The Aussie Holiday (5th episode)

The Aussie Holiday 2023

Thursday 2nd March/Friday 3rd March

The day has come, we’re on the way to our 5th trip to down under. Instead of flying to Melbourne as before we are exploring new ground in Brisbane.

A bit of background, our daughter and son-in-law moved to Melbourne in 2013, and we have visited them there four times up until 2019. In 2022 my son-in-law got a new job in Byron Bay, 200km south of Brisbane. So, this is our first visit to this part of Australia. So, our flight was at 20.35 (8.35 pm) and our eldest daughter took us to LHR (Heathrow) and progressed through security and bag drop having pre-checked in online the day before. Our ride was an Airbus A380 operated by Singapore Airlines to Changi, a 14-hour flight. The departure lounge was quite full so it was expected that the aircraft would be well loaded. There was a passenger compliment of 263 so not a full load. The A380 could take 600 but I doubt one has actually flown with that number. Singapore operates a daily service to Changi using the A380. Our 2nd journey from Changi to Brisbane was in an A350. There’s quite a difference between the two. The 380 is configured 3-4-3 across the body, whereas the 350 is 3-3-3, giving you less width and less length, making it less comfortable in my humble opinion. I’m terrible with sleeping on planes so I didn’t get much even though it was overnight. We were two meals, both tasty and adequate. We landed at Changi at 17:00 local (it’s 7 hours ahead of UK time) and we had about 4 hours waiting for our connecting flight. Luckily the hold baggage are relocated to the next aircraft so we only had our carry-ons with us. Since we are not entering the country, there’s only cursory security to board the aircraft. We boarded at 2130 local (2.30 pm UK) for the 8-hour flight to BNE (Brisbane). We were served one meal at 2.00 am! I didn’t get any sleep again, wriggling around trying to get comfortable in two narrow close seats (I know 1st world problems). At least I saw a movie in each leg: The Forgiven with Ralph Fiennes in the first and Top Gun Maverick in the 2nd. We landed at BNE at 07:15 local and taxied for about 15 minutes to get to the stand. As we got on board at SIN, I saw someone I knew as we passed to get to our seats, and we met again at the luggage carousel. He had been on a business trip and was flying home to Gold Coast. He offered us a lift but we had already bought train tickets to get to a station where our daughter and son-in-law were to pick us up. They met us and we drove into the local mall for breakfast. Then it was about an hour’s drive to their home in Byron Bay. We got there and at last, we stopped moving! We chilled out for the afternoon and then went out for dinner at a local pub nearby. A lively place with lots of youngish people eating. I had a pasta sausage dish which was tasty and very filling.

Sunday 4th March

Chilled morning, went to the monthly Byron market. It is massive and covers two car parks. I bought two plectrums from a guy selling those and nothing else! Wandered around and found a band playing and had a coffee under a shade; bloody hot. Picked up a mobile phone pack from Aldi and have now got a local number. Walked down to the beach about 15 minutes away; it was deserted.

In the evening visited Mike, Lauren, Dylan, and Aiden at Pottsville about 45 minutes away. Mike is a colleague of Kevin at Fliteboard. They moved up from Melbourne where Kev first met Mike when he started with Fliteboard down there. Had a lovely ‘tea’ prepared by Lauren, who is a professional baker.

Monday 6th March

Shopped at IGA, a supermarket 2 minutes walk away for the first time. An amazing array of fresh fruit and vegetables. Prices are probably higher than in the UK but the quality is excellent.

Tuesday 7th March

A really chilled day, went into Byron Bay (BB) with Teresa (TC) just to show us the town, bought jacket potatoes for dinner, and got over jetlag which is why we are taking it very easy to settle in. Their house is a two-story with two bedrooms, ours is very comfortable. They have two cats: Mouse and Fox, and they seem to have accepted us very easily. Mouse is a black and white male, three years old and the dominant of the two, and Fox is a grey Chartreau male, one year old and twice the size of Mouse. Where Mouse is a lively intelligent and resourceful cat, Fox is slower and less agile; he can’t jump and is not nearly as ‘touchy/feely’. They are inside cats as a rule, but are allowed outside under supervision. Mouse has a habit of trying to escape and has managed to jump over the garden fence a couple of times, but is recovered very quickly. Fox has never attempted to skip jail.

Wednesday 8th March

After a relaxing morning, TC booked us into an afternoon film in the local cinema to see the film ‘Tar’. It’s about a lesbian orchestra conductor who works with the Berlin Philharmonic, but she wants to change personnel in the string section. Eventually, she is ousted by her male colleagues, comes back, and knocks her male replacement off the conductor’s podium. It looks and feels like a biopic of a real person but is total fiction, starring Kate Blanchette. Bought veg at the IGA and made a Thai green curry at home.

Thursday 9th March

Went to the BB farmer’s weekly market.Bought Manuka honey made in Australia, actually in BB! I thought manuka only came from New Zealand but apparently, it was Australian Aboriginals who started collecting honey from manuka plants, recognizing the wonderful qualities it possesses. Bought a lemon drizzle cake to share. Went to Aldi and got glace cherries. Had lunch at a lovely cafe Expresshead. We both had the best eggs benedict. Went home and fiddled with TCs guitar. The strings are much too thick and she has trouble playing it. I had trouble as well so I made a point of getting some new ones. Sat the rest of the afternoon on the patio, lovely and warm and sunny.

We are going out to a concert in the evening, weren’t told much about it, but I guess it was to do with my birthday which is tomorrow. I suspected I was developing gout, which can happen during the flights, so I visited a local chemist but colchicine is only available on prescription. Very helpful pharmacist Simone helped to get one after getting the OK from an online doctor. All this costs, of course, no NHS here but I hadn’t applied for the pay the reciprocal agreement so had to pay the $65 for the pills. They worked and helped to reduce the swelling. We’ll see what it’s like after a few days. Fran had a suspected DVT from the flight and got a GP appointment for Friday. Here of course you have to pay for everything as a visitor though citizens do get costs returned, through what they call ‘bulk billing’ which is funded by Medicare the equivalent of the NHS. Australians pay 2% of their taxable income towards the Medicare levy which is set by the government. If you don’t get bulk billing, you claim Medicare individually, generally the same as a private patient.

We went to the local theatre where TC had booked us to see ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, which was a quad recording of the original album released 50 years ago. They played the whole album without interruption. It also included a fantastic light show interspersed with a live band that played some tracks from ‘Wish you were here’, and ‘The Division Bell’. There were graphic images fitting in with the music on four screens, with a speaker in each corner to match the quad output of the original. It seems out of date now with surround sound but in its day quad sound was state of the art and still sounds good today. The audience mostly stood around and was encouraged to move around to get the full effect; there was minimal seating. It was a fantastic experience. We met Jaff a colleague of Kev and Sara his GP’s wife, a very nice couple. Sara had escaped the NHS in the middle of the covid pandemic.

Friday 10th March

My Birthday! 72 today eek! Fran and TC went to BB to visit an Op shop (second-hand shop), a big thing in Oz, they all love them. They came back with some bits. Then we walked over to the Docs, nearly next door to the IGA, and saw the very nice Dr Doug. He diagnosed a small DVT and referred her to the radiologist three doors down for a scan. Got it dressed by the nurse and gave her scripts for penicillin and blood thinners. The scan was an hour later and Dr Doug phoned not long after that to confirm that the radiologist had confirmed it was a DVT and to rest her leg as much as possible. TC had gone and got the prescriptions.

We drove off to Kirra to a special restaurant called Siblings. We met the aforementioned Ben (from the plane) and his wife Sam, her father Melvyn, and their 4-year-old daughter Phoenix. Ben’s colleague Josh was also there with us four. We ordered 2 small plates and a main course, which was all a bit much really, but it was Ben’s recommendation, who has a huge appetite. We came away with a doggy bag (box!). TC and Kev had cocktails, Fran had wine, and I had 0% beer and water. Getting drunk on my birthday is not on the cards these days. It was a really nice birthday though, the restaurant bought a cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday. I drove home after offering, so Kev and TC could have a drink.

Saturday 11th March

 Today was 2-year-old toddler Van’s birthday party. His birthday was on Thursday. Van’s parents are Leah and Nathan, he is from Essex originally; he’s lived in Oz for 10 years, and Leah is Aussie. They invited us along with Kev and TC, who provided coffee at a park not far away. Leah provided food and the rest of the party stuff, other guests bought along various snacks and stuff. Talked a lot to Lilah who is Leah’s mum and is Danish but has lived there for 30 years.  Nice lady, chatted about Denmark, drank coffee, ate cakes, and had a nice party for Van. Had a chilled-out afternoon, and went out to dinner at a restaurant in BB.

Sunday 12th March

Chilled out all day at home with a BBQ in the afternoon. Watched Kev play the Last of US (TV Show) on Xbox.

Monday 13th March

Kev went off to work and TC spent the day as an extra at a film shoot in Byron. We went out and bought pies in a specialist pie shop nearby for dinner. We walked around the industrial area a bit and stopped at a falafel stall and bought our lunch to take home. Delicious.

We had the pies for dinner.

Tuesday 14th March 

Went to the local Bilongil beach, about 15 minutes walk away, for a swim.

TC and Kev had friends Ian and Janna around in the evening for dinner and to watch the last episode of The Last of US. We had watched the penultimate episode the week before. They were all big fans and wanted to watch the last episode together. We were supposed to have gourmet burgers but the place had closed before Kev could get there so we had pizzas instead. We sat at the dining table to eat then crammed into the ‘TV’ room (actually the converted garage) to watch the programme with them. Didn’t mean much to us because we hadn’t seen the other 20-odd episodes. Afterward, I picked up TCs guitar and had a play but the strings were awful and needed changing, which I did later.

Wednesday 15th March

We relaxed during the day and in the evening we all went to the Kirra Spa in Mullumbimby (Mullum for short). It was a fantastic experience, with several spa baths, a sauna, a steam room, a quiet magnesium spa and a plunge pool. We tried it all and it was a very pleasant experience. A throughly enjoable hour. Afterwards, we went to the ex-service/bowls club for curry, which was lovely. We had a blow out meal and I drove home during a thunderstorm with loads of thunder and lightning because Kev, TC and Fran went through nearly 2 bottles of wine! I don’t drink anymore. Quite an experience!

Thursday 16th March

Did the farmers market early doors, we went to Ballina for shopping and for TC to register and chip the cats in NSW. It’s a requirement because they were previously registered in Victoria.  Went to a really nice shopping centre and had a late brekky. Found a cCotton On shop and bought some clothes, swimmys for me. TC found a hearing test place and they were giving free hearing tests. TCs hearing is good and persueded F to get hers done. Lots of probs, so they booked her in for a full one hour test next Wednesday. Went to another Mall fir TC to register the cats and I found a music shop. Chatted to the owner and bought TC a new set of 10s for he Fender acoustic. Saw the big prawn (well known local landmark, must be 40 feet tall) Great day out. Dinner at pizza place in Byron.

Friday 17th March

Teresa had been called for more filming in Bangalow. She drove there and left us to it. Went up and down the main street in this little town, saw their men’s shed from the outside and walked down to the creek, it was all delightful but bloody hot! Went past an eclectic range of shops, all very expensive, then watched some filming at the top of the street, but didn’t see Teresa. She was an extra in a few of the scenes, it was set in the 70s. Had lunch in Woods a lovely outside space with a ‘nourishing bowl’ which is pretty big in Australia at the moment. It reminded us of Linda’s bar in Faro, Portugal; run down and shabby chic. TC had arranged a meeting with someone she met from Monday’s film shoot about a possible internship with his company. We went to the Chrystalbrook Resort Hotel near Byron where she dropped us off to meet ths guy. It was supposed to be at the hotel but he changed it to his office. Had a cup a tea and a drink, waited two hours for TC, who apologised profusely for keeping us waiting for so long. We all went for walk around the resort part, it was like a jungle.

In the evening we went to night club/restaurant in Byron called Casa Luna (Moon House?) for the 7, yes 7 course multi-taste menu and TC got 50% off from a local app. Billy bargain. Lovely food from all over the world and as people left we were surrounded by lots of dancing young girls (it was a high table, and we were on stools). It was hell! Left there and went to Frankies for their delicious ice cream.  So many different flavours. Went down to main beach to look at the sea and the sand and the lighthouse which was on. Superb evening.

Saturday 18th March

TC had an appointment in town so we walked to Bilongil beach and had a paddle; so hot!! Chilled out in the PM (mostly reading books) and in the evening went to Mike and Lauren’s again for a BBQ to celebrate Lauren’s 45th birthday. Lovely grub cooked by Kev with salads and other accompaniments, with cakes made by Lauren; all delish. Sat around chatting, then I got TCs guitar out. I’d changed the strings the day before and it was playing much better. Sang a few from my songbook, accompanied by Mike and Teresa. Adapted Jo’s 70th song with words for Lauren.

Sunday 19th March

Fliteboard day! Kev had fetched two Fliteboards from work and we were kitted out with life jackets, helmets, strange rubber shoes (nothing kinky!) and if we wanted, wet suits; I declined. We drove off to Brunswick Heads about 15 minutes away to Fliteboard in the river estuary. It was a fantastic experience, difficult to start with but I soon got the hang of how not to fall off. Basically, a Fliteboard is a motorised (by electric motor) surfboard. It is controlled by a Bluetooth hand controller which has a lever on it to accelerate away. You have to climb on the back, stepping on the aerofoil under the water and try to slide yourself up the board to get a sense of balance.  Mine had an enclosed jet propulsion system, the other one had an exposed propeller. I stayed for 2 ½ minutes at one stage but hit the river bed with the aerofoil and got thrown off. Luckily the water is warm, approx 21C. Fran did well, 2 stints and about 50 yards, game girl!

Totally knackering, my shoulder ached after wards. We had brunch in a nice cafe then walked around town looking at circus which was in town and bought pies for lunch and went home. TC prepared meat balls we bought at the market with a tomato sauce we had bought at the earlier market on Thursday, with tagliatelle. We were all knackered so snuggled down to watch Kev play a video game on the TV, and we both nodded off! It was 8 0’clock!

Monday 20th March

Spent the early morning gardening, strimming the grass (no lawn mower, see later), sweeping dead leaves and generally tidying up. The garden looked splendid. TC is out for the day with her internee job, and we had smoked fish paste and salad for lunch.

Later TC suggested we go down to Town Beach for a swim followed by fish and chips. Gladly! Went for a swim, Kev met us and we went for another swim off the beach. I tried to snorkel but failed; Kev said did I see the fish: I didn’t. Then Kev went to the beach car park fish and chip place and we ate that on the beach in the middle of a blanket sharing. Then we went for a drink in the Beachy (The Beach Hotel), Kev rode home (he went to work on his bike so TC could have the car). We went home with Teresa, abso knackered, early bed.

Tuesday 21st March

TC went to yoga in the morning and we met her at Barrio for brunch. We all had pancakes with marscapone, blueberries with bacon – delish!

Teresa wanted to study so we decided to go into town on the heritage railway which goes from North Beach to the town centre. It’s a $10 return journey each so good value on a solar powered 1940’s train of two coaches. It’s a lovely trip and takes about 15 minutes. We wandered around BB, went to various shops then ended up paddling on the beach and saw the wreck! It’s a ship that got dashed against some rocks over 100 years ago and is still there. Had an ice cream and caught the train home again at 4.15 Only a 10 minute walk home from the station. Put the bins out (I did this every Tuesday I was there), chopped back some foliage and we BBQ’d veg and sweetcorn for dins – rain!

Wednesday 22nd March

Went to Ballina early doors in their car for Fran’s hearing appointment. Went well – she’s a little deaf! Walked over to K Mart to 3x cat beds for Mouse and Fox. Had brunch in the mall, got home about 12.30. Had a chilled out afternoon, and dinner at home. Hearing test results showed Fran’s hearing is quite poor, needs to see an audiologist when we get home, may need hearing aids.

Thursday 23rd March

Stayed at home most of the day, went to a nice cafe in the industrial area for late brekky. Visited the local Op Shop (2nd hand shop) and Bunnings DIY ( equivalent to B&Q). We saw a Water Dragon there, a completely harmless lizard about 12 inches long. Looks fearsome though.

Friday 24th March

Fran went for her 2nd Drs appointment who booked a scan for next Thursday. Went to lunch at a Japanese takeaway and got it there and ate outside, lovely warm day. In the evening met Ben at a pub about 45 minutes away, chatted and had lovely fish and chips. Drove home.

Saturday 25th March

Rested morning, then after doing some washing left at 1.00am to drive with Kev and TC to Brunswick Heads (where we did the Fliteboarding) for a Brazilian afternoon with BBQ and Samba band at the Brunswick Hotel. Started with sushi which was lovely followed by Brazilian style steak sandwich AND a Brazilian style pizza. All delish but a bit too much maybe. Band were excellent, and the whole place was rammed, so many people having a great time and it was so vibrant. Left there at 4.00pm to go to the ‘village’ near home. It was a former garden centre turned into a chill out space with a mobile bar and food outlets. Loads of seats and there wasn’t too many people there, but apparently, it livened up in the evening. A really laid back atmosphere, met Suzanne one of their neighbours at No 7. Her son died in the aircrash at the new Nepal airport in January.  Many causes as to why, which are still being investigated. Also chatted to Nathan, their next door neighbour at No 4 who with wife Leah have bought a house North of Brunswick at a knock down price from $1.8m to $1.3m because the owner was trying to pass it off as a 5 bedroom house, but it was only within code as a three bedroom. They are very happy. Relaxed at home in the evening.

Sunday 26th March

Busy day planned. We got at 11.15 and drove to Tyalgum, a lovely little town near the mountains we could see all around. Actually, the ring of mountains is called a caldera which is a ring thrown up around an erupting volcano. Kev has booked lunch at The General Store which had a BBQ  and a guy playing a guitar and singing some laid-back tunes. I had ¼ chicken with roasties and cole slaw which was absolutely delish. Lovely listening to the music and relaxing long after we finished lunch. Looked around the town (actually a village), there were small eclectic shops in arcades, all very country and back in time. We then moved on to Natural Bridge, just near the border with QLD (Queensland). Fantastic walk around a paved walkway to look at a waterfall coming down over the natural bridge under which was a cave full of bats.

Then it was time for ice cream. Kev loves his ice cream! We tried in Mullimbimby but that one was closed, despite it saying it was open, so we drove back to Brunswick Head and got one at In the Pink, delicious! Walked around the block in town, a bit different from the day before. TC suggested we went to Kirra Spa again and of course we agreed. So we drove to that for 6.00pm and spent an hour in the spa. Went home and cobbled a salad together out of leftovers. Watched Kev play his xbox for while falling asleep. If it sounds like our time revolved around food and where to get the next lot, you’re right, it did.

Monday March 27th

Went to BB to TC and Fran could get their toenails done. I walked around town waiting for them, had a coffee  then we met up and went for lunch at a shabby chic cafe. Had ‘nourising’ bowls, veery nice and filling. We decided to have a quick look at the famous Lighthouse, just a drive by. Looked fantastic, in lovely nick. Bought BBQ stuff in Aldi, sat in front of the TV watching the Mandorian; Star Wars spin- off.

Tuesday March 28th

Had a light breakfast then drove to the lighthouse for a proper look. Spent nearly two hours there, fantastic views of the bay area and a challenging walk, but well worth it. Went to Byron Fresh for lunch, really nice. Did a bit of shopping at the IGA.

Wednesday 29th March

 Staying at home all day – rain. Got my hair cut by Fran, went to IGA to get stuff for a spag bol. Put in slow cooker, watched the film Point Break (about surfing!).

Thursday 30th March

Got up early (!) to go to the farmers market in town. Got some nice manuka honey to take home,  had a bacon and roll. It rained heavily overnight so the ground was a bit soggy. Went with TC to the bird sanctuary nearby. It’s a water treatment area and plant. Beautiful quiet place, nobody around. Stopped in the bird lookout for a while and walked around the whole area.  Did 10000 steps! Got pies from the Byron Pie Emporium for dins. Watched another episode of the Mandalorian (Star Wars spin off).

Friday 31st March

Went to The Brewery – Stone and Wood for brunch, had a lovely share platter; really nice. We drove off to a beach near the lighthouse – Cape Byron Conservation and swam in the warm sea. Loads of surfers about. Climbed up to the lookout and took in the views, you can see for miles. Homoe and we’re all going to the North Byron Hotel to meet the neighbours; some turned up and left but Owen stayed. Had pizza and went home for drinks, Owen joined us. Chat turned to music, Owen fetched his didgeridoos from his house next door but one and we all had a go at playing the three of them, quite difficult (much hilarity). Then sang a few songs with me on guitar Teresa on cajon and Owen on didgeridoo. Made up a song with the ‘Byron Bay Band’ with me singing and playing guitar, Owen on didgeridoos, TC on Cajon, Fran and Kevin on maracas and filming. See below for the songsheet. Went on till 1.00am.

Chords: D G C F

This is the Byron Bay Band

We have Owen on Didgeredoos

Teri’s on Cajon

And Clive on guitar

And additionally….we have Kev and Fran

On Maracas

Try saying that when you’re sober!

This is the Byron Bay Band

We like to play together

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t rhyme

This is the Byron Bay Band

We like to play a load of rubbish

And it doesn’t matter

Fade out.

Saturday 1st April

Relaxed in the morning then drove to Bangalow via St Helena to visit Whitney and Drew who invited Kev and us to their house for drinks and nibbles. Lovely couple from the US with their daughter and her friend from San Francisco. Drew is starting a company called Rhubarb which aims to encourage the growth of vegetables at home to ease the world food shortage. Whitney is part of the company and is really lovely. Teresa is hoping to work with Drew in her field of app development. Went home and walked over to The Habitat (a housing development surrounding the commercial area) to visit Jess and Tara, who have a very modern one bedroom apartment. They are both unemployed at the moment but are hoping to start something soon. Late night for us. Clocks went back here now 9 hours between us and the UK.

Sunday 2nd April

In town for the morning, went to Aldi for a look. Drove over to the Farm, just outside Byron; a huge area with a restaurant. TC invited Mike and Lauren and her friend Tereza to join us, a total of 9 with Mike and Lauren’s boys Aiden and Dylan. Superb food, we all shared all the choices with dinner, a great afternoon. I volunteered to pick up the bill – $844! Oh well, it’s only money honey. We made arrangements to meet M&L when they visit London at the end of May this year on their visit to Europe. Then we walked around the farm and saw sunflowers galore! And hens. Went home late afternoon, had a chilled evening.

Monday 3rd April

TC had the car to go to her internship in BB. We had a quiet morning and said we’d meet her in town. So we caught the solar train again, $5 each into town from North Beach Station. Went to Aldi, Reject shop and Woolworths (yes, they are still alive and kicking in Oz!). met TC in the aborigine goods shop in the entrance to the theatre. Bought a map of Australia. Met Kev ni town and went to Fishheads on main Beach. Me and Kev had a superb large fish chowder, TC had a small one and Fran had fish and chips. Drove home.

Tuesday 4th April

Got up and went with TC to Barrio in Habitat for breakfast. Lovely poached egg on toast with bacon. TC went to circus arts for her training session and we joined her to watch only! Dinner was jacket spuds with (hot) chicken tikka masala from a packet. OK-ish.

Wednesday 5th April

Went by car with TC to the cafe ‘Folk’ for breakfast, totally veggie. I had two two egg roll with trimmings. So did TC, Fran had toast. Went into town to visit Byron Music. TC thought she’s like to buy a ukelele because she was struggling to get to grips with the guitar despite changing the strings. The sales guy suggested she tried an electric guitar because the uke is fundamentally different to play. She had a budget of $250+ but instead spent $400 on a Fender electric copy and amp, plectrum, capo, the lot. Nice guitar and amp, she didn’t tell Kev straight away, took it home and gave it a try. Nice action. Left home to pick up Kev from work on the way to the Kirra spa (3rd visit). Really great spa (3rd visit): 2 x sauna, 2 x magnesium spa, 1 x steam room visit. Left there and went to Heritage Dining in Mullim (2nd visit) for a fantastic curry. Get home and Kev was gob-smacked that a ukelele had turned into an electric guitar! He had a go and liked it, and wants to learn! Chilled evening, fairly late at night.  

Thursday 6th

Packing day! Went to the new sustainable bakery in Byron Fair where the IGA is, for lunch. Started packing. Leah from next door visited with Van, 2, and chatted about looking after the cats while we’re away in Brisbane with TC and Kev. Lovely girl and Van is a great kid. Went to IGA in the afternoon for a few supplies, then had the rest of the afternoon at home. Left at 17.45 to go to Brucnswick Heights. TC had booked us into a cabaret at the Bruns picture House. There was a French creperie operating in the front, and we all had delicious crepes. The show started late at 7.30 and included acrobats, singers, circus acts and other assorted cabaret acts like comedians and ‘exotic dancers’. Great show. Chatted to the owner/MC afterwards; did 10 years in the West End! Walked around around Bruns looking for an ice cream (again), but ended up driving to BB to look for one. Found in the Pick Ice parlour, wnet home.

Friday 7th

Fliteboard/scooter day. Drove to Bruns to try and Fliteboard on the scooter. Spent 1 ½ hours trying it out, much easier than the flat board! Fran did all right but came off quite quickly. I lasted about 2 ½ minutes but was scared sh*tless all the time, and the look on my face shows that. Great fun.

Got home to walk across to the commercial area to see an art exhibition in the Habitat (Jefa Gallery) Very interesting, watched a guy called the Space Cowboy who painted all these fantastic artworks and animation which could be accessed by scanning a Q code and watching the painting come to life on your phone. Later went to Lilium Love General store for a meal: it was in the middle of nowhere. Lovely food , but little of it, bit scary in the dark in the middle of the forest; quite an experience. Went home to BB.

 Saturday 8th

Brisbane day! Final packing, then we all got into the car for our weekend in Brisbane. Went via Robert Sowter Park lookout in the Tamborine mountain area, parked for a while in a hang gliding launch area, with beautiful views. Then on to Curtis Falls for the waterfall, which was spectacular and a coffee.  Looked around the strip and bought some souvenirs. Then drove on to 401 Brunswick Street in Brisbane for the Air BnB, a 2 bed apartment, perfectly placed near the city centre (well booked TC!). We bought stuff in the local IGA. Settled in, then went for a walk into the very lively city centre and finally settled for dinner in the Superbowl Chinese restaurant. Good food, except Fran’s food arrived well after ours when we’d nearly finished! Walked home via an IGA to get breakfast then home to bed.

Sunday 9th April        

Got up to drive to the South Bank car park and walk around the South Bank. First, though we went to lunch at O Brasilaro for lunch. TC and I had Fejouda, Kev had steak and Fran had Fejoida.

Then we walked up and down the South Bank. There was a swimming pool just back from the river and 2 beaches. Home for tea and bikkies.

Monday 10th – Last Day

Left the appt and walked around to the IGA for picnic stuff. Drove into town and parked near the Botanical Gardens. Set up on a converted park bench and had a delicious picnic lunch. Lovely, sunny and warm. Packed up and walked around a street market nearby, had a coffee in the cafe near the Calile Hotel then drove back to the apartment.  In the evening we went down in the lift and slouched in soft cussions along side the river with drinks and snacks from the nearby bar. Walked up and down the North Bank sidewalk, very long, before watching some jet skis racing around the river in the dark. Walked back, did the final packing and left for BNE. Went through security after waving goodbye to TC and Kev. It was very easy, no probs and waited for our call. A350 to SIN and it was full for the 7-hour flight. Boarded and took off at midnight. Landed in SIN, about 4 hours there, and caught the SIN-LHR flight, about 14 hours. I had picked up a chest infection somehow and coughed most of the flight. Landed at 15.30, a bit early. Charlotte picked us up and took us home in the Alphard. She had trouble starting it the weekend before but got it sorted. Glad to be home after the journey, but miss BB already!

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At the end of the day (or year)

No, I’m not talking cliches here. It’s very much the end of the year and a lot has happened, personally and globally. The Ukraine situation drags on, and there doesn’t seem to be an end of sight. Domestically we’ve had three prime ministers and four chancellors in a calendar year and none seem to know what they are doing. Anyway enough of that, other people will comment on that until the cow’s come home, personally I’m as qualified as the next man (or woman or mixed gender unknown sex being).

So since the end of my last blog (3rd August) it was Fran’s birthday and she was *0! Teresa flew back to UK again to surprise her mum, having left here to go home to Australia just 5 weeks earlier. She was willing to do it, so it was all arranged. She flew in on Friday 12th August, stayed with her sister and the party was on the Saturday. My eldest daughter and I did all the food shopping beforehand and we had about 35 guests in our back garden on a blistering hot day. Luckily the gazebo was still up and it provided welcome shelter. We hid Teresa in a cardboard box covered with wrapping paper and at the appropriate time she burst out of it to surprise Fran who nearly had a heart attack.

Anyway it was lovely party, although the actual day was on the Monday and we went to Hawk Conservatory near Andover because she loves Owls.

That was a lovely day with the girls, and the day before we saw an Abba tribute band at The Gilbert White House nearby (he was a naturalist and had connections to Lawrence Oates who was with Scott of the Antartic and who was famously meant to have said ‘I’m going out side and I may be some time). They were great and fairly faithful to the originals. We spent the following weekend at Weyfest, a local music festival about 4 miles away which is on every year. This year it headlined with Billy Ocean and 10cc, and loads of other well known groups. We went there every day from home but you can camp if you like. It’s a very friendly festival and seems to be trouble free. Its based on a rural life centre/museum and all the exhibits and the miniature railway are open for the three days of the festival.

The rest of the summer went quietly. Teresa went back to her new home in Byron Bay which we hope to visit sometime. It sounds idyllic and completely different from Melbourne where they moved from. Autumn came and went and suddenly we are in winter and the cold and frost got going. At least we didn’t have much snow (yet!) not like some of the country where it was pretty thick. Christmas approaches fast and we’re helping serve dinners in a local community centre for people who are on their own. Should be fun and something completely different to just sitting there, watching TV and eating non-stop. Haven’t decided about New Year yet but I’m sure we will get in to the spirit or maybe just go to be and watch it all on tele! Anyway have a good one and keep save.

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The long hot summer

There have been many comparisons between the current hot spell and the summer of 1976 when we had 8 weeks of high temperatures.

The trouble is I wasn’t in the country at that time, I was stationed in RAF Germany in 1976 and it was even hotter there. We coped. We had no air con, anywhere, especially not in cars; only the big Mercs and no one could afford one of them babys. I was on a Harrier squadron and three times a year we went into a training area, usually in woods to practice what the Harrier did best; jump up, kill some tanks or other aircraft then land in a clearing, fuel up, load up with weapons and go again. That is a very simplified version of what we did.

The ‘middle’ trip we did was in the middle of July and bloody hell it was hot. So hot that we were trying to figure out a way to cool our beer. We had a free 24 hours in the middle of the deployment, so our boss decided the best way to cool the beer was to use lox (liquid oxygen) which came out of its container at -50°C. Our boss got himself kitted out in all the safety gear when handling lox, we put the cans of beer into a plastic bag with water, then the boss squirted Lox into the bag so when it hit the water it turned it into blocks of ice, making the beer cans ice cold. Other teams looked on in envy as we stroked a finger down the side of the can and they could see the condensation dripping off the can. They were forced to drink warm beer, ours was nice and cold.

The down side was that the lox was kept in 50 litre containers which were highly insulated and mounted on a wheeled trolly. We picked up five lox trollies in turn from the supply area to cool our beer down that weekend and some admin guy afterwards questioned why we had used 5 lox trollies in one weekend. It’s easy to explain said the boss: the lox system in the aircraft were venting due to the excess temperatures of 30° C and we need to keep the lox system topped up in case of a quick launch of the aircraft. The admin guy never compared our team to others in a similar situation, or that their aircraft weren’t venting Lox, at all. Nobody ever asked for any money for the lox which was about £150 per full trolly from memory. So 5 x 150 = £750 was spent in one weekend cooling our beer (at 1976 prices). Hope nobody wants the lox costs paid back after all these years.

So in the vernacular of Crocodile Dundee, ‘call 2022 a hot summer? This (1976) was a hot summer.’ I’ll get me coat.

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What does Vlad want?

Seriously, why is Vladimir Putin is trying to claim Ukraine back into the Russian canon?

In 1992 Ukraine became an independent nation after the fall of the Berlin wall. They were fed up with the oppressive and controlling regime that was present and perpetrated by the Kremlin. Ukraine flourished and became a vibrant free economy without communist interference. There had been conflict in the Donbas region from the early days, then in 2014 Putin annexed The Crimea and bought it back into the Russian empire. Now in 2022, Putin has decided that Ukraine can’t cope on its own and must be bought back under the Russian wing. President Zelensky has proved time and again that his country is not interested in being part of Russia again, and Putin’s nose has been put out of joint because the Ukrainians didn’t just roll over and let him over run the whole country and install a puppet government. So what is Putin’s end game?

Clearly his megalomaniacal ways haven’t ended in total success and most of Ukraine is still in Zelensky’s hands, despite millions of fleeing refugees and devastated cities. Who can blame them for wanting to stay as they are and not be part of Putin’s totalitarian state? So what is his end game? He’s clearly not going to win the country back, but I suppose he wants the natural resources that Ukraine has. Or he is such a dyed-in-the-wool communist that he can’t bear anyone else being better off than him. I just don’t get it, he’s against practically the rest of the world, except of course those like minded, such as North Korea and China, and millions of dollars worth of equipment is pouring into Ukraine and helping their cause. Does Putin think they are all going to just pack up and go home? Will he actually achieve anything at all, besides displacing millions of Ukrainians and destroying the country and cities which will require years of rebuilding and restoration? Probably not, he’s seriously delusional if he thinks he’s going to win back Ukraine, but if he ups his game and starts using tactical nukes, all hell will be let loose and he won’t win that either. Nobody wins, and the upshot could be wideworld destruction, but not total destruction of the world because that would be impossible. I despair because no one knows how this will end, but I fear it will end badly. Someone needs to take Putin out.

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The End

So, after over 15 months of hard work erecting our Men’s Shed, we were told in early February 2022 that the lease on the building we were in was ending at the end of March

We sweated blood and tears and my heart attack in the period September 2020 to December 2021 making two fabulous workshops: one ‘clean’ and one ‘dusty’. Pictures of the workshops are in my previous blogs, but here are a couple:

Our benefactor the Furniture Helpline had lost two contracts so they couldn’t afford the £16000 a year rent for the warehouse where our shed was so they had to give up the lease, which meant we had to go as well. The £3000 local council grant which we secured to build the workshops would all go to waste, as we had to dismantle the whole shooting match. It was a sad day for all the guys who had put such a huge effort in erecting the place, only now to be told we had to tear it down:

We’re storing all the building materials and machinery/tools in a colleagues garden in various sheds and a bought carport, but currently we have nowhere else to go. There was no leeway in staying in the place, so reluctantly we had to dismantle it. Anyone got a spare 14 sq mtr shed/building we could have to start up again? We’ve had help from the district and town councils but none from the Regeneration Company who own the site, profit comes before anything I guess. My chaps are devastated, not least because for a time they will have nowhere else to go twice a week and trade banter and jokes with like minded guys while making wooden projects.

It’s very sad and I’m very upset at the reasons we have basically wasted 2 years and lot of money achieving absolutely nothing. Oh well onwards and upwards as they say.

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And so it carries on…

Well, the Men’s Shed project is doing well and is now finished.

At last we can get going on building our own projects and not building the workshops. The extraction system has been installed and is working well, and the tea bar is fully functional. We have been making Christmas trees out of wooden pallets for the last few weeks for the local community people to sell at their cafe. So far about a dozen have been produced, and we can start the new year on other projects.

The finished ‘clean’ room

The ‘dirty’ room

A typical ‘Christmas Tree’

It’s great that we’ve been able to do this because we have spent a year building our workshops inside a huge old warehouse from scratch. Seeing as we’re all over 70 it’s not been a bad effort. Of course there are ‘comfort’ times as well so we have built a tea bar:

The Tea Bar

So we are now fully functional and able to take on our own projects and community projects as well. I’ve been sort of thrust into the position of ‘leader’, don’t know how that happened, but in any case, I am the spokesman and abitrator of the whole Shed. We are having a Christmas lunch soon with wives and that should wind up the year, ample reward for what we have achieved in 2021. Watch this space for further developments in the Bordon Men’s Shed saga.

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The saga continues

Following on from my last brush with the medical services, it’s now gone one stage further.

Having been here for a day they decided that I needed an angiogram to see what is happening around the ticker. After a false start (someone else had higher priority) I was bumped out until today, when I had the procedure and after about half an hour they finished and the doctor told me I needed triple or even quad bypass surgery. Pretty scary, but it can’t be done in my current hospital; I’ve got to be transferred to a specialist heart hospital in London. My case will be discussed but I’m here for the duration until I can get a slot with the surgeons probably in a day or so.

To say it come as a shock would be an understatement, I was expecting a couple of stents to be put in and Robert’s your mother’s brother. Still, looking on the bright side the episode I had on Monday was definitely a warning shot across the bows, and I’m lucky: 2 out of 3 don’t walk out their front door like I did – ever again. The cause? Age, smoking even though I gave up 40 years ago, drink, diet and weight. All factors except age can be avoided. I’m getting the best care in this hospital, Covid doesn’t seem to affect it now, don’t know what it was like at the height of it. Anyway I’ll be out of action for quite a while and there ain’t nothing I can do about it. Further reports to follow.

So, further tests to be done: chest x-ray: all clear, echo cardiogram, a sort of posh ultrasound, like they use on expectant mothers! This, as explained by my radiographer, is the plumbing in the heart and the ECG looks at the electrics. Quite fascinating seeing the heart valves actually working; opening and closing. I have, and have had for a long time an enlarged atrium, on the right side and that showed up to good effect on the screen. Just think at 70 those valves have opened and closed 2,275,440,000 times! No wonder they can go wrong. Luckily mine aren’t causing a problem, but the enlarged atrium causes the heart to beat more because its got to push a larger volume of blood around the body. Now I saw the blocked arteries I’ve got and they were explained thus: ‘This is your M1, that’s nice and fat and allows the blood to flow easily. The one across the top is your M6 and it looks pinched in places. That’s one of the worse offenders. There are also others smaller roads, the A606 or whatever that are blocked at one end and the is another problem. There’s a conference tomorrow 1st July when they will discuss my case and see the best place to send me.’

I spoke to Noel, 86, this afternoon who had a triple bypass and is being discharged today, but he picked up a UTI infection of the urinary tract so is being treated for that. The regime in the ward is quite rigid as it has to be, except for mask wearing; Covid doesn’t seem to have affected life here. I’ve no idea what it was like at the height of the pandemic but it must have been chaotic. Meal times are strictly at 8.00am, 1.00pm and 6.00pm, luckily you get choice sheets for the next two days and the food is very good. It’s easy to pick healthy options so I go for that generally although it’s far too late to reverse the damage to the old ticker now. Not that I was a massive bad food eater, I know I’ve got to cut down on certain things and it’s something like this that brings your choice of diet into sharp focus. Jim my friend from the men’s shed visited on Wednesday evening and left a box of shortbread, yum. Earlier my wife and daughter visited in shifts because you’re only allowed one visitor at a time. Lovely to see them, cheered me up no end. Technology makes it much easier to talk or message them these day: don’t know how we managed before. Got chatting to a hospital volunteer called Clive! Ex Artillery man. Waited for my sword of Damacles decision on where my op is taking place: St Georges Tooting or Southampton.

So, Thursday came and the consultant Dr Aachan came to see me individually and gave me the news: No bypass you’re having stents instead! Quite a turnaround. To be honest I wasn’t looking forward to having my chest cracked open and my innards being mucked about with, so the stent alternative was excellent news. Soon after I was rushed down to the ‘Cath Lab’, as they call the operating theatre where at 12.00 and waited, and waited, and waited… well you get the picture. Then they told me an emergency was coming in from Royal Surry and I was being bumped. They offered me a sandwich which I gratefully accepted and then waited some more. 3 1/2 hours later the consultant came in and told me I was going in. I had a pee before I went in, but I was going to have a problem with that later. The Cath Lab is quite a place, sort of cross between and operating theatre and an x-ray suite with the largest TV screen I’ve ever seen. The lady doctor gave me an anaesthetic in the wrist and proceeded to try to get the ‘sheath’ into the which all the catheters go through. Because it was nearly the same place as the cardiogram the previous day she had a lot of trouble. So they made another hole and tried again, still no success. They decided to switch to the left wrist on which the huge screen was on the same side and after an injection had success. The sheath was inserted and the consultant started. He calls out pressures and the other doctor responds with the same which blows the balloon up at the end of the catheter and the stent at the same place expands (it’s a wire mesh tube) and pushes on the inside of the vein as a sort of scaffold for the vein to keep it open. He did two or three times successfully but had trouble with the fourth one, and worried that I may have to come back for that one. But he got it in eventually, so I’m now the proud owner of four stents! During the process however, the doctor doing the stents now had to lean across my body to get at the left wrist, and I had been dying for a pee for half an hour. I was so glad when he had finished and had to use a cardboard container right there in the Cath Lab. I was taken back to the ward to recover and I was done.

The next day on doctors rounds, the consultant cardiologist said I could leave hospital that afternoon. I had all the meds to get and be discharged with all the paperwork all of which took an age, but eventually having been picked up by my wife I arrived home in the early evening. It had been quite an experience and had lasted 5 days, but I was more or less fixed expect a return visit to see the specialist in 6-8 weeks and a whole chemist worth of meds to take. These included: anti coagulants, heart rate reducer, beta blockers x 2, blood thinner (aspirin), platelet reducer, statins, and stomach acid reducer. Quite a list but luckily they are all one a day expect one which is twice a day, and some have to be taken with food. Told I couldn’t drive or lift weights for 7 days (enforced by my wife!) and to take it easy, a difficult thing for me to do (see my other blog about the Men’s Shed). I have felt a bit tired for the first three days but get stronger all the time. The only after effects beside tiredness is bruises on the wrists. I’m so glad I was ably to get away with stents rather than bypass, because that would have taken me out for three months. I’m already feeling the benefits of enlarged heart veins, less breathlessness and more energy, which had got to be used sparingly for a while.

A big thanks to all the staff at Frimley Park Hospital and a special thanks and love to all my family especially Fran, my wife, and my daughters Charlotte and Teresa. I hope this blog can be picked up and read by many people to give assurance that all is well with the NHS, they might be vilified by certain sections of the media but ultimately when it counts they are there for you and cannot be faulted

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So it happens to me…

A normal morning, not hurrying, leisurely breakfast (I am retired!) and started pottering in the garage and around the house, when a slight, and I mean slight pain started in the solar plexis area of my chest, accompanied shortly afterwards by profuse sweating all over and my wife saying ‘you look pale’.

Now that’s quite a thing to say of me because ordinarily I’m quite, how shall I put this; swarthy. My dad was as well, I pick up the sun very easily and tan quickly using factor 20 of course. So for me to be pale was unusual to say the least. I sat down for a minute or two then suddenly I was feeling very poorly and rushed to the loo, where I vomitted profusely. Another first, I haven’t done that since my early twenties when I drank too much whisky. I felt absolutely awful, and the pain was still there. My wife suggested that I lay down, so I went upstairs and immediately started feeling sick again, which I duely did. My wife dialled 999 and an ambulance was there within 10 minutes. They did cardio tests on me in the house then invited me to the ambulance where they connected me to heart monitor and I started trying to vomit again but only spit came up. They took me to the hospital of my choice and I was taken into the ED. More tests, blood and cardio, moved to another room where I spent the next 3 hours.

They then moved me to ward G9 where my dinner order turned up. Various doctors spoke to me and indicated I might have had a mild heart attack because a blood component showed slight damage to the heart. The cardiologist will be seeing me and I may be given an angiogram/heart monitor or possibly a stent. But the upshot is I’m in overnight at the very least. I haven’t been in hospital since 2004 and that was for a parathyroidarectomy, removal of two enlarged parathyroids which control calcium levels. Then, I was in for 10 days, it was awful. Hopefully I won’t be in that long this time. More updates later.

Anyway several things happened today. I had another ‘turn’ but nowhere near as bad as the first one. I had 5 doctors and nurses around me sorting me out with IV drips and injections and tablets… Recovered from that and booked my wife and daughter in for a visit at 2.00pm. They had only been here 15 minutes, and the staff rushed in and said they were taking me down for an angiogram NOW! So I was rushed down to the cardiac lab area on my bed, and lay for an hour and a half, looking at the wall and eventually the nurse came and said sorry an A&E patient has taken priority so I was bumped out. Oh well there’s always tomorrow. Hospital isn’t bad it’s the staff that make it and some of the less noisy patients. There’s a bloke 4 beds down who hasn’t stopped talking since I got on the ward 36 hours ago. The trouble is the old boy in the next bed is answering him occasionally but mostly it’s this bloke beating his gums about not much really.

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The Bordon Men’s Shed

About 4 years ago I saw a flyer advertising the local Men’s Shed, which to those who have never heard of them are places where men (and women) can meet for comradeship and friendship under the guise of working on wooden projects, either your own or for the community. As I was retired and new to the area I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to meet new people and get involved with community projects. As the National Association of Men’s Sheds says:

Why are they needed?

For a long time research has shown the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on a person’s health and wellbeing, especially during the current pandemic. Recently we have seen more evidence come to light that shows loneliness and isolation can be as hazardous to our health as obesity and excessive smoking. Surveys from mental health charities are finding that millions of people report feeling lonely on a daily basis.

Men typically find it more difficult to build social connections than women, and unlike women of a similar age, less older men have networks of friends and rarely share personal concerns about health and personal worries. It is not the case for all men, but for some, when retirement comes, it can feel like personal identity and purpose is lost. Men’s Sheds can change all of that. As a by-product of all of that they reduce isolation and feelings of loneliness, they allow men to deal with mental health challenges more easily and remain independent, they rebuild communities and in many cases, they save men’s lives. The Men’s Shed is part of a Nationwide, indeed worldwide movement whose main aim: Men’s Sheds (or Sheds) are similar to garden sheds – a place to pursue practical interests at leisure, to practice skills and enjoy making and mending. The difference is that garden sheds and their activities are often solitary in nature while Men’s Sheds are the opposite. They’re about social connections and friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge, and of course a lot of laughter.

The Bordon Men’s Shed was located in the old Military Police HQ in the military town, since vacated by the army a couple of years before.

It was a useable building of which we only occupied a small part. It was successful in refurbishing furniture and creating the members own projects. We exhibited at the Men’s Shed stall at a craft fair at the Wield and Downland Museum (where the Repair Shop is filmed) and were able to see some of our creations and show them off.

Wield and Downland Men’s Shed Craft Fair 2018

All was going well, until last year when the building we were in (Hampshire House) was to be torn down to build houses on the site. We are co-located with the Furniture Helpline (FHL) who are our governing body and bank. They collect and distribute furniture and white goods to needy families and is very successful. The managed to secure a building on what was Prince Philip Park in the town, now to be called Bordon Enterprise Park. They were allocated a large hangar type building (64) which we were given a small part of:

As a blank canvas was presented and we wanted the Mens Shed to carry on, we needed to build our own workshops internally. These were to be of wooden construction. I requested the opportunity to apply for a grant from Whitehill and Bordon Town town council and went on a Zoom call to put forward my pitch for a grant of £3000, the maximum I could apply for. The committee were unanimous and we were granted the money. We started spending it straight away on materials for the build. About the same time we were given the opportunity for a huge amount of hoarding put up by a building company around a new estate in the town who were getting rid of it. It included long lengths of 6×2 and 4×4 posts which would come in very useful:

Some of the posts we rescued

Also included was many 8×4 sheets of OSB (oriented strand board), which we were going to use as walls on the new structure but instead decided with the grant to buy new sheets of 8×4 ply for that purpose and use the OSB as flooring over the existing concrete floor. We have got on fairly well with building partitions and walls of our new workshops, considering all the build party are over 70 (one of us is over 80) and not being in the first flush of youth makes everything take much longer. Luckily the hangar had metal stanchions which form part of the structure and which we were able to fix our walls to. So we started the build in January, all of our equipment and tools were moved from Hampshire House first by us and with some help from the FHL staff. The whole place looks a bit of a mess at the moment, but a lot of the stuff that FHL have bought in is to be moved to the dump. This is the area we are working in before the partitions were erected with a lot of our stuff.

We started by building an end wall out of 6×2 posts which were 20 feet long and we loads of them so cut them down to make frameworks. Then we attached ply sheets to create walls:

Finally the walls were erected and secured to the hangar walls with rawl plugs and battens and in some cases metal plates and nuts and bolts.

and so on until we have created two workshops, a ‘clean’ one and a ‘dirty’ one. The clean one will be for quiet assembly and non machinery work and the dirty will be for lathes, sliding saw, drilling and the like. When we get some more materials the ceiling will be compressed hardboard called Tentest and this provides insulation and keeps the dust in. We will have to put in multiple sockets on trailing leads as the landlords won’t let us put in anything permanent. There is a plan to completely revamp the whole of the Bordon Enterprise Park which has many other businesses on it, in about 4 years time and our building will be one of the ones got rid of, so we may have to find another home again.

Of course while all this rebuild has been going on, the Men’s shed as was has been unable to meet, which we used to do on Tuesday and Fridays because we haven’t got a workshop. When it’s all finished and we can meet again, we hope to recruit more (younger) members to be able to enjoy the marvellous facilities we will have. There is also a plan to involve improvers who have finished their apprenticeship but haven’t got anywhere to practice their skills, and our workshops might be the ideal place. Watch this space though and we hope to have all singing all dancing wood workshop open sometime this year.

Huge thanks to all who have been involved so far, including David G, Peter, John, Jim, Ted, Miles and Fran. Onwards and upwards!

April 2021

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April, come she will…

It has come to my attention that spring was supposed to have arrived by now, what’s all this cold stuff falling out of the sky? On March 16th we had temperatures of 23°, yesterday we had -2! Just shows the fickle nature of British weather.

So, the lunatics have been let out of the asylum? Yesterday restrictions were lifted in England for visiting the pub and going to the fitness centre, and non-essential shops. Were people so desperate to have a drink that they wanted to potentially spread Covid around even more by hooting and roaring and getting drunk in freezing temperatures? Have they never heard of buying cans and bottles and staying home to stop the spread? Or did they think it’s all over now and no restrictions were required any more? I despair. There will be another wave sooner or later and I for one won’t be one of those infected, and that’s not because I’ve had the jab and due the other one soon, it’s because I’m not going out and drinking outside a pub with loads of people I don’t know and don’t want to be near.

It’s all looking good thought with 2nd jabs being given and the age range coming down. I’m no scientist but I believe they know what they’re talking about when they say that vaccinations are the key to reducing the incidence of Covid-19. I’m not in a hurry to go on holiday either, although we have one booked for later in the year, in the UK of course. Anyway it’s getting boring now, the restrictions, the lockdowns and the tiers, so can’t wait for the all clear to be given.

Work is gathering pace on the workshops myself and my friends are building inside a hangar in the middle of Bordon for the Men’s Shed of Bordon. We were evicted from our old premises because they want to build houses on the site. We are now in an enterprise park and occupy a third of building. These are some of the progress pictures:

Why are they needed?

For a long time research has shown the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on a person’s health and wellbeing, especially during the current pandemic. Recently we have seen more evidence come to light that shows loneliness and isolation can be as hazardous to our health as obesity and excessive smoking. Surveys from mental health charities are finding that millions of people report feeling lonely on a daily basis.

Men typically find it more difficult to build social connections than women, and unlike women of a similar age, less older men have networks of friends and rarely share personal concerns about health and personal worries. It is not the case for all men, but for some, when retirement comes, it can feel like personal identity and purpose is lost. Men’s Sheds can change all of that. As a by-product of all of that they reduce isolation and feelings of loneliness, they allow men to deal with mental health challenges more easily and remain independent, they rebuild communities and in many cases, they save men’s lives. We are hoping to recruit more members later when we’ve finished building the workshops. We’re all over 70 so it takes a bit of effort! This is keeping us going; we’re all in a bubble and had our jabs so we’re safe: we’ve been working together all this year.

A year ago I signed for a cricket umpires course of which I did the basic Part 1. The lockdown kicked in and the rest of the course was cancelled. I’m going to do my first match on the 24th under the supervision of an experienced umpire. I’m looking forward to it, it’s not something I’ve done before, so it’ll be quite exciting. I’ll report on it later.

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