Trains, boats and campervans

travellingcoral

There are probably as many camper vans to hire in New Zealand as there are people. Maybe that is why most locals seem to hate them. The invasion of the campervans.

Whether they are Wicked or Juicy, or boring ford transits with a bed, like ours was, as we get to grips with the windy roads, high winds and roadworks on every highway we got abuse.

I was tempted to put dollar signs on the back as a reminder to the more impatient drivers that us tourists are contributing to the local economy.

We buy your produce, shop local, like your wine, can’t afford your lamb, so can we drive on your roads please?

Buy the end of week two we were getting road weary, and wished we had known about the train services on the South Island.

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This one links Christchurch and Picton and for the most part of…

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Cinemas and why I avoid them

There are only three places I enjoy seeing films, they are, in this order:

The Roxy, Miramar (with Tim and Jo-Anne for company and after a fab meal at Coco’s)

The Electric Cinema, Birmingham (only if I get the big sofa and a loved up couple don’t sit next to me)

At home

I just hate going to the cinema. I recently wrote a blog post,  A guide to cinema etiquette about why I hate going but the family persuaded me that I would enjoy seeing The World’s End. As it was into the second week and has a 15 rating, most of the things that annoy me would be absent as it is a bit of a geeky film. This not to say that geeks will not break any of my rules, they are just less likely to. And I was right, none of my rules were breached.

Yet now I need to add more reasons not to go.

It is mind numbingly expensive.

£7 per adult. £21 for the three of us. We usually go for a morning showing for many reasons, one of them is that it is cheaper (£4).The other is to avoid the idiots who share a brain cell. While it is more expensive to go to The Electric, especially if you go for the sofa option, I do not resent a penny when I go there, as it is an independent, and the risk of any of my rules being broken is limited.  Except for last time, but my glares worked eventually and they left.

The food is of appalling quality and very expensive.

We chose to go for a 12.30 showing and I made the mistake of saying we would get food there. I would not be breaking my no eating during the film rule as we always get in to the cinema before the ads start. I had forgotten (I go so rarely) how much cinemas charge for crap food. (I have just looked at the nutritional values of the hot dog I ate and now know why I felt so ill later). Two hot dogs, one nachos and two diet cokes came to about £20 and a migraine.

It was too hot. And I am not complaining about the weather.

We were told, as we show our tickets, that Screen 10, where our film was to be shown, had no air conditioning. Normally in the UK this would not be a major issue (as it is always cold and wet here), except that we are experiencing a bit of a heatwave right now in England. Sunny Birmingham has averaged 28 degrees most days and the nights have been muggy. The nice people at the Odeon would refund us if we were too hot and left the screening in the first hour.

Odeon people, you are charging a fortune for entry and crap food so spend it on the air con or close the screens affected.

There had been a storm the previous day so the temperature had dropped a little, I was in a cotton dress and I had a fan with me. And my cold expensive cola. So I just about coped with the heat.

I eventually stopped grumbling and to the relief of the family I really enjoyed the film. It was funny and sad and thought-provoking. A bit laddish, not unsurprisingly, and hey we have all been there, wishing we could go back to some fixed points in time when we didn’t have a care in the world.  I liked it and I could happily watch it again. But not at the Odeon Birmingham Broadway Plaza. #indielove is not just for shops and coffee houses, it seems it is for the cinema too.

A guide to cinema etiquette

After a lot of deliberation I decided to go with my family on Saturday to see Ironman 3. It is rated 12A so I was shocked to see so many very young children there. Really, do you want your 5 year to witness gun violence? Not only is some of the content  too violent for children, the dialogue and the plot is too complicated to follow for an under 12. If your child is not traumatised they will be bored.

I love movies, I used to love going to the cinema. I have fond memories of going to see the Sound of Music at The Gaumont in Birmingham. The whole family went and it was a experience that we appreciated and had anticipated for weeks.

Not any more. I dread going.

This is why.

People do not behave properly at the cinema any more.

Here is my guide to how to behave at a cinema. Similar rules apply at a concert and the theatre.

If it is classified as a 12A don’t bring your toddler. Really don’t.

This is guidance from the British Board of Film Classification website. Read the full guidance here. 12A means that anyone aged 12 or over can go and see the film unaccompanied. The A stands for ‘accompanied’ and ‘advisory’. Children younger than 12 may see the film if they are accompanied by an adult (eg someone over the age of 18), who must watch the film with them. 

What’s the difference between 12 and 12A?

The 12 certificate is just for videos, DVDs and Blu-rays. 12A is for films at the cinema only.

Is there a lower age limit for a 12A film?

No. However, the BBFC considers the content of 12A rated films to be suitable for children aged 12 and over, and we would not recommend taking very young children to see them. Works classified at these categories may upset children under 12 or contain material which many parents will find unsuitable for them. An adult may take a younger child if, in their judgement, the film is suitable for that particular child. To help adults make this decision, we provide BBFCinsight for all films.

If you throw sweets at me I will get you thrown out. All 20 of you.

If you talk, even during the trailers I will look at you and if you continue I will get huffy. I may also get you thrown out.

Don’t snog (yuk) and definitely no heavy petting. Double Yuk.

Please arrive before the film starts, preferably before the lights go down.

If you arrive late, don’t choose a seat in the middle of the row. I want to watch the film not your ass. 

Don’t make a noise while eating. Better still don’t eat during the film.

I presume you don’t throw litter on your sitting room floor at home so why do it in the cinema?

Turn your mobile phone off. No, not on silent. Off. You are here to watch a film, aren’t you?

Teach your children how to behave in a cinema.

Read the credits, all of them.

I long for the days when there was a B movie, a break to use the loo and get an ice cream then settle in for the feature film. Do you remember the interval in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? A real cliff hanger moment! A proper cinema, no litter and people who are there because they love the whole movie experience.  An experience you still get at The Electric Cinema in Birmingham or The Roxy Cinema in Wellington.

And of course bring back these! Mom as an usherette No messing with these ladies. The one far right, front row, that is my mom!

What the Asparamanser said

My daughter was a guest at a Hen weekend recently where they were all asked to bring stories about dating disasters. The bride to be was to guess the person the story was about. My daughter story began with the words ‘I was at my mom’s Christmas Party’ and the bride immediately shouted out my daughters name. It seems that amongst my daughters friends my house parties were legendary.

Now one could think, how cool that your daughter and her friends enjoy your parties. I would like to think that too.

130So I will tell you another story. When I was on the Whit Tour with the Jockey Men’s Morris in May 2011 I had my asparagus read at The Fleece Inn. For this you are given a bunch of asparagus and drop them randomly on the table. One stalk slipped out of my hands before I dropped the bunch and I got a knowing look (more of that in a moment). This Asparamanser told me two things. One was to get all my affairs in order as I needed to make sure all the plans were in place for a long journey. This was a bit uncanny, as I was, as readers of this blog know, going to be embarking on the round the world trip in October 2011. I had only just that week announced to my work place of my intention to take redundancy in order to travel. Nothing was booked.  A  few close friends knew I planned to travel. The asparagus reader could not have known that. Then she came back to the asparagus that had got away. This indicated, apparently that sometimes after a drink or two I may be a bit loose with my words and say things I may regret, and I needed to be mindful of that.  On the coach after lunch we all shared what the asparagus reader had told us. When I mentioned  the bit about the loose tongue at parties, all my friends burst out laughing.

So I have appear to have a reputation of giving and enjoying parties. Which is fine. Except that my parties include lots of wine. And beer. Well I have friends who are Morris men so naturally there is beer. All in the safety of my own home. Well sometimes in other peoples houses. And always lots of lovely home cooked food and samosas and music and people enjoy themselves. They must do because they keep coming back.

We scaled back on parties this year, we were recovering travellers and had lost the house party mojo. There was no decent weather for a BBQ and now no young kids around to want a firework party. At Christmas we held a poker party and a vinyl night. Close friends and family who played poker, listened to vinyl,enjoyed shared food and well yes some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, craft beer and organic cider.

IMG_7232Our round the world trip was on reflection a journey to new world wine growing regions. Paso Robles California (they keep the best); Marlborough, New Zealand and the Hunter Valley and Margaret River in Australia.  We enjoyed our wine responsibly, most of the time. We also discovered the delights of a Sunday sesh in Melbourne (thanks to What’s Dave Doing) at Riverland Bar and a post, cooling drink, after a very warm day trip to Williamstown relaxing with craft beers, food and ChloeIMG_5541This is the view from our seat in Chloe’ s Room overlooking Federation Square and the Christmas Tram.

And this is the lovely food we enjoyed.IMG_5533

In SE Asia we drank beer, as it was cheap and we were hot. In the last 11 days of travelling I lost about 12 pounds in weight, due to a combination of beautiful healthy freshly prepared food, the heat, and no wine. We did save a lot of babies but that is another story. I had already lost about the same amount of weight in Fiji for the same reasons, despite spending most of the day sleeping in a hammock.  I was slimmer and healthier than I had been for years when I returned home.

Back in the UK I soon slipped back into bad habits.  At first, because we were broke and had no jobs, and had enjoyed the cleansing diet in SE Asia,  we ate healthily and drank occasionally. A year later, and the bad habits had crept back into our lifestyles. I had the ill health of my mom to contend with, unemployment, and lots of other stuff that is life. I put on weight. I decided to start running to combat the weight and my low mood, then got ill so had to stop.

And now it is almost Lent. Traditionally people give up things. Some people give up chocolate or wine. And some people take something up for Lent. A food bank charity has suggested that people donate what they save at Lent to them. One year I read of a family who lived on the minimum wage during Lent. They wanted their children to be able to reflect on how privileged they were, so had to forgo cinema visits and ballet lessons. They didn’t eat out and cut back on grocery bills. And donated what they saved to some charity. what a good idea, I thought. Then I read  ‘this excludes our mortgage payment’ and that made me very angry indeed. The smugness of living a comfortable life and let’s pretend to be like poor people mentality infuriated me. I have lived on Income support and know what is like to have only a pound in my pocket to feed a family of four. And that same smugness creeps into Live Below the Line, which is why I blogged about that too.

However, it has made me think, could I, should I give up wine for Lent?

Oh and I have just read this blog about the Asparamanser so there seems there is a pattern in her predictions……

Am I still travellingcoral?

I have spent the past few months sharing my photos from the round the world trip I took with my husband last year. In a few days we will have been back in the UK for a year. Which is why I sometimes wonder that to call this blog travellingcoral and to use that as my twitter name is wrong somehow.

Yet in my head, I am still travelling. I have written before that I still can’t get used to having actual wardrobes and live in nearly the same clothes I wore on the trip, I expected that to last a few weeks, but it has lasted 52 weeks. IMG_1322

I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco. I left my soul in nearly every place we visited. I ache to be back in New Zealand, to spend more time in Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsular, to visit friends in Wellington and see more of the South Island. And I wished we had gone to Yosemite when we were in California, spent more time in Santa Cruz and stayed longer at Pismo Beach.

We spent nearly two months in Australia yet only scratched the surface. Even though the cost of everything is migraine inducing and I have no idea where one buys underwear (no Marks and Spencers) I’d go back in a heartbeat. Melbourne got under my skin and I miss it so much.They have free BBQ‘s in public places, and trams, and seating like this.

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I follow some brilliant travel bloggers and when I read about what they are up to and places they have visited my heart literally aches. Yet these same bloggers were wonderfully helpful when planning the trip and continue to inspire future travelling plans. Thanks particular to these guys: http://whatsdavedoing.com/ http://www.ytravelblog.com/ and also look at this if you are even remotely interested in travelling http://nomadicsamuel.com/top100travelblogs

In a previous blog, https://travellingcoral.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/go-now-while-you-can/ I mentioned how Mom had encouraged Phil and me to take this trip. And now she has gone my one big tie to my adopted hometown has gone too. Ok I still have a house and a son and a husband here, but other than that….. well I don’t have a job, the kids are in their 20’s and I don’t really want to live here any more. And now one of my new friends is moving back to Sydney which will mean I will have nearly as many close friends in the Southern Hemisphere as I have in the UK.

My memories of SE Asia weren’t my fondest. We were travelling with G Adventures and of course in a group you can always expect there to be tension occasionally. I think this group was unique in that one individual managed to alienate everyone in the group within 24 hours. All of us tried to get along with her, some with more success than others. As we often had to travel for 5 hours plus on mini buses, it did become a sometimes comical but always a tactical manoeuvre to avoid being in the same bus this person was in.DSCN0313 If this sounds cruel, I am sorry, yet it is true. All of us on that trip would have had a better experience if this person had not been there.DSCN0282

We developed a penchant for singing Hollywood Musicals very loudly and discovered new versions of Doe a Deer (linked to beer and Saving Babies) and she was always offered the seat at the front with the driver. The tour guide sacrificed his single room and shared with a traveller so that no one else had to share a room with a person who despite having the biggest bag didn’t seem to wash or change clothes.The suitcase was full of food she had brought from Canada and she was still eating it 11 days later.

Pong, our wonderful guide in an effort to calm her, and give us respite,encouraged her listen to Buddhist Chanting. Can you imagine sharing a cable car with her? This is the impact it had on one of us.DSCN0741

Yet looking back at the photo of that trip with G Adventures brings back good memories, especially with Sean, Kelly, Jojo and Gemma. The hours we spent looking for this eh Sean!DSCN0442And I got to eat wonderful food, took part in karaoke (what happens in Krabi, stays in Krabi) and saved lots of babies and enjoy views like this.DSCN0853

So am I still travelling? While not having left the UK in the past 12 months Phil and I have had a number of mini breaks. Hay and Brecon for the food, scenery and the books; Winchester for the markets; London for the theatre, The Tate and London Calling to see Paul Simon in Hyde Park (all London visits are due to the generosity of my wonderful daughter and her partner). I am off to Malvern to visit the flea market and Carnival Records and browse the vinyl with my new friends and Holly the Australian Cattle dog who I met via Facebook (the friends not the dog, obviously). And drink tea and eat lots of cake probably.

And yes I am still travellingcoral. Travelling isn’t about visiting places and taking photos. It is is about how what happens and who you meet shape your life. The people I met on my trip are the lasting memories, strangers who became friends.The new friends in the UK, my mom’s illness and now her passing have and will continue to shape who I am. And may it never stop.

A totally locally Christmas

So it’s over. That was Christmas and I think it was a good one. Just the four of us yet for some reason I thought it necessary to cook beef, turkey and a goose. As ever Queen Delia rescued me, as her Christmas book covers all three, and with two ovens and a lot of juggling and a microwave that also functions as a convection oven I got there. Of course, it’s so much easier if you have men to cook the meat on a Weber, as per last year in Melbourne.

A few years back when I had a stressful, busy, corporate life I bought all the Christmas food from Marks and Spencer, all pre prepared. Then Aldi came into my life. I now have palpitations at the prices in any of the big supermarket chains. I need to say it now, it costs so much less and I do not compromise on quality.

The turkey and the goose were free range and English. The beef was British. All the veg was from the UK too. I made pickled red cabbage and bread sauce, glazed carrots, sprouts with pancetta and without and everything was bought on my local high street. And no petrol was used to procure these items. So I reckon it’s not just been a locally bought Christmas but a green one too. We did wheel the supermarket trolley home, as that was easier than dragging heavy bags. What we need is a Melbourne Market Jeep.

We all agree to buy presents from lists, so we get what we really want and need, instead of piles of tat that clutters our lives. This means we don’t get into debt by falling into the Christmas trap of spending for spending sake. I bought three hampers of homemade goodies from Maidens Fayre, again most ingredients were locally sourced and I’m supporting a local mumpreneur. We still get little surprises, such as keyring torches courtesy of corporate rebranding, Hobbit Related goodies from our lovely friends in New Zealand and a beautiful china tea set from a new friend who I met though the Four Week Shopping Locally Challenge. And this years Christmas crackers were cracking!

So despite my brother related meltdown moment on Christmas Eve, I’m pretty sure that my nearest and dearest had a good day. All rounded off with Dr Who.

Oh, and I got twitter earrings!

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Still travelling

I started this blog to document my round the world trip with my husband. That was October 2011 and now we have been back in our home in Birmingham England, since February 2012.

So I have been back longer than I was away, yet my blog is still called travellingcoral and so it will continue to be. I was a traveller before my blog and I continue to travel. I may not be flying thousands of miles and living out of a back pack, yet I am still travelling. I carry my camera everywhere and look at my own country, my town, my city, as a traveller does. I have become a tourist in my own country. I see England and the UK differently now. And this is why.

When we were in Melbourne last year we met a man called Rob in Federation Square. He was in in 70’s and we got chatting as we sat on the deckchairs there. He gave us lots of tips about what to do and see in Melbourne. He told us of his work back in the 60’s and filled us in about the history of Melbourne. He was so proud of his English Heritage and of Melbourne. By coincidence we met him again the following day in the Botanic Gardens.

Now that place is huge, and the chance of bumping into someone are slim. We were meant to meet him I am sure of that. He then offered to give us a guided walk of the gardens and surrounding areas, which we were happy to do. Again his pride of Melbourne was impressive, sharing his knowledge of the history of the city and the country with us gave him joy. It was a brilliant day.

I struck me then that most Brits don’t seem proud of their heritage, are not very knowledgeable about the history of where they live, and are more likely to criticise the country rather than big it up. Rob wasn’t the first person we met who wanted to show off their city. Tim and Jo Anne who we met in Northland invited us to stay at their home in Wellington and took us to The Roxy Cinema after dinner at Coco’s. The next day they took us on the cable car to the Botanic Gardens. Tim also gave us an insiders tour of WETA.

Barb and Pete who we met in Haverstock took us to see our first Kangaroo in the suburbs of Lysterfield, Melbourne, picked us up to go to the Victoria Markets and invited us to share Christmas Day with their family.

Since I have been home I have revisited Weston, Stratford upon Avon, The Cotswolds, Winchester, Brecon and Hay on Wye. The family visited Sarehole Mill during the Tolkien weekend. I visited my daughter in London and went to a concert in Hyde Park.  I have started a list of places I have never visited in my own city including the Barber Institute. I visited the Love and Death exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which also has the Staffordshire Hoard.

English: The Round Room at Birmingham Museum &...

English: The Round Room at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery Source – FlickR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whenever possible I big up Birmingham  I met a family at a food festival in Birmingham who were here for the World BMX Championships They were really impressed with how beautiful the city is. And it is! They admitted that they had thought Birmingham was a grey and dirty city that they bypassed on the M6 to get to Manchester or the Lake District. When I told them that Birmingham hosted the biggest Christmas Market outside of Germany the mom was immediately making plans for her friends Christmas shopping trip. To Birmingham.

So I am still travelling….. are you?

Go travelling. While you can.

DSCF2609I have been putting off writing this for days, weeks even as every time  I think about it I find myself getting tearful. Yet I need to do it. While I can.

Last year I made a major decision to go travelling. I have wanted to visit New Zealand for longer than I can remember. I had an old uni friend in Melbourne who I wanted to visit and wanted to see some kangaroos and koalas and Sydney Harbour.  My husband has always wanted to visit California and drive the Big Sur and slowly we built  a bucket list  round the world itinerary.

And we knew we had to do it sooner than later as we both had 79 year old moms who had had a few health scares. It was agreed that our children would update their grandmothers on our progress as we intended only to keep in touch on line. No phone calls. No post cards.

Despite having failing eyesight my mom was at the time relatively digitally engaged. She was on Facebook and used email regularly to keep in touch with friends she had made around the world on her own travels. So that she could still use her computer she had invested in all sorts of gadgets and software.

The mom in law, on the other hand thinks computers are the work of the devil. She also thought going off round the world at our age was a teeny bit selfish. It wasn’t. It was very selfish of us. That was the point. After 30 years of doing jobs that sometimes we loved, often hated, a combination of at least 7 redundancies between us (we stopped counting) living below the line when on benefits and bringing up two children, we decided that it was time to do something just for us. While we can.

So here’s the thing. If we had put off travelling when we did, because of all the excuses we had made for the past 26 years we may never have gone. So many travel bloggers say don’t put it off, because you have kids, you have a house, you have a good job, you don’t have a job, you are scared, you have a boy or girl friend who doesn’t want you to go, it’s not the right time, and they are right, none of these are good enough reasons not to go.

In July 2011 I was offered another 6 to 9 months contract in my job. If I had accepted I would have been unhappier than I could imagine, doing a job I no longer loved. I had achieved everything I had set out to do and needed a new challenge. I begged to be made redundant. I told my stunned boss that there was a plane ticket with my name on it and now was the time to use it.

The day I accepted my severance package everything else fell into place. The Melbourne visit became a house sit for 6 weeks, we found perfect tenants for the house, and the airfares were exactly the same amount as the enhanced part of my redundancy pay. So we booked our flights and did it, while we could.

Mom was delighted when I told her we were going. And actually she is the only person who, on our return, was genuinely interested in where we had been and what we had done.

In the past 3 months my mom has become more or less housebound as she has to have oxygen 24/7, can barely walk across a room without becoming breathless, has to have  a carer come in to get her out of bed and wash her and has had a stair lift installed. I could not go off on a 5 month round the world trip now as I want to be near to my mom. Having a mom who is blind and wheelchair bound, is a reason not to go. Mom doesn’t want to be a virtual prisoner in her home she wants to be boarding a plane to go somewhere warm to escape the cold and rain in England. She wants to be in Luxor or Bangkok or Singapore or… well anywhere but home.  But that is unlikely to happen. So what she talks of now is a short stay in Switzerland.

So do it while you can.

This is my mom. As I know her. Not the frail woman I hardly recognise. Thank you mom for giving me the travel bug.

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Friends. The one about Social Media

Over a year ago I blogged about how social media is a useful tool to keep in touch with friends. I was in Fowey and had hosted lunch for Cornish friends we had met in Turkey. Social media was the way we had kept in touch for a couple of years. Also at the lunch that day was a friend of my mom, then aged 77, had also met in Turkey and yes, kept in touch with via Facebook.

When I was travelling, being able to chat to my son on Christmas day via Facebook was one of the things that helped combat a rare, but extremely painful bout of homesickness. Indeed the iPad  was passed around the table and he had random conversations from our hosts family and friends.

Now back in the UK  Phil and I have stayed in contact with a few of the people we met on our travels. Through Facebook.

Barb and Pet who were brilliant hosts on Christmas day in Melbourne, who completely scuppered my Skipping Christmas plans.

Tim and Jo Ann in Wellington who we met in Northlands taking photos of this view. They casually suggested we could park on their property when were in Wellington before we crossed to the south Island. What they meant was, stay in our beautiful home and we will treat you to a slap up meal at Cocos, a film at The Roxy Cinema and a glimpse of all things Hobbiton, and a  few Oscars.  We are still pinching ourselves!

And of course the wonderfully warm and funny Sean and Kelly from the USA. Musical theatre as therapy in Thailand. Who knew? We saved a lot of babies on that trip and I did my fist duet in a karaoke bar because that Sean he is bad!

And now I am reflecting a lot on what I was doing this time last year and how my life is now.

All the friends I have made since retuning home have all been via social media. Through twitter I met people living in my neighbourhood via #BearBeers. Though Facebook I met so many lovely people on The Bearwood Page, mainly because of the bid to become a Portas Pilot.  These are not just Facebook friends. They are real friends. I have been out for meals and drinks  with them, had fabulous dinner parties in their homes. Even had one to stay at my house during renovations in her own home.

I would not have met any of these people if it were not for Facebook.

The downside is that I have encountered some trolls. They are not my Facebook friends, just keyboard cowards with narrow lives who will never be at my dinner table.  Interestingly the ones who are now in my life have all travelled further than the end of the road. Taken risks with their lives. Have a bigger picture of the world. And like good food. A bit like me really.

And that is why I guess they are my friends.

Round the world with my kagool

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The one item of clothing I lugged around the world that I do not regret taking was my trusty kagool or kag in a bag. It was well used in New Zealand when we went on a wine tasting tour … Continue reading