The end!

I have now written up my reflections on my time away. Along with the content of this blog they give a good account of what I got up to. You can find the reflection document at http://www.stlawrencejewry.org.uk/sabbatical-2018/

I may not continue blogging. The time and discipline required may be too much. Let’s see…

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Writing week

I am spending this week writing a reflection on my time away. I did some transport stats.

Cars                                                    33

Planes                                                12

Trains                                                 11 plus one engine shed

Boats                                                  11

Coach/Bus                                           7 (including one across an Airport tarmac)

Trams                                                    5

Cable car                                              2 including one which was really a funicular railway.

Tractor                                                  1 (with Robert on the farm)

On foot                                              Loads!

The saddest thing about this is, probably, that I kept a record!

More on the report in the next couple of days.

Hi honey! I’m home

After I blogged last night I fulfilled my stated ambition and swam in the Persian Gulf opposite Sophy and Trad’s place. It was sooo warm! What an opportunity!

This morning I once again packed my bag. When I first arrived at Heathrow 11 weeks ago it weighed 18.5kg. Today it was 23kg. You see: when I keep complaining that it is harder to pack each time you think I am just a hopeless packer. I am not sure how it has grown by so much! Perhaps it is all the thingsI have bought for Sue.

I checked in and found the lounge. Buying a pass to a comfortable lounge and seat was definitely a good idea. It is much more comfortable than sitting opposite a perfume store on a metal bench.

The flight left the terminal on time, but we then sat on the tarmac for an hour. ‘Busy day at Dubai and one taxi-way is being repaired’ was the excuse we were given.

Nonetheless we arrived at Heathrow on time and I am now back home.

There is so much to reflect on and to say, so I shall do a few more final posts in the next few days, but for now the main purpose is to let you know I am back at home in London. I am not back at work until 9th July, so I shall have time for a think and some writing up of what I have done.

More tomorrow.

Dubai Old Town

I finished last night by going down for a walk on the promenade after dinner. The temperature had plummeted to a mere 33 degrees. The habit here is that at about 9.30pm everyone, but everyone, is out for a stroll in the ‘cool” night air. So I joined them for a bit of people watching and a paddle. The water was so lovely. I was tempted to strip off and dive in, but its not the done thing when many people around me were in national costume. I took this picture, and ask you to look at it carefully, as at first glance it looks like a wee bit odd. It is me paddling.

For the same reason my pictures suggest that there was only a few people around. There were loads, but I did no know who would mind being photographed.

Today Sophy kindly took a day off work and took me off to the old town. She took me to the other section of the canal, to a place she has known and loved in the past. Unfortunately, when we came out of the car park they had totally redeveloped the entire area, throwing a certain degree of confusion upon her. The redevelopment consisted of a load of recreated traditional buildings which are about 2km of shops and cafes. It is only half filled so it is still deserted, but will in due course be yet another wonderful tourist attraction, despite the camels!

The brown boats are Dhows, the traditionally shaped boat of the region. Most of what you see are tourist boats, but there are also real examples of trading boats, probably plying their trade between the peninsular and India and elsewhere.

Next we went to the Dubai Museum, and explored a bit of the history of the place. Dare I say that it was not the most exciting museum I have been to on my trip. But, since Sophy has managed museum projects here in the Emirates she was able to give me a much better commentary and answer all the questions I wanted to ask. It was great having her local knowledge alongside me.

We got to the Museum by crossing the canal on an Abra, the small local ferries which charge remarkably little. They cross cross the canal fully loaded with passengers (except the one we went on was not – but the other pictures shows a full one).

We went through the souk and were ‘molested’ by all the guys outside each bazaar. It is that wonderful tradition of greeting and inviting you in and suggesting what you want! All very troubling to this Brit abroad. But it was an experience not to be missed.

We then went for lunch. We found a restaurant which Sophy knew, and which had escaped the redevelopment. Here is a picture of it taken from the water and the food. We had a lovely lunch sitting watching the busy waterway beside us. My idea of heaven.

It was very hot (probably nearly 40 degrees) so we decided not to go on to the spice souk. Now, as you will understand, Sophy being a local checked how to get back to the car park via a ferry (Abra). It is great having a local guide at times like this.

So, anyway, we had a nice walk round the spice souk. (No, of course we did not get the wrong boat – how dare you think such a thing. We just adapted to developing circumstances – namely that we eended up by the souk instead of the car park. That is truly creative tourism!

It turned out to be a good thing. I bought some frankincense. That’s the Christmas sermon sorted! The stall we found, amongst the many, had a very nice guy who was less pushy than some.

We then caught a ferry back to the restaurant and started again! This time Sophy decided that given the heat we should grab a taxi, and so we found our way back to the car.

It was a fantastic and fascinating day. Perhaps one of the most fascinating things was how different that end of the City is compared to the end where I am staying and the central area where I went yesterday. The contrast between the Dubai Mall and the souk within 5km of each other is a good summary of Dubai, with its ancient history and modern identity. The old and the new (even though the old is redeveloped and updated) are so very different. I loved UEA!

So tomorrow morning I set off on my last leg – back to Heathrow. I shall send you a report tomorrow evening!

I have one ambition left this evening – to go for a swim in the Persian Gulf at sunset.

So I am off!

The Dubai Big Bus.

Today I have had yet another great time. I woke to this amazing sight and to my new friend Ren. Apparently he is prone to being shy with newcomers, but I am blowed if I can see it. We are mates already!

While Sophy and Trad were at work trying to earn enough money to keep me in food and drink I went off and explored Dubai using the Big Bus trip, much like those which run in London and which I used in Sydney. It’s a great way to get an overview of a new City. I caught the bus from the sea front opposite the flat. I noticed while I was waiting that my hostess is so famous in the area that they have named the hotel next door after her. Most impressive!

I started the tour and tried to take pictures of the scenes along the way. But it is not always easy when moving along. Still, that will not spare you.

38 degrees by this stage. I loved it. I saw many of the iconic buildings of the City.

I hopped off a couple of times to see two of the largest Shopping Malls in the world – all very mind blowing. The Dubai Mall is 1M square meters, has 1200 shops, and is said to be the largest in the world. They are adding more shops soon and expects to reach the sum of 1M shoppers per year. It also has an amazing aquarium, which I saw, and some fountains and a waterfall, which I did not find! I had lost the will to shop very soon after arriving! So that will be 999,999 shoppers, as I ducked out.

And then, of course we also went onto the Palm Jumeirah and saw the great hotel at the end and the beach.

Having completed two of the three possible circuits I hopped of for a harbour tour. You know my love of boats by this stage.

We went down the canal and out to sea just opposite the flat. Here is the view of their place from the sea.

Most interesting fact of the day: although much the new new infrastructure and development was funded by oil money which began to flow in the late 1960s, now oil only accounts for 7% of GDP.

And so the day is winding down. REN is happy. The sun is setting.

Tomorrow Sophy (she of the hotel fame) is taking me to see the Museum and the old quarter of the City. Meanwhile, here is a wedding photo!

Goodbye Singapore. Hello Dubai

This morning it rained really heavily in Singapore, thus scuppering my plan for a swim before departing. After ”’prayer and laying on of hands’ I managed to get everything back into my case. Then we all went out for brunch by the river.

I then went off to the airport by taxi and checked in. The airport has a butterfly garden.

Thinking of wildlife, that reminds me. I saved this picture from yesterday’s long blog. When we went to lunch at the hawkers stalls there was a guy with some lovely parrots. At last!

The plane trip today was good. Boeing 777 by Singapore Airlines. Very smooth check in, very smooth boarding, very smooth service and food. I found myself thinking: if Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines can make a huge and busy airport check-in seem this easy, why can no-one else?

Oh, and the three seats had me at the window and someone else on the aisle, so a little elbow room as no-one was between us. My favourite plane journey so far. It was a 7 hour flight, but even that does not seem so bad if you have a few inches of elbow room.

I was met the Dubai by Trad. He is half of Sophy and Trad, another 2012 wedding, two months before James and Anjuli! But at the moment I can’t find their wedding picture. I also see Sophy’s Mum from time to time as she lives in the Barbican. We have been in touch closely within the past few months, and they persuaded me to add one last stop to my itinerary: Dubai. I am so glad I did. This is the view from their flat. I simply can’t believe I am here!

Tomorrow I shall meet their son Ren. Can’t wait. It’s been a long day, with 4 hours added in for change of time zone. I am now only three hours behind London!

Singapore explore

Today was a marvellous day exploring Singapore. Anjuli had booked a taxi ride for us. The driver is also a tour guide and he took Paul and I around. Our driver was Danny. He took us to so many interesting places, this may be another long blog.

We first went to the relatively new marina development. This is a barrage designed to keep fresh water in the bay. Currently, Singapore gets most of its water from Malaysia to the north, so they are trying to be more self sufficient. The population is c5M and much of the expansion is done by land reclamation of which this development is an example.

It has the bay with its massive harbour to one side and the city behind. Then, as we drove on, Danny was very willing to engage in open conversation about all sorts of subjects: his family, housing rights in the City, gay marriage, water conservation, national service, religion, and much more. It was very special to be on a 1-2-1 situation with a guide and scratch the surface of his commentary on the City sights. Next we went to the Indian quarter. We visited a Hindu Temple, of which there are many.

We also stopped at one of the Tamil restaurants so that Paul could but some food to take back to Vaz, who is Tamil Indian by background.

Next stop was to pass through the Chinese quarter, and then on for a stroll through the Arab quarter where we also visited the Malaysian Heritage Centre. We stopped for a coffee, and I had an Arab coffee locally renowned. It was a bit sweet for me.

The differences in feel and architecture in these areas was fascinating. In London there are many such communities who group together, but they live in, broadly, Victorian architecture, and the shop fronts alone give away the heritage of the local community. Here, as a much newer city, the architecture changes too.

From here we went up Mount Faber, the highest point in the City, to take in the amazing view and the gardens with exotic local flowers.

It was time for some lunch so he took us to a local Mall and Hawker Centre. Each local community in the City is well served with local shops and hawkers. The Hawker centres are food halls with loads of small stalls each serving a different local or traditional dish from their home countries. He recommended some food. We had rice with soy sauce and carrot cake. Carrot cake means something very different here. It is a sort of vegetable omelette and quite spicy!

He then drove us down to the river where our trip with him ended. He had been really great.

I then took a boat trip down the river and round the harbour.

We passed many of the iconic buildings of the City. The three towers with a ‘boat’ on top are a huge hotel complex which includes an open area across the top with infinity pool and leisure facilities. The lotus shaped building is the Art/Science Museum. The space ship is in fact the Supreme Court. The Merlion stature is a symbol of Singapore, part lion and part mermaid.

For the second half of the boat trip I was the only person onboard and had a long chat to Abdul, who kindly told me about his life here in Singapore.

I disembarked and met Paul and we returned home, wiser and ready for a rest!

One other picture reminded me of my daughter-in-law.

Singapore has been a wonderful experience. I am so grateful to Anjuli and James, Paul and Vaz, for their planning and their kindness in hosting me. Tomorrow is another travel day as I head towards Dubai, so a shorter report tomorrow evening.

I think.

There is talk about what we can do in the morning before I get a taxi at 12 noon to go to the airport, so it may be longer. Wait and see.

Happy Birthday to Anjuli!

Today is Anjuli’s birthday, so we had a lovely start to the day. She claims to be thirty something. I have access to the wedding register so I can check whether she is fibbing!

Having arrived in Singapore there is a new time difference so I am still trying to work out when to FaceTime Sue – I just need to worked out what slot works when we are both up and awake.

I sat on the balcony again this morning in 28 degrees of heat and drank coffee as the sun rose and reflected off the clouds and the buildings.

Since it is so warm I wore shorts today. Many of you will know that this is virtually unheard of. No proof will be supplied! But in the process I put my sun glasses in my pocket, which turns out to not merit that description. By the time I went to put them on I had lost them. Oh bother!

Paul and I went off to the museum this morning while Anjuli and the children had a rest. Little Ted had a bad night, and therefore, so did Anjuli. I slept through it all. James went to work and Vaz had an appointment. Vaz was trying to persuade me to get a massage. Mmm.

We first went to the National Museum of Singapore which has a whole floor dedicated, not surprisingly, to the history of the Island. I have to say I had no point of reference or awareness of the history, so it was really helpful.

The City connection is the British East India Company, for whom Raffles worked.It had started about two centuries before the Rafffles incursion into Singapore3, BT nonetheless it is a City link and justifies me being here.

We then walked up through one of many beautiful parks to The Battlebox. This is another tourist attraction, which is situated in the former army bunker which operated in the Second World War. Once again it was good to be reminded of the turbulent history of the past and of the way in which Singapore, which became a state in 1965, has reinvented itself and excelled all expectations.

We next went off to find Raffles Hotel, which was one iconic place I wanted to see. Like all the parrot sanctuaries in previous blogs it was closed for refurbishment! But they still have a small gift shop, with the required man in colonial dress,

We then hopped back home to check on the state of play with Ted, who was clearly under the weather. Anjuli took him to the doctor who said that it was a virus and that he had sores in his throat. No wonder the poor little man was complaining. Her birthday dinner will now be at home, so I am spared my obligation of babysitting with Paul and Vaz. However, I have done my bit to entertain him!

We have more trips planned for tomorrow. Meanwhile, here is a picture of the great wedding of James and Anjuli in December 2012.

A swim, a flight and a swim!

After I blogged last night I decided that I just had to have a swim the the pool at the hotel on Port Douglas. You will see how beautiful and blue it is at night.

This is not just a lighting effect. It is in fact a warning that it is freezing. But the jacuzzi thawed me out!

I was picked up at 6am local time this morning to be ‘transferred’ to Cairns (so called) International Airport. Not a lot going on there. Cairns was very excited in 2016 when an international flight was introduced to Singapore. They have about half a dozen flights a day to other international cities, which makes connectivity from the City much better than in the past. It will make a great difference to tourism here, not least because people from this corner of Australia had to travel internally before they could get very far in the past. I am guessing they used to have to go down to Brisbane before the International bit expanded.

Anyway, I have taken advantage of this and I flew out on the 10.55 to Singapore.

The flight is 6 and a half hours. Not much to tell about that really. A typical 737-800, with no space for legs or for elbows.

Eating lunch becomes a challenge. It is a bit like a Livery dinner where it has been over-booked and the caterers just made everyone fit on the table. So long as you sync and eat in alternation it is possible to get the food from the plate to your mouth!

I had booked a window seat, but seat 8A is next to a piece of fuselage with no window!

I was picked up by Paul and he took me to James and Anjuli’s wonderful residence in the City. More amazing views from their balcony.

I am staying in the play room, so I was greeted by two hairy monsters. No, not Maya and Ted, the children aged about 1 and 3, but these two.

There is also a pool, so after bath and bed time for the children I went down for a swim.

It was wonderful as it is so warm (when you get out!) It is now 9pm and the temperature is 27 degrees. Perfect. So I have written this on the balcony, while James and Paul are watching something called the World Cup. I have to admit it had completely passed me by! But then I have always felt that the last five minutes of a World Cup final is sufficient football for me every 4 years.

Tomorrow I explore Singapore. They have plans for me!

Kuranda

Off by bus early again today for another trip. This one is my 60th birthday present from Mum and Joy and all. I had a typical last day in any place, packing as much in as I could. Lots to tell you.

The bus took me back south towards Cairns and to the World Heritage Site I mentioned two days ago. The tropical rainforests here are ancient, fragile and protected. I was taken to the Skyrail Terminal. This is a cable car which runs over the top of the rainforest.

In the first section we rose up above Cairns and over the first section of forest. I shared a gondola with a couple from Launceston in Tasmania. He was celebrating his 60th birthday. How odd is that, Beth?

The first stop is at Smithfield. Each section takes about 15 minutes. At Red Peak Station where there is a boardwalk to allow you to walk through the forest and see the foliage close up.

Then over the forest again for section two.

The next stop is Barron Falls. The waterfalls should be massive but even here in Queensland, where the climate is very wet usually, there is little water to show for it.

There is a view of the falls from the gondola and then from a view point in the forest.

A train runs up the other side of the valley and you can see it from the viewing point.

And so after stage three I arrived at Kuranda Village. It’s an odd place in some ways. It is a 19th century mining town but it has recreated itself as a tourist attraction. There are craft shops and outlets in all shapes and sizes. Most sell rather odd things, of the plastic kangaroo type, but in between there were others selling authentic aboriginal gifts and crafts. One was built to look like a ship. I am not clear why.

For lunch I had kangaroo steak in a restaurant overlooking lovely gardens. It had to be done. As everyone had told me it is like a beef steak, with a game edge to it and much more chewy than beef. I liked it, although I am not sure I would order it twice – unless i was in a vegetarian restaurant!

I then walked the town some more. It has a range of attractions. I had decided to go to Birdworld to see the parrots. Guess what? It was shut for 4 days for maintenance. These people must see the Parrott coming.

So instead I walked the forest trail, under the railway and Skytrain, and along the River Barron.

The next step was to get down the mountain. I took the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Even the platforms are scenic.

I upgraded to the carriage with free refreshments! And comfortable seats.

We stopped at Barron Falls for the view.

Then we continued and the views were amazing.

The train crew were keen to take pictures for us. Both the pictures which she took looked like I was asleep. I was not.

At the end of the day we traveled back up the coast road past all the amazing beaches.

As if all this was not enough I come to my pic of the day. This was in the loo at the, um, ‘bottom’ of Skyrail. There seems to be no limit to the need for advice to the public. KB to suggest this to Paul Roberts, the Health & Safety officer at Guildhall, for the Members’ toilets in Guildhall. She might suggest the caption: CCCguide2P. (That is an in joke!!)

Then she can get the blame for it and no one will ever know I suggested it. 😁

I got back, having done my shirt count. The apartment has ‘one between two’ washing machines. Next door has hijacked the washing machine, so I shall rely on Anjuli’s machine being empty tomorrow when I arrive.

Tomorrow is another travel day so the post should be shorter. I will be picked up at 6am from here for transfer to the airport. Then a flight to James and Anjuli in Singapore. I am being met by Paul, Anjuli’s dad, who used to be a senior officer in Guildhall. Glad he is meeting me, of course, but why???? I leave London, he retired, and yet I am still arriving in Singapore to be met by a man from Guildhall. Oh well! It reminds me I am heading home. (And he knows me well enough not to take offence!)