Posted by: Team McSlade | July 12, 2010

UK Transition Stage

The BBC Radio 2 (88 – 91FM and on digital) have been our favourite travel companion here in Great Britain. They have kept us abreast of traffic snarls across the UK on the motorways; given us a few laughs at both jokes and accents and we are now in tune with Katie Perry and Kylie’s latest dire musical offerings.
The Beeb 2 also informed us of the manhunt and (supposed) whereabouts of Raoul Moat, the lunatic who decided that he’d shoot his former girlfriend and her new partner; he also shot a policeman at random. The reason I bring this up is we drove from Edinburgh to the Peak District near Sheffield through Northumbria where he was holed up. The cops did say not to travel through the Rothbury area unless absolutely necessary, we deemed our travels necessary.
Please, parental units, siblings, friends and sports fans let me allay your fears of an unsafe passage to Jane Austen’s English countryside for your Team McSlade. As these ramblings are usually a few days in arrears when written, Mr Moat has been found (and he shot himself) and we didn’t even see a policeman, let alone a road block on our travel south.

West of Newcastle-upon-Tyne is Hadrian’s Wall and the remains of a few Roman forts he and his mates built in the 2nd century AD. 75 miles of wall and fortifications spanned the Isle of England to keep the Romans safe from a northern attack by the Scots. They dug a ditch/moat on the northern side and had turrets every ¼ mile (if memory serves correct). We found a small section still intact just off the main drag and took tourist photos accordingly.

Jo has a decent radar when it comes to picking our accommodation, thus I shouldn’t have been surprised when we walked into The Maynard in Grindleford and it was fantastic. A classic English hotel with beautiful stained glass windows, a quaint bar and restaurant and with a two roomed top floor apartment we had great views of the neighbouring countryside. £60 was the moderate hit to the pocket for this night’s slumber.

The Maynard in Grindleford

We ventured out in search of Pemberley Hall.
Now, if you’re my mum or some other individual who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Jane Austen’s work, you will already know the Pemberley Hall is in Ms. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and that in the film of said book with Keira Knightley they use Haddon Hall in a few of the scenes.
Yes, I am in touch with my feminine side, it’s called Jo; she wasn’t sure that Haddon Hall was correct but smashed off a few pictures just in case.
As it turned out the place she was looking for was Chatsworth House, a few miles down the road, which was later confirmed by Erica when we arrived in London – this could not be sorted while we were there due to a lost electrical converter rendering us internet-less and poor local knowledge by hotel staff.

Bakewell and the Red Lion hotel was next on the tour for dinner of ye olde public house fare. What man would turn down a feed of half a chicken? Not I. Jo knocked the staple English dish of Fish ‘n’ Chips with the kids cracking through a burger and lasagne.
Dessert was a challenge due to bulging stomachs but a Bakewell Pudding with warmed custard was split four ways. Jo asked if Bakewell Tart’s originated from Bakewell. The barmaid replied that ‘NO, they were an invention of Mr Kipling, not from Bakewell’ – inferring not to waste our time with the tarts. So we didn’t.

Our final destination visited in this region was Sherwood Forrest. Again, poor local knowledge first sent us in the wrong direction to Clumber Park. We paid five quid to roll through the front gates to realise we weren’t in Robin’s lair thus were un-Merrie Men (and women).
Down in Sherwood Forrest we found out that Robin Hood may have existed in the 10th century and was on the run from the Sherriff of Nottingham. However, there was also a few other known as Robert Hode, Robin Hode and then in the 15th and 16th centuries the police called outlaws ‘Robinhoods’.
A massive oak tree called The Major Oak, was visited where these outlaws met up and planned out their robberies. After enjoying the countryside the kids then shot a few arrows at targets and a wild pig. Babe was lucky not to cop an arrow to the rump from both kids; the targets were not so lucky taking a few hits in the blue and red circles.

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On to London town we went and two days to go before hitting Heathrow up for a flight home.

Posted by: Team McSlade | July 10, 2010

Edinburgh dreaming

On the whistle stop tour of the UK, we have entered our third country and Scotland is its name. There is conjecture over Wales being a country or a principality, but since ’98 they’ve had their own Government separate from the London’s Parliament House – one better than England.
With that brief social studies lesson over we move on to Edinburgh and all things Scottish.

Checking where our apartment was prior to leaving Liverpool helped immensely and even though we had a few dud turns due to roadworks and dodgy signage in the docks, we did find our pad for two evenings with a modicum of ease.
We had ‘ocean views’, a loose title if ever one was coined. Yes, we could see directly out to the Forth of Firth (no, I did not make that name up, the Scots came up with that gem themselves) but the view was over re-claimed docklands and a port too. Slightly better than Pt Adelaide’s Newport Quays as we also had the Royal Yacht Britannia in plain sight and we could see clearly back to the city, Edinburgh castle and the outskirts of the city.

As we arrived late in the day, dinner from Walmart’s European cousin, Asda, was purchased and the best ‘local’ flavour of chips ever was purchased in a 3 for £3 deal.
As the previous TMS rant, Patatas Fritas will attest, I (Ryan) love chips. So when these Scottish taste sensations came up for grabs I was in there like a pig at a trough. Standard Salt and Vinegar and Aberdeen Angus Barbeque were good for starters but the third bag tore the roof off.
Haggis and cracked black pepper.
Yep, a mental giant in the Scottish chip industry managed to get oatmeal, onion and minced sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs) onto a chip. Bless that individual.

Genius. Pure genius.

With a surname like McEachen, you’d imagine that there would be some Scottish blood in my veins. I don’t bleed tartan, however I checked and found that our small posse originate from the Western Isles and are part of the McDonald of Clanranald Clan. A kilt could not be sourced in our tartan, but a scarf and a book was, so I got those (to go with the coffee mug I have somewhere at home).

As for Edinburgh, they know how to turn on an architectural show. The castle on the hill is majestic, the Royal Mile is studded with gothic marvels and on Princes St they have the Scott Monument, a memorial for Sir Walter Scott. Instead of just bronzing up a likeness of Sir Scott, the fine folk of Edinburgh stumped up the dough for a grandiose spire (and a statue too).
We used the monument as a meeting point for catching up with Chloe and Mark, friends in this wee bonnie city (sorry, some faux Scottish had to get a run in this edition). Chloe is a former serf of the juggernaut that is UniSA, she worked with Jo in the Division of Business.
Mark’s place of employ, Kilimanjaro Coffee was ventured to for a beverage (excellent coffee, do stop by if in the area, it’s on Northbridge) before they needed to sign away the potential earning capacity of their possible first born in triplicate to get a bank account. Never has it been so hard to just ask someone for a place to keep your cash; and with how stuffed the European economy is I would imagine the banks need all the cash they can get.

Scott Monument

Dinner that evening was at our apartment and with our latest ‘adopted’ home nation of Spain in the semi-final of the World Cup; the idiot box was on too. Before the kick-off Zach wandered the halls to get a decent roasting tray for two chooks (chickens for the non-Australian viewers) and spuds to go into the oven on.
Chloe and Mark joined us for this tribute to sport & food and the ladies worked on kitchen stuff, while the XY genetic crew kept a keen eye on the soccer. A boring first half was viewed, dinner was served and enjoyed. Zach, who was wearing his Spanish strip decided to wash the chicken from his hands, as he did this Spain scored the only goal of the match.
A cry of “Great.” with defeated jubilation was heard from the bathroom. At about the same time, Chloe was about to call the bank and inform them that her first born was forming. She had a ‘food baby’ from eating far too much chicken, pumpkin and beans. Luckily we had the great unfiller of dessert on hand, thus the bank was not phoned.

Edinburgh in summer is a dandy of a town, not sure how we’d go in the dead of winter there, but I guess with the new tartan scarf and a thermal-lined kilt one could survive. Peak district, London town and a plane flight or three to go…

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Posted by: Team McSlade | July 8, 2010

You’ll never walk alone

Driving is something that Jo and I do quite well.
We don’t drive down stairs; have accidents or trade paint with others’ cars, fences, etc. Granted, Jo has been known to open our gate at home with the front bumper as a form of ‘automatic gate’ and yes, I have put two cars into early graves through a lack of maintenance.

Which brings us to the Kia Rio we are thumping around the United Kingdom and the number of times I have stalled it. Whether driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road in Europe has caused my feet to not work correctly when reverting to right–hand drive I am not sure.
About 8 or 10 stalls in a week have had me wondering if my licence was in fact clipped off the back of a Weet-bix packet. Taking off from lights, laneways in the countryside and in car parks; the clutch, accelerator and my feet are not combining well. Whether it’s the friction point, yelling at the kids or a poor use of motor skills the jury’s still out.
Taking off from a stationary position in 2nd gear has also added to the issues, thus I have been rocketing off like a rally driver a few times so as to not stall again and hopefully it’s a thing of the past from here on in.

Bunny-hopping the Rio into Liverpool, we used our powers of intuition, guile and sheer dumb luck to land on the street our apartment was on. Not wishing to part with £12 for parking we found a slot on the street and all luggage was taken inside. Not wanting the Scoucers to go shopping in our car meant dragging in bags that weren’t required.
Still, we needn’t have bothered as police taped off the street later that night with some disturbance happening. The locals were bemused and a language that resembled English was spoken, we still aren’t sure what occurred, maybe some tourist said that Paul McCartney’s Wings was a more seminal band than The Beatles – after hearing Wings’ version of Mary had a little Lamb on BBC2, I can see that the drugs had a profound effect on Sir Paul.

Albert Docks, Liverpool

Back to Liverpool, The docks have been gentrified to bring in tourists rather than industry along the Mersey. Gerry and the Pacemaker songs were hummed throughout the streets and Super Lamb Banana was viewed.
As a 17ft sculpture of a Lamb/Banana is something fairly unique, we wandered through the city to view this artwork. On the way a few smaller Lamb Bananas were spied, with one having the Sydney Harbour Bridge painted on it; another was decorated with A Flock of Seagulls. …and I ran, I ran so far away…

As Liverpool was really just a stop on the way to Edinburgh we made an earlier stop in the Cotswolds. A hilly region of England with more small villages, castles and strangely enough, hills. Morning tea, coffee, milkshakes and pasties added to the thickening of arterial walls.
Jo had a list of small gems to find and see, but with an Ordinance map of the UK not showing every town or hamlet, we missed most. We’ll take solace in the knowledge that it’ll still be there when we return to this side of the world in years to come.

‘You’ll never walk alone’ is what the grand people of Liverpool Football Club had to say on their gates and we have photographic evidence to prove it. Zach was disappointed when we said ‘That’s it.’ about the ground. I’m not confident that he realised Steven Gerrard doesn’t just hang out at the front gate waiting for Australians to come by asking for autographs.

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Anyway, Edinburgh here we come…

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