Day 12: We took the high road then we took the low road…

Greetings from Whitley Bay. This is a seaside town, which from what we have seen so far bears a striking resemblance to that stereotypical English seaside town in my imagination. We arrived late last night, so haven’t has the chance to check it out yet. This is what we’s been up to:

  • We had a lovely drive around Loch Lomond. We kept an eye out for Nessie but didn’t get to see her, party because very few tourists ever do, party because she is said to live in Loch Ness, not Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond what very picturesque. Anna explained it best when she said it was like being on the lid of a jigsaw puzzle.
  • After a fairly long drive right around Loch Lomond, we wound our way to Edinburgh. We checked into a B&B in Tranent, just out of the city.
  • We went across the road for a pub dinner. They had Haggis on the menu, so I decided to give it a try (only brave enough to order it as a starter). It was no bad at all, quite like a spicy sausage, with just a hint of offal texture.
  • The next morning I was up at around 4am and saw the first few snowflakes fall. I went back to bed but the snowflakes didn’t. By 9am we were crunching through a couple of inches of snow towards the bus stop. We caught the bus into the city, through even more falling snow. We started an open-topped bus tour of the city (sitting downstairs this time). We got off at the castle, but sadly the castle had been closed due to the weather. We walked through a tartan mill and managed to avoid the  temptation to purchase a kilt or pose for a photograph in full highland regalia. After that the castle was still closed. We considered taking it by force, but history has shown it to be fairly impenetrable, so we had a spot of lunch instead.

  • Finally, after lunch the castle had been reopened. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the rooms and displays. At one o’clock they fire the “one o’clock gun”. It was quite a large gun, more like what I’d call a cannon. They fire it at 1pm so that ships at sea could adjust their chronometers. Apparently it can be heard at Leith Harbour, more than 3km away. I can certainly report that at a distance of about twenty metres with absolutely no warning, it is audible.
  • The Edinburgh castle also houses the Scottish Honours, or the Scottish crown jewels. These are the original crown, sword and sceptre of the Scottish royalty. Dating from the coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543, they are the oldest crown jewels in the UK, and the second oldest in Europe. There is an amazing story of how they were smuggled out of the castle to avoid caputre by Oliver Cromwell during the English civil war and buried in a parish church. Years later, after the union of the English and Scottish crowns and parliaments, the Honours were placed in a oak chest and sealed up in a room of the castle for 111 years. In 1818 a few Scots were wondering what could have happened to them, so they dug them out again and put them on display. Equally as interesting is the Stone of Destiny, or the Stone of Scone, also on display in the castle. However, as time is running out, I shall leave it up to Wikipedia to tell you about it.
  • We finished our bus tour of Edinburgh, passing by plenty that we would have liked to get out and explore if time were on our side, including the old and new houses of parliament at Holyrood. All in all Scotland was fantastic, hope we get to come back some day.
  • Back in our car we followed the coast down to Whitley Bay.

We’re about to explore the beach a bit to see just how the North Sea measures up to the Pacific Ocean. Then we’ll have a poke through their Newcastle, and finally leg it for York. This is our third last day in the UK, so making the most of it.


Day 8: Carlisle to Glasgow

Okay, it’s been a while since we’ve been near the interwebs, which has been nice in a way, and I don’t have a great deal of time now, so here goes:


  • We left Marlborough and explored Bath. This included taking the waters at the baths – a nice mixture of minerals and metal. We also visited Bath Abbey, which was quite something…
  • We headed towards Monmouth and got as far as Bristol before I remembered that we weren’t staying in Monmouth that night. We turned around and headed to Oxford.
  • Spent the morning in Oxford, which had a lot of old buildings. The colleges weren’t generally open to the pubic. Enjoyed a delicious English meat pie for lunch.
  • Headed to Monmouth, Wales. Unfortunately there wasn’t a great deal to do in Monmouth, being Sunday. We had dinner in a pub on Saturday night, mainly just to overhear some terrific Welsh accents. The girl at the bar couldn’t undersatnd my order, “Two Irish Stews”, thinking I had said “The Irish Juice”. I guess the accent thing goes two ways.
  • Left Monmouth for a small region of Lancashire called Anglezarke, which is apparently where the Anlezarks come from. It was snowing fairly heavily when we got there. I guess the region was glad to see two of its own.
  • Left Monmouth for Carlisle. Arrived quite late and enjoyed a sandwich in our B&B. At 10pm I had a job interview over the phone, which was quite a challenge. The call cut out 3 or 4 times. I’ll hear about that next week.
  • Explored Carlisle this morning. Carlisle Castle was quite amazing. They have a military museum based with the 12th century walls. Quite fascinating. Carlisle was an important city for the various English-Scottish conflicts over the years and has had a military presence from the 12th century until the 20th century.
  • We are currently scabbing free Wi-fi from Carlisle Maccas, having purchased a small diet Coke for 89p about three quarters of an hour ago. Perhaps we’ll have an early tea here.

Day 4: From Eucharist to the Motorways

Our last day in London, and first day on tour! It went thusly:


  • Hopped up bright and early and attended 8.00 am Holy Communion at St Paul’s cathedral. Like our usual church we were 15 minutes late, unlike our usual church the building dated from the 1670’s and was the crowning achievement of famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren, whose tomb is in the crypt beneath the cathedral alongside some heroes of mine, William Blake and Sir Arthur Sullivan. A mere 257 steps above the cathedral floor was the whispering gallery housed in the main dome, the acoustics were crystal clear yet strangely Anna still complained I wasn’t listening. A further 120 odd steps was a look-out over london. Not bad at all, although a little foggy.

    Windsor Castle with two Bobbies
    Windsor Castle with two Bobbies
  • Packed up the hotel room and headed to Guilford via train and picked up car. Navigated our way to Windsor, where we were too late to go into the castle but enjoyed much of the town (and a narrow escape from some very vigilant clamp-happy parking police!), including the crocked house of Windsor, more than a fair share of gift shops, and St John’s church which housed an enourmous painting of the last supper dating back from the 1600’s (the painting dated back to the 1600’s, the last supper was much earlier than that, obviously).
  • Navigated to Marlborough, a rural town in Wiltshire, where we stayed the night in a B&B called “Brown’s Farm”, scenery is unbelievable and made all the more incredible by a further 15 cm of snow which fell over night. Met a nice Edinburough couple at breakfast who gave us some travel tips for when we are in that neck of the woods.

    MISSING: One Ford Festiva
    MISSING: One Ford Festiva


Not sure how we will travel today with the snow and ice – it continues to snow at the moment. Catch you later, Tom and Anna

PS – Hi to Shaye  – you should see the yummy pastry shops over here. Tell Dale the holiday is a must 🙂 xx

PS – Hi to Anne, moving day is still fresh in our memory, it has made shivering away here much more bearable! Have been advised that the beard has now reached it’s length and should now be kept trimmed…

Day 3 in London

Flat chat yesterday. And I think today will be much the same. Here’s the latest, in exciting new bullet form:

  • Breakfast at the hotel: “Continental” breakfast means more or less what you’d have at home. English breakfast is the one to look out for.

    Standing near the Albert memorial in Hyde Park.
    Standing near the Albert memorial in Hyde Park.
  • The Albert Memorial: Built to remember Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Tall monument, gold and ornate. Across the road from…
  • The Royal Albert Hall: Large and round and quite impressive. I wouldn’t mind coming back sometime…
  • Natural HIstory Museum: Nice building. Interesting exhibits.
  • Harrods: Basically Myer with history. We felt like it would be a waste to leave without buying anything, so we bought some morning tea and ate it in…
  • Hyde Park: Icy from all the snow. Very peaceful though. We shared morning tea with a fairly plump robin – obviously not his first scammed crumb.
  • Tom Cribb Inn: to satisfy my desire to eat in a traditional English pub, we found the Tom Cribb Inn, near Picadilly Circus. I had Fish and Chips with mushy peas and Anna had a chicken pie. We washed it down with a pint of fine English ale.
  • Britain at War Museum: INteresting, but not compulsory viewing.
  • Back to the Hotel for a quick nap, then…
  • Cirque de Soliel at the Royal Albert Hall: This was unbelievable. We didn’t have tickets, but were able to buy some at a good price out the front from a chap who looked seriously dodgy but seemed to have the goods. The show: Awesome. The Hall: Impressive. The man in front of us with the huge head: Disappointing but inevitable.
Yesterday’s pedometer reading: 16, 457 steps.
Today I do my first driving in the UK. Driving through snow is pretty simple, right?
Tom and Anna.

Us in Europe: Day 1


Well, we got away okay. The extraordinarily long flight wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. We touched down in London at 6am, local time, but couldn’t get off until 9am due to snow everywhere. Due to careful planning, we had managed to arrive in London for their heaviest snowfall in 18 years.

We managed to see a bit of London yesterday – Picadilly Circus, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Buckingham Palace – but most things were closed due to the snow.

The snow did make things look pretty awesome but.

We’re doing a London tour today so we’ll get to see these things in more detail.

K Bye.



Fast-tracked Marketing Bull-twang

“Fast tracked”

You see it on the Seven, Nine and Ten networks.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week’s episode of House will not be artificially held back for several months it will be fast-tracked direct from the US. The new hit series Flange will not be held back to see how popular it is with US audiences first, it will be fast-tracked to our screens.

Every now and then an immensely irritating buzzword will make the rounds. Fast-tracked is one such irritation. It means nothing. It means that instead of sitting on new episodes for a few months, they only sit on them for a week or two. Basically Australian TV networks are being a little less sucky and trying to pass it off as a favour.

Let’s take NCIS as an example. This week’s episode, Agent Afloat, aired on US television on September 30th. It will air here on October 7th. That’s a delay of just seven days. How does that compare to those sad sad days before the wonderful and lovely era of fast-tracking? Well, an episode from last season, Recoil, aired locally on August 26th and in the US on 5th June. That’s a 51 day delay. I’m not saying fast-tracking is a bad thing, I’m saying it’s something that you should be doing anyway, so stop acting like you’re doing me a favour!

And another thing, it’s not like Australian networks have to tape these episode from US TV and then play them back to us the following week. All networks, US, Australian and worldwide, get these episode from various distributers, I’m thinking, weeks ahead of time. It’s just a matter of scheduling, and yet they let the marketing folks get a hold of it and now it’s fast-tracked this and fast-tracked that.

It means nothing! It’s just a load of marketing rubbish! Ahhhhhh!


Post-script: It usually takes me a few months to craft these blog entries, but as a personal favour, this entry has been rapid-pathed to you, my reading public, in one single afternoon. A service that is exclusive to Blogge de Tom.

Update: Spotted last night – “Fastracked”. Notice that the last ‘t’ from ‘fast’ and the first ‘t’ from ‘tracked’ have been merged into one. My fury grows.

What I Knew and When I Knew It

Much has been said and written about the recent events that took place at the Elon Deli in NSW’s Mid-North Coast. What the media has now dubbed the “Elongate Affair” contains much that is wildly inaccurate, perversely exaggerated and appaullingly spelled. By way of providing an unbiased eye-witness account, I would like to take this opportunity to go on public record and give my version of the event.

I was seated at a table outside the Elon Deli at approximately noon on the day in question sifting through the Sunday newspapers (the papers had been ground into a fine powder specifically for the purpose). I remember I had just begun on the Employment section when I overheard a commotion emanating from within the Deli. I thought I heard the sound of two voices arguing. On peering through the front window I discovered that my ears (unlike the previous weekend, when dressed as koalas they swindled me out of my spare change) had not deceived me. The two voices – or more accurately the producers of them – seemed to be having a disagreement over a small package sitting on the counter. The taller man, a customer, wore a dark suit, a runcible hat and a thin moustache. The shorter man was the owner of the store, and for hygiene reasons had hung his suit, hat and moustache on a small hook next to the door.

I was disturbed to see such a scene, feeling as many men do that a delicatessen is no place for raised voices. I could see that Prudence was calling me into the shop – Prudence was the shop owner’s wife (apparently my sandwich was ready).

Standing next to the counter I was able to get a much better look at the two men. Up close the stranger’s features seemed more exaggerated. His dark suit appeared darker, his thin moustache appeared thinner. Only his runcible hat appeared slightly less runciblier.

“You call that Polish salami?” He bellowed in a voice that was half spruiker, half Darth Vader. He poked at the package on the counter, which may or may not have contained Polish salami.

“I call that the best darned Polish salami this side of Warsaw,” the shopkeeper retaliated in a voice that was half whiny fourteen-year-old, half Luke Skywalker (which amounts to the same thing, I suppose).

I felt that now was the time for me to step in. “Gentlemen, this is a place of fine meat, cheese and pickled vegetables, not harsh words. Perhaps we could compromise. Perhaps we could call it Baltic-region salami?” Both men stared at me for what seemed like eleven seconds. I could not be sure if they objected to my attempt at diplomacy or my dreadful understanding of central European politico-geography. I was later to learn that while the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth did encorporate most of the modern day Baltic states, it was partitioned in 1795 and when the modern Baltic states achieved independent sovereignty after the first world war, they did not include Poland.

“I demand a refund.” The Darth Vader spruiker thumped the countertop with his fist, narrowly missing the package which would have almost certainly rendered the meat ineligible for a refund. As it was, its refund eligibility seemed precarious. I listened as the two men argued back and forth and discovered that since the package had been opened and a slice of the salami partially consumed, there was no way that the Luke Skywalker-esque Deli owner would be willing to offer a refund simply because the Vader-esque suited man had changed his mind. This seemed a reasonable policy to me. On the other hand, Lord Vader insisted that the meat was sub-standard and should be refunded on those grounds. It seemed to me that it came down to a question of the quality of the meat. I was just about to offer my services as a meat-judge when I noticed the small price sticker on the package. Apparently this whole arguement was over $2.60 worth of meat. Those who know me best will tell you that I am nothing if not generous. I dug my hand into my pocket, pulled out the correct change and placed it into the suited man’s hand.

“Sir, I would like to buy your salami”. The suited man flinched and pulled his hand away, scattering coinage about the shop.

“Are you an imbecile?” He roared. Turning to the Deli owner, he hissed “You have not heard the last of this. I will see to it that your shop is pulled to the ground and that you never work in this state again.” And with that he stormed out.

The deli owner looked stunned. The Luke Skywalker comparison could not have been more complete if the suited man had told him that he was his father and sliced his hand off with a lightsaber. I took my sandwich and left, insisting that they keep my scattered coins as a tip.

These are the details from my perspective to the best of my recollection. I was glad to see that the result of the affair was the demise of the suited man, a member of parliament and noted bully, and not the hard-working shop owner. I have since returned to the Elon Deli and sampled their polish salami. It was revolting.