Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200505 England Australia-Vic NSW Qld

SUNDAY 1 MAY 2005 – We stay at Paul & Elaine’s for a while, chatting and looking at their photos.  Steve is still not well so we return to Mums where he takes to his bed, again.  Mum has a list of jobs to do so I tackle defrosting the fridge.  To get it done before she returns I use the fan heater at a safe distance away.  Mum arrives back before the job is finished and I move the heater so she doesn’t trip over it.  Unfortunately I move it too close to the fridge and melt the plastic at the bottom.  I offer to buy a new one and we agree on halves and that she will order one to match her new freezer, which is coming on Tuesday.



MONDAY 2 MAY  – It’s a nice morning so I get out early to clean Mum’s car whilst Steve stays in bed nursing his flu.  Leave Steve in bed whilst we go to The Wheatsheaf at Onley for lunch with Netty, Graeme, Bobby and Nick. 



TUESDAY 3 MAY – Mum’s new silver frost free under counter deep freeze arrives.  Mum had ordered a white one but it was going to take too long to arrive so she has changed her mind and gone for the silver that was in stock.  There is only one delivery man so Steve has to help him bring it up the steps then takes the old one back down into the cellar.  By this time we have established that the new one is too big to fit in the space.  As a temporary measure we swap the places of the fridge and deep freeze over and contact the company to try and get a narrower freezer.  Evening over at Richards where Liverpool making it to the Champion League finals is the highlight.



WEDNESDAY 4 MAY – We are off to a bad start when we discover that the fridge switch was not turned on when we moved it yesterday.  Consequently the fridge has been off for almost 24 hours and the stuff in the freezer compartment has defrosted.  We need to sort out the new freezer a.s.a.p. so I go to the electrical shop with Mum and spend the morning exploring her options.  Frost-free freezers only come in the new metric width so rather than have a carpenter alter her cupboards she settles on a non frost-free freezer.  I phone up and place the order for the smaller freezer and fridge in white.  Within 1-hour she has changed her mind and phoned up to change the order to silver. 



THURSDAY 5 MAY – We’re taking Mum to Blackpool to visit Auntie Barbara but first head in to Market Drayton for her to vote.  I drive Mum’s car and notice far more traffic on the roads than we have been used to.  Auntie Barbara has a couple of jobs she needs doing.  I seem to be doomed to defrosting, as her freezer needs doing.  After lunch we do a bit of shopping for her then head off.  Check out a few hotels on the North Shore but they are fairly basic and in abundance.  Drive over to Prestwich to David’s.  David has just booked a 1-week holiday to Turkey with Mick.  They want to watch the Liverpool final in Istanbul but can’t fly there so take a package to Bodrum – then find out it is a 12-hour coach drive from Istanbul.  With Donna we all go to the nearby Gala bingo.  What an interesting evening.  People of all ages seem to spend their evenings there playing bingo, partaking in the cheap meal deals or playing the slot machines.  We buy a £5 pack of books giving us 11 games.  The calling is really fast and we struggle to keep up, it must be amazing exercise for the older players.  None of us win anything but enjoy the experience.  Crash in Daryl and Lincolns room overnight whilst they sleep over at Nikki’s.



FRIDAY 6 MAY – David leaves early to collect and load up the works delivery van then calls back on his way to the first stop.  We drop Donna off for work and continue to Bingley to Mom & Dad’s.  They are very pleased to see us having just been offered a council flat and in need of reassurance and advice.  We pick up the keys and help with measuring for carpets and offering a few other suggestions.  Next stop is Haworth where we surprise Daniel and Natasha by collecting them from school.  They are both delighted to see us again.  Claire cooks us all a lovely meal in the evening.  When we left Fuerteventura John & Maureen offered to take the tent and windbreaks back to England for us.  By luck they have arrived back early and we get a phone call to say our stuff is with a mutual friend near Halifax.  It’s very convenient for Steve to pick them up so we can take them to store at Mums. 



SATURDAY 7 MAY – Head into Keighley calling in on our old Post Office.  It’s changed hands and we want to see how it looks.  The new owners have heard about us as they are trying to build up the stock and keep being told how well stocked it was when Glen and Steve had it.  They have dropped lucky in that the next nearest Post Office has now closed and they are entitled to a complete refit at the Post Offices expense.  Call at the swimming baths to see Claire & the kids for the last time.  Back in Blackpool we try to get accommodation in Cleveleys, near where Auntie Barbara lives.  All the guesthouses and “hotels” (as in a guest house with higher aspirations) have no vacancies except one.  The landlady looks like “fag ash Lil” and the room is pokey, dark and not en-suite.  She wants £35 for B&B but we turn it down.  Begin driving down towards Blackpool but find few vacancies and prices up as high as £50 per room, still for little more than a boarding house.  At Bispham we find the Garville guesthouse at 3 Beaufort Ave (Tel 01253 351004).  They advertise as a non-smoking B&B and have a nice clean, light, airy en-suite room for £40 with good parking.  We’ve been looking for well over 1-hour so readily accept this as the best all round deal so far.  Make the most of the room by having an afternoon snooze.  Breakfast is served too late for us so the owner Fred tells us that without breakfast he will drop the price to £30. It’s Mum’s 80th birthday next January and we will be in Australia so have arranged an early surprise.  We had planned to take both her and Auntie Barbara out for a meal then to the Opera House to see the Black Dyke brass band.  Unfortunately Auntie Barbara is not well enough to go out so it’s just the 3 of us.  We eat at “The Tramway” before driving to the Winter Gardens.  Although we park as near as possible to the theatre it’s a blustery walk round the building to get to the entrance.  We’ve got seats in the circle in the front row so have a good view.  Steve pops down to the bar to try and order a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine for the interval but gets told the interval has been cancelled.  There has been a dispute over the start time, both 7.30pm and 8pm were advertised so they begin at 8pm and we assume this is why the interval has been dropped.  The band have recently won many competitions and are now classed as the best brass band in the world with many of their soloists also held in high esteem.  They break for an interval and Steve heads for the bar along with a few other men, only to find it closed.  One man gets very irate and demands the Manager and eventually gets the bar open with just enough time for them all to order and down ½ pints.  On the back of the tickets is a voucher for 50p off drinks but the barman points out that the small print says it is only available after 10pm.  As the bar doesn’t open after the show this sounds like a Blackpool scam.  Mum really enjoys the show and finds it amusing to have her birthday surprise so early. 



SUNDAY 8 MAY – Up early to go and pick Mum up as she want to be back in Market Drayton late morning.  We both go round to Netty’s I the evening to baby-sit or should I say Bobby sit.



MONDAY 9 MAY – Unsurprisingly the new fridge and freezer do not arrive; they had forgotten that they didn’t have a delivery van on Mondays!  Steve is feeling poorly again so spends most of the day in bed but gets up to go round to Netty’s for a farewell drink in the evening.



TUESDAY 10 MAY – The fridge and freezer arrive and Mum is very happy with them.  After finishing packing and cleaning up our room we join Mum and Anne at the Crown where Mum treats us to lunch.  Return for a last shower and change into fresh cloths before Mum drives us to the Market Drayton bus stop.  Say a tearful Good-bye before boarding the 15.11 bus to Hanley bus station (£2.30 one way).  We arrive on time at 16.05 into stand 25.  We’re booked on the 16.30 National Express coach to Manchester airport but notice a National Express Manchester bus parked in the next but one stand number 23.  The driver says he leaves at 1610 and has space for us.  We booked our tickets on the Internet (£4.80 each one way) and the driver notifies central reservations that we have taken the earlier bus. In less than an hour we are at Manchester airport terminal 2.  It’s quite a walk to the check in area but there are no queues at all.  We’re very surprised to be offered seats by the emergency exit with extra legroom that is until I ascertain that the flight is not even 1/3 full.  Claire phones to say Good-bye and we talk to a very excited Daniel who is going out this evening to receive an award for a poem he wrote.  He’s the only one from his school and has done well to get a commendation.  Our Malaysian airlines flight is on a jumbo jet and it’s so empty that Steve gets 4 seats to himself and I take 3.  The 12-hour flight gets us 2 meals and plenty of choice of movies and computer games but we make the most of the extra space to try and sleep. 



WEDNESDAY 11 MAY – Arrive at KL airport MALAYSIA around 1500hrs local time (BST + 7 hours).  We have a 6 hour wait for our connecting flight to Melbourne.  Steve is really suffering with his cold and has a bad headache and throat so sore he can barely talk.  He’s thIt’s very hot in the airport and unfortunately the quieter seating areas are upstairs where it is even warmer.  There are no showers but being resourceful I manage a reasonable cool shower in the squat toilets using the shower hose meant for bum washing.  (I pick my time for straight after the cleaner has been in!).  It’s not the best airport for a long stop – just a few shops crammed into a small central square, no chance of getting into the fresh air, not very comfortable seats but on the plus side there is free (albeit slow) Internet.  (Singapore airport scores much higher on alls counts). Depart on schedule at 2115hrs.  A smaller plane but Steve still bags two seats and I share 5 with another lady.  This time the seat back screens offer on demand viewing enabling you to stop and start movies at will and with lots more choices.  It’s a 7 hour flight, again through the night.



THURSDAY 12 MAY – Land slightly ahead of schedule at 6am local time (9-hours ahead of BST) in Melbourne AUSTRALIA.  Steve’s throat if much worse and his voice a quiet croak.  Clear customs through the red channel after declaring our mints and chewing gum, lessons remembered after Mum and John’s experience!  Purchase a new Vodafone SIM cards for $29.95 (£13.50) and this includes $30 worth of call time.  Our new number is 0061 406 003211.  Bev & Norm drive up at 8.15 to collect us in their new flashy metallic yellow car.  It’s great to see them and we feel instantly at home.  They bring is up to date with all the news on our journey back to Wallington.  A sign saying “Swatman suite” over the area of the house where we stay greets us.  Re-united with Billy even he is pleased to see us and has a smiley face and welcome back sign on the front stone grill!  Steve rests up whilst I go through Billy, finding very little to do as Norm has been taking him for rides and he was thoroughly cleaned when we left.  I have a 1 1/2 hours siesta before tackling the unpacking of goods left behind and things we brought.  Interestingly I find many things I had forgotten we even had.  It’s a warmish day and good to be out in the fresh air but it’s dark just after 6pm and soon gets chilly as winter is approaching.  Norm lights the wood burning stove in the extension and we enjoy a fresh fish meal in the warm and cosy surroundings.  Both in bed by 9.30pm



FRIDAY 13 MAY – We’re both awake at 5.30am so I make us a drink which Steve drinks in bed and I sup whilst making jobs lists and entering numbers onto the new phone SIM card.  Steve goes back to sleep and is dead to the world when I set out shopping with Bev to Ocean Grove whilst Norm goes fishing.  When we return at 1pm Steve is still fast asleep.  I carry on with a few more jobs and Steve sleeps for England, finally getting up at 5.30pm after 20 hours sleep, at least he feels a bit better for it. 



SATURDAY 14 MAY – Both wake up at 6.30am but this time I go back to bed after a drink and sleep until 10.30am.  I stored the bedding from Billy in the house and it’s all fresh and clean except the pillows.  Everything was stored in sealed plastic bags but one of the pillows must have been damp from the wash and they are now all mouldy.  I give Billy a drive out to Drysdale to buy new pillows and few other things.   He’s running really well with just a slight cough as I push it up to 100kph for the first time.  In the evening Bev & Norm’s friends Bob & Edna come round for a meal and to meet us.  They are also travellers and we have quite a lot in common.



SUNDAY 15 MAY – Usual routine of Steve lingering in bed whilst I do a few more things to get Billy ready for the road.  I make some new covers for the front seats and bags for storing our new non stick pans.  Wake Steve up just before Bobby & Rhinda call round for lunchtime BBQ.



MONDAY 16 MAY – Still managing to find more odd jobs to do in Billy.  I’m dragging it out a bit and just doing things slowly.  Have a worrying moment when I turn the tap and no water comes out – a few second later I remember that there is no battery operated pump in this van and I have to pump it by hand.  Still no water but it suddenly dawns on me that we haven’t filled the tank up.  Use the hose to fill up the tank and my bucket of water for cleaning.  Afternoon drive round to Beth & John’s where they are busy doing a huge makeover on their house.  Old brick and wooden walls are being covered with bright white plaster, walls have been knocked down and windows widened.  Chat about their recent trip to Mexico then leave them to crack on.  Norm takes us for a drive around the Bellarine peninsula before returning home.  Steve’s feeling much better and his voice is back.



TUESDAY 17 MAY – Despite feeling better Steve still manages to lie in until lunchtime.  In the van I find that despite pumping ferociously no water comes through.  Norm reckons there may be an area of the pipe that needs sealing so Steve takes it apart, finds no problem but establishes that there is no water in the tank.  I confirm that I filled it up yesterday – but didn’t put the plug in from when it had been left to drain!  Once started he continues with jobs, re-proofing the canvas and waxing the roof whilst Bev & I go shopping.  It’s considerably colder at night than I had anticipated so a fleece from the op shop and a hot water bottle from the $2 (£90p) shop are among my purchases.  On Tuesday evenings whilst Norm goes to work Bev goes out for a meal with her Mum Joan to the local bowls club. Steve and I join them and have an interesting evening including watching a carpet bowls match.  Claire has sent me an E-mail with a photo of Daniel receiving his award and a copy of his winning poem: –


- The End of Winter -
Snowdrops and Tulips
Growing from the ground.
Blackbirds and robins
Flying all around.
Tadpoles hatching
Into frogspawn.
Earlier Earlier
The sun arrives at dawn.
Lambs are born
In the fields today.
Spring is here
Hip Hip Hurray.

Feel very proud of Daniel and so much closer with Internet contact.



WEDNESDAY 18 MAY – Another shopping trip to Ocean Grove with Bev whilst Steve does a few more patch up jobs on Billy.  The weather is so nice that we can enjoy lunch al fresco au natural.  Bev cooks a roast pork dinner in the evening and we are joined by their son Brad.  After he leaves we all pile into the sauna.



THURSDAY 19 MAY – Another nice day once it gets going.  Approaching winter it is dark before 6pm and then cold and damp through the night.  It’s not light until 7am and takes until about 10am for things to warm up a bit.  This morning the inside roof of Billy was dripping with condensation and that’s with no one sleeping in it.  To give Billy a run out we all head off down the bush block.  After a BBQ lunch we play boules before returning and picking up a take away pizza.



FRIDAY 20 MAY – Steve and Norm setting off fishing early afternoon whilst Bev & I pop down to Ocean Grove then call in to see Joan.  The lads return just before dark with absolutely nothing to show for their time.  Our evening meal is still fish and chips and fish but the fish is whiting caught previously and frozen.



SATURDAY 21 MAY – I put the last few things into Billy and clean the windows ready for departure.  Shaking out the drivers side mat I notice a puddle under the foot pedals.  It’s not water and when Steve inspects it closer we decide it is an indication of a big problem.  Norm directs him to a local garage where we learn that the clutch need replacing.  He gives us an estimate of the cost and books us in for next Tuesday.  At least it is easier and cheaper to deal with than the sort of problems we had when we got Charlie out of storage.  Norm has been taking Billy for short drives around the paddock but this still hasn’t been enough and we now accept that vehicles need to be used and not stored and may modify our ongoing plans to take this into account.  Rhinda & Bobby have invited us all over for a meal at their Clifton Springs home.  Rhinda has prepared a lovely oriental style meal and we also get the chance to quiz them about South Africa where we hope to travel next year.



SUNDAY 22 MAY – Steve stays up until the early hours watching Manchester – Arsenal play in the FA cup final.  Norm goes out to work and I join Bev for a ride to Ocean Grove and to visit Joan.



MONDAY 23 MAY – A really nice day and suitable for another lunch al fresco au natural.  The temperature reaches 22C, the hottest 23rd May on record.  The sun disappears late afternoon and by evening we get much needed rain.



TUESDAY 24 MAY – The rain has stopped but a big change has come through and it’s now cool and breezy.  Steve takes Billy down to the garage for 8am.  Just after 10am they phone to say it’s ready and we are pleasantly surprised to get a total bill of $173 (£82).  In the end they have replaced the master cylinder and the rest was for labour.   Our CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia) insurance application forms arrive and I spend time sorting it all our using Bev’s scanner and E-mail.  Premium for 1 year is $346.50 (£165).  Bev & Norm are both out in the evening so we enjoy wallowing in the huge spa tub.



WEDNESDAY 25 MAY – Bev & Norm go out early.  Steve sleeps in late to get ahead of himself ready for his 4am football match.  Bev cooks a roast beef dinner in the evening and Brad joins us. 



THURSDAY 26 MAY – Steve gets up to watch the 4.30am match coverage of this very important European champions league final.  Liverpool are playing AC Milan in Istanbul and David and his friend Mick should be at the match.  The rest of us get up around 6.30am to find that having been 3-0 down Liverpool have pulled it back to 3-3 and this score remains at the end of time.  Bev’s planned cooked breakfast goes on hold as we sit through extra time with no further scores.  Next come the penalties and its nail biting time but AC Milan have missed 2 goals and Liverpool just need to score off their 4th goal to secure a win.  The crowd go wild, as the goal drops in and Liverpool become the European champions for the 5th time after a break of 20 years.  Needless to say Steve is a very happy bunny and we are also delighted for David who must have had the time of his life.  After a superb cooked breakfast and send off we are on the road at 8.15am heading north.  First stop is in Shepparton where we do a big shop at the SPC\Armona factory outlet then pause for lunch.  We visited the town with Mum and notice that the “moo-ving” cow display has a few new additions.    Crossing the Murray River we enter NEW SOUTH WALES at the town of Tocumwal and pull up by the river for a rest.  I take over driving late afternoon but hand over to Steve at sunset, very early at 5.15pm.  Darkness rapidly follows sunset in this part of the world and it’s completely dark by 5.45pm.  We’re wary of driving after dark but we are on a busy truck route and this should help deter kangaroos from running onto the road.  Our destination is Ardlethan where they have a basic village campsite.  The warm spells during the day give way to cold nights and to keep warm we have bought ourselves a thermostatically controlled electric fan heater ($20, $14 from Safeway) so need to plug in to power.  There’s a sign at the caravan park saying you get the keys from the newsagents but it’s already closed.  Discover that you only need the keys for the toilet block so we can still get electricity.  Receive a text from Claire to say that David has had a wonderful time and is now on his way back to the tourist resort of Bodrum where he has been staying.  We’re both quite tired and settle down to sleep just after 9pm



FRIDAY 27 MAY –Get up in the early hours to turn the heater off.  In the completely quiet surrounding it seems rather noisy.  Get up a few hours later to turn it back on, noise being preferable to the cold.  It’s light at 7am and we head on further north along the Newell Highway, stopping in West Wyalong for breakfast.  It’s a fairly uninteresting route, past arid fields, but easy driving with little traffic.  We previously spent 1 week in Forbes and know the town well so fill up and fuel and grocery shop there. Late afternoon I take over driving whilst Steve lies on the bed to doze.  Unfortunately my chosen short cut from Dubbo to Coonabarabran turns out to be on bumpy roads.  Steve drives the last leg and we spot some emus running along the side of the road and a few wallabies in the forest.  Having spent 5 weeks at Running Bare naturist retreat in the past we want to call in to visit friends and arrive just before dark.  Glennis comes over to great us and directs us to a parking spot.  Everyone is gathered round the campfire whilst Laurie is frying food on the nearby BBQ.  Neville & Jenny are also there.  We catch up on the latest news and enjoy chips, hash browns, fish, calamari and for Steve chicken.  The big ANF (Australian Naturist Federation) convention is being held here in December and January so they have been busy making extra campsites, installing new cabins and increasing other amenities.  One addition is a pool table and Steve is soon playing a game with Peter whilst I chat to Richard who has just set out on a 6-month trip and is gathering information.



SATURDAY 28 MAY – It’s cold all night but we are nice and snug inside Billy with two quilts on top of us.  The lady in the Coonabarabran tourist office told us that below freezing night temperatures were forecast for the whole week.  By late morning it’s warm enough to strip off and we take a stroll around the site and end up playing miniten.  For the first time this year they light the log fire in the recreation room so we have our evening meal there and stay for the rest of the evening watching TV.


$18 (£8) powered site


SUNDAY 29 MAY – Off by 8.30am.  It’s a glorious day with cloudless skies.  Our journey continues on the Newell highway where we notice lots of balls of raw cotton on the verges – probably dropped off the lorries as it has all recently been picked.  Cross into QUEENSLAND where we fuel is still much cheaper than the other states.  Toowoomba is the biggest inland town in Queensland and we want to buy some foam from a store here.  Jeffrey’s Motel has a campsite behind it and again we take a powered site as a cold night is forecast.  In actual fact it is cold but not as cold as Narrabri was.   


$15 (£6.50) powered site. 


MONDAY 30 MAY – Head into town to Clark Rubber to get foam for Steve’s half of the bed.  Surprisingly it is cheaper at $87 (£40) than when we bought it for my side 18 months ago.  Leaving town we immediately make a steep descent down from the upper ranges.  It’s another beautiful day and hot with it.  Along the side of the road are numerous shops selling farm produce at low prices – 10 avocados for $2 (£90p), potatoes 19c (8p) kilo.  Make a final descent towards Brisbane where we skirt the west side to join the Bruce highway heading north.  Fuel has now dropped in price to between 80c (37p) and 90c (42p) litre.  Continue to Tewantin to visit Keith & Di.  As we turn into their drive we see a sign saying “no vacancy”, good job we phoned and booked ahead!  It’s good to see them again and in no time we are stripped off enjoying the late afternoon sun by the pool.  Although much hotter than Melbourne it still goes cool late afternoon and is dark even earlier at 5.30pm.  Late evening we all emerge to round off the day with a most enjoyable soak in the outdoor hot tub.  It’s noticeably warmer in the evening with a low of 14C forecast and 25C for tomorrow, much more our kind of weather.



TUESDAY 31 MAY – Di is off out for the day and Keith has jobs to do around the house, in true Aussie friendly style we are given the keys to the their house and told to come and go as we please.  It’s such a nice day that we spend it by the swimming pool taking frequent cooling dips, this is what we come to Australia for.



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