Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Adelaide and Kangaroo Island

I started this post some two weeks ago as follows.

I am coming to the end of a very pleasant stay in Adelaide where I have been doing a little work at the University of South Australia and seeing many of the friends I have made at the University and in the City. The weather has been agreeably warm with temperatures in the low twenties Celsius (say 70's Fahrenheit) though the last day or two it has gone over 30 (say 85F).

This is my prize wildlife photo taken in the rolling country south of Adelaide at the weekend house of friends. It shows the Echidna, an Australian hedgehog like creature. You will have to look it up in Wikipedia for more information.

This the splendid view from the house towards the coast and Kangaroo Island some twenty miles away and of which more below.

I shall pick out to describe in more detail two splendid days on Kangaroo Island. Reference to your atlas and to Wikipedia will tell you that this an island some 65 miles long off the coast of S. Australia. It is a popular holiday resort with attractive scenery and lots of wild life.

Here is a coastal view:

A drive of some 50 miles from Adelaide takes one to Cape Jervis where a harbour has been constructed for the car ferry which takes some 45 minutes to coss to Penneshaw one of the two urban places - hardly towns - on the island. Cape Jervis sees the shipping of world pass on the way from Adelaide to the west towards Melbourne and Sydney.

Happily there are no pirates though the original inhabitants of Kangaroo Island at the beginning of the 19th C were by all accounts a desperate bunch of seal hunters, escaped convicts and other flotsam some of whom who had taken wives from the aborigines on the mainland. Ships called for water and supplies such as salt and to buy the sealskins. The seals were nearly wiped out but now conserved have recovered somewhat in numbers. There are sea-lions too.

My hosts in Adelaide, John and Allison Manefireld took me in their big 4wd vehicle to a rented house 'Blue Wren Cottage' in Penneshaw not far from the ferry. The spacious house like all the rented accommdation was very well equipped with the necessities of life from the dish-washer onwards. Here is the view from the house towards the mainland:

The Blue Wren is described in Wikipedia:

The Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus), also known as the Superb Blue-wren or colloquially as the Blue Wren, is a passerine bird of the Maluridae family, common and familiar across south-eastern Australia. The species is sedentary and territorial, also exhibiting a high degree of sexual dimorphism; the male in breeding plumage has a striking bright blue forehead, ear coverts, mantle, and tail, with a black mask and black or dark blue throat.

It is indeed a spectacular bird a pair of which on a previous visit I was fortunate enough close by in the Bush. None this time or perhaps they were among the many little birds that flitted rapidly through the undergrowth. Many Australian birds are colourful but I shall not attempt to describe them.

The wild life which most surprised me on Kangaroo Island was the wallabies. Driving (we ,not the wallabies) through the scrub around Penneshaw at night we saw innumerable wallabies by the road, across the road and in the undergrowth in the way we see rabbits but never in such numbers or of course of such size. Where do they all hide during the day? No burrows. There are kangaroos too but we saw only one. My other surprise was the size of the island which looks small on the map but has lots of agricultural land including a farm which produces eucalyptus oil once a big industry but now only a tourist visit.

But now I am home. I wrote an account of the tedious journey at the time so here it is.

I have decide that this this blog needs more spontaneity so here I am on an aircraft somewhere over Indonesia on the way to Bangkok and London. The passengers n BA10 – British Airways – have been given their dinner and the opportunity to stretch their legs and are now expected to settle down. Having left Sydney at 5.45 local time the plane is scheduled to arrive at Bangkok at about 2.30 a.m., two or three hours earlier by Bangkok time. The sunset has been long drawn out as the plane has chased the sun westward though not keeping up with it. With my meal – Pasta, not bad – I had a little bottle of white wine, quite undrinkable, definitely off. I did get a little something else to compensate and help me sleep.

Today has been a long day. Up at 6.30 a.m. Adelaide time, on to the plane for Sydney departing at 0930. I checked in my two big bags in the hope they would re-appear at Heathrow. It is amazing that in my experience almost they always have. So today they have I hope been transshipped at Sydney.

I arrived at Sydney having put my watch forward half an hour. The difference in time zone of half an hour hardly seems worthwhile but I suspect the independence of the Australian individual States, here South Australia and New South Wales, from one another. After all for a long time each State had its own railway gauge. The Irish still do – 5ft. as against what is the international standard now of 4ft 8 1/2 inches or whatever that is in millimetres. It is of course the distance between the wheels of a Roman chariot and that was determined by the width of back end of the horse in front.

I sat in the Qantas Lounge at Sydney and looked out out the big windows to the towers of the City some five or six miles away.

The tall office blocks cluster in a square miles where presumably the rents justify the expensive construction. Outside this small area heights rapidly diminish. It is strange that proximity still counts for so much in these times of easy communication. After all in the days when the merchants of the City of London communicated by all going to the Royal Exchange every morning and meeting one another for a cup of coffee having an office close to people with who one did business was clearly essential.

Now at home in Dorset with my computer I can communicate all over the world and see pictures of people too but the human face-to-face contact still adds enough to take me to London and Australia. Travel, certainly frequent business travel, is not a pleasure Anyway it is pleasant to talk with people and drink coffee together. We are gregarious, some of us more than others.

My flow is drying up as fatigue takes over and also the sleeping pill I have taken. I have four hours before Bangkok.At Bangkok we all had to get off the plane with our carry-on bags while it was re-fuelled, cleaned and a new crew took over. Meanwhile the passengers had to proceed from the far end of a quarter-mile long terminal building to the other. I used four travelators but still walked a long way. At the end where there were shops which there was not time to visit in a 45 minutes stop we had to go through Security, up an elevator and on an upper floot proceed all the way back to wait to board the plane again. I suspect that Thailand does not like BA so they get the end of the terminal while Thai Airlines no doubt are nice and handy. The exercise did me good though.

There was yet another dinner which I declined – the waste of food on planes is deplorable. Few eat a fraction of what they are given. Eventually there was a snack breakfast. Then after twelve hour at Heathrow incoming passengers were processed rapidly and bags appeared quickly. Outside in the chilly dawn I found a taxi and duly arrived at Long Lane Farm Ickenham near Uxbridge to be given tea and another and superior breakfast.

Two weeks later - where has the time gone? - my clock has been reset and I am used to the cold - happily it is warming up, 12C as I write. I was very fatigued and so it has taken some time to get up and runnig but I am think I am there or as close as I shall ever be. My trip is rapidly fading leaving memories of interesting and agreeable people, places, food and drink.

I also bring back some academic thoughts with which I must now engage. I actually did some work at the University of South Australia in Adelaide. To convince you here is a picture of the University:

Here I am in full flow giving a Seminar talk:

That seems enough for one post, dear readers.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Art Deco in Napier

I pick up this post after two weeks in Adelaide about which I hope to write later. For complicated IT reasons I have been unable to post earlier. So this is what I wrote earlier.

I am writing this on the plane flying from Wellington in New Zealand to Melbourne Australia en route to Adelaide after a very pleasant visit to NZ. I leave it to my readers to look up in Wikipedia the geography, history and politics of a country which is the antipodes of Spain and closer to the Equator than Britain though I shall add a few details.

For the benefit of new readers I should explain that I say little about the kind relations and hosts who look after me. This is a public document and people do not always want their personal and family details broadcast.

I arrived in Napier in Hawkes Bay a fortnight ago. Napier was in 1931 was largely destroyed by an earthquake and fire. The town was rebuilt in the current Art Deco style and thus has many interesting buildings in a well laid-out town centre. The sea-front has attractive gardens and the beach looks out towards South America. Hence the claim of the town to be the Art Deco capital of the world. It is certainly one of New Zealand's most attractive towns.

I went to see some friends there, people whom I have met on previous visits, at their house several miles outside the town in a valley with some of the vineyards of which there many in Hawkes Bay. The house is in a riudge and here I am with the river and valley scenery lookingh toward the mountains of the central sdpine of the island which lie to the west some forty miles.

One place I visited was the Trelinnoe Gardens some twenty-five miles inland on the one road which finds it way through the hills and over the forested plain to Taupo with it great volcanic crater lake. There are few alternative routes in New Zealand. If this road is closed by say a landslip one has to drive seventy miles south before striking north again. The railway never attempted to penetrate the jagged hills of the central mountain spine though the hills are much lower there than in the volcanic mountains to the south.

One strikes from the main road forsome three miles along a very minor road, partly a track to the gardens. These are extensive and landscaped with trees, shrubs and lake though few flowers. They surround an attractive house and the whole is a surprise in the mkiddle of a forest. There is a large working farm attached. I chose a damp morning – everything was very green and had the place almost to myself but I was able to get a cup of coffee in the cafĂ©.

Coffee is a new phenomenon in NZ. A few years ago I described NZ as the country of pale toast and weak coffee – tea was the universal drink, many times day. Now espresso coffee is on sale everywhere in roadside and small town cafes while in Napier there is a proliferation of coffee shops. NZ has indeed within my experience changed dramatically to a much more sophisticated society with all the latest technology. There are many signs of affluence such as the handsome houses to be seen on prominent sites all round Napier. One suspects that the affluence is not shared by all.

The cultivated New Zealand landscape in the North Island is reminiscent of England but subtly different. There are no hedges – just wire fences. The trees whether of native or introduced species seem a different shape.

Here is a vineyard just outside Napier:

The roads are straighter and parking is easier – in towns most roads have a wide enough border marked off for cars to be parked on both sides without obstructing traffic. The parked car lined streets of English towns are unknown. Apartment blocks are few and the single-story houses almost invariably detached though often on a tiny plot. The houses and buildings look strangely insubstantial. Brick or stone is rare – earthquakes do not encourage their use in many parts – and timber has always been cheap. The older houses and large buildings are all in timber. The typical small town has one story shops with an arcaded canopy in front with a few more pretentious buildings at the centre. Auckland and Wellington have of course grander architecture in their centres.

My Kiwi friends are invited to comment and disagree with my observations.

In Napier I attended the Art Deco Weekend Celebrations as I did last year. The 1932 architecture provides an ambience where people can adopy what they hope to be the costumes of the 20’s and 30’s. On the Saturday and Sunday the Marine Parade and principal streets are full of people exotically dressed. Many indeed ist of the participants are of mature years though there are some very convincing flappers with short waistless dresses and a bandeau perhaps with feather around the head.

I myself again took my genuine blazer and with a cravat, a boater (locally sourced – no known school) and a borrowed stick felt I looked the part. Here is a picture:

My companions, complete strangers, in this picture were not though up to the level some of you may recall from last year.

The parade of some 250 vintage cars was impressive. When I subsequently drove from Napier to Taupo I had the company of two impressive classic touring Bentleys dutifully adhering to the 100kph (60mph) speed limit except for occasional overtaking with a throaty roar. This is a more modest MG.

I paused briefly in Taupo a holiday town on the border of the lake and pressed on through pastoral country – arable areas are few – to the west coast where I followed a good road up and down and round about through gorges and over river estuaries to reach New Plymouth and my hosts. New Plymouth is in Taranaki, a peninsula about twenty-five miles across – see your atlas – centred on a dramatic mountain, formerly Mount Egmont now known as Mount Taranaki.

There is off-shore oil and the area is popular for retirement.

After a couple of nights with family I was back to the east to more cousins at Palmerton North

And now I am in Adelaide in South Australia my last stop before home.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Update from Australia and New Zealand.

I am on my travels again and writing from Napier, New Zealand. Earlier I declared that my blog would be about interesting places and people rather than my own doings but I find that I cannot help writing about myself.

For instance, I flew from London to Sydney where I had arranged to spend Thursday and Friday night last week. I arrived on Thursday morning and was not up to much for the rest of the day. I managed to walk the quarter of a mile or so down to Circular Quay to have a cup of coffee and then to plod back. It was quite warm - about 26C, call it 80+F.

Friday I had decided to do what I did once before and take the ferry to Manly at the entrance to the Harbour and where just a few yards further on is the ocean beach on the Tasman Sea. The Tasman Sea stretches a thousand miles to NZ and past it, since NZ is quite small on the map, is the Pacific all the way to South America. I find those horizons with almost illimitable seas beyond rather frightening.

My choice of outing was not as it turned out ideal. Last Friday Sydney experienced a two month temperature peak of 38C. Manly was probably not much more than 30 - say 90F - but warm for a stroll. Manly is a popular day trip for Sydney people. This display of ice-cream on a stall in the arrival pier tells one that:

There is another side to Manly as in even the smallest place in Australia, one which we in Britain should noot forget.

Here is the beach, just like all the other pictures of Australian beaches.

I managed a prawn salad for lunch and a glass of cold lager in a pleasant beach-side restaurant:

Then I made my way back to the ferry and slowly plodded back up the hill to air conditioning. I did pause at the forecourt of some large building to photograph this Leopard one of a pair cheering the surroundings.

In the evening the temperature dropped and a thunderstorm flooded part of the city.

Napier a pleasant 23C. Wait to hear about the coming Art Deco Celebration Weekend.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

In countdownmode - now D-8

I have been scurrying round today unearthing archives for the retrospect of my involvement in marketing science which I am due to give in Adelaide. Looking at old work files is depressing - so much effort of which so often little came. Even worse one can see looking back that much of the effort at the time was misdirected and clearer thought would have produced more at less effort.

I am now in my anecdotage - I have a repertoire of stories with which my friends are becoming regrettably familiar. At least though my tales have a beginning, a middle and an end. I have acquired a little voice recorder to which I am starting to entrust these reminiscences for the edification and perhaps amusements of future generations. There remains the slight techncal problem of gettingmy words from the voice recording onto paper. I am looking for voice recognition software which will take the files which the recorder will helpfully create on my PC and turn them into Word files ready to be edited.

Archives kept on PCs are very vulnerable - they die either with the PC or if they survive that they die with their creator. I propose therefore to go through my collection of photographic prints and discard the bulk of them. the others I shall put in albums with some annotation. But who will ever look at them? I have inherited old albums full of photographs of scenes from the past of which I know nothing and showing people of whom I know nothing. My collection therefore should be small and such as to be of interest to younger family members who would like to know something of their forbears.

More constructively I made some lamb curry for my supper - a very English curry based on cold lamb from the freezer and curry paste but I though quite successful. Cooking for oneself is an odd business - mostly it is something easy, though I eschew prepared meals, and a bacon sandwich is always a tempting option. On occasion though I take the trouble to prepare something a little better and enjoy sitting down to a table laid as for guests - Lucullus dines with Lucullus.

Catering for guests always has the problem that one cannot be in two places at once. One wishes to be with one's guests and also in the kitchen. I do not have the size of kitchen nor the ability to talk and cook at the same surrounded by guests with their pre-prandial refreshment.

Careful selection of dishes helps, with something either cold or like soup needing only serving to start with. A main course is trickier though as a celebrated chef wrote recently the trouble with amateurs is that they try to get everything ready at once - items can be kept hot.

My ambition is to serve a souffle but I have not yet attempted even the necessary rehearsals. The principle is very easy. The preparation clearly needs very close attention. Pancakes straight from the frying pan are easier - if I called them crepes, cooked them and piled them up in advance it might serve. I could then serve them flambe with flaming brandy. Catering after all is a branch of entertainment.

A few warmer days have seemed like Spring. The snowdrops are already flowering and in a neighbour's garden daffodils are already in bloom. The willow trees at Whitcombe at the bottom mof the hill on the way to Dorchester already have a pink tinge when one sees them as one comes down the hill. Whitcombe was a thriving village once but has never been the same since the Black Death. The next dip intheroad takes on past Came. Thomas Barnes the vernacular poet ot the ninethteenth century held the living as Recor, a far from onerous charge with only one or two cottages and Came House. Came House is not big as such houses go but is very grand in style. We once went to a Carol Service in the disused Came Church, very chilly indeed, and afterwards to mulled wine and mince pies in the Grand Saloon of the House, very chilly indeed.

The builder was the brother of Lord Damer who in the 1770's acquired Milton Abbey where he blended the ruins of the mediaeval Abbey with a large new mock-Gothick house, now a school.

Offended by the sight of the surrounding village he moved it away from sight to what remains a pcturesque street of cottages but to the inconvenience of the inhabitants. One man who was brave enough to go to law to keep his property was ruined. The site of the old village became a lake with a surrounding landscape shaped by Capability Brown who was very good at that sort of thing. The lake was drained it is said to prevent it being an aid to navigarion by bombers in 39-45 and has never been reinstated but the landscape as seen from the school remains delightful. Lord Damer's figure in an elaborate marble monument in the church shows his unlikely support by angels.

I have been looking for a picture to include but can see nothing that fits. I am mindful of Alice's comment in Alice in Wonderland, "A book without pictures is very dull."

So that is that.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Outward Bound.

Bound is Bound Outward again. On February 9, 20210, I am booked to fly from LHR (Heathrow to you) to SYD (Sydney) and do not plan to be home again until March 20 when the grass will need cutting.

If February 9 is D-Day this is D-17. The organisation that has gone into my trip and indeed is still going in is comparable with D-Day Planning.

My acquaintance Admiral Ritchie, formerly Assistant Hydrographer of the Navy was on D-Day in charge of the party that lasid the buoys to mark where the Mulberry Harbour was to be parked. He was there very early in the morning and the Harbour was duly mored in the right place, an achievement of considerable technical skill in the most peaceful conditions. In Southampton where my family lived there were rumours of concrete barges being built - no one knew what for.

Then everybody knew. It was a brilliant and successful device to provide an instant harbour to land quantities of heavy vehicles. Admiral Ritchie is still around and aalways wears a red tie.

I digress. I shall tell you sbout Conundrum another time, or you can look it up.

I go from Australia after a brief rest to New Zealand to visit my relations and a university visit. My plan for my rest day in Sysney is to do what I have done before and take the ferry across the harbout to Manley to go out to Manley Beach on the Ocean side of the harbour. There I shall look for a cafe where I can sit in the shade looking at the sunny Pacific Ocean, eat seafood salad and drink cold beer. Last year my similar plan met alas wet and not very warm weather. I went to the Art Gallery and looked at one of my favourite pictures "The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon". Look at it on the Web. It has everything.

There is a serpent in every Eden. The swimmers on the beach at Manley swim within the shark nets. Nowadays I do not have to photograph such places - the Web has pictures ready for you.

It takes almost the whole day to get to Auckland and on the 150 miles to Napier. It seems a long time until one reflects that it took Captain Cook some months. As the plane flies over the watery waste one wonders if there really is land ahead as Capain Cook must have wondered. The reports of earlier navigators has been one suspects vague and it was not until Cooke with the chronometer that gave him his exact position landed and spent some weeks taking astronomical observations that a precise latitude and longitude could be establshed. Your Satnav today does it instantly of course.

Napier in Hawkes Bay on the east coast the North island claims to be the Art Deco capital of the world. Following a disastrous earthquake and fire in 1931 the town centre was rebuilt almost entirely by two gifted architects in the contemporary style in the contemporary style. I hope again to attend some of the events in the annual Art Deco Festival weekend.

Many people attend the gatherings in the gardens on the Marine Parade in period costume and some of you may remember my own picture in boater and blazer. I felt I lent a touch of authenticity to the occasion. The parades of vintage cars are astonishing.

I do try in this blog to write about interesting things and people without too much about my own doings and of course I respect the privacy of my hosts.

Lots to do - must have Oz Visa and print list of addresses. Need some cash too - $AU and $NZ more expensive than before. Using the Big Mac Index - the price of a Big Mac Burger is a guide to the general price level we have:

UK $ 3.32 £2.06
US $3.15 £1.95
NZ $3.08 £1.90
AU $2.44 £1.51 - something wrong there.

That cheers me up as a prospective traveller but not what is was.

It is all because unemplyment causes in Britain a shortage of labour. This is not just facetious. Once people are out of the job market it is hard to get them back. One reason is the very high marginal tax on the extra income from work as opposed to social security.

Enough for one posting.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

So here is my final apple crop, nine fine apples still unripe. The other three apples from the original twelve I tried at different times. Wait for me to report their final consumption.

I have already reported making my Quince Cheese. I served it with my cheese-board, well a selection of three cheeses, when I had friends to lunch last week. I found it sweet and with little taste. An ornamental flourish to a meal I feel.

Then I decided to make some scones - what people in the South of England pronounce as "Scones" and in the North "Scons". Although brought up in the South regarding anything north of the Thames as nearly arctic I still use the northern pronunciation. My grandmother was Scottish and the pronunciation came to me by way of my mother.

There have been stirring events in Broadmayne. The main road through the village is shut for a week for laying drains giving a welcome respite from the heavy trucks of which more and more pass along Main Street at the expense of those wishing to travel eastwards from the village.

What is more the Black Dog public house has been closed for ten days. The tenant - the pub is owned by a chain who rent it to a tenant on condtition that he buys only their beer - having been there only some six monnths gave up. This was not surprising. He did not have the personality to make people feel welcome and had no wife to provide a joint effort. Catering including running a pub is a branch of entertainment. Food and drink are secondary to the experience. I am not sure though how well MacDonalds fit into this but Starbucks certainly understand it.

The premises are however being refurbished and there is to be a grand re-opening on Friday. The new tenant I am told is a local electrician with a wife, and also four children. Whether he has had experience or the training which is offered to prospective tenants I do not know. Running a pub is hard work with late nights, trouble with staff and in running the restaurant side where I suspect any money is made. The Black Dog is eminentlly respectable with a local clientele. That is its problem. Such people do not spend as much as drunken young people and the customers expect glasses rather than drinking expensive imported beers from the bottle. They do get glasses with Vodka though I believe. My knowledge of such places is based on the reports in the local paper of Court cases.

We shall see what happens to the Black Dog. I hope they put back the hanging sign which has disappeared in recent years. I have made some intersting acquaintances on my occasional visits. There is little or no overlap with the church-going community except in the restaurant which is modestly priced.

Another inititative of mine has been the installation of a water meter. This is optional and I reckon that water at £2 per cubic metre, or 0.2 pence per litre (is that right?) will save me money as a one person household even with all the usual appliances including a power shower.

So there are some of the details of village life. And I cut the grass this afternoon - perhaps the last opportunity of a dry sunny daybefore winter sets in.

Another picture to end. I walked the other afternoon by Hardy's Cottage where Thomas Hardy the novelist was born. The cottage is now preserved by the National Trust. Here is a picture on a fine autumn day:

As the cartoons used to say, "That's all, Folks."

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Days are drawing in.

Autumn, a gentler word than Fall, is well-advanced and on this gloomy evening it was dark by seven. At the end of the month when Summer Time goes it will be dark before six. The rate of change of dusk and dawn then slows down to a minimum at the solstice.

It puzzled me why the earliest dusk was before the solstice and the latest dawn after it. One would have expected them to have been virtually the same. The reason is that the Equation of Time, the difference beween actual sun time, that is to say Apparent Solar Time and Mean Time is changing more rapidly han the change in the length of day. There is something to dowith Refraction too but we shall pass over that.

My little apple tree which I rescued from the shrubbery where it had long been struggling to survive has rerwarded me by twelve apples. Here it is in blossom last April:

And here it is with twelve apples - one not visible:

It is said to be a Charles Ross, a variant on Coxes Orange Pippin a popular variet which ripens only after long-keeping. The Charles Ross is supposed toripen ealry but mine are still not ripe, though edible - I have just eaten one. I shall pick the remainder and store them carefully until they appear a little softer. When the Coxes is ripe the seeds rasttle when the fruit is shaken. I had four apples last year, twelve this year - 48 next year?

There is something very satisfying about growing something to eat. It is seldom economic of course. To grind one'sone flour with a quern - look that one up - and make bread hoping thatg wild yeast will make the dough rise must be rewarding if laborious.

I was given a bag of Quinces, not a common fruit. I quote:

"Although grown mainly for their flowers, ornamental quinces can produce attractive, apple-shaped edible fruit that persists throughout autumn.

The fruit of the common quince, Cydonia oblonga, has by far the best flavour. It can be trained as an open-centred bush on a short stem and once the framework is established, needs minimal pruning. It needs regular feeding and mulching with a well-rotted compost or manure every spring.

The fragrant fruits, which resemble hard, lumpy pears, can't be eaten raw but are valued in preserves and for baking. The most common variety is C. oblonga 'Vranja', whose pear-shaped fruits are ready for picking when they turn from green to gold in late autumn."

I have made Quince Cheese a thick jam or jelly recommended to be eaten with cheese. That was tedious but moderately creative.

More of life in Broadmayne and London later.