Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Enjoying life right now. (Page 1 of 16)

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 7.)

After seeing the Kangaroo silo painting, I stopped in at a little café for a coffee. Before I knew it, it was nearly time for my gin-tasting class at the distillery. Wouldn’t want to be late for that!

Originally, I was interested in doing the gin mixing class, but they wouldn’t run it for only one person. Participants end up taking home a bottle of the gin that they designed themselves. What a perfect souvenir! So the gin tasting class was the next-best thing for a single girl to do.

My friends Helen and Rick, who I went to North Korea and China with, love trying new gins. This place is tailor-made for them. I can just see Helen mixing flavours together like a mad scientist.

Look at this… only ONE CHAIR. The gifts that retirement brings keep coming and coming. I had a private masterclass, just for me!

A Spanish girl called Mar was my teacher for this class and she had 9 different drinks for me to try.

I’ve trained all my life for this moment.

As I settled myself on the chair, I could see that there were a few different aromatics for me to try with the different varieties I was going to taste. Some of these were from the extensive herb garden that surrounded the public café. I walked around and had a sticky-beak before the class started.

I had such a good time. The gin-tasting was amazing. There are such delicate flavours between them.

Here are the six that were on the original tasting. I had my mind blown by the very first one, which I ended up buying – the O Gin. As I went further down the line the gins kept tasting better and better. By the time we got to the 3 extra-special drinks at the end, I was having a VERY good time.

So I would’ve bought most of them, but you know I am but one woman with only one liver. I walked away with three bottles and one of them was vodka. I’m definitely not a vodka drinker, but this one was flavoured with such beautiful aromatics that I had to take one with me. I can see it being used sparingly, just a little bit poured over an ice cube…

The other type I bought was the First Harvest Juniper Gin, which is made with juniper and herbs from their garden and it was absolutely delicious.

They’re also in the process of making whiskey. Due to our climate, 3-year-old Australian whiskey tastes like 9-year-old Scotch/Irish whiskey. Interesting – this is something to keep our eyes peeled for.

I would imagine their Mixing class would be excellent, so if you’re ever on Kangaroo Island then definitely do the gin mixing class if you’re a couple or are with a group of friends.

After the class finished, I headed back to the car. Where to go now?

I decided to head off to the lavender farm for lunch.

After driving 20 minutes over rocky, corrugated unmade roads, I arrived at a big shed, and a café surrounded by rows of lavender bushes. Every row was labelled with the name of the variety of lavender.

I went into the shop, where one of the first things I saw was Lavender Gin. I backed away… I’d definitely had enough gin purchases and tipples for one day. I bought some foot moisturiser and a tub of something called ‘sleep balm’ – you put a smidge on each temple and you drift off to sleep like a baby. I can’t report as to how effective it is because I keep forgetting to use it.

I decided to sit here for lunch. I bought a lavender scone with strawberry jam, lavender jelly and cream.

The scone was about as big as my head.

I sat there, people-watching and also enjoying the sparrows and blue wrens that were darting in and out, picking up crumbs. It was cool in the shade.

I was looking around at all the lavender and I thought, ‘This can’t be the lavender farm. It’s too small. They must have another lavender farm or they buy their lavender oil from somewhere else.’

Before I’d ordered lunch, I’d given my phone to them to plug in because I was running low on battery. When I went to collect it, I happened to strike the owner of the place, so I asked her, “Where’s your main farm?”

She said, “This is it!”

I looked at her and said, ” It doesn’t seem to be big enough.”

She laughed and said, “Have you been to Tasmania?” and when I said that I’d just seen pictures of the massive farms there, she went on, “We cut our lavender by hand not by machine like they do. When you upscale and start using machines then you need the massive great amounts of plants.

“We don’t sell anywhere else. Because KI is such a huge tourist place, we don’t need to expand. We harvest our lavender by hand and we make all our products here”, gesturing behind her, “in this kitchen.”

Well of course this is music to my ears! I went back into the shop and bought some more things. I’m happy to support a business like this.

After lunch, I decided to have a look at the Eucalyptus Oil distillery, but to be honest, this was a bit underwhelming. I think I was a bit distilleried out, after Ireland and now here. I bought a cake of dog soap for the little woofs, then decided to make my way home.

Come to think of it – I’d had a very early start to the day. Coupled with the day drinking – I needed a nap.

The next day was an early morning ferry ride back to the mainland and then a full day’s driving. I took the 8:30 ferry and I didn’t get home till 9 PM. Thank goodness for podcasts and audiobooks.

Along the way, I saw a couple of very pretty houses in the same town in South Australia.

I stopped to take these shots, just like when Scott and I were in England.

Hours later, I was driving through Nhill when I saw a sign outside a shop saying “PATCHWORK.” I needed a break anyway, so I stopped the car and went inside.

I selected some fabric to buy – I was running low on reds and purples – and I ended up having the most fantastic conversation with the woman behind the counter. She was like ME! We talked for almost 20 minutes about all the travelling that we’ve done. We swapped recommendations and travel tips. It was fantastic.

Then, on the outskirts of the next town, I came across this.

The Pink Lake.

My friend Helen, you know, the gin-tippler, (haha!) – talked about this place to me a couple of years ago, saying that we should go up there. The pink that you see is SALT. You can harvest the salt.

I didn’t realise that the Pink Lake was on the way to Adelaide because when I went there a couple of years ago, I went via the Great Ocean Road where I met Loretta. A blogmeet is always a good thing.

So if I’d known I was going to be driving straight past here, I would have brought something substantial to scoop the salt into.

But all I had was my faithful coffee mug.

I brought the salt home, spread it out on a dinner plate and let the water evaporate away. It’s now in an empty Vegemite jar in my pantry, as a little reminder of this Little Adventure.

Look at the salt glistening in the sun.

That’s it for this Little Adventure. I had an excellent time on Kangaroo Island and can highly recommend it. It has a lovely blend of beaches, nature, foodie experiences and pure beauty.

It’s nice to find great places so close to home.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 6.)

This picture was taken at Stokes Bay at 8:01 in the morning. I woke up that morning at 5:30 and remembered what the guy in the Sculpture Walk told me about the beach. I needed to be at a gin distillery at 11 – no way I was going to miss that! – so I had plenty of time to spare for a drive.

Besides, I thought it might be nice to be on a beach soon after sunrise. I can’t do this at home. The little woofs bark so much as they’re getting ready for a walk that I’d wake the neighbours.

The drive was a little over an hour and I was a bit worried I’d skittle a wallaby, but that didn’t happen. Though I DID see one bounding beside the road as I was coming out of American River, so that was exciting.

The top photo is of the beach that the Sculpture Park guy said that people assume is the real beach. It’s pretty enough, but over to the right, just in front of the cliffs, I saw a yellow sign.

When I got out of the car I met a man coming back from that way. I asked if that was the way to the beach.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, ” you gotta go over there through the tunnel. It’s a bit hard to know where to go at the moment because there’s no one here . Normally it’s swarming with tourists.”

“Ah, tourists. Hate those guys!” I said.

Then, like the tourist I am, I set off towards the tunnel.

I thought you might like to come through the tunnel with me, so I snapped shots as I went along.

Here was where I took off my sandals.

I’m short.

It was fun squeezing through and under the rocks.

This walk went on for a while…

… but could it be???

Yes!

This is what I saw as I emerged from the rocks. A secluded stretch of beach.

And not a soul in sight.

I began walking. Slowly, just drinking it all in.

Look at the colours!

I looked back at where I’d emerged from the rocks. Just as I did, the clouds parted and the sun shone.

All I could hear was the waves rolling in.

It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know what time it was, so I grabbed my phone and saw that it was 8:01.

If I was still at work, I would be driving along the freeway. I would have been aiming at that time to be at the end of the freeway, ready to turn right onto Warrigal Road. My car wouls be surrounded by hundreds of other cars, their drivers all intent on gettig to work as fast as possible.

Instead, I’m on this beach. By myself, in total peace and quiet.

It’s glorious.

I’m the only one on this beach. It’s crazy. People are driving to work right now, and then there are other people doing things like this.

To be fair, I suppose I couldn’t have been here if I didn’t drive all those years to work. But walking along the sand, watching the waves roll in and the clouds floating along the sky, it made all the frugal sacrifices I made in years gone by absolutely worth it.

I’m glad I played the long game of delayed gratification.

This is a real treat. It’s something really special. I’m really glad I stopped to talk to that guy in the sculpture park otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered coming here. As you know, I can go to the beach near me anytime I want.

I’m glad I came.

I created a memory.

As I was driving back to town towards the gin distillery, I saw a sign and turned off the main drag. Kangaroo Island as its own painted silo!

This angle shows the Glossy Black Cockatoo

… while this fearsome-looking bloke is wholly appropriate to the island.

Next stop – GIN.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 5.)

Ok, we’re back on my Little Adventure to Kangaroo Island.

For those who may be new here and are wondering my I’ve used capital letters for ‘Little Adventure’… I decided that after I retired I was going to go somewhere new or do something new every month. When I go on big trips like Antarctica, North Korea or England, then obviously it’s a bigger adventure and they don’t count. But 4 nights in Kangaroo Island?

Little Adventure.

So where was I?

Oh yeah! I jumped in the car, rattled my way along over 20 km of dirt roads and got back on the main road to Penneshaw, which is where the ferry comes in. My goal was to see the sculpture walk, whatever that is.

I forgot to post this photo yesterday. It was on the toilet doors at the Honey Farm. Not exactly the sort of thing that makes you feel warm and fuzzy – tiger snakes are one of the most venomous snakes in the world.

I vowed to walk loudly along the trail in case any of them were hanging around.

As you can see, it’s set out in loops, with a ravine running right through the centre. I picked the left-hand path and set off.

The paths were lined with white rocks that made it easy to see which way you were meant to be going. The sculptures were arranged alongside the paths.

The sculptures range between your traditional types and haikus like this one. Some are made by professional artists and others are by the Kangaroo Island community.

Here’s one where passers-by are encouraged to add something to the nest.

There was no one else around, though I could hear a saw working somewhere in the middle of the area. Other than that, all I could hear were birdsounds.

My footsteps crunched on the path as I walked, casting my eyes around for the next sculpture or poem.

There was a section along the top of the sculpture walk called ‘The Orchid Garden.’ This is only part of it. One of the founding families on the island donated the money for it.

This was my favourite sculpture. It’s a Boobook owl made from forks and spoons. I didn’t take a great photo of it, so I’ve changed it to black and white so you can get a better idea of what it looked like.

He was just up in a tree by the path. If you were looking the wrong way you’d miss him.

I was walking around and I could hear somebody working. As I came around the corner there was a guy there putting together what was obviously going to be the base for another sculpture, so I stopped and talked with him.

And it turns out that the town has clubbed together to raise $35,000 for a 5-metre-tall sculpture representing the island’s pioneering women, the strong women of Kangaroo Island. It’s going to have big skirts that as the wind blows, they will move. It sounds amazing.

They put all this together in grief because one of the women who organised the sculpture park had died in a car smash a couple of years ago. This woman was his wife.

She was instrumental in setting up this whole park.

“I don’t know how many ute-loads of rocks she dragged up here to line the paths,” he said.

This made me blink. I’d never thought of how the rocks would come to be here… I’d just walked along the paths, oblivious. It’s a shame I was too early to see her memorial sculpture. It sounds amazing.

After a while, I asked if there was anything else that I MUST do while I was here.

He told me about a beach at the top of the island called Stokes Bay. I’ve seen it on the maps, but I wasn’t going to go because… well… a beach is a beach is a beach, yes?

“It’s always on the top list of best beaches in Australia,” he said, “and a lot of people drive there. They see a little beach and go, “Ok that’s it,” and then they drive away, but they’re missing out on the actual beach. You’ve gotta go through a tunnel of rocks,” he went on, ” and then you see the beach.”

A beach that you have to go through a tunnel to reach? That sounds intriguing. I thought I might do that tomorrow. Anyway let’s see if I do or not, but it sounded interesting.

This is the first suspension bridge to be built in South Australia for over 100 years. It goes over the ravine that slices the sculpture walk in two. I tell you what – they’ve done a good job with this bridge. It’s sturdy as.

This is the view I could see on the other side of the bridge. Kangaroo Island is a pretty place. But then I had a bit of a thrill…

I was walking quietly along a track, completely forgetting about tiger snakes, when suddenly there was a noise to my right. I turned to see a wallaby crashing through a little tunnel under some shrubs.

Yay! I saw a live kangaroo (or wallaby) on Kangaroo Island.

The same thing happened to me when I went to the Aussie Botanical Gardens at Cranbourne on another Little Adventure. It’s crazy that we can be so close to wild animals and we’d never know it if they didn’t move.

The Sculpture Walk is only 6 years old, so over time it’ll fill up with more artwork. It was a lovely way to kill some time without having to pay for a tour.

Then I decided to take a look at the town. I found a lovely shop where I bought some linen clothing and a wind chime. It sounded beautiful, but when I got home and unpacked it I realised that it was big. Too big to hang from one of the fruit trees. It’s now waiting for Tom32 to come over and drill a screw into the front verandah so I can hang it. I may have been carried away when I bought it…

Anyway, that was all well and good. I had a lovely time buying the clothes and had a great chat with the woman who runs the shop.

After this, I decided to set out to see the other lighthouse on the island, because why not?

I drove for miles, again on unmade roads. After a while I felt like I should turn back, but I then thought, ‘You’ve come this far, Frogdancer! You might as well see it through to the end!’

I finally reached the car park. The lighthouse was poking out from the top of some buildings. I felt a bit thirsty, so I reached over to grab my faithful Antarctica Pee Bottle. The one I had to buy in case I needed to pee when I was out on the ice. I never used it as a receptacle for urine, so when I got home it became my water bottle.

I’ve taken the Antarctica Pee Bottle every day to work, to England, to Ireland. I left it in a shop in England and the woman came running to hand it to me just as I realised I didn’t have it. I left it hanging from a toilet door at Tullamarine airport, was nearly out of the terminal before I noticed I didn’t have it and I retraced my steps for nearly 20 minutes to retrieve it.

That Antarctica Pee Bottle and I have been through a lot together. How could I have been so stupid as to leave it in the shop???

Here it is in happier times, when Jenna’s parents and I were having lunch a few days before in Adelaide.

I grabbed my phone to look for the number of the shop. I tried to call, but there was no reception for calls in this isolated spot. I walked up to the buildings in front of the lighthouse, hoping that there might be a landline or something. It was getting close to 4 PM, when I assumed she’d be shutting up shop for the day.

The very bored man behind the counter said, “You’ve missed the last tour. Feel free to look around at the exhibits, but if you go out the back door there’s a $5.50 charge.”

“What’s out the back door?” I asked.

“You can walk around the base of the lighthouse,” he said.

Well, you and I both know that I wasn’t going to waste that money. I walked around the base of the other lighthouse in the national park only the day before!

I looked at the (dull) photos and decided that my time would be better spent racing back to see if the shop was open. I needed to be reunited with that Pee Bottle. It has so much history attached to it.

I drove. And drove. That road seemed never-ending.

When I got back the shop was shut. Of course it was. I peered through the window at the little table in front of the cash register where I knew I’d left my precious. There was nothing there.

There was a phone call and an email on the front window. I called and left a voice message, then left an email as well. I was really annoyed at myself. I wanted to look at an entirely different part of the island on Wednesday, and instead, I’d have to backtrack to come and get my Antarctica Pee Bottle. Assuming the shop owner hadn’t piffed it in the bin.

I was leaving on Thursday morning…

Then, just as I was trying to find something to write on so I could shove my phone number under the door, a car pulled up next to mine. In it was a Great Dane, a chihuahua and the woman from the shop.

omg.

She got out of the car with a dozen eggs in her hand, saying, “Well, its lucky I needed to buy eggs for the dop!”

Ten seconds later my beloved and I were reunited.

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

Before I finish this post, I thought I’d talk about how I’ve been keeping my food and laundry costs down on this holiday. As a Valuist – a person who ruthlessly cuts down on expenses that aren’t important to me in order to be extravagant with the things I truly value – food and laundry is waaaay down the list of things I want to spend money on when I’m on holiday.

Usually, when I travel in Australia I use my holiday club, where every place has a kitchenette at the bare minimum. I’m used to taking a box of groceries with me to save on having to buy expensive meals. With a stovetop and microwave, it’s easy to whip up food when I’m back in the room.

Clearly, I’m not a foodie. I don’t travel specifically to try exotic food… I’m more into the sights and the wildlife a place has to offer. Obviously, you don’t come to a place like Kangaroo Island without trying the seafood, but basically… all I care about is keeping my stomach full without going overboard on price.

I figure that if I buy myself a nice lunch, then who really cares what I eat for the other two meals?

This room I was staying in, even though I used timeshare points, is not part of the timeshare properties. All I had to work with was a mini fridge, 2 teaspoons, 2 cups and a kettle.

I decided I’d have Vita-Weets and vegemite for breakfast, without buying butter. I didn’t want to have to buy 25g of butter to use for 4 breakfasts and then have to throw it away because it wouldn’t keep in the car on the long drive back.

One thing I forgot to think about was cutlery. I didn’t have a knife to spread the vegemite on the crackers. A little quick thinking and the spoon handle became my ‘knife.’

I did bring a plate (because I left for this holiday so early in the morning I ate breakfast as I was driving) and a big coffee mug that fits my Aeropress. A proper coffee first thing in the morning is a must. I brought my Aeropress with me and my morning brew was assured. All in all – the breakfast of champions.

Though I prefer to have butter with my crackers and Vegemite. Still, I can live without it for 4 days.

But what about dinner?

Sandyg from Simple Savings came up with the answer. She and her husband take a jaffle maker with them when they go on holidays. If you’ve had a lovely lunch, you don’t need something spectacular for dinner. A jaffle fills you up, can be cooked in a motel room and is yum.

What’s not to love? All I had to buy was a loaf of bread and a couple of tins to fill the jaffles with. And the amazing thing? I had a brand-new jaffle maker stored in the top shelf of my kitchen.

I was set!

And it worked like a charm. I used to like egg and cheese jaffles, but I couldn’t risk the eggs overflowing and causing a mess. I bought a tin of baked beans and a tin of braised steak and onion (as an experiment. Never had it before.)

The baked beans lasted me three nights. I actually enjoyed eating the jaffles at night while I was watching Australian Survivor. Felt like I was roughing it with the cast.

On the fourth night I used the braised steak and onions. This was NOT a pleasurable experience. Most of them got flushed down the loo. Definitely can not recommend.

One brilliant thing about my room was that I could open a window to let the sea breeze in. I brought three wire coat hangers with me and I was able to manoeuvre them to hang over the curtain rod. I’m so pleased I thought of this, as most places have the type of clothes hangers that can’t be removed from the wardrobe.

Pictured here are my blue linen trousers drying in the breeze. I washed shirts and underwear too, just making sure that I only hung things in the window when the pool area was empty at the end of the day.

Things to include next time I’m staying in a non-holiday club place:

  1. Some basic cutlery and a couple of plates.
  2. Some pegs to make sure things are held securely on the clothes hangers. I was worried things might fall off the hangers and out the window.
  3. An appetising filler for jaffles that isn’t just baked beans. I may not be a foodie but it’s still nice to mix meals up a bit!
  4. My portable battery for my phone. I always forget one thing when I pack, it seems, and this trip was spent keeping an eye on my phone battery.

I have one more day on Kangaroo Island… this holiday is going so fast!

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 4.)

Today’s first stop was just a few metres from my door. I went to the oyster farm.

I didn’t realise, but the bay that my hotel is on is also where they farm the oysters on the island. When I saw how close it was, of course this was the first stop for the day. There are big advantages to being retired. The only people on my tour were a Danish tourist family and me. Everyone else is back at school/work.

The first stop, after meeting at the oyster café, was to walk across the road to the bay and feed the pelicans. We weren’t given the chance to have a go, and I could see why when one of them tried to swallow our guide’s entire hand in his eagerness to snare the oyster.

Look at those weird eyes! It doesn’t seem that there’s a lot going on behind them…

While we were here, we were directed to look out to the mouth of the bay. There was a dark line along half of the bay opening. These were the oyster cages.

You can’t get fresher oysters. They bring them in from the bay, sort them in the shed directly on the beach, and then bring them across the road to the café.

On our way into the shed, we passed these scrappy-looking trees called She-Oaks. The seeds are a staple food for the island’s endangered Glossy Black Cockies, and the oyster farm also uses them to smoke their oysters.

 This is an intertidal bag which will be filled with baby oysters. They roll around with the tides. A baby oyster takes around 2.5 years to grow big enough to harvest.

They start off with hundreds of tiny baby oysters in bags like this, with small holes, enough to let the sea water in and keep the oysters from falling through. Around twice a year, the bags are hauled up and the growing oysters are decanted into bigger crates with larger holes. as of course the oysters need ready access to seawater to thrive.

Each time, fewer and fewer oysters are put into each crate to allow them enough room to grow. If they’re too crowded, the poor things grow into each other, which would probably feel horrible.

Interestingly, spawning baby oysters swap genders throughout their lives.

There are two types of cages – the deep sea ones which lie on the sea bed and get very little disturbance, and the intertidal ones that get buffeted by the tides every day.

The deep sea oysters develop thin shells and have to be manually graded.

The intertidal oysters, on the other hand, have developed massive thick shells and so can be graded by machine to save time.

Normal oysters can stay in the fridge for 7 – 10 days.

The indigenous variety – the Angasi – only lasts 3 – 5 days. The fridges are run at warmer temperatures than we’re used to, at around 9C. This is because the oysters are still alive and if the temperature is too low they’ll die.

Any that aren’t sold by the end of this time are put back into the sea again.

The Angasi oysters used to be plentiful along the coastal regions of Australia, but of course the white settlers nearly foraged them out of existence. They’re slowly making a comeback, but they’re more delicate than the usual oysters farmed here.

After this, we walked back across the road to the café, where we had a tasting.

The shell on the right is an Angasi shell. It’s a milder taste than the oysters we usually have.

She shucked those oysters right in front of us and we dived in.

Seriously, the best oysters I’ve ever had.

It was almost lunchtime and I saw that the café had marron on the menu. When I was in Adelaide, Jenna’s uncles told me to be sure to try the Kangaroo Island marron. It’s between the size of a crayfish and a yabby and it’s freshwater.

I decided to try one for lunch.

 So good. It was served on a bed of coleslaw, with a slice of garlic bread. The marron was the perfect size for lunch. I enjoyed every bite.

Then I had to decide where to go. The girl behind the counter recommended Clifford’s Honey Farm. There was a different honey farm that allowed you to get all suited up and harvest honey from the bee hives and I definitely would’ve been up for this, but unfortunately they weren’t open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which were all the days I had left.

So Cliffords it was!

This was where I discovered that Kangaroo Island has many, many roads that are completely unmade. You certainly don’t want to be precious about your clean car when coming here! After a sometimes jaw-rattling ride in my trusty Golf, I arrived at the farm.

Apparently, their claim to fame is their Honey ice cream. I decided that dessert for a lunch on holiday is almost obligatory, so I grabbed a sample. It was ok, but seeing as I’m a person who doesn’t like milk or cream, it was a bit too creamy for me. I’m guessing most other people would love it.

They had three different types of honey to try and surprise, surprise! They had all three in a pack to buy.

Which I did.

I don’t use a whole heap of honey in my kitchen but hey. It’s never going to go off, is it? I also bought a bottle of Honey Mead. I have no idea what it tastes like but I figured thousands of Vikings can’t be wrong.

At the back of the shop they had a working hive, with the queen bee marked with a white dot. I looked for ages but couldn’t find her. The hive was open to the outside and it was interesting to see all the bees flying back into the hive.

The following paragraphs are from the Clifford’s Honey Farm leaflet.

Before the 1880’s there were no honeybees on Kangaroo Island. When importations were made between 1881 – 1885, the intention was for them to breed up and provide a future source of purebred queen bees for the beekeeping industry. These bees originated from Italy in the province of Liguria, and are known as Ligurian bees.

In 1885 the South Australian government proclaimed Kangaroo Island to be a bee sanctuary for these bees and no more importations have been made. So today we are believed to have the purest strain of these bees left in the world. The island is out of range of bee flight from the mainland.

There are big signs at the ferry terminus telling people that they can’t bring any honey products onto the island. This is obviously to protect this pure strain of bees.

Here are some handy hints and tips for you. Never say I don’t give you anything.

Fortified by the honey icecream, I decided to take a look at something that I read about on the ferry coming into Kangaroo Island: The Sculpture Walk.

More on this tomorrow…

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 3.)

The Remarkable Rocks!

Here’s the first time I caught sight of them, as I was walking along the boardwalk from the car park. You can see the people all around them… these babies are HUGE. Even from this far away, they looked interesting.

I’ve lived in Australia all my life and have never heard of these rocks, so I was going in cold. What can I say?

Going to Kangaroo Island is worth it for these rocks alone.

Halfway along the boardwalk I snapped this shot…

… and soon I was scrambling up onto the hilltop and walking around these incredible shapes.

Whoever named these rocks, the “remarkable” rocks knew what they were doing. They’re amazing. Surreal. Stunningly beautiful.

I think it was good that I came without knowing anything about them because they surprised the hell out of me.

Oh! By the way, there are no filters on these photos. These are the actual colours.

The Remarkable Rocks are all the result of erosion. They had these granite lumps on top of the cliff, covered by a whole dome of soft rock. Over aeons, the wind and rain have gradually worn away the soft rock, leaving the granite rocks exposed.

I tried not to include many people in these shots, but here’s one to give you an idea of how big these things are.

Enjoy the rest of the photos!

Just to prove that I was really here.

This was the end of Day 1 of Kangaroo Island.

Already I felt like I’d got my money’s worth!

Dad joke of the day:

So how does it feel to switch gears on your superannuation account?

September last year I turned 60. I celebrated by taking a 5 week holiday to England and Ireland, staying with friends nearly every step of the way. It was a fantastic holiday that will live on in my memories for the rest of my life. But it was significant for another reason. In Australia, when you turn 60 you can access your superannuation tax-free.

I really don’t want to work again, not even as a highly-paid relief teacher, so it was definitely time to get moving on switching gears from Accumulation to Pension modes on my super.

It was a strange experience, and one that I thought might be interesting for others to read. Most of my readers here are still working and so are still in the Accumulation mode of building up superannuation and investment portfolios. What’s it like to stop doing that and start pulling money out of these accounts instead? And not little dribbles of dollars.

THOUSANDS.

It was a strange feeling, but not as weird as I thought it might be for a naturally frugal person like me. I thought I might have to have a cup of tea and a nice lie down after setting it all up, but that wasn’t the case.

For the last 3 years, ever since I retired at the end of 2020, I’ve lived off a mixture of dividends, sales of shares and CRT wages. I retired at 57, so I had to live off a financial bridge to cover myself to the age of 60 when I could access my super tax-free.

A couple of months after I arrived home from my trip, I sat at my laptop, trying to access an online tool from Hostplus to see what my options were. It seems that they’ve deactivated it, so there was no alternative but to speak to someone on the phone.

Before I did this, I re-read Noel Whitaker’s book on Super, just to make sure that I didn’t sound like a goose on the phone. This was actually a good idea, as it enabled the conversation to flow far faster than if the Hostplus consultant had to explain Every Little Thing to me.

Talking with the consultant was fantastic, as you have to fill in a form inline and there were a couple of times when I wouldn’t have known which alternative to choose, but she walked me through it. Clearly, she knew which questions were the problematic ones and so knew how to guide me. Phew!

I was amazed at how flexible it was. Bottom line, I know that it’s my money, but I suppose that a lifetime of being told how much I’m going to earn, how much tax I’m going to pay etc has made me used to having restrictions.

Switching from an Accumulation fund to a Pension fund is pretty much total freedom. If I wanted, I could withdraw every last cent and spend it however I choose. Yikes! I’m not going to do this, obviously.

But I have the freedom to do it, which is fair enough. It is my money, after all. And truly, if I’ve reached the age of 60 and I haven’t yet learned fiscal responsibility, then I probably deserve the consequences of every disastrous mistake I’d go on to make.

I had to nominate the percentage payment that I’d be taking out of the fund. Basically, every year after you switch to a pension fund, you HAVE to take money out of it. The lowest percentage is 4%, with the choice of the actual percentage that you take out being up to you. I chose to take the minimum out, which still nets me a healthy 50% of the amount I want to live off (including expensive travel.)

I have other investments that will spit out what I need to make up the shortfall. And if they don’t? Then a simple phone call means that I can change the payment details. Or I could live more frugally, which, knowing me, would probably be the way I’d go.

I can change this percentage at any time. I can also take lump sums out, which will be nice when I want to upgrade my car, for example. Not that I’m in a hurry to do this. I love my little Golf.

Once all of that was chosen, I then had to choose how I wanted that money to come to me. Annually? Quarterly? Monthly? Fortnightly? Weekly?

This for me was a no-brainer. I’ve been paid fortnightly for my whole career, so this is how I’m used to organising my finances. So fortnightly it is!

The ONLY thing that has made me miss work is when their online form wouldn’t accept my driver’s licence information, so I had to post them a certified photocopy. Instead of just grabbing a photocopy from work, I had to go to my local library and PAY for one. Outrageous!

In the last week of December, my first “pay” went into my account. I kept watch on my account all day and it raised a smile when, just like my teaching wage, my super landed in there between 3 PM and 3:30 PM.

Nothing like familiarity!

But how does this actually feel?

I’m pulling money from an account that I’ve spent my whole career building up! It almost feels irresponsible… except it’s actually warming the cockles of my heart.

I was reading the Simple Savings forum this morning when I saw a comment from V on one of the threads: “My super pension went into the bank today. Even after years of getting it I still feel a thrill when I see it.”

That’s how it felt for me when I saw the first one go in. Like dividend payments, it felt a bit like money for nothing. Everyone likes that feeling!

I divvied it up and sent some to my credit card and some to my online bank account, which has a spreadsheet attached so I can save up for various things. It’s divided up into columns for Emergency, Travel, Car. Rates, Pets (this is mainly in case Scout ever comes down with IVDD), and every now and then I’ll add an extra column for Wedding, or Tom30’s house etc.

I’d rather run my life this way with only 2 savings accounts, instead of having about 10 of them. Much easier to keep track of.

Then it was a 2 week wait for the next payment to come along. This one wasn’t nearly as exciting, because it was almost exactly the same amount as my yearly timeshare fee. All I had to do was transfer it to my credit card and then pay the bill.

But still, it’s nice to see a chunk of money turn up like clockwork with no effort from me and no fanfare. And to think this will go on for decades!

What I’m really looking forward to is doing my annual figures at the end of the year, seeing what effect, if any, my drawing a wage will have on my Super balance. I’ve heard from other retirees that their balances keep going up, even with the regular withdrawals, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll experience the same thing.

Imagine? It would be like the story of the goose who lays the golden eggs, except this is no fairy tale. I honestly thought I’d be more concerned about taking money OUT of this pot. I’m a saver: I absolutely love seeing my balances go up. But instead, I’m strangely at peace with it.

Maybe I’ve finally got my emotions around the concept that this is what all those years of patiently plugging away at building up Super were for.

One thing that I’ve done with my Super is that I’ve hedged my bets a little with regard to work. I’ve paid my VIT fees for this year, just in case I decide to work a few days, but if I worked, that would mean that I’d have to have a valid accumulation fund in place. I asked the consultant about that and she said that most people in my situation leave 6K (the minimum amount) in their Accumulation fund to keep it open, just in case they pick up a little work.

So that’s what I’ve done. When I’m totally, 100%, absolutely positively SURE that I’ll never darken the door of a classroom again, I’ll just close down that account and walk off into the sunset. It’s worth paying the tiny annual fee just for the peace of mind.

As I’m typing this, it’s the summer school holidays, so I can’t help but still feel in holiday mode. My payment popping into my account just feels like holiday pay. When term starts and it still keeps coming… I have the feeling that it’ll be pretty sweet.

Remember the photo at the start of this post? These are the apples that I picked a couple of days ago from the garden. Some of these trees are 6 years old and some are 3 years old.

It’s very much the same as Superannuation… you put the hard work in at the beginning and then later on you (hopefully) reap the benefits.

(The bananas are picked from Aldi, in case anyone was wondering.)

Dad joke of the day:

Travelling for 5 weeks with only ONE dress.

Hands down, this is a wonderful outfit to travel in. The dress is Sierra, a swing dress that can easily be used as a pinafore, meaning that it would never actually touch my skin, thus cutting down on washing.

The real beauty of this dress is that it’s made from merino wool, which means that it’s odour-resistant, easy to wash, crumple-free and absolutely comfortable to wear.

This makes it stellar for travel, especially if, like me, you choose to only take carry-on and so space is at a premium. Having just one outfit makes carry-on travelling a breeze.

Obviously I was very protective of Sierra, being extra-careful where messy foods were concerned. Before my travel I had to spot-clean a few times, but while I was travelling it was never an issue.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How and why did I choose to wear just the one dress – not just for my 5-week holiday – but for a full 100 days?

For those who don’t know, I began a 100-Day Challenge run by Wool&, an American company that makes merino clothing. What interested me in buying one of their dresses – after I thought about it for 2 years – was that merino is an excellent fabric for travel.

I went to Antarctica last year and bought merino long-sleeved tees to travel in, wear on the ice and on the ship, and those tees were absolutely brilliant. Due to this, I decided that I was going to take the plunge and invest in a Wool& dress and do their 100-days challenge.

Because after all, why not? I love a challenge and a US$100 voucher is nothing to be sneezed at. Having two dresses would make a perfect travel capsule.

I also decided that the easiest way to succeed at this would be to schedule my end date to be the day I got home from my 5-week trip to England and Ireland. If I gave myself no alternative outfits to wear, I’d have no option but to succeed! I counted back the days and the 100 days began on July 1.

Before my trip, I treated the dress as I would anything else. I was protective of her – I wore an apron when cooking to eliminate any oil spots and I was careful with sauces and such. Spot cleaning is easy – I just used a bar of Velvet soap and handwashed the area.

Just before my trip I washed the dress by using the velvet soap, immersing in water and then rolling her into a towel and standing on it. I hung her up in a well-ventilated spot and the dress was dry by morning!

Incredible.

What was also incredible was that before I went on the trip I was teaching secondary students. Not one of them noticed that I was wearing the same dress every day.

While travelling, I was very protective of the dress.

“Not near THE DRESS!” I’d say if any ketchup or creamy sauces were handed around near me, and it became a running joke. I didn’t have to spot clean once and I only gave her one full wash towards the end of the trip, not because I thought she needed it but because I thought that it was a good thing to do.

(The merino tops were hung up every night and spot-washed in the armpits every 3 or 4 wears, usually when I had 2 nights in a room, just to make sure that they’d be dry when I needed to pack my case again.)

Merino is definitely the best fabric for travel.

Right at the end of my 100 days I noticed a couple of pills on the fabric where the strap on my travel bag was running against it. You can see the size of my travel bag in the photo above – it’s large and was quite heavy some days.

I don’t think this is a problem – I worked the dress hard and if there a tiny bit of pilling at the end of the challenge, then so be it.

The clothes I took on the trip were as follows :

1 x Wool& dress.

4 x merino tees.

3 x undies.

2 x bra.

2 x black tights.

1 x walking boots.

1 x runners.

1 x woolen cowl.

1 x woolen beanie.

1 x light raincoat.

1 x warm fleece jacket.

That’s all I wore for 5 weeks and, to be honest, I only needed the fleece jacket once when we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I’d think about leaving it home next time, depending on where I go next.

I really enjoyed just having carry-on luggage. It was so good to simply get off the plane and walk straight to the exits. Wheeling it around on the streets was also very easy.

At the end of my trip, when my carry-on case was stuffed to the gills, I had to walk up 3 sets of stairs to get to my room in an old hotel in England. I don’t think I would have been able to get up there if I’d had a traditional 30KG suitcase!

So all in all, I’m loving the Sierra as a travel dress. Having the one outfit that I could dress up or down as I pleased made the whole trip so easy.

Will I wear her in my ordinary life? Maybe. I’m actually liking the thought of folding her up and putting her in my carry-on case, ready for the next trip next year.

Alaska and Canada – I’m looking at you!

Days 34 and 35. Homeward bound – plus souvenirs for light travel.

Here am I at Market Harborough station, waiting for my train to London.

The morning was spent trying to get my carry-on case to close. It took me ages to cram everything into the tins and around sculptures and artwork lying flat. For a few minutes it looked as if my beloved flannelette pyjamas were going to have to be sacrificed, but some creative packing saved them. (In fact, I’m wearing them right now as I type.)

After I checked out of the hotel, I wheeled myself over to Scott and Mark’s, where I spent the next few hours having lunch and getting my tarot read. I’m never getting my tarot read again because this reading foretells a future that’s so TERRIFIC. Scott kept turning over the cards and saying, “Oh my god, Frogdancer!” and I’d be like, “What? What?” and it would always turn out to be good.

Well, except for one card, but you can’t have a life without something going wrong at some stage, so that’s ok.

Ruby came and lay on the cards for a while, just to be involved. Fortunately, it was on the section that we weren’t reading yet, so by the time we got to it she’d moved away.

We walked to the station and Scott stayed until the train came, which was nice of him because he has his brother from NZ arriving tomorrow so he must have had a million things to do.

I’d booked a room, on Scott’s recommendation, at Heathrow terminal 2. It was a little exxy but so worth it when the alarm went off at 5:30Am and al I had to do was walk across the car park to get to the airport.

My flights went flawlessly and I was able to bring all my souvenirs home in my slightly heavier than allowed carry-on case and handbag.

So what did I bring home?

Keep in mind that I only had carry-on, so my space was limited. Weight was also a consideration. They don’t tend to weigh carry-on, but if I was unlucky and was asked to pop my bag on the scales, I would have been in trouble. For most of my trip, I reined myself in with regard to size and weight, but in the last few days I went. a little crazy.

I could have bought a bag and checked it in, but to be honest, I didn’t want to clutter up my wardrobe with another bag. Plus, I was already really enjoying the sensation of simply walking off the plane without having to wait for luggage.

My souvenirs from Kinsale in Ireland. I’m calling them Molly Malone and Sean. Molly had airport security in Dublin wanting to go through my bag with a fine-toothed comb. She was wrapped up in bubble wrap and a tea towel and they couldn’t make out on the x-ray what she was. I had to describe her before they’d let me through.

For the rest of the flights, I just had her in my handbag so I could unwrap her if they wanted. She was easily the heaviest thing I bought.

Note to self: steer away from pottery items in future. She made my handbag pretty heavy.

When I travel, I like to bring home art and also practical souvenirs. Here’s my soap holder from the Tiptree Jam museum. It’ll stop my soap from sitting in a pool of water and so it’ll last longer.

This is the huge framed print I bought at Windsor Castle. It’s now hanging at the end of my hallway. I had to pay duty on it before they’d let it into the country!!

This is the little Toby jug that Deana’s friend Kathleen gave me on the drive into Stansted airport before I flew over to Ireland. It fitted snugly into a tin and is now in my china cabinet.

My Belfast earrings. I wanted to buy a pair of earrings that were small enough to wear every day. I ended up buying 2 pairs. Oops.

A few days later I bought these. They have Connemara marble in them.

A sketch of Yates.

I bought this little card – and it’s tiny – at the town where they shot “The Quiet Man’ movie with John Wayne and Maureen O’Sullivan. It’s off getting framed.

I love it so much.

This little one comes from Wimpole House, along with a couple of garden ornaments. He was surprisingly light for his size and I just love the shape of him.

Postcards and magnets.

These are excellent souvenirs to buy when you’re worried about size and weight. The magnets fit into tins and the postcards are stored flat with your artwork.

Every day I can see souvenirs from my trips to Europe, Antarctica, Ireland and England.

An ironing board cover from Maldon. Hey – it provided handy wrapping for a breakable item in my case!

I saw this in Cork and had to buy it. This was the only tin that kept its contents because I was curious as to how shamrocks taste.

Spoiler alert: these teabags just taste of green tea.

These are two flat garden ornaments that I’ll be nailing up somewhere in the backyard. These came from Wimpole House, along with the rabbit. Really easy to transport. I just popped them in with the artwork.

A coffee mug. I loved this place!

I’ll be showing all of the Christmas tree decorations but this one deserves its own photo. It’s so intricate, so silver and so expensive. The buyer’s remorse is still struggling with this one…

Christmas tree decorations!

My Blarney Stone hat! The cowl I’m wearing around my neck travelled with me the last time I was in England and Europe in 2015.

I went home with this fully-framed and glassed print in my case. I was worried that the glass would break but it came through unscathed. It was nearly the straw that broke the camel’s back though — I only just managed to get my case zipped up after I put this into it!

Ken the climbing man. Not too sure where he’ll go, but it’ll be somewhere that hands won’t make him chip my newly-painted walls. Again, he wasn’t too heavy and his rope was folded up so he could fit in the case.

Tea towels! So handy for wrapping around breakables and stuffing into corners.

I bought the bright yellow one because 3 of the boys have names that are on this tea towel. Maybe Ireland is my spiritual home because I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, yet I named them Irish names.

Anyway, more useful souvenirs.

Speaking of useful souvenirs, look at these babies! These were great for fitting smaller souvenirs into and also for providing a flat base for me to lay all of my artwork down so it wouldn’t get creased. I didn’t think of that before I left, but it soon became evident that it was a smart way to go.

When I’d pretty much covered the bottom of my case with tins, I decided that I was finished. Until Scott pointed out the tin with the three Westies on it in the last few days of our trip. This tin travelled home in my handbag with my wallet, cough lollies and tissues in it.

I ate the shortbread for dinner on my last night in England.

My rescued Cavaliers. I’ve always had Blenheims and one tricolour. Maybe this is a sign that I should get two whole colours for my last pack?

My Antarctica souvenir that I found in Ireland! Being framed and will live in the Man Cave along with the other pictures.

I love this for two reasons. The first is because my friend James told me about fairy trees when we were driving around and the memory makes me happy. Secondly, the fairy tree that we saw when I was on the bus a week later looked almost exactly like this.

This print of Derry isn’t as pretty but look at this:

This is the view from the bridge. I found the walking tour around Derry deeply moving. It’s not something I want to forget. The stories of a city tearing itself apart over something as stupid as religion were searing.

Especially with what’s going on in Gaza and Israel.

And finally – the little sheep in the Irish colours that James gave me.

All I want to do now is to post something separately about the experience of wearing the same dress for the whole trip – and the two months before it. Yes, I wore the grey sack for 100 days.

I’ll send it, along with my selfies for the whole time period, to the company who made it. They run a 100-day challenge.

But now? Time to get showered, get dressed and get to Bunnings.

I want to buy a fuschia as another little souvenir from the trip. I saw them everywhere along the streets and gardens of my trip.

Thanks again to Scott, Deana, James and Corinna. What amazing friends you are to me and I love you all. There’s a spare bedroom here in Melbourne… just saying!

Days 33: Market Harborough, Kirby Hall and Bede Almshouse.

Here is the building that graces the middle of Market Harborough. It’s a grammar school built in 1640, with the open-air structure underneath used for markets and the occasional raging flood sweeping through the town in the olden days.

For this reason, the church that stands beside it doesn’t have its own churchyard. No one wants to be sitting listening to a sermon only to see Granny’s coffin bobbing around beside them. The church was given space in St Mary’s, which is wisely placed on higher ground.

In 1569 the town was briefly in the news as the Privy Council debated whether a local girl Agnes Bowker had given birth to a cat.

I thought that this quote underneath the grammar school was very appropriate for a single woman wearing a grey sack on her voyage across the world. No man was going to give me a second glance wearing this!

Scott wanted a sleep-in now that he was back in his own bed, so we’d agreed to meet at 11. I decided that rather than staying in and writing a blog post, I’d get out and about and have a look at the town.

Plus I could find that gift shop and have another look at the depressed cow vase I’d spotted in the window the night before.

I set off.

I saw this disgusting-looking overcoat in an op shop.

Finally, I got to the gift shop and although the depressed-looking cow vase was lovely, it was just too expensive. Also, I couldn’t see how to make it fit in my overburdened carry-on case.

But then I saw this…

I’m calling him Ken because he doesn’t have a penis. He’ll be a fun little addition to a wall somewhere, though it’ll have to be where people won’t try and move him. I don’t want my new paint being chipped!

On the way back I decided to get Scott a little snack for our trip today. (By the way, I patted those dogs.) I decided to harken back to my visit to Dublin with James and so I bought him a couple of little Bakewell tarts.

Then I dived into the church.

It was full of toddlers having a dance class or something. I looked around for a bit, then went back to the hotel, passing an op shop on the way. I found two whole-colour cavalier ornaments there for only £1.50 each.

Cavaliers in an op shop for such a basement price? This is the best breed in the world!!! This is OUTRAGEOUS!

Not on my watch.

So I bought them. They could easily fit in one of my tins, I reasoned.

It was a really good idea to use tins as souvenirs when I had so little space. I gave away the biscuits/tea/fudge the tins contained and as I went, they filled up with souvenirs or clothes.

Now I have them as decorations and storage for my sewing room.

When I was in the gift shop where I bought Ken the climbing man, the owner asked me where I was going that day. When I said that I wasn’t sure, but I thought there was an almshouse involved at some stage, he gave me the hot tip to go to Kirby House, an Elizabethan manor house nearby. He also mentioned that the village of Rochester was pretty. It has a castle but it was closed for the season.

So when Scott picked me up, we headed off to Kirby Hall. We’d heard it described as a ruin, but on the strength of the gift shop man, we decided to give it a go.

I’m so glad we did. It was one of the most evocative places I’ve ever seen.

Kirby Hall was one of the great Elizabethan houses of England. It was built for Sir Humphrey Stafford beginning in 1570. In 1575 the property was purchased by Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I. 

For. acouple of hundred years it was maintained and renovated and kept beautiful. Henry VIII stayed there for a few days with his wife, Katharine Howard. It was either from here or from Lincoln Castke (which we saw on my last trip), that poor Katharine Howard wrote the love letter to Thomas Culpepper that was used in her trial against her.

They weren’t the only royals to stay here. Eighty years or so later, James I and his wife Anne of Denmark stayed here 9 times. Must’ve been good hunting here!

Unfortunately for Kirby Hall, the family built another mansion at Eastwell park in the late 1700’s and the family moved there, leaving this place as a holiday house.

THEN the 11th Earl of Winchilsea sold off the lead from most of the roof to pay his gambling debts. Can you believe it?!?

From then on the place fell steadily into ruin, with only the Great Hall and the rooms above it, which include the Royal rooms, being still as they were.

It’s such a shame, because the place would have been stunning. Still, the ruins now have a beauty all their own.

The details of how the building was put together were all there in front of us.

Little things like how the fireplaces are stacked one on top of the other, because they used the same chimney. With a floor in between them, you wouldn’t notice it.

Even back in 1786, some idiot was carving his name into the building.

With so much gone. there were still details remaining, like these elaborately carved friezes over the doors.

After exploring the ruins at the front of the house, we made our way to the intact rooms. Look at all of the little Tudor windows! They didn’t know how to make glass windows bigger then.

As I went in, I took a look back. Imagine how stately and beautiful this house would have been? Fit for royalty to come and visit. And don’t forget that James I was the king who threw the owner of Audey End into the Tower when he saw how amazing his house was. Just how much bigger and more expensive was Audley End when it was complete?

This is what is left of the great Hall. You can see the minstrels’ gallery above.

After the place began to fall into ruin, the local farmers moved in. They used to welcome parties of the getry who would pop in to have. apicnic and mourn at the state of the house. One shepherd’s child was actually named ‘Kirby’, so he was probably born here.

Here’s a model of what they think the grounds would have looked like in its heyday. They’ve restored the pretty waking garden at the side of the house. I’ll show you later.

Ignore the person vacuuming. Look at those windows! This would have been such a pleasant room to hang around in. It’s huge!

The room next door has windows just as impressive. This was designated as the library.

This is the view from the King’s Room. I leaned on the windowledge for quite. awhile, touching the exact same ledge as Henry VIII and James I. Looking out onto the type of view they would have looked at.

It’s just amazing that these places are still around. In Australia, it would have been knocked down and the stones. carted off to be reused elsewhere.

It’s nice to see how we would have looked had we been born back then.

Because naturally, we would have been nobility.

The Long Gallery was where major entertaining was done and where the lord of the manor and the King, if he was here, would greet people.

Even in its state of neglect, you can still almost feel what it must have been like.

Here is where the Long Gallery was. It has a window in front of it now, but there was a grid underneath the window that, when placed correctly, you can see what the hallway would have looked like.

Fortunately, I had Scott with me. He’s a details man. I held the grid in place and he took the photo…

After that we went outside and wandered around.

I liked the look of the decorations at the top of the building against the sky.

I felt that the gardens, while pretty when looked. atfrom the house, would have been pretty dull to walk around in. Still, if I were encumbered by all those skirts, a walk around these paths might be all I could manage, who knows?

We walked around to the back of the house.

See how bumpy the lawn is? Do you know why?

Mole hills!

I was excited. I’ve read about them, but never seen them. I can understand why people don’t like them – they were really making a mess of the lawn.

Then we walked around the side of the house to find the ruins of the kitchen area. These were so beautiful and interesting.

Look at the size of the fireplace down here! There would have been many a pig, cow or goat roasted on the spit here.

On the way to the Bede Almshouse we passed through the village of Rockingham. Scott was able to get a park for the car, so. Iran back down the street taking photos.

Look at how thick that thatch is!

Talk about a chocolate-box village!

Sometimes it’s just the details. I’d love to have a doorway like this.

Look at how one half of the house is thatch while the other isn’t.

My god. It’s so ENGLISH!

Imagine living in a fairy-tale cottage like these ones?

Amazing…

After I’d scampered up and down the street while Scott ate the Bakewell tarts I’d bought earlier, we headed off to visit a vastly different place – Bede Almshouse.

But first there was the church.

The medieval paintings on the walls were covered by whitewash at the time of the
Reformation, but in 1937 some areas were cleaned and the surfaces treated
to preserve them. The most interesting painting is that behind
the pulpit, which consists of a king in ermine cloak and cap, holding an orb. He is thought to be Edward the Confessor, who bequeathed part of Rutland as an
endowment to Westminster Abbey on his death in 1042.

This was the clearest one.

I forget what the wooden divider is called, but it’s genuine Tudor.

Then we walked over to the building huddled next to the church… the almshouse.

Basically, an almshouse was where you went if you were too poor to feed and house yourself. It was better than going to the Workhouse, but not much.

This place was built 300 years ago.

It housed 12 men and 2 women. Once you got in, as long as you followed the rules, you had a place for life.

It wasn’t as kind as it sounds.

Before you got a room, you had to be free from lunacy, leprosy and french pox. Naturally you had to be of good character, so people had to vouch for you to the priest.

Once you were in, you had to attend church A LOT and pray A LOT and do general work around the place. The women were were up in the second floor, away from the men, and were expected to look after the mens’ laundry and basic cooking and cleaning. As well as go to church and pray A LOT.

The doors were small. Maybe they were shorter than us, or maybe it’s a ploy to keep the heat in.

If it was the latter, they were wasting their time. These rooms were COLD.

Zoom in on the corner of the fireplace. It’s a Tudor rose!

The gift shop was where the kitchen once was. So. I bought a tea-towel. Seemed appropriate.

These rooms were basic. And they were so very cold. It was a clear autumnal day outside. It was not raining but it was still pleasant to wak around in. But as soon as we walked into these rooms, the cold slapped us in the faces.

This is how they think the rooms would have been set up. The church is just 100 metres away, so the sound of the bells would have punctuated every day.

Men over 30 who could no longer support themselves, either through age or illness, could apply to the Cecil family for a vacant place at the bedehouse. Two spaces were also reserved for widows over 45. Many applicants had connections to the family estate; others hadworked as craftsmen, tradesmen, or labourers in thesurrounding villages.


The residents received clothes (a blue gown and black cap) and an allowance of 3 shillings a week, and had to apply themselves to a handicraft, unless they were too
blind or old. They assembled in the bedehouse every
day for prayers and attended church every Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and holiday.
Places at the bedehouse, which provided respectability and security for the residents’ final years, were keenly sought after. The Cecil family and their descendants, the earls of Exeter, continued to support the bedehouse
until the 20th century.

It wasn’t just poor people who lived here. This place was also home to the bishop of the area. He lived in the upper floors, away from the riff-raff. They also entertained important people. Wen Henry VIII stayed here in the summer of 1541, he brought around 4,000 men with him. It was. ahuge burden on the estate to feed and house so many people.

Beyond that big room was this room – a private room for the bishop to be alone.

The bishop withdrew to this room to hold his most private conversations, and probably slept here. With its ornamental fireplace and handsome ceiling, this would have been an impressive room, furnished with a canopied bed,
rich hangings and decorated chairs.

The information board says “Bishop John Longland (in office 1521-1547) was possibly the last bishop who occupied this room. He was King Henry VIll’s confessor and was caught up in the king’s struggle against the Church:
while he supported Henry against the Pope, Longland also spoke up for the power of the bishops. The king’s visit to Lyddington in 1541, just after the suppression of the monasteries, would have been a particularly delicate time for him.

I like the words “particularly delicate”. The king wanted to destroy the Catholic church in England – a catholic bishop would have had to choose his words very carefully, whether he was the king’s confessor or not!

These old stone steps – look at the wear in them. How many feet have stepped on them over the centuries?

Up in the roof. See how the roof tiles are slate?

I love the angles.

It’s never occurred to me to wonder how they get flat pieces of slate to hold together on. aroof. Here’s how. See how each slate has a nail punched into it that hangs on the wood slats? I found this really interesting to see.

How beautiful is this?

And just look at how this door was put together.

After that we drove back to Market Harborough. I was going to dinner at Scott and Mark’s place and I was really excited to see their ‘new’ apartment. (I put that in quotes because they’ve been there for years… it’s just the first time I’ve seen it.)

In the gap between getting dropped off and going to theirs for dinner, I went to an art gallery. There I saw the perfect “England” print. Their houses are all tall and skinny and jammed together. It screams ENGLAND to me.

Then I walked the 5 minutes to Scott and Mark’s.

Mark cooked while Scott showed me around. They’ve got a fantastic place on the top floor of a converted warehouse. It was a really fun, relaxed evening and I got to renew my acquaintance with the cats. Oliver and Ruby took to me like ducks to water, but Rose wasn’t too sure.

Tomorrow I have to pack my suitcase to make my way home. I hope that the glass in my new picture won’t break. Scott suggested taking it out of the frame to get it home but no way! I paid for that frame and by god… I’m going to try my best to get it home.

Day 32: Wimpole Hall.

Today was primarily a travel day to get from Maldon to Market Harborough, where I’ll be staying for a couple of days to catch up with Scott’s husband Mark and their 3 cats.

We walked around Maldon on the last morning, and I bought an ironing board cover and a salt pig. You all know how I like to buy useful souvenirs. When I got home, Ryan28 was rapt about the salt pig. “I never thought you’d buy one, but they’re so handy!” he said.

Anyway, back to England.

To break the trip up, Scott had selected a stately home for us to look at along the way.

It’s easy to forget how tiny England is compared to Australia. We were driving along the motorway when I saw a sign for an exit to Cambridge. I was like, “WHAT??” I went to Cambridge on my last trip.

Scott looked across and said, “You know England is small, Frogdancer.”

It’s true. The whole of England can fit inside the state of Victoria.

Along the way, we saw this truck which is basically a giant whipper-snipper. This is how England and Ireland keep their narrow streets free for cars. He very kindly backed up to let us through, otherwise, we would’ve been there for ages.

This place was very popular. It had a huge car park which was pretty much full when we got there. It was the middle of the day on a Wednesday! This building was the old stables, which is now being used as the gift shop.

I went a bit mad, buying a couple of flat garden ornaments, a model of a hare gazing soulfully upwards with his ears pulled back, (he was very light), and another Christmas tree ornament. I knew that there was going to be a reorganisation of my carry-on case when I got to the hotel room tonight.

To have this on the top of your stables isn’t flamboyant at all…

As we walked closer to the house Scott said, “Look at the rose!”

He said it didn’t smell. But I think we can all agree that it looks beautiful.

Here’s the house again.

The estate was held by the Chicheley family for over 250 years, beginning in 1428 with Henry Chichele, who was Archbishop of Canterbury. The last of this family to hold the house was the politician Thomas Chicheley, who was responsible for the “new” house that was completed in 1650.

I love how the word “new” describes things that are hundreds of years old in this country!

 Chicheley established the formal gardens and architectural landscape of the estate. He enjoyed the house for 36 years until, weighed down by financial problems, he was forced to sell it to Sir John Cutler.

In 1689, Sir John gave it as a marriage settlement to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Charles Robartes, 2nd Earl of Radnor.

On the death of Elizabeth in 1697, without an heir, the estate passed to Edmund Boulter, nephew of Sir John Cutler.

Poor old Edmund didn’t have a title. What a commoner!

In 1710 it was in the possession of John Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who left it to his daughter Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles upon his death the following year.

Upon Henrietta’s marriage, in 1713, it became the possession of her husband Edward Harley, the 2nd Earl of Oxford and he was also Earl Mortimer.

Sounds like a good match, hey? Two Earl titles with the one man? But notice how when she married, it “BECAME THE POSSESSION” of her husband. Can’t have the little woman owning an estate!

In 1740, Edward sold Wimpole to Philip Yorke, Earl of Hardwicke, in order to pay off his debts. Wouldn’t you want to kill him if you were Henrietta???

On 27 October 1843, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the hall. They listened to speeches by local politicians including the Earl of Hardwicke, and dinner was served for 26 people. A ball was held in the evening. On 28 October 1843, Her Majesty visited the farm in the morning before departing for London.

There is a portrait of her in the dining room, which she was reported as saying was “a perfect likeness”. So much is made of her visit, but she was only there for one night.

In 1938, Capt. George Bambridge and his wife Elsie, daughter of Rudyard Kipling, purchased it after having been tenants since 1932. They used the inheritance left to them by her father, and the royalties from his books, for the long-needed refurbishment of the house and grounds. During the War, for instance, the house had no running water or electricity.

omg.

During her time at Wimpole Hall, Elsie was known to become irritated by members of the public gathering too close to the house for picnics, so much so, that she once returned to the offending couple’s property and had her own picnic on their lawn.

Haha. Good for her! How funny.

Here is a view of the backyard, with the fake ruined tower that someone in the Victorian era put in. Nothing like a fake abbey in your backyard to impress your friends and neighbours!

But what rocked me back on my heels was a single line on one of the information boards, saying that the architect John Soane had worked on the house in the late 1700’s.

Do you remember? On my first day in London, I visited his house!

This picture shows the yellow dining room, which is one of the rooms he worked on. There was a large skylight and a couple of BIG mirrors that would have cost an absolute fortune when they were put in.

John Soane also put in a rather large “plunge pool” tucked away at the bottom of the house. You have to wonder what it was used for and if there were any kinky parties going on back in the day.

This painting has hung here for around 250 years. Imagine the people who have walked past him in that time? The plaster mouldings were also really impressive.

After we visited the house we ate our lunch in the car like we did yesterday, but this time we were looking at the building where the toilets and entry were.

Somehow, it just didn’t have the ambience of the decommissioned nuclear power plant.

Then we drove the rest of the way to Market Harborough.

The three of us went out to dinner that night. It was lovely catching up with Mark again. He and Scott make a great couple.

On the walk back to my hotel we passed a gift shop with lots of interesting things in the windows. Scott and I were planning a late start to my last day of exploring England tomorrow, so I vowed to get back there in the morning to have a look through.

Surely my carry-on could squeeze another souvenir or two in? I can still do up the zips…

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