December 2009 Archives

'10 in a daze.

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As the other half of the globe slides into 2010, we have returned to the grey skies and near sub-zeros of Blighty. We touched down in Heathrow at about 5am this morning. No one in their right mind flies into Heathrow at 5am on the 31st, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

It was to ourselves, too. By way of a contrast to Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Rotterdam,Isle of Man, even Gatwick, London City and anywhere else that I may have forgotten, we were given the opportunity to make our own way unassisted from the plane all the way through several miles of empty corridor with a wheelchair user, a sleeping four year old and four items of luggage. I was reminded if yet another reason why Heathrow is my least favourite airport.

Once I had demonstrated that I could transfer into my own chair and negotiate the step down from the plane onto the tunnel, all the ground staff mysteriously melted away. It frustrates me to feel that I need to consider making myself appear less 'able' in order to secure what comes easily from ground staff everywhere else in the world. I know Heathrow is supposedly the busiest airport in the world... not at 5 am on the 31st of December it bloody isn't.

Yes, it's the rich contrast of summer sunshine and winter gloom that makes returning to these shores such a delight. At least my absence worked wonders on the form of my beloved Arsenal. I now have a month's worth of Match of the Day to watch.

Another on the plus side, jetlag could result in me being the most wide awake I've been on New Year's eve in many a year. With this in mind, may I take this opportunity, through the haze of too  much coffee and pain relief (13 hours in an airline seat is not exactly a joy), to wish everyone who's not there yet all the very best of everything for 2010.

And those of you who are already there, sitting around with your beer and flip-flops, the echoes of a firework spectacular still ringing in your ears? Stop smirking.

Christmas daze

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Ho Ho Ho, m'dears.

Well, last night's Christmas eve celebrations took their toll. A mix of wine, tramadol and 'the moment' led to a bit of a muddle with my motion sensors. While rolling happily round the house to get to our bedroom which is downstairs (my in-laws' house is built on a hill), my  head was turned by a beautiful moon peeking through the clouds.

Even though I knew it wasz unlikely to come to anything, I decided to try and capture the night sky with my camera.However, things quickly took a turn for the weird. Just as I was poised to take the shot, I was violently assaulted by a large bush. It was a chilling moment that caused a sweary outburst, before I was thrown to the ground by the aggressive shrubbery.

Once on my back, the change in perspective allowed me to re-evaluate the situation. It appears I was still on the slope when I stopped for the picture. Concentraing on my camera while surrounded by darkness, I failed to notice as I rolled backwards into the hedge.

So now, I must apologise for slurring the character of the Pittosporum, a peace loving shrub famous for it's even temper and refusal to be drawn into political debate.

Enough blathering, go and have a Great Christmas and raise a glass of something for me.

A presto!

Festive Greetings and idle ponderings

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First, plenty of the best of the season to one and all. Here's to lots of excessive eating and drinking, the bare minimum of family spats and a complete ban on "I wish it could be Christmas every day."

It still feels wrong (no, not the Wizzard track. Well, that too, obviously) to be celebrating Christmas when it's 28c outside. But I'm doing my best. Once the stockings are full and the kids are in the full throws of a feeding frenzy under the tree, I'm sure I'll feel the gnarly hand of Christmas Present upon my jaded, cynical shoulders. Can one have cynical shoulders?

Idle ponderings. I apologise in advance, but a drop in barometric pressure has caused a flare-up on the pain front which is doing battle with a little too much Tramadol for incisive observation.

 Idle ponderings I have on a daily basis, but the one that sits foremost in my mind came while we were driving up to the Illawarra Fly. Looking at the power lines that stretched up the mountain, I got to wondering why we don't incorporate cable cars into the power lines. Now, obviously, there would have to be a trampoline embarkation/dismount system to eliminate the risk of earthing the lines and frying everyone on the national grid, but I see this as just details...

On that hearty note, I wish you all a fabulous Christmas and a very happy 2010.

Blowing hot and cold

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Another day another glorious beach surrounded by forest and wildlife so close you can touch it. Should you want to. Touching wildlife sounds like a euphemism for something filthy, I'm sure.

There you go, I'm even making up new Australian slang, and we've only been here a couple of weeks.

the beach in question was the beautifully named Depot Beach, next to Pebbly Beach and Pretty Beach. They really let imagination loose when they named the places around here. Mind you, the access road was called Agony Hill Road, the naming of which remains a mystery, thankfully.

We stayed in a cabin by the beach, surrounded by spotted gum trees right down to the beach. The beach is surrounded by rock shelves which allow intrepid wheelchair exploration with the aid of my slot on front wheel which allows me to cover rougher terrain while still being self-propelled. Not sand though, alas. The answer to that challenge still eludes me. Well, certainly one that I can travel with, that doesn't involve a two-stroke engine or cost thousands.

The rock shelf (remember?) is a strange mix of different stuff, some which was obviously spewed from a volcano and some which was carried along until the whole molten mess hit the ocean. The effect is something like a geological cake. Yummy.

next we have a couple of days catching up with friends in Melbourne before Christmas replete with sunshine and heat. Funny to think that back home we have intrepid visitors shivering in our flat, no doubt watching the snow stick to the windows, blurring the view of ragged, crippled children hobbling along cobbled streets while top-hatted toffs beat them with canes from atop handsome cabs. Makes yer wanna weep in shame, guv.

Alright, I may be rather over-doing it with the contrasts and all. But the sun does rather make a snowy winter Christmas seem even more Dickensian. And as snow isn't much easier than sand when you're in a wheelchair, I think I'll enjoy the shorts and sandals option while I can.

Pip pip!

Out east and under...

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Writing thru' the bewildering haze of jetlag, feeling the air cool as a storm rolls in and watching a Kookaburra catching and dispatching a lizard...

Yes, dear reader, we are on the road again. This time in Australia again, but after a few days in Hong Kong.

It was a rather manic run up to departure, preparing our flat for house-sitters, stuffing general clutter into any available hiding place. Hopefully, there won't be an ugly incident. I have visions of disorientated house-guest opening the wrong cupboard, and expiring under a tsunami of poorly concealed toys and paperwork.

Hong Kong, by contrast was remarkably stress free. Everyone was very helpful, and while it helped tremendously to have friends give us the tour (thank you F and G), I never felt overwhelmed, despite the manic nature of the place.

Taxi drivers were always helpful, even when they spoke no english, and while it wasn't the most inaccessible destination we have visited, it certainly wasn't impossible. The ferries, for example, offered ramped access, even if the ramps were on the steep side at times (as there is a rainy season, the ramps also have rails fixed to them to offer extra grip, which means anyone in a wheelchair risks losing their fillings or a detached retina on the way to the ferry).

The most striking impression of Hong Kong was of relentless change, with new buildings springing up everywhere, and old ones looking uncared for. There is a visual tide-line in many streets, with the chaos of consumerism replaced above twenty feet by a clutter of windows, rusty air conditioning units, washing lines, and even home made bamboo and tarpaulin 'extensions'.  And all of this can also be seen on many of the residential tower blocks, even on the twentieth floor, where it is also still almost possible to knock on the window of the block opposite.

The population density remains very high, due in a large part to forty percent of Hong Kong consisting of National Park, and the 'bird cages' (as the residential tower blocks are known locally) offer a glimpse into a lifestyle I would find extremely claustrophobic. When such town planning is partnered with the very strong Cantonese work ethic and wrapped around one of the busiest working ports in the world, it creates an atmosphere that is exhilarating but exhausting.

As you may have gathered, two nights was enough for me, but I'd certainly go back. I was also glad not to be there when it's 38 degrees and 90% humidity.

Now in Australia again, for our first Christmas down here for 12 years. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't enjoying the sunshine and the heat, but I still find it disconcerting to see all the trappings of a Dickensian-style winter Christmas (Gawd Bless us, one and all!) on display in shop windows while people stroll past in board shorts and sandals.

There is a palpable sense of excitement in the air, which is difficult to grasp as a Northern Hemispherian. The best way to explain it is by way of a flash-back to childhood. Remember the feeling: There's but a few short weeks to go before school breaks up and the summer holidays begin. Summer Holidays! All that fun stretches out in front of you, almost within your grasp... Remember? Good. Now stick Christmas in the middle of it.



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