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.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Sunburnt Pom's News from the Old Country 04

I am not sure if 'Oz TV' showed you any of the Conservative Party Conference this week. Emulating UKIP, who had shown them the way to Britain's second city a week earlier, the Tory faithful gathered to worship their political idols. The Prime Minister tried her best to audition for next year's Strictly Come Dancing by prancing onto the stage towards the lectern to the tune of ABBA's Dancing Queen, a hit from 1976. If she succeeds she will be the latest 'pollie' to join the show but she should have taken note that they were either retired or failed 'pollies' so is the 'writing on the subway wall for Theresa?  One person who hopes so is Boris Johnson. The blond beluga whale of British politics surfaced for air in Birmingham with plumes of spray as whales do. He addressed his fringe meeting in the same hall as the UKIP conference, an irony that was probably lost on him. Such is the state of politics in Britain today – one long rudderless game show if you ask me.

And speaking of beluga whales, one was spotted last week swimming merrily in the Thames estuary several thousand miles south of its normal home in the freezing Arctic. Surely this is the first natural sign that global warming is at an end and that we are now entering the first phase of global cooling. The eco-warriors have said absolutely nothing. Funny that.

Closer to home the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has announced his retirement well in advance of the actual date. Whatever your faith or creed. the No. 2 in the Church of England pecking order has made many friends in his tenure of office. The search for his replacement will already have started behind the scenes. No doubt the hunt will be on for a trans-gender, ethnic from an asylum seeking refugee Christian family washed up on a Mediterranean beach. I jest of course but don't laugh too loudly – it could happen.

The days are shortening fast now and I have only three weeks left of walks in the evening twilight. Then it's 'clocks back' an hour to GMT and five months of dark misery. It makes you want to reach for the Qantas timetable. Do you know what? I might just do that!

Until next time.