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Lyall Bay walk – Easter Island statue

19 May

Lyall Bay walk - Easter Island statue


14 Jan

Got the train to Marylebone with our usual seconds to spare due to me not remembering to write down our booking reference. Frantic logging on to emails got us the tickets eventually though and a dignified dash through Warwick station meant we did get on the train ok.

We met Gemma at King’s Cross and walked to her house…the 15 mins it took us meant we could really test out our bags – mine was definitely too big but it happened that Gemma had a smaller one that she kindly gave to me so we did a swap :)

We brought Gemma and Joe all the spices that have accumulated in our kitchen for them to use as they make spicy food often…in little magnetic jars so you can stick them on the fridge/boiler so you can see what you’ve got


Dills and Tim joined us for the kingfish jerk curry and coconut rice (amazing) curry Joe cooked. Craig got his harmonica out (not a euphemism)


and then Tim made quite a lethal rum/Malibu punch which meant it was bedtime for me.

Joe bought us all croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast – introduced him to the ultimate breakfast delicacy of pain au chocolat smeared in butter and chocolate spread. I imagine he will be forever in my debt :D

Then it was off to King’s Cross to meet Harry who was unexpectedly in London for the weekend.


She treated us to a lovely lunch and it was great to see her as she lives up North so didn’t think we were going to get a chance to say a proper goodbye.

Got back on the train to get to Heathrow to see Mum, Martin and Hannah off the plane from Australia (an hour after they told me to be there, damn my frazzled brain) which meant we got a quick chance to catch up before they went back to Warwickshire. Very sad but we will hopefully see each other in Oz before too long.

In between all that we photocopied passports etc and got our anti-malarial tablets. Now looking forward to a film, fish and chips (probably our last English meal!), a film and crashing out before getting up at 6 tomorrow to CATCH THE PLANE! Woohoo!


13 Jan

I took Holly for a last walk on Monday afternoon as Tuesday was D-Day – dropping her off to go to her new owners.


Spent a lot of Monday evening in tears! However, in the morning she made the process particularly easy

but she got off ok and her new owners texted me the next day to say that they had taken her out for a walk at 9.30am and had enjoyed themselves so much they didn’t get back until 6!

I came back to finally start packing:


It took me all day but managed to get my backpack down to 11kg plus a small satchel. Considering I took 19kg to Vietnam in March with me, I think this isn’t too bad :) I will probably need to get a smaller backpack when we’re out there because this one is too bulky. In between packing, I saw Dad for lunch and then Vicki for tea to say goodbye.

Joy and I went to see the last Twilight film (couldn’t leave the country without seeing Jacob with his shirt off again) in Birmingham on Wednesday. After some Singapore noodles (and an extra bowl of chillies for me – Joy’s a wimp :D ) in Selfridges, we walked round the entire city whilst trying to find the cinema but it was totally worth it. Even though the vampire-baby delivery scenes did leave me feeling a little sick :/

Joy then came back to ours for a roast dinner Craig made, and to give us our presents. She got me a gorgeous bracelet

“15.01.2012 The start…Love Joy x” :)

but Craig told me I wasn’t allowed to wear it because of my past history with bracelets he’s bought me:

the silver one Craig bought me in Hoi An – I nearly lost it in Cambodia but finally did lose it in Doha airport…

this one Craig bought me in Leamington to make up for the one that was lost. It lasted about two weeks before I broke a bit of it and then it properly fell apart after two months.

I gave Joy a lift home after saying goodbye (*sniff*) and went into the lounge to talk to Ben and Craig when I realised I was no longer wearing the bracelet. Went back outside with them as I’d heard a noise when I’d got out of the car but just assumed it was something on the floor I had kicked…to find my bracelet had fallen off into a drain! Luckily Ben and Craig managed to get it out but maybe I shouldn’t be trusted with jewellery after all…

Came back to the house to have a final drink with Ben as he was off to London the next day. Tom popped in too and we played cards until one by one everyone went to bed except me and Ben. Equal competitive streaks, a crossword which we refused to be beaten by, stubbornness and Bloody Mary’s meant that by the time we looked at the clock it was 4am. Ooops.

That meant that getting up at 8 to start packing up the rest of our room to transport it back into storage in Rugby was a useful study into exactly what the human body is capable of fuelled only by 4 hours sleep, a McDonald’s breakfast (grease to meat ration 2:1 – perfect) and the quiet glow of satisfaction that comes from consistently beating Ben at cards. I never said this blog was going to be entirely factual :) Luckily Alan had come to help us move everything so it was all pretty much done by 11am. I also got our travel insurance sorted through World Nomads which was 7% discount using the promotional code WIKID. Indeed!

Craig managed to sell all his tools at the last possible minute whilst we were in Rugby to someone who a friend knew who might be interested in buying some power tools. The only problem was that when Craig rang him, he was on a ski lift in Italy but his boss said he could sort it out for him. Turns out the boss’s brother is skiing in Bulgaria with Craig’s dad at the moment!

Then it was back to Rugby to put the last few bits in storage, say goodbye to Oliver and his mum and then dinner with Carol and Mark on their boat near our old house. We had a lovely evening there – it was a shame we couldn’t stay all night but work, driving and the To Do list were not in our favour! We left there to go and do a few more bits and pieces in Rugby and then popped into Harbury to say goodbye to James VH and have a pint with him.

Having put our bed in storage that day, we slept on the futon mattress on the floor at Ben’s (good training for hostel beds I suppose!). We went to say goodbye to Craig’s mum in the morning and dropped the car off at Kidderminster for Dad to keep trying to sell for me whilst we’re away. Just got a few more bits to do (passport pictures for the visas and anti-malarials…possibly quite important to get on with) and then we will be on the train to London to see Gemma, Joe, Tim and Dills. It will be nice to be saying to hello to people for a change!!

And relax…

8 Jan

For anyone fearing that I am enjoying my new life of leisure, I am still getting up at normal time to drop Craig off to work in Radford Semele whilst I still have my car. Although someone came to see it the day after I relisted it on Autotrader, they decided they would get back to me as they “weren’t really sure whether they were looking for an automatic”. *Sigh*.

The last few days have been a whirlwind trying to get things sorted and getting to see everyone to say goodbye. We had a couple of drinks with Ben, whom we’ve been living with for the last few months now my house is rented out, and neighbour Tony on Thursday. Music, homemade sloe gin, dancing in the living room and brandy: fun times. Less fun was the morning after so to blow away the cobwebs we took the dogs out for a walk to Bascote Woods –  and saw the result of the last few days’ battering by the wind. Got back to Craig’s parents’ house to drop Charlie Murphy off and had to take his mum to hospital as she isn’t well. In amongst all the worry came a moment of light relief courtesy of my blondeness…I am a fan of which is a site dedicated to signs and notes that are unintentionally funny in their anger. When I saw this next to the double doors to go to the ward

(and the two other signs on the actual doors), I had to take a picture to submit to the site. A nurse was trying to get out with a patient in a wheelchair so I offered to hold the door open, commenting on how many signs there were. She rolled her eyes and said it still confused people…only for me to then try and open the door with the handles without pressing the switch. At least she, Craig, the patients and every other nurse in a 5 metre radius found it absolutely hilarious :)

We were meant to be seeing Joy and James in town that evening but with everything going on we texted to say we might be a bit late…only to find we were about to miss our surprise party that had been organised by James! James is someone who flat out refuses to plan anything more than 2 seconds in advance so we were very touched :) After making sure Craig’s mum was going to be discharged, we headed off into town to meet everyone as it would be our last chance to go out in Leamington to see them – it was a lovely night despite all the earlier stress so thank you to all that made it. I got to experience the wonder that is Kelsey’s bar and “The Eliminator” cocktail:

And yes, it is as luminous as it looks there!

The next day we went to see Craig’s mum again to make sure she was as ok as possible and then went off to Tim and Wendy’s the next meeting of Curry Club with Joy, Dave and Jasmine. Curry Club is the brainchild of Gemma and basically involves all or part of the group descending on one of our houses and cooking up a great big curry for everyone. Gemma and Joe did the first one in London for us and Dills – Sri Lankan curry, a stunning tarka dhall and a less successful aubergine/oil dish which ended up in the bin after Joe declared it inedible :D Craig and I did the next one with some samosas, pakoras and bhajis, three curries and indian sweets and rice pudding (and chocolate cupcakes – possibly less authentic!):

Curry Club: mobilise

Tim and Wendy did an amazing job – poppadoms, salad, dips, two curries and a perfectly cooked chocolate fondant with raspberries:

They had put in a lot of effort to making it special – including party games and the brilliant idea of doing a different flavoured shot for us all between courses. It was lovely to see them both and get to say a proper goodbye. We also got to see the best real ale shop in the entire world!

We went for a walk round Chesterton with James and the dogs this afternoon after checking in on Craig’s mum – it was meant to be a small walk but ended up being 3 hours after walking to Harbury to meet James, round Thwaites’ farm and back to Ufton. Holly hasn’t moved from her bed since: even her whiskers look tired. We then met my brother Simon and his girlfriend Crissy for a meal to say goodbye tonight at the White Horse which, aside from the total inetiptitude of the bar staff (the blank stare when we asked for our drinks was, in hindsight, a bad sign), was lovely and it was great to get a chance to say goodbye considering he lives in Maidenhead so isn’t around all the time.

In amongst all of that we’ve also sorted the post redirection, travel insurance, train tickets to London and on my part, seriously examined the possibility of packing at some point. Just got to see Vicki, Joy for our final Twilight session, James, give the dog to her new home (not thinking about that at the moment), drop the car off at Dad’s and say goodbye to him, visit Oliver – the little boy I’ve been looking after for the last three years as part of the Friendship Project for Children – and his mum, and our neighbours from our house in Rugby…let’s just say we’re looking forward to the sleep on the plane!

Slight hitch

4 Jan

Craig’s Chinese visa application was rejected yesterday, which means we also can’t go to Russia because we won’t have any easy/cheap way to get to Vietnam from there. But as this means we will have a bit more cash to spend overall, we applied for a three month Vietnamese visa (which came through this morning – took a total of one day with no problems!) in case we want to explore there more thoroughly. Sad to miss a proper winter and the train to Beijing etc but hopefully once the Chinese embassy has chilled out a bit we can do that some other day :)

So we took a deep breath and booked our flights today to Hanoi via Singapore, leaving on 15th Jan, and a nice hostel for the first night is also booked so we don’t have to tramp round with heavy bags looking for a place to stay…£1.28 deposit paid with the rest (£10!) to be paid on the day. It will be nice in a way to start off somewhere we have already been and choosing the “one way flight” option was very exciting – literally no going back. We also went into town to get all the essentials needed like Speedos (dear god), medicine, sunglasses, washbags etc. It feels a bit more real now!

P.S. A good money-saving website is, which is worth having a look at if you haven’t already – if you buy products online you can get cashback on them through this site. Our flights were £46 cheaper using a combination of this and voucher codes, my Autotrader advert for the car was £14 cheaper and it looks like we can save up to 20% on our backpacker’s travel insurance through them too. The cheaper we get all this boring stuff, the more we can do whilst we’re away, but it’s also handy for normal things like home insurance (which I got £75 off) and even Groupon (5% off).


3 Jan

Craig did end up watching Trans-Siberian after all – too scary for me so I went to sleep to avoid the carnage – lessons learned: a) don’t pick up anyone else’s bags and b) the Russian word for “Cheers” (“na zdorovje”) . He reckons that this is all you need to know to we will need to know to make friends. However, the internet disagrees that this is the correct saying for cheers but I’m obviously not going to tell him that in case it means something random like sausages.

New Year’s Eve started off with an intense fight about when I should get out of bed (points to Craig for the use of the word “numbskullery”)…but it ended at about 10.3oam when Craig shouted “You will get out of bed because I’m the boss and I’M IN CHARGE”, a statement of such utter lunancy it made us both laugh so much we had came to an agreement :D

We spent the day doing a few errands with Craig navigating – a task made harder by his refusal to say the words “left” and “right” when I am driving. Apparently it makes it “more fun” when hand signals are involved:



“Straight over”:

Slightly confusing when you’re trying to keep an eye on the road but leads to lots of giggling! Also keeping us amused is the Horse game from one of my favourite films, Eagle vs Shark. Despite Craig changing the rules every time we get in the car, I was the clear winner of Horse and won all the horses. He is just bitter as he forfeited all his horses yesterday for spotting “horses” which looked suspiciously like cows (because they were cows).

We went to the Star and Garter for the evening with friends and had a great night although there were some tears for friends we won’t be seeing 2013 in with and some for friends who are no longer with us…the Jaegar bombs seemed a good idea at the time! Ended up walking back from Leamington to Warwick as there no taxis around…made slightly more painful by my shoes which although beautiful, were six inch heels and hated me.

Mature as ever :)

New Year’s Day was spent mainly lying down- followed by a lovely evening with Tim and Danni, Kate and Louis in Leamington. Danni made a great risotto and a delicious broccoli, asparagus, pine nut and chilli side dish. Then we had little filo pastry tarts made by Gemma and probably an entire deli counter’s worth of cheese and biscuits. Lots of laughter, good food, star gazing and travel stories. Despite earnest promises never to drink again earlier in the day, we did manage a couple there but bed was calling by 12 so went home and slept for a good 10 hours…

…in order to get up to navigate a walk from Harbury to Chesterton and back again with them and the dogs. I did take some pictures but as I only had my phone with me and its camera is rubbish, I’ve nicked this one from David Stowell.

Seven miles of sunshine-filled Warwickshire countryside, mud and exploration of delapidated cottages later and after all that exercise a pub lunch and a couple of pints were well-earned/needed. Unfortunately we missed out on seeing Gemma and Joe as they had to go back to London but we have cunningly invited ourselves down there a day or two before we leave to catch up with them and hopefully Tim and Danni too so we can catch up with them and then nip to Heathrow to get the plane.

Trans-Siberian nightmare

30 Dec

Joy helpfully has just posted this on my wall –

Thank goodness we’re not going towards Moscow :) No murders for us! Win.

A little inspiration

30 Dec

I’d heard about the ice festival in Harbin (I think one of the first stops the train makes in China) but hadn’t really seen any pictures of it light up until this article appeared…

Hurry up Chinese visas. I want to see the disco ice city please.

Last but one…

29 Dec

…nearly the end of work as we know it Jim…have managed to contract Craig and my housemate Ben’s cold after battling it for what seems like weeks. Gutted as really want New Year’s Eve to be a good night – it’s when I met Craig and will probably the last time I see quite a lot of my friends :/ Went home for lunch today to try and warm up and get some hot food as our canteen is closed and ended up making a pasta dish with 5 bird’s eye chillis in it to try and flush out the cold. Now sitting in front of the fire bundled up in my new scarf (which Craig cruelly described as looking like a hospital sling which is a little unfair) so will hopefully get an early night and Night Nurse to knock this on the head! Can’t believe the last day of work is nearly here – I’ve been counting down the days since January :)

Christmas: done

26 Dec

Christmas Eve was spent taking my Doberman Holly for a massive 15 mile walk with James VH and Craig’s dog Charlie Murphy round what felt like most of Warwickshire.

Christmas Day we took a fairly knackered Holls out for a little stroll and then I started cooking ready for Joy and Dave to come over for lunch whilst Craig made the house presentable.

Fifteen tonnes of food later and the sofa was calling out to us, so we watched the Top Gear Vietnam special…which made me a bit emotional as I can’t wait to go back…and probably not in any way related to the vodka consumed during the day.

Saw Dad and Susan today in Kidderminster which was cut short when we realised that both of them were fast asleep as soon as the film went on – we are obviously riveting company :) I would say it was just because they were tired but Mum and Martin did exactly the same thing when the Snowman came on last week. At least I have pictures of both occasions in case we need to exact our revenge. Have made a note to brush up on our variety show skills – maybe something to keep us busy on the long train journeys ahead?