Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Well, it’s been a while. For some reason, it’s been difficult to get back into the groove of blogging after my trip to Sydney to see the Boy.


My impressions were too many to record here and also, I’m aware that I only visited a small part of a vast country. But here are some pictures of our time there.

Sydney –

Sydney Opera House

The wine growing region of the Hunter Valley –

crepuscular rays

Look closely and you’ll see some kangaroos grazing on the grass in the early morning.

Kangaroos in Hunter Valley

The evenings were just as beautiful, looking out over the darkening landscape.

Hunter Valley evening sky

The Blue Mountains –

road in the Blue Mountains

Gum tree up close

I’ve never seen so many trees (or so much fog or so many Art Deco buildings).

Blue Mountain lookout with waterfall

There were many reminders of the old country:

cake shop window

Back near Sydney: Palm Beach, where the TV soap Home and Away is filmed.

Palm Beach

I think this was a different Sydney beach. I slightly lost track of them all.


And of course, Sydney Opera House: a little smaller than expected, with an extraordinary tiled roof that is simultaneously totally commonplace close-to and utterly spectacular at a distance.

Sydney Opera House at night

Normal service will be resumed shortly.


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Poor neglected blog

I’m down under visiting the Boy for the first time in two years. I’ll report back soon. In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of beautiful Sydney.



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If I want to impress visitors with just how special our little country can be, then Kilve, only 20 minutes away from the cottage, is always a good place to start. My kind-of-niece Z is staying, so I decide it’s about time we made another visit.

It’s a gentle walk to the beach from the A39 where we park in the free village car park opposite the pub. There’s another car park much nearer but it’s pay and display and it’s a shame to miss the walk which gives us a good snoop at the bungalows, Victorian houses and farmhouses that line the road.

Nora in Kilve graveyard

We briefly visit the lovely old church and graveyard overlooking a farmyard where a JCB is doing something that looks quite dangerous for the collie dancing by its side. “What’s a JCB?” Asks Z, who’s Canadian. “A digger,” I explain. “Why do we call them diggers?” asks my girl graduate… Hm.

Graves at Kilve

Door handle at Kilve church

Opposite the pay and display car park by the old retort, there’s a cricket match going on – that quintessential of all English pastimes. Kilve are playing Castle Cary and there’s blackboard inviting visitors to stop in and watch. We don’t – cricket is beyond me – I don’t mind watching it and love listening to it on the radio, but am incapable of explaining anything about it to anyone else. At any rate, the girls don’t look that keen.

Kilve v Castle Cary

So we set off on our walk along the path leading to the cliffs. Luckily the tide’s out so we go down and have a great scramble on one of the most remarkable beaches in the country.

Kilve from the cliffs

cliff top at Kilve

Kilve beach looking towards Minehead

Kilve is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). I have written about it here and here so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say it is a place well worth a visit, even if you’re not interested in fossils. I’m not particularly, but am so happy when we stumble across some pretty big ammonites. I’ve never seen such good specimens before.

Nora and the ammonite

The girl and Z make a good duo of red-haired mountain goats climbing up the cliff and we shout to each other across a little natural amphitheatre in the rock strata, our voices sounding strangely close by.

girls and rock strata

girls walking on Kilve beach

Nora chases her tennis ball through tide pools full of seaweed, sea urchins and barnacles. She loses it and I replace it with a second one which I am wisely carrying. Then she loses that as well.

Dog in a rock pool

Earlier she proved herself trepidatious where water is concerned; unwilling to plunge into the pool formed by the stream that flows alongside the road into the sea. Not even the ball can encourage her to do more than dip in her toes.

Pool made by the stream

The light is theatrical: bright in one direction and gloomy in the other, emphasising the rock strata. We are lucky to completely avoid a huge storm that builds up in the uncharacteristic heat of the day.

Kilve beach looking into the sun

Then we go home and eat freshly-baked scones in the garden with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Pretty perfect, I’d say.

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While a great many multi-national corporations operate in Canada, on my trips to Vancouver to see my family, I’ve been noticing that a lot of fairly individual styles of shopfront and associated typography co-exist with the more modern global brands. It feels quite ‘small towny’, which makes it all the more charming, although I don’t imagine those I know over there will be delighted with me for saying so. No-one wants their lovely city described as that, but it is meant as a compliment.

I have a feeling that most of this atmosphere will be swept away by the rapid redevelopment that is taking place across the city. Sometimes, as in Yaletown, this has made huge modern residential areas out of what used to be mostly derelict land. Elsewhere, parts of the University of British Columbia campus are being developed for a mixture of student and other housing. Older single-storey shops are often dwarfed by the high-rise apartment buildings that grow up behind them. It feels like low-rise construction all over the city, from downtown to the residentials suburbs, will be gone in a few years to be replaced by something less individual. I hope this isn’t universal, as that would be a great loss to the city’s character, which is largely still one of small stores owned by individuals.

In one of the most down-at-heel areas of Vancouver – on the east side – there are still some really old and characterful signs advertising hotels that might be better described as ‘flop-houses’. Like most cities, Vancouver has its darker side and this is part of it. The streets are filled with down-and-outs, drug users and homeless people, and feels like it has been forgotten in a time-warp. A lot of lovely advertising signage from the 1950s remains here and some of it is really imaginative, even if rather dilapidated.







Footnote: I called this post ‘Vancouver Old-Style’ because it’s the only city in Canada that I have visited a lot, so I don’t know whether the typographic phenomenon I’m observing is common to the whole country or just to British Columbia. I did once spend a month in both Montreal and Victoria on Vancouver Island, but it was a very long time ago before multinational companies, beyond maybe Kodak and Martini, were as ubiquitous as they are now.


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trellis seen through screen of flowers

bee feeding on flowers

wedding bouquet of peonies

wedding dress train

hand with engagement ring holding bouquet

Flower girl wearing garland at wedding

Vancouver west side street scene


dilapidated building and lichen-covered tree

So we packed our bags, took Nora to her home boarding place in Sussex and headed off from Heathrow on a rainy and chilly Tuesday afternoon. Arriving in Vancouver for a family wedding (the third in two years), it was easy to relax in the warmth and sunshine. We were lucky with the weather all week, apart from one day. I’m writing this back in cool English temperatures and am about to change out of my sandals into some warmer shoes. Home sweet home.

Our time away was a mixture of emotion, enjoyment and exploration. We watched a young couple marry amid a throng of family and friends, bicycled along rivers and up and down hills, went in a motor boat on a fjord – yes, an actual fjord – learned to love Orange Is The New Black, explored the seamier – and typographically more interesting – side of the city (a neat line in 1950s lettering styles, some of which are still practised today, about which more in another post), went to hear some blues at a casino, walked a lot, and ate a lot – a lot – of delicious food.

And we went to yoga but still have cricks in our necks. Om.

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I followed the progress of recent tempests and deluges in the West Country from afar, always expecting there to be bad news when I returned. But it wasn’t the crumbly old front windows; on the list for replacement since June but not yet started by the joiner. It wasn’t the roof, although a bit of the garage roof did go flying. It wasn’t the already leaking woodshed which seems barely worse than usual.

offending porchNo, to ring the changes, it was our little porch, hopefully constructed by some bodger, that allowed the rain to be driven in. The mighty wooden lintel above the old front door is sodden, the walls in the vestibule are sodden, the big coir doormat acted like a sponge and is … sodden. And … rather unbearably after two very large chunks of expenditure … the fireplace is sodden. Again.


But it’s still early in the year and, like this heron, I’m full of relaxed joy and a resolution not to sweat the small stuff. So instead of dwelling on what are fortunately only minor annoyances, here are some things that I saw on some of the many walks I went on in various places, including a snowy golf course where I got lost in the holes.











But it wasn’t all hard walk. My cousin Sweet Tooth also needed his fixes so sometimes we just had to go inside.





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I’ve been meaning to go to Hestercombe Gardens – laid out by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens – for a long time but I hadn’t looked carefully enough at the website. It costs £9.70 to go into the gardens and I just wasn’t going to pay that much for a walk with a silly little dog, who’s only allowed 15-20 minutes exercise. Another time, maybe, when she’s bigger and can cope better with having to be on a short lead and we can stay longer; or when we have visitors who love such places or when the weather is better. But not today.

I was determined to make something of our visit though; there’s always something to see if you’re curious. And somehow, it makes it easier to be nosy when you’ve got a dog with you as you have the excuse of walking it for snooping into odd corners. I fully intend to make the most of this.

So we set off down the drive to see what we could see and were rewarded with a small herd of cows at the bottom of the deepest ha-ha I’ve ever seen, being led to a different pasture by three members of the farming family. I love ha-has; especially as in this case when you walk to the edge of one to be completely surprised by what you find.

farm lady

cows in mud

driving cows

old farmer

These would have been Nora’s first cows but for the fact that the field opposite the cottage has cows in it at the moment – something that happens about twice a year when Sue lets someone graze a small herd there. We stood by and watched from a distance, and Nora actually sat when I told her to, which has, so far, rarely happened outdoors. The strategic rustly packet of treats in my pocket might have had something to do with it, I suppose…

There were lot of different mushrooms everywhere and I took  lots of photos but, with her dragging me around after various delicious poo smells on the other end of the lead around my wrist, they all came out blurred. Anyway, you all know what mushrooms look like. And now you know what bits of Hestercombe looks like. My guess is that it’s a lot more attractive around the paying side.

hestercombe house

view from Hestercombe

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