London – day 262 (J)

Clare and I were discussing the blog no less, some of the stuff that Kat and I write about, the audience it now has and how somedays there just isn’t anything to blog about and she has to suffer with a photo of what we had for dinner. I was relieved that I wasn’t to blame for then missing our stop. But, it proved to be a fortuitous stroke of luck, with the station we were heading to going to be closed. We weren’t to know yet that our little preamble from Moorgate up was the best option available and we loved it. The streets were empty, the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds and we saw some graffiti and wall art that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It was also how Clare found a vintage inspired clothes shop that she’ll visit again some day. Sorry Martin!

We had lunch at Dishoom, a lovely Indian restaurant, where I was able to help order a selection of dishes; lentils, mattar paneer, tikka paneer, bhel, okra, gunpowder potatoes, veg biryani, raita and roti. It was so nice knowing what I was actually ordering and eating, normally sticking to a safe option. Plus, with four of us at the meal we could sample a wider selection of dishes. I even treated myself with a Limca, oh how I’ve missed you, synthetic lemon fizzy soda. But, with the weather closing in and all of us getting cold we decided it was a good idea to walk slowly around the area in the sunshine for a bit of warmth before our meeting time at the station.I had absolutely no idea what to expect, Clare organising this event as one of her Fabulous/Frivolous 40 presents. I just knew that we would be doing a walking tour of the area looking at graffiti. So, presented with a clipboard from the University of Bulderdash, I didn’t know that we filled out the form as a spoof and weren’t to take it seriously. I was confused by the manner in which they were speaking, that of a lofty professor with a broomstick stuck up there ass. Still, things started to make sense and it all fell in to place by the end of the first work of art – the padlocks on the fence. There was a padlock for every failed relationship that Sir Shoreditch Richmond III had. And the stories of their forbidden love, anguish and suffering were portrayed in the type of lock that he added to the fence. IMG_9605The graffiti work was equally nonsense, with Clare being one of the only ones in the group to challenge the ‘professors’ on their thinking and subjects. The questions asked were silly and the responses were farcical. We upped the ante when we were told that the Prof’s had been hypnotised at the Christmas party and if we didn’t like the explanation of a piece that we say ‘correction’ and they have to make up something else entirely. They sometimes painted themselves in to a corner and I’m surprised I didn’t bawl my eyes out from laughter.

 

I’d highly recommend people doing this improv theatre. It was such simple fun, you didn’t walk very far, you got to be silly and relax and see some amazing stuff that you otherwise would just walk past. Sure enough we finished with the red arrows passing over head and then the heavens opened with torrential rain. We took ‘shelter’ in a pub and eventually got home to watch ‘The Boss’ (good film) and enjoy more yellow food for dinner.

Saturday 25th June 2016

Shepparton – day 262 (K)

Woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of Ashleigh throwing up. Poor girl has food poisoning from the fish and chips that I bought – don’t I feel guilty?!? Felt even worse as I stayed wrapped up, warm, in bed while I let Tracey deal with it… Since Tracey had to work at the florists this morning, Ash and I took to the sofa and watched films. So nice catching up on chick flicks – He’s just not that into you, New Years Eve and Pitch Perfect 2 – whilst I looked after Ash, although I didn’t do anything! She waited until Tracey came home at midday to ask her to get her stuff, even though I’d been offering all morning!! Lols – the joys of being a mother. Never ends, even when they are nearly 20! On the plus side, Ash had made us some cupcakes with her university friends so Tracey and I had coffee and cake as we chatted – they were delicious.The rest of the afternoon was chilled out, watching TV, teasing Ash and chatting whilst watching Modern Family. Tracey had a Rotary Club changeover dinner at the local golf club, so we got dressed up, abandoned Ash on the sofa and headed out. 

Late June every year is a time of change in the Rotary world. At that time of the year, all 34,000 Rotary Clubs around the World conduct a Changeover ceremony which brings new leadership, new ideas, a new theme and renewed vitality to each Club. The changeover of leadership occurs throughout Rotary at Club, District and International level. This meeting was a club changeover, seeing a new president being presented with the presidential badge as well as giving out 100% attendance awards and thanking people for the support over the past year. People kept asking me what Rotary club I belonged to in the UK so Tracey filled in my name badge, declaring me as an ‘international drifter’. Was a great conversation starter!! Think I bored many people with the story of our travels – everyone being surprised that Australia has 19 UNESCO sites. Sat on the table with a political candidate so there was lots of talk about the recent EU referendum over dinner – a rack of lamb with vegetables and chocolate cake or cheesecake for pudding (fortunately, Tracey and I got one of each so we shared!). Having drunk wine during dinner, we were both up for a few more drinks when we got home. Unfortunately, we clearly think we are younger than we actually are because one glass of wine sat on the sofa and we were both falling asleep… 10 days to go!

Saturday 25th June 2016

London – day 261 (J)

As the world awoke to news of the UK’s decision in the vote to Leave/Remain in the EU, the posts and comments on social media and news feeds was hard to stomach. People that were ‘out’ were now regretting it, finding out their repercussions – with the truth becoming clear as the morning progressed – and finally realising what their decision has meant, stood for and what will / won’t happen. The people who voted ‘in’ were equally vocal; writing tirades of comments, directed at no one in a way of venting their frustration and anger. The two sides were equally amusing and yet not funny at all. The implications for Katherine & I with our travelling is just one of the many aspects of how F**ked up the whole situation has become. My transition with the NHS was a close second. It just struck a cord and I would love to present a lot of people the Darwin Award. 

But, life goes on and my clothes were grateful – they would have jumped in to the washing machine themselves after all the running around yesterday. Then I ploughed in to the pile of redirected post that has been coming here while we’ve been away. Nowhere in the bundle of letters and statements was there a letter from work back in October. The new one had arrived and I would deal with that in due course. With films on in the background I was easily distracted and had a quick dash to get ready to leave for the evening. 

I needn’t have fretted. With trains still severely disrupted because of the weather I was lucky to find a train passing at all, with the PA saying it wouldn’t stop and everyone hesitant to board when it did pull up. Thus, I joined Clare only a tinsy bit late in the Cabin for a pre-show drink.

Our walk across the river, jostling between commuters, tourists and the kamikaze bike riders was, for me, one of the few things I didn’t miss about being in London. Do people ever learn to look around them before they slam on the brakes and take a photo?? I had far less patience and tolerance for it in the city than I did in most of the countries I’d been travelling through. How odd!!

The walk did prove fruitful, with the discovery of a newly opened Five Guys next to Charing Cross station. The question of where we should eat for dinner was easily answered and I was able to tick off another ‘I Miss’ item from my London list. The guy at the till gave me the funniest look, trying to be as positive as possible, when I said I wanted all the toppings. When you pick all the items in black on the menu it’s called ‘All the works’. When you order the extra few items in red, on top of the ‘works’, they look at you like a gluttonous idiot. Thus, to go with our Cajun chips and Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke, I had on my Bacon Cheeseburger… mayo, relish, onion, lettuce, pickle, tomato, green pepper, jalapeño pepper, mushroom, grilled onion, mustard, ketchup, hp sauce, BBQ sauce and hot sauce. Of course, only writing it out now for the blog am I aware of what was actually on the monster burger and I possibly might have toned it down (just a notch). The musical ‘Funny Girl’ was incredible. The seats weren’t the best, with the the rails in front slightly obscuring the view and the unfortunate souls directly in front of the rail leaning over so far as to block everyone else’s view (despite being told not to several times). But, you needn’t have seen the stage – one was there for the songs, in particular from the leading lady, and wow did she deliver. Natasha Barnes is a good friend of Katherine’s and she was gutted to miss such a big show. They went for drinks one evening after her performance in ‘American Idiot’ and Tasha told her all about being the upcoming play and how she would be the stand-in for Sheridan Smith. It was the same show that made it big for Barbara Streisand and Tasha got her chance to shine when Ms. Smith was indisposed due to family circumstances for a bit. The air in the Savoy Theatre was charged and I had goosebumps when she hit some of the high notes. At the interval I’ve never seen so many people buying a program and they were all looking her up in the biography section. I was blown away and one of the first to jump up out of the seat for a standing ovation. She had recovered from a funny wardrobe malfunction with a moustache and delivered a performance that people will remember forever. Clare and I were both signing the infamous lines of the songs on our walk back to the train station, stopping briefly to take a photo under the London Eye, all lit up for Pride Week.Friday 24th June 2016

Shepparton- day 261 (K)

My morning routine has now become a routine! Which is a strange thing to admit since I’ve not had a set routine for over nine months whilst we have been travelling – just get up and go with the flow!! A week in Australia and I already have a routine… Wake up, Skype Jayne, shower, make coffee and muesli and watch the news. It may not seem particularly interesting but it’s strangely reassuring to have a set routine when I wake up.Having finished my breakfast and caught up on foreign affairs, including the shocking result from the EU referendum, before giving the house a quick clean (got to earn my keep, after all!!!). Got started on the job of removing the sticky tape off the door of Ashleigh’s bedroom, which we had all been picking at gradually over time. 2 hours later and a huge amount of elbow grease, the door was perfectly clean and sticky free!The rest of the afternoon was spent completing, revising and editing my travel scholarship application form for World Nomads and Lonely Planet. The prize? A three day writing workshop in Melbourne and an all expenses paid 10-day road trip around Australia. It has also got me motivated to start applying for any travel competition I can find, so I started googling – there are so many!! Need to restrain myself, or Jayne and I won’t have any plans or reservations for our trip around Australia… Ashleigh is coming home from Melbourne university tonight for a week so I cleaned her room and moved my stuff into the spare room as Tracey is bringing a blow up mattress home. Headed out to the fish and chip shop to get some dinner for all of us – I ordered anything on the menu that I had no idea what it was or something that we can’t get in England. Potato cake burger was a winner, the chicken garlic ball as a chicken kiev and the pineapple fritter with cinnamon sugar was divine!! Ate whilst watching the AFL game between Collingwood and Fremantle.As Collingwood is the team that Tracey supports and my first AFL game, it was great that they won and is the first time that Collingwood has beaten Fremantle since 2012!! We talked about going to see a live game but there are no games being played locally when Jayne gets here – might have to see one without her… 11 days to go!!

Friday 24th June 2016

London – day 260 (J)

One would imagine that being back in London, is much like returning to the mundane, monotonous and predictable life of before. Some, most would agree with this statement. But, on the morning after some torrential downpours and lightning storms, the city was in a gloomy, ominous mood with everything pretty much grinding to a halt, causing havoc, and people unable to get to work/home and get kids to nannies and/or school. While Ed managed to vote before we got to the train station, neither of us were going to manage to get to Raynes Park before getting in to the hospital. The road passing under the bridge was like a lake with abandoned cars resembling lily pads and the streets were awash with continuing rainwater, spurting up from the man holes. And the trains… tuna cans would have felt more comfortable, as some of the only trains that were running were crammed to the max. So, we ordered a taxi, finally organised to meet him on the other side of the flooded road and waited patiently in Waitrosse for our chariot to arrive. Ed expertly navigated the streets for the driver, getting us out past the worst of the congestion. But, paying and abandoning the hopeless endeavour near to Morden station we power walked to the tube and got the Northern line to Stockwell, the Victoria to Green Park and the Piccadilly line westwards. Ed had by this stage missed his meeting at 08:15 and was hopefully back on track to make it to the airport in time to check-in. I jumped off at Baron’s Court and legged it, already being 5mins late for my appointment. 

2hrs 50mins after leaving house, 5min run to The GIC and I was 10mins late for a half hour appointment slot. I was so bloody stressed and the sweat was pouring out of me. It was with no relief that the Dr. himself was running behind. Bloody weather!!! Grrr!!! But, half hour story/conversation cut short and all I’ll say is that it was a productive and positive visit. I won’t be returning to the secretive offices above the supermarket and should hear directly from the next group of doctors about continuing my process and transition. 

I skipped down the road, annoying Katherine over the phone with the sound of the umbrella scrapping and thumping off the footpath. And before ya know it I was at the passport office collecting my brand new shiny passport. I was beside myself with excitement. I just sat in the waiting area with the page open with all my details and stared at it. I went to Starbucks (being very good good and not binging in Burger King), but ended up getting a cheese & ham toasty, a raspberry & white chocolate muffin and a chocolate & marshmallow s’more frappuchino. Their wifi provided me with a chance to Whatsapp Katherine and share my excitement and good news about the morning. 

Managing to get in to Wimbledon on the still very interrupted train service, I went to O2 to sort out my SIM. We both changed contracts and plans to be on a pay-as-you-go for travelling, with no need of mobile data or free calls and texts while abroad. O2 never migrated my sim and I was stuck in a position to use the card that was connected to the expensive contract. A fact that the cranky lady didn’t seem to fathom in my conversation to her yesterday. But, the gentleman in store managed to sort out everything and I had another job done before waking across the ridgeway to Cottenham Park and voting on the EU Referendum debacle. It was on this walk that I noticed I had lost/forgotten Ed’s umbrella – either in the passport office or Starbucks. 

I played some board games with Alex that afternoon before leaving the Park residence. I wanted to wait and say goodbye to Narae, but with transport still buggered up, I left for Clare & Martin’s before it got too late. We had a chilled out evening with pizza and watching ‘Warcraft’. An awful film that we were happy to see the end of.  

Thursday 23rd June 2016

Shepparton – day 260 (K)

Having had a more ‘relaxed’ day yesterday, today was the day of productivity!! Woke up and Skyped Jayne before reading a bit more of my book (it’s already far too interesting and addictive!). Got showered and dressed before I got sucked in to reading another chapter and grabbed the duvet that Tracey needed washing and walked down the road to the laundrette. Now, I haven’t been to a laundrette since my university days a few years (ahem… 13 years) ago, however they are still the same… Brilliant old machines that object to the tiniest bit of dirt on your coins positioned next to tumble driers big enough to fit a fully grown human being inside! I put the duvet in the ‘big’ machine and stood in the corner (there were no seats) and tried to read my book. However, I got too distracted by the people coming in and out, carrying loads of clothes, towels and even someone with hospital uniforms. There was also a (very) pregnant woman wearing a thong (or worse… going commando!!) under her fully stretched, practically see through leggings. Thankfully the washing cycle was relatively quick and I managed to grab a tumble dryer before the laundrette started getting busy. 20 minutes later, the duvet was clean and dry! Walked back to Tracey’s house via the supermarket to pick up some essentials – cereal, toilet paper and more alcohol! The rest of the day was spent sorting out clothes washing, editing my Lonely Planet article and watching TV. Tracey came home from the gym and we had a dinner of left over food items and cheese whilst chatting about various things. Tracey’s colleague had seen the videos I have been sending daily of me singing to songs about loneliness and did her own, using a hairdryer as a wind machine… Bring it on – it’s now officially become a competition! Ate the rocky road chocolate apple as we watched a couple of episodes of ‘Orange is the New Black’ and caught the end of the AFL game between Adelaide and North Melbourne. I understand some of the rules now but still want to try and catch a live game whilst we are ‘down under’. 12 days to go!Thursday 23rd June 2016

London – day 259 (J)

With the fiasco at the medical centre yesterday, I had the enviable task of stabbing myself in the ass and doing my own injection. I had Katherine on FaceTime for a bit of moral support and it went alright. I brought the last few bits to the storage locker and doubled back down the corridors to check the lock, the haze and emotions clouding my judgement and I wasn’t sure if I had locked the place up properly. 

A few hours flew past working on the websites at the clinic. Basically, the whole site was getting a Botox and I had Azra sitting on the arm rest of the chair conducting the symphony with an elegant eye. What better way to chill out and give the eyes a rest… a nice lunch across the road, followed by warm chocolate muffins. A quick nip across the road and a tub of clotted cream ice cream made the desert orgasmic. Another few hours ploughing through text formats, button styles, borders and images had the site finally resembling something worth publishing. Serj was on hand to give some artistic flair to the seldom used (now decommissioned) .com, online shop website. I even managed to experience first hand the zero, pain free IPL machine that I had just written about – a nice new machine that I only wish was around years ago.  I had a text from Ed with tonight’s dinner requests and I went up to the Raynes Park Kebab House – probably the single best kebabs this side of Istanbul. I ordered far too much, as per the usual, and the aroma was intoxicating on the train home. But, there was very little left to show of the mammoth feast being washed down nicely with fruit cider before bed. Wednesday 22nd June 2016

Shepparton – day 259 (K)

A totally self indulgent day – I sat on the sofa. I watched crap TV, which mainly seemed to be reruns of old British TV programmes. I read my trashy book about a wedding pact between three friends, which I secretly enjoyed. I ate, mostly bread and m&m’s. And repeat!! All day – it was bliss. I didn’t go anywhere near the map or the plan as I feel slightly overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. In fact, this was my view pretty much all day. Took some time out of my hugely taxing schedule to throw the hoover around, removing enough dog hair to make a new smaller version of Chilli dog. I also wrote a short article that I’m planning to send in to the Lonely Planet (if I ever finish it and get the courage to actually email it). After my very productive day of doing nothing, I accompanied Tracey to the hairdressers after work – they couldn’t squeeze me in for a haircut at the same time – but it was just nice to get out of the house after being a hermit all day. Giggled and chatted our way through the whole appointment, although I did pick up a gossip magazine to read but it is not gossip worth reading about if you don’t know any of the people in the articles! Headed home for an evening of ‘Modern Family’, sitting on the sofa eating dinner, drinking baileys and munching on fruit and nut toblerone. Managed a quick Skype chat with Jayne and started a new book (‘Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children’) before passing out, exhausted from my day of doing nothing!! 13 days to go.

Wednesday 22nd June 2016

London – day 258 (J)

I was being super organised and preparative and took the big bag with nearly everything in, down to the store locker. It was weird plonking it on top of all the boxes and then waking away from all the memories and keep sakes. 


The medical centre was its usual helpful self without the lovely Sandra. Nurse Louise has left and they didn’t want to book me in for an appointment with the male nurse. As the receptionist went off to talk to people in the back room about a solution, the other receptionist was asking if it was ‘a sensitive female issue’ and explained that this nurse wasn’t allowed to see women. Hmmm!!! Not sure when or why the rule changed, and I think given the circumstances I think I should have a wild card to see any nurse I so wish. But, shouldn’t complain and when he asked repeatedly for the name of the injection I was quite curt and eventually left them to their doodles. The next visit to the centre will no doubt have a new batch of nosey, pimply adolescents with an ego complex. 

I killed some time catching up with the charismatic Allistair, our letting agent while abroad. All is well with the flat and the accountant will get a telling off for sending me every file as ‘document1.docx’. It surely makes sense to have at least a month, year or initials on it. Too much to ask? Nevertheless, it’s nice to know the place is in safe hands and our adventure can continue. 

Lunch with Azra and Serj at Jin Go Gae was perfect. A nice mix of dishes; 2x types of beef, sticky chicken, fried omelette, 2x types of kimchi, chestnut jelly, a shredded spring onion salad and a bowl of massive lettuce leaves. With a miriade of dips and sauces. It seemed to go too quickly and they were kicking us out of the restaurant.


I spent a lazy afternoon with the kids and finishing the HD clean up. I even had a beautiful phone call from Lee which was nice as we didn’t manage to meet up on this occasion. I was blown away (again) by the exceptionally talented Narae, who, the minute she came in the door, started a rack of lamb roast dinner. All my walking around and exercising after lunch was needed as I couldn’t stop myself from eating the meal. We made Katherine jealous in Oz with our photos and when Ed went back in to work, myself and Narae plonked ourselves in front of the tv, streaming ‘Love Actually’ from my iPad. Tuesday 21st June 2016

Shepparton – day 258 (K)

Another day by myself, resulting in a video being sent to Tracey at work of me lip syncing to the song ‘Lonely’ by Akon… Skyped Jayne as I woke up – still feels weird skyping her when she is going to bed and I am just waking up. Doesn’t feel like she is on the other side of the world at all, even though I miss her like crazy! Got showered and dressed before making myself a crumpet with blueberry jam for breakfast whilst watching a segment on early morning television about professional mermaids. Maybe I should reconsider my career choice! Decided to get out of the house for a bit, so I walked the 5km into town to do some shopping. Went into the laundrette at the end of the road to make sure they have washing machines big enough to take a duvet and checked costs etc. before continuing down the road towards the town. En route, I passed the Victoria Park Lake. It a beautiful park with play areas, a skate park and an outdoor barbecue section. The leaves on the trees have turned a lovely shade of orange which reminds me of Autumn back in the UK – if only there was a hot Starbucks in my hand…Went to Kmart and got some new underwear. What people don’t tell you about travelling is that your body shape changes so much whilst you are away – none of my underwear fits properly anymore and to make matters worse, I have no idea what size I should be especially since Australia has a different bra sizing system to the UK. Must have tried on about 6 different bras to find the right style and size to fit my new shape before picking up some toiletries and began the walk back to the house. Must have had luck in my side as it began raining not long after I got in. Had some left over spaghetti bolognaise from yesterday for lunch before continuing my route planning around Australia, this time mapping out a timeline to start working out when we needed to book greyhound buses, jet star flights, rent cars etc. Tracey came home from work and we chatted for a bit about my planning, checking that it fits in with her work schedule and her dog babysitters. Managed to squeeze in an episode of ‘Modern Family’ before we headed to the Rotary club dinner meeting. A social evening meeting, it was great to meet some of the other members, who were interested in Jayne and my UNESCO hunt around the world, many of them surprised by how many sites there were in Australia and that there were 1,007 sites worldwide (and counting!). Stuffed full of lasagne, chunky chips, salad and a coconut raspberry cake for dessert, we were back at the house watching the latest episodes of ‘House Rules’ whilst finishing off the remaining Baileys… Oops! 14 days to go!

Tuesday 21st June 2016