London – day 254 (J)

What an action-packed, long, tiring day. With an early rise to make sure I didn’t delay Ed, I was ready to leave with him as he went to work. The train, tube and bus journeys were nowhere near as stressful or monotonous as I remember them, but I did have a coffee in my hand (thanks Ed), good company and I’m not making the journey every single morning. Stamping the application form and photos at the hospital to legalise the whole document, I was all set to go down the road and get a shiny new passport. Bish, bash, boom… passport application gone in and I collect it on Thurs next week. Wow!The passport office is only down the road from the Natural History Museum. I was tempted to go in and kill a few hours, but I was so early that they weren’t even open and the queues of school kids was off-putting. But, the building itself is incredible, probably my favourite building in the world and it was so nice to see it. So, I continued walking and eventually ended up in the city; passing the V&A, Harrods, Buckingham Palace, a beefeater brass band, dozens of towers with flags at half mast (in tribute to Jo Cox), Hyde Park, HM Treasury and Horse Grounds, Trafalgar Square and down the river embankment where I finally sat down and had a bite to eat. (Walkers Cheese Burger flavour crisps??? Never again is the easiest description). Just as I left my lunch spot bench I saw a gentleman fishing in the Thames (never seen that before) with the iconic London Eye in the background which means such much to us both.

IMG_9499IMG_9549I eventually arrived at my old workplace and was stuck in reception chatting to people, when all I could really concentrate on was how badly I needed to pee. People have no consideration. lols. It was great seeing them, and I made proper plans to meet my former boss Jo on Monday for lunch. Everyone looked great, but loads of new faces and quite a few missing. The visit was spoiled when I was suddenly presented with a bill! Apparently bring overpaid in my last pay check they were asking for almost £1,000 back. There was/is apparently a letter after being sent out, but they know full well I’ve been away and they should have tried contacting me another way. It’s not like HR wouldn’t have had my details on file, and oh yeah, all my friends having my contact info too. Total pests ruining my day, they can wait a bit longer for their money.

Sorting out some issues in the accountants next door, I wandered down the road to Moonraker, the H+H coffee training centre where I have some wicked memories of the Hoolympics and my signature drink – Cocotini. The place had completely changed and become office space as well as barista training. It was inevitable and yet upsetting to see it now set up like this.

Returning to the office and getting to chat with Katherine on Whatsapp, ‘borrowing’ the wifi, I calmed down and felt better. I helped change the toner cartridge in the franking machine and suddenly everyone was asking if I had returned. Then Sam turned up and we were off. Neither of us being massive drinkers, a Strawberry & Lime Cider each lasted us ages as we caught up on such random nonsense. Then over to Wagamama’s for a quieter setting and some grub. The evening seemed to go so quickly, but all good things must come to an end. Walking back to Waterloo station was tiring and the journey was super quick. Being giddy with fatigue, there was little encouragement needed from Ed and Narae to start calling Katherine in Oz to wake her up. Alas, she must have been asleep and the three of us nibbled on junk food before bed, our fun being postponed for the time being. Friday 17th June 2016

Shepparton – day 254 (K)

Took me forever to fall asleep last night – my mind was clearly working on overdrive and it was weird being in a double bed alone (for the first time in years) which resulted in me making a Skype phone call to Jayne at 1am. Fortunately, that is 4pm back in the UK so I didn’t feel too bad as I was the only one yawning through the entire chat!! Woke up around 8am with the daylight streaming through the windows since I’d forgotten to shut the blinds last night… Got up and made breakfast for Tracey. Anyone who is familiar with my cooking ability, or lack there of, will now be concerned that I was preparing food for another human being (who I actually like!!). Fortunately, the offer of making scrambled egg was declined and I was allowed to prepare the slightly easier muesli, Milo cereal bars and coffee from the Nespresso machine. Deciding to be slightly more active today than yesterday, we were both showered, dressed and out of the house before midday! First stop, was a little drive around to find some kangaroos. We found some around the back of the motor museum. I have never seen a real kangaroo before, not even in a zoo (that I can remember). I have to admit, I was surprised at how big they were. Standing erect, the kangaroo was as tall as I am with massively powerful legs – even in slow motion jumping, that beast moved bloody quickly!! Don’t think I ever want to be at the receiving end of an angry one of those…As we headed back towards the centre of town we visited the Shepparton MooovingArt exhibition. Scattered across several of the parks, riverbanks, gardens, footpaths and public buildings in the area are some colourful 3D life-size fibreglass MooovingArt Cows. Prepared by local and internationally renowed artists, the art exhibit is designed to promote the Greater Shepparton region as the dairy capital of Australia. They sound ridiculous but they were actually quite special in their own way from Spider-Man cow to Shrek cow, from pirate cow to tourist cow. My favourite has to be hotdog cow whilst Tracey liked the skeleton cow. Apparently, every now and again, people drive around and ‘tip’ the cows. Whilst I don’t endorse this kind of behaviour, the thought of drunken youths walking around tipping fibreglass cows is kind of funny although probably not to the artist or the police… (who have their own painted police cow outside the station!).

Got back in the car and drove to the Last Straw cafe to get a latte. Clearly arriving at a busy time, we managed to grab the last table whilst an ever growing line of people waited to be seated. The back section of the cafe is literally in the kitchen part of the cafe. Drank our coffees and freed up the table before heading to the Chocolate Apple factory. Greater Shepparton produces 90% of the pears in Australia and 30% of the apples which you can see as you take a drive around the area – it’s back to back orchards. The 22-hectare orchard that is home to the Chocolate Apple factory is near to Tracey’s work, although she has never been! The owners of the orchard developed their products after some unfortunate natural events back in 2004 (drought, frost and hail). Inside the shed behind their house was a small retail outlet where we got to try some of their speciality chocolate apples – smooth creamy chocolate on the outside with a layer of soft caramel coating a crisp flavoursome Pink Lady apple inside. They are also beautifully decorated with more chocolate and other edible trimmings such as sweets, marshmallows, peanuts or Maltesers (to name a few). Obviously, after trying a couple of the different kinds, we both bought one each (sorry Jayne but don’t expect there to be any left when you get here!!). Also got some local produced apple juice with ginger before heading back into town to visit the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM). A small but lovely gallery with a variety of different art pieces – paintings, photos, sculptures, ceramics and prints. The exhibition of 80 pieces of art from their 80 years of collecting was a total eclectic mix of pieces, each interesting in its own way (although some I wouldn’t necessarily consider ‘art’). The main show stopper is the ‘Woman and child’ statue created by Sam Jinks. Incredibly realistic, the fact that you are looking at a sculpture and not living human beings is disconcerting to say the least. It is truly mesmerising and the detail is magnificent.  Upstairs was dedicated to a Chinese artist. There was a rather percular video of her sitting in front of a mirror, wearing a wedding dress, on a construction site having cake thrown at her whilst puppies ate what fell on the floor… Another one of the exhibits was an aroma installation with six scents to represent the town of Shepparton, both in its history and present day. The smells were of pear, green apple, wood fire smoke, eucalyptus, garlic and chilli pepper. Outside the SAM there are some more MoovingArt cows which we looked at, only to be approached by a local man who wanted to share his many conspiracy theories with us, ranging from 9-11 to Princess Diana… Stopped off on the way back to the house to pick up some noodles for a late lunch/early dinner. In the evening, we went to the cinema to watch ‘Finding Dory’. It doesn’t stray too far from the original film in plot and tone but, with the new characters, it is still full of humour and touching moments. Tracey and I even got to use our new joke of ‘I’m drying’ (the fish equivalent to ‘I’m drowning’) on two occasions! Back at the house to ring Jayne and HSBC before heading to bed. 18 days to go!

Friday 17th June 2016