Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199901 England Australia-WA

Friday 1 January 1999   Happy New Year.  Having gone to bed after 3.00am we are surprised to wake at 9.00am.  Pete looks a little worse for wear but I am now appreciating my non drinking programme as I feel great.  Pop round to Vi and Alan’s to pick up some information on Australia before driving up to Telford to park outside Mavis and Trevor’s.  They are off to Spain on Sunday and Mavis and Doug whom they are going with arrive mid afternoon.  Seems strange to think that we are now seeing people for probably the last time in 2 years so I do my best to fit in 2 years worth of chatter much to Steve’s disgust.
Saturday 2 January  I join the two Mavis’s and Doug for a shopping trip to Telford and make sure I avoid the travel agents windows.  I buy some A4 folders with the intention of tidying up the diary sheets as there are now a considerable number.   Having only intended traveling for 2 years I had done nothing with them at all and they now need some attention.  Spend the rest of the day at Mavis and Trevor’s.
Sunday 3 January  Wake at 4.00am when the taxi arrives to take everyone to the airport.  Netty and Alan’s for lunch and more farewells.  Lisa and Mick’s in the evening where I set up our new Email address –  There are lots of Internet cafes in Australia so this should be a better and quicker way for us to keep in touch.  John from Stafford calls on us in the evening.  With his wife and Sri Lanka born daughter he is setting off in a motorhome at the beginning of March planning to overland to India and then ship to Australia to arrive in Perth in December – which is where we should also be.  We exchange tips and he gives us a contact for cheaper travel insurance which I shall look into tomorrow.
Monday 4 January  I set up my office in the lounge and hit the phone.  Travel insurance is arranged at £398 for both of us for the year which is considerably better than the previous cheapest quote of £520.  Late afternoon drive to meet Simon and Melissa in Wednesbury.   We met them in Crete in October having spent last Winter with Melissa’s Mum Chris and Barrie in Crete.  Stones restaurant is brilliant.  Your meal is served up with the meat on a hot stone for you to cook to your liking and as a bonus it is 2 for the price of 1 in January.  A good evening – we bet Chris and Barrie’s ears are burning.
Tuesday 5 January  Back to Telford for another work day this time trying to catch up with some of our washing and clearing the cupboards in the van.  Netty calls in the afternoon with Lauren and Stacey so that we can say our Goodbyes.  Mum’s operation has had to be postponed as she has a bad cough but they will fit her in as soon as she is better.  We need to hover until Saturday for Netty’s birthday and also get to the Australian consulate in Manchester to sort the visas out.  Looks like we are going to have a hectic last few weeks bobbing up and down the country.
Wednesday 6 January  Even more washing to do and more work on the computer preparing letters requesting exchanges to run on from the first Australian one.
Thursday 7 January  Over to Market Drayton.  Bit of a shock when we see the Shropshire Star headlines about travelers moving in on the supermarket car park – hope they don’t think we are part of the same group.   Mum is a little better but not fit enough for her operation.
Friday 8 January  I finally finish sorting out the back log of diary sheet which runs to 2 A4 folders.  Round to Netty’s late afternoon for tea.
Saturday 9 January  Another very cold night but at least it is a clear and bright morning.  Do a tour of the Market Drayton estate agents to put Claire’s name on the mailing list as they have decided to try and move to the Midlands.  Round to Netty’s in the evening where she is cooking a meal to celebrate her Birthday.  Neighbours Max and Leslie join us in the conservatory dining room for a lovely meal – good job it is not sunbathing weather as my belly is now enormous.  Play a few games and then watch the film "Rita, Sue and Bob too" which was filmed near Bradford.  We crack up laughing even though we all know what is coming having seen it before.
Sunday 10 January  A cold and frosty morning so Bobby’s football match is called off.  Lunch at the "Gingerbread Man" with the Spooners and then a Buffet tea for them and Mum in the van parked at the baths.
Monday 11 January  Yet another freezing night.  We are getting a bit fed up with the cold which results in lots of condensation and firstly frozen windows and then drips which all need to be mopped up.  The Australian consulate in Manchester are unable to help us with our visa problem and will ask London to contact us but doubt we can get one for longer than 6 months.  Arrive at Claire’s early afternoon.  All the campsites in the area are closed until March and we need a flat parking place with electric to make the van comfortable so end up sleeping in the house.
Tuesday 12 January  Good decision not to sleep in the van as we wake to a thin coating of snow.  Bad decision as Daniel wakes at 6.30am and we are used to sleeping until after 8.00am  Claire and Daz both struggle to get their cars down onto the main road as their street is steep and icy.  Australian Embassy phone to say 6 months is the maximum visa as no one stays for more than 6 months unless they intend working!  Explain our reasons and financial situation but they are inflexible and say we must apply for an extension whilst there at $130 each or leave the country for a short time after 6 months neither of which are guaranteed to work.
Wednesday 13 January  Spend the day helping Claire to tidy the house as the estate agents are coming on Friday to do a valuation.  Mum is better now but the hospital can’t give her a date for her operation and say it is unlikely to be before we leave.
Thursday 14 January   Business morning in Keighley.  The dentist says I will need a crown replacing but will have to return tomorrow for a mould taking.  Over to Shipley to see Pete whom we met in Spain.  Interesting travel/motorhome conversation follows – yes we are proper anoraks now.  Our New Zealand friends Malcolm and Barbara are coming up this weekend in their camper and Pete says we can park at his factory and hook up to the electric.  Up to Wilsden in the evening for a meal at Rod and Nancy’s and Steve’s chance to ten pin bowl with his mates.
Friday 15 January   Back to the dentist for over 1 hours appointment to remove the old crown which causes a few cuts as my mouth is not big enough for him to work in!  Show 3 different agents round Claire’s house who all come up with different valuation with £10,000 total difference.  Mum phones to say the hospital have managed to fit her in for next Friday so we will try to re arrange things to go back down to Market Drayton.  Mick calls in as he has been for a job  interview in Bradford – it would be strange if Lisa and Mick moved up here just as Claire and Daz moved to the Midlands.  We are having Daniel overnight as Claire is having a few friends round.  We leave just after 7.00pm and stop in a lay-by to give him his bottle.  He doesn’t seem tired after so we start to drive around Keighley but I try him in his cot and he drops off straight away.  Arrive at Richard and Sharon’s at 8.00pm and carry Daniel in and put him in Lauren’s bed.  Chinese take away follows a lot of catching up on news.  11.00pm carry Daniel back to the van without a murmur.
Saturday 16 January  Daniel wakes at 7.00am for some toast and juice.  Drive to Shipley Baths car park for our 9.00am rendezvous with Malcolm and Barbara. They set off from London yesterday evening and planned to pull up near Sheffield overnight.  They arrive dead on time having found us very easily.  After Daniel has had breakfast we drive to Pete’s.  It is a beautiful sunny day with clear says and Pete says he will take us for a spin in his Chopper.  I go up first and we fly to Denholme and buzz around Claire’s house.   The second time round she appears outside in her dressing gown.  Try to get some good aerial shots which the estate agents might be able to use.  Steve and Barbara go next for a flight to Keighley.  Great fun.  Daniel is as good as gold and enjoys playing with the dogs Jake and Holly.  Claire comes over for Daniel at lunch time and we get traditional Yorkshire fish and chips from Richard’s.  An afternoon walk takes in Saltaire and Baildon moor and we manage to get back just before it gets dark.  An evening meal in our van precedes more travel information as we pick their brains about New Zealand.  We plan to meet again in Wellington, New Zealand in January 2000.  Get to bed at 1.30am
Sunday 17 January   A late start  for our full cooked English breakfast.  Afternoon stroll to the pub for lunch and Barbara’s introduction to giant Yorkshire Puddings.  They leave at 4.30pm and I set too cleaning the oven and doing other jobs that is has been too cold to do before.
Monday 18 January   Collect some van parts from Bradford which the Australians may need whilst we are away.  Try to make arrangements to see Graham and Anne who are now in the Lake District but until Mum has had her operation things must be put on hold.  Visit Sandra in Keighley in the evening.  During Steve’s final arrangements something got lost in the translation as I thought I was cooking in the van for her and she thought she was cooking for us!  We eat in the van and make provisional plans for her to join us in Australia in June or July.
Tuesday 19 January   A final hair cut for me in Keighley then back to Claire’s.  Les and Margaret from Saltaire come to visit.  Last year they did a trip to New Zealand and Australia doing motorhome exchanges.  Les leaves me his journal to wade through – now I know how you guys feel!
Wednesday 20 January  A bad night with Daniel awake from midnight until after 4.00am.  Claire leaves him in bed with us when she goes off to work and he wakes up after nine as bright as a button.  Spend the day looking after Daniel and jobbing , he is not problem at all.  We are now experts on Telletubbies having watched it continuously all day!
Thursday 21 January  A final chance to sort things out as we have the house to ourselves.  I join Steve at ten pin bowling in the evening.
Friday 22 January  A bad start to the morning when the post arrives.  We have been having problems with British Gas contracts on the properties and having spoken to a Manager on Monday thought it was all sorted – until we received mail for Newport addressed to the Letting Agents in Keighley!  Scanning the small print of our travel insurance policy reveals we are not covered if we don’t have a return ticket or plan to return within 1 year.  This leaves us with a problem finding a policy to suit us and even then no one will cover us for repatriation if the person we are returning to see has a pre diagnosed condition.  My final visit to the dentist for the crown fitting sets me back £140 so it is becoming a stressful day.  Drive down to the Midlands only to arrive and find that Mum’s operation, to clear the blockage in her heart,  has not worked – feel so sorry for her as she was banking on it being successful.
Saturday 23 January  Enjoy a nice lie in until after 9.00am in a warm and quiet bedroom at Mum’s.  Netty and I collect Mum early afternoon and although tired and fed up she is resigned to a heart by pass operation in the future, probably in a years time.
Sunday 24 January 1999    An early morning visit to Safeways with Mum to try and advise her on the low fat foods.  The Doctor has told her she must eat a low fat diet for her health but I have great trouble convincing her that products such as "Go Ahead" boasting 95% fat free mean that they can still hold 5% fat which is too much.  Unfortunately she has a sweet tooth which has been passed on to me.  A "Squeaky Clean" deep clean treatment for Charlie whilst parked outside Netty’s house.
Monday 25 January  Mid morning sees me on top of the van with a mop and bucket cleaning the roof and awning.  Don’t think Charlie has ever been as clean as this and may not be when we get him back but at least he is getting a good send off!  Steve tackles the insurance problem yet again and I go into Drayton with Mum.
Tuesday 26 January   I pop to the Doctor’s for a cholesterol test as Mum’s problem is hereditary and I may also need to go on a low fat diet.  Oddly enough our diet abroad is far healthier than when in England so this test may not be completely accurate as I have been trying to eat 2 years supply of chocolate and cream cakes since we got back.  Will have to wait until next week for Mum to pick up the results but think it is a sensible precaution to check on things now.  The insurance Steve arranged yesterday arrives and also has flaws and so I make even more phone calls trying to sort it out with time slipping by.  Round to the Spooner’s late afternoon for a final Goodbye followed by our Last Supper at Mum’s.
Wednesday 27 January  Early morning walk up to town where Mum and I crack up laughing when we see a queue of old codgers outside the pub waiting for it to open at 10.00am!  Apparently they do coffee with free refills at 85p which is the big draw.  Leave after lunch and have to pull over on the motorway.  I bought some Teletubby custard for Daniel and whilst walking down the van I step on the pots.  It’s Tubby custard everywhere just like on the programme and two tubs less for Daniel.  We meet Claire near Preston before taking Charlie to Peters.  It seems a little strange to be parted from our home for the last 21 months but never ones to dwell on the past we make a quick drop off and return to Denholme with Claire.
Thursday 28 January  Eureka – an insurance policy arrives that meets (or should I say appears to meet) our requirements.  I re pack our bags and can’t believe that we are taking 4 small suitcases plus 3 pieces of hand luggage having only ever taken 2 pieces of hand luggage in total before.  Claire borrows some scales later on and a bit of hopping on and off the scales holding the bags results in another re pack for  few items to be  removed and a suitcase eliminated to get us down to 20kgs each.  We take Claire and Daz for a Balti in Keighley before going on to bowling.  We both bowl in different teams and get surprisingly good scores.   Steve a 530 series and I get a 423 one.
Friday 29 January  Daniel wakes us all up at 5.15am, no problem as at 6.15 Claire is driving us to Bradford to catch the 7.00am bus to London.  A good journey down enables us to change to the earlier 11.40am bus from Victoria out to Gatwick.  Britannia airways are very strict on baggage weight and a lot of people get surcharged – glad we checked ours properly yesterday as we just scrape through.  The airport is excellent and almost like a shopping mall.  Through customs in the tax free area Body Shop have a sale on with stuff at less than 1/4 normal price.  I come out with loads in an 80p canvas Body Shop bag.  Flight BY0614 to Abu Dhabi and Perth leaves on time at 4.30pm with about 20 empty seats, maybe that’s why they were selling tickets for £149 this week.  A better plane and service than we expected.  Nice goody bag with eye mask, neck cushion, toiletries etc.  A great view as we fly down the Italian coast over Rome.  An enjoyable first meal of steak in red wine sauce whilst watching the movie "The Mask of Zorro".
Saturday 30 January  Just over 7 hours into the journey we land at Abu Dhabi for an hour to refuel and stretch our legs.  Superb view of Phuket Island in Thailand with the "James Bond" rock sticking up out of the sea.  Next stop Bhutan Indonesia another 7 hour flight.  4 hours later we land in Perth AUSTRALIA on time at 10.30pm.  Around $2.50 = £1 which is much better than $2.00 which we got on our last visit.  Immigration say they cannot extend our visa now but if we apply towards the end of the first 6 months they can see no reason for us not to get an extension.  Fred Dew is waiting holding a sign "Steve and Glen Swatman, welcome to Perth".  He is a jolly chap and we get chatting straight away to the extent that he gets lost on the way home through not concentrating!
Sunday 31 January  Arrive at 6A Lennard Street,  Marmion (a side road running up from the beach) just after midnight and meet Maureen.  They receive a phone call shortly after to say that "Gus" their dog has been knocked down.  The vet is going to look at him and they must check up tomorrow.  Chat until after 2.00am and then try to get some sleep.  We have our own bedroom and bathroom and it feels like a hotel.  Up just after 9.00am which is a bit of an effort but we know it is the best way to get over the jet lag.  It is a cloudy day but quite warm.   Australian houses are very different to British ones.  It is normal to have a formal lounge with dining area, a family room with another dining area adjoining an open kitchen  3 bedrooms at one end of the building with a bathroom and laundry room and then the main bedroom with en suite away at the other end.  Very big open spaces and lots of tiled floors take into account the climate out here.  We are introduced to "Dew Drop Inn" but we will be staying in the house for awhile as there is a problem which the garage should sort out tomorrow.  The motorhome is similar to our first van the "Solifer" except that in place of the U shaped lounge at the back there is a fixed bed.  Fred (61) and Maureen (58) are shorter than us and Steve can only stand up directly under the roof vent!  The bed is short and the work surfaces low.  You cannot open the wardrobe with the bed extension in place or the toilet door closed.  The toilet area should prove interesting as when the door is open it goes across the van but leaves the loo wide open next to the bed.  Showering involves removing a floor panel and constructing a cubicle in the centre and feeding a hose through the curtain onto the sink tap.  (They do however have a CD player and Solar panel which we don’t.)   All this confirms that we were right in buying "Charlie" with everything set up on a permanent basis but for 11 months in the Australian outdoor life type of climate we will be fine.  Fred and Maureen last visited Britain in 1975 so we warn them to expect a few changes.  Just a short way North along the coast is a place called Hillarys with a marina and shopping complex.  We enjoy Spanish Mackerel and chips with salad and bread for $7 (£2.80) a head and Fred supplies the wine.  BYO outside a restaurant means bring your own alcohol as they don’t have a licence.  We find the easiest way to convert $ to £ is to forget the last digit and multiply by 4 which is pretty easy    

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