Friday, 20 May 2016

Postcards from London

Adjusting our Gyroscopes




Between leaving home in a maxi-taxi (to accommodate us and our bikes) and being dropped off at our hotel by a London cab took 31 hours. Di managed to get some sleep on all three of the flights in between - but not on the express train from Heathrow into Paddington Station. (I was disappointed, as she has been know to sleep standing up on a bus in San Francisco and zooming up a river on a jet boat in New Zealand.) As per usual, I was only able to drift off for the odd catnap now and again.

It is now almost 24 hours since our touchdown in this sceptred isle. (I wonder, could Shakespeare be a major factor in the high level of nationalism amongst the British?) Despite our long journey I feel surprisingly fresh, having had a wonderful night's sleep. Maybe arriving at six in the morning and needing to stay away for at least seven hours before being able to check into one's hotel is useful in helping adjust one's body clock!

Perambulations in The Regent's Park

Our current hotel is quite close to The Regent's Park, so we'd targeted it as a place to stretch our legs after the long journey. On the way we walked past the Sherlock Holmes museum ...


When I saw the museum on a map I thought it might be a fun place to visit, but it turned out to be just an opportunity for people to pose in Sherlock gear and  and buy memorabilia, with a steady stream of customers walking in one door and out the next. We didn't go in.

The park itself was an absolute joy, and struck me as emblematically British while we strolled through. Just after we entered the park we walked past this man and his egret ...


It might seem odd to describe them as "this man and his egret heron", but they were still in exactly the same pose when we again passed them half an hour later!

Having walked around the lake ...


... it was interesting to discover that it is 4 feet lower than its original level. The depth was reduced after 200 people plunged into the lake when the ice they were walking on collapsed and forty of them drowned.

Big, beautiful deciduous trees abound throughout the park ...



One that we most admired was a quintessential English Oak, but unfortunately we didn't get a photo to share with you.

In this garden that is so very much British, it was interesting to see hints of the outer world, including a corner which help a thicket of bamboo, and a number of Canada Geese gliding around on the lake ...



Let the World Slip: We Shall Ne'er Be Younger

Our focus for today will be to spend an afternoon with Kate et al at the Globe Theatre for a performance of The Taming of the Shrew. Maybe beforehand we'll wander over to the London Zoo, which we missed yesterday because we wanted to get in that afternoon on nap. 

In a former life, one of my main motivators was to try to help students understand the way language binds us together, across lands and time. One of the things that I most liked about that task was when students "got it" with Shakespeare, discovering that his plays were meant for the masses and contain lots of bawdy exchanges like this one from the Taming of the Shrew ...

"Petruchio: Come, come, you wasp; i' faith, you are too angry.
Katherine: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
Petruchio: My remedy is then, to pluck it out.
Katherine: Ay, if the fool cold find where it lies.
Petruchio: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
Katherine: In his tongue.
Petruchio: Whose tongue?
Katherine: Yours, if you talk of tails, and so farewell.
Petruchio: What, with my tongue in your tail? Nay, come again, Good Kate; I am a gentleman."

GD-Day Approaches

"GD" stands for "Grand D├ępart",  a phrase used to describe the beginning of the Tour de France, and  which has been borrowed by Sam and Dylan of Ride and Seek for our departure from London on Sunday on OUR BIG BIKE RIDE. Tomorrow we will move from our current, more modest accommodations to The Caesar Hotel, where we dropped our bikes yesterday on our way across town in the taxi. (Had we not been going on to further adventures after our big bike ride we'd have gone straight there, but felt we should try to save a bit of money at the start of this long continental sojourn.)  We are so looking forward to being reunited with our bikes and putting them together, then meeting our fellow expeditioners for a little ride in and around Hyde Park before we leave on Sunday for Dover and beyond. So, this will be my last "Random Rambling" for at least a month as we ride away across western Europe. It'll all be Hail Caesar between now and then, as we (roughly) trace the emperor's route home. I'd just like to leave you with a snippet from Calvin and Hobbes, which I reckon captures quite well my childish delight in walking a different path ...



Quia nuce vale!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Take Me To Tasmania!

Come on Down!



I admit it. I am unabashedly in love with Tasmania. Although I do leave the place regularly for long stints, this place is home now and I always come back.

Now Tourism Tasmania have produced a promotion video which they themselves call "a bit dorky". It's probably mostly aimed at the north island market, with lots of references that would be missed elsewhere around the planet, but those of you further afield should still find it entertaining.

Some of you who will be reading this now actually live here and know why this is such a fitting way to promote our quirky corner of paradise. Others have been here and have at least an inkling of where we are coming from. And some of you have never been UnderDownunder. Hopefully this video will at least put a smile on your faces (if it doesn't I suggest you go back to bed and get up in an hour or two); maybe it will translate into a visit. It would be nice to see you ...


Friday, 6 May 2016

While I Was Out Walking ...

... through the streets of Comox this morning I came across this interesting image ...

Sailing into the dark woods?
I have had to make a quick trip back to "The Island" - as we knew it growing up here in paradise - for a family matter. The weather is drop-dead gorgeous at the moment. Thankfully. Like Tasmania, The Island can get pretty much any atmospheric conditions at any time of the year.

Not intending to take any photos while nosing around the old neighbourhood (I didn't even bring a camera, just my phone), once I saw that old salmon fishing boat marooned in a backyard with a wave of blackberries breaking permanently over it I couldn't help myself.

The next thing that caught my eye was this ancient stump in a park ...

Keeping on keeping on

Its worn-down appearance speaks of a long time having passed since the area was logged and this remnant left to hint at what once was.

The theme of wood temporarily taking over, the next textured eye-teaser that presented itself was this pile of log sections in someone's backyard ...

Rough and smooth; curved and flat
Where there's lots of trees there's gotta be lots of water. Part of my walk took me across Brooklyn Creek. In recent decades this little gem of a watershed has been much rejuvenated. Fish ladders and anti-erosion measures have been created to protect the creek and encourage spawning fish to return.

Here's an example of some of the construction work that has occurred to accommodate increased run-off due to urbanization ...


Infrastructure for fish


Two species of fish spawn in the creek.

These are the Cutthroat Trout ...
Cutthroat Trout
... and the Wig Wag dancing Coho Salmon ...
Coho Salmon
So, from wood to water. Not quite following the course of Brooklyn Creek I wended my way down to the waterfront where I was arrested by the beauty of the Comox Glacier hovering over the wharf ...

The Comox fleet; Comox Glacier behind 
Turning my back on the estuary, I headed back toward town and saw something that is a regular occurrence but is rarely seen in Australia: a building being re-roofed. Something that I haven't fully figured out about life in Canada is the way roofs are built. The sort of materials most commonly used areonly  expected to endure somewhere between 10 and 30 years. Here are a bunch of guys pulling the asphalt shingles off the roof of the Blackfin Pub just up from the wharf so they can be replaced ...

Men at work
The Blackfin has only been there about 20 years.  (Aside time: the two iconic pubs in Comox just near here where I had my first under-age beers so many years ago have both burnt down.) Contrast this life span with the corrugated metal roofs that are most common throughout Australia, and last 100 years and beyond. We replaced the roof on our 100 year-old house only  because we were extending the building, our old roof needed painting, it was easier to replace the whole roof, and the newer version of the old standard is even better - it doesn't need painting!

After enjoying the delights of the waterfront I wandered back up to Comox Avenue to look for some lunch and this is what I found ...

A spread from Sushi Kobo
All the fish used is caught locally. The three different rolls on this plate contain tuna (Albacore, there is no local Bluefin), salmon and scallops with fish roe.

On the way back to my Mom's place I passed this nice-looking but rather high fence ...

Don't fence me ... out!
Growing up in Comox I instantly knew what this was about: keeping out the deer. These folks obviously put a lot of work into their garden and don't want it chewed up by the browsers!

Closer to home I paused again as I couldn't miss sharing this classic west-coast sign of spring: fresh, light green spruce sprigs ...

Signs of Spring
Comox may be a lot more built up than it was when the Bruce family moved here just over 50 years ago.  There isn't nearly as much open space or forest as there was when we were kids. But now there's mountain-biking, rock-climbing and the water is still there for mucking around in boats. Goose Spit is now a public park and not the sole preserve of the military as it was way back when. And the town ... well it's the perfect playground for old folks like me who want to wander along Comox Avenue and eat sushi. And the fact that the deer still delight all and sundry - well, almost all and sundry - with their perambulations around the town is testament that there is still plenty of cover for them to retreat to come night time. Altogether, not a bad place.