Wandsworth Common

Feeling that we should get out of the house we went to Wandsworth Common for afternoon tea. We had to catch a train one way, then catch a train back to actually land there. Of course, we visited the Common a few years ago when Stephen wanted to check out the house where he used to live. If you are interested, here is a link to that blog entry.


We had afternoon tea at the same Neros Cafe that we went to before. Stephen remembered that it had newspapers he could read. The paper he wanted wasn’t available, but the girl on the counter said he could read one of the ones on sale, and just pay if he wanted to take it away. In the end, we took it away with us (paying, of course).

Then we enjoyed strolling around the Common, finding we remembered some things well and other things not so well. There is a beautiful cafe down one path and I think we actually went there last time, as well as going to the Neros. We spent a lot longer in the area that time.

We came home feeling refreshed from being in the open air and greenery.

Afternoon tea (1 of 1)

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Stephen says he doesn’t remember this row of cafes at the edge of the Common. But, he wasn’t much into cafes at that stage of his life.

Wandsworth Common (1 of 1)

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The Skylark Cafe (1 of 1)
I’ve left the leafy shadows at the side of the sign deliberately as I like them. 
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This swan came in close hoping for some food.

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There were lots of little platforms for fishing, but you do need to have a fishing licence.

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Only in summer, of course. She was running the engine as a generator, but I think the Mercedes van has a second alternator for that purpose.
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We sat on a bench and watched the aircraft flying in for Heathrow. My zoom lens isn’t that long, but the tracking on my camera is very good and by cropping the image we could see the marking clearly and identify some of the airline marking.
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The sky was washed out in this image, but using the neutral density filter in Lightoom I was able to bring it back. Of course, I should have used masking on the trees on the right as all detail has disappeared. Next step… We were sitting on a bench her on the edge of the bowling green to watch the planes and have a rest.

On the station at East Croydon Stephen checked with an officer about our train. We ended up having quite a good conversation. We assumed he was British, given that most of the people of colour in our area are, but it turned out he was Nigerian and had only been here for five years. We compared notes on the ease of getting back to our home countries from England, he said he can decide he wants to have dinner back home and be there in 3-4 hours, whereas for us, it is takes such a long time. He and his wife want to travel when they retire. We felt quite a connection and may well see him again when catching trains.

My new lens cap arrived this morning and it felt much better taking the camera out with a lens cap on. The delivery was very prompt, they promise four working days, but it was less than two.

The bed here in the Croydon apartment isn’t all that comfortable. The mattress is a bit saggy. It has a mattress topper where I tuck in the bottom sheet. It usually needs retucking each day. It triggered something for me. The double bed in our motorhome is terribly difficult to make because we have a thick mattress and is in the corner and it’s impossible to really tuck the bottom sheet in properly. Like this one, you have to retuck most mornings. In addition, I’m still having problems with the damaged tendon in my thumb which happened when struggling with the bed making.

What if we got a mattress topper for the bed in the motorhome. Although the bottom sheet might still come untucked, it would be so much easier to retuck it into a thin and light mattress than our big, heavy mattress. The bed is extremely comfortable and we wouldn’t want to get rid of that mattress.

The mattress topper would need to be cut to the odd shape of our bed, but I believe memory foam mattress material can be cut to order. We would just need to measure it very carefully. It might be possible to use safety pins with a mattress topper to keep the sheet tucked in, something that is nearly impossible with our normal mattress because it is so hard to lift up and get access underneath. Anyway, a realtively cheap and simple solution to a problem we’ve had ever since getting the van.


We haven’t been put very much and the featured photo is from Lucerne when we climbed a hill in the city.

Now that we are settled back in London we don’t really feel like we are travelling. In fact, we’ve hardly been out in the last three days. It’s a big advantage of the home exchanges that you don’t feel like you are wasting money by not going out all the time. Having been to this apartment in Croydon a few times we almost feel like it is a second home.  Here in England we know what food to buy and how the public transport works. We’ve been on day trips to many places in the near vicinity.

We have gone home early from a couple of trips, once in China when it got very cold indeed and Stephen had a head cold and couldn’t go out,  and from the Czech Republic when he had a seizure.
Otherwise, we are quite used to being away for two or three months at a time. We have a home base for the majority of the time, such as when Stephen was teaching in China or now when we have home exchanges, or the caravan/motorhome which is like a home in that you can always sleep in your own bed and have your own fridge and kitchen wherever you are. None of this living out of a suitcase for weeks, which was the downside on our trip over to Europe. Still, for that trip we packed as lightly as we could, leaving a lot of our stuff here in the apartment at Croydon. I didn’t even take the laptop.
My camera bag for the 3.5 months is packed with one smallish camera with a ‘travel zoom’ and a small extra lens for low light shooting, plus the GoPro. This is good for me as I usually take at least two cameras.
I’ve been using the iPhone for a lot of the photography as my small, compact camera. The downside of that is that I put it into landscape mode for photos most of the time and my iPad and laptop automatically correct if I hold it the wrong way up. But in the blog, photos are sometimes upside down. And I’m not actually sure which way up it should go. It’s difficult to check when my software automatically shows it the right way up.
We’ve tried to think of special highlights from our Europe trip, but there are so many that it feels like most of the places we went to were special, or had special moments, such as a meal at a restaurant, or a particular place we went to. So glad we have the blog to jog our memories.
Something else we have noticed as consistent wherever we have been. We’ve seen a lot of the countryside when travelling on trains in Europe and it was consistently green and lush, despite the very hot July we’ve just experienced. There are wildflowers as well. This is so different to Australian summer where it is so dry and parched in the farmlands, even in Western Australia when we don’t have a drought.

A can of Merlot

We like buying small quantities of wine because if we buy a normal sized bottle it often doesn’t get finished. Buying wine in a can may seem a bit extreme, but this brand is labelled ‘Product of France’ which gives it some credibility, surely.


Today we’ve begun planning our move to Yorkshire, with a few nights in Birmingham on the way. Stephen wants to visit the home of Erasmus Darwin in Litchfield, which is about half an hour from Birmingham. After some dithering we’ve booked a private room in a hostel near the bus station for three nights. Bus rather than train because we still have to go to Victoria in London and the bus station is close by. The trip will cost 10GBP, very cheap indeed. From there, we go to Manchester, then out to our village near Hebden Bridge.

This means we will learn something of the route to take when Eversley arrives at Manchester Airport in a few weeks time. We plan to go to Manchester Airport and help her get to our exchange house. It means a couple of extra hours travel after the long flight. We won’t drive to the airport, but may bring the car part of the way to make it easier for her. We have a car for the four weeks we are in Yorkshire and are hoping that driving in the north of England is a bit less frantic than the south. After our trip in a hire car last time I have sworn off driving in England, but the shock has faded. Stephen and I are both on the insurance for the car and could take turns.

We had an enjoyable time on Facetime with Matt. To help him to know how long we will be I keep telling him that we will be home for my birthday in October. He knows it is a fairly long time to go. He always appears well and happy and we think he doesn’t mind us being away.

We’ve had a little walk late this afternoon. Up in our 9th floor apartment it appeared to be quite chilly. It’s windy and quite cloudy and we did have a few drops of rain when we were out.

Our only other excitement has been that I ordered some underwear online from M&S and two things came on Saturday and one this morning (Sunday). Very strange to have deliveries on the weekend. I’ve ordered a new lens cap for my camera (I lost one in Brig), and that delivery is scheduled for Tuesday. This is what it is like to live in Greater London.

This evening we are watching highlights of the cricket, followed by Chernobyl. We started watching the TV series in Albi, many weeks ago during the heat wave. Time to finish the series, with two episodes to go.



What is Glyndbourne? It’s an opera house in the country near Lewes. It was set up for new and upcoming opera singers almost 100 years ago. There is a tradition of black tie and formal dress for attendence, which meant we had to bring formal clothes from home, mainly for this one event.

Thursday was a day spent mostly at home. Stephen’s phone wasn’t able to make or receive phone calls and a visit to Three.co was in order, plus some shopping. We picked up vouchers for our next top up of our pre paid SIM cards and they tested his phone with a different SIM and it worked fine. A suggestion was made to take it to Apple, but I did a hard reset of the phone and it then worked just fine. It was only phone calls that didn’t work, he still had internet access, which suggested to me that it wasn’t a hardware issue.

Friday, yesterday, was another bucket list item for Stephen, a visit to Glyndbourne to see/hear an opera. I insisted that it be an opera I would enjoy and we didn’t have much of a choice as it is fairly heavily booked. We were sitting up in the gods, back row, but had a very good view of most of the action (apart from the flying water nymphs) and the sound was excellent.

Access to the venue would be difficult, there are lots of trains running to Lewess from East Croydon, but the actual opera house is at least a couple of miles away. Fortunately it is well organised with shuttle buses (big ones) running to and from, before and after.

We felt a bit intimidated by not knowing the ropes at the venue, including precisely what sort of food was available and where we could sit during the intervals. Now that we know we feel that it could become something we would like to do when/if we come to England again. Although, it does involve coming in the English summer, which is our winter and good travelling weather in Australia.

Stephen had been watching the opera on Youtube and I tried, but didn’t find it engaging. Fortunately, once we were seeing it live with surtitles I found it thoroughly enjoyable. Dvorak’s Rusulka, a very silly story about a mermaid who falls in love with a human, has herself transformed into a human so she can marry him, and tragedy inevitably follows. Still, the singers/actors made it a very emotional experience.

We have watched a Glyndbourne version of The magic flute and I felt there was too much silly stuff happening on stage to really enjoy the music. There was some of this in Rusulka, but not nearly as bad.

The weather failed us, of course, this is England. It was wet, with light and persistent rain, with a strong wind when we arrived back in Croydon. Even so, Stephen and I enjoyed walking around the grounds, locating different eating places and admiring the gardens. We only had one umbrella at the time, but it wasn’t cold and walking in light rain was rather nice.

We had about a 50 minute train journey home, then one stop on the tram, then up the hill to our building. I was extremely tired, but found it hard to get to sleep because of being over stimulated.

We bought food for our tea, snacky stuff, and had a $20 champagne each. There is one short interval and one long interval. In the long interval we didn’t have anywhere to sit and ate and drank standing up. Later, we found a bench for a while.

We enjoyed the pre opera talk, which wasn’t about the opera, but about the production. One of the speakers was one of the flying water nymphs and that is why it was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t see her face during the opera. In the production the director wanted singers to do the flying, which involved a lot of training. There are no safety nets and everything depends on the technicians getting it right. She said that for herself, she isn’t frightened and was easily able to adapt her body for singing in a harness, but some of the others had problems.

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A visit to London in the rain

In the morning, a bit earlier than our booked time slot, our shopping was delivered. Quite easy and well worthwhile. I put a meal in the crockpot, chicken breasts, onions, potatos and capsicums.

We had a very wet day for our trip to London and kept waiting for it to ease off before setting out. It would ease off briefly, then rain heavily again, no point waiting. Only the fact that Stephen needed to pick up his pouch from Eurail Lost and Found motivated us to go. It’s expensive travelling to London from here, even with the two-together discount. About AUD32.

At Eurail Lost and Found

After locating Lost and Found, Stephen was able to get his pouch back with our Eurail ticket diary and his passports. Although it was found yesterday it was still a relief when he actually had it in his hands.

We went to St Pauls Cathedral nearby, couldn’t bring ourselves to pay aabout fourteen pounds each for entry. A few years ago we went to a service at Westminster Abbey rather than pay the steep entry price and have decided to go back for a service. They have a Choral Evensong at 6.00 p.m. each weekday. We thought of staying in town for it and walked over to the Tate Gallery for coffee and toilets. Stephen was feeling a little unwell and the gallery was very busy and it just didn’t feel like somewhere to stay for a couple of hours.

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Walking over the Millenium Bridge with St Paul’s in the background

The warmest part of the day is usually around 4.00 p.m., so with the rain it felt a bit steamy on the journey home.

Despite the online shopping there are still many items needed – some shopping may take place today. I’ve done some washing and ironed some of my tops which were looking a bit crushed from being hand washed.


Eurail Travel in Europe: lost and found

France: Paris (3 nights), Albi (4 nights), Lyon (1 night). Switzerland: Brig (1 night), St Moritz (1 night), Lucerne (6 nights). Austria: Vienna (4 nights). Germany: Dresden (3 nights), Weimar (4 nights) = 27.

Yesterday coming home we caught four trains all up. We were travelling with three items each and it was easier than travelling with our mobile pantry bag. In one break we had time to get some lunch at station shops to eat on the train. There is always the option of buying food on the train with the long distance trains, and sometimes staff actually come to your seat to offer coffee.

We hadn’t been able to book 1st class for the Eurostar going home and noticed immediately how cramped the seats were. Stephen had to man spread – his knees were up against the seat in front. It was better for me, being short. Other passengers had the same problem, and when walking the corridors we had to step over legs and feet. You couldn’t blame people, it was worse than cattle class on an airplane.

Over the four weeks I have lost a lens cap in Brig (not too much of a problem as the camera travels tightly in a small bag) and a small makeup bag in Albi. On the last train of our last day, disaster struck. Stephen left his pouch with me when he went to get our tea on the Eurostar. When he came back we were focussed on eating the food and forgot about the pouch, which is normally housed in Stephen’s shoulder bag. It must have slipped onto the floor. The pouch contained our Eurail pass, with diary, and both his passports (British and Australian).

Stephen didn’t realise until we were at St Pancras Station in London. He maintained his cool and I felt guilty because I had a hand in it being lost. When we got back to the apartment in Croydon he contacted Eurostar Lost and Found and had an online chat. Today he has spent time getting in touch, they didn’t open until 10.00 a.m. Eventually, this afternoon, he had word that it was found. I was amazed as I was convinced that it must have been stolen. He was always optimistic, and hadn’t reported the loss. He said the fuss involved in having his passports cancelled and getting new ones wasn’t worth it unless he knew for sure that they would not be found.

We go tomorrow to St Pancras to pick up the pouch.

The top photo is of the Weimar Belvedere. There were quite a lot of buildings – it seemed almost like a small village. The Orangery (a sort of elaborate greenhouse) is beautiful. There was a New Holland section with some Australian plants.

New Holland sign (1 of 1)New Holland tree (1 of 1)The Orangery (1 of 1)

Our visit was on Sunday and we realised that local people visit for the beautiful parklands and very nice cafe. Only tourists would go into the house itself. We spent most of the day there enjoying the gardens and parkland.

We thought we’d be too tired to do anything today, but after morning cups of tea in bed we have done quite a lot. Stephen has followed up on his pouch. He went down to our closest small shop to get food for our lunch. I did two big loads of washing, some of which is almost dry. I had a applied for a Waitrose card before we left and it arrived whilst we were away. This meant that I was able to place an order for groceries online. They are due to be delivered tomorrow morning. Because we don’t have a car it is difficult to do much shopping – we have to do it a little bit at a time, hauling the trolley home. It will be interesting to see if ordering online is a good option.

We both went down to the little local store again before dinner to get a few more items. It is busy in the late afternoon with people coming home from work by tram, car, bus and on foot. We have to be really careful crossing the roads.


Last days in Weimar and on the trains to England

After my last post we took a ride out to Buchenwald, a concentration camp set up as a memorial. Although the location was beautiful,it was a very depressing place and we were glad to leave.

Yesterday we took a much more pleasant option of visiting the local ‘Belvedere’, a beautiful house and park near Weimar. After touring the house and learning about the original openers extravagant spending which left the state in a bad way financially when he died, we had coffee in a very nice setting, where we FaceTimed with Matt.

We spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the gardens and parkland. We had a cheap bratwurst lunch, followed by an ice cream. On the bus an advert was using the image of a kangaroo to advertise a hop on hop off ticket. The macadamia ice cream had a picture of a koala and suggestion of Ularu on it. Australia is at least famous for these.

This morning we had our final packing up of this journey before catching a bus to the station. We have four trains to get to London, then one more to Croydon. The train journeys are very comfortable with lovely scenery. There is a bit of tension in catching trains, but our next two have seat bookings, which is less stressful.