Saturday, May 05, 2007
I arrived home from Thailand last December to a large package awaiting my attention. Mum had been Christmas shopping and being the clued up woman that she is, she bought me the pillow of my dreams! Or maybe it was just that I went on and on about this pillow so often, she thought it best to shut me up.
Last year I worked with a client who had just bought a new summer house and had to furnish it so they went shopping one day and bought beds and linen to fill 8 bedrooms (EIGHT!!??). When we went down to stay at the house a few weeks later and my bed was graced with 'the' pillow. They bought 18 (!!!!!) of these pillows! I remember the mother-in-law saying "that's the total price isn't it, not each?" when she read the invoice.
This pillow is not any ordinary creature, it is 100% Siberian goose down in a silk/cotton covering. The first time I slept on one - I had 2 on my bed! - I knew I was going to save up for my own one. (Mortgage the house if needed.) I had the best sleep I'd had in a long time. I felt like my head was resting on air - no comments please, that's air outside my head I'm talking about!
So when I got back from Thailand in the midst of the coldest snap of the winter to discover my new pillow, life took on a new dimension (ie. from the comfort of my bed).
Every night now I can't wait to climb in and hug my pillow. I'm like a dog with a bone - don't come too close... I will protect that pillow with my life if necessary!!
This is what my life has become since arriving back in London without even a plan as to my next trip away!
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Yesterday I was awake when they went past so I leaped into action with my camera.
They stop at the traffic lights at the end of the road and then off they go again. Traffic just treats them like any other vehicle on the road. No one bats an eyelid...
This is one of the things I love heaps about London. I never know what to expect and when to expect it.
It's great being back in London. Been back about 45hours - but who is counting!! I'm on the emergency list for work so cross fingers for me. I don't think my credit card will live another 11-12 days until my next job officially starts.
Just an hour or so ago, I was lying on my bed playing a game on the computer when I heard the fire sirens start up. I live on a street that is opposite the fire station - I would say I am 100metres away. The sirens went for all of 10 seconds before coming to a stop right outside my window. I was a bit worried as I was still in my favourite nightie and it was almost 2pm. Anyway after lots of firemen running around most eventually walked back to the station and the fire engines (2 of them) were employed at the ends of the street to stop traffic.
I'm guessing it was a gas issue as there were a couple of British gas vans there also. Someone donned a gas mask and went into the house across the road. Thankfully I am still in my nightie in the privacy of my wee room!!
Spring has sprung here, it's so lovely coming back to London in this sort of weather compared to the horrendous winter weather I was faced with after being in Thailand.
A bit of change in scene has occurred...
I just spent 3 nights in Singapore and wished I'd had 3 times that as I did not get through as much as I'd hoped.
I got in late Friday night after a less then 5 hour flight - remind me to live in Perth when (if) I decide to live on that side of the world again - and went straight to my hotel and slept until 10am next morning.
Woke hungry so went for a wander to one the many shopping malls nearby and found a food court that sold real food. Such a surprise after spending 2 months in Australia with mall food courts that sold nothing but synthetic food! Had a lovely breakfast (waffles - couldn't face noodles) and then went back to prepare myself for an afternoon of bliss...
I'm beginning to believe that if there is a croc farm within 100km radius I will find it! As was the case here. I was reading the phone book at bedtime the night before (as you do!!). It had a great tourist section and in my flipping of pages, I saw a word that looked like 'croc'. I went back through the pages with a fine tooth comb and sure enough Tan Moh Hong Croc Farm was there in a small ad (unseeable to the common folk...)
I actually found 2 croc farms, but one has closed due to financial reasons. When I asked a woman at Tan Moh Hong, she said it was because they had to buy land and set it up from nothing, but her boss had had croc's since 1945 and had set up in his back yard - I kid you not!
So on the MRT (underground) and a bus I went. I got on the bus with a $2.00 note thinking I would be able to get change, but the driver looked at me as if I were a foreigner or something. I had nothing smaller (I thought I was doing well to have $2 when many $50 bills were spat out at the ATM) and a very nice man gave him the .90 cents I needed. When I tried to give the man my $2 he wouldn't take it.
I arrived at the croc farm and very quickly understood why this one had survived. It was without a doubt set up in this man's back yard. A space MUCH smaller then the average Kiwi backyard and a few concrete enclosures with a few unfortunate crocs. If I wasn't happy just to be seeing croc's I would be horrified. I am pretty shocked that this place can continue to hold animals as dangerous as these when there are so many neighbours and so few safety measures. I'm sure the local kids must have the odd dare to see who can retrieve the ball from the enclosure...
I spent most of my time in the shop (more things to look at in there) and found an area with lots of info panels all hand drawn and coloured. There was also a taxidermy skull that no one was allowed to touch as the croc had died only 6 months earlier so the chemicals were too fresh. As nasty as it was, I was thrilled to be feeding my addiction!!
Later that night I caught a bus to the Singapore Zoo. They are the first place in the world to offer what they call a 'Night Safari'. It was incredible and I'm so pleased I went. I jumped on a little train and it takes about 40-50 minutes to go a full circuit. There is a guide who tells you where to look and tries desperately to add a bit of drama to the whole thing too. It made me laugh several times. But it was amazing to see so many animals so relaxed and calm under very 'gentle' lighting compared to the usual zoo scene with tigers pacing, shy animals hiding as far away from the hoards and never a sight of anything nocturnal. I met up with a mother and daughter originally from Zimbabwe and we enjoyed the evening together. They reminded me a lot of mum and me. So much so that the daughter made up some story to a willing steward and we went around on he train again - for free. Apparently 'our' mother had a sore foot and couldn't do much walking... Hehe, I liked her even more after that!!!
They invited me to join them the next day for 'high tea' at the Raffles Hotel. It was so nice and the egg sandwiches were without a doubt the best I have ever eaten! I drank about 4 cups of lovely coffee then ordered a Singapore Sling - it had to be done as it was 'invented' by a barman at Raffles a few decades ago. It has a list of spirits too long to list (or remember) but was very very nice! Lots of little men running around replacing cutlery and folding napkins... A 'must do' next time you're in Singapore.
I floated back to the hotel about 6.30 to pack my bags as I was to leave at 6am the following morning. I got about 10 minutes in and thought 'what the heck am I doing?' I still have a whole night ahead of me and Little India will not close until the last person leaves... It was great. Sunday is the only day (or night) off for most foreign labourers so Little India bulges at the seams for a few hours every Sunday evening. (Indians being one of the main nationalities of foreign employees). There is a shopping mall called Mustafa that is several floors of bargains. All the products for sale looked genuine (as opposed to the fakes usually seen in such places) and I could have filled several bags (bought here of course) with cheap toiletries, clothing, shoes, sports gear and so much more.
I'm going to have to go back and see some more of Singapore one day (and take an empty suitcase too), it is an amazing place.
I flew home yesterday and felt so happy to be back on familiar soil. This is so truly home for me. Bless Her Majesty's wee cotton socks.
Greg arrived in Sydney (from Perth) on Friday and we set off on Sunday heading south on the coastal road towards Melbourne. First night was at Mollymook, the second at Cann River and the third was at Tarwin Lower. Earlier on the third day we had spotted a wedgetail eagle sitting on a dead tree and it had kindly obliged me by sitting there calmly while I took many photos, changed lenses and took more. It then flew away giving an incredible display of it's wing span and size. We also saw 2 dead wombats, 3 dead kangaroos, a dead fox and a dead bunny. Later that day we headed towards Cape Liptrap (yes, it's real name..) in search of somewhere to stay (as per the road sign). We got there and neither of us saw anything that resembled a building let alone accommodation for the night.
So it was back into the car after a quick walk to check out the lighthouse and a very careful drive back out along the corrugated shingle road. Being dusk we knew we may well meet some wildlife, but nothing prepared us for the deer and fawn, wombat, kangaroo, owl, fox, and bunny that we were to encounter. In this instance all were live and well. The wombat was on the side of the road and I stopped the car fitted the flash onto my big camera as I knew the wee camera flash wouldn't suffce. By the time I'd done that the wombat had had enough thinking time and decided to waddle off into the night. I didn't even try with the rest of the creatures.
Next day we got to Phillip Island and went to a place called Nobbies Point ( I thought that was a great name). There are seals and penguins there - although none to be seen while we were there. On our way back though we had to stop the car and let an echidna dawdle it's way across the road in front of us. This time I did manage a few photos and even had time to swap cameras while the silly thing stay rolled tightly in a ball after I had shooed it off the road. Very cute though.
Finally into Melbourne that afternoon and found a hotel for the night.
7am next morning I was woken by Greg telling me he was leaving. And by 'leaving' he meant stranding me in Melbourne with no cash, no transport and no accommodation. I'd been paying stuff on my credit card and he'd give me the cash so I had daily spending money. So with my rude awakening, I had to make a plan. I decided to fly out and head for London. I phoned my friend Dave who lives in Melbourne and he picked me up, I stayed their the night and then headed for the airport next morning.
I'd managed to change my flight easily (and for free as I'd payed for an expensive ticket in order to upgrade using my airmiles) but when I got to Perth, I was 14 hrs early for my flight. I phoned them again and changed it to leave in 3 hours. I then phoned them back and said I'd like to stop over in Singapore. I recommend Singapore Air very highly so far.
I'm not so sure this is as abridged as it could have been but certainly shorter then the previous attempt.
I went to Brisbane and saw my old friend Pauline again, we went to Australia Zoo which was great. I then stayed with Frank - a chef I worked with in Mapua. We went on a little tiki tour for a look around and lunch. I went out the next day as the scenery had been so beautiful I knew I would need to spend a day with my camera.
I saw cattle and cattle egrets by the 100. They were very like our white heron but shorter and stockier. I went to a place called Mooball which took my fancy. I recommend a visit one day if only for the paint job!! And of course a wee wee at the moo moo is a must!
Back to Sydney and met up with Jane and Lisa from New York. We were staying at a hotel in the west of Sydney and celebrating Dan (Jane's brother) and Trina's wedding day on the Saturday. It was a fantastic day although poor Sue (Jane's mum) woke me at 7.30am on the morning to tell me she had a tummy bug. So I was up and off to the pharmacy by 8am.
The wedding was really lovely. It bought a tear to my eye, they make such a wonderful couple. During the dinner, Sue was seated behind me and I heard a noise just after our main had been served. When I turned, I saw Sue trying to gasp for breath, her lips blue and
in a state of panic. Larry (her ex) had tried the heimlich manoeuvre but to no avail so somehow I pushed in and tried but to no avail again. All I could think was this woman is not dying at her sons wedding so I got in position again and gave it all I had! Poor Sue, she started coughing (and breathing). I spent the next several minutes apologising for the sore gut that she would have later. Better a sore tummy then the alternative... Both Sue and I managed to be reseated in time for dessert.
The next day we moved out of the hotel to a small apartment that my client had kindly arranged for Jane, Lisa and me. On Monday we were meeting with lots of the family to celebrate Sue's 60th birthday lunch. It was a a really nice afternoon. Afterwards Jane, Lisa and I went on a ferry around the harbour and then home. We got some dinner to take home only to find we had no pots or bowls to use on the stove or in the microwave. Interesting dinners over the next couple of days!!
I got a text first thing Tuesday morning to say that Sue had fallen and was in hospital. We went out to the hospital and found poor Sue in a pretty bad state. She had broken her little finger and dislocated it and banged her face quite badly too. She was in heaps of pain. Later that day she had surgery to sort out the finger and was much more comfortable.
So much for all the sightseeing we had planned, but I can tell you where to find emergency and ward 8D at North Shore. We did manage to fit a ferry trip to Manly but caught the bus back from there directly to the hospital...
Jane and Lisa flew out and I went back to the apartment to await the arrival of my friend Greg who was in the process of driving over from Kalgoorlie (Western Australia). We were going to drive back to Perth together...