Sunday Salon – Guest Blogger

Second in the series of occasional blogs by my Sister Down Under

Return To Sender

I often send Birthday cards to relatives in England, and as I seal down the envelope and stick my address label on the flap, I always find myself wondering if there is any point. If the address was to be incorrect, would they take the trouble and expense to send it all the way back to Australia?

37072684_10213413731471370_3835982618025787392_nI now have my answer. The other week, I received a blue envelope with an air mail sticker and an Australian stamp on it, and it was addressed to me. Someone had crossed the address out with a blue pencil, and there was a red Royal Mail sticker on it declaring that the address was unknown. It wasn’t a surprise that the address was incorrect, as it belonged to the youngest of my nephews, the inventor in the family, the itinerant creator of firework displays with a bedroom full of enough electronic equipment to drain the power grid of the Southeast of England. What was surprising was that the Australian postmark said it was posted at 6 pm on the 26th of July, 2011. Seven years ago. 

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So, yes, they do go to the trouble of returning letters. And an awful lot of trouble by the looks of it. Not for the Royal Mail the conventional route of placing it on a plane to fly half way around the world. No, this was more like the challenge taken on by Michael Palin to go around the world in eighty days without flying. The Royal Mail Postman was to get to Australia travelling overland, and taking sea journeys only when it was unavoidable.

What a tale that post man must have to tell! Imagine the deprivations and adventures he must have encountered on his 7 year odyssey! Crossing the channel to France was probably easy, but was he then waylaid by a French temptress, dallying with her for many months before silently slipping out at dawn one morning to continue his journey? Did he scale the Alps and get caught in a storm, to be nursed back to health by a local farmer and his daughter?

 One imagines him crossing the Mongolian plains, joining the Mongol herders, living in a Yurt and learning to survive off the land. He would have regretfully had to say goodbye, explaining the Royal Mail always gets through, and he would put his uniform back on with pride, not withstanding that it was getting a little threadbare. He would have gone on a pilgrimage through India – retracing the steps of his colonial forefathers who had first brought British law and the British postal service to that teaming and untamed land. Then on to South East Asia, tiring now of the crowds and the jostling, longing only to reach that wide, open land of Australia.

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What a relief he would have felt as he stepped off the small fishing boat at Darwin, only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. He would have spent quite some time in detention, and despair would have been his companion as he waited for his superiors in London to confirm who he was and what his mission involved. There would have been a delay at their end, while they overcame their incredulity and double checked his credentials before rejoicing that he was not, as believed, dead – the first (or so they thought) postman to die in active overseas service.

And finally, catching a cruise ship (courtesy of the Royal Mail in gratitude for his services) around the coast to Fremantle. What a reception he would have from his Australia Post colleagues – glad to see him, but at the  same time a little jealous that they could no longer boast they had the longest mail routes in the world.

And as for me – time to tell my nephew that he isn’t unloved, and that I did send a card, but something happened to it along the way

Kate Doswell,  15/07/2018.

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Some Like It Hot

As new migrants in Australia, the first time the thermometer hit one hundred degrees we were very excited, a Century meant it was very hot; instead of sheltering behind venetian blinds in the relative coolness of indoors, in the days before most homes had air conditioning, I walked around marvelling at the sensation of the dry heat. If the thermometer hit one hundred degrees Celsius you would be dead. After a week of the temperature reaching over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit every day, the novelty wore off.

Since then the world has moved to Celsius, leaving only the USA and a few other countries using Fahrenheit. But one hundred sounds more dramatic than the slightly higher forty Celsius. When I worked at Heathrow, an English girl told me the first time she arrived in Kuwait she felt as if she had been blasted by a giant hairdryer. A Kuwaiti passenger told me no one had to work if the temperature rose above fifty degrees, but officially it never got hotter than fifty. A Singapore passenger told me the heat was not a problem as every building was air conditioned. I asked ‘What if you want to go for a walk?’ He looked puzzled. Why would you want to go for a walk?

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Those who have lived in hotter climes might wonder at the fuss we are making about our heat wave in Britain. Temperatures over thirty, so early in the summer, have weather forecasters excited. We have had heat waves before and after our wet winter the reservoirs were full, so we shouldn’t run dry yet. Despite the usual comments such as ‘it won’t last’ and ‘we’ll pay for this later’ the heat wave shows no sign of ceasing, though some places have had rain. Our relatives, visiting back from Las Vegas, saw rain only once and looked forward to getting back to their air conditioned house.

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We are not prepared for hot weather, we don’t have air conditioning, shutters and awnings or a tradition of siestas. In the garden, early morning or evening watering has become part of the domestic routine for those who cherish their flowers. The holiday atmosphere is fun; breakfast and dinner in the garden and days by the sea. Our beach hut feels worth the rates we pay the council for the tiny patch of concrete it stands on; it provides shade, changing room and a kettle. Daily swims have become the norm; as far as I’m concerned there is no point in having hot weather unless you can paddle or swim in a pool, river or sea.

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Hot weather is no fun for those who have to work out in it and especially fire fighters. The heat has brought destruction to the moors with peat fires. It is equally oppressive for those who can’t get out. A lady told me it’s the first time in ninety four years she hasn’t worn a vest!

But the biggest cloud, or absence of cloud hanging over our holiday mood is What if it never rains again, is this another big warning about global warming?

If you go down to The Woods today…

The first national park I knew well was Jellystone Park, home of Yogi Bear, one of my favourite television cartoons. He wasn’t the only bear in the woods; closer to home I spent my early years in the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie-the-Pooh, the real teddy in AA Mine’s books, not the Disney animated version; I have never left that wood!  And there was the more sophisticated Rupert Bear who lived in pine woods much like the ones we visited on family outings.

Rupert Bear

More exciting was our first and only holiday in the New Forest when I was eleven. As I loved ponies it was heaven; cattle, ponies and donkeys roaming around open land. There were also the dark woods carpeted with green velvet moss and the seaside, pebble beaches facing the Isle of Wight.

Read more about my pony mad years in last year’s blog

https://wordpress.com/post/tidalscribe.wordpress.com/481

 

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The New Forest is very old, William the Conqueror designated the area his Nova Foresta in 1079; forest then meant any area of land reserved exclusively for hunting. I do not think he would be pleased to see so many commoners enjoying themselves there today, it is still mostly crown land. The newest thing about the forest is its designation as a National Park in 2005.

People live and work in the forest, there are towns, campsites and all sorts of activities, but it is still a vast area of natural habitat with ponies and other livestock having right of way. The Verderers look after The Commoners rights to graze their animals. In the late summer and autumn, round-ups, or ‘drifts’ are held throughout the forest to treat any health problems the ponies and cattle may have, and to keep a count of the stock roaming the Open Forest. Mares and foals are marked during this time – foals are branded and the tails of mares are cut in distinctive patterns.

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When we first moved to nearby Bournemouth I read in the local paper that bears were to be reintroduced to the New Forest, that seemed an exciting idea until I read the date at the top of the page, April the First. But rewilding has been seriously suggested for remoter areas.

Britain once looked very different with vast natural forests, glades and wild spaces; wolves, bears and lynx roamed the land. The first Britons lived alongside woolly mammoths. Humans chopped down the trees to make space for farms and hunted the large animals to extinction, we have no natural predators to keep down deer numbers.

We took our recent visitors and their children for a visit to the New Forest, cream teas at a lovely cafe that used to be a railway station, paddling in the river, a cow being chased off the cricket field, more cows wandering in the car park. Close to nature, but not really part of the ancient forest. How amusing it would be to see keen photographers surprised by a bear coming into view, or families having their picnics stolen.

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You may still meet another ancient being in the forest, The Green Man…

There’s a New Forest theme at my website this month, read two dark short tales and enjoy a day out in Beachwriter’s Blog.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-six-fiction-focus

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As well as short stories, I enjoyed using the New Forest as one of the settings in my novel Three Ages of Man; the bewildered stranger has to find his way from Waterloo Station down to Brokenhurst and hike to a secluded cottage, there are many places to hide in the woods.

Last Gasp-Germany

Grace ends her journey.

Anecdotage

There is much to love about Germany; black forests, picture perfect , historic towns, grand rivers bordered by gorges and fairy-tale castles, exciting cities like Hamburg and Berlin, charming, engaging and eager-to-help citizens. But not the motorways-oh no. The motorways are strings of roadwork-riddled tedium, clogged with miles of crawling, wheezing lorries spewing fumes and large, gas-guzzling speed machines reduced to inching along with everyone else.

The drive to Wurzburg was one such journey, with roadworks every 10k and frustrating traffic queues at every junction. And once we’d arrived there was further idiocy from the Tom Tom, which led us around the city in ever decreasing circles with no sign of the camper stop, even though it was flagged on the tiny screen. At that point when we were about to give up I spotted the parking place-beneath the bridge and by the river, a smattering of vans and motorhomes…

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Silly Saturday – Strange Stanzas

 

I’m not averse to writing verse,

Or the occasional stanza.

Chapters, blog, Captain’s Log;

Language is a bonanza.

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                                  Bus Stop

 

He doesn’t have a shiny car,

I met him on the bus.

He asked me if I came from far,

Upstairs was only us.

 

Next morning at my stop we met,

He asked me where I worked.

Lunchtime in the park was set,

The sun shone and we talked.

 

He walked me to the bus stop,

When my day’s work was done.

He took my hand, we sat up top

And soon my heart was won.

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         Shout     

 

I hear a shout,

I turn about.

Two figures dark,

Out of the park.

Two shadows meet

Across the street.

Loud voices talking,

Best keep walking.

Across the road

Cigarettes glowed.

Could take a chance,

Another glance.

Calling, waving,

Are they raving?

Tough drug dealers

Or car stealers?

Leather jackets

What’s their racket?

Home no nearer

Voices clearer.

‘Hey Mum wait,

You’re out late!’

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10 ways to go green this summer [Infographic]

Green Blog of the week. Ten simple tips, how many of these can you do? Which tip is the hardest to follow. Tell us your successes and your amusing green attempts.

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Don’t think that one person can’t make a difference? If everybody thought like that nothing would ever get done. Protecting and preserving the environment is everybody’s responsibility and everything that we do or buy or consume has an impact on it, whether that’s positive or negative. By making some small changes, with minimal added effort, you can transform your lifestyle and make big difference to your impact on the environment.

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Silly Saturday – Happy House Hunting

Handy guide to Estateagentspeak

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Handy for public transport.dscn4238.jpg

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Copy (2) of P1050070Riverside dwelling.P1040958

P1040747

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Sea views.

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Not overlooked.

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Roof Garden.

P1040415                                 Gated Community.

P1040407Elegant mid terrace house.

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Handy for local restaurants.

DSCN4211Large double bedroom.

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Mobile Home.

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Buy Off Plan – exciting new development.

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Great potential.

 

 

 

Hungarian Calamity [Part 3]

Will Grace and her husband ever leave the Budapest Ibis, will the van get repaired? Find out here in Part Three of Hungarian calamity..

Anecdotage

 Last week’s episode saw Grace and Husband lodged [eventually] in the Budapest Ibis hotel, leaving their trusty home-on-wheels outside ‘Schiller Fiat’ at the mercy of the repair shop.

Szentendre is a small, arty town on the picturesque part of the Danube known as the Bend. We arrived there in our newly-repaired van late on Friday afternoon, ignorant of the fact that a big festival  of culture was scheduled for the weekend.

We’d been reprieved. After saying the repair would take one week Schiller Fiat pulled out their Hungarian finger and mended it next day. I couldn’t escape the feeling that some pressure had been applied by the insurer-after all they’d have needed to keep us in the Ibis for the week.

We happened upon the Szentendre site, spotting a sign on the roadside. But it was a welcome haven after the trials of Budapest; quiet, with only one, Dutch motorhome…

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Knepp Wildland: A rewilding success story in Britain

My green share of the week, it is always reassuring to know land can be rewilded.

Life & Soul Magazine

Rewilding has turned around Knepp Estate – a 3,500-acre estate in West Sussex – in to a haven for rare species including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies.

Almost twenty years ago, husband and wife team Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell set about transitioning Knepp Estate from economically unsustainable intensive farming on heavy clay soil to stepping back and letting nature take over.

Farmed intensively since WW2, the farm rarely made a profit. But now with the couple’s focus on rewilding, Knepp Estate has not only become a profitable farm but it is nurturing and developing biodiversity too.

Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

According to Knepp Estate, these animals need…

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