A Travellerspoint blog

English Engagements

August 14-20 2019

..and so to Old Blighty!

First to Mary Clare's sister Karena in Turvey, Bedforshire, north of London via Luton Airort with Ryanair. For all the stick they take, the flight was actually fine, and far less stressful than JestStar at home.

We had a slight hiccup with the rental car; Phil thought he'd ordered a return to Gatwick but they were expecting it to be returned to Luton. Nothing, though, that money couldn't fix! :(

We got a great welcome from Karena in her fabulous home in the country. A stroll through nearby woods, a pint or two near the River Ouse; something historical hapened nearby but can't remember what! It was great to catch up. And on Friday night we got to spend time with two of Mary Clare's cousins, Cecilia and Tanya, along with Tanya's husband Julian and son Sebastian. Many photos taken!


Then south to Bournemouth to brother Paul, and Carole. But a slight detour took us to visit MC's mother Mary's cousin Piers. Piers has always been a bit special to us; he was a huge support to Mary Clare when she was completing her nursing training at St Thomas's Hospital in London and hosted our whole family on one of our visits when the kids were young.

Piers is a fount of knowledge on 'Mondiana' the history and acquistitions of the Mond family. The Monds were a well-to-do and connected family in 19th and early 20th century England. Dr Ludwig Mond, a Fellow of the Royal Society pioneered commercialisation of the Solvay Process to produce soda ash, apparently a sought after product at the time, efficiently. For the chemically inclined: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solvay_process

The company, Brunner Mond, made a huge amount of money, such that this was able to happen https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/about-us/history/collectors-and-benefactors/dr-ludwig-mond.

Ludwig had two sons, Alfred and Robert, both knighted, the latter Mary Clare's mother's grandfather. Robert was an early 20s philanthropist and Egyptologist and Alfred a cabinet minister in Lloyd George's government, including during the partition of Ireland!!! For Blackadder fans, Alfred was the real first Lord Melchett :) The family has now abandoned the title, Robert apparently originally declined a similar offer.

Here's a few old photos from Piers showing Sir Robert with daugher Frida (MC's grandmother) and Mary, MC's mum; and MC's Mum with her parents and two brothers.


Piers lives next to a rather special farm; the one on which Jethro Tull (the original, not the band invented the seed drill, which enabled the British agricultural revolution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jethro_Tull_(agriculturist)

And then onward to Bournemouth and Paul and Carole. Great to see them, especially given they are still wallowing in the news of daughter Stephanie's engagement :) Other niece Katherine has worked for many years for a record label (Heavenly) which has inspired a return to vinyl in the Cantwell household. So Phil got to listen to the new vinyl purchases, as well as get introduced to some great new stuff.


Paul played tour guide on Sunday, taking us to a Dorset Winery - yes there is such a thing as English champagne! Tried four; two were drinkable, one actually quite good. Then Portland Bill (Bill = long thin penninsula). Windswept but great views. Odd (from our point of view) little 'beach huts' turned out to be more like small bachs in NZ terms, but cheek by jowl and perched on top of a cliff with no beach access possible!! A few people reading books in deck-chairs while half the world went by :) Then Weymouth, where the sailing for the 'London' Olympics was held. Lovely place, humming on a sunny Sunday afternoon.


Then lunch at the Parkstone yacht club, something of a Davis/Cantwell home-from-home with Paul & Carole, Carole's folks John and Bernadette and a great surprise, with Stephanie’s fiancé Liam, who we had last seen with Stephanie at Tui Tce for Christmas. We also got to meet Liam's parents.
Gilding the lily, we then ate out at a lovely little Greek restaurant. Mousakka anyone? And a village church, now a supermarket, took Mc's fancy!


We took the opportunity on the drive to Gatwick to visit old friends Julia (nee Malvisi) and James Guest. Phil and Julia were residents together in the Worth Abbey Lay Community at Worth Abbey, in 1977-78 - where/when Phil and MC met. Lovely Pub meal (thanks to our hosts), and a visit to a small 'chapel in a windmill" - as you do.


Finally, a few signs that took my (Phil's) fancy; from the "only in England" Department.

Sorry this has been so late. Having too much fun. But now settled for a few days west of Lisbon, and the Prague text is mostly written; hopefully in a day or two.

Posted by philandmc 08:02 Archived in England Comments (0)

Dublin Doings

8 - 15 August 2019

A lovely quiet week, catching up with Mary Clare's family in Dublin, and staying with brother Michael, and Erica and the boys, in Baldoyle.

Lovely to be here. Craft beer penetration seems stronger than three years ago :) These from Yellowhead in Wexford.

Saw the All Blacks horrendous performance, then got to go to Aviva Stadium - the new Landsdowne Road - to see Ireland play Italy in a RWC warm-up game, with the three lads. Impressive, especially with Guinness in hand.

Watched on TV snatches of the two Irish football semi-finals - Counties Dublin and Kerry (yus - 3/8 of Phil's bloodline.!) will meet in the final. (Those of you who equate 'football' with 'soccer' just misunderstood :) )

Weather apparently was great before we arrived but.... !!

Mary Clare has enjoyed a long bike-ride around her old stamping-ground at Howth, visted parents' Brendan and Mary's grave - beautifully blooming in Lavender. Still so strange to be here without them. But the Haddon Lodge driveway betrays the growing dereliction of the house, long sold, that had for so long been the family's heart :(

A great family celebration dinner on Sunday night at "The Baths" at Clontarf.

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Monday, Mary Clare caught up with Hillary, a friend from 1990 when we all lived in Dublin and we both had dinner with Aisling, an old friend from Laurel Hill school days and son Cillian over a lovely meal at Marco Pierre White.


.and we played tourist, enjoying some of the old Dublin buildings, and Phil found some record shops. That map shows locations. :) Katherine C - note a Heavenly pick-up, sadly in the sale bin.


Wednesday, a catch up with old friends Rob and Anne Clarke. Phil grew up with Rob in Miramar and we've known Rob and Anne for 30 years!

And we got to catch up with 'Uncle' Frank, who visited us in New Zealand a number of years ago. 92 and still mowing his lawns! There's a story about the teal towel. Karena G will know it :)

Nephew Luke joined Mary Clare for a cliff walk around Howth Peninsula. Refreshing childhood memories, including the time MC copped the blame for setting the Hill of Howth on fire :)


We never seem to get through Dublin without some hilarious - or not - brush with Irish bureaucracy. The month-long wait when we lived here in 1990 to get our homeline transferred 200 metres up the road has gone down in family history. Last time, here for mum Mary's funeral, we waited four days for our bags to get here; they were found only when we went to the airport ourselves to search for them!

This time it was our Irish/European Sim cards. Phil's installed without issue. Mary Clare's did not! So Phil called the 'help line'. "You do not have enough credit to make this call". But I'd just spent 30 euro on a monthly plan involving unlimited calls and texts!! What to do! Bro (in-law) Michael came to the rescue , getting through to his help line. Bottom line was that the help line linked to the sim card we called was not a number included in the unlimited calls we had just bought!!!! Even the help-line guy thought it was nuts! Allan Pledger may be able to explain if there is any similar nonsense in NZ????

Then, this morning, Thursday 15th. inappropriately on the Feast of the Assumption, we braved Ryan Air for our English visit, with sister Karena in Bedfordshire, and bro Paul in Bournemouth. I'm writing this, over a Gin, with the first two pints of bitter already tucked away!! Julia, avert your eyes.

See you next week!

Posted by philandmc 11:00 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

Shenanigans in Shanghai

5-8 August 2019

Iberian? Because we’re spending most of our time this trip in Portugal and Spain, which together constitute the Iberian peninsula. But we don’t get there until 24 August, so much to see and do and experience before then!

For the first time, we stopped over north-bound in Shanghai. A 12 hour leg from Auckland, but 20 hours from door (Tui Tce) to door (Shanghai hotel).

Quite an experience! At 27m people, the largest city not only in China but in the world! To a westerner, quite conflicting. At one level, obvious prosperity and a vibrant, lively city with everything you’d expect in the west. Seemingly a very young demographic, at least visible to us; highly contemporary dress; all the rat-race brands; a thriving café and restaurant scene; the same happy kids and doting parents and grandparents. A lovely, gracious people.

Visits to the Lego and M&M stores stand out in the memory; entranced, captivated kids, and laughter all over the store.
And technologically on trend. Only western visitors were shackled by cash and credit cards. Everyone else uses QR technology to instantly pay on their phones. And of course everyone, everywhere, glued to them. The occasional unintentionally hilarous sign.


Huge efforts too on the environment; they have the zillions of wee motor-scooters comon to most Asian cities but every single one is electric! It costs around $90,000 (one-off) to register a petrol/diesel car but zip/nada to register an electric. And the air quality was just fine 
But, given that you were constantly aware of Big Brother lurking in the background; cameras everywhere with face recognition technology identifying and rewarding or sanctioning good and bad behaviour, the feeling wasn’t so much 1984 as ‘The Matrix’  And dealing with Big Brother was something else. Passports required and copied, not only at the hotel but simply to convert a few NZD into RMB; and the paperwork! Fingerprinting at the immigration desk. (Incidentally, I solved the mystery - for me - about the name of Chinese currency. The currency itself is ‘Renminbi’ (RMB – the people’s money) but you spend ‘Yuan’. Think ‘sterling’ and ‘pounds’.

After a quiet first day (Mon 5 August) , we were escorted by the wonderful Fei Fei for the day on Tuesday 6. Phil wasn’t feeling the best with an intermittent headache (heat? Jetlag?) but managed to mostly make it through.

First a visit to the top of the world’s formerly first and now second-highest building (Shanghai Tower? – still tallest if you don’t count the cheating spires and spikes on some). The photos make the pace of change evident; those low-level areas used to be more common but most are scheduled for demolition. If you live in one, you get one or more of the brand new apartments following completion. The Government/Party decides how many and/and how big, based on your circumstances. Note the low-lying barges used to trade rice, cement etc up and down the rivers. (Two rivers converge at Shanghai; the Yangtze and the Huangpu). The spectacular city-scape on one bank has developed only in the last 30 years after the Chinese economy was opened up. Fascinating contrast with the ‘English-period’ architecture; The English and French both had ‘concessions’; areas of the city they controlled for 100 years through 1940.


Then a visit to the Yu Gardens - including a stop for some Chinese paracetamol - lovely Chinese lunch, and ‘the Bund’; a large promenade along the river that seemed to be quite a mecca for the huge numbers of locals and visitors; most of the latter Chinese.


On our free day on Wednesday we decided to have an adventure. A key attraction, the ZhujiajiaoWater Village was accessible by the Subway/Metro, so we braved it. Aced it! Lovely place. A couple of temples, an ancient Post Office (China has had postal services for millennia!), lovely riverside cafes, dumplings, tree-lined walks. The photos tell the story.


Now – on to Dublin for a week’s catch-up with family and friends.

Posted by philandmc 05:12 Archived in China Comments (2)