Saturday, 30 June 2012

Thursday - Friday


Well it seems I have been in denial right up until the end, but it is finally time to pack and get ready to return home. Caroline the awesome has taken more of my washing to do for me and will bring back in the morning when she drops her kids to school.  I started some packing and the tears started flowing.  We had just been and got all the other bits and bobs I wanted to take back home with me (and a few more mini pork pies of course). Bloody Hell there’s 200 calories in each one of these morsels from heaven, it’s a good thing I can only ever eat 2 at any one time, or I would also be carrying excess baggage, on my hips and thighs.

The bags were soon all packed and weighed no sweat (mainly because Andy did it), and I will just make it in under those baggage limits so time to spend the rest of the day with Andy.  Caroline and the kids dropped back in on us on the way home from school, Alex wanted us to come for dinner, but we politely declined as I really just needed my last few hours alone with Andy.  We tried to take some family group pics but it was like herding cats, trying to get us all looking in the same direction at the same time. It was just plain impossible and as for all the pics, well let’s just say they have all been deleted.

I cannot for the life of me remember what we ate today, apart from mini pork pies, although I know we ate other foods too, but for some strange reason, I am still focused on pork pies.  Probably coffee and pork pies would be a safe bet then.

As an interesting aside, those wacky brits have this awesome shield
affair going on on the back of their coins at present

It was Friday now and the tears though, my God, every time I thought about leaving, they simply started flowing. Andy was getting used to all the wet patches showing up on his lap or his chest or his shoulder by now, he just accepted I was going to cry and just kept reassuring me that we are on the home stretch now and it wouldn’t be long (3 inches shorter, LOL) before we can be together for the rest of our lives, and that I would probably be getting sick of the sight of him soon enough.  I don’t see that ever happening though; we haven’t been more than 10 feet apart from each other since I arrived here. This is going to be hard for me. I don’t know what made me even think that I would have survived this 10 months away from him, we had just endured the first 5 months apart and these last two weeks was like we have never been apart, so close and so natural and just totally relaxed.

Caroline dropped off the rest of my clothes the following morning on her way to drop the kids to school so we did the final packing of the cases, EEEEEK!!  My hand luggage is overweight; we need to redistribute the items.  At the final weighing though, ok my bag is 2kgs over, let’s just hope they don’t notice - Must use distraction techniques when checking in.  All shit, shaved, shampooed, shirted and ready to roll, Caroline came and picked us up for the airport. My knee of course was in fine form (not), I am starting to think it is all emotional, I simply don’t want to go back home.  A final pit-stop into Tesco for a couple more shower caps (yes THOSE ones), and Andy comes back with mini pork pies in hand for me to take away on the trip back home.

I tried not to cry while we were driving to the airport, trying to keep the conversation flowing without Andy or Caroline knowing there were tears streaming down my face. I don’t think I was convincing enough but we soon found the airport, despite the sat-nav's best efforts of not allowing us to choose the terminal we wanted.  It was raining again and I am beginning to think that the weather here was just a reflection of my present emotions.

It wasn’t long before I was all checked in and saying final goodbyes.  Ok I cannot stop the tears now.  Poor Caroline, she was having to watch me turn into a blithering idiot right in front of her, it must have been uncomfortable for her. Andy's shirt was soaked with my tears, but it was time to be herded like cattle in a slaughter yard (thanks for that image Andy) through to customs.

Well customs is fun at Manchester airport, I got herded through the full body scan machine, yay for radiation, and I now glow in the dark (Damn it, I was hoping for Spiderman abilities). And they don’t give you the gate numbers for your flight on your boarding pass here. You just have to find your way through duty free and then wait in the food hall area for your flight to be awarded a gate number. Then you have 15 mins in which to make it to the gate for boarding (is this how they train for the Olympics?) - Awesome system this.  So I grabbed a coffee and sat down to await the award ceremony (my gate allocation); this is when I thought I had better eat those mini pork pies. There were only 2 but now was probably as good a time as any to eat them, seeing as I was flying Emirates, an Islamic airline, and I don’t think they would have been OK with pork products on board, especially being consumed, by a person that had ordered only vegetarian meals for the flight.

The plane, an Emirates A380 Airbus. NOT going where I wanted to be :(

I finally got boarded, and I was on an A380, a plane I had never experienced before. I must have looked a right mess when I boarded because the flight attendant looked extremely concerned. I was still tearing up, and every step I took was one further away from Andy and as it turns out, I got a few seats all to myself. There was a baby in this sector too, but this journey, I didn’t hear a peep out of him and having a movie channel to watch was a great excuse for more crying, people just thought I was just a big wuss watching sad movies. So after 6 hours of "movies", I was almost all cried out, and just a little dehydrated.

When I arrived in Dubai, it was after midnight, I found my gate, jumped on g-talk and chatted with Andy until I boarded my connecting flight. Trying to see through tears (it appears I wasn’t all cried out after all) made it hard to focus, but I just needed this time with him.  I was too far away from him as it was and I was about to go even further, and knowing I had another 15 more hours without contact, after being with him 24/7 in the last two weeks was getting very hard to handle.

I did however get a little sleep on the next 2 legs and knowing I would be driving home for an hour when I landed in Australia meant I needed to have my wits about me, so I did try my hardest to sleep. I was finding all sorts of things annoying (another MOOD yes) but in the end I just had to get over it all and get sleep. 

Singapore is just supposed to be a refuel and go pit-stop affair, but for reasons only known to themselves and God, they made us get off the plane, go through security and back, and get back on the plane, during which time we were told we only had 10 minutes, so HURRY!!  Once we were all through and waiting to re-board, they also advised us that we had now missed our departure slot and would have to wait another 90 mins WTF?  I could have gone to explore duty free but the gods were against me as we were now through security and trapped like animals in a zoo.  People were looking in at us we were helplessly wishing we could leave our enclosure.

Next stop Brisvegas, Australia, at 2am in the morning. I ambled through the customs automated passport system (I so love this) without any fuss and was then off to collect my luggage. I think I almost pulled my shoulder out of its socket trying to lift my bag off the carousel.  Sighs, I should have brought Andy home with me (even though the weight of my cases suggested I had).  I just had to go through quarantine now and probably because of the unearthly hour it was, there wasn’t a beagle puppy in sight.  I voluntarily declared the food stuffs (mainly peanut M&Ms) I brought back and actually got through quarantine quicker than those with nothing to declare - Mental note, shorter processing time for future flights – don’t forget

I finally got outside and called the bus to come and take me to the parking station where my car had been housed for the last fortnight. And then I called Andy and cried some more.  I just needed to hear his voice once more as I was now on the other side of the earth, about as far as I can physically be away from him as I could be. I would be home within an hour and be able to get on Skype to talk to him but for now that hour was just far too long to wait.  I needed to hear his voice here and now. It was comforting to know he misses me as much as I miss him, even though I know he will love having his bed back all to himself so he can spread out again.  I will miss waking up in his arms, and snuggling in to keep warm with him.

And I know it is only another 5 months before we are reunited, but for now that feels like a lifetime away.  I miss him like Hell and it hurts. I want him here with me now.  When you find that someone that you connect with on every level, you never want to be apart from them.  And I never knew what that was like until I met Andy.  He truly is the love of my life.

And so ends another gripping chapter in the Ozmanbrit Saga. Join us again soon, when Andy finally gets his visa and moves to Australia for the marriage of a lifetime.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wednesday 20th June


Well this day in the calendar is the solstice, back home it is the winter solstice and the day that Andy and I had originally set our wedding date.  All the energies about this day were going to be perfect for the day.  Winter Solstice being the shortest day and the day to plan for the future, also a new moon and great for new beginnings and well numerology wise, it was ideal too. A day too, for laying down the foundations for the future.  Alas the visa process has thrown a spanner into the works for all that but I am still spending this day with the man I love, so all is right in the world.  Had I been across my side of the planet though, I am sure it would have been a whole other kettle of fish.

But not to dwell on what could have been, we had a full day ahead of us to enjoy each other’s company and the added bonus of discovering how soul destroying the government departments can be for people looking for work in an economy where there are no real jobs on offer. We were off to sign on and we were running late, my fault again, but hey, we got there. They didn’t complain and we were quickly done and on to the next adventure.

We went to Do Dah’s, some posh little establishment cafe/wine bar on Bank St in Rawtenstall, and the hope of finally getting a Devonshire cream tea (scones with jam and cream).  I hate to harp on about this but it was one of the things I was told by an English friend living in Oz, “you have to have a Devonshire cream tea and try apple scrumpy while over there, you will never fully experience it here in Oz like it is there in the UK”.  As I didn’t know what apple scrumpy really was (a type of cider apparently) and well, I am not really a fan of apples (long story), so the Devonshire Tea was the real mission. This little place caters for vegetarians, vegans and people with all sorts of intolerances, they even have the Byron Bay Cookies I go on and on and on about, even the sticky date and ginger ones (YUM!!!), so the chances were, it was going to be good. 

Well I never even finished the coffee, I just got so deflated by the experience of delivered scone and individually packed sachets of jam and clotted cream.  The cream was from the Devonshire area, but, sighs... you know what? I think maybe I am just a little over wheat products.  At home I don’t eat many if any wheat products as it causes inflammation in my joints, mainly my knees, and I have struggled with my knees ever since I got to the UK. I think my body just said enough!!  So it isn’t that the scone experience wasn’t great, I just think it was time to let go of this mission.

So now I was in a MOOD. Everything was getting to me, I was tearing up at the thought of having to go home, I was over the fact my hair wasn’t as brightly coloured as I wanted it to be after seeing all the awesome other colours that others were sporting, and my knee hurt. GRR!!.  There was a hair dressing salon across from the cafe, so that was the next obvious stop.  They had no clients in the seats, so I went in and directly asked “how much for a colour?”
“£45, not bad, ok then I would like to book in now please.” 
“Ok we have to do a skin test first and you can come back tomorrow to get your hair coloured”.  
“WTF!!! Are you serious?”
“Sorry it’s salon policy,” I was told. 


I walked out, found another empty salon further down the road, where I was told they don’t do the skin tests as it was obvious I have done hair colour before (Well no sh1t Sherlock), but we can’t fit you in until tomorrow.  Sighs.  Ok get me out of here!! 


Soon  I had lost interest in everything else too as we walked back to towards Tesco and home. My knee was really hurting me now and getting more and more painful with every step. I had to refocus.  Yes I know we were supposed to get married, yes I know the Devonshire tea was a bust and well, just get over the hair colour and deal with it when you get back home to Oz. But for now, just get back to Andy’s and get off your knee. Less pain equals less of a mood (in theory anyway). 

I just needed to make the most of the time I had left with Andy and this mood was just killing that.

I guess I just don’t want to go back home without Andy!! Who would?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Tuesday 19th June

The sun gets up way too early in the morning over here (4am) for my liking and because of that, we haven’t needed to set any alarms for most days. And anyway, we have just been chilling out at home, taking on any treks as and when the mood takes us and while I’m still trying my best to be on the mend we are having yet another easy day.  Caroline - the awesome (as she is now known), has managed to organise for me to go see the last thing on my animals wish list, a real live hedgehog.  YAY!!  And yet another total stranger who doesn’t know me from Adam is allowing me into her house to enable me to do so.  I am loving the hospitality of these wonderful people in this gorgeous little town.  I feel so special (licks window).  Thanks again for your help Caroline :)
Awww another huge dose of cuteness
This morning, Caroline and her friend Angie came round and grabbed us after they tossed their kids off at school.  It was still a little cold outside for Australians but believe it or not, I am getting used to walking around in a t-shirt now but I still took a jacket just in case.  We walked for about 15 minutes through wooded lanes, past farm buildings, over hills and rain soaked valleys and it would have been faster if I wasn’t hobbling, but I did manage to navigate my way over a makeshift stone built turn-stile. That was a challenge worthy of a post all of its own but I won’t bore you with the strategies employed for scaling the dizzying heights of this Matterhorn styled obstacle course.
Not Heidi but I so
WANT this colour!!

Anyways Heidi, who was Angie’s eldest daughter and the owner of the hedgehog, finally got to open up her front door to us.  And walking into her house was like walking into a fairyland petting zoo, for it was here that all creatures great and small called this house home, and I was lucky enough to be able to step inside and enjoy this new adventure with them.  Our host, with her hot pink hair (yes I was totally annoyed that all her fabulous colours were not on me), handed us her pet albino hedgehog.  This little thing was so tiny and spiky. And she hissed whenever you touched her spines although she only once curled up into a ball.  BAD ANDY!!!

So how does ONE get to stroke a hedgehog? In truth, you don’t really, you just allow it to crawl all over you and occasionally hold it in your hands and tickle at its belly.  They are just gorgeous little creatures.  I was led to believe by Mr Robinson that these gorgeous little beings were in fact almost vermin, living outdoors in the wild and just vessels in which to transport heavily infested herds of germ carrying fleas in their coats from one location to another and that due to this; no one would ever think of keeping them as pets.  But Maisy the hedgehog, had no such afflictions, she was completely flea free which was good considering there were two dogs, a kitten, a rat and guinea pig and tiny tarantula spiders all living together in the same house.
Maisy the gorgeous albino hedgehog

So I finally get to say “hedgehog - check!!!” And all the animals I came to see have all been covered off. And all with so little fuss to boot.
Welcome to Lambert's Mill

Well we eventually fare-welled our newly made friends and headed off further down the same road to a nearby place called Lambert's Mill, to check out the footwear factory museum inside and maybe grab a bite to eat.  Downstairs was mainly a furniture store and from the looks of the locked door we all piled and crashed into, the museum was closed.  According to the shop assistant, it was closed because they were waiting for an emergency electrician to come and fix the lighting that had shorted out earlier that day. Who knows? They may still be waiting.  So we (me, Caroline and Andy) headed upstairs to the gift shop and cafe. 

I was still on a mission for the Great British afternoon high tea, consisting of scones with jam and thick Devonshire clotted cream, and YAY it was here on the menu.  Unfortunately when I asked for it, today had to be the day they had no scones.  NO SCONES!!!! SIGHS.  Instead we opted for coffee and a shared piece of triple chocolate layered cheesecake between the 3 of us (we were being polite).  We wandered through the gift shop for about 20 minutes after our coffees to peruse all of the locally produced wares and laughed quietly to ourselves when we came across a half decent display of ‘temperance drinks’ by Fitzgerald’s (remember them?). We had to ask ourselves whether this place sold more than the actual shop we had visited did. Slowly we covered the whole shop floor and made our way back downstairs.

Right at the bottom of the stairs, next to the main sales office, there were a couple of shelves stacked full with all styles of work boots for a handsome price of just £25 a pair (or £12.50 each for those with only one leg) and well the pink ones they had, seriously caught my eye.  £25 was indeed cheap for such attractive full leather, steel capped and pink work boots, so Andy and I got a pair each (in hoping to preserve his manliness, especially after finding all the other recent defects in his stature, I have to inform you his weren’t pink). It was only 10 days ago he found out he was 3 inches shorter than he used to be, and now, when he found out his boot size had shrunk too, he was a little on the quiet side as he pondered his crotch with a tear in his eye for the rest of the afternoon :)  

Boots, boots, boots, boots... Marching up and down again

Naturally, the boots I wanted had every available size but mine, so in desperation I tried a size larger and it fitted perfectly.  It seems every brand has a different fit, so I wasn’t at all surprised.  Andy was still sulking and wondering what could possibly take so long to pick a pair of shoes and I was lucky that the factory that made these shoes was only next door and the helpful sales assistant was only too happy to run back and forth as we tried on different styles and sizes. How’s that for service?

The once thriving shoe industry in Rawtenstall and surrounding areas practically closed down over night when earlier outbreaks of Foot and Mouth and CJD (Mad Cow Disease) hit at all the leather producing cows which had to be slaughtered and burned. This meant no leather for shoes and factories closing down left right and centre for the whole valley and the opportunity was quickly stolen by China's shoe industry.

Sadly the place doesn’t appear to have recovered, even though there are still a few manufacturing, most places are now wholesalers to store front customers.  There were some very pretty shoes in my youth I would have been knocking down the door to get to, but alas, one busted up knee has seen the end of the 4 and 5 inch heel days, ok, all heels, and seriously, there are very few sexy flat shoes too, which is just as well really or I would have needed a dozen extra cases for my return trip home.

A £4 saving at Lambert's Mill
Meet the groom... He's REDUCED!!... LMFAO
After all that excitement, we were off once again to Tesco to stock up on comestibles and get a taxi back home as I was by now tiring fast, about to be struck down again with whatever it was that was ailing me and all laden up with shiny new boots.  Caroline came home with us for a while before leaving to pick up the kids again and heading them off back home for their teas. 

So all in all it was another wonderful adventure in this surprisingly friendly little town.  I have been truly blessed by the all people I have met here and I am really going to miss this place when I go back home. 

*sniffles* I DONT WANT TO GO HOME *sniffles*

And one passing thought on hedgehogs... Why can’t they just share?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Monday 18th June

Moanday Morning...

Well It’s not often I’m wrong but I was right again and today I am having a day off...  It seems I really am sick, so sick in fact that I am not even getting out of bed to play with the local firemen visiting the neighbouring school... Yes I really am that sick and poor Andy is having to look after me as I am well and truly in sookie mode... I just need some TLC and lots of loving...

Sorry, not today boys, put your hoses away
Yes and I am teary too because I don’t want to go home, everything has just been so perfect, I feel so at home in Andy's arms and the thought of being apart from him again is not sitting well at all...

So today, we watched my favourite channel on British TV, channel 4 and stayed snuggled on the couch, the blog can wait... it is after all a Monday here. Sorry folks.

But having said all that, there are a couple of things I think worthy of mention that I can still tackle from within the confines of the old sick bay. The first being a little game we played on our travels that sort of snuck up on me without my realising. It was the game of spot the Monarch. It's a simple game that consists of mainly looking at the different decals on the good old British post boxes. It seems that depending on when the post boxes were placed and who the reigning monarch was at the time, each post box carries decals for the name of said Monarch in rule at the time.

Among the Monarchs we found were: Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, King George the 5th, and King Edward the 7th. You learn something new every day it seems.

The other thing worthy of note is the remarkable sense of patriotic pride the British have with flags and bunting adorning many of the streets at present. Granted it is a big year for the old UK with the Queens Jubilee, the football and the Olympics but the place looks great basking in the splendour of such adornments.

Funnily enough though, according to Andy, at the end of each event the flags and festivities soon diminish with a marked reduction of said decorations when the England football team lost to Penalties on Sunday night. With only the Olympics left to celebrate now, it seems that it’s only the die-hard patriots or the sheer bone idle that have these trinkets of national pride remaining in their windows and gardens now. Maybe I was wrong?

There certainly were plenty of union jack accessories to choose from in the local shops and I for one was as guilty as the next man for imbibing in such luxuries, collecting souvenirs at every stop. Maybe I did go a little overboard with my own collection of flags, bunting, slippers, t-shirts, baby wear and shower caps.

And OMG... Did I really pose for this picture?

No wonder I’m staying in bed!!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sunday 17th June

Today we finally managed to crawl out of bed at around 9am after getting home near on for midnight from our previous adventures in sunny (?) Blackpool t’other day. Did I mention I was a little cold still? It seems that once I get cold it takes a while for me to warm up again. I think I am getting sick. Ok I know I am getting sick but I am in denial but ONE must soldier on, it is what ONE does when ONE is discovering the delights of ONE's fiancĂ©’s country.
Click here for the full Dave's Aquarium day album
So our plans for today meant that we were off to a delightful little place in nearby Bolton called Dave's Aquarium. You see, I had a list of furry little creatures that I wanted to see while I was in the UK because the UK has some wonderful animals that we just don’t have over here in Oz.  Well if you ask Andy, we don’t have any animals at all in Oz, they simply just don’t exist outside of zoos and it is all just a ruse we use to get the world to come over and see this country and try and meet our indigenous and dangerous animals.  Anyways, I wanted to see a squirrel (squizzies as Andy calls them), a hedgehog (a vessel in which to transport fleas) (Don’t ask) and a chinchilla (which looks like a cross between a bunny and a squirrel and has nothing much to do with the UK anyway).  So naturally, being the resourceful type he is, Andy suggested that Dave's Aquarium is probably the only place known to Lancashire folk where you can see, possibly purchase, and take home and pet or even cook chinchillas if you so desire!!!
I saw a Squirrel on my first day outdoors in the UK
As for me running late this morning, probably complaining about being sick and needing to carry on, we met the wonderful Caroline again at Tesco, about 90 minutes after we were meant to be at her place.  You see I got it into my head that I need to cook up some Thai curries and burn this cold out of me, so we needed fresh chicken, oh and milk and bread and of course, mini pork pies (oh I so love these).  Caroline was our designated non-drinker (driver) for the day and I got to sit in the front of her PUTT-PUTT, much to Alex's disgust; she wanted me in the back with her. Alex is Andy's niece. I think she likes me. Well I am new, and therefore a new potential playmate for her. Matthew, Andy's nephew didn’t seem to mind either way, he was now within arms reach of his sister, and so “let the games begin!" was the cry. Anyways, we were off in search of Dave's Aquariums. This was going to be an adventure, I could tell, just by the way the sat-nav had to be programmed and the way that Caroline was asking "are these directions right?"
Fresh water, tropical and marine at Dave's Aquarium

The first thing you’ll notice about Dave's Aquarium is how tiny the car park is and well, how does this place still exist when it is set in the middle of what appears to be an industrial type park anyway. How does anyone ever find this place I asked myself? After navigating the tiny car park and finding somewhere to land what seemed to be the space shuttle, Caroline's car, we went inside... Well we tried to, we couldn’t get into the door for all the people checking out the "BABY MEERKATS" OMG this wasn’t even on my to do list and they are just too cute to pass up on!!!  But damn, they don’t sit still long enough for a decent photo... SO first things first, they have a cafe... YAY coffee!!

I hadn’t even had breakfast and it was already 3pm and fortunately for us, the cafe was on the other side of the meerkat enclosure, so we could see into where these babies were playing.  And you know how they have those signs saying don’t tap on the glass, in glass enclosures? Well Andy soon discovered that if you tap on the glass, instead of being electrocuted and shot on sight, the baby meerkats and their playful nature, run to check out where the noise is coming from and actually sit still long enough for budding photographers to collect their spoils while waiting for you to tap again. See the gorgeous pic that Andy took – SIMPLEZ!! (Whatever that means).
We eventually ventured out of the cafe and walked through all the hundreds of fish tanks to see if there were any new fish species that I haven’t seen here in Oz. Sadly enough though, there was nothing of any note that I hadn’t seen before so it was off to the bird enclosure to play with the budgies; and budgies there were, hundreds of them. Colours I had seen before and even a couple I hadn’t. Unfortunately, “Sorry no pics allowed in the budgie enclosure” was the greeting we got. The parrots there were just gorgeous and I was playing with a couple of them through the cages; in fact, I think I spent most of my time with them.  

Cook for 20 minutes at gas mark 6
but don't wet it or it will disappear
Chinchillas, there were 3 of.  A mum and 2 babies.  They were very fluffy and it was sad to think they were normally used to make fur coats with. What I didn’t realise is that they are all fur and very little body. Just like when you bath a Persian cat, and there is hardly any cat because it was all fur, the chinchillas are the same. I wasn’t allowed to get near enough to even touch these guys.  But squirrel check, chinchilla check, owls a BIG check, meerkats, a BONUS check. And now there are only hedgehogs to go.

With the chinchillas spotting now out of the way it was time to go and finally meet Dawn, Andy's other sister. I had already met Debi (Dawn's daughter) and Steve (Debbi's fiancĂ©) at the airport, they came and picked me up with Andy and took us back to Rawtenstall. We had missed out on an engagement BBQ the day before as we had already pre-booked our day out with Jen in Blackpool and we really couldn’t disappoint Sir Elton; he was expecting us you know, so we did a post engagement party lunch instead.
Princess the pussy

Now while we’re on the subject of animals, Dawn has this beautiful cat, an Egyptian Mau called Princess (pay attention Andy). It has markings similar to that of a much bigger species of cat, just gorgeous but acts more like a dog. Well not in the doggie way of "I'll be your friend" but in the “I need to sit on your lap and be loved by the human I have bonded with” way even though it is normally not a sociable creature, Dawn has discovered that the kitty treats she likes will lure her out of hiding and into a more social space. She was just so playful until the budgie Indigo, was brought out. It turns out that the budgie is a bit of a bully and has Princess the cat totally bluffed, but at the same time, it gets jealous if Dawn spends more time playing with her. Indigo is a beautiful lilac coloured budgie, and just so chatty. It got to the stage where the only way to shut the budgie up was to shove it under my shirt and muffle it with my boobs (no animals were harmed in the writing of this blog), and needless to say the budgie spent quite a bit of time in there during lunch/dinner. It was dinner time by the time everyone got there because Debi and Steve had got sidetracked, like Steve usually does.
Don't eat the NOISY NOISY budgie Princess
It was a lovely way to spend the day with family. We were there to celebrate Debi and Steve’s engagement (no she isn’t), and to help make Debi cry at pictures of the church her and Steve are to get married in, over the internet. They are such a gorgeous couple and this is such an awesome family the way they all get along. 

This is how I always imagined family to be, relaxed, funny and just loving being all in the same space at the same time.  Oh and just as the day was ending Joshua, Dawn’s son came home from work. We got to say a quick hi before we needed to pile back in the car and get back home because it was a school night and we needed to get Matthew and Alex back home and into bed in time for an early rise.

It is a shame I am not going to be here any longer as I would have loved to have spent more time with the family getting to know them better, but we all have busy lives and I was just running out of time.  I think tomorrow I might just stay indoors and try and get better.  It has been a big 10 days so far but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Saturday 16th June

A bandaged up Blackpuddle Tower

Oooo look, it’s Blackpool

I was up early and full of excitement this morning as today we would actually meet with meet Jen C in the flesh.  So we needed to make sure we were there on time.  It’s about a 30 min bus ride to the train station at Burnley and then another hour to Blackpool North.  It was raining all morning too, so we caught a cab down to the bus stop so that we weren’t wet all day. I couldn’t see out of the windows of the bus so I missed the entire journey to the train station. Boo hoo.

The train trip to Blackpool though was just gorgeous. The trains are clean and comfy and overall, quite pleasant. The train inspector, quite a friendly man and even smiling, was not bad considering I handed him a rather large note to pay for the tickets. The scenery on the way to Blackpool was just stunning, so green and lush, and the flowers along the train tracks just a beautiful reminder that nature happens wherever you least expect it.

Arriving at Blackpool was where all the fun started today. I met my first British police officer, who was lovely enough to have his photo taken with me (yes that one), and no mum, I wasn’t arrested. 

A view from above
It was cold and wet when we arrived so we found a little cafe to wait in until Jen arrived.  This is where our adventure truly started.  An elderly couple, who I would have thought were homeless looking at them, were in the cafe and boy could this woman talk. For the 80 minutes we were in the cafe, we heard the same conversation over and over again, “I gave you £45 for the accommodation, the accommodation cost £45, why are you giving me change”, “Love they gave me £5 back, I don’t know why”.  Now repeat this over and over to yourselves for 80 mins and you’ll see what I mean.  And did I mention she was loud?

There were brief moments during the morning where we had a break from the monotony; a group of ladies were here to see Sir Elton John play on the beach (Wow, that’s a bonus).  It was still cold and wet, but they were looking forward to his performance. From everything I had heard about Blackpool, this was not something I would have expected, but apparently, he was there at the request of the Queen as part of the Jubilee and tower celebrations.  And with their departure, we were back to the old, “I gave you £45 for the accommodation, the accommodation cost £45, why are you giving me change”, “Love they gave me £5 back, I don’t know why” ARGH!!!

Thankfully it was soon time to go meet Jen at the train station.  Watching the people get off the train in all sorts of clothing was different to say the least. Some were dressed like hookers, some like clowns, some, God only knows what. Andy got a giggle out of watching me watching the people get off the train.  I was simply dumbfounded at what I was seeing.

Don't do it Jen, we weren't
that bad were we?
YAY Jen was here now and we were off to the beach.  Jen had travelled all the way from Scotland to come and met us face to face. Now that’s what I call a BUZZ meet. I have been looking forward to this time with her. The weather was still cold, but at least the rain had stopped. Like most of the places I have seen around the UK, half of the shop fronts were either boarded up or empty.  There was also litter everywhere.  It was a real shame because the UK could be such a gorgeous place. The people I’ve met are really friendly and I really do believe they love this place, but there is a real sense of “it’s not up to me to do this”. There is a real sense of general apathy for the upkeep of the place.

Ready for Sir Elton
There are trams that run along the front of Blackpool, it would have been awesome to see Blackpool from one of these just to see what the whole of the strip (Golden Mile) looked like but due to Elton’s concert on the beach all tram services had been halted (He must be good).  So we just walked and walked and walked.  We were on a mission, we needed to see the tower, from the top, and I needed to take back some Blackpool rock and a souvenir fridge magnet. All for other people. The rain was still holding off but it was very windy and cold for a hardened Aussie.

The last few steps to the top
We went to the tower first. Now to really appreciate this place you need to look at the architectural decor throughout the areas on the way into the Tower adventure. The tiles on the walls were just stunning, art deco inspired. Everything about his place was just beautiful. The Tower adventure drags you through a 4D experience (not the highlight, you can avoid it by saying you have reactions to strobing lights and to be honest, I would advise this is a good thing to do) before you actually get into a lift to go up. Once you get out of the lift you walk out onto a toughened glass floor looking down, now you know in your mind it is ok to do this, but everything in your body says DONT!!  I was watching a baby crawl across the clear flooring, so I had to overcome the fear and get on with it.  We then climbed up the 2 higher floors that were possible for us to explore.  The views are just amazing.

Click here for the full Blackpool album
The Tower Ballroom

No wrestling in the Ballroom
Back down at ground level and we went to explore the Tower Ballroom.  This is just breath taking.  The paintings on the ceiling, gold work surrounding the room, the woodwork, and the Wurlitzer organ that rises up from the floor on the stage. Awesome. The dance floor was filled with dancers whirling around so gracefully, making me wish I had continued ballroom dancing lessons when I was younger.

Hunger soon took over and then the need to continue our exploring, and by now it was pouring down with rain too, so we headed for the nearest pub for drinkies and to get out of the rain.  This is where we saw the buck’s party (stag do) with all the guys dressed as clowns.  Seriously, this place is meant for serious people watching.  We enjoyed the warmth of the pub, but needed to move on as they were trying to get others seated for food where we were and besides, the noise was making it hard for us to continue a conversation.

We wandered some more along the front of Blackpool, found some places to get Blackpool rock which is a candy stick that has Blackpool written through the candy via the process of its making.  Basically though, it’s just flavoured and coloured sugar.  The rain started coming down again and so we found a coffee shop to keep dry in.  OMG I am 10,000 miles from Byron Bay and I find their cookies on the shelf being sold in this coffee shop. The Byron Bay Cookie Company creates some of the best cookies in the world and they do a gluten free variety as well. Their sticky date and ginger cookie is my favourite. Having said that, I have been trying to get a scone with jam and cream (afternoon tea), what we call a Devonshire tea back home, but so far, with no success.

We still hadn’t eaten properly by then, so it was time to hunt down some real food.  Fish and chips looked like a great option in nice warm environment to sit down and thaw out.  I have made it a habit since being here to try things I have never eaten before.  This time it was a different type of fish, Haddock.  Andy had a steak and kidney pudding, which is essentially a pie but with a suet casing.  I still maintain that the food here is wonderful but the serving sizes are way too big for me.

One of Blackpool's three piers
The rain stopped again so we were off to the Central Pier. We walked to the end of the pier where it was soooo cold and windy, but so worth the walk out there.  There was nothing but the ocean between you and the horizon.   The “I can fly Jack” scene from Titanic soon came to mind although I am still yet to understand the real meaning behind the padlocks placed in memorial to people on the railings. These were memorials to people who had obviously passed away and I thought maybe it had been people who had suicided there, but then there were locks there for old folk too.

By now Elton John was playing and we had the pleasure of his music and 12,000 fans for the whole of our walk back to the train station.  We needed to be on the 8.30pm train back to Burnley and Jen was coming with us as far as Preston.  It was a rather long walk back, but with our own music track, thanks Elton, the walk wasn’t as cold and miserable as it could have been.  Blackpool was indeed an experience. It is like a dulled downed version of Las Vegas, certainly a place for people watching, a place for kids to have fun, and a place where anything goes and most likely does.
Yep it sure looks like Vegas
But this is not where it all ends. The train trip home was a real eye opener too with a hint of Instant arsehole, just add testosterone and alcohol. Yes we had picked a carriage full of lager lout football supporter types all chanting their ‘let’s piss off the opposition’ battle cries. We even had to move carriages as the drinking ‘boys’ were about to kick off and start fighting and it wasn’t a chance we wanted to take, not to mention we couldn’t hear ourselves talk over it all.

the awesome Jen
We soon said our good-byes to Jen at nearby Preston station. There was never a dull moment with her, nor a time that we were ever lost for words. The highlight of the whole Blackpool trip was Jen being there, she was just awesome and I now look forward to the time when she can come to visit Australia for a holiday. And now I can say I fully appreciate what Andy meant when he told me that Blackpool was just a place you go to wander around aimlessly without any real purpose. The time there simply flies by, unless of course you find yourself queuing for the rides at the Pleasure Beach, which for legal reasons (my excuse and I'm sticking with it) I didn't.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Friday 15th June

Hogwarts in the suburbs?

Most of you might think that Hogwarts is a magical little place buried deep within the realms of the countryside, far, far away from all known muggledom.  In reality it seems it is much closer than you would think. You see Andy neglected to tell me that the local school for youngens is no less a prep school for the mystical realm of Hogwarts. To any muggle born (you and me hopefully), it just looks like any other normal school, but to the young witches and wizards of the valley worlds, it is the start to their new magical life where treasures abound everywhere. While this school isn’t a boarding school, it is one where the transition into Hogwarts is made to be a little gentler, the inmates getting to go home to mum and dad each night.
Yeah, maybe I should leave this kind of story-telling to those who can actually write awesome stories, and I will just get back to letting you know what I have actually been up to since my arresting last entry.

For those who actually give two hoots, today was the day I met a local bird enthusiast who keeps owls (and now I apologise for the 2 hoots line). And while I’m apologising, we met him (Brian the owl keeper) outside the front of the nearby primary school (Hence the bad Hogwarts reference too... Maybe I should have gone with Hogwarts being a disease instead) while we were waiting with Andy’s sister, Caroline, for his niece and nephew to finish schooling for the day.

Anyway, Brian is just a small part of a much larger group that care for and show these beautiful creatures to help educate and give awareness to the majestic world of birds of prey. I had the pleasure of meeting 3 of his gorgeous owls that afternoon. Two were fully grown, one still a “baby” (even though with all his fluffy feathers, he is actually bigger than his older brother!!).

Check out the owls album here
One of the owls (the smallest of the three) was being taught how to behave, as Brian explained, he had been sent up from Wales as he had been a very naughty boy, but having been rehabilitated, he was going back soon a much happier and better behaved owl.

As already suggested, Brian and his owls are only a small part of the North Wales Bird Trust.  Brian is also looking to open up a regional branch of the trust at Rawtenstall within the near future. 

Considering their deadly nature, the birds are incredibly soft to touch and are really well behaved even though you have to keep in mind they are still wild animals. Weighing in at only four and a half pounds though, it is really easy to forget they are perched on your arms even though their talons are capable of applying sufficient pressure to crack a human skull.

It was truly an awe inspiring time I spent being in the presence of these splendid owls and after a fun 20 mins of playing with them, it was time for us to continue on our way back to the flat.  It was a wet and cold day that day and I was the only person in Rawtenstall that needed to warm up.  Can anyone say SOOK?

Feel free to check out the North Wales Bird Trust link, and if you can, please donate to this very worthy cause.

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