B: BREXIT BANTER: BRITAIN TODAY: Current Reflections

July 12th Guardian Weekly believes that a ‘rotten clique at the top of society has left Britain in total chaos”.  It points out that although only 1% of the population went to either Oxford or Cambridge University, they represent 24% of the elite…. a ‘calcifying class stratification in British society’… linked to the chaos in which they find themselves. p 48

August 29th. Time moves along, and UK has a new PM, one who’s decided to do without a sitting Parliament. A rather strained looking Betty, doesn’t look frightfully amused. Which is understandable, since it is common knowledge that she has no choice and no authority in her own land. She’s probably also seen thE Facebook post which suggests that Wales, Ireland and Scotland would like to sell England to the US for $10!  Or perhaps the price has dropped overnight. Strangely the currency improved today when I changed some more $$.

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Perhaps Hugh Grant says what she really thinks, calling BJ an ‘over-promoted rubber bath toy’. You might have to google what else he said, because my blog isn’t going to use  language that is quite that offensive.

So, WHAT IS GOING ON ENGLAND?  THE DRUM tonight on ABC thinks that they’ve never got over WW2, and that despite winning, haven’t done as well as the country they defeated. After all, they were a colonising nation, and now are feeling colonised by Brussels. Of course, not all agreed, with Greg Sheridan, in a familiar rant, thinking BJ’s intervention just an example of democracy working.  Well I’ll be heading to England very soon to see if the English agree with you Mr Sheridan. The rest of THE DRUM commentators were truly appalled. And I’ve heard talk of this being a ‘Whitlam’ type intervention by our Governor General, and we all know where that got us.

Friday 30th August Tbe West Australian     Bravely the West enters into the debate, suggesting that the figure of Charles I is regularly dusted off with Boris’ agitated critics recalling they unhappy King’s head was cut off in 1649. Like Boris, he had prorogued Parliament for 11 years in 1629!  Boris be warned.                            Although Stephen Glover in the same article is prepared to say “The truth is that Johnson’s proposal is modest and well judged”. Well time will see.

Tuesday 3rd September Reflections from Down Under: the World is Revolting

It’s not just the UK which is out on the streets unhappy. Nearer to home we have the images of Hong Kong, and it is hard to see where this will end, with young people wanting ‘freedom’. I’m reminded of the Dalai Lama suggesting we all want ‘a joyful life’. Somewhat uncharacteristically, a Queensland town is out on the streets fighting to KEEP a rejected ‘refugee’ family.                                                                                     What comes to mind is that people are just cranky with our political system, and think taking to the streets is the best last resort. What next one wonders? The generations of internet connected young people can see only too well what they are missing out on, and yet have little ability to arrange to have the ‘better life’.  Where will it end? (See later in October: Extinction Rebellion)

Wednesday 4th September (My Daughter’s 50th Birthday!)

 LOST     Boris has for the first time  – today ‘what next’ as he loses his authority.

Continuing saga from the Australian media bantering on as I leave Aus

Guardian 7 June 2019:49
Aditya Chakrabortty says that Britain’s Existential Crisis goes way beyond Brexit. It is a British national adventure, It shows its inability to think anew about what the state and economics are for, to imagine what a different future might look like.
This is also referred to by Robert Unger? Harvard Philosopher, who calls it the Great Brexit Car Crash. “So you leave the EU to become something else, but Britain doesn’t seem to know what that is. “
Way back last year, in the Quarterly Essay: 717h/18: 52, (“Follow the Leader, Democracy and the Rise of the Strongman”), Laura Tingle talked about the yearning for the magician or the prophet, which led to the election of Boris.     But Andy Beckett, Guardian Weekly 7.6.19 reminds us that Boris was in Brussels in the 1990s, reporting  with glee distorted accounts of EU activities.

Tuesday 10th September VIEW FROM THE UK      Well Boris has lost around 6 times in this last week while I’ve been packing and moving across the world. This last one was last night, when he lost his Speaker, and the ability to have an election until a Brexit delay has been secured.  It’s not looking good.   The Guardian, this last weekend, suggests he is left with a series of unpalatable alternatives – from breaking the laws, to resignation, to voting a motion of no confidence in himself.

Is this the end of the UK? Will English nationalism actually divide it back into its historic regions? Is the Facebook joke about Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland wanting to sell England to Trump for $10 more than just a jest?                                  The Scottish Conservative Park is talking about the ‘politics of this madhouse’,  and ‘bringing up the drawbridge.’                                                                                                And what about Northern England where I’m now ensconced for five weeks? Or is it true that the young want to stay and the older generations want out of the EU?  Let’s see what we discover.

Saturday September 14th                                                                                                David Cameron, the PM who instigated Brexit now some years back, has completed his biography: For the Record.  It is likely to keep the controversy alive and well in our next few weeks.. and we could even go to his launch on October 6th when we arrive in London.

Monday September 23rd                                                                                                            It has been hard to get too inspired by the machinations of the British Govt. We now have three tribal groups thrashing it out, Conservations, Labour and Lib Dems. This last few days Labour have also decided that’s not tribal enough and have are having an internal tribal war at a Labour Conference at Brighton.                                                                                                               Meanwhile we check in at our local cafe for a pie and test the temperature on Brexit. This spunky single mother local small business owner throws her hands up in horror and is openly disgusted with what is going on, but it seems like in many places in the world, has lost trust in the ruling elites of all parties, and can only see her profits disappearing as the uncertainty bites into her profit margin. She thinks another Referendum with three options, Hard Exit, Soft Exit and Remain, with all the detail of what the means, might sort it out. It’s hard to see it right now as an outsider, but at least she is still holding on with some optimism. She would leave the country like my ancestors, except her child’s father lives here, and she can’t deprive her of that relationship.

Tuesday 24th September                                                                                                      Eleven Judges of the UK Supreme Court unanimously rule against BJ’s proroguing of Parliament. Well I guess it isn’t called ‘proroguing’ for nothing!        We are able to watch live as their spokesperson tells us in no uncertain terms why it is not valid, and that Parliament is therefore still sitting. We understand Boris is already on the way back from the US, where he has been converting with Scomo, Trump and the Indian PM.  Now things are Really getting interesting. All three of us are timing our TV viewing time to the 6.00 pm BBC News.           

55F43C45-C433-49FC-AE35-25B51A7203C6The Queen, who has been rumoured to be storming round the Palace, will be pleased! Pity Boris didn’t get better legal advice like she must have done.

Wednesday 25th September.

BRITISH GO BONKERS

So Parliament is no longer prorogued, with the emphasis on ‘rogued’, and everyone is back in their seats last night, with BJ flying in urgently from matey chats with Trump and Socmo.

If we thought the Australian Parliament was a bit crazy at times, we probably owe it to the democracy we modelled on.

Yes, BoJo accepts the judgement of the Supreme Court, but no he doesn’t… work that out.  Hope you managed to pick up this quote from Ian Dunt on Phillip Adams Late Night Live today:                                                                                                                                             ‘It is as dramatic a moment of constitutional law as you will see in your life. Lady Hale cut a calm, good-mannered figure as she sat at the head of the Supreme Court but her words boomed out like mini moral earthquakes. Each one devastated the Government. By the time she was done its moral status lay in ruins.”                           Ian Dunt reported on Phillip Adams Night Light Live Wednesday 25th Sept,2019

Meanwhile, there is no business on the day, because I guess no one expected to be in Parliament today… so that gives a licence for what has been called the most abusive session ever witnessed. Well so far, nobody’s head has been cut off, or anyone sent to the Tower. Neverthless, it was a hard act to watch, and explains why most of the older Yorkshirians we chat with have long since given up on watching, or hope for a resolution. We, being newcomers, and perhaps a bit bored at night, are still anxious to get home in time to see the latest instalment. But then we wouldn’t have voted Brexit, and find the performance a bit of a pantomime.

So we took a stroll around Lake Hollingsworth after the overnight showers had abated, and after a couple of welcome snacks arrived home in time for our regular viewing of the last Brexit shenanigans.

5 km walk around Hollingsworth Lake

Wednesday 2nd October.     Take it or Leave it!                                                                 After a week of travelling and looking at more Cathedrals, Churches and Towers, we arrive in London in time to get the latest news from the Metro, the local rag, whose headline is as above.

Thursday 3rd October. It seems that “Leave it” is to be the answer, as neither Northern Ireland nor the European Union seem much interested in BJ’s new ideas. We await the news on Friday for any progress, but it does feel like more of the same: revisiting Theresa May etc,

Wednesday 9th October One week to go in the UK, and the depressing news is there is just no light shining anywhere for a week… no wonder BoJo wanted to ‘prorogue’ Parliament.. he has nothing to offer. The fact that Angela Merkel has now basically poured cold water on everything reveals the state of play from the EU’s side. Meanwhile the Extinction Rebellion continues blocking the city for the third day this week. They started softly with a couple of yoga enthusiasts blocking the bridge, but who knows where it is going. Having said that… not so clear what they are asking and of whom, given the politicians no long seem to be in charge of the UK, let along the world’s climate.

Friday 11th October See the blog for London on that day. It still feels like the ‘world is revolting’ with a new crisis in Syria as the US pulls out, decades after it should have gone there in the first place. Parliament is no longer able to ensure democracy happens, so younger generations, and some older activists, fed up with their arrogant impotence, are taking the law into their own hands. As I said before.. where will it all end I wonder?

Monday 13th October The Queen’s Speech As an Aus, one can be forgiven for wondering at all the pageantry which appears designed to distract from the issue of Brexit negotiations. I felt sorry for the Queen, delivering a speech she didn’t write, for BoJo, knowing there is likely to be either an election or a referendum, and an abortive Brexit by the end of the month. In which case, she may well be giving another speech, for another politician very soon. She doesn’t look all that happy again. And Prince Phillip has abandoned any showing at such events long ago, and is leaving it to his son, the Prince of Wales. Come to think of it, he doesn’t look that happy either! Photos taken off the TV which we watched as the event unfolded this morning.

ON THE WAY HOME: BIBRA LAKE HOTEL

Yes, it would be very nice if this was actually at Bibra Lake, and I guess it is in a long walking distance, but as it happens, we are on the edge of the industrial area. I had checked this out when I came by last weekend. It does explain the modest price I paid, especially as as my ‘en suite’ is adjacent and not in the room. I guess I’ll get used to that if it saves me $30. The sunset photo shows the surrounding area. They tell me rain is coming tomorrow… I’ll believe that when I see it.

Having lunched with friends at Margs, I was late arriving, having also to detoured because of bushfire alerts. I had my cut lunch for tea with the birds. The ravens were very happy with my scraps, and I put the hose on for them too, as they were scratching around the tap trying to work out how to put it on. The dominant one did steal all my bread scraps however… yes.. they are as tribal we are.

So this hotel is an experiment to see if I like it well enough to use it as a base for
Freo and other south of the Fremantle friends. So far I would give it a rating of 7.. it has no window…but does have a reasonable outside/cafe area and feels very secure. And no stairs… oh and an Aircon. Given this is the second heatwave of encountered in my two weekend ‘runaways’ that is very welcome.

I met some of the locals staying with me.. they all seem younger and friendly. In fact one who works at a fresh market gave me a watermelon her boss threw her way – perhaps I look as if I need it. It certainly will come in handy when I arrive home to an empty frig.

But now it’s time for bed… it’s been a very long day.. I will watch the box, to see what’s happening in the rest of the world, and then read a bit more of my called ‘The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared.’ (very clever Swedish novels Jona Jonasson wrote it.

Perhaps this saga should have been called ‘The 76 year old woman who ran away from the retirement village to seek wider horizons’. But I know I’ll be glad to be back tomorrow night… I always am!!

POSTSCRIPT. So will I come back? Probably not. It was quite noisy last night. I suspect the place is full of temporary homeless workers, with far more energy than I have. But we’ll see. The cafe opens at 6.30 am and shuts at 2.00 pm, confirming my feeling that this a home for the working homeless, who have no kitchen in their rooms. Smart thinking my Asian friends who are running it. I’ll test out the ‘snack bar’,which basically what it is, over a lunch with one of the Freo friends. Come to think of it.. I’ll check out the coffee right now!!

FOREST WALK

So the heat still with us, but nevertheless I set off to check out the ‘old settlement’ of Margs, which is somewhat predictably down near the river. Where else would you settle? The feeling of ‘old Subiaco’ prevails until you reach the gravel path leading to the river. Then it becomes more ‘Denmark’… Denmark SW Australia that is. The forest canopy stretches way overhead some 100 feet.. .well I have no tape measure, but the strong, straight limbs of the eucalypts stretch far into the sky, and there is full shade giving relief from the heat.

I’m glad I’ve brought my two walking sticks as the path is clear, but still full of potential gravel stones and gum nuts, and wind round the edge of the river. It takes me about 20 minutes to reach the Weir, where families with young children are swimming and kayaking.

“So it’s not a ‘drinking water’ Weir then? I ask one of the fathers. He hasn’t ever thought about where the water goes before, but the only Weirs I’ve ever known are ‘ drinking water’ weirs, and we both speculate that perhaps it was once, but isn’t now. I leave him to sort out the truth, as I turn to take the upward climb back to the town centre and my hotel.

It was good to get out, to discover the original landscape of Margs, so close to what is now a small cosmopolitan town, with all the usual suburban amenities.

That night I visit the local Uniting Cburch for an evening of art, music and social justice contemplation. It’s the second time I’ve ventured this far for the annual event, and it is richly rewards my effort for coming this far. The image below is an artwork made of local natural materials. We all participated in the finishing touches to the ‘boat’ shuck will eventually sail down the river. Earth to earth or should I say earth to water.

The speaker is an Afghan Young Australian of the Year awardee from 2013 and gives the most striking talk on his own experience and that of his family. Having his mother in the audience is also bonus. The only problem I have is getting to sleep after such a stimulating event. Perhaps I’m just showing my age.. or perhaps this would have been better held during the day!

ON SPREADING GERMS ROUND MARGS

So, this trip I decide not to shift the car unnecessarily… it is enough to drive here and back, and instead explore the town on foot.

This means I spend a good deal of time with Safe WA Covid Sign Ins and sterilising my hands, as I venture down the kilometre long Main Street of Margs. The town is really a break in the thoroughfare from Bunbury to the South-West rather than a ‘town’ as such, although it is situated on the banks of a river (of course!) and surrounded by forests and suburbs. The Main Street reminds me of another ‘city’ between cities: Subiaco – between Perth and Fremantle. At its historic best Subiaco provided residential respite from the big smoke at each end, with plenty of services to the community. The names of the shops here in Margs are even similar, and I finally lunch at the familiar Dome, having tested out the other more trendy cafes, which are packed with tourists in the morning.

Finally I succumb to a purchase of a shirt at the Red Cross shop, and packets of chai tea I’ve been hunting for in Coles.

In the afternoon when it cools off, I’ll venture as far as the river and back. It feels a safe, friendly place to escape to, especially as my ‘disability friendly’ large room – almost as big as an Apartment, is in easy walking distance in the middle of town, and a good place to escape from the midday heat.

Later

So after

MARGARET RIVER HOTEL

Ok, I’ve now arrived. Very straightforward journey down the freeway with one stop at Capel. They have decided at the ‘Margs’ (as they call Margaret River) Hotel, that I’m an old lady, because I finally have worked out that when your stay in an old hotel you get stairs. And indeed you do here, but when I suggested ground floor, they suggested Motel at the back, and more than that they have given me a disability park and sleeping for three, as well as all the other usual stuff. The pub is still in the front.. so that’s all good.. and I’m finishing off my own bottle of wine, and will enjoy their meal soon. (It was nearly empty to start with.. don’t worry!) Who knows if I’m paying extra. I’ve given up worrying. After all we are supporting everyone aren’t we.. so what the hell. I’ll just enjoy the luxury.

I’ve already caught up with an ‘old’ friend. We used to play ‘murder in the dark’ as kids.. but I think she doesn’t remember this. I used my walking sticks to get to her place about two kilometres from the city centre… and back. And tomorrow we’ll have an evening listening to the ‘Refugee of the Year’ give a talk. The things you do when you’re locked down.

But tomorrow I have a whole day free to explore the city centre. So more anon… time for food!!

SWINGING BY THE HOTELS

7-8th January 2021

FREMANTLE

It’s that time of the year again – hot midsummer, and I’m ready to escape. Once again a hotel in an inner city – this time Freo. Not exactly intentional that it appears to look like the one I booked in Albany in January last year, when I was trying to escape celebrating being three quarters of a century. If I’m to live in the confines of a retirement village, perhaps its time to foster escape routes, and where better than in the confines of hotels in cities.

This time I predict the familiar routine of the 3 flights of stairs to my first storey bedroom and shared bathroom. In fact this hotel may well have been built in the same model and at the same time as the late 19th Century one in Albany pre Pandemic. This time, however, it is opposite the very railway line I used to live adjacent to in Subiaco for 25 years, so the regular pattern of trains is familiar. Because of the three flights I take 3 small bags, and not one heavier suitcase. It works, although the young Receptionist is more than happy to carry them up and down stairs for me. But then, this time, I’m the only resident overnight, so he’s keen to make a good impression – they certainly need the business, with not a backpacker in sight.

Of course, when I booked, I hadn’t counted on the first really challenging heatwave of the summer, and room with only a fan. Even here in this Port city built to capture sea breezes, the temperature fails to drop to a reasonable level overnight. So I’m forced to keep the fan on, the window shut and use my bedding to blank out the lights from the Port. I don’t, however, resort to the ‘wet towel’ solution, and at midnight, as predicted from my Subiaco days, the trains start to trail off, and I’m able to sleep.

At first light , long before 6 am, I’m awake, and finally give in to the beginning of a new day. I don’t bother to shower, but set off for the first iced coffee I can spot down the road. This does the trick and encourages me to walk a little further and to jump on the Freo Cat bus, taking me a half our journey round town. In fact I take it for two circuits, jumping off the second time in the centre of the City, to check out the Tent City near Freo Station, which has emerged as the homeless cope with the Pandemic.

Then back for a short morning sleep before my time is up, and I have to leave to attend a Conference in the vicinity.

Perhaps I won’t be back. But I did feel very secure, and my car was safely locked up overnight as well. So I give the Australia Hotel, Freo an 7-8 rating, despite the torrid night.

On Turning Three(!) Quarters of a Century

Arrival

OK, here I am in Albany, celebrating my three quarters of a century on this planet. It felt auspicious enough to celebrate it alone, by taking advantage of an expiring free Transwa ticket. Also Albany is a centre for history buffs, in whose auspicious company I place myself.

So I end up in the old Royal George Hotel built in 1885, when Albany was the thoroughfare to the WA Goldfields. It’s now on the street named after Stirling, WA’s first Governor, who having spurned Albany as the capital city (and renaming it from Frederickstown, see below ), still enjoyed his summer holidays here just as I am. (It’s called 6 Degrees now, and I have forgotten to ask why.. maybe tomorrow as I leave. Later: I forgot.. still a mystery.. but Booking.com did well to find it for me.. reasonable price for shared bathroom and harbour views)image.pngIMG_5418.jpeg

Royal George Hotel (6 Degrees) in background on left.. .overpass to Anzac Memorial.. see below on right looking from hotel window, and Albany Entertainment Centre left.IMG_5403.jpeg

My first afternoon late afternoon (after the six hour bus trip, with very tight seating and a full load) was spent checking out the Visitors’ Centre, the Library and taking a public bus all round the suburbs, with a very helpful bus driver who acted as a tourist guide. Tben having checked out every steakhouse in town, and there are a few, I ended back at 6 Degrees for their small steak, chips and salad, and fell into bed to sleep right through till sunrise.

Sunset first day.

Exploring the Museums

The weather had been very mild and pleasant that first day, so it was a shock to wake to rain, but it seemed silly to waste the day, so off I went, in my plastic raincoat to search for a pelican in the harbour below. No such luck, but I did make note of the new Anzac Memorial and the Entertainment Centre, before hiding from the rain in a pop up cafe on the harbour’s edge, where the locals were reading the newspapers. Then fortunately the rain eased, and the breeze was pleasant for the rest of my stay.

Then off to explore the Museums and discover more about the town’s history. There was a fantastic Antartica Virtual Realty Exhibition at the Museum of the Great Southern, and since there is such an interesting discussion evolving around climate change, what better time to visit… it was quite awe inspiring.

http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/museum-of-the-great-southern/antarctica-experience

I also found it interesting that a display on landscape changes over the last 40,000 or 50,000 years said this about the extinction of almost all megafauna species in Australia. “Researchers are divided into two main camps; one advocating human interference in the form of hunting and burning of the land, and the other suggesting climate change increased aridity.” (Museum of the Great Southern: End of the Giants display).          Sounds familiar!

Why Albany?

Part of my motivation to come to Albany was to check out why it was finally overlooked, in the contest for the capital of WA.

In seeking answers I found lots of other interesting facts my own WA history courses had not revealed. I did know about Dutch and French visitors, and of whalers and sealers from America and other parts of the world, but who knew that Vancouver visited actually was the one who took possession of this part of Australia in 1791 for the British Isles. He seems to have passed by rather quickly, never to return.

Albany was then established  in January 1827 by Sir Edmund Lockyer as a military outpost of the New South Wales Government, making it the oldest European settlement in Western Australia. The area was initially named Frederickstown in honour of British Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, but in 1831 control of the settlement was transferred to the Swan River Colony and renamed Albany by the State’s first Governor James Stirling.

Nor did I know that the oldest existing house in WA,  and first consecrated church in WA, both reside in Albany. The house, originally built by the Morley brothers in 1832 was bought by Patrick Taylor in 1835, for 400 pounds. He married Mary,  one of the Bussell girls, and lived there till he died (1877), and she until her death in 1887. In the last decade it has been rescued by the Albany Historical Association as a Museum. image.png

Patrick Taylor Cottage Museum

The Anglican Church is an inspiring stone building, rather like a small version of St. Georges Cathedral. It was consecrated in 1848 and John Wollaston was it’s first clergyman. It would have seated the entire population of Albany at the time: 170 people.

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St John’s Anglican Church, York St.

Not to be outdone, I then tripped over my own Methodist ancestry in this wonderful building nearby, built in 1890, just before my Methodist ancestors arrived in Perth. It replaced the Church Hall, built in 1863, which must have been one of the first Methodist buildings in WA.

image.png

Wesley Uniting Church, Duke St, Albany

But what I really came for, was to find why Albany was bypassed. In the many manoeuvres of the day it will never be totally clear why the most important industry of the time … whaling… didn’t indicate this more southern harbour town to be our capital. However one clue I had missed before is the relationship between Ellen Stirling (wife of James Stirling, first Lieutenant Governor of WA) and the ‘ British’ East India Company. Apparently her father was the Director of this company with interests in the ‘East Indies’. Of course, Perth was a more logical base for an Australian base for those interests (which as it happens it still remains), rather than the southern port.

I must have been called to Albany to celebrate, because who knew, the 21st of January was the date that Major Lockyer hoisted the British flag for the first British Settlement in WA.. although Perth might dispute this!!

Commemoration Tablet:  Albany Town HallIMG_5412.jpeg

From all of the above, you can see how Albany tried hard to be the central port town in WA right up until CY O’Connor helped sort out Fremantle’s port problems. From then on,  with the help of that new port at Fremantle, the pipeline and railway line connecting them to Kalgoorlie, Perth (named for its Scottish ancestry) became the capital Stirling had promised it would be. My family saw all this and came to settle in Perth… hence I’m here to tell the tale… my grandparents met in Perth Wesley. Its site had been purchased by Inkpen in 1829 for that familiar 400 pounds, but the church they met in was first opened in 1870, and was the third of three churches.

How to celebrate

Plenty of time for reflection when one travels alone, but there does need to be some plans for celebration as well. A trip to the local IGA brings to light the remnant Christmas treats. I give up on the birthday cake and settle for half a dozen mince pies. I figure two or three a day will suffice. (Only one was eaten.. the rest may do for Australia Day BBQ!)

I shouldn’t have worried. I decide to have lunch at the local Seniors’ lunch outlet, where a local Uniting Church member shares local information with me, while we tuck into lasagna and a cheesecake dessert. That evening, I break my recent time off alcohol and seek a drink at my (now) local hotel. Hearing that it is my birthday, James, the Manager, offers me a free drink on his tab. I’m thoroughly enjoying my own second drink, and the special of the day – half price fish and chips – when the waiter offers me a special dessert FREE. Ten minutes later a very fancy birthday special arrives. And yes, the hotel did get 9 stars on the travel booking page, despite not helping lug my case downstairs… but then I’m not showing my age yet, am I!!.. see below.

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Perhaps I didn’t actually run away from celebrating my birthday at all.

On Young Ladies

I leave Albany early in the morning, lugging my suitcase down four flights of stairs, there being no sign of the willing offer of the previous night from the James at reception.

At the bus station less than a 100 metres opposite, the 50 bus travels begin to congregate. An unlikely, dishevelled man, possibly younger than me, but wearing his age wearily, approaches me with ‘how are you young lady?’ We chatter inconsequentially about this and that, and I leave to join the bus queue, where I’m met by the driver with his – ‘Next, young lady’.

One could be affronted by these clearly misplaced engagements. I decide instead to take it as a sign that I’m not yet showing the end of the 75th year, which I’ve just celebrated.

(Apologies to those who are following this blog.. not many I think… I finished it in bits while travelling home on the bus.. and then resettling at home delayed completion until Saturday 25th January 2020)

D: POSTSCRIPT: BREXIT BANTER: UK TRAVELS Autumn 2019

Late October 2019                                                                                                                           OK, it’s more than a week later, and here I am still trying to catch up with the UK’s Brexit mascinations.  Some of you have wondered how all the religious tribalism I’ve been tracing is related to Brexit.  So here’s my final thoughts on this. If you want more detail on ‘How Britain REALLY Works’ you might like to get or borrow my copy of the book of that name, which I happened to find on a stall in the foyer of the Croydon Fairfield Hall, just before we left. Written by Stig Abel, and published this year, Stig, who is the editor and publisher of the Times Literary Supplement helps us ‘Understand the Ideas and Institutions of a Nation’.  If I had read this before I left, I might never have needed to go! However, it has been very helpful in filling in gaps, and his Brysonlike sense of humour makes it ‘relatively’ easy to read.                                                                                                           So far the part which has enlightened me relates to the early formation of the ‘tribal’ parties which still dominate the current debate and divisions within Britain. He points out that the formation of ‘real tribalism’ in politics began in the eighteenth century, when the Whigs and the Tories were embedded, arising out of the sectarianism for Protestantism and Catholicism. He points out that the Whigs were originally Protestants and the Tories originated from the Irish Catholics, but gradually came to stand for ‘church and country’, after Ireland joined the UK in 1801,  and then evolved into the Conservative Party. p59                 Nations_of_the_UK.png                                                                                               The complex web of States in Britain over the Centuries… ready for a remake? Wikipedia 

Stig’s book is far too detailed for even a summary, and I’ve yet to finish reading it, but it has given me a great follow up to our journeys into the ‘home country’ and into Brexit. It also confirms for me, that the original divisive tribalism I first explored at the beginning of this blog is still alive and well in Britain, and as Mackay from Dundee Scotland suggests below, the country will take a long time to recover! (He suggests a generation, but perhaps it is just embedded in the British psyche!)

But when I arrived home I read a letter in Time magazine from early October which seemed to put his finger on what is going on. Entitled  What Brexit has wrought“, Les Mackay from Dundee, Scotland writes:  “British democracy….. is beyond redemption. Brexit has destroyed it. Our Prime Minister is a charlatan; our normal ruling party, the Conservatives, will never be forgiven for the mess it has gotten us into; the opposition Labour Party is unelectable; Ireland is heading for unification; Scotland for independence; the country is totally divided and will take at least a generation to recover. The money lenders and tax avoiders, thieves and spies, have won, and the country, as we have known it, is gone.”

On the personal front, I’m really grateful for my trip, and to my travelling companions who invited me. It is perhaps my last, to the “Home Country” as my maternal grandmother fondly referred to it, (although I’m not sure she ever actually went there,  especially as she was largely Northern Irish/Scottish.) It was great to have extended time just ‘being’ in various places and to ‘feel’ a sense of the landscape and the culture two great grandparents and two grandparents left to forge a life Australia. Am I sorry they came? No I am not. Of course I would not be here to tell this tale if even one had not arrived!  (As a silent aside you never heard in this blog, the weather was not helpful for my arthritic knees, which have been delighted to return to the warmth of the Australian sun! )

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                 Leaving London’s autumn fog for Aus: photo from Croydon Apartment 9th Floor

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                 Full moon on our last night in Croydon London: taken from 9th Floor Apartment

So perhaps this is it!! Thanks for reading this far!!

7 November  Not quite!  I read a leftwing perspective in The Guardian Weekly of 4th October 2019 when I came up for air.  On page 46, John Harris, a Guardian columnist dares to “find hope in the UK’s Brexit nightmare”. Despite describing all the despair mentioned about he finishes with the thought that “Brexit has blown the lid off conventional notions of political possibility, allowing the left’s grassroots to start offering grounds for optimism. In the midst of all enveloping darkness, that might provide just enough flickering light to keep us going.”       Let’s hope he is right!!                           QED!

 

A:A8 BREXIT BANTER: UK TRAVELS Autumn 2019: LONDON

Tuesday 1st October. We arrive to the house swap penthouse that my canny friends have visited three times now. On the top of a 10 storey tower block in Croydon, with views over surrounding suburban London, it is an ideal place to situate oneself for a two week visit. View looking North-East from the Apartment

I’m going to be a little less prolific in my writing while here, but will give some of the events, mostly for my memories.

Wednesday 2nd October ‘Monk’s’ House We spent the day heading out to Sussex, to Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s home.. now a Museum. Set in a beautiful garden, adjacent to a Church, and part of the historic Rodmell Village, it is easy to imagine their life here. One of several homes they shared, they moved here after an air raid damaged their London home, Virginia took her own life soon after in 1941, while Leonard lived here until 1969. An interesting day, capped off with afternoon tea in the local pub.


Volunteers now faithfully preserve Woolfs’ garden
Church at the back of the ‘Monk’s house

Woolf’s house behind the garden

Friday 4th October A day to refresh our energies. I joined the Central Croydon Library, so I now have a quiet annexe to the Apartment, and bought a few supplies. Also sent the last postcards I may ever send to family. Postcards are in very short supplies these days, and are becoming a little superfluous given other more immediate communication methods..like WordPress!Then I took a tram to the ‘African colonies’, where the majority of those using the transport system came from somewhere south of here originally. Makes one wonder what it would be like if Westminster reflected the multicultural origins of this country, created in large part by colonialism.

Saturday 5th October A day learning how to get to and around London on the tram, train, bus. We visited the British Library and caught up with one of the 4 versions of the Magna Carta. This all adds to our knowledge of the history of Britain.. the first challenge of the Pope’s authority in Norman times by King John. Took a long while, but eventually the rule of law took over. Interesting that: the Rule of Law has become quite profound recently when it was shown that neither the Queen nor the Prime Minister had the power to ‘prorogue’ Parliament. We aren’t ‘rogues’ after all! I also caught up with the original copies of both Wycliffe’s and Tyndall translated Bibles, not only auspicious because were executed for their troubles, but because it was another milestone on route to the introduction of ‘English‘ as the compulsory language, which Henry VIII would eventually see as necessary wisdom as part of his break with Rome. We also visited “Little Venice”, although it reminded me more of Amsterdam. Could have sworn we saw light brown swans flying away.. perhaps large cygnets?

Little Venice, London

Sunday 6th October A quiet day when we expected wet weather which never came, but we had already planned to go to see ‘Judy’ at the local cinema. A well worthwhile trip. However the theme of unhappy creative women caught in societal change continues. First we went to Bronte’s home, and now I’ve finished Anne Bronte’s novels, I find their young lives ended in less than half of my own, despite their acclaimed work, and Anne never managed to marry, yet her novels are long sagas of ‘eventually’ requited love. Agnes Grey I bought at the Bronte Museum in Howarth. Virginia Woolf, unable to handle childhood abuse, and pressures of other kinds, brings her resolution to life in A Room of One’s Own, which I happened across in the British Library yesterday. Guess 2 books my daughter is getting for Christmas this year, after I’ve read completed them both. In combination, along with with the movie Judy, they remind me what a privileged life I’ve lived, with an ability of look out for myself, in an era of increasing women’s rights.

On a different tack, this was an interesting artistic image of Churchill on a wall in Croydon, seemingly created by lots of words the great man uttered.

 

Monday 7th October

Brilliant morning sunrise from ‘my’ bedroom and believe it or not, on a forecasted cool day.

The day of the latest Extinction Rebellion, saw a couple of yoga enthusiasts helping block Westminster! I thought I’d get ready to help out where I can.

Actually just filling in time while waiting for a bus (last week!)

We visited Greenwich today. This time to see the historic buildings which have been various forms over the centuries. Greenwich was also a favourite for the Tudors, as a respite from the Palace, but their palace is gone, and a Naval Hospital/College, now University has taken its place. There are also elaborate paintings in a hall feted to be the answer to the Sistine Chapel, but as I was too mean to pay the $24 necessary, you’ll have to do with a book cover, presumably of one of the paintings.

We also stayed for Evensong at the Chapel adjacent.. very lovely artwork too, and fantastic singing from presumably the young people from the University’s Conservatorium. We joined in heartily with the hymn at the end.. memories of childhood revisited.

Treasures at the shop, reflecting the chapel ceiling.

Tuesday 9th & Wednesday 10th October

A couple of quiet recovery days hanging around Croydon, and getting to feel what it would be like to live here. Very comfortable, except I would be desperate to be able to be closer to a tree, to the outside. I have to sit on cushions to see anything but clouds. But nevertheless, I get a good feeling about this transport hub, which has everyone one needs in easy distance: shops, library, theatres – both live and movie, a park or two, and a transport hub to the rest of the world. It is easy to see why people choose to live here. Today to continue my journey into the religious history of this country, I went searching for the Quaker Meeting House, and the Unitarian Church, having dabbled in attendance at both in the last few years. It took me a couple of goes to find they are actually situated next door to each other, which kind of figures… not so very far apart these days in ‘philosophy’ The sad part of their history in Croydonbeing that the Quaker School was bombed in 1940 during the WWII, and has not been replaced.

Croydon Unitarian Church with Friends in back left.

Croydon Friends Meeting House

Croydon Town Hall circa late 1890s, with theatre, library and great cafe inside.

Thursday 10th October Time to Go to London Town

Met up with an old school friend and her husband and we ‘walked the bridges‘ – London to Tower. Great yarns and a lot of fun. So glad I brought my stick!!

Friday October 11th More London Town This time we braved the National Gallery, most my for afternoon tea, but it meant crossing the gauntlet of the Extinction Rebellion. Let the pictures say it all!

A very non-violent protest at Trafalgar Square, with some somewhat orchestrated arrests during the afternoon.

Saturday 11th October. Autumn and the Water Tower

This water tower is a ten minute walk from where we are saying, and perfect stroll on the way to the main centre of East Croydon.

Autumn finally arrives in Croydon

We then went to the library for a talk on ‘Ancestors’ by one of the Jamaican UK residents. It adds to understanding of Britain’s multicultural post-colonial population.

And after a delicious feast at the first of ‘Four Last Supperswe went to the recently renovated Fairfield Hall for a concert with the Royal Philharmonic. A very satisfying end to a Saturday.

Sunday 12th October A Day of Adventures.

A Modern Exploration of Faith. To perhaps end my saga about religious history, I literally ‘popped’ in to the local Unitarian Sunday service. It was a toss up between them and their neighbours: the Quakers. In the event I was too late for the Quakers, so I just popped in and observed them in silence through the glass doors… looking just like their counterparts in Perth, and went to the Unitarians. Both suffered losses of their original Churches in bombing raids, and while originally the Unitarians built on a site of a Baptist Church, it looks very like this time they did a deal with the Quakers, as they are on the adjacent block in what was originally ‘Friends Rd’ and could well have on the side of the Friend’s School, which had moved away after the bombing? Unitarians Croydon This service was one of the richest I have ever attended. The building has been built as an inclusive meeting house, with the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ instead of a Cross; with references in the Meeting to ‘spirit’ rather than God or Jesus, and with liberal inferences to social justice, gratitude as the richest form of prayer and dealing with change: ‘nothing lasts forever’. I found the Florida originated ‘Minister’ very inclusive and wise, and only wished he was in Perth!.. I would surely attend Unitarians again. I was just wondering where the multicultural involvement in this mostly ageing WASP congregation was, when their partnership with the Rainbow African Refugees was declared, and one gay young man sang two soulful songs which revealed his journey, as well as just how inclusive the congregation is.

Unitarians welcome African Rainbow Refugees- what a pleasure to share.

It was also the 60 anniversary of the building which was built after their (second) building was taken for the bus station, and harvest festival time, which included reference to climate change, autumn and ‘nothing lasts forever’. I thought of the autumn leaves falling around us, the demise of a decent democratic system in many places, changing relationships, and my ageing knees! If you want to hear the congregation singing… here they are: http://www.croydonunitarians.org.uk/history.shtml

The Adventure Continues. So we then jumped on a train and went to one of the 5 largest homes in the UK – Knole house. Mr Knole isn’t given much credit, because although he owned the property in the 1290s.. today all 1,000 acres of it…it isn’t clear what he did with it, and various families and Lords owned it until Bouchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury bought it in 1458, extended the building and he gave it to the See of Canterbury in 1480. On Bourchier’s death in 1486, four further Archbishops used the Knole property, the last being Thomas Cranmer. Henry VIII was a visitor in 1490, and he found it a useful place for daughter Mary when divorcing first wife Catherine, in 1832-3. Knole became caught up property transfers during the dissolution of the monasteries, and Henry VIII was keen to use it as a deer park, which it still is to this day. In 1537, Henry VIII took Knole, giving Cranmer various Abbeys and Priories. After Henry VIII died, in 1847, Knole was granted to Thomas Seymour, Edward VI’s uncle but he was executed in 1849. Cranmer was later executed by Henry’s Catholic daughter Queen Mary in 1556, having been Henry’s advocate for Protestantism. Queen Mary returned Knole to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but on her death it returned to the Crown in 1558. In the 1560s, Queen Elizabeth 1 granted Knole to Dudley, but there was fierce competition for the property, and he leased it, but it seems and Queen Elizabeth’s nephew Thomas Sackville was also granted it. In 1603 he was forced to buy bought back Dudley’s 99 lease so he could own it outright. At that is where the Sackville story of ownership of Knole begins, where some of the descendants still live in part of the immense complex. If you are still fascinated with the Sackville history of the place, I’ll leave you to check it out yourself! For myself I’m not sure it isn’t what some commentators say: “a monument to private greed”, but I’ll leave you to decide! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knole.

Long way home: Unfortunately our taxi didn’t arrive as planned, so we trekked down the hill 3 miles, and caught the train to the less appropriate Victoria Station, only to find the trains on our line had been cancelled. It took exactly 4 hours to complete the one and a half hour journey home!…Another late night…our second last ‘supper’.

Our photos of the deer, spotted as we trekked back down to the station 3 miles away, when the taxi failed to show!

Monday September 14th St Paul’s Cathedral We went in time for Evensong, which is how you get to have a few moments in the Cathedral without paying, well unless you feel generous enough to donate. After giving a donation for Rainbow Refugees at Unitarians yesterday I didn’t feel so inclined.

This Cathedral is at least the fourth on the highest site in London, and the first of those built after the Reformation by Henry VIII, after the previous one on the site was burned in the fire of London. It was built between 1675 and 1710 by famous architect Christopher Wren, with the first service in 1697. It is most significant because it symbolised for the first time, the Crown becoming the Head of the Church, rather than the Pope.

Going backwards in time, the first Church on this site was built in 604 by King Ethelbert of Kent, during the time of the Anglo Saxon Christians, before Rome’s second intervention into the life of the English, when missionaries arrived bringing their new Catholicism with them. It is unclear exactly how the first Christians arrived in England, but certainly it was here before Rome’s Papal scouts arrived, so the first Church at St Paul’s was not under the Pope.

Tuesday 15th October Packing and cleaning, but with a breathe of fresh air down at the Fairfield Halls, where a singer and a piano player were giving us a free concert of American songs.. some of which we new and some of which I snoozed through.
Then I bought 50 pounds of new stuff.. shoes, socks and other essentials.. how to fit it all into the suitcase is tomorrow’s problem.

A:A7 BREXIT BANTER: UK TRAVELS Autumn 2019: Cragg Vale to Lincoln

Sunday September 29th SEE IT, SAY IT, SORT IT!     (UK train advice to travellers)                                                                                             This was definitely the theme of the day. We methodically packed up our gear and were ready and waiting for our Kashmiri driver to take us the ten minute ride to the station. We were early, so we spent a half an hour musing on the intricacies of the British rail system’s attempt to give us accurate information about what time the next train would arrive, and how many carriages would help us with our journey.  We could certainly see the problem, but there was no way to say anything, and so it couldn’t be sorted. It happened that were two carriages, and the train was more or less on time, so we were able to travel easily to our next transfer at Leeds. We’ve been here before several times, so were easily able to make the transition, to another train to Newark, wherever that is. However this train had more amusements for us, because someone had put the carriages together in the wrong order, which meant our pre-booked seats were no longer as stated in the computerised system above each seat. In this very crowded train we were offered any seat we could muster, and stacked our luggage: one suitcase, one food bag, one ‘handbag’ and one backpack each, somewhere near the end of the first carriage. So yes this time we ‘saw the problem’ ‘said something’ and it was ‘sorted.’ However, we nearly missed the next train by 1 minute because of the confusion with the second train                                    But all was well, and we were on our way again after Newark, on the train to our destination in Lincoln. Fortunately this train had no such pretensions to consider booking us electronically, and there was plenty of room for a table and comfortable chairs for this leg of the journey. We were in good shape when we arrived, which was just as well…                                                                                                                                On arrival it was raining, and there was no offer of transport from the station as our friendly host in York had given us. It took us a little while to work out how to get a taxi, and when we arrived at our Air BnB, it was a steady drizzle, with our gear trying to hide under two umbrellas to escape the rain. We had been given a code by our host, but none of the three of us, even after half an hour of trying could sort out the right combination, or were strong enough to release the key.      So it was time to consider some options:                                                                                                                   1. Phone the owner: no response.  Text the owner: no response.      (We discovered he was actually in Scotland, not Australia as I had suggested)                                                        2. Camp in the rain in the copious carpark – a rather damp uncomfortable option.          3. Find another accommodation for the night. This one was $40 each a night, so was prepaid and very attractive.                                                                                                          4. I suggested how long did all think it would before one of the ten townhouses in the complex realised our dilemma and came to our rescue?                                                        5. Within two seconds a local appeared across the carpark and was hailed by S. The guy instantly new the problem and pointed to the neighbour second from our possible new home for 2 nights. There was the owner’s sister in law, with a key!                 By this time we were really ready to accept anything which had a dry roof over our heads, but not only did we receive this, but all the facilities we needed for 40 hour stop over on our way to London.

Moral of the story: See it, Say it, Sort it!

September 30th LINCOLN VISITL Promise to Pray.                                                
This is another train journey acquisition. If this machines aren’t working, you can be asked to ‘promise to pay’ at the other end.  In this case, we were visiting the Lincoln Cathedral, and the idea was that if we ‘promised to pray’ we could get in for free.  We thought this a very good deal, assisted by a one minute silent intercessionary prayer at midday, when we just happened to be walking through on the way from our Cathedral shop purchasing. It also saved us going back for Evensong that night.                                                             Meanwhile, back to  why we came. Lincoln Cathedral was built by William around  the same time as York Cathedral and has a Norman Castle, which is much more in tact than the remnant Clifford Tower in York. We paid for an electronically guided tour of the area, by walking the still in tact walls which circulate the Castle. It now encloses more recent buildings, an asylum, an a prison. The Minster and Cathedral are preserved well, and although the original famous tall tower (the tallest in this world for around 300 years!) is no longer, it is still very impressive, both inside and out.                                                                                                                                                   We enjoyed our visit, and our cafe treats very much, and I enjoyed not walking down the massive hill, but using the local bus to the central station, walking the High Stree, and checking out St Mary’s thousand year old Church and other regular downtown features.                                                                                                                                         We returned home to our 2 night AirBnb on the bus to polish off the pasties I’d bought downtown and prepare for the mammoth three bus ride to London the next day.

 

6E8DB386-57F5-4EAE-9448-A3E9417EB5CF                                                              Lincoln Cathedral                                                                                                                    Thanks Stephen Hastings for walking to the top of the Castle Tower to get this photo! There is a bit of a repair job happening at the bottom… hence the white sheeting.

 

 

930BB23F-1BBE-4F9F-8ABE-A2642C808757.jpegLincoln Castle

A:A6 BREXIT BANTER: UK TRAVELS Autumn 2019: My Family History and oldest Methodist Church: Heptonstall

Saturday 28th September:                                                                                               Unlike my last trip to the UK where I tracked three sides of my family tree, by visiting Northern Ireland and Cambridgeshire, this time I am buried in the land of my Mother’s Father’s Cheffins family.  So what have I learned? Not too many specifics that we didn’t know before, but it is clear that this is the heartland of the Non-Conformist Methodism that that and my Father’s family, and eventually I, were reared in.                                                                                                                               ‘Cheffins’ is likely from the Normandy period, since it has French origins, but since the hunter-gatherers of this land have been around since the sea rose and separated Britain from Europe around 7,000 to 5,000 years ago, who knows how far our ancestors goes back. After that the Celts were invaded by the Romans, Anglo Saxons from Europe and then the Vikings, before the Normans had a go.                                    Anyway it is pretty clear that Great Grandfather Benjamin Cheffins had had enough of the place by mid 1880s, and tried settling in the US, but seems to have returned through Hull, where he was born?, to Leeds (where perchance we visited!) to die.     It isn’t clear to me how the brothers, George (my Grandfather) and James, persuaded the remaining members of the family to migrate to Australia, but the brothers arrived in Perth in the late 1800s, having I believe tried out the Eastern States first, and leaving some members of the family there. In Perth, probably having picked up skills from their time in the US, they formed the first electrical engineering company in Perth, put up our first lifts (see Wesley and Trinity), which prospered for 50 years, despite the death of James at an early age. We are all a bit hazy about this, and nobody has paid an Ancestry.com fee lately to make sure this is all accurate. But where we have visited remains very much the area they left from, and to confirm it, a famous ’Cheffins’ company is now auctioneering everything they can get their hands on… art, real estate and machinery. Surely relatives somehow, but too far back for me to bother searching.

To complete our Yorkshire journey two of the three of us was drawn to a little village outside Hebden Bridge call Heptonstall. S wanted to see Sylvia Plath’s grave and I wanted to see the oldest existing Methodist Chapel in the UK. We were both rewarded. St. Thomas Church graveyard finally produced this grave, and just down the road was what I had found mention of in the library down the road the day before… the Methodist Chapel. John Wesley visited here. Today the Minister and all the officials are women. I wonder what John and Charles would have made of that!

Heptonstall Methodist Chapel: built end of the 18th Century, had 337 members by 1802