Europe 1987 – Part three.

The plan to do a two-part post seems to have been completely blown out of the water, though this will be the final in the Europe 1987 series. My diary suggests the journey was more action packed the further south we travelled, or maybe I just wrote more. The diary is certainly a lot more verbose in the latter entries, perhaps this was due to me spending more time on my own? Sadly, it appears that the more I wrote the fewer photos I took; most of the photos I have left were taken early in the trip.

We take up the journey on 28 October 1987, soon after crossing the border into Greece from Yugoslavia, after what seems to have been a couple of miserable days; with poor weather, a lack of places to camp and hard driving on busy and winding mountain roads not making us the happiest of campers.

It turned out Northern Greece was a continuation of the Southern Yugoslavia experience. It was cold, it was wet, it was very deprived and there were few places to camp. I note that one night we slept in the van in a field and were surrounded by feral dogs in the morning. I have no photos from that period. I noted in my diary that we were almost killed on the road somewhere between the border and Thessalonica. I was driving and barrelling along about 50 miles an hour when someone pulled out of a side road in front of me, forcing me to swerve off the road into the dirt and back onto the road again. It was very scary and the closest we came to dying. I can still visualise the car coming out of nowhere, me wrenching the wheel to the right, hitting the dusty bank, then wrenching left and back on the road again. I cannot visualise the swearing, though I suspect some bad bad things were said.

Thessalonica was effectively closed as a senior government official was visiting, there were armed police and soldiers everywhere, including tanks on the main roads. We didn’t stay, but found a campground somewhere between the city and the Turkish border, and blessed relief, there were hot showers. It had been a long time between showers and sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference.

After two days driving across Greece we entered Turkey. I noted in my diary that there was loud cannon fire near the border and a lot of soldiers on manoeuvres on the Turkish side, though the border crossing was straightforward. Turkey was my second favourite country after Germany; and the polar opposite of tidy, clean and organised West Germany. I seem to enjoy the really tidy and strict countries like Singapore AND the mad, loose and scruffy countries like Cambodia and Laos. It is the in between I dislike more than anything.

I only saw a fraction of Turkey, just Istanbul and down to Bodrum on the coast, and it was the country I wanted to return to the most when I got back to New Zealand. In the main it was very friendly, the people were open and generous, the food cheap, tasty and plentiful and I liked it very much.

We arrived in Istanbul during rush hour on a Friday night. The roads were complete madness, five lanes of cars on a three lane road, honking and yelling, cars all over the shop. I noted that I loved it, the Kiwi driver in me looking for a challenge. We had no maps or guidebooks for Istanbul and Turkey so just drove toward the centre of town looking for signs pointing to campgrounds or hostels. Driving down a one way street we saw the ‘True Blue Souvenir’ shop with a small Aussie flag painted on the front. I stopped the van so Sam and Trudy could run back to the shop to ask for advice on places to stay, they came back with Simon and Typhun from the shop (No idea of the spelling of his name). They told us we could park and camp outside of their shop for a small fee, it had 24 hour security (armed policeman outside the station two doors up) and we could nip into a nearby hotel to use the loo and sinks. It sounded perfect to us, so much better than fields and wild dogs.

Simon said he would direct us to the shop, and jumped in the van. We drove round the corner onto a rammed three lane highway, approaching a roundabout Simon jumped out of the car, walked into the middle of the road and stopped all the traffic so I could cross the three lanes. He then move the barrier blocking the road entrance to the Blue Mosque, and we drove through its car park, across the front of this glorious building and out the other side. To cap it off we drove up the one way street the wrong way, past the police station, parking outside the shop. I wasn’t sure whether to laughing my head off at the madness of it all, or be fearful of spending 10 years in a Turkish prison. Once parked and not arrested, I chose the first option. Welcome to Istanbul!

Nov 1987 Istanbul Campsite

We spent three days in Istanbul, parked up outside the shop, other vans joined us and it was largely a lot of fun. I loved Istanbul, the old town, the mosques and the market were all highlights, as was being shown around by our hosts, eating in local cafes and drinking copious quantities of apple tea and brutally strong coffee. I am surprised I have so few photos.

Nov 1987 Blue Mosque Istanbul

Typhun and Simon.

Nov 1987 Soluman and Typhun Istanbul

Hubbly Bubbly cafe.

Nov 1987 Istanbul with Typhun

I noted in my diary that there was a bus strike in Turkey, and I could not get back to London for a few days, so after a short, interrupted phone call I agreed with Deana that I would carry on to the coast and then get a ferry to Athens and bus it from there. I could not afford to fly. So, on 2 November we carried on south, taking two days to get to Selcuk.

My diary says ‘I liked Selcuk’. We spent the best part of four days here, the most we spent in any small town. The first night was spent sleeping in the van outside the public toilets with a bunch of other van tourists. The second night we stayed in a guest house as it had been six days again without a shower. I noted it was nice to sleep in a proper bed. I also noted that I lost my wallet, but didn’t think it had been stolen and thankfully it didn’t have all my cards in it, and only a small amount of cash.

Nov 1987 Selcuk Turkey

We hung out with quite a bunch of people, including a Kiwi hitch hiker Pete who stayed with us to Bodrum. The main reason for coming to Selcuk was to visit the ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus, made famous in the book, ‘The Bible’. We arrived in town too late to visit on the first day, and the second day it rained for the first time in eight months (the Phil holiday curse). We finally made it there on day three. Pete had a guide book which was really handy.

Nov 1987 Ephesus

These were my first proper ancient ruins, none of this 1000 year old stuff like you get in the UK, these were 2000 years old. Proper ancient, and what I had been really wanting to see, the legacy from my childhood neighbours. I really liked exploring Ephesus, I liked the fact that nothing was fenced off and I could roam all over. I liked it that I didn’t accidently destroy something which I almost did when visiting the Roluos Group of temples in Cambodia. I liked that I could sit on the old toilet and read my book. I would love a pair of Doc Marten boot that look that worn in now!

Nov 1987 Ephesus Turkey

The next day we carried on south stopping at some even older ruins, the Greek ruins of the Temple to Athena in Priene, these ruins are from 1000BC. Wow, 3000 years old! Fabulous. There was no one there except us and while not as extensive as Ephesus they were still mighty impressive, and we had a bit of fun with mock sacrifices on the alter. Not that the ancient Greeks did human sacrifices!

Nov 1987 Greek ruins of Priene Turkey

Nov 1987 Priene Turkey

As we were leaving Priene Trudy realised she had been short changed that morning by the bank in Selcuk when changing Japanese Yen for Turkish Lira, by two zeros, a not unsubstantial sum. We shot back to Selcuk just in time, arriving before the bank closed. The bank knew they had made a mistake and there were no issues in getting the extra money. We spent the night parked outside the toilets again and went to our favourite cafe for lamb stuffed peppers and beer. The next morning I almost got busted by the toilet cleaner who arrived while I was still in there after climbing over the wall, I made a rapid exit the same way. He knew and stood there glaring at us until we drove off.

The next morning we drove south again, this time making it to the port town of Bodrum, and my final destination. It was Trudy’s birthday and my last night in the van with the Grieve sisters. We had cake and wine, and most of us were sick, we were all tired. It was not the bestest of nights to say goodbye.

I see a couple of dogs came to farewell me as well. 

Nov 1987 Bodrum Turkey

Goodbye Turkey. kiss kiss.

Nov 1987 Bodrum Fort from the Ferry

Early the following morning I was on the ferry to the Greek Island of Kos, where I stayed for a few hours before getting on another, overnight ferry to Athens. I slept on the hard metal deck with a load of other tourists.  Arriving in Athens I discovered there were still strikes and I had to wait three days for a bus to London.

I was not very excited by this and this was reflected in my negative feelings for Athens and my predicament. I only have a couple of photos from the three days I spent in an ancient and interesting city, and that is of the Acropolis. I didn’t even like that as it was behind a fence, there was construction going on and there were loads of people all around. My diary also says a lot of the museums were closed due to strike action, and the ones that were open were too expensive. I must have been pretty broke by then. I seemed to have spent a lot time hanging around in a youth hostel, talking and eating.

Nov 1987 The Parthenon Athens

Eventually I got a ferry to Brindisi in Italy and then a bus which took three days to get to London. I arrived back on the 14 November 1987. Apparently I smelt and looked terrible after three days on a smoke filled bus.

Not long after I arrived back Deana and I flew to Australia where we stayed for three months with her family on the Gold Coast before flying on to New Zealand in February 1988 where I stayed for the next 23 years. Which loops back to the start of this blog in 2011.

I very much enjoyed that trip, I didn’t see anywhere near as much as I would have liked, but it opened my eyes to the world and the possibilities of travelling and seeing things differently. There is a great world out there and I deplore the views of the narrow minded nationalists that want to shut borders and blindfold our young to the possibilities that should be available to them. I cannot wait to get back on the road again and would love to ‘do Europe’ one more time. Maybe with more showers.

The photos posted in these four blogs are from an album I put together after the trip and are all I have left of the between 250 and 350 I took over the ten weeks. I know I used 12 rolls of film and am sure these would have been a mix of 24 and 36 shot rolls. The other photos would have been tossed out when I sold the house in 2011 and had a massive cull of my possessions.

The diary is going in the bin now. It is time to declutter just a little bit more. As LP Hartley most famously wrote ‘The past is another country’, but it is one I have visited.

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Europe 1987 – Part two

Berlin, oh Berlin. Outside of the photos my memory from staying there is pretty much completely blank now. All I remember is that it was an absolute highlight of the 10 weeks I was in Europe; apart from the incident with the drunk, and my diary doesn’t help fill in gaps. Berlin is one of those cities; along with New York, London and Dunedin that is implicitly linked in my mind with good music; Bowie, Lou Reed, Eno, Killing Joke, Nick Cave, Neubaten, all have recorded or lived there. A number of my favourite novels have been set in Berlin, and that thrill of East meets West, of mystery and intrigue was one of its key attractions and I was very much looking forward to visiting, and am equally looking forward to going back.

Oct 1987 The Wall and East Berlin

Before we continue it is important to remind that this October 1987; the Wall was still up and the East was very definitely a foreign country. West Berlin was an island surrounded by East Germany, and according to my notes there was a 300km drive north of the border, crossing. I don’t mention any hassle or delay getting into East Germany, just that we drove straight to Berlin.

Over the entire trip we shared the driving, with each of us having a full day behind the wheel. I don’t recall any hassles on the road apart from almost being killed in Greece, just the regular occurrences of getting lost and massive traffic jams. One thing that has stayed with me is we only had 7 cassettes. Maybe we only had 7 cassettes that the others liked, I can’t believe I didn’t have some of my own music. In my diary I frequently reference lying in bed listening to music on my Walkman and I wouldn’t have listened to those tapes. I remember we had The Angels, Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, The Long Ryders but not the other four, though they would be a similar style I am sure. I think the driver got to chose what cassette was in the machine on their day behind the wheel. 

I don’t remember a huge amount of what we did in Berlin, we spent some time in the lovely Tiergarten, where one of my favourite photos of the trip was taken, with the others throwing leaves in the air and me standing watching. I am ever amused when I see photos of myself from 30 plus years ago and see that my dress has not changed at all.

Oct 1987 Tiergarten West Berlin

We entered and exited East Berlin through the famous Checkpoint Charlie; you have to return to the west via the checkpoint you entered. My notes say it took us 90 minutes to get across, you have to exchange 25 German marks for the same amount of East German ost marks, though the currency of the East is worthless and you cannot take any back to the West. Apart from food there is not much to spend money on.

Oct 1987 Border Crossing Berlin

It was a weird place, obviously at the time it was an authoritarian communist state and very different to the freewheeling west, and I imagine it looks a lot different now. The area near the border, the unpainted and unapproachable eastern side of the wall was bomb sites and rubble, left clear or cleared after the wall went up in ’61 as a visible boundary zone.

Oct 1987 East Berlin

I had someone take a photo of us in front of the wall on the eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate.

Oct 1987 Brandenberg Gate West Berlin

I liked East Berlin though, I noted the people were friendly and it was cheap, that the food was low quality and there was little to do other than walk, visit museums and eat. We bought sausage.

Oct 1987 Wurst seller East Berlin

Oct 1987 East Berlin 1

Now knowing she was pregnant Deana decided to go back to London; travelling in a crowded van, sleeping in a tent on roadsides and eating cheaply and simply, I won’t say dodgily, but… these were not ideal conditions to be carrying your first child. I imagine the rest of us were also drinking a lot as well, so probably not ideal van-mates. I know we, or I, certainly drank more after she had left as it is mentioned on numerous occasions later in my travel diary. As Deana had already travelled Europe and I hadn’t we agreed that I could spend a couple of weeks in the van and see a bit more before returning to London. Deana caught a train back from Berlin, and apart from being late had a successful trip.

It was our last night together, we had all eaten in the centre of Berlin and Deana had to wait for the train which was leaving quite late in the evening. We bought a bottle of wine and found a bench the Kaiser William Memorial Church to sit and drink it. Not long before we were finishing a drunk guy came up to us slurring away in German, he grabbed the almost empty bottle that was standing on the ground in front of us. Someone, I think it was Trudy jumped up and gave him a mouthful, and he retaliated by taking a swing at my head with the bottle, I was still seated. He missed with his swing so threw the bottle at us, his throw missed too and the bottle smashed on the ground. Fortunately, he staggered off on his way and gave us no further trouble. It was a bizarre and unsettling experience, and thankfully, the only threatening event in all of my travels. The others got the train back to the campsite on the outskirts of the city and Deana and I waited for the London train, with me eventually deserting my pregnant wife in a McDonalds in Berlin’s central main train station so I could get the last train back to the campground. She was more capable than me to be fair.

The next day the five of us left Berlin and headed south, towards the sun. We didn’t do a lot on the way, this was the road travelled when we went north and a couple of days later we crossed into Austria. Stopping for a while in Salzburg, though it was too crowded to stay so we just carried on, and into Yugoslavia.

Oct 1987 Salzburg

My memory of Yugoslavia is not a positive one; there was no specific incident, just lots of little ones and we also a load of hassle, it was my least favourite country. Like East Germany Yugoslavia was a communist state, though not as authoritarian as the former. It was the poorest country we visited, and the first time I had seen genuine poverty; half built houses, car chassis being towed by donkeys, rubbish strewn roadsides, little choice of food and small towns with gas stations with no petrol.  Though this was less the case near the Dalmatian Coast where we spent the most time.

At the border crossing all the cars and vans were parked, empty of belongings while bags and vehicles were being searched. Once we had passports stamped and visas bought we went back to the van and unloaded it onto the car park, then waited for the border police to come and check us out; we waited, and waited and waited. Eventually we loaded everything back in again, waited a bit more then drove off. Nothing happened.

Our first night in Yugoslavia was spent in a campground in the Julian Mountains, it snowed and I was very cold in the tent. We headed to the coast the next day.

Nov 1987 - Julien Alps Yugoslavia

It took us two days to get to Split on the Dalmatian coast, I note that we were very worried about running out of petrol on occasion as a lot of gas stations had no gas and that we had trouble buying food to cook, though eating out was cheap and easy. I had calamari for the first time and it was the best calamari I had for years after.

It is illegal to free-camp in Yugoslavia, so we found a campground near Split, above the Adriatic Sea and stayed for three days, the weather was glorious and we needed the break. Days to clean and do maintenance on the van, air sleeping bags and do a load of washing. 

Nov 1987 Split

I remember enjoying swimming and eating and not going anywhere, however it was not really that much of a happy experience. The girls were constantly being harassed by the men, on one occasion as we walked to the beach, a guy in a small group put his hands in his shorts pulled his package out and waved it at the girls. We took to carrying sticks with us to the beach.

Nov 1987 Split Campsite

One afternoon while walking through the old town our washing was stolen off the line, so the next day we left, carrying on southward. Andrea left us in Split, taking the train back to Munich for a flight back to London as her two weeks were up. That left just me and three sisters.

Nov 1987 Split Marketplace

Our next stop was Dubrovnik. I really liked the old town, though noted that the surrounding areas were really dirty with loads of rubbish everywhere. We could not find a campsite that was open so ended up driving into a closed one and staying the night there. I drank most of a bottle of vodka in the van and was woken up in the very early hours of the morning by the police, sleeping on the ground outside my tent. Thankfully nothing further happened apart from me crawling back in the tent and going back to sleep.

Nov 1987 Dubrovnik

The next day I was driving and failed to take a corner on a greasy bit of road, fortunately I overran into a small car park and didn’t hit anything, or more importantly, anybody. Someone else wisely took over the driving. We drove down to Ulcinj, and could not find anywhere open to camp, it was the 24 October so I guess the tourist season was mostly over. We drove down the very long beach, eventually finding an area of forest near the end. It was really dark, the road was terrible and quite deserted so we decided to park and stay the night, it was the first night I slept in the van and not the tent. In the morning we discovered we almost on the border with Albania and there were land mine warning signs off the side of the road. I am glad we didn’t wander far from the van.

Nov 1987 Ulcinj Yugoslavia

The next four days were spent continuing to drive southward towards Greece. I have one photo from that period, a woman walking a goat on a lonely highway as we drove up and down windy mountain roads.

Nov 1987 Woman walking goat

My diary suggests we drove, illegally camping a couple of times, that the south was poor and I drank a lot; not while driving obviously.  There was one further incident. I think we were in Macedonia, we were not far from the Greek border anyway. We were stopped by a police patrol. The police took our passports and then demanded an instant fine as we were speeding. We were driving a heavily loaded ancient VW Combi, there was no way we were speeding, but at least one of them was carrying a machine gun, and we wanted our passports back. We handed over the about £40 and the cops left us alone.  Police corruption at its finest.

On the 28 October we drove across the border into northern Greece, and it felt like with some relief.

The final part will be up soon.

 

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Europe 1987. Part one

Interestingly or not, (it was interesting to me), when I picked up my 1980s diaries from London a few days ago I didn’t take any time to read them. I just brought the box back with me to St Leonards, found the diary that covered my European trip, packed the rest away and took them back to London a week later. I had fully expected to spend some reminiscing time flicking through them and looking for youthful highlights, much as I have always done when I dig them out for whatever weird reason, (usually looking up a concert date) which is then forgotten while I reminisce . Maybe I have finally moved on from the 80s?

The notebook that has my European trip starts in September 1987 and runs through to the birth of my daughter in May 1988, covering time spent in London, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The handwriting is often terrible, in places it is verging on unreadable, and the content is not Pulitzer winning either. I definitely did not babble as much as I do in this blog. What it provided was dates, place names and sometimes context to go with the photos I took. There was very little sentimentality, though I have only read half the story so far.

The trip started, as do so many of the things I do, with me being bored and disliking work. Though to be fair, I have fond memories of van driving for DHL in the 80s, at least I wasn’t driving a desk like I have been doing since. My memory, supported by the sketchy notes in the diary, was that we were both sick of living in London, working dead endish jobs and not having any money. Deana, my Australian wife, had been living there significantly longer than me and wanted to head back south to somewhere less manic and a lot warmer.

Trudi (I stayed with Trudi when I was in Sri Lanka in 2013) and Sam, are two of three sisters of an Aussie friend of Deana, were staying with us in our one bedroom flat while they were waited for the third sister, Mandy, to arrive in London. The three sisters had bought a green VW Combi van and were off to travel Europe for as long as they could until the cash ran out. Somehow we contrived to get ourselves invited along and all of a sudden we were quitting jobs, organising our affairs, buying a tent and packing to go travelling. I had never done anything like this before, though Deana had previousy back-packed around Europe, with Tracy, the fourth of the sisters.

On 14 September 1987 we were up at 4:00 to drive from our flat in Richmond to Dover for the 6:30 am ferry to Calais. My first experience of driving the left-hand drive van was driving off the ferry and into France, something I fortunately did not screw up. I am not sure what, plan we had that day, I don’t think we had any plan for the trip, apart from picking up a friend of the sisters in Munich on 9 October who was joining us for a couple of weeks. Six people in a van sounds about right. As well as not having a plan I am also not sure what we had in the way of maps, I know we had a big Europe road atlas, and have convinced myself that was probably it; obviously no GPS or Google Maps in those days. Not having a plan meant not having a map was less of a worry; and unlike hitching or bussing around at least in a van you can doss pretty much anywhere and getting lost is less of a concern.

We hit France and turned left, ending up in Bruges in Belgium. It was the last I saw of France until visiting Paris in 2012. I loved Bruges, I mean I just totally and utterly fell in love with it, a similar experience to when Eleanor and I stayed there in 2015. I shot almost two rolls of film on the Canon AE-1 just in Bruges, out of a total of 12 for the whole 10 weeks. I pretty much loved all the ancient towns we passed through; the centuries of history in the streets and roads of Europe. Yes, New Zealand has a millennia of history, but there is not much that you can walk around, look at, touch or even climb on, and that is what I want. 


The first night, tent up and everything is clean and tidy.

We spent two days in Bruges before heading east to Antwerp and then into Holland. I had my birthday breakfast in Arnhem National Park, one of the few places I clearly remember from the trip.it stuck in my mind for two reasons; one, they had bicycles that you could just pick up for free and then ride them from destination to destination inside the park, I had never seen that before, or since. Secondly, there was an art museum in the park and the gallery had proper famous artists; Picasso, Van Gogh etc etc. I had never seen original work by famous artists before, it was thrilling and it was in a park!

September 17 was my 25 birthday and we had cake in the van in a campground outside of Amsterdam. I look thrilled in the photo, though this is my default photo face and I am probably smiling. I remember leaving my only pair of lightweight shoes on the roof of the van, but that memory only occurred when I was looking for them a few hundred miles later on. I was left with a pair of Doc Marten boots and a pair of jandals/flip flops.

The next few days were spent driving northwest up through Holland and into Germany, following the coast some of the way. For most of the next few weeks, when outside of the big cities we slept in roadside lay-bys, Deana and I pitching the tent on any patch of grass we could find. Free camping where possible and using public toilets (usually clean) as bathrooms. I noted at one stage in Switzerland, we had gone 9 days without a shower; the things you do when you are young, relatively free and short of money. My diary notes that just outside Hamburg one of the windscreen wipers fell off. I also noted that I bought a replacement a few days later but did not fit it until we were in Switzerland, it can’t have been on the drivers side.

Holland.

A lake outside Bremen, Germany.

Hamburg.

I noted that though it was getting cold, we headed north into Denmark, I suspect to get some Scandi experience before it got to cold, I also noted it cost too much to take the ferry over to Copenhagen so we went to Odense on 23 September, where we broke a brake line, which I replaced. I had wisely packed some tools.

I have no recollection of why we drove down to Ristinge, but we did get to cross one of those amazing Danish bridges, in this case the Rudkobing Bridge.

We camped for one night on the beach near Ristinge, found it too cold, so back-tracked all the way back to Germany. looking for some last vestiges of summer.

I have no recollection of why we chose to go to the places we visited, Ristinge ? there is nothing there, I hadn’t heard of it before we went, and until I read my diary I hadn’t heard of it since. I wonder if we had some sort of guide book, but don’t remember anything, I guess we must have. We passed though Hamlyn, Hannover, Rothenberg and Wurzburg on the way to Munich. I noted on the 27th that Deana thought she might be pregnant, so a letter was written to Andrea, the woman who was meeting us in Munich in a couple of weeks time to bring a pregnancy test kit.

Hamlyn.

Hannover.

Wurzburg.

Rothenberg.

Munich. End of September, early October. A right of passage for all antipodeans who happen to be in this part of the world at that time. Oktoberfest. We were not planning on going, it is a massive money trap, but hey, we were in the neighbourhood, and we ended up staying in a campground for three nights while we looked around Munich, and partook in the various beer related activities. We didn’t drink too much, it is really expensive! We talked to a number of Kiwis/Aussies in the campground who had blow their travelling money on a week in Munich. The allure of those large steins was obviously too much for them. Me, I was more interested in seeing things than beer drinking.

Leaving Munich on the 2 October we drove round, possibly via a few circles; the Bavarian Alps, which I loved; into Austria, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, breaking down and getting towed to a garage for repairs in Lucerne. We visited some absolutely amazing, beautiful places and this area was one of the highlights of my trip. I noted at the end that Germany and Turkey were my favourite countries.

Oberammergau.

Crossing the Alps into Austria.

Bern.

Broken down and towed away.

Lucerne. While we were hanging out by the side of the lake, two Swiss girls came down and invited all five of us up to their flat for dinner which was massively appreciated.

Konstanz. A number of the older buildings in this part of Germany have murals, often religious, painted on the outside, I had never seen this before and thought it was just stunning.  One of the many reasons I loved Bavaria.

Hohenschwangau Castle from the fabulous Neuschwanstein (Disneyland) Castle. What a location, I would love to go back here and spend a few days exploring the mountains, the lakes and these amazing buildings.

We picked up the final member of our touring party, Andrea, at Munich airport on 9 October and drove back out of town; aiming for a straight run to Berlin. Our first overnight stop was in a roadside rest area just outside Nuremberg. The following morning Deana used the pregnancy test kit which Andrea had remembered to bring. After waiting the required time wrapped in a sleeping bag next to a rubbish bin by the side of an Autobahn she confirmed she was pregnant. Boom, life changer. It was fortunate that we had already booked flights to Australia for November, at least we had some sort of plan.

To celebrate we drove for most of the day then illegally camped right near the border with East Germany.

Part two coming once it has been written.

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A short walk down memory lane.

A few weeks ago I scanned and uploaded to BookFace some photos from the 10 week European excursion I made from September to November 1987. The intent at that time I scanned them was to write a blog post about the trip, which was my introduction to open ended travelling; and the start of the wanderlust that remained, pretty much unrequited again to 2011. I kept a diary of the trip, but it, along with other diaries from the 80s, was still in London and last week was the first time in a while that we went back there.

I was going to launch straight into writing about the trip, there are quite a few photos and I was initially thinking of just adding them to a post with minimal text, but as usual I have changed my mind and have decided to go way back in time and add some context. There is a good chance that I decide that that is not a good idea and this post doesn’t get uploaded and you won’t be reading any of this. If I do post it maybe you could let me know if writing this preamble was worth while, or least not a bad thing.

That 1987 European trip really was the impetus for the travels I undertook when I left NZ in December 2011 and obviously this blog is the continuation of those diaries I wrote in my 20s. It just took 24 years, three children and a divorce to get from 1987 to 2011. I was patient I guess.

We may as well start at the beginning or at least close to it. I was born in Carshalton Hospital, Surrey, England in September 1962. This makes me not far off 60 and I cannot believe how old I have gotten while I wasn’t looking, I certainly don’t feel (almost) 59. We moved to 177 Windsor Ave, North Cheam, Surrey when I was two, I have no idea of where we lived prior to that, though we didn’t move far I believe. The grey pebble dash house is 177 Windsor Ave and this was taken when I did a walk-by in 2013. North Cheam is and was a working class/lower middle class suburb on the southern fringe of London. I was happy there.

Our neighbours at 177 were the Aubreys. I think they were both retired, I also think they looked after me, and possibly my younger sisters after school if my parent’s shifts overlapped. I don’t have many memories of life in London as a child, but one of those memories is spending time at the Aubreys. They were very interested in archaeology and history and travelled to exotic places like Rome and Greece, occasionally bringing home small souvenirs of their visits. They bought me books and read to me about ancient Troy, Rome and Greece; particularly the myths and legends from those and other places. I still have some of the books they bought me, and they remain treasured items, particularly The Story of Rome and Story of Greece.

The most valued gift of the Aubrey’s was an interest in ancient history, in the exotic, in the far-off places; and the gift of an enquiring mind, though I am sure as a 10 year old I appreciated the stone arrow heads and small fossils they found in England more than the enquiring mind. I will never forget the Aubreys, or the ‘Strawberries’ as the childhood me named them. That interest in the ancient and the exotic has never left me, and though I am not overly interested in the detail of each and every place I visit, I still relish the visit, along with standing, absorbing and marveling at where generations of people have stood before and what they left behind.

We left England for Auckland, New Zealand in February 1973. With years of experience in the industry Dad soon found himself a job with Air New Zealand which meant cheap flights and numerous trips back to the UK. I think we went back to England three times between 1973 and when I left school at the end 79. Each of those trips was via Los Angeles, Hawaii and occasionally Fiji; the route Air NZ flew. We always stayed a few days somewhere on the way there or back, taking in San Francisco and Washington DC on one occasion. I fondly remember those trips and they were a strong introduction into the realities of travelling and long distant flight, of immigration controls and customs; queuing and sleeping in airports and the less glamourous parts of going to a different country. 

I completed a five year aircraft engineering apprenticeship with Air New Zealand after leaving school; finishing in 1985. While I worked there I holidayed in Fiji and Los Angeles. I went to LA with workmates, Scott and Dave, and we rented a car for a few days, just to cruise; like you do when in LA. Just before I went on this trip I bought my first SLR, a Canon AE-1. I still have it though it stopped working in 1994 and was too expensive to repair at the time.

A lot of my workmates went further, particularly Europe, but I spent too much money on music; records and concerts. Some things just haven’t changed. I did holiday a little in NZ, with hitch-hiking trips and camping holidays and adventures down to the central North Island ski fields. A little taster for the mostly tame adventure I enjoy now.

I didn’t particularly enjoy my apprenticeship and engineering was not my thing; too tactile and I am all thumbs. It was probably safer for all when I left, anyway I had an urge to travel and holding down a job with limited annual leave was never going to satisfy that urge.

In October 1985 I left NZ for my first Overseas Experience (OE) as we called it then, going back to stay in my old suburb in south London. I lasted two years. In that time I met and married Deana, moved to the very nice suburb of Richmond-upon-Thames and did a small amount of travel around the UK and touched briefly on Europe with a visit to northern Italy in 1986,

and to Northern Ireland and the Republic. I have Cavan written on the back of this photo, and love the donkey and cart in the high street. I think it was taken out of the window of a bus.

Mostly I just worked to get by; we lived in an expensive part of London and both of us had relatively low paying jobs; I was a courier driver. My desire to travel the world wasn’t really working out.

That was about to change when Deana’s friends from Australia turned up and bought a VW Combi van… This is the van, but the people are neighbours and friends from NZ.

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February update

Sunday 28 February 2021 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

It has been a few weeks since I last scribbled typed some notes on how things are going and what Eleanor and I have, or in this case, haven’t been up to. February continued to be cold, and Covid continued to keep us in the UK in some form of lockdown; however, the forecast for both is improving. The Covid news continues to get better and better; vaccinations have been moving along at a great pace in the UK, Eleanor has had her first, and mine is in a couple of weeks, and the lockdown is having the desired effect with the number of infections and critically ill trending down. Daffodils and crocuses are appearing in the park, a sure sign spring is not too far off.

I have been trying to think back on the things that have happened in the last few weeks, and can really only think; not a lot. There is news of a sort, not BREAKING news, but news nonetheless.

I have changed my mind on selling the flat and am now going to rent it out instead.

  • I had a rental agency visit to view the flat and can expect to get quite a lot more per than I thought. The market here is very good at the moment, or bad I guess if you want to rent. The price of gentrification being paid for by those who can least afford it. I justify to myself by knowing that I only have one flat and the rent I will get still won’t cover my mortgage; though it will be closer.
  • We have been taking time to have a good and honest look at the possible costs of relocating to NZ; it was not something we properly did before Eleanor got her visa and it is a LOT more expensive to live there than we thought. Auckland is less affordable than London, I knew it was going to be expensive, just not by how much.
  • Booking a room in managed isolation is very difficult, and you cannot fly to New Zealand unless you have a room booked first. The managed isolation folk only release rooms up to three months in the future and they are booked out immediately, we have yet to work out the timing of when to get on the site to book. In saying that there are only taking bookings to the end of May which is too early for us.
  • What this does mean is my plan to try and find some work before we left has been completely thwarted. We are going to have to travel to NZ first and then look for a job once we are there. I am starting to see jobs asking for applications for NZ residents only now. A change from a few weeks ago.
  • The cost of living plus not having a job, means we can realistic commit to six months in Auckland before having to think about coming back, where we can at least live rent free.

With the possibility of having to come back to the UK between three and six months meant it made no sense to sell the flat. If we get work in NZ then we can think about selling the flat at a later stage, but at least I have the choice then. With this in mind I am going to ask if I can take a career break before I resign, which means the potential of a job when we return.

We walked to Bexhill one afternoon and then caught the train back to St Leonards. It was my first time in a train since November, when we last did the six minute journey from Bexhill. I am planning on taking the train to London for my vaccination. I can then take photos out of train windows again.

There was an amazing snow moon one night, I have never heard of these before. The moon was huge and sitting low on the horizon so Eleanor and I took a quick walk down to the seafront. It was the first time we have been outside in the evening for ages. With nothing open there were few people out, it was cold but nice to be outside for a change.  Though I have walked a little over the past few weeks I have struggled with motivation and am rarely getting out for a pre-work walk anymore. We always do a short walk at the weekend, but I really need to extend the range else I am just going to spread and it will all become so much harder.

I will chuck in a couple of sunset photos to fill the rest of the page. The two orange images were taken on different nights out of the bedroom window and the other was taken from beach.

Hopefully March will be more interesting.

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Some fairly pathetic snow, but snow nonetheless

Tuesday February 09 2021 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

An email brought unexpected good news late on Wednesday night. Eleanor has been granted an indefinite partner visa for New Zealand, Yay, Yay and Yay again! While we (mainly me) expected this to be the case we were taken aback by how quick the application was processed. We didn’t expect to hear anything until at least May or June. This means we can now start to plan a move to Auckland, where most of my family are, for at least the short term.

This is very exciting, but also a little terrifying at the same. There is a lot of thinking and planning to do and I definitely need to get through the emotion of it and start thinking practically else nothing much will happen. I will do a separate post on this at some point. I think.

I took Friday off work as it was forecasted to be the only nice day of the weekend, it is also a non-working day for Eleanor so we could hang out and talk free from the constraints of work. We walked along the seafront under a weak winter sun to Hastings and started to formulate a plan and think about some of the things we need to do, which seems to be an awful lot. The big question for me is whether I keep the flat and rent it while we are gone, or sell it now as the market appears to be good and I will make some money. I have a real estate agent coming to value it on Wednesday, much as I should be led on this by my heart; I am going to be led by the pound.

[edit] I am writing this on Saturday and the estate agent has advised me my flat is worth a little more than I expected, so at this point in time I am going to sell, more on that decision soon, once it is made. [/edit]

Sunday

I have been following the weather forecast all week as there has been a promise of snow for some time, and today is the day, with falls expected to start around 3 or 4 AM. I was excitedly up and out of bed at 7, pulling up the blinds to check outside; then making coffee and going back to bed. Rain. Bloody St Leonards.

However, the snow did come soon after we got up, then continuing to snow lightly all day, though not enough for it to stick around. Still, we wanted to get out for a walk and feel the snow so we didn’t linger in bed too long and were outside by 9. Not bad for me on a Saturday.

When we left home the snow was barely falling and it wasn’t too cold, though it got colder and the snow fall got slightly heavier while we were out. There were hints the snow would start to settle later in he day by the time we got home 90 minutes later. We walked down to the seafront via the lovely St Leonards Gardens, which are just along the road from my flat. The snow was falling a little heavier now, but the ground is so wet and warm that none of it is settling.

I am about to send a letter to mum with some photos of the grandkids and one of El and I. As we don’t have any recent photos of us I decided to try and take some using the self timer on the camera. It took a couple of goes to get it right.

Rather than walk the seemingly traditional way towards Hastings we chose to walk in the opposite direction towards West St Leonards. As is often the case I was surprised at the number of people out, we even saw two people taking their daily dip; one of them wasn’t even wearing a wetsuit. Hardy folk on the coast.

The wind started to pick up and the snow was coming down a lot more heavily and it started to get cold so we looped back up the hill to home and watched the snow falling, but barely settling for the rest of the day. This was as good as it got, and the first time I have not hated these view blocking trees in my neighbours garden.

Monday

A small amount of snow fell overnight and with yesterdays colder afternoon followed by a much colder night a small amount had settled on the ground on Monday morning. I took a photo out of the bedroom window, over my neighbours and down the coast towards Bexhill and Eastbourne.

I was out the door soon after, and back to the park, yet again disappointed at the lack of snow on the ground. I took a couple of photos as this really was going to be as much snow as we will get this winter.

There was a little more snow on the seafront promenade and I was surprised to find about a dozen people on the beach and in the sea.

Tuesday

To my surprise there was a little bit more snow overnight, and a little bit more on the ground inthe morning. Today I avoided the park and went straight to Milk and Hustle, our friendly neighbourhood coffee shop for a takeaway flat white. Since we have been living here a number of places have opened selling coffee, but Milk and Hustle are by far the best, and they are really nice people too. Like all good coffee shops, a flat white is the same price here as it is in central London.

On non-rainy days my routine is to get a coffee and walk along the sea front a short way while drinking the coffee, then back up the hill for breakfast and (sadly) work. On rainy days my routine is to stay in bed longer. I often take a photo on my phone and post it to twitter, but this morning I brought the camera for the last of the snow photos for the winter.

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The Black Arches

January 30 2021 – Hastings.

The first month of 2021 has come to its natural conclusion, though it seemed like an extension of the last month of 2020, which in itself felt like an extension of November, which felt like…, well you know what I mean. The only real difference between the days of the last three months was how short the day was and whether it was or wasn’t raining. The days have very much blurred into one big long dreary period of not doing much at all.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Gareth Rees, a local author, tweeted a picture of some small caves on the East Hill in Hastings, so I asked him a question regarding the location of the Black Arches, which are also on East Hill. I had read about the Black Arches in one of his books and have had a couple of attempts at finding them, neither successful. I wrote about one of those attempts here.

Gareth replied with some very good instructions and as the Arches are best found in winter when the scrub on the hillside is well down I decided to attempt to find them today. It was cold and windy with a very fine freezing drizzle, a perfect day for some local exploration.

With eyesight much better than mine the Black Arches can apparently be seen from West Hill, their location near the top of East Hill means they look like a church built into the cliff face. This photo has been taken off the internet and shows the ‘church’ quite clearly, on a sunny day when the council cleared scrub from the hillside, obviously some time ago. They do look very much like church doors.

There are virtually no references regarding the Black Arches on the internet and the single item I found links to a deleted page on a local news website. All there is is a small reference to note that the Black Arches were a deliberate prank, probably created by a local hoaxer, John Coussens’, in the 18th century to fool people into thinking there was a church on the opposing hill. It seems like a lot of work for a prank, maybe he, or someone was robbing those that made the journey over the valley?

I have been intrigued by local mysteries and was hoping today was going to be the day I found the scene of one of them.

Eleanor and I set off late morning under a thick grey sky and into the face of a windblown icy cold drizzle. Eleanor wasn’t joining me on the walk and I left her at the bulk foods shop in St Leonards as I carried on to Hastings, I had a book to collect from one of the local independent book shops and some fresh cod to get for dinner tomorrow. The fish shop is very close to the bottom of the steps up East Hill.

As this was a photo mission I had packed the big camera, which in hindsight was wise as it is weather sealed and while it wasn’t properly raining the air was very wet and I was pretty thoroughly soaked by the time I got home.

East Hill has a few memorial benches, the instructions from Gareth had me look for a path after the final bench, this one is by the side of the steps on the way up (or down) the hill. I was intrigued enough by the ‘9 TOES’ reference to take a photo.

There are hardly any people about, on a non-rainy winter day the Hastings seafront will still be busy, particularly in these Covid times when people are allowed to travel for exercise. I am sure some take the travel to extremes and drive the fifty miles from London down to the coast. On my way up the hill and on the top I didn’t see anybody.

I stopped at the top of the stairs to take a photo over the roofs of the old town and towards the houses that crowd the West Hill slope.

I also took a few photos from the top of East Hill, it looked like there was only one lone person on West Hill as well, I wonder if they had a camera and took a photo of me? I love the look of the old town and came very close to buying a flat there, though suspect it would be quite noisy at night. Unlike my flat which is dead quiet, or it is now that we have moved back into the big bedroom.

As per instructions, just passed the last bench on the hill, there was a small path heading down the cliff edge, so far so good.

I came across the back of a large rock and got quite excited thinking I had found what I was looking for, but no, when I made it around to the front it was just a large rock, with a mystery carving and Wolf in yellow spray paint.

I scrambled down a path through some brambles and dead fern, almost going over once on a slippery patch, tearing my leg through my trousers on a stubborn bit of bramble. Fortunately only raising a tiny scratch when I got home to inspect it. There was nothing there. Turning back I took another path and BOOM, there it was, the Black Arches. Found!

Yes, I know they are not very exciting. Still, it is quite amazing that anyone would go to the effort to carve those three arches into a rock face, then paint the inside black, just to fool the good people of Hastings. I appreciated his effort, less so the efforts of the graffiti folks.

I had a look for detail, trying to find the oldest legible carving, and the best I found was 1847. This face is very much straight into the prevailing wind so I imagine carvings get blunted quite quickly.

I was very happy to have finally found the Black Arches.

I walked back up to the top and then back down the steps towards Hastings, stopping to take a photo over the very quiet fishing beach. Not really a day for tourists.

Walking back through the old town I heard The Only Ones absolutely fabulous ‘Another girl, another planet’ blasting out of this pub, I stopped and listened for a moment, taking a quick photo before carrying on. 

There had been a bunch of photos pasted on this hoarding at the end of George St, but they have all come down apart from one, I had not had a chance to see the rest unfortunately. I should have taken the opportunity when we walked near here last weekend.  

I chose to extend the walk a little and head up and over West Hill again. I really like Croft Rd, one of my favourite streets in Hastings old town. I particularly like these gates and doors in the walls opening on to staircases that head up to the gardens of the houses above. I am guessing they are not regularly used anymore.  From West Hill, I walked back to the sea front and home, to warmth and dry clothes.  It was a small adventure, and very enjoyable.

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Raising the ceiling, after removing the old one.

January 10 2021 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

2021 and the new decade started off pretty much as the previous year and decade finished, with Brexit shitness added on for flavouring. The UK has now left the EU and the transition period is over. Bring on the unicorn filled sunlit uplands of ‘sovrinty’ and blue passports. As I write this post the Brexit failures are being masked by the appalling UK Covid statistics; over 1500 dead today alone. The UK (and the USA) is not in a good place right now, and while we have the great news of vaccinations on the horizon, the grim statistics will be with us for a few more weeks yet.

Eleanor had a medical appointment in Walthamstow last week so I used the opportunity of her not being at the flat to get some very messy work done. While she was away she received an email from NZ Immigration, the first communication we have had from them since they acknowledged receipt of our partner visa request. The email was a request for a lot more information regarding our relationship, fortunately it has all been fairly straightforward to collect. We both hope this is an indication that we have a case worker now working on our case. Our fingers remain firmly crossed.

A few months ago a crack appeared in the Victorian lath plaster in the master bedroom,  and it has been getting longer and wider, with an ever increasing sag,  ever since. In December it got to the ‘I now need to be concerned’ stage, so I arranged to get plasterers in to replace the wall/ceiling, before it collapsed by itself.

The bedroom is in the roof space so there is more ceiling than wall.

Even though we are in lockdown 3 (the crappy sequel) in the UK the rules allow for contractors to continue working as long as safe practices are maintained. I had a long conversation with the plastering company and decided to go ahead with the work. There is every chance the rules could change any time, and if the ceiling did collapse, it could be months before I could get someone in, and the room would not be habitable as there is only roof tiles between it and winter weather. It was also a good opportunity to get insulation put in as the bedroom is the coldest room in the house.

A couple of weeks ago we moved our bed and the dresser and set ourselves up in the spare room, it is quite cosy in there and seeing as we are really only in the bedroom at night we have decided to see how it goes and make the room swap permanent, making the master bedroom the spare room and Eleanor’s work space. I moved all the rest of the furniture out over the weekend.

The guys started on Tuesday morning, there was five of them at various stages during the day and they used hammers to break the old plaster down. I was working in the room below and it was a hell of a racket. I cannot believe the amount of dust that covered the house. 

The work went on all day and at the end of it, and with a significant amount of moaning, they carried about two tons of rubbish down the four flights of stairs.

I ate dinner huddled in the lounge surrounded by bedroom furniture and a washing hung all over the place as I attempted to clean up some of the dust. It was bad.

The guys were back Wednesday, less of them than previously and they stuffed a pile of insulation into the wall space before lining with plaster board and then laying plaster over the top. It took all day, but was significantly less noisy.

I was certainly glad when it was all over, and it is looking pretty good.

On Saturday I drove up to Walthamstow to pick up Eleanor and we spent the rest of the weekend cleaning and putting the house back together; setting up the old master bedroom as an office and spare bedroom and keeping our bed in the smaller, cosier room. Everything in hear was covered in dust, each book, CD and picture were taken down and cleaned before being put back.

I think it makes sense this way, it is a big room and though it has the best view in the house it did seem a shame for it just to a bedroom. The plaster is almost dry and I will soon think about what colour to paint it, though will wait for spring when we can have the windows open again and not let the wind and rain in.

I snuck a picture of Eleanor working in the new space.

We will see what happens when spring and summer come around and we miss those mornings with coffee in bed looking out over the sea.

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2020

December 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

Twenty Twenty, what a year, eh? I am pleased that it is (almost) over, but being perfectly frank with you dear reader (and please keep this to yourself) I am not yet overly excited regarding the prospects for twenty twenty-one. At least ‘we got Brexit’ done, whatever that means, and who knows what it will cost us; as a nation, a continent and as individuals next year and into the future. Hopefully I will never have to hear politicians babble on about the glorious unicorn filled sunlit uplands it promised again.

Not wanting to sound utterly selfish, but in the main Covid has passed me by. I know I am incredibly fortunate. I have a decent enough job, work from my home near the sea which I share with the person I love very much, and we are both relatively fit and healthy and are not physically or financially struggling.

Until a few days before Christmas we knew very few people who had been sick with Covid; then this new strain appeared and BOOM, all of a sudden we know a dozen infected people, directly and intimately. Eleanor’s youngest son got it, probably while teaching, and passed it on to his girlfriend; one of my workmates got sick then three of our neighbours. For the youngsters it seemed the worst passed quickly and they were not overly ill, one of the neighbours was sicker and for longer, but thankfully no-one ended up being hospitilised, or even worse.

This new strain continues to ravage the south east of England. A few days ago we were put into Tier 4, essentially a lockdown, and, as the right-wing papers, rather hyperbolically screamed ‘Christmas was cancelled’. Except of course, it wasn’t cancelled, it was just different. It meant we didn’t go back to Walthamstow, which was disappointing, though we had a perfectly good Christmas here in St Leonards, sharing gift opening and games via Zoom. Again, we are lucky, we were not one of the many who were forced to spend Christmas alone or with people we did not want to be with.

On the positive news front, New Zealand, and the parts of Australia where my family live are not in lock down and they can do all the things they would normally do at Christmas and new year and I am extremely happy for them, and of course rather envious. Our hope is to join them next year, but this is now a cautious hope and whatever happens will happen.

I will wrap up 2020 with a non-political pros and cons starting with the cons so I can end on a more positive note.

Cons

  • My mental health definitely suffered; not massively, thankfully, but recently I have had more down days than up I am not as optimistic as I usually am, though it is winter so this is somewhat seasonal.
  • I am fatter than I was at the start of the year.
  • I drink and eat too much. This could be seen as a positive as I like these things.
  • We didn’t get to do our 10 day rail trip through five European countries due to Covid. This very much contributed to the above mental state.
  • I only went to two gigs.
  • Not being able to go out and do things.
  • I lost interest in taking photos and am still struggling for motivation.
  • I worked too much and didn’t enjoy much of it.
  • I absolutely missed seeing people; friends, work mates.
  • I missed my ‘local’ bar.
  • I wanted to start writing a novel, but didn’t. I did buy a notebook to write plot lines and it does have some words in it.
  • Arsenal are crap I hate watching them. Though, I have to admit they did play magnificently in winning the FA CUP and Charity Shield.

Pros

  • We have spent seven months of this year living in St Leonards, which is so much more than I expected and we have made a number of small improvements to the flat during that time.
  • Eleanor and I have survived intact being together pretty much 24/7. (I have had the occasional sulk)
  • My family are all well, though I am immensely jealous of their freedom.
  • Eleanor applied for a partner visa for New Zealand. We have yet to hear anything yet, but that was expected.
  • I listed to a lot of music and bought a lot records;
    • There was some great music released in 2020. New records by Wax Chattels, Die! Die! Die!, Hey Colossus, Spectres, Bedroom, Wicketkeeper, Thurston Moore, Caroline and Deathcrash to start with.
    • I bought a few things on Discogs, old punk records and others to fill holes in my collection.
    • I bought my first reggae record in about 35 years and will listen to more ska, rock steady and dub in 2021.
  • There was some great TV; The Queens Gambit, The Mandolorian, Stranger Things, Swedish Dicks, Fear the Walking Dead, Homecoming, The Boys. We have been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the start which has been fun.
  • I read a few books, not as many as I would have liked, but I enjoyed them all.
  • I mostly finished writing a first short story. It took a lot longer than I would have liked (a con) but it is largely done. I am not sure what to do with it now.
  • I had a photo in an exhibition in Hastings which should have inspired me to do more, and it did for a brief period.
  • It is sunny outside, or it was when I started writing, it is now 4:30 and dark (see above).

Anyway, enough, I wasn’t going to do a blog, so this is at least something and I am now going to make a cake.

Here are some sunset photos taken from the bedroom window in November and December, setting the sun on 2020.

All the best for 2021.

 

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A walk to the west of Bexhill

November 22 2020 – Bexhill-on-Sea.

A further week of lockdown has passed without incident. We cannot really do anything much so passing without incident was to be expected. The weather was good the last week. It has not been too cold, nor has it been too windy and wet; not compared to last Sunday and the storm anyway. I even managed to get out for three 30 minute lunch time runs, which was the second time in the past few weeks. These are the first runs I have done in an absolute age and they were not particularly pleasant. I intend to do more in the coming weeks…

We have had a good weekend; not that we did much with it, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. We decided to go out of town for a walk today. We walk the Hastings and St Leonards seafronts most weekends, and often during the week, so it was nice to stroll somewhere, at least slightly, different.

We have walked to and from Bexhill a number of times, the walk along the seafront only takes 90 minutes. However, we have never walked westward out of Bexhill towards Pevensey and Eastbourne. It is a different type of walk and I would call it a lot more ‘local’. Rather than a touristy seafront of flats, guesthouses, hotels and shops there are houses hidden behind fences and buildings on behind walls on top a small ridge over the sea front. There are some of the best and the widest range of beach huts I have seen.

There is nothing specific here to visit, so I suspect most of the many other walkers lived nearby. There were a lot of dogs and small children about, which suggests that. We much enjoyed the walk. There were a couple of properties behind walls that made them look like Second World War fortifications, or maybe cold war bunkers.  These were definitely my favourite. Concrete was king when a lot of these were made.


I wasn’t intending on taking photos, though I did have the little camera in my bag, just in case. I ended up taking quite a few, it was that sort of walk. The variety of beach huts and the walls leading up to houses were fabulous, the light was wonderful and the clouds played their part in some lovely afternoon scenery.

An off-the-cuff walk in a place that most people won’t bother with. This is what I do and love. I should do more of it.

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