Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

As John Wayne might not have said 🙂

I have a confession to make. Back in 2013, I wrote a post called [Milk: Good Food? Bad Food?] where having suffered from a number of chest infections a good dear friend of mine who, if she is reading this will probably throw her arms up in despair and come round to box my ears, advised me to cut out milk and related products. As I so wanted, nay, needed, to get back out cycling and I did actually quite like the idea of breathing, I did as I was told and the differences were remarkable. I’m not saying I was cured but my breathing did improve and yes, I did get back out on my bike and did actually build up to doing 50 – 60 miles rides so that I could take part in a 500 mile cycle challenge though France which consisted of 7-days cycling included 70, 80, or even 90 mile rides. And it felt so good. Podge was back in the saddle. Still fat, but back in the saddle nevertheless.

Sadly, having completed the cycle challenge, my bike was returned to the garage and I fell once into a life of dietary abuse. Yes, I went back to milk products. The lure of Shreddies and CoCo Pops was just too great.  It’s important to note that I could of course justify my actions thus:

  • Shreddies are full of roughage so good for weight management;
  • Scientists, doctors & professors had responded (mainly via LinkedIn) to my article on Milk  to say that there was little or no evidence to suggest that Milk was bad for respiratory problems;
  • Shreddies gave me energy;
  • My breathing was fine now so no need to worry;
  • I had my 60th Birthday and my Wedding Cruise to get through;
  • I liked my Shreddies.

Naturally, and conveniently, I ignored the fact that so many other people with respiratory problems had also responded to my post to the effect that Yes, Milk had been shown to be bad and cutting it from their diets made dramatic improvement.

Thinking back, I find it curious that those in the know (doctors, professors, etc.), really don’t know and those supposedly not in the know (those that actually suffer) actually do know a great deal: They certainly do know that when they cut out milk, the difference is quickly apparent.

Of course, through those winter months and of course my two P&O cruises, all milk related matters faded into obscurity. I’m sorry again Liz. And I gorged my way around the Canaries. I abused my digestive systems all through Christmas and then I just went overboard (no pun intended) in gluttony as we sailed around Australia and on to Singapore.

Then, in March, my health took a turn for the worse which was exacerbated (see, I do know big words) by the worst air pollution London (where I work) has seen for many, many years. This time however, I was really bad, to the point of being frightened, almost to the point of wishing I didn’t have to breathe any more. The Vets, sorry, doctors, put me on a course of steroids and antibiotics. I ate all these up but there was no improvement: walking from bedroom to bathroom still left me fighting to breath. The Vets 🙂 gave me a load more steroids and some seriously sting antibiotics. I ate all these. Still no change, though I diid notice the antibiotics had a strange effect on me, with each tablet having a similar effect to that of eating a tin beans: In hindsight, thats the only effect they had on me. I was still struggling. I went back to the Vets. They were perplexed. I had no infection but I was clearly fighting to breath. So they tried  putting me on water tablets(!). These were supposed to help get rid of any water retention (I made the mistake of telling them that I had developed Cankles while on holiday, which I normally do). Still no effect. I’d had enough: I didn’t know what to do: it was genuinely getting me down, and frightened. And then I had a eureka moment.

As I sat on the Sofa, tucking into my bowl of Shreddies, mixed with Cheerios, I suddenly remembered what I’d been told back in 2013 (sorry again Liz) and I’d actually advocated. Milk, yes, Milk is bad for people with respiratory problems. And not just milk, but products related to milk, such as cheese, which I happen to enjoy as well; though not with my cereals of course, were also bad. And as I sat there, ‘enjoying’ my breakfast even though every spoonful was followed by a fight to draw breath once more, I knew the answer: I had always known the answer. My dear friend Liz had given me the answer yet I’d fallen by the wayside once more. Some people are addicted nicotine (I once was myself, cue COPD); some people are addicted to alcohol (I’m not, but I do like it, honest, I’m not, I just like it, a lot 🙂 ); some idiots are addicted to narcotics (best of luck to them): I however am addicted to Milk, and I needed to kick the habit: I’ve beaten Nicotine addiction so milk should be a doodle. And so, with that thought, I made the  break.

24 hours makes all the difference

24 hours really does make all the difference because having taken milk and milk related products out of my diet, the very next day saw a marked improvement, an improvement that has continued to be so on a day by day basis. My breathing is easier, I’m more relaxed and almost a pleasure to be around. I’m not cured, but I’m getting better. I’m still fat but I’ll get thinner. I’m still old and, I’m glad to say, I’ll get older (a couple of times over the past couple of weeks I did wonder about that). I’m still ugly, but then the Good Lord decided that ugly I would be so I’ll probably stay ugly. Though, as I have told Mrs Me on a number of occasions, I am quite a catch so maybe not so ugly after all. The main point is, my breathing is improving and so long as I stay away from milk, and lose a bit of weight, my breathing should continue to improve. I hope so, I’ve a garage full of bicycles screaming out to be ridden.

And so with that, I really am getting of my milk and riding my bike.

And I don’t care if the effect is Psychosomatic or the consequence of withdrawing milk, the result is the same: I can breath.

Go Podge, go.



Perth was our next advertised port of call. Our visit to Perth wasn’t actually so. The port is Freemantle from where one can get to Perth. Perth is a place we never went to, so I suppose, Perth wasn’t really our next port of call after all: it was Freemantle. But Perth was advertised, so Perth we’ll call it – but really, it was Freemantle.

We had elected to take an excursion, not to Perth but to Caversham Wildlife Park followed by a visit to Sandalford Winery vineyard for some always welcomed wine tasting. The best bit was that the excursion didn’t start until after lunch so we could have a relaxing morning starting with a lazy breakfast in a [relatively] empty restaurant while everybody else was out exploring. After this, we went ashore just to get a picture of us in port. And then ‘view’ the Queen Mary 2 that had parked behind us, back-to-back, or stern-to-stern for those with a nautical bent J.

She may regret parking behind us later!

Having had such a late, and rather hearty, breakfast we opted to skip lunch though I did promise myself I would need to hunt down some food on my return, scheduled for 16:30. Anyway, with that decision made, we made our way shore side to join our tour bus and tour guide. As we boarded, we were told that we were the last excursion to leave and would most likely be the last to return which would be just in time for the ship’s allotted departure time so, when we returned, we would be asked to re-board the ship as quickly as possible. No pressure there then! On our last coach excursion, in Adelaide, we had a great tour guide, a ringer for Steve Erwin, but this tour guide was definitely not Australian, or English. She sounded Italian so Italian she shall be. Her grasp of the language was good but not good enough and seemed to have trouble when trying to explain some aspects of the local area: This wasn’t helped by a PA system that worked only half way up the coach with intermittent feedback and even, on occasions, cutting out. For the first hour, we made our way through the city traffic and the myriad of traffic lights, which always seemed against us. Eventually however, we reached the outskirts and, at last left the city behind. Not before however, we caught a brief glimpse of Perth’s skyline, so at least we can we say we’ve seen Perth even if we never actually went there. The one thing we did notice was how dry everything was. This area is known to be hot but this season had been a particularly hot one with no rain for 4-months. (As I’m writing this and looking at the news from Perth –re: the lost Air Malaysian flight MH370 – I get the feeling that the dry spell is most definitely over). The ground was so dry and the grass looked like straw: a far cry from the floods we had left back home in England. How ironic that we in the UK are seeing the most rainfall since I don’t know when yet here on the other side of the world, they’re experiencing heat waves and extended periods (4-months) without rain.

Eventually however, we reached the wildlife park and were told we would have 50 minutes here before we would have to move on to the winery.

As we got off the coach, the wall of heat hit us; it was chuffing hot. 50 minutes I decided would be more than enough. And anyway, we had already seen a group of wild Kangaroos on the way to the park so we’d already got our money’s worth :-). As we made our way through the park, it quickly became obvious that once more, Mrs Me (now official) would be happy as there was an abundance of wallabies / kangaroo’s (even white ones) and Koala’s for her to play with.

IMG_3663 IMG_3603 Mrs Me was truly, once more in heaven and if Mrs Me is happy, then so am I and even better, we still had the wine tasting to come. At this centre there was an abundance of Koala’s and Mrs Me got to fiddle with, not all of them, but enough to sate her appetite for Koala acquainting. After that, it was a quick dash to the Wallaby / Kangaroo section, where once more, we were able to feed them, if they had any appetite of course. And an appetite they did not have. We put this down to the fact that there was a great big bin from which anybody could grab as much food as they wanted for feeding purposes. Clearly, they had had more than enough for one day, though there was one that had some interest. IMG_3643 But, before we left, we espied an area with numerous birds, including a Kookaburra.   IMG_3630and, a Wombat called Neil who we simply couldn’t resist having our photo taken with. I’m note sure it was the most flattering of photos, at least from Neil’s perspective: I’m sorry Neil, but Mrs Me did insist on me being in the picture. IMG_3638

Time for the Winery.

In no time at all, we were back on the coach and heading over to the winery where we would have the opportunity to listen to them tell us all about the grapes, the history of the vines, how the wine is stored in barrels for who knows how long, the bottling process, and finally how to taste the wine.  Now, there’s a couple of things you need to know at this point: my parents used to run a pub where we sampled and sold lots of wine and beer, we handled barrels of all sizes (Kilderkins, Firkins & Polypins / Pins). We were also keen gardeners so we know how things grow and I briefly worked in a brewery so I also knew about bottling so if anybody thought I was going to stand around and listen to all that, they were so very, very much mistaken. While everybody else stood around waiting for their ‘lecturer’ to turn up and talk, Mrs Me and I went straight into the shop where a rather attractive (ouch, my ear hurts again) young assistant who was more than happy to let us taste all sorts of wine before we bought some bottles, just for the journey and of course to support the local industries. Having bought what we wanted we went over to the lecture area, which was now finished while the rest crowded into the store. We now had easy access to all the remaining wine plus cheese plus biscuits. We were well sorted. At the allotted time, we made our way back to the coach then had to wait until everybody else had made their choices / purchases before we could leave, now 30 minutes late and 30 minutes before the time we had to be back on the ship with a 45 minute drive ahead of us.

We were going to be late.

Now, I’m sure you can work this out. We had to be back by 16:30, we were 30 minutes from last boarding time so it was therefore 16:00. We had a 45 minute drive back to the ship through the city of Freemantle, just when people are starting to finish work for the day and head for home, or the beach or the bar, etc., etc. The 45-minute drive was going to take longer than 45 minutes. It took 75 minutes. And what an interesting 75 minutes it was to be. Naturally, the traffic took its toll on us as did the numerous traffic lights but at least it enabled me to view the sights of Freemantle. I now know that if I ever want to buy heavy duty diggers, giant earth movers, tankers – of any variety, cement mixers, 18-wheeler rigs or even a WWII tank, the outskirts of Feemantle was the place to go. They also seemed to like their ‘adult shops’ though Mrs Me wouldn’t let me jot down the website address’s. Bulk Billing for various medical services was another frequent observation as well: What that was all about, I really don’t know but as every other one was of a dental nature I took little notice. At last, we reached the ship, late. But as it happened we weren’t the last but the sail away party was set to start in 15 minutes so it was a mad dash back to out cabin to deposit our purchases (fridge magnets, cuddly toys, post cards, etc. the usual stuff) before heading up the terrace bar.


I think we need a bigger fridge.

The deck was packed with fellow travellers all waving either UK or Australia flags, either way, the Union Jack was flying, to a mix of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Australian songs all of which got louder and more involving as the sailing time approached. The volume and general boisterousness of our singing, cheering and dancing was in response to the passengers on the opposite deck on the QM2 who just stood there and looked at us in bemusement. Clearly those on Cunard do not know how to have a good time although eventually, they did stoke up a 4-piece jazz band but they had no chance against all the Arcadia passengers in full voice backed up by the Arcadia PA System including LOUD recordings of the ships horn. The songs came and went; the minutes ticked by; the QM2 looked on – in silence; and still, we didn’t move. Then came the dreaded announcement (happens at virtually every port). The ships announcement is made, could Mr so and so from cabin so and so please contact reception. This means that somebody has been ashore but they either haven’t yet returned or they haven’t been registered as returned (it’s normally the latter of course). At this point the vote takes place, all in favour of waiting for them to return shout ‘aye’ (nothing): all those in favour of leaving them behind shout ‘aye’ – without exception, all shouted ‘AYE’. Then we shouted across at the QM2 to ask if Mr so and so was on their ship. They looked back, blankly and said nothing, though a couple had managed to find a flag to wave (obviously previous P&O passengers). The ships announcement was repeated a couple more times before eventually Mr so and so had been tracked down. But still we didn’t move.




And why didn’t we move? We didn’t move because we were waiting for the QM2 to go first as she was in our way. But at last, about an hour and half later, she untied her strings and pushed away from the the side and she was away with us on the Arcadia waving her farewell. And, with that, we also cut loose our strings, pushed away then we had to do a complete turn to face the right way and then we too were off.


And, as the sun sett on yet another beautiful day, we set course up the west coast of Australia across the Indian Ocean towards Bali, a journey that would take us 3-days.

That was the end of Australia and so for us, Perth truly was our final frontier: for Australia anyway. But fear not Australia, we loved you all. It was probably the best country we’ve visited to date and yes, we’ll be back, with P&O of course.

I never did get any lunch that day 😦

And we were only there for two days and a night.

This is an epic: I make no apologies: Sydney is, after all an epic city.

After three days and nights at sea, it was good to make land, in fact we were ecstatic – God alone knows (and the world cruisers) how we would have been after 8 days and nights at sea – Better still, the land we made was Sydney: we’d waited so long for this day, although the preceding day of blue, blue skies and an unbelievably flat Tasman Sea made the wait so much more tolerable: yet we were here. We had actually arrived at Sydney, Australia; the other side of the world.

We awoke, yes unbelievably the ‘we’ stands for both Mrs Me as well as me, at 05:00 to watch us sail into Sydney Harbour and: seeing for our first time, Sydney Harbour Bridge & Sydney Opera House ‘in the flesh’ an emotional moment it surely was.

When we booked this trip so many moons ago, we immediately booked an excursion through P&O to see an Opera in the Opera House, even though we didn’t know which one it was going to be. As it turned out, the Opera was to be Carmen, an Opera we had seen & loved twice before; once in the Verona Arena (in Italian) and again in the the Royal Albert Hall in London (in English) so it was going to be interesting to see it again – in yet another iconic venue – and hear it in French.

Prior to our arrival in Sydney, the Captain explained that we could only park where we were going to park (opposite the Opera House) if we arrived very early or late so as to avoid the rush hour. The reason became apparent almost as soon as we’d parked and tied the boat to the side with all it’s strings. Immediately in front of us were the ferry piers with boats of all sizes coming to drop off its cargo of commuters and tourists and to collect the next batch. This went on all day with the mix of commuters and tourists adjusting according to the time of day. Some boats were small little water taxis carrying no more than a dozen passengers while others were huge great big buggers that looked like small ships. At any one time, there was on average 4 coming in and 4 going out, constantly, all day long. No wonder we had to come in early.

Once we satisfied ourselves that we had parked correctly and was tied up nice and secure, Mrs Me and I went for breakfast where we (sorry, She) planned what we were going to do for the day. After much discussion, which consisted of Mrs Me discussing and me nodding my head, we agreed to just wander around the immediate vicinity, explore the area called the Rocks, find somewhere to drink, look for Australian Opals, find somewhere to eat, walk around Circular Quays, checkout the Opera House, find somewhere to drink, check ferry options for the next day, find somewhere to drink, watch the world go by then go back to the boat to get ready for the Opera. And, that’s exactly what we did. And having done it, we were hot and weary. So hot and weary in fact that we felt it necessary to return to our cabin early enough to allow us it sit and relax on our balcony, just watching Sydney’s hustle and bustle: we also felt it necessary to drink the bottle of champagne that had replaced the last one we drunk.
Point of information for P&O; if you keep putting champagne in our fridge, we’ll keep drinking it. 🙂

Our next decision point was what do we wear for the Opera. A quick scan of the various paperwork suggested that open neck shirt, jacket & smart trousers would be just fine. For Mrs Me something nice (anything she wears make it something nice though).

The next challenge was going from the ship to the Opera House, about 500 metres, or a 10 minute gentle stroll. But no, we were to be transported there by coach. With boarding time – an age in itself – and the drive, seemingly, round Sydney, the whole thing took around 30 minutes. Naturally, we elected to walk back after the Opera.

At last, we were in the Sydney Opera House. We made our way up 120 steps, only to espy an escalator as we reached the top, before making our way to the pre-show bar looking out across the harbour. We genuinely felt so lucky/privileged just being there, let alone being lucky enough to have tickets to see the [sell out] show. In fact, we felt it necessary to drink 2 or 3 more glasses of fizzy pop before going into the theatre. Once inside, we found our seats and waited while the theatre filled, with people wearing the full range of outfits, from full dinner suites and evening dresses to sandals, jeans & T-shirts. And all sorts in between, some of which, and I’m talking about the female variety here, were more than a little pleasing on the eye. ouch, leave my ear alone: it hurts. Anyway, they were, very pleasing on the eye indeed.

The lights went down, the orchestra sounded off and the Opera was on. And as it started, the story once again came flooding back, with Carmen as ever looking voluptuous ( ouch, my ear hurts again). In a way, the fact that the story was so familiar was good as the effects of close to a bottle of champagne and the heat of the day started to take its toll. But, with all credit to the cast and orchestra, and of course all those that made it happen, I did manage to stay awake for the whole show and yes, I enjoyed every bit of it. I think I may have a bit of a crush on Carmen but given what happens, it probably wouldn’t be a long lasting crush. Now, as I mentioned, I had seen Carmen in Verona, and there, they brought horses onto the stage. They didn’t in London nor did I expect them in Sydney, but they did. Even for part of the curtain call where the horse bowed in appreciation of the thunderous applause. Applause that was well deserved for all involved. And so the show ended, the Opera House emptied and we made our way, on foot, back to the ship, back to our cabin, back to our balcony, back to just one more drink before bed time.

I recommend all to see Carmen at least once.

The next morning we had a slightly later breakfast before returning shoreside to catch a ferry from Circular Quay, going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to Darling Harbour. From here we planned to walk around, via Paddy’s Market & China Town into Hyde Park and the Royal Batonical Gardens back to Circular Quay where would have a late meal so that we could enjoy the 9pm sail away (normally, we would be at dinner between 8:30 & 10:00).

We made Paddy’s Market in good time and immediately decided that Paddy’s Market was not a place that we would spend too much time. It certainly wasn’t our cup of tea. There then followed 10 minutes map reading for my part and questioning on the part of Mrs Me who was convinced I had the map the wrong way round (proof that women can’t read maps) – leave my ear alone woman – before admitting I was right and continuing into China Town, where we stopped to get a coke and jelly beans for Mrs Me who was starting to feel shaky and in need of sugar – nothing of course to do with the excess of champagne the night before! for gods sake, will you stop flicking my ear. Fully rested and watered we continued on to Hyde Park to visit the Anzac Memorial and then onto the fountain of remembrance.

From Hyde Park, we crossed over to the Royal Botanical Gardens. By now, we were starting to flag as the day got hotter (even the tar underfoot felt a little soft) and the exertions and excess of the previous day took its toll. Luckily, we found a small cafe where we could take on proper food and rehydrate ourselves properly. Had we been sitting in London, we would by now be pestered by pigeons but here in Sydney we saw but one solitary pigeon but there were loads of large (duck size) birds with long beaks like curlews. I don’t know what they were, perhaps they were curlews, but they were friendly and cute despite having the back of their heads looking a bit like a vulture. While the temptation was there, we resisted and kept all the food to ourselves.

By the way, as I’m writing this bit, we’re sitting in the Crows Nest enjoying a Singapore Sling , listening to a gaggle of women nattering and the clicking of their ‘knitting needles’ as we sail the Bass Straight between Australia and Tasmania on our way to ‘The Bite’ (which is supposed to be a bit like the Bay of Biscay) and subsequently, Melbourne.

Once again rested, we headed into the gardens proper which were stunning. Pictures I’m afraid will have to wait until we get WiFi that’s a bit quicker and more reliable that satellite. Without a doubt, there was a tropical feel about the place. It was very hot and extremely humid. In fact, it was so bad that when we ‘chanced’ on another cafe, we again felt compelled to site down a replace lost fluids. This time though, with beer :-).

While enjoying our beer’s I took the opportunity to photograph some of the wildlife. As before we were joined by what I now know to be Ibis’s, crows, moorhens and other things that I’ll never know the names of. Then, there was an almighty roar from above. No, it wasn’t a lion! It was an aerobatic team doing their stuff over the harbour. Wow, what a treat that was. I managed to get quite a few pictures, most of which were rubbish so you’ll have to take it from me, they were really good. After that, it was the last push to get back to the ship. On the way however, we strayed upon a tree filled with parrot type birds. Their flash’s of colours darting around over our heads. Brilliant reds, blues and yellows. Only seeing them for real can they truly be appreciated.

At last, we made the ship tired, achy and very, very hot. So hot in fact that we decided to forego the planned meal at Circular Quay and settle for Fish & Chips 🙂 by the pool before retiring to our cabin for the sail away, scheduled for 9 o’clock or 21:00 as us sea farers know it.

Just as we finished our fish & chips however, the sky became very angry, preceded by sudden strong winds and then, the sky opened and down came the rain. Did we care. Not one bit, we were in a sheltered part, by the bar, and anyway, the rain was warm. The rain triggered the need to close the roof over the pool, which turned the area into a something akin to a Sauna. That was our cue to retire.

Back in our cabin, we sat down on sheltered balcony to watch the rain and was now developing into an electrical storm. The lightening arced across the whole sky and moving forever closer. We saw the night bridge walkers quickly retreating from the top before the lightening got too close. The gulls, our forever friends in port went for cover. Then the thunder arrived, which given the immensity of the lightening was rather pathetic, and then, spookily, the allotted time arrived for us to depart. But, nothing happened. In fact nothing happened for at least half an hour. Then it was time; time to let go the strings. All the strings were eventually released and still the ship didn’t move – do we really need all those strings? After what seemed half an hour but probably only a couple of minutes, we were away. We slipped quietly away from the harbour (making lots of noise with the ships horn probably wouldn’t be appreciated by the locals) turned back into the main waterway and sailed out past the Opera House, setting course for Melbourne. I watched, Mrs Me now electing for bed, as we sailed out to sea until we dropped off the pilot at 22:19. Then, it was time for my bed as well.