Cobh – day 267 (J)

Everyone who lives/grew up in Cobh at some point has had to visit the Heritage Centre, probably as a school trip. It chronicles the life and fate of the Irish people through the famine and emigration. I can’t tell you if it’s changed much over the years, but apparently it’s a bit more animatronic. And of course it’s inundated with stragglers who come off the cruise liners and don’t want to get on a coach to visit other sites in Ireland. But, no trip home to Ireland is complete without a scone and a cup o’ tea at the Heritage Centre. Mam used to spend most of the summer down here selling jewellery to tourists, mostly off the liners. They seemed to have dwindled in numbers and the ones that do turn up don’t buy anything except the cheap stuff in the gift shop. Ah well, their loss. Blissfully quiet on this occasion, the scones were still hot but the latte came straight up from hell and took ages to cool down. Again, loads of catching up on complete nonsense that we’ve missed over the past few months.  After enjoying the Disney film yesterday we said we’d throw on another one – this time ‘Robin Hood’. Not as old, being released around ’73, the colour was still captivating, the voices were striking and memorable (legendary Peter Ustinov as Prince George) and the songs and ditties had a catchy quality like all of the classics. I worked away on the blogs and beauty clinic websites for a few hours and before I knew it the day was chewed up. Mam went out and continued being creative! Thus, it was brilliant news that Ritchie was still able to come collect me from Cobh and bring me down to Cloyne for dinner and a catch up. He’s now working as an EMT and has proper hours and rotas and can plan holidays and weekends away. Now, he’ll admit it himself, he used to be the type of guy that would be late for his own funeral and he was always rushing around to get from own job to the next as a self-employed carpenter. Things are finally looking up for him and I couldn’t be happier – he deserves it. And of course the last time I was down in Cloyne I was babysitting their 2yr old so they could have a night out. He’s now 8, incredibly sporty and doing well in school and he hadn’t a clue who I was. (Insert sad face and play small violin music). So, sitting down for some rice and curry we picked up as if we just left off and chatted for hours. Karen managed to get back from Port Laois on a business trip by 22:20 and suddenly the wine was pouring, the gossiping was in full flow and the hours melted away in to the morning – just like old times. With both of them working on Friday I was incredibly lucky to be able to meet up with them and was luckier that Ritchie didn’t just let me walk home, being the perfect gent and driving me. Exhausted, I still Skype’d Katherine to tell her how amazing the evening was. Thursday 30th June 2016

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Shepparton – day 267 (K)

A better morning than yesterday (not that it was hard!). Chatted to Jayne about her day as she fell asleep on the other side of the world – still feels odd to be speaking to her when we are both yawning, except I am waking up and she is going to sleep! After breakfast, I managed to buy our coach tickets from Melbourne to Cairns and our prepaid accommodation vouchers for YHA without any issues! Went into town with Ash and got my haircut. Just needed a trim and tidy up after 9 months of travelling. Feels very weird to have such long hair (for me!) but I need to keep it as long as possible as I still intend on donating it when we get home to the Little Princess Trust who provide real hair wigs to boys and girls across the UK and Ireland that have sadly lost their own hair through cancer treatment. Treated Ash to a hot chocolate and cake as a thank you for driving me to the hairdressers while we waited for her appointment at the beauticians. Popped into the local bookshop, looking at the illustrated version of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ and browsing through the massive range of titles they had. Also went back to the clothing shop and bought the jeans I had seen yesterday. I have never owned ripped jeans before but, since they were on sale and we are away from our ‘normal’ life, I thought ‘what the hell!’. Also helped that they are a size 14… The nearby arts and craft shop had some super cute Finding Nemo and Dory outfits – if only they did them in adult sizes!Went back to the hairdressers for Ash’s appointment where I caught up on magazine reading, including an article about the British Royal family. Grabbed some stuff for dinner and made Shepherds pie – much more successful than yesterday’s attempt at cooking! Spent the rest of the evening watching TV and catching up with Jayne. 5 days to go.

Thursday 30th June 2016

Cobh – day 266 (J)

I have heard stories of the infamous white chocolate and raspberry tart out at Fota House – nestled in the hundreds of acres of Fota Island, behind the Wildlife Park and next to the golf course. Not needing the excuse or lure of cake and coffee, rather the chance of seeing red squirrels, we (Mam & I) headed out with the Griz-meister. We parked up and wandered down the back road towards the train station. The weather couldn’t make up it’s mind what it was doing and this was reflected in the mood of the two tigers, laying in the grass at the back of their paddocks, occasionally looking up, swishing their tails and then going back to sleep. They weren’t half as big as the one we saw in the Sunderbans but still pretty cool. Fota House is beautiful. A Victorian era mansion (which I’ve never gone into myself), the gardens have fantastic memories. Ponds, manicured lawns, rose gardens (not a fan of roses themselves, but the colours and scents are nice), flowers and fern gardens, massive trees and a green house. We used to run around the gardens as kids, pass out with exhaustion, have a picnic and watch the squirrels go zooming about the place. No such luck today seeing the fluffy rodents and we didn’t go past the big pond, but the rest of the place was incredible and the gardeners were hard at work in the brief bit of sunshine to get as much done as possible. At home we watched a Disney Classic and favourite of ours… The Sword In The Stone. We couldn’t quite believe that it was released in 1963. The colours were brilliant and the plot was simple and enjoyable. 53 years old and we enjoyed it far more, and it captivated us far more, than some of the new releases in high definition and crystal clear sound. 

Mam went off to do some bead work; still busy doing jewellery and clay pieces. Apparently, the beadwork shop is still online, (wildexpressionbeads.etsy.com), while the other is temporarily offline, being too busy teaching grinds and what not to do enough pieces to meet demand. While she was off being creative, I set to preparing a roast dinner so we could all chill out for the evening.  Wednesday 29th June 2016

Shepparton – day 266 (K)

It was clearly going to be one of those days the moment I woke up. Having chatted to Jayne, showered and dressed, I went into the kitchen to make breakfast where I proceeded to drop every single thing I picked up, making huge amounts of noise and generally creating a mess! Managed to eat my muesli without choking and drank my coffee without scolding myself… An achievement in itself based on the trail of destruction that I left in the kitchen! Sat at my desk (the dinning room table that I have taken over with my map and extensive post-it notes) and started to work through the list of jobs, booking accommodation and coach travel. Until HSBC decided to block my card (again) after the first purchase. Cue the rest of the morning on the phone trying to reassure them that I was actually trying to spend my own money and unblock my card. I wouldn’t mind (nice to know that my money is safe, perhaps slightly too safe) but there is a note on my account that shows that we are travelling and that we will be in Australia at this time of year. Even the guy on the other end of the phone was embarrassed and apologised as he read the note on my file. Couldn’t use my card for the rest of the day as, due to the time difference, the department that could unblock it wasn’t open yet! So, I headed into town and helped Ashleigh with some of her errands, booking myself in for a haircut tomorrow and eyeing up some jeans to replace my ones that are now massively too big (not that I am complaining but they are my favourite FatFace jeans!). Popped into Coles to buy some ingredients for dinner tonight and got started cooking when we got home. However, totally forgot that I lack any sort of culinary ability and, based on my day, I should have ordered us take away!! An hour in the oven and neither the potato gratin or the chicken thighs were cooked as the green beans and carrots were slowly beginning to disintegrate on the hob… Thank goodness for wine! Fortunately, dinner wasn’t too much of a disaster and, as we settled down to watch some Modern Family, I told Tracey all about my day. Then I got a text from HSBC fraud department asking me to call them… Another half an hour on the phone sorting out my card, placing another travelling marker on it, with the reassurance that I’ll be able to use it tomorrow – fingers crossed! Tracey’s aunt had made some sweet bread for us which was amazing and well appreciated after today.Flopped into bed, talked to Jayne and am glad that this day is over. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. 6 days to go.

Wednesday 29th June 2016

Cobh – day 265 (J)

Months of travelling, nights with little sleep and roughing it on buses and trains and I am still struggling to relax, kick back and just snooze. So, I was up at the crack of dawn and waited downstairs for hours for others to surface. But, when I was graced with their presence we headed off for breakfast down at Heidi’s. A nice little cafe in what I remembered as being a shop down the road from my primary school. And what does one order for breakfast… a mini fry! Trying desperately to top up the grease and fat levels in my veins in such a short frame of time, breakfast was perfect and we chatted nonsense for ages.  Killed a few hours watching Wimbledon (I have yet to see our flat when they do the aerial shot of the area) and copying tv series to take with us travelling. Myself and Mam took the Grizzly monster for a walk to the black railings (a viewpoint with imaginative nomenclature due to it’s black railings). The steel works factory on Haulbowline has been gone for almost a decade, maybe more, but I hadn’t seen how much of the scrapyard at the end of the island they had reclaimed for the naval base.  We had a beautiful Chinese for dinner, while watching Dad’s Army DVD (Father’s Day present). Followed by homemade flan with custard and peaches. Bliss! Tuesday 28th June 2016

Shepparton – day 265 (K)

Now that my travel scholarship competition entry is finished and entered, I’m back to the job of planning our trip around Australia. Expecting my credit card to get a serious bashing today was thwarted by my first successful job… After spending time looking at all the places we want to travel in the East coast and Central Australia, it was clear that YHA hostels were everywhere we wanted to go! With the option of members being able to get 10% of all accommodation and buy prepaid accommodation cards too, meaning we could get a bed for $23 each per night (even in Sydney!), I ordered membership cards for all three of us to the hostel chain – $25 ASD each. However, the membership numbers didn’t come through so I can’t order anything else or even book our coach tickets (since we get a discount on those too with our cards!). Had to email the company to ask them for our membership numbers and then waited… And waited… And waited… Filled my time with finalising planning and researching, car rentals, different day trips to the Whitsundays and Fraser Island as well as looking for the best place to do some scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef – we are going to be practically destitute at the end of this trip!!! I even looked up some sky diving but I really think HSBC might have a heart attack…
Was just about to head out to the nearby supermarket to get some ingredients to make dinner when Ashleigh came home, saving me the walk and driving me to Coles instead. Made my famous halloumi pasta with garlic bread for dinner and watched some TV before bed. 7 days to go.Tuesday 28th June 2016

Travelling & Ireland – day 264 (J)

Tip-toeing around the flat I managed to leave without banging anything or tripping on stuff in the dark. I was like a ninja and stealth mode was working for such an early start. It thankfully didn’t start drizzling until I got to the bus stop, with the agonising countdown of 16mins in the cold waiting for the 157. The Northern Line, constantly busy no matter if it’s the first or last service of the day, had seats and got me to Moorgate on time. There was no info on the boards at Liverpool station for Stansted airport, so I asked and got directed to an empty train with plenty of time to stop fretting and relax.  The staff at the airport were in great form, shouting loudly to the massive queues and keeping spirits up in the slow march to the security gates. For the first time in a long time, the sensor beeped as I passed through, although I have no idea what could have set it off. So my hands and waist were swabbed and my shoes sent through an additional x-ray scanner. The wifi at the airport however didn’t work, so I couldn’t avail of my free Harris+Hoole coffee and joined the masses in front of the jumbo screens waiting for a gate number to appear. The mad dash to check-in was indicative of a RyanAir flight where nobody wants their bag to be taken away and put in the hold. Such a stupid system – they should all just properly enforce the one bag rule and they’d all fit in the overhead lockers.  The uneventful flight was quickly over, I passed some stunning aerial photographs of Cork’s coastline on my way to passport control and I was able to show my new passport. The Garda on duty just kind of waved me through and I was greeted by my Mam in Cork Airport. My Dad was outside in the drop off lane, keeping the engine running like a get away driver. And we went as far as the electrical store down the road to have brunch in their restaurant. Clearly the mischief gene runs in the family as they were totally up for messing with some of the items we passed in store.  Homeward bound we chilled out for a few hours, did the usual small gift thing and watched some Wimbledon tennis on tv. The early start was catching up with me when we plonked ourselves done for dinner. Yet another, ‘I Miss’ moment when we had Irish Stew and soda bread for dinner. A nice few hours chilling out and chatting.  Monday 27th June 2016

Shepparton – day 264 (K)

Woke up and crept around the house whilst I waited for Ashleigh to wake up. I didn’t even turn on the coffee machine cause I was too worried it would make too much noise. As I IM’d Tracey at work, it turns out that she had been awake for ages!! Coffee made, showered and dressed, we got into Ash’s car and drove to visit Tracey at work. Was really interesting seeing how they picked, cleaned and graded the fruit before packing it in different boxes based on the orders. I asked far too many questions about the entire process cause it was strangely fascinating, especially for someone who is used to vineyard production – fruit orchards are incredibly similar just without the delightful end product of wine!! I couldn’t quite believe the noise in the packing sheds – no wonder they have to have the music up so loud. You could barely hear it over the sound of the machines! Having decided what job I’m going to do if I ever move to Shepparton (individually wrapping pears and then stacking them in boxes like a real-life game of Tetris!) we got back in the car and headed off. Not before Ash hit Tracey with her car door… The joys of messing around in a car park!! Went over to Tracey’s parents house for lunch and, as Ashleigh chatted to her grandmother, John showed me holiday photos from their trip up the East coast – got some great tips for our own trip! A quick stop off on the way home to the car garage and supermarket before getting home about five minutes before Tracey did. Heading back out with her to the local advertising company who is going to promote her upcoming fundraising event and chatted for ages about the new newspaper that is being launched soon that is interactive with QR codes and an amazing game feature that works via your camera (I had no idea how it works but it was awesome – suddenly felt very out-of-touch with technology!!). Headed home for chicken wraps cooked by Ash before vegging out on the sofa. 8 days to go.

Monday 27th June 2016

London – day 263 (J)

A very simple relaxed day was exactly what the doctor ordered and yet I managed to do loads and have nothing to show for it. Clare and I went out for a lovely walk around the Wallington area. You’d never realise how close you were to the city or the main roads, these beautiful homes tucked away behind massive hedges and at the bottom of immense gardens. All of them spoke of wealth and decadence in their own way and it was nice day-dreaming of living like the other half. IMG_9700We ended up getting to the garden centre before it closed and for the extortionate price of 20p Clare was able to feed the koi and carp in the big pond at the back of the nursery. It soon became very crowded and we left the brightly coloured fish to gawp at the water surface in the hope of more food being thrown at them. The aquatics centre was very well taken care of and the garden centre had a wide selection of plants to satisfy any green fingers. IMG_9681
Our preamble down the country lane meant we saw a juvenile fox out and about and a selection of different coloured poppies. We picked up some dandelion leaves for Hercules and Clare created a simple, stylish display on the window sill from some lavender she picked up outside the front of the building. I worked on the website design of the clinic while Clare watched Penny Dreadful. I watched the new Jungle Book afterwards with a plate of yellow food for dinner and avoiding packing until the last possible moment. IMG_9697
Sunday 26th June 2016

Shepparton – day 263 (K)

An early-ish start to a Sunday morning as we were helping out at an event being held at Latrobe University. Having seen an advert that McDonalds in Australia were now doing all-day breakfasts, Tracey and I had had a conversation last night (around the fifth glass of wine) about going there for breakfast! So, got showered and dressed before putting the fruit in the car (was being donated from Tracey’s work to the forum), jumping in the car and heading down the road. Another moment stood in front of the menu, gazing in awe at all the burgers that we don’t get back in the UK – must have taken me about five minutes to drool over the menu before deciding what to get. Was sorely tempted by a frozen Coke but since it’s winter here and a little too chilly for a frozen drink (and, bizarrely, I’m loving feeling the cold after months of heat and humidity!). After filling up on greasy goodness, we headed over to the university and unloaded the car. Caught up with Charles (a friend of Tracey’s from Rotary) who was organising the African Youth Forum. The forum was organised to hear and learn from young people about the issues of greater concerns to them. There was a range of professionals discussing issues ranging from education and training, apprenticeship, mental health, mentoring and domestic violence against women and girls. We were in charge of registering people who were attending the event. Notice how organised the leaflets are?!? That was my job…
I was also in charge of setting out the refreshments… I guess my OCD ways haven’t diminished at all during our months of travelling – In fact, they may have gotten worse!!The morning passed pretty quickly as we chatted to the Mayor and some of the political candidates who had come to do a quick campaign speech at the start of the forum. Chatted loads with Tracey as people trickled in, lots of them coming directly from church, whilst we sneaked peeks at various rooms and notice boards in the university – is a much nicer university than the ones I went to in England… Made me want to be a student again!Popped into the supermarket on the way home to grab some lunch and annoy Ashleigh on the deli counter, who was back at work today. Resisted the urge to go on a massive shopping spree in the stationary shop, choosing the steal the chocolate muffin from Ashleigh hot chocolate meal deal instead…
Headed back to the house to watch some TV and have a relaxing afternoon before Tracey goes back to work tomorrow (having worked all weekend too!). Got introduced to the show ‘Orange is the New Black’ which was good, although tough when you start in season six. I had to keep asking what was going on! Met up with Tracey’s parents who, very kindly, took us out for a Thai meal at a nearby restaurant. My medium hot curry had quite a kick to it and I felt substantially stuffed as we left. Also said ‘thank you’ in Thai to the waitress who looked at me as if I was insane!! Semi-finals of ‘House Rules’ rounded off a great evening! 9 days to go.

Sunday 26th June 2016