THE MOODY BLUES!!
Well this day in the calendar is the solstice, back home it is the winter solstice and the day that Andy and I had originally set our wedding date. All the energies about this day were going to be perfect for the day. Winter Solstice being the shortest day and the day to plan for the future, also a new moon and great for new beginnings and well numerology wise, it was ideal too. A day too, for laying down the foundations for the future. Alas the visa process has thrown a spanner into the works for all that but I am still spending this day with the man I love, so all is right in the world. Had I been across my side of the planet though, I am sure it would have been a whole other kettle of fish.
But not to dwell on what could have been, we had a full day ahead of us to enjoy each other’s company and the added bonus of discovering how soul destroying the government departments can be for people looking for work in an economy where there are no real jobs on offer. We were off to sign on and we were running late, my fault again, but hey, we got there. They didn’t complain and we were quickly done and on to the next adventure.
We went to Do Dah’s, some posh little establishment cafe/wine bar on Bank St in Rawtenstall, and the hope of finally getting a Devonshire cream tea (scones with jam and cream). I hate to harp on about this but it was one of the things I was told by an English friend living in Oz, “you have to have a Devonshire cream tea and try apple scrumpy while over there, you will never fully experience it here in Oz like it is there in the UK”. As I didn’t know what apple scrumpy really was (a type of cider apparently) and well, I am not really a fan of apples (long story), so the Devonshire Tea was the real mission. This little place caters for vegetarians, vegans and people with all sorts of intolerances, they even have the Byron Bay Cookies I go on and on and on about, even the sticky date and ginger ones (YUM!!!), so the chances were, it was going to be good.
Well I never even finished the coffee, I just got so deflated by the experience of delivered scone and individually packed sachets of jam and clotted cream. The cream was from the Devonshire area, but, sighs... you know what? I think maybe I am just a little over wheat products. At home I don’t eat many if any wheat products as it causes inflammation in my joints, mainly my knees, and I have struggled with my knees ever since I got to the UK. I think my body just said enough!! So it isn’t that the scone experience wasn’t great, I just think it was time to let go of this mission.
So now I was in a MOOD. Everything was getting to me, I was tearing up at the thought of having to go home, I was over the fact my hair wasn’t as brightly coloured as I wanted it to be after seeing all the awesome other colours that others were sporting, and my knee hurt. GRR!!. There was a hair dressing salon across from the cafe, so that was the next obvious stop. They had no clients in the seats, so I went in and directly asked “how much for a colour?”
“£45, not bad, ok then I would like to book in now please.”
“Ok we have to do a skin test first and you can come back tomorrow to get your hair coloured”.
“WTF!!! Are you serious?”
“WTF!!! Are you serious?”
“Sorry it’s salon policy,” I was told.
RIGHT. Now I was REALLY IN A MOOD!!
I walked out, found another empty salon further down the road, where I was told they don’t do the skin tests as it was obvious I have done hair colour before (Well no sh1t Sherlock), but we can’t fit you in until tomorrow. Sighs. Ok get me out of here!!
THE BIGGEST MOOD IN THE WORLD!!
Soon I had lost interest in everything else too as we walked back to towards Tesco and home. My knee was really hurting me now and getting more and more painful with every step. I had to refocus. Yes I know we were supposed to get married, yes I know the Devonshire tea was a bust and well, just get over the hair colour and deal with it when you get back home to Oz. But for now, just get back to Andy’s and get off your knee. Less pain equals less of a mood (in theory anyway).
I just needed to make the most of the time I had left with Andy and this mood was just killing that.
I guess I just don’t want to go back home without Andy!! Who would?
The sun gets up way too early in the morning over here (4am) for my liking and because of that, we haven’t needed to set any alarms for most days. And anyway, we have just been chilling out at home, taking on any treks as and when the mood takes us and while I’m still trying my best to be on the mend we are having yet another easy day. Caroline - the awesome (as she is now known), has managed to organise for me to go see the last thing on my animals wish list, a real live hedgehog. YAY!! And yet another total stranger who doesn’t know me from Adam is allowing me into her house to enable me to do so. I am loving the hospitality of these wonderful people in this gorgeous little town. I feel so special (licks window). Thanks again for your help Caroline :)
|Awww another huge dose of cuteness|
This morning, Caroline and her friend Angie came round and grabbed us after they tossed their kids off at school. It was still a little cold outside for Australians but believe it or not, I am getting used to walking around in a t-shirt now but I still took a jacket just in case. We walked for about 15 minutes through wooded lanes, past farm buildings, over hills and rain soaked valleys and it would have been faster if I wasn’t hobbling, but I did manage to navigate my way over a makeshift stone built turn-stile. That was a challenge worthy of a post all of its own but I won’t bore you with the strategies employed for scaling the dizzying heights of this Matterhorn styled obstacle course.
|Not Heidi but I so|
WANT this colour!!
Anyways Heidi, who was Angie’s eldest daughter and the owner of the hedgehog, finally got to open up her front door to us. And walking into her house was like walking into a fairyland petting zoo, for it was here that all creatures great and small called this house home, and I was lucky enough to be able to step inside and enjoy this new adventure with them. Our host, with her hot pink hair (yes I was totally annoyed that all her fabulous colours were not on me), handed us her pet albino hedgehog. This little thing was so tiny and spiky. And she hissed whenever you touched her spines although she only once curled up into a ball. BAD ANDY!!!
So how does ONE get to stroke a hedgehog? In truth, you don’t really, you just allow it to crawl all over you and occasionally hold it in your hands and tickle at its belly. They are just gorgeous little creatures. I was led to believe by Mr Robinson that these gorgeous little beings were in fact almost vermin, living outdoors in the wild and just vessels in which to transport heavily infested herds of germ carrying fleas in their coats from one location to another and that due to this; no one would ever think of keeping them as pets. But Maisy the hedgehog, had no such afflictions, she was completely flea free which was good considering there were two dogs, a kitten, a rat and guinea pig and tiny tarantula spiders all living together in the same house.
|Maisy the gorgeous albino hedgehog|
So I finally get to say “hedgehog - check!!!” And all the animals I came to see have all been covered off. And all with so little fuss to boot.
|Welcome to Lambert's Mill|
Well we eventually fare-welled our newly made friends and headed off further down the same road to a nearby place called Lambert's Mill, to check out the footwear factory museum inside and maybe grab a bite to eat. Downstairs was mainly a furniture store and from the looks of the locked door we all piled and crashed into, the museum was closed. According to the shop assistant, it was closed because they were waiting for an emergency electrician to come and fix the lighting that had shorted out earlier that day. Who knows? They may still be waiting. So we (me, Caroline and Andy) headed upstairs to the gift shop and cafe.
I was still on a mission for the Great British afternoon high tea, consisting of scones with jam and thick Devonshire clotted cream, and YAY it was here on the menu. Unfortunately when I asked for it, today had to be the day they had no scones. NO SCONES!!!! SIGHS. Instead we opted for coffee and a shared piece of triple chocolate layered cheesecake between the 3 of us (we were being polite). We wandered through the gift shop for about 20 minutes after our coffees to peruse all of the locally produced wares and laughed quietly to ourselves when we came across a half decent display of ‘temperance drinks’ by Fitzgerald’s (remember them?). We had to ask ourselves whether this place sold more than the actual shop we had visited did. Slowly we covered the whole shop floor and made our way back downstairs.
Right at the bottom of the stairs, next to the main sales office, there were a couple of shelves stacked full with all styles of work boots for a handsome price of just £25 a pair (or £12.50 each for those with only one leg) and well the pink ones they had, seriously caught my eye. £25 was indeed cheap for such attractive full leather, steel capped and pink work boots, so Andy and I got a pair each (in hoping to preserve his manliness, especially after finding all the other recent defects in his stature, I have to inform you his weren’t pink). It was only 10 days ago he found out he was 3 inches shorter than he used to be, and now, when he found out his boot size had shrunk too, he was a little on the quiet side as he pondered his crotch with a tear in his eye for the rest of the afternoon :)
|Boots, boots, boots, boots... Marching up and down again|
Property of HRH the PINK DRAGONFLY PRINCESS
Naturally, the boots I wanted had every available size but mine, so in desperation I tried a size larger and it fitted perfectly. It seems every brand has a different fit, so I wasn’t at all surprised. Andy was still sulking and wondering what could possibly take so long to pick a pair of shoes and I was lucky that the factory that made these shoes was only next door and the helpful sales assistant was only too happy to run back and forth as we tried on different styles and sizes. How’s that for service?
The once thriving shoe industry in Rawtenstall and surrounding areas practically closed down over night when earlier outbreaks of Foot and Mouth and CJD (Mad Cow Disease) hit at all the leather producing cows which had to be slaughtered and burned. This meant no leather for shoes and factories closing down left right and centre for the whole valley and the opportunity was quickly stolen by China's shoe industry.
Sadly the place doesn’t appear to have recovered, even though there are still a few manufacturing, most places are now wholesalers to store front customers. There were some very pretty shoes in my youth I would have been knocking down the door to get to, but alas, one busted up knee has seen the end of the 4 and 5 inch heel days, ok, all heels, and seriously, there are very few sexy flat shoes too, which is just as well really or I would have needed a dozen extra cases for my return trip home.
|A £4 saving at Lambert's Mill|
Meet the groom... He's REDUCED!!... LMFAO
After all that excitement, we were off once again to Tesco to stock up on comestibles and get a taxi back home as I was by now tiring fast, about to be struck down again with whatever it was that was ailing me and all laden up with shiny new boots. Caroline came home with us for a while before leaving to pick up the kids again and heading them off back home for their teas.
So all in all it was another wonderful adventure in this surprisingly friendly little town. I have been truly blessed by the all people I have met here and I am really going to miss this place when I go back home.
*sniffles* I DONT WANT TO GO HOME *sniffles*
And one passing thought on hedgehogs... Why can’t they just share?
Well It’s not often I’m wrong but I was right again and today I am having a day off... It seems I really am sick, so sick in fact that I am not even getting out of bed to play with the local firemen visiting the neighbouring school... Yes I really am that sick and poor Andy is having to look after me as I am well and truly in sookie mode... I just need some TLC and lots of loving...
|Sorry, not today boys, put your hoses away|
Yes and I am teary too because I don’t want to go home, everything has just been so perfect, I feel so at home in Andy's arms and the thought of being apart from him again is not sitting well at all...
So today, we watched my favourite channel on British TV, channel 4 and stayed snuggled on the couch, the blog can wait... it is after all a Monday here. Sorry folks.
But having said all that, there are a couple of things I think worthy of mention that I can still tackle from within the confines of the old sick bay. The first being a little game we played on our travels that sort of snuck up on me without my realising. It was the game of spot the Monarch. It's a simple game that consists of mainly looking at the different decals on the good old British post boxes. It seems that depending on when the post boxes were placed and who the reigning monarch was at the time, each post box carries decals for the name of said Monarch in rule at the time.
Among the Monarchs we found were: Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, King George the 5th, and King Edward the 7th. You learn something new every day it seems.
The other thing worthy of note is the remarkable sense of patriotic pride the British have with flags and bunting adorning many of the streets at present. Granted it is a big year for the old UK with the Queens Jubilee, the football and the Olympics but the place looks great basking in the splendour of such adornments.
Funnily enough though, according to Andy, at the end of each event the flags and festivities soon diminish with a marked reduction of said decorations when the England football team lost to Penalties on Sunday night. With only the Olympics left to celebrate now, it seems that it’s only the die-hard patriots or the sheer bone idle that have these trinkets of national pride remaining in their windows and gardens now. Maybe I was wrong?
There certainly were plenty of union jack accessories to choose from in the local shops and I for one was as guilty as the next man for imbibing in such luxuries, collecting souvenirs at every stop. Maybe I did go a little overboard with my own collection of flags, bunting, slippers, t-shirts, baby wear and shower caps.
And OMG... Did I really pose for this picture?
No wonder I’m staying in bed!!
Today we finally managed to crawl out of bed at around 9am after getting home near on for midnight from our previous adventures in sunny (?) Blackpool t’other day. Did I mention I was a little cold still? It seems that once I get cold it takes a while for me to warm up again. I think I am getting sick. Ok I know I am getting sick but I am in denial but ONE must soldier on, it is what ONE does when ONE is discovering the delights of ONE's fiancé’s country.
|Click here for the full Dave's Aquarium day album|
So our plans for today meant that we were off to a delightful little place in nearby Bolton called Dave's Aquarium. You see, I had a list of furry little creatures that I wanted to see while I was in the UK because the UK has some wonderful animals that we just don’t have over here in Oz. Well if you ask Andy, we don’t have any animals at all in Oz, they simply just don’t exist outside of zoos and it is all just a ruse we use to get the world to come over and see this country and try and meet our indigenous and dangerous animals. Anyways, I wanted to see a squirrel (squizzies as Andy calls them), a hedgehog (a vessel in which to transport fleas) (Don’t ask) and a chinchilla (which looks like a cross between a bunny and a squirrel and has nothing much to do with the UK anyway). So naturally, being the resourceful type he is, Andy suggested that Dave's Aquarium is probably the only place known to Lancashire folk where you can see, possibly purchase, and take home and pet or even cook chinchillas if you so desire!!!
|I saw a Squirrel on my first day outdoors in the UK|
As for me running late this morning, probably complaining about being sick and needing to carry on, we met the wonderful Caroline again at Tesco, about 90 minutes after we were meant to be at her place. You see I got it into my head that I need to cook up some Thai curries and burn this cold out of me, so we needed fresh chicken, oh and milk and bread and of course, mini pork pies (oh I so love these). Caroline was our designated non-drinker (driver) for the day and I got to sit in the front of her PUTT-PUTT, much to Alex's disgust; she wanted me in the back with her. Alex is Andy's niece. I think she likes me. Well I am new, and therefore a new potential playmate for her. Matthew, Andy's nephew didn’t seem to mind either way, he was now within arms reach of his sister, and so “let the games begin!" was the cry. Anyways, we were off in search of Dave's Aquariums. This was going to be an adventure, I could tell, just by the way the sat-nav had to be programmed and the way that Caroline was asking "are these directions right?"
|Fresh water, tropical and marine at Dave's Aquarium|
The first thing you’ll notice about Dave's Aquarium is how tiny the car park is and well, how does this place still exist when it is set in the middle of what appears to be an industrial type park anyway. How does anyone ever find this place I asked myself? After navigating the tiny car park and finding somewhere to land what seemed to be the space shuttle, Caroline's car, we went inside... Well we tried to, we couldn’t get into the door for all the people checking out the "BABY MEERKATS" OMG this wasn’t even on my to do list and they are just too cute to pass up on!!! But damn, they don’t sit still long enough for a decent photo... SO first things first, they have a cafe... YAY coffee!!
I hadn’t even had breakfast and it was already 3pm and fortunately for us, the cafe was on the other side of the meerkat enclosure, so we could see into where these babies were playing. And you know how they have those signs saying don’t tap on the glass, in glass enclosures? Well Andy soon discovered that if you tap on the glass, instead of being electrocuted and shot on sight, the baby meerkats and their playful nature, run to check out where the noise is coming from and actually sit still long enough for budding photographers to collect their spoils while waiting for you to tap again. See the gorgeous pic that Andy took – SIMPLEZ!! (Whatever that means).
|OMG OMG OMG I WANT ONE!!!|
We eventually ventured out of the cafe and walked through all the hundreds of fish tanks to see if there were any new fish species that I haven’t seen here in Oz. Sadly enough though, there was nothing of any note that I hadn’t seen before so it was off to the bird enclosure to play with the budgies; and budgies there were, hundreds of them. Colours I had seen before and even a couple I hadn’t. Unfortunately, “Sorry no pics allowed in the budgie enclosure” was the greeting we got. The parrots there were just gorgeous and I was playing with a couple of them through the cages; in fact, I think I spent most of my time with them.
|Cook for 20 minutes at gas mark 6|
but don't wet it or it will disappear
Chinchillas, there were 3 of. A mum and 2 babies. They were very fluffy and it was sad to think they were normally used to make fur coats with. What I didn’t realise is that they are all fur and very little body. Just like when you bath a Persian cat, and there is hardly any cat because it was all fur, the chinchillas are the same. I wasn’t allowed to get near enough to even touch these guys. But squirrel check, chinchilla check, owls a BIG check, meerkats, a BONUS check. And now there are only hedgehogs to go.
With the chinchillas spotting now out of the way it was time to go and finally meet Dawn, Andy's other sister. I had already met Debi (Dawn's daughter) and Steve (Debbi's fiancé) at the airport, they came and picked me up with Andy and took us back to Rawtenstall. We had missed out on an engagement BBQ the day before as we had already pre-booked our day out with Jen in Blackpool and we really couldn’t disappoint Sir Elton; he was expecting us you know, so we did a post engagement party lunch instead.
|Princess the pussy|
Now while we’re on the subject of animals, Dawn has this beautiful cat, an Egyptian Mau called Princess (pay attention Andy). It has markings similar to that of a much bigger species of cat, just gorgeous but acts more like a dog. Well not in the doggie way of "I'll be your friend" but in the “I need to sit on your lap and be loved by the human I have bonded with” way even though it is normally not a sociable creature, Dawn has discovered that the kitty treats she likes will lure her out of hiding and into a more social space. She was just so playful until the budgie Indigo, was brought out. It turns out that the budgie is a bit of a bully and has Princess the cat totally bluffed, but at the same time, it gets jealous if Dawn spends more time playing with her. Indigo is a beautiful lilac coloured budgie, and just so chatty. It got to the stage where the only way to shut the budgie up was to shove it under my shirt and muffle it with my boobs (no animals were harmed in the writing of this blog), and needless to say the budgie spent quite a bit of time in there during lunch/dinner. It was dinner time by the time everyone got there because Debi and Steve had got sidetracked, like Steve usually does.
|Don't eat the NOISY NOISY budgie Princess|
It was a lovely way to spend the day with family. We were there to celebrate Debi and Steve’s engagement (no she isn’t), and to help make Debi cry at pictures of the church her and Steve are to get married in, over the internet. They are such a gorgeous couple and this is such an awesome family the way they all get along.
This is how I always imagined family to be, relaxed, funny and just loving being all in the same space at the same time. Oh and just as the day was ending Joshua, Dawn’s son came home from work. We got to say a quick hi before we needed to pile back in the car and get back home because it was a school night and we needed to get Matthew and Alex back home and into bed in time for an early rise.
It is a shame I am not going to be here any longer as I would have loved to have spent more time with the family getting to know them better, but we all have busy lives and I was just running out of time. I think tomorrow I might just stay indoors and try and get better. It has been a big 10 days so far but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
|A bandaged up Blackpuddle Tower|
Oooo look, it’s Blackpool
I was up early and full of excitement this morning as today we would actually meet with meet Jen C in the flesh. So we needed to make sure we were there on time. It’s about a 30 min bus ride to the train station at Burnley and then another hour to Blackpool North. It was raining all morning too, so we caught a cab down to the bus stop so that we weren’t wet all day. I couldn’t see out of the windows of the bus so I missed the entire journey to the train station. Boo hoo.
The train trip to Blackpool though was just gorgeous. The trains are clean and comfy and overall, quite pleasant. The train inspector, quite a friendly man and even smiling, was not bad considering I handed him a rather large note to pay for the tickets. The scenery on the way to Blackpool was just stunning, so green and lush, and the flowers along the train tracks just a beautiful reminder that nature happens wherever you least expect it.
Arriving at Blackpool was where all the fun started today. I met my first British police officer, who was lovely enough to have his photo taken with me (yes that one), and no mum, I wasn’t arrested.
|A view from above|
It was cold and wet when we arrived so we found a little cafe to wait in until Jen arrived. This is where our adventure truly started. An elderly couple, who I would have thought were homeless looking at them, were in the cafe and boy could this woman talk. For the 80 minutes we were in the cafe, we heard the same conversation over and over again, “I gave you £45 for the accommodation, the accommodation cost £45, why are you giving me change”, “Love they gave me £5 back, I don’t know why”. Now repeat this over and over to yourselves for 80 mins and you’ll see what I mean. And did I mention she was loud?
There were brief moments during the morning where we had a break from the monotony; a group of ladies were here to see Sir Elton John play on the beach (Wow, that’s a bonus). It was still cold and wet, but they were looking forward to his performance. From everything I had heard about Blackpool, this was not something I would have expected, but apparently, he was there at the request of the Queen as part of the Jubilee and tower celebrations. And with their departure, we were back to the old, “I gave you £45 for the accommodation, the accommodation cost £45, why are you giving me change”, “Love they gave me £5 back, I don’t know why” ARGH!!!
Thankfully it was soon time to go meet Jen at the train station. Watching the people get off the train in all sorts of clothing was different to say the least. Some were dressed like hookers, some like clowns, some, God only knows what. Andy got a giggle out of watching me watching the people get off the train. I was simply dumbfounded at what I was seeing.
|Don't do it Jen, we weren't |
that bad were we?
YAY Jen was here now and we were off to the beach. Jen had travelled all the way from Scotland to come and met us face to face. Now that’s what I call a BUZZ meet. I have been looking forward to this time with her. The weather was still cold, but at least the rain had stopped. Like most of the places I have seen around the UK, half of the shop fronts were either boarded up or empty. There was also litter everywhere. It was a real shame because the UK could be such a gorgeous place. The people I’ve met are really friendly and I really do believe they love this place, but there is a real sense of “it’s not up to me to do this”. There is a real sense of general apathy for the upkeep of the place.
|Ready for Sir Elton|
There are trams that run along the front of Blackpool, it would have been awesome to see Blackpool from one of these just to see what the whole of the strip (Golden Mile) looked like but due to Elton’s concert on the beach all tram services had been halted (He must be good). So we just walked and walked and walked. We were on a mission, we needed to see the tower, from the top, and I needed to take back some Blackpool rock and a souvenir fridge magnet. All for other people. The rain was still holding off but it was very windy and cold for a hardened Aussie.
|The last few steps to the top|
We went to the tower first. Now to really appreciate this place you need to look at the architectural decor throughout the areas on the way into the Tower adventure. The tiles on the walls were just stunning, art deco inspired. Everything about his place was just beautiful. The Tower adventure drags you through a 4D experience (not the highlight, you can avoid it by saying you have reactions to strobing lights and to be honest, I would advise this is a good thing to do) before you actually get into a lift to go up. Once you get out of the lift you walk out onto a toughened glass floor looking down, now you know in your mind it is ok to do this, but everything in your body says DONT!! I was watching a baby crawl across the clear flooring, so I had to overcome the fear and get on with it. We then climbed up the 2 higher floors that were possible for us to explore. The views are just amazing.
Click here for the full Blackpool album
|The Tower Ballroom|
|No wrestling in the Ballroom|
Back down at ground level and we went to explore the Tower Ballroom. This is just breath taking. The paintings on the ceiling, gold work surrounding the room, the woodwork, and the Wurlitzer organ that rises up from the floor on the stage. Awesome. The dance floor was filled with dancers whirling around so gracefully, making me wish I had continued ballroom dancing lessons when I was younger.
Hunger soon took over and then the need to continue our exploring, and by now it was pouring down with rain too, so we headed for the nearest pub for drinkies and to get out of the rain. This is where we saw the buck’s party (stag do) with all the guys dressed as clowns. Seriously, this place is meant for serious people watching. We enjoyed the warmth of the pub, but needed to move on as they were trying to get others seated for food where we were and besides, the noise was making it hard for us to continue a conversation.
We wandered some more along the front of Blackpool, found some places to get Blackpool rock which is a candy stick that has Blackpool written through the candy via the process of its making. Basically though, it’s just flavoured and coloured sugar. The rain started coming down again and so we found a coffee shop to keep dry in. OMG I am 10,000 miles from Byron Bay and I find their cookies on the shelf being sold in this coffee shop. The Byron Bay Cookie Company creates some of the best cookies in the world and they do a gluten free variety as well. Their sticky date and ginger cookie is my favourite. Having said that, I have been trying to get a scone with jam and cream (afternoon tea), what we call a Devonshire tea back home, but so far, with no success.
We still hadn’t eaten properly by then, so it was time to hunt down some real food. Fish and chips looked like a great option in nice warm environment to sit down and thaw out. I have made it a habit since being here to try things I have never eaten before. This time it was a different type of fish, Haddock. Andy had a steak and kidney pudding, which is essentially a pie but with a suet casing. I still maintain that the food here is wonderful but the serving sizes are way too big for me.
|One of Blackpool's three piers|
The rain stopped again so we were off to the Central Pier. We walked to the end of the pier where it was soooo cold and windy, but so worth the walk out there. There was nothing but the ocean between you and the horizon. The “I can fly Jack” scene from Titanic soon came to mind although I am still yet to understand the real meaning behind the padlocks placed in memorial to people on the railings. These were memorials to people who had obviously passed away and I thought maybe it had been people who had suicided there, but then there were locks there for old folk too.
By now Elton John was playing and we had the pleasure of his music and 12,000 fans for the whole of our walk back to the train station. We needed to be on the 8.30pm train back to Burnley and Jen was coming with us as far as Preston. It was a rather long walk back, but with our own music track, thanks Elton, the walk wasn’t as cold and miserable as it could have been. Blackpool was indeed an experience. It is like a dulled downed version of Las Vegas, certainly a place for people watching, a place for kids to have fun, and a place where anything goes and most likely does.
|Yep it sure looks like Vegas|
But this is not where it all ends. The train trip home was a real eye opener too with a hint of Instant arsehole, just add testosterone and alcohol. Yes we had picked a carriage full of lager lout football supporter types all chanting their ‘let’s piss off the opposition’ battle cries. We even had to move carriages as the drinking ‘boys’ were about to kick off and start fighting and it wasn’t a chance we wanted to take, not to mention we couldn’t hear ourselves talk over it all.
|the awesome Jen|
We soon said our good-byes to Jen at nearby Preston station. There was never a dull moment with her, nor a time that we were ever lost for words. The highlight of the whole Blackpool trip was Jen being there, she was just awesome and I now look forward to the time when she can come to visit Australia for a holiday. And now I can say I fully appreciate what Andy meant when he told me that Blackpool was just a place you go to wander around aimlessly without any real purpose. The time there simply flies by, unless of course you find yourself queuing for the rides at the Pleasure Beach, which for legal reasons (my excuse and I'm sticking with it) I didn't.
Hogwarts in the suburbs?
Most of you might think that Hogwarts is a magical little place buried deep within the realms of the countryside, far, far away from all known muggledom. In reality it seems it is much closer than you would think. You see Andy neglected to tell me that the local school for youngens is no less a prep school for the mystical realm of Hogwarts. To any muggle born (you and me hopefully), it just looks like any other normal school, but to the young witches and wizards of the valley worlds, it is the start to their new magical life where treasures abound everywhere. While this school isn’t a boarding school, it is one where the transition into Hogwarts is made to be a little gentler, the inmates getting to go home to mum and dad each night.
Yeah, maybe I should leave this kind of story-telling to those who can actually write awesome stories, and I will just get back to letting you know what I have actually been up to since my arresting last entry.
For those who actually give two hoots, today was the day I met a local bird enthusiast who keeps owls (and now I apologise for the 2 hoots line). And while I’m apologising, we met him (Brian the owl keeper) outside the front of the nearby primary school (Hence the bad Hogwarts reference too... Maybe I should have gone with Hogwarts being a disease instead) while we were waiting with Andy’s sister, Caroline, for his niece and nephew to finish schooling for the day.
Anyway, Brian is just a small part of a much larger group that care for and show these beautiful creatures to help educate and give awareness to the majestic world of birds of prey. I had the pleasure of meeting 3 of his gorgeous owls that afternoon. Two were fully grown, one still a “baby” (even though with all his fluffy feathers, he is actually bigger than his older brother!!).
|Check out the owls album here|
One of the owls (the smallest of the three) was being taught how to behave, as Brian explained, he had been sent up from Wales as he had been a very naughty boy, but having been rehabilitated, he was going back soon a much happier and better behaved owl.
As already suggested, Brian and his owls are only a small part of the North Wales Bird Trust. Brian is also looking to open up a regional branch of the trust at Rawtenstall within the near future.
Considering their deadly nature, the birds are incredibly soft to touch and are really well behaved even though you have to keep in mind they are still wild animals. Weighing in at only four and a half pounds though, it is really easy to forget they are perched on your arms even though their talons are capable of applying sufficient pressure to crack a human skull.
It was truly an awe inspiring time I spent being in the presence of these splendid owls and after a fun 20 mins of playing with them, it was time for us to continue on our way back to the flat. It was a wet and cold day that day and I was the only person in Rawtenstall that needed to warm up. Can anyone say SOOK?
Feel free to check out the North Wales Bird Trust link, and if you can, please donate to this very worthy cause.
Today was going to be one of those days that just happen by and swiftly disappear without you even noticing. Meals were prepared, shopping was procured and privates were pampered. Other than that, there wasn’t much to report for this day.
Well actually there was this one thing...
Today, I put up my feet, relaxed and had
I would just like to mention that I hate my knee brace, but after yesterday’s effort, I was left with no other choice than to have to wear it. Any normal human being would stay at home and rest a bad knee but no, there were places to go, things to be seen, etc. Andy wouldn’t let me out of the house without my knee brace on. Personally, I love and prefer Diclofenac. I hate my knee brace...
If you have seen any of his other blogs, you will know that one of the things Andy and I have in common is our love of properties, houses and renovating them. So today we were off to visit another local attraction (well for Andy anyway), the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom manufacturers and supplier’s showrooms of the guys he trades with. And armed with a buggered knee, public transport was slightly out of the question, so it was off to the local taxi office. Riding in one of these private hire cars, aka taxis, is like getting in a bemo or tuk tuk in Asia. Scary!!! These guys drive like a bat out of hell and you need to hang on for dear life while trying to remain sitting in the back. And with the local roads being so narrow with nowhere to park, and houses butted right up against the curb, I have no idea how we ever survived our trip without any form of accident.
Having arrived at our destination however, the first thing I noticed about the showroom is the vast difference in quality here as regards to home. What I was seeing here, a mid-range standard kitchen, is closer to what we would call a high end kitchen in Australia. The prices of the displayed kitchens being so much cheaper than one would expect for the quality on offer. You Brits are so lucky with your kitchens; there are just so many more options available to you. I think we Aussies have been happy to put up with crap kitchens for far too long now.
The bathrooms on display too were absolutely divine. Once again the options available are endless and it seems that the English really understand the need for a real human being sized bathtub. You know you need to be able to lay down in it, not just wash small children’s feet in them. The suites, the tiles, the taps, the accessories... they are all just mind blowing. Australia could really learn from what there is on offer here and having spent most of his life working within this sector, Andy is hoping he can be the one to bring us Aussies into the modern world.
|Not sure this would go down in Aussieland|
Some of the bedroom set ups however, I don’t think would work in most of the houses in Oz. We generally have more space to work with and tend to have the rooms designed and fitted around the bed, and while the more modular approach to bedroom units looks nice, I just don’t see it working where I live where sliding wardrobes are more the norm. But seeing Andy in his element here instils a huge amount of confidence in his abilities and motivation. Never say never seems the order of the day.
Oh and with upwards of over 40 odd separate displays here to fully wet any prospective customer’s appetite, I may have forgotten to mention that the showroom was a huge warehouse built over 3 levels, with stairs steep enough to thwart the hardiest of mountain goats... Not happy Jan!!! (a reference to an old Aussie advert).
Anyway, with the showrooms out of the way now, we wandered back towards home looking for somewhere to perhaps get a coffee and something to eat. Andy said there was a pub just up the road, so we toddled off down the road to find the ‘Rose & Bowl’ pub. Another thing that stands out here, is the amount of empty shop fronts, the neglect of beautiful old buildings and that has to prompt the question, WHY?
En route to the Rose & Bowl, we stumbled upon the local post office and went in for a look as they were selling the diamond jubilee mugs, one of which I needed to return home with for a friends mum. This post office would have been maybe 4m x 2m in size and it seems that it sold everything from hand bags (scattered behind the counter walls) to sweets and lollies (see coconut mushrooms in previous post). It was packed to the rafters with all sorts of things you could ever need or even want... Or, in my case, not want. Fitzpatrick’s final temperance bar could have learned a lot by the owner of this place with every spare inch of space being capitalised for maximum sales.
|Check out the album for today here|
Jubilee mug in hand (and sweets) we continued on our journey and within 200 metres, we found the desired hostelry, a typical English looking pub, well if not it was still how I imagined it. Complete with bunting and England flags draped across all available walls and windows (they all needed to be ironed). The place was just so warm and inviting, complete with the obligatory old folk filling the place in order to keep warm. This was to be the place I was to try draught Guinness for the very first time and believe it or not, it is quite lovely. Just a sip was all I needed though. I really wanted coffee to warm me up.
We went for a look outside as the old ‘in crowd’ were playing bowls and the afternoon’s final was about to start, but just as we had committed to our seats, the rain decided to come down so we retreated back inside, where it was warm and my knee loved the comfort so much more.
|Always a warm and friendly welcome at the Rose 'n' Bowl|
As wonderful and welcoming as the pub was, food was not being served for another hour, so we decided to give it a miss and headed back to Tesco en-route to the old homestead for good old fashioned home cooking. Unwritten law of shopping, never go food shopping when you are hungry. We went in for only a few necessities; and £40 later we had all the comfort foods we could lay our hands on. Needless to say, dinner was not as nutritionally sound as I would have liked but it was still another wonderful day’s worth of experiences in this gorgeous little town that Andy calls home.
Looking back on this day, I think I may have to admit to a little bit of OCD. And to start of today’s report I’m talking washing as in laundry. I have a real issue with washing. I separate all colours. I hand wash my delicates. And I am now in a country where none of the laundry liquids are like those I would use at home. The laundry liquid needs to be biodegradable for me and safe for sensitive skin. Let’s face it; if your smalls are washed in an unsuitable product, there is the chance of unwelcome rashes in the most sensitive of places. AND NO ONE WANTS THAT!!!
|No rush really|
At present, Andy doesn’t have a washing machine as there’s no point making that kind of investment and then having to ship it all abroad when he finally gets to move. And the local laundry service / ironing establishment, well let’s just say that its services were far less than suitable. Yes, they will wash your clothes but then they only dry them for 20 mins. WTF!!! Enter Caroline then, Andy’s sister and as of this day, my heroine. She came shopping with us at Tesco to help find the perfect laundry liquid among the hundreds available and fully understood the “issues” I was facing. That day, Caroline actually did all our washing for us and allowed us the time to continue exploring Rawtenstall and all its offerings.
So with the washing left in Caroline’s more than capable hands, Andy took me to nearby Whittaker Park and what is known as the Rossendale Museum, a stately house situated within the park grounds. It was once a home in the 1800s for a fabric mill owner; a beautiful old museum now, filled with furniture, art, portraits and trinkets from the 1800s onwards. It was like stepping back in time into some assumingly important person’s past life and seeing how they once lived ~ Well, minus all the dust I am assuming. There were collections of artefacts from all over the Rossendale Valley and the prior house resident’s’ travels abroad. Especially to make me feel at home, there was even a collection of stuffed animals from Australia, including a koala, kangaroo and platypus. They looked a little ragged to be honest but for their 100 plus years of age, they were holding up quite well.
|Just one of the original room sets within the Rossendale Museum|
Click here for the full day's album
And being one of those annoying bloody tourist types, what I would say Whittaker Park and Museum needs more than anything else is a tea room of some sort. Somewhere to sit down maybe and to enjoy a cuppa and some scones, that sort of thing. You know, just to BE in the surroundings, to feel part of the history. The gift shop was cute I suppose, but really, not of the quality I would have expected from this type of a historical landmark. Seriously, tumbled stones with wobbly eyes? I would have loved to have seen more cottage industry type wares, handmade soaps, jams, even teaspoons and tea towels. The handmade toys and cards were something I liked but rest just felt tacky.
|Not much between the houses and the roads here|
Walking back towards the town centre from the museum, one thing I had major trouble getting used to is that there are no real safety barriers between you and the cars when walking along the footpath. You are literally only inches away from the cars screaming past you at 30 miles an hour. Some of the front doors of the houses are just metres from the road too. It can be quite scary at times. How there aren’t a lot more cars running into houses is totally beyond me.
|Fitzpatrick's ~ a bit of a let down really|
We were off to Fitzpatrick’s, which according to nearly every website about Rawtenstall, is the very last temperance bar in the UK. I had been looking at this place online, the website is brilliant, and this is the one place I just had to see while in over here in Rawtenstall. Unfortunately, this was also the single most disappointing attraction of the whole trip over. The place just lacked almost everything. When you walked in, you weren’t greeted, more so ignored. The owner actually walked straight past us to go outside for a cigarette.
The shop looked a little neglected and in dire need of a good dusting. There were a couple of rickety old chairs to sit down at, the coffee was only instant and there was no food on offer either. We actually had to seek out the staff and ask if we could buy a coffee. There were missed opportunities all around us, shelves weren’t fully stocked and it really just looked like the owner had lost interest and this was just a business specifically created to be a cash laundering tax loss, there were no EFTPOS facilities on site either. Arrrgh, get me out of here!!!
I have never been into a Boots the chemist store before either and from what I can tell it was just another high street chemist only it is much bigger and has more product lines and purchasing options and some friendly and helpful staff. There was nothing I wanted in here I just wanted to have a look so I did.
|Because you saw the chippy on last nights blog, |
here's a picture of a local witch simply going
about her business
The saving grace for this day’s exploration was the inclusion of the local “chippy”. Tony was just the friendliest character I had come across for the whole of the day. I had trouble understanding what he said and his broad Lancashire accent, so I did a fair bit of gormless smiling, but Andy took control of the situation and ordered us fish and chips. Cod, was the fish of choice. Now my memories of cod come from when I was just 10 years old, and being trapped at the dinner table until late at night, my father adamant that I would finish off that smoked cod. I still feel ill when I hear the word cod. So it seemed I was in for another adventure. CHIPS!!! You could have fed a family of 4 on the amount of chips that came with the piece of fish. Oh and we were trying a Holland’s steak and kidney pie and chips as well !! I already mentioned in an earlier post that we had to duck to get in through the door here. I am serious, how short were these poms 100 years ago??
As this was a takeaway establishment, there was nowhere to actually sit down to eat so we had to cross the road into a little park to enjoy our dinner/lunch. It’s hard to tell what meal it was as everything is all out of kilter over here with our meal times. And it was about this time that my knee decided it was no longer going to play ball. It froze up and the pain was getting a little beyond a joke. The food was delicious. The park we sat in was beautiful and like most places of beauty, not looked after by the local council but lovingly looked after by volunteers. Yes volunteers really do make a difference in today’s communities, we just need to open our eyes and see them.
|The perfect venue for a great chippy tea!!|
Anyway, it was that time again, time to go back home, via taxi, and time to get some pain killers in me and try to warm up (still cold brrr). Just another wonderful day in Rawtenstall, this is truly a beautiful place to experience.
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