Monday, 26 November 2018

Sunburnt Pom's News from the Old Country 09

I have decided to come clean with my readers and followers of this blog. If you have been wondering why I seem to spend a goodly amount of my life on trains travelling the length and breadth of our green and pleasant land it is because two months ago I was appointed the National Party Treasurer of UKIP – the United Kingdom Independence Party.

I joined UKIP and became a 'Kipper' just over eight years ago. It was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Disgusted with the way that the political classes of this once great nation had treated the average man (and woman) in the street, I decided to join the only political party that, in my opinion, spoke for the 'man on the Clapham omnibus.'

I was born in the same year as our Sovereign was crowned, 1953, and it makes you weep to think that the Queen has had to witness such decline in her country's wealth and influence. I have always considered that there is nothing wrong with the country but everything wrong with the clowns that run it. Or should I say purport to run it. Clearly most of our politicians have never run a whelk stall. Perhaps we should set up a chain of Government whelk stalls in every seaside resort from Aberystwyth to Yarmouth with no MP being allowed into Government until he or she has run it successfully for a whole year, including winter. How many would survive I wonder?

Almost two and half years after the British people voted to leave the European Union our bungling Government has still not finalised the deal, let alone sold it to the people. Some hope. For the second time in 100 years we are lions led by donkeys. A few days ago Sir Alexander Downer, a former Australian High Commissioner to London, writing in the Telegraph, said he couldn't understand why any nation would want to subjugate itself to laws made in another country. Citing the early days of the pioneers in the Australian colonies (let's remember there were more than one) who wished to make their own laws, Sir Alex's words made interesting reading. Why do our political classes want our laws made by non-English speaking and unelected bureaucrats on the other side of the English Channel? It is a question that has never been properly answered.

Thank goodness that on June 23rd 2016 over 17 million true Brits told our rulers to get stuffed. To those of you watching us from afar from Vancouver Island to Fraser Island I say this:

Do not give up on the 'Old Country' just yet. The battle to make Britain once again a bastion of free international trade is not over.

Until next time.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Sunburnt Pom's News from the Old Country 08

I am deliberately writing this blog after Remembrance Sunday so I could report on it for you readers Down Under. The 100th anniversary of the Armistice in 1918 was especially poignant with hundreds of commemorations the length and breadth of the nation. Does any other country do these things as well as Britain? I have travelled a fair bit around our globe and to be honest I don't think they do. It seems that even the tiniest village and hamlet in the remotest spots have a War Memorial and I guarantee that every single one of them was adorned with Flanders poppies. At eleven o'clock the whole nation fell silent for two minutes and in Whitehall the Queen seemed deep in prayer with her eyes closed. The Prince of Wales has taken over her role of placing the first wreath on the cenotaph for a while now while his mother watches from a balcony at the Foreign Office. Noticeable by his absence was the Duke of Edinburgh but at ninety-seven he has more than done his bit already. This solemn occasion was marred by the Leader of the Opposition, one Jeremy Corbyn, wearing a hooded anorak and a bright red tie. Has he no shame? Seemingly not. It demonstrates, to me anyway, that the man is totally unfit for office of any kind in Parliament. I hope the voters take massive revenge on him at the next election.

I have been to the lovely county of Devon since my last blog, specifically to the market town of Newton Abbot. Perhaps best known for its thoroughbred racecourse established in 1866 the town is the epitome of what you would expect – old but smart buildings set in rolling green countryside with abundant flowing waters. OK it rains a lot in the West Country but that is part of the charm too. I remember my first day at school in Taunton having arrived late for the start of the Autumn term and the Chemistry master saying to me:

'Have you lived in Somerset before, Harland?'
'No Sir.'
'Well let me tell you something. You can tell when summer arrives – the rain gets warmer!'

How right he was too.

My journey back to York on the Cross Country rail service was never-ending due partly to engineering work on the track at Bristol. We were treated to stops in Exeter, Tiverton Parkway, Taunton, Bath Spa, Swindon, Bristol Temple Meads, Cheltenham Spa, Birmingham New Street, Tamworth, Derby, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Wakefield and Leeds. It is all in sharp contrast to the 'Ghan' with two stops at Alice Springs and Katherine in the two thousand mile hop from Adelaide to Darwin. By the way my DVD has already arrived thanks to the internet but can you believe it came all the way from New Zealand? No, I can't work that one out either! I will watch all three hours of it on a wet Wednesday afternoon. There will be plenty of those ahead in the coming dark months.  Oh well, until next time, my friends.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Sunburnt Pom's News from the Old Country 07

Gadding around the country, as I am apt to do, this week the town of Peterborough was the destination for a meeting. This ancient market town is true 'Middle England' and sits half-way between London and York on the Great North Road – more commonly called the A1. The Bull Hotel, an old coach house, was the chosen venue for the meeting. Just walking in through the front door takes you back in time several hundred years with huge portraits of Kings and Queens from yesteryear adorning walls whenever you stroll from lobby to lounge to dining area. The staff will tell you that it is haunted which doesn't surprise me at all. The irony is that after arriving in Peterborough by train you then have to walk through a Sixties-style shopping mall, the Queensgate Centre, and then a charming Victorian arcade remeniscent of London's Burlington arcade to reach the Bull. It is  veritable Dr Who style time travel traversing several centuries in just a few minutes. It will be even more surreal when the 21st century Azuma Japanese designed bullet trains arrive next year. More about that in future blogs.

And speaking of trains on BBC TV a few days ago I was mesmerised by a three hour long documentary all about 'The Ghan' the incredible and new train from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory. It was beautifully filmed and the total absence of a formal commentary added to, rather than detracted from, the overall impression. Only the occasional announcement from the on-board train manager,one Bruce Smith, broke the constant but not unpleasant hum of the two colossal 4,000 HP diesels at the front of the thirty-eight carriage train (yes I counted them). As you might expect there aren't many attractions en-route to point out but our Bruce held everyone's attention by pointing out a wind-farm, a turbine blade mounted on a plinth like a war memorial, an Iron Man statue made of steel and made particular reference to crossing the State line from South Australia to the Northern Territories. The fifty-four hour journey was condensed into three hours on the sofa with only short breaks for a cuppa and the call of nature. I hope I will be able to buy a DVD of this programme to add to my collection of Australiana. This journey is a MUST for my next trip to Oz and will hopefully provide material for a future sequel to Sunburnt Pom's Tales of Oz.'

As I write this blog the Old Country is still in a mess politically. We are less than 150 days from exiting the awful European Union and we haven't a clue on what terms. The man who made it all possible, Nigel Farage, has recently been on a tour Down Under. If ever you need a guy on the side of the majority to tell your political classes where to go then Nigel's your man. And before you Aussies ask, no you can't have him. He's ours!

Until next time.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Sunburnt Pom's News from the Old Country 06

Like millions of others I was thrilled to see Prince Harry formally open the Invictus Games in Sydney. I though his speech was tremendous, coming straight from the heart and without the aid of any notes, let alone an autocue. His mother, the late Princess Diana, was surely smiling down on him from the starry firmament.

In the days that followed the opening of the Games I was delighted to see Harry & Meghan visit Hervey Bay and then Fraser Island in Queensland – two places I have visited myself. Indeed I made great mention of both in my latest book 'Sunburnt Pom's Tales of Oz' which you can see on this website. It was almost as if the Royal couple were following my own itinerary but, to my knowledge, they have not read the book. Perhaps I should send them a signed copy to Kensington Palace. To add further icing to the cake Harry also visited Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour where my father Victor's destroyer HMS Quilliam paid off in 1945. Do you think these Royals might go Down Under again? You just try stopping them!

Since my last blog it has been my pleasure to make a visit to the town of Barrow in Furness on the edge of the English Lake District. Famous for its shipbuilding history 'Barrow' is still a centre of excellence and is now the sole site for the construction of the Royal Navy's nuclear submarines. I always feel 'at home' in shipbuilding towns – perhaps because my forebears built the Titanic. In 1969 I spent an incredible twenty-one days on the P&O liner Orsova which was the last of the Orcades Class and was herself built in Barrow. I have just written an amusing story about a chap I shared a cabin with on the Orsova all those years ago. I have given it the mysterious title 'Mister Fly' but to see why you will have to wait until we have added it to my website from where you will be able to read and download it.

The clocks go back on Saturday night and GMT returns to the kitchen clock. The oft-repeated Game of Thrones mantra 'Winter's coming' springs immediately to mind. Ugh!

Until next time.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Sunburnt Pom's News from the Old Country 05

This week's news is a little late and a little rushed. I have just been on a short trip to Belgium, our little friend across the North Sea. It is just a nice overnight voyage from the Port of Hull and you arrive in the Port of Zeebrugge just after your on-board full English breakfast or your croissants and coffee if you have already switched to a continental mindset. I always opt for the latter to leave room for lots of 'frittess & mayo' not to mention the moules for which the area is famous. And of course you need to sample the local brews – and I'm not talking PG tips here you understand. Do not confuse the Province of Flanders with the rest of Belgium and the EU. I have many friends in Bruges who would like to see wealthy Flanders leave Belgium and the awful European Union. The return to Hull two days later was marked by strong winds and high tides, delaying our arrival somewhat. It is a reminder that the UK, like Australia, is an island and this gives its peoples a wider outlook on the world.

My cousin Pam in Hervey Bay, QLD is dead envious that we can make such a trip almost at the drop of a hat – something you just can't do in Oz. Overseas hols for Aussies involve planning and thousands of miles of travel but I nearly always manage to chat to Aussies in Bruges. Just across the border in the Dutch town of Sluys there is even an 'Oz ice-cream shop!'

Well the UK is leaving the EU in five months time and two and a half years after the people voted to leave the British Government still hasn't negotiated the terms of departure. Just what are these 'pollies' paid to do? It makes you weep. And why does the UK have to buy a departure ticket anyway? The reason, of course, is that without the UK's money, the EU will almost certainly go bust.

The beluga whale spotted in the Thames estuary seems to have departed for its more favoured colder climes but it gave a lot of pleasure to 'whale watchers' during its short visit. In the meantime most of us Poms are thumbing through winter sun brochures. Malta is my favourite 'warm' destination but as soon as time and money allow I will be trying out the new non-stop Qantas flight from London to Perth. What an incredible achievement that is and what would the early pioneers like Charles Kingsford Smith be thinking.

Until next time.