015

For reasons I cannot start to explain I have so far failed to write up my first Australian road trip and so, while it is rather late, I thought I would make an attempt so there is some record of this momentous event.

December 2015 and Lauren was coming over to join me for my first Christmas in Australia. As part of her holiday we planned a road trip to Brisbane. Two days up, a day there and then two days back getting us home in time to complete the final arrangements for our Christmas in the sunshine.


Safari Bear has accompanied me on all my major adventures from my trip to Nordkapp in Norway, the most northerly point of main land Europe, to the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco, and so as he had arrived in Australia with Lauren it seemed only appropriate that he should be part of this journey as well.



Saturday 19th December

Packed and ready to go, we headed north out of Sydney with a view that we wouldn’t make our first stop until well past Newcastle. From the Pacific Highway our first detour from the main roads was towards Mungo Brush and the ferry across the lakes blocking our way towards Seal Rocks.


IMG_0803On the way we saw a sign which just needed to be investigated further – The Tallest Tree in NSW! The Grandis, Eucalyptus grandis (flooded gum), near IMG_0802Bulahdelah, New South Wales. Circumference: 10.07 metres. Height: 70.5 metres.

Next stop was Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks. Readers of my blog will be aware of my fascination with these buildings and will not be surprised to know that this was the first of many visited on this trip.

In fact, while we made many stops and detours on the way, out next location was another lighthouse, this time Smoky Cape Lighthouse in Hat Head National Park. It was while here that Lauren had her first sighting of wild Kangaroos. A small group were grazing in the picnic area near the car park.

IMG_0846Lauren had found all our accommodation via which meant that not only were we staying somewhere different each night, each location was somewhat unique. Our first night was spent at “Nestled in the Treetops” in Valla, a truly magnificent house up in the hills completely away from the world.

Distance traveled : 700km

Sunday 20th December

ChristmasBefore continuing our journey we took a short detour to Valla Beach in order to take our Christmas family photo. It was already extremely hot that morning and so we got a few odd looks from the locals. This wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously although many people seemed too.

From Valla we followed the coast road as much as possible through Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga before heading inland to Grafton and following the Clarence River back towards Byron Bay.

IMG_0854At Woolgoolga we stopped to admire the Sikh temple.

A short stop at Byron Bay confirmed immediately we needed to go back and spend more time there. Plans were made to come back on Tuesday before we headed to our overnight stop Tugun. Having dropped off our bags we took a drive to Gold Coast – not a place we will be rushing back to.

Distance traveled : 440km

Monday 21st December

IMG_0876Today is all about Brisbane.

In many ways Brisbane is all about its river of the same name, but what amazed us was just how quiet it was – I guess having become so used to the continuous hustle on Sydney’s harbour a waterway with so few boats seemed very strange.


IMG_0915We parked the car under South Park and surfaced next to the Christmas Market and a short walk from the famous “beach” which was packed with kids of all ages having a brilliant time. Crossing the river via the Goodwill Bridge near Queensland’s Maritime Museum, we walked up through the Botanic Gardens and past Old Government House which is now part of Queensland’s University of Technology.

IMG_0890This part of Brisbane is full of magnificent old buildings, some still used for the purpose with which they were constructed, others converted for modern needs but retaining their original facades. One such building I wanted to visit was the IMG_0908Commissariat Store Museum, but unfortunately it is closed Mondays! One for another day.

The Museum of Brisbane was not only open but extremely interesting and so we sent a good couple of hours out of the heat learning the history of the city and surrounding areas.

Tonight’s accommodation was in the Mullum Hills, Wilsons Creek, back towards Byron Bay and near the small town of Mullumbimby – remembered for its magnificent name!

Distance traveled : 268km

Tuesday 22nd December

We had promised and so it was to be ….. An early start saw us back in Byron Bay.

First we headed for Cap Byron Lighthouse before the crowds descended. The views out over the bay were truly magnificent. Breakfast next and then a long walk around the town looking through the eclectic mix of shops. A friend of mine, Steve, had traveled to Byron Bay back in the late 80’s and had said then there was little more than a back-packers hostel and pub – how times have changed. An amazing town with an a great atmosphere. Having visited I can understand why it is so popular and has been been for so long – although I’m not sure I could exactly explain it if anybody asks.

IMG_0933IMG_0938Next we headed south to Yamba and the Clarence Head Light and a replica of the original Clarence River Lighthouse which was in a style we would see again; several times.

IMG_0945Having had wonderful weather for out trip so far, it decided to change as we arrived at Tacking Head Lighthouse and so this was a very brief visit – just enough time to tick the lighthouse off my list and take a few photographs.

Our final stop of the day was Port Macquarie and so a steady drive in grotty weather was the order for the afternoon.

Distance traveled : 755km

Wednesday 23rd December

IMG_0961There were two sights we wanted to see in Port Macquarie. First was the Koala Hospital, the nearest either of us have been to these lovely creatures, and the second was Roto House which happened to be right next door. IMG_0972The house was occupied by the same family from when it was built until 1979 and houses a fascinating history of the family, their life and expansion of the area.



Time for one final lighthouse, this time at Crowdy Head, before heading home.

Distance traveled : 440km

A trip to remember …… first of many I hope!




Visiting the Old Country, May 2016

I’ve finally managed to get my sorry arse out of the apartment having had the laziest of Sunday’s and so I thought I would jot down a few notes over a Flat White. This is the last Sunday of my second trip back to the UK this year. It’s been a long trip; four weeks but feels so much more. Unfortunately it will be less than four weeks before I’m back again for another month. While these visits play havoc with my life back home, my plans and more importantly my sleep patterns, they have allowed me to be a tourist in my own country and as such visit a few places which I’ve never been to before, or certainly not for many years.

As always when I sit down to write a post I am reminded how little I retain in my mind these days; if I don’t write it when it happens it seems to be lost. Perhaps a few sparks may ignite as I work.

The late flight in was not enough to stop me being awake at 4 am the following morning. As I was not heading down to see Lauren until the following day I had to find something to do. I could sit and watch telly or, as was the decision, I could head into London and be a tourist.

I was still at school the last time I visited St Pauls Cathedral. It was a school trip but I don’t actually remember how old I was or which school I was at. Somewhere I am sure I still have some photos!

St PaulsHaving not seen Steve during my previous trip I messaged him to see if he was about. We met up at his place round the back of Kings Cross and jumped on a bus into the city. A few hours wondering around St Pauls and then lunch wasn’t a bad way to spend the day. With jet-lag kicking in I headed back to Wycombe much earlier then I would have liked.

Steve took this picture from the upper gallery in the dome. I made the Whispering Gallery before height issues forced me back to ground level.

File 22-05-2016, 21 22 42Sunday and I was off to Canterbury to see Lauren. Another early start so I took the scenic route back through the centre of London, past parliament and along the embankment to Docklands, Blackwell tunnel and then the A2 south.

File 22-05-2016, 21 25 47With no plans we just had a lazy walk around the city and cathedral as well as a huge lunch. The weather was superb and the company not too shabby either.

Sadly, as always, work has to interrupt proceedings but as I was staying in Manchester the next weekend I decided to make a visit to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.

File 22-05-2016, 21 27 31Canals and the inland waterways of Britain have long held a fascination for me. Something about the accessible, living history would be my guess.  It is this interest that is one of the things that makes Australia such an amazing place for me to live. The history in Sydney can be seen, touched and experienced first hand. My visit to Port Arthur, Tasmania, reinforced to me just how recent some the country’s “history” actually is. Many trips are planned to the various convict, mineral and gold mining sites now abandoned around greater Sydney and New South Wales.

The docks, warehouses, cottages and boats were great to see and so a happy few hours was spent looking, enjoying and soaking up the atmosphere.

File 22-05-2016, 21 43 07Being so close to the castles of North Wales it would have been rude not to have visited at least one. Conwy Castle was one of Edward I “ring of steel” designed to suppress the welsh following a revolt. It later played important rolls in various uprisings and was even held by the last native Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndŵr. The fortifications were constructed to encircle the entire town much of which remain and are accessible to this day.

This was my first visit to this part of Wales but I doubt it will be my last. Chips by the sea rounded off a great day.

With the weather set to hold fair on Sunday, actually hotter than Sydney apparently, I headed north out of Manchester for the town of Lancaster.

File 22-05-2016, 21 44 33Lancaster Castle is at the very heart of the city and was until a couple of years back still a functioning prison, the oldest working prison in the country. The building remains an active court, the longest serving court in the country. There have been many famous accused passing through among them the Birmingham Six who where held in the prison as the underground passageway into the court meant that maximum security could be ensured.

Infamous for the number of people condemned to death within the court the process of passing sentence, execution and removal of the dead became very streamlined with the underground passage from gallows to coffin still visible if not, sadly, accessible to the public. Infamous amongst the condemned where the Pendle Witches in 1612.

Both courts can be viewed during the tour as can the route for the accused from prison to dock. When condemned you can actually see where the prisoner was “sent down” to commence their term at Her Majesties Pleasure.

File 22-05-2016, 21 56 06Form Lancaster I headed further north to Pooley Bridge and then up past Ullswater through the lanes and valleys to the tiny hamlet of Martindale and the Old Church of St Martins. This is a truly stunning, peaceful and remote location. It is a place I have visited a number of times since first finding it by pure luck over 25 years ago. While I have changed in so many ways over the years the church, and valley in which it sits, have not changed at all, locked in their own time and space.

Last weekend I was back down south. While watching some rubbish on the TV I picked up another canal location I needed to see.

2016-05-15 11.45.21Edstone Aqueduct on Stratford-upon-Avon Canal is the longest such structure in England, and what an amazing structure it is.  Effectively a long cast iron trough built on top a brick structure where the adjoining tow-path has been build at the bottom of the trough so as the boats pass by they are at eye level.

2016-05-15 10.43.30The whole of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal was built on a shoe-string. Bridges and locks where built to the minimum 7ft width wherever possible. One result of this were the ingenious bridges which where constructed in two halves, a gap being left through the middle of the bridge deck to allow the horses tow-lines to be passed through without being unhitched.

At Lowsonford stands an original barrel roofed “Lenghtsmen’s Cottage” which is now owned by the Landmark Trust and available to rent for holidays. During my visit the trust had an open day so I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a look around.

2016-05-15 12.25.44 HDR-2Outside, on the bank of the canal, looking down towards the water, was a steel statue by Sir Antony Gormley. I say “was” because I understand it was only there for a year to mark the Landmark Trusts anniversary and was due to be removed in the week after my visit. I have always liked his work and it seems somewhat appropriate in the setting of the canal lock.

My final weekend was much quieter. On Saturday I took a drive back out through the North Wales country side, past Snowden and on to Caernarfon and its magnificant castle. From there I started north back towards Manchester with a detour across the Menai Bridge and into Anglesey, another first for me.

David Bowie

David BowieMany people will say how they grew up listening to the music of David Bowie. I didn’t. While I was aware of  Space Oddity I don’t think I knew much, if any, of his other stuff, I was too young when Ziggy was changing the world.

In 1980 I was beginning to learn what I actually liked and the electronic sounds of the time were very much my thing. In to this “New Romantic” movement he seemed to step from nowhere with Scary Monsters, Ashes to Ashes and Fashion. As he had done many times in the past, he completely reinvented himself in to the harlequin character he adopted. Three years later come the huge commercial success of Let’s Dance and the “Serious Moonlight” would tour.

I can’t remember the exact circumstances of how I got hold of a ticket. Somebody couldn’t make it and I was in the right place at the right time. It was an David Bowie Cracked Actorincredible show. Not my first concert, but I think the first full stadium show with everything that goes with such events. It was incredible. One song still remains strong in my memory – Cracked Actor – a full on theatrical performance like nothing I had seen before.

From this time I have always had Bowie’s music with me and I looked out for the other projects he was involved with such as Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.

More recently, and I guess because of the changes in my own personal circumstances, I have been playing a lot of his music and possibly for the first time exploring the albums in full, playing all of the tracks from start to finish. My current favourites are StationToStation, Low and Heroes, but there are so many more that I haven’t listened to yet. Other albums where I have just grabbed individual songs such as 1984, Andy Warhol and Sorrow.

I got home from work about 6 last night, grabbed a drink as it was so hot and checked Facebook, as I so often do. And there was the news. David Bowie was dead!

It seems we don’t expect our heroes to pass away; are they not supposed to be there forever?

Only two days before he had released his 25 studio album on his 69th birthday. It would seem that as in life he was determined to make an exit under his own terms. He had known for a while that time was running out and so a fitting farewell was prepared and delivered to perfection.

While he is no longer with us in this world he will live on forever, you simply need to play his music.

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now
– Lazarus

R.I.P David Bowie

Welcome 2016

Sydney NYEHappy new year – if a little late!

I have always found that I write most when I’m not feeling at my best which, judging by the limited number of posts, would suggest 2015 was a good year. I think it probably was.

New job, new life in a new country, a whole new start.

Since moving to Sydney in May I have revisited many places I saw during my previous travels, but also many new ones. I have spent time reading up on the European history of New South Wales and started to prepare lists of the places I need to visit, research and explore in the future.

My NSW lighthouse challenge has taken a huge leap forward following a road trip to Brisbane with Lauren over Christmas – just one of a number of posts I need to complete in the near future.

As well as the good, 2015 saw a number of more difficult events. My divorce was completed in December. The sale of the house I had put so much time and effort into was sold. My Land Rovers were both also sold; the Series III was particularly difficult to let go. Some of these events were my decisions, some were outside my control, but as I sit here looking into 2016 I am sure they were all for the best and it is only because of these that I am here in Sydney now.

The hardest part of moving to Sydney was leaving Lauren behind. Since leaving the UK I have only spent about four weeks with her. But I did see her on her 21st birthday and she was here for Christmas and New Year. I am also hopeful that she will be spending more time here once she finishes university.

And so to 2016 and what the future holds. The main thing for me is to secure a new four wheel drive so that I can start to get out further and see all those places on my list and experience another part of the Australia lifestyle. There are so many places to see and experience that I don’t expect to spend too many weekends in my apartment!

Once again, Happy New Year! I hope 2016 fulfils all our dreams and, as always, thanks for reading.

Sydney NYE 1

New Home

I have written before about how different the process of choosing a new home is here in Sydney, with the agents telling you when they will be at a property and giving you just a few minutes to make up your mind before they move on. During that very limited slot you have to decide if the place you are viewing will suit you for the next 6 or 12 months of your life while also dealing with the many other people doing exactly the same thing!

After viewing many places the last one was by far the best. Although I wasn’t too keen on the shared stairways and access, the apartment (they don’t have flats!) was a good size and ideal layout – and so I made the decision after my 10 minutes of viewing!

Next comes the paperwork. Forms to complete, documents to copy and send across to the agent. Proof of identity, income, credit history, etc. Again Melissa was a huge help in this process as she knew what I needed to do and what to say to the agent to give me the best chance of securing the place. One possible issue was the need to prove details of previous rentals in Australia – not only am I new to the country but I haven’t rented anywhere in 20 years and even then I didn’t have a rent book or lease agreement.

Paperwork complete, you then wait. Wait for the owner to decide who he is willing to rent too. It seems that you will never be the only one wanting that apartment in Sydney and so the landlord gets to choose who he thinks will be the best tenant. I had some advantages; single, no pets and recent arrival. As you have to prove your employment status and income level to get a visa this helps when opening a bank account, applying for a credit card and renting property.

After a nervous wait I received the good news that the place was mine.

I arrived in Sydney with two suit cases and some hand luggage; hardly what you need to set-up a new home. With just over a week before moving day I needed to get myself at least a little organised.

Following a trip to Ikea after work, complete with notebook and camera, I had a good idea what I needed. I wasn’t going to fill the whole place, just enough to get me started.

So what do I need to do? Book a van; I will need to collect some reasonably large items from Ikea. Arrange electricity – the agent arranged for somebody to call me. Book a day off work!

Wednesday evening I picked up the van and headed off to Ikea. On arrival I hit my first problem of the moving weekend – the van was too tall for the multi-storey car park! So I spent 20 minutes trying to find somewhere to park before giving up, some what disillusioned.

There are two Ikea stores in Sydney and a quick look on Google Maps street view told me that the second one, in Tempe, should be fine. Fingers crossed.

Tempe was a little further out but had a large open air car park. Perfect. First trip round the store saw be pick up a bed, mattress, quilt and pillows. Chair and a lamp. Second trip round I picked all the other must haves; crockery, cutlery, sauce pans, ironing board …… and the list goes on. Finally loaded I was ready for moving day.

Friday morning I was up early packing everything and clearing out both what I wanted and what I needed to get rid of. Melissa sent me a text just before nine to say there was a slight delay with the keys, but by the time I arrived she was there and had opened up.

Moving day was a busy day. Carrying a van full of furniture and other belongings up three flights of stairs was tough. In between the carrying I assembled the flat pack items which was a perfect opportunity to take a break. The washing machine and fridge/freezer that I decided to rent, duly arrived. By the end of the day I was tired but in! The move had gone well.

Over the past couple of weeks, since moving into the apartment, I have added a few more items to my furniture. Purchased a heater which was a huge plus – houses here don’t have much in the way of heating or insulation, so although the days have been warm the nights can be very chilly. It has been a long time since I lived in a place with no heating!

I think it is safe to say I am settling well. It will be a while before I really call Sydney home but I am comfortable and increasingly settled. Now it is time to start enjoying this new country properly.

Lane Cove



There are two types of buildings which fascinate me more than any others; castles and lighthouses. Both are amazing pieces of engineering developed in different times and for very different reasons, but in some ways similar in their strength, complexity and often incredibly difficult locations. There aren’t too many castles in Australia, well actually none that I am aware of, but there are an abundance of lighthouses and so I had already made it my mission to visit as many as possible, starting first with New South Wales and then further afield as the opportunity arises.

Sunday 17th May

No work today and no house issues either. Today was a day to relax and have a break. Today was a day to find a lighthouse!

When chatting in the office during my first week the guys had mentioned the prepaid Opal card for getting around on public transport. Same concept as the Oyster card in London, the difference being here you get both discounted, and even free, journeys. Previously my daily commute was costing $8, now with Opal it was less than $7. A result, but better still after you have made a number of journeys, eight I believe, the rest of the week is free and so my trip to IKEA on Friday, Chatswood and Sydney yesterday and Sydney again today havent cost me anything. But not only does this work on the trains, my ferry ride from Circular Quay and back was also free. What a brilliant system. So the lesson here is simply, if you travel to Sydney and are going to use public transport get an Opal card. You would be foolish not to.

Now back to lighthouses….

Having decided today was going to be a lazy one I needed to decide what I was going to do. I certainly didn’t want to sit around the apartment all day as the weather was just too nice and so I headed into Sydney. On the way I had a look at the map and picked a location which included a ferry ride.

As I have written previously not only are the trains great, but Sydney Ferries are brilliant too. Many people use them as a way to commute, but for me they are both a way of getting somewhere and a pleasure in their own right.

I picked Watsons Bay. A reasonable journey from Circular Quay, it ensured that I would enjoy the boat ride as well as the destination.

2015-05-17 13.07.08Once off the boat it was a pleasant and relaxed walk up to South Head and the Hornby Lighthouse. This red and white striped lighthouse was built in 1858 following the tragic loss of over 120 lives when British clipper Dunbar was wrecked during a storm the year before. It’s distinctive colouring was chosen to ensure that it wasn’t mistaken for the Macquarie Lighthouse 2km to the south.

As you follow the path to South Head you come across various concrete defensive structures as well as a large gun pointing back towards the city. My immediate assumption was that they must have been constructed during the last war to help protect Sydney from the threat of a Japanese invasion. Although they were used for this purpose, they were actually constructed much earlier, and for a very different purpose.

South Head

The first gun emplacement at South Head was recorded in 1788 and was used to signal the arrival of a vessel in the harbour. The fortifications that can be seen today were completed in 1854, although the guns weren’t actually in position until 1872. These were constructed to protect against various enemies; initially the French but then the Americans during the war of independence. Later the French were again considered the threat before they become allies against the Russians during the Crimean War. The defences were further enhanced during both world wars, but although manned constantly the lookouts failed to spot the three Japanese midget submarines which managed to enter the harbour on 31st May 1942 attaching a number of ships, sinking the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul which resulted in the deaths of 21 sailors.

2015-05-17 13.19.27Just by the lighthouse are the keepers cottages. Now fully restored these houses must have some of the best views of the harbour and city, as well as enjoying a relatively quiet location.

2015-05-17 16.41.51Returning back to Watsons Bay it was time to sit, write and generally enjoy the beautiful autumn weather. With several coffees and a bag of chips, I sat for a good few hours and simply enjoy watching the world go by. A really wonderful Sunday afternoon.

2015-05-17 17.43.15 - cropped