Thursday, September 30, 2004

Och aye, hoots!

Mutterings continued.

It's me, back from Scotland. We had a wonderful time; we stayed in Birnam in a lovely B and B. Visited Loch Ness, and a number of other lochs, the stunning Falls of Bruar (pron. Bru-arrrrrrr) and generally had a wonderful time.

The weather held for us, yesterday was quite warm. As we drove past the lochs south of Inverness we watched the mist come down the mountains towards us.

Tomorrow it's off to Sheffield to see Sir Derek J.

I'm working my way through 438 email messages, most of them spam, so if you've emailed me and I accidentally delete it, please forgive.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


Mutterings continued.

I'm in Yorkshire, hence the accent.

Monday - Trained to Stratford from London, picked up the car, got lost, sigh, found my way to Middlesbrough. Very, very windy! Small cars and high sided lorries were being turned back from the Forth Bridge in Scotland due to fears that they may blow off. As it were.

Tuesday - motored to York where we spent a couple of days. Did a ghost walk ( on Tuesday night, very funny stuff which included freaking out a restaurant full of people. Wednesday night we took a floodlight cruise of the River Ouse, which runs through York, and were thrilled to discover that Johnny Depp had filmed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the very place (the Roundtree factory) we sailed past.

The two main choccie factories in York, Terry's and Roundtrees, have been around for a couple of hundred years and have employed thousands of people - as has, and keeps happening, in Australia, they are being bought out by overseas businesses and closed down. The Terry's factory is moving to Poland, of all places.

Tomorrow we are off to Scotland and the very beautiful Dunkeld. The weather looks like being sunny but cold overnight - typical Perth winter in fact.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sunday Morning, London (still)

Mutterings continued.

I'm sitting in the bowels of the hotel, in a broom cupboard or what was possibly the servants' quarters. The room is just wide enough for a computer desk and a chair, which is all you need really.

Yesterday morning was rather warm - I got a touch of sun on the nose sitting on a bench near the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, eating a Cornish Pasty and trying to avoid some dodgy looking street performers. I don't know what act the chap in tacky face paint, with a stage made from a piece of plywood on two milk cartons had and didn't really want to find out. 8-)

There was a fabulous string quartet called Abraxas playing Holst in the market place; I bought one of their cds. Had a mooch through the ROH gift shop and visited Lush and a theatre toy shop.I finally found Carnaby Street - I asked the assistant in Lush where it was as I was looking for their offshoot 'Never be too busy to be beautiful', or B for short (thank god). It's a very classy, bohemian looking place with lots of black and gold and antique perfume bottles. Apparently Brittany Spears bought one of the bottles for £850. Or was it Kate Moss? It was all very gorgeous and out of my price range.

I treated myself to a cab back to the hotel. Cabs are a great way of seeing parts of the city you otherwise miss on the Underground, being under them. Whizzed round Hyde Park corner (not on a moped).

Art Philistine Alert:

In the afternoon I took myself back to the Tate Britain and had a better look at the displays. Some great (Pre-Raphaelites) and not so great (Tracey Emin (sp?)) pieces. Ms Emin has won several awards for 'art' that looks like, and is in fact, tat - bags of rubbish, an unmade bed, a tent, that sort of thing. One of the pieces in the gallery was a dedication to her grandmother and looked like a page from a scrapbook made by a 6 year old. You know when people look at art and say, "I could do better than that!", well in Ms Emin's case, they probably could. On a more positive note, when the fire destroyed the Saatchi warehouse a few months back, it took several of her works with it.

I may not know art, but I know what I hate.

I was hoping to see a piece by Pre Raphaelite Henry Wallis entitled The Room Where Shakespeare Was Born - I'd seen it as part of the travelling exhibition at the WA Art Gallery and was mesmerised by it. Apparently it's still travelling and is currently in Nashville. The lady on the Information desk was very helpful (I didn't know the name of the painting, except it included the words Shakespeare and room, or the artist). She did a search on their database and was blown away by the graphic of it. Sadly the shop didn't carry any posters or postcards of it.

Last night I watched a doco on one of my (tragic) heroes, Peter Cook.

A piece from The Guardian's The Northerner:"How about this for an attention-grabbing first paragraph? "The accentof Dales folk could be changed forever as the area has seen a steady migration of Kiwis.

"Quite why these strange birds are quitting the southern hemisphere for Skipton and district is not at first clear from a story in the CravenHerald, but the Northerner's research suggests that "kiwi calls are usually heard an hour before dawn and an hour after dusk, the calls being more frequent on dark moonless nights.

"Females give a lower hoarser cry compared with males but both birds, when alarmed or aggressive, growl, hiss and loudly snap their beaks together."As they wander through the forest at night, they are apt to make loud snuffling noises which is caused by the feeding kiwi forcing air outof its nostrils to clear the nasal passages of dirt as it probes the earth with its bill.

"The prospect of going into a pub in search of a pint of Thwaites and being aurally assaulted by a bar full of growling, hissing,beak-snapping and snuffling is deeply alarming. But there will be no such excitement in Skipton. The Herald is recording that 20 or so New Zealanders now live in the town, most of them working with the Skipton Building Society.

Mark Christensen, originally from Wellington, New Zealand told the paper: "I've been in Skipton for over two years and bought a house here, which was built in 1883. "I don't think I've ever been anywhere as old as that in New Zealand.The history here is amazing. We have difficulty with just comprehending the age of everything." "

From what I've seen, New Zealand is a very beautiful place; full of very nice people who have the misfortune not to be Australians.

Tee hee.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Saturday morning, London.

Mutterings continued.

Day two in London. Yesterday doesn't really count as I was so wiped out I wasn't making much sense.

I had great seats on the flights from Perth to Singers and Singers to London - middle row, aisle seats, behind a petition, no one in front of me. yay! The plane was 1.5 hours late leaving Perth; the flight from London to Singapore was 2 hours late, making the turnaround time from Singers to Perth also delayed. Leece sat with me at the airport as long as she could, which was nice as it can get a little lonely sitting in a departure lounge by yourself.

Uneventful (ie boring) flight from Sing to London. The movies were Van Helsing (which I hadn't seen but have now seen bits of about four times), The Stepford Wives, Garfield and some teenaged romance things.

The plane landed at Heathrow at 6.30am; there is a curfew and we had to circle a few times. This was nice as we could see the sun rise through the windows. We got through passport control pretty quickly - lots of questions along the lines of "Where are you going, how long will you be here, why are you here, etc etc?"

I caught the train to Kensington South (it was about 8am but felt like 5pm to me) and then transferred to the tube to Victoria. Shortage of staff at the Heathrow Terminal 4 train station meant that we couldn't buy tickets and had to buy them at the other end. I was expecting trouble but the misnamed "Assistance Officer" didn't bat an eye lid. They're also not very included to make you want to ask for any more assistance.

Got to the hotel - the Luna Simone in Belgrave St, Victoria - at 9.30am, too early for the room to be ready. I begged a shower, they were very kind, and I felt vaguely human again.

Went for a bit of a wander around the area to get my bearings, ended up at the Tate which isn't far from the hotel and had an organic ginger beer and a banana (no word on whether it was organic too). The gallery shop was closed from stocktaking, bummer, so will have to go back.

The hotel is just lovely. They've given me a double room for the price of a single (I hope!) and it's on the third floor. And there's no lift. *sigh* But it really is a nice room, great bathroom, view of Belgrave Rd and the fancy Park Hotel across the street. Thank the small gods I didn't have to carry my luggage up the stairs as I'd still be flaked out the second floor landing.

There were two American girls in the foyer with backpacks so big I couldn't work out how they remained upright. Not my ideal way of travelling, I must say. My ideal is for someone else to carry them for me. This has never happened.

The breakfast room was full of Australians, including a couple from Rockingham, which is just south of Perth. And a couple of Australian girls have just come into the caff. Time for the phony French accent, I think. Bonjour! No, je ne parle pas Anglais.

Had breakfast, rang Dad, Mum's doing well (taking her off the morphine has transformed her) and am now sitting in the basement of a cyber caff run by a no frills airline. The caff is no frills also - when I came in there was one other chap sitting in the gloom, apparently no one had turned the lights on. I found a panel of switches and began pressing them at random, figuring that either one or two lights would come on, or the whole place would go up in a bright fire ball. As it turned out, it was the former.

There are a couple of what I think are blocks of flats nearby with the intriguings names of Aubrey Beardsley House and Noel Coward House. I wonder if they are retirement flats for down at heel musical comedy thesps and artists.

This morning I'm off to the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker St (where else?). I also want to visit Covent Garden and Carnaby St but am having difficulty locating just where Carnaby St is - my Lonely Planet guide mentions it but doesn't say where it is.

I'd forgotten how different European keyboards are and I keep hitting the wrong keys when looking for the Shift key and have to go looking for the symbols.

After the trials of dragging my luggage up and down stairs at various tube stations yesterday morning, I've decided to take the sophisticated alternative and have the hotel book a cab to Paddington Station for me on Monday morning. Hauling your luggage through London streets and tube stations full of commuters who just want to get to work and would rather not have tourists clog up their city is not fun and I've decided, bugger it!, blow the expence and take the easy way out.

Time's nearly up - I only bought an hour's worth of cyber time (for £1).

Till next time...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Wednesday afternoon

Mutterings continued.

Mum's doctor agrees that the drugs she has been on are probably causing most of her problems and has taken her off morphine altogether. No discernible change yet. The doctor is looking at getting Mum into a nursing home just around the corner from Dad's place (within walking distance). I hate nursing homes but they will be able to give her the care she needs and will take some of the pressure off Dad.

He and I were talking about his plans to get rid of his car - it's too big for just him and his eyesight isn't the best. We discussed scooters (both agreed that him tootling about on a scooter probably isn't the wisest course) and electric wheelchairs. I advised him to be an aggressive elderly gent who terrorises pedestrians and other road users.

The letterbox was chockas with junk mail today. All for things I won't be here to buy.

This is my last post until I find a cyber cafe somewhere - tara all.


Mutterings continued.

I'm still in two minds as to whether I'm flying out to Europe tomorrow. The wonderful Leece has volunteered to drive me to the airport. At least it's at a reasonable hour; when I flew back in 2002 I didn't get through Customs until sometime after 1am. Poor Leece and her mum were waiting for me.

We haven't heard anything from Mum's doctor - blood tests were taken on Saturday but there don't appear to be any results yet. I'll be taking Dad to see her again this afternoon and hopefully the nurses will know something.

I've packed my suitcase - I haven't tested how heavy it is yet. I don't think I'm looking foward to lifting it. I've still got to get the UK Map book and my All Unicorns are Different travel mug in it.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Some catching up to do.

Mutterings continued.

Mum's back in hospital. She came out last Thursday but had become increasingly vague, wandery and wandering and appeared to be hallucinating. Very confused. The Silver Chain nurse who attended her Saturday morning used phrases like "terminal phase" and organised getting her back into hospital. The ED doctor who looked at her said it could possibly be digoxin toxicity. Digoxin, made from digitalis, is her heart medication and apparently can raise quite easily to toxic levels. The symptoms are confusion, hallucinations, anorexia (she has lost a lot of weight), delusions and depression. Dad visited her yesterday morning and was shocked at how bad she was and warned me that she probably won't know me. We saw her after lunch and she was able to say words like "disoriented", asked me if I was looking forward to my holiday (I'm supposed to be flying out this Thursday) and said that she felt confused. My brother visited last night and said she was quite lucid.

She's been off the digoxin for a couple of days, so Dad and I are holding onto the hope that it's the drugs that are causing the problem.

Steveg's out of ICU, which is great news.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Thursday that feels like a Friday

Mutterings continued.

Well, that's me done working until November. My replacement came in for an hour this morning for a bit of a handover and I think she left with her head reeling. My bank balance is looking healthier than it has for a long time - 10 weeks' pay and a pay rise back dated to March. I've been working out how much I need to leave in the account to cover rent, insurance payments, money for my flat-sitting niece to play with, etc etc and it's very depressing how little will be left.

Went to Scarb last night for fish and chips and good company. It was nice to see Maureen again, we're hoping she'll come to dinner on Saturday. L and R have promised chocolate chicken, a dish from our Aztec heritage. Or a cookbook.

It's a shame the Genesis probe hit the dirt - literally. The NASA webpage has a nice photo of the probe and its hole in the ground. It looks as though all they have is a canister full of dirt, mud and bits of broken glass. Sad.

I received the latest RSC cattledog in the post today; they have some very tasty items, including the BBC Hamlet DVD. I think I'll be spending a bit of money in Stratford. Come to think of it, I always spend money in Stratford.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Penultimate work day

Mutterings continued.

The pages of notes for my successor have now reached 9.

Lots of junk mail in the letter box and a calico bag of stuff hanging on the front door. The Dept for Planning and Infrastructure wanted me to do a survey on my travel habits and have given me a bag of goodies as incentive - includes a drink bottle and keyring. Anna notepad anna get fit guide an' lots of bus an' ferry time tables an' maps.

Can't recall if I've posted this before - if I have, ignore it. This comes from the "Things you find when looking for other things" file - I rediscovered it on my hard drive at work while looking for a journal article I'd saved. Yonks ago, Eliot McCann and I did a recast of The Lord of the Rings with the Muppets. This is the result:

Lord of the Muppets (as recast by Eliot McCann and Pamela Smith)

<>Kermit the Frog Frodo

Fozzie Bear Sam

Miss Piggy Arwen

Kermit's nephew Robin Pippin

Scooter Merry

Animal Gimli

Zoot Aragorn

Sam the Eagle Elrond

Janice Galadriel

Statler Gandalf

Waldorf Saruman

Gonzo Gollum

Gonzo’s Chickens The Council of Elrond

Rowlf the Dog Legolas

Off to Scarborough tonight for a meal with Leece, Rob and Maureen. We all need cheering up.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Two work days left.

Mutterings continued.

I've been writing reams (ok, not reams, 8 pages) of notes for the poor souls who will do my job when I'm on leave. I keep thinking of things that may, or may not, come up while I'm away and trying to cover every contingency. I'm found to forget something important.

Countdown to Talk Like a Pirate Day - that be September 19 me hearties.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Father's Day

Mutterings continued.

Spent the afternoon with Mum and Dad at the hospital. Still no word on when she's coming home.

L, R and I went to the Karralee Tavern across the road for dinner last night. Lasagna and salad and a middy of beer, very tasty. Then it was the Muppets with Gene Kelly, the Storyteller and MST3K's Creeping Terror, most def. one of the worst films ever made. In the 50's they didn't know how to run from cheesy monsters, they all just waited until it was upon them and then crawled inside the gaping maw.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Another mixed week.

Mutterings continued.

After the good news about my own health on Wednesday, I got a phone call from Dad telling me Mum was back in hospital. The pain medication wasn't working and so Silver Chain arranged for her to go to Armadale Kelmscott Hospital for observation. I've spent the last few days picking Dad up and spending the evenings with her. I rang Dad at lunch time today and he said she was looking a lot better this morning and can come home on Monday. She doesn't do well in hospitals and I don't blame her. Her failing eyesight means she can't read, there's nothing on the telly, so she spends most of her time just staring at the clock. She's in a ward by herself so there's no one to talk to. Dad's been visiting twice a day but it's taking its toll on him.

Her doctor contacted her oncologist yesterday and they've decided against any more radiation therapy. I'll be picking Dad up about 2.30 today for a visit with her this afternoon and then I'm having dinner with R and L and M (Mark) at the tavern across the road from my place.

It feels like summer out there. It may be overcast with the threat (promise) of rain but it def. feels summery. Dammit.

Our emergency procedures have been under scrutiny the last couple of days - on Thursday we had a Code 1 (ie dangerous animal) escape and yesterday a drill simulating a fire in the Savannah. The first emergency response went like clockwork and was over in about 10 minutes.
The fire drill, however, brought out some of the bad acting skills in our keepers - "Cough...cough...the smoke's getting too much....hack....coff...I'm getting out of here...coff choke...."

From Friend Kim - The Gallery of Regrettable Food. "This is a simple introduction to poorly photographed foodstuffs and horrid recipes. It's a wonder anyone in the 40s, 50s and 60s gained any weight; it's a miracle that people didn't put down their issue of Life magazine with a slight queasy list to their gut, and decide to sup on a nice bowl of shredded wheat and nothing else." The Knox's Gelatin recipes are particularly........revolting.

"This recipe, you might note, adds "the Midas touch," meaning that after your guests have handled the meal, you can melt them down and pour their bodies into ingots. Alchemy: it's the hidden advantage of Gel-Cookery!"

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Like having your boobs slammed in the refrigerator door.

Mutterings continued.

I caught a cab to Royal Perth Hospital this morning, good thing I did or I would have got lost (me? Lost?? Never!). I got to the Breast Clinic half an hour early - mine was the first appointment but there was already someone else waiting. The mammogram looked like an aerial photograph of a city taken at night, lots of grey and black areas and two areas of stark white. These were the bits that the clinic wanted to have a look at. Changed into the sexy hospital top, sat for a bit and was then called in for more mammograms; three more mammograms each more painful than the last. I have black texta on my right breast marking exactly where the doubtful bits are; I'm assured it will wash off. The pain lasts seconds, just for as long as it takes to click the picture.

Back to the waiting room, called back for another (the most painful) mammogram and then back to the waiting room again. There were five other women in the small waiting room, all of us first timers and all of us more than a little frightened.

I was called into the doctor's office and she said, "We're sending you home." Silly me thinks, "There's nothing they can do for me!". Turns out it's normal glandular changes and I don't have to go back for another 2 years.

The larger waiting room at the front of the clinic was packed when I left - that's a lot of women.