Friday, July 02, 2010

Very 'Asian' around here

The people that surround us at the moment are very much "of Asian appearance" as they say in the Australian press. That would be because we are in Hong Kong, on our way home. What is remarkable, is that there are very few folk "of Caucasian appearance" at the hotel that Dear Jude had so cunningly booked for our last days as Ramblers. It is located at the Gold Coast (no, not the Australian version, which is full of sun-burned Victorians wandering about in a search for what the fuss is all about when there was never any fuss in the first place because Surfers Paradise was never a paradise for surfers but that's a long story).

THIS Gold Coast is not even the one represented in the 2010 World Cup. It is the Hong Kong Gold Coast and there is everything here that a fun-loving Chinese could ever want. Every World Cup game is promised to be televised live, there is a "Mighty Kidz" playground, a wonderful swimming pool an extensive garden and helpful staff to answer your every question and grant your every wish. Almost.

We snuck off to the city today and that took over one hour. Longer on the way back, but this is not the purpose of our stay here. Our main intention is to put a little bit of distance between the adventures of France and London and home, where we will be returning none too soon.

[A roar just went up outside the Business Centre at the hotel. Brazil ALMOST scored a goal in about the third minute. The Chinese punters erupted.]

Sure Hong Kong as one of the most dense populations in the entire world, buty they seem to 'do' space much better than in some of the spots in France we visited. No '3mm' rule here. There appears to be plenty of room for cars to pass each other, and there is no backing up if one car comes towards another on the same road. Perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that Hong Kong has not developed from plans made in the Middle Ages. Quite the contrarym, it appears to have been designed with the motor vehicle VERY MUCH IN MIND! I like Hong Kong, and am very much enjoying being here. There is nothing pretentious about the place. One could never say that about somewhere like Juan les Pins.

It was great to catch up with Steph in London and to see that she is settled in good 'digs' by the river at Hammersmith. The group in the house next door are being evicted because of continual loud noise and anti-social behaviour. What a pack of clods! The area around where Steph lives is TDF!

Dear Jude and I were upgraded to Premium on the way home. No such luck for Ally. This made the trip here very bearable, with just that little extra bit of leg-room. I do not understand why people complain about the food served on those long-haul flights. I have never had a bad one and the wine always tastes fabulous, though maybe that is because of the perception that one is receiving it free of charge. "Anyhow, I love it", as Madge used to say in that ancient commercial for dish-washing liquid.

Still a few more Rambles to do before getting home to Wangaratta. Georgia is delivering the car to us at the airport and then we shall scoot on up the highway. Billy Bonkers will get the bus back to Melbourne. What a GAL! She has really stood up for us back home, representing the family in a number of important ways. It will be great to see her again and give her a HUGE HUG! BTW, there will be a FEW of those dished out across the countryside. In many ways (apart from the enjoyment of overseas travel) we have been away too long and are looking foward to seeing our Australian chums.


[Another scream from the punters outside the Business Centre. Not a goal's-worth, but maybe a rooly great attempt. Gotta go and check it out ...]


Jude and Graeme

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"What's it to you, Copper?"

Today was the closest I have ever been to the Wrong Side of the Law. The four of us (Ramblers Two plus Ally and Steph) were rambling through London's sights when the decision was made to have a look at a sitting of Parliament. Not a bad idea in itself. None of us had ever been inside and the queue wasn't all that long.

When it came to the scanning the bags bit I remembered the picnic knife we had bought in a market in France. I declared it when the bag came out the other side. The uniformed lady officer lifted the folded up knife with two fingers much the same as if it were a dirty little insect tgat had been playing in muck. Very soon she came back with another officer who asked about the knife's purpose, where exactly I had acquired it and was it of sentimental value. I was asked to accompany him to a room nearby. A third officer was summoned. This chap would make an assessment if the situation and decide the fate of the Rambler. "On this occasion," began Officer Three, "I shall let the incident pass. If you were a UK citzen I would have to arrest you, as this is a 'prohibited weapon'. It is a lock knife.". Now this was the first I had known it was a lock knife. It possessed a great more utility than we had imagined, as I was in constant dread of it closing on one of our fingers. The officer (Three) showed me how the collar could be twiste. Around to lock it open. Very simple. Very useful. Very confiscated! The shame-faced Rambler was shown the door to fellow-Rambler (grinning) and daughters (smirking) and we continued on to a VERY boring speech by some Honorable Member for Chillingsgate (or whatever) and then on to freedom.

The whole incident with the police was conducted with the utmost pleasantness. This included a little banter about the cricket and "did I know that Roger Federer was out of the tennis?". The knife had cost about 8 euros and the sentimental value was low. However, it has made a good yarn and provided a punctuation point for our European Ramble.

The shower is empty, I hear the other Rambler calling. Time to get up and face the trip to Hong Kong.

I'll be in touch ...

See youse!


One Last Ramble

The Chess Valley Walk rambles alongside the Chess River (hence the name) between Rickmansworth and Chesham to the north. I had done this particliar walk some years ago when Steph was on GAP year at the Rickmansworth Masonic School for gels and I wanted to take Dear Jude along it. Ally went shopping with Steph in the City.

Doing the walk provided a bit of a balance to the trip, finishing as we started, though to a much more modest degree. The Chess is not a huge river (only a few feet across in places), but it is clear and you can see brown trout swimming around in a very much 'trouty' way. Happy as Larry, those trout! Apparently the kingfishers love them for breakfast, lunch and tea! Ducks and swans on top of the river add more than a little ambience and apparently there are voles about. [That is not a mis-spelling. Your vole is the animal upon which 'Ratty' from Wind in the Willows is based. You can picture Ratty, can't you. Similar in cuteness to your bumblebee.] Informative signs along the walk tell about the wildlife and apparently your vole is difficult to sight. The best you can hope for is to hear a 'plop' as they drop into the water. No 'plops' for us today though. It was a 'plop-free' day.

The Ramblers were unable to complete the whole of the walk. This was mostly due to having taken 1.5 hours to get out of London to Rickmansworth. No trains for yonks, and the Docklands (where our apartment is) is quie the other side of the Big City. We walked out of the valley to Chorleywood station (how cute is that name?) and headed back to London and the girls. This is a highly recommended walk if you ever have a day free in London. You can get a map at the Rickmansworth library and I think it is also available online.

Back to London for dinner and a show package. The dinner bit didn't happen because there had been a fire in the restaurant and the show - Wicked - was agreed to be not all that good. Now many readers if thus blog I know will not agree with this assessment, but there did seem to be a sameness about all the sings and none seemed very memorable. The story did not link all that really well with the Wizard of Oz and there seemed to be a lot of screaming going on. The young part of the audience seemed to be getting into it, however and ut was close to a full house on a Monday night. Maybes we are getting OLD ... (though Ally and Steph agreed with us on this assessment). Not a total disaster. We did have a solid stodgy dinner at the pub across the road.

That's it for now. Not long before we head off to Hong Kong!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Doin' the Underground Bobble

When you know the width and heights of steps that lead down into the bowells of the London Tube, you are able (with confidence) to master the Underground Bobble. Observers of this movement are left jaw-droppingly mute with admiration. "Will the 'Bobbler' fall on his face, descending with such rapidity", one asks oneself. "That chap bobbles so gracefully, but with such a hurry-on will he not TRIP?". He never does. He is much too seasoned an Underground traveller.

No 'Underground Bobbling' for the four of us on Sunday. Too heavily laden with travel bags. [Thank goodness Stephanie had met us at the station.] Too many flights of stairs between King's Cross and Limehouse (our stop on the DLR - Docklands Light Rail). Bobblers travel alone. They have no encumberances to interfere with their passage and they always look as if they are late for an important engagement.

Andy and Grazyna recommended these apartments and they are RIGHT ON THE MONEY for standard of accommodation, price and relative convenience. You get there on the driverless DLR that takes you abkve the roads (as opposed to under them).

Today we trained it to Wimbledon to have a look about, but found to our dismay that it was a lay day. Not to be disheartened, we went to a nearby pub and watched Germany thrash England. The poms were besides themselves with dismay and didn't take the loss very well at all. England DEFINITELY scored that goal that wasn't allowed (you all saw that) and never recovered. A young chap recently having emerged (saturated) from the fountain at Trafalgar Square (we had over into town by that stage) bailed up Dear Jude and explained how lame-brained the English defence had been in allowing that third goal (you all saw that one as well), explaining that he had learned about that error in primary school. He was a bit pissy-boots, but seemed to be still having fun. We headed off to try for standby tickets to Phantom, but they were taking a night off as well.

Finally we 'bused' and 'trained' it back to Limehouse and then down to the docks for a light dinner at The Narrow, a pub that happened to be part of the Gordon Ramsay group of pubs. This was not a deliberate aim if the day, but the bar meals of fish cakes, sausages and mussels (separate meals, these) which turned out to be a highlight.

The other highlight was seeing Stephanie's house down near the Thames at Hammersmith. Quite a lovely three-level house, this, with Dear Steph occupying a big room right at the tippy top. Altogether too perfect! Steph has plans to travel over the summer holidays, so if anyone wants to rent it while she's away, I am sure that something can be worked out. Send me an email if you know of anyone who will be in the area at that time. I am going to try some Underground Bobbling tomorrow when Dear Jude and I hurtle out to Rickmansworth to do the Chess Valley walk to Chesham. We have to be back in time to see Wicked