Friday, August 31, 2007

Amsterdam for the last four days has been interesting. Certainly a place where people can really explore their own boundaries rather those imposed upon them. :Liberated, tolerant society. A visit to Anne Franks house was sobering, the Red Light area interesting as were the side lines from it. Canal ride was beautiful, zig zagging thru, water ways. An amzing number of bikes as people mish mash their ways trough streets with cars pedestrains all going in different directions. Didn´t know that the houses used the hoists seen on each one to move their furniture in and out. Took bus to Delft, the Hague and Rotterdam. Now in Berlin. Arrived here this morning and here for next four days. Been out for an explore already. Off agian soon. Catch you laters....

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Hi there,

We are heading off to Covent Garden shortly to see the Lion King but before then I have access to this slightly dodgy computer – and hopefully I will get time to finish off a few lines. Hope you are well and enjoying some fine weather. We are! Blue skies and sunshine in London today J

I think I could become a fulltime holidayer. Aren’t they grand, holidays? We are having such an interesting time and have been blown away with how nice people have been and how smoothly everything has been going for us.

Ken and I arrived back in London at mid-day today after hiring a car and travelling North for the last few days. Dreaded the thought of driving in and out of London but it was much easier than we expected. 4 days, no accidents, 100 mile an hour driving and not one argument! We are feeling quite chuffed.

We left London Tuesday morning. Ken needed to get out and see how beautiful the country really is. The grime and bustle of London certainly wasn’t doing it justice. We headed up through the midlands, stumbled upon castles and quaint villages, houses with thatched roofs, winding narrow lanes which were incidentally major roadways, and were reminded of TV programmes like Heartbeat and Ermedale Farm (a programme I have only glimpsed). We seemed to be in a time warp. We visited Whisstledon, near Oakham, the area that the Watchorns came from which is near Leicester. A cousin of Ken’s (Jeff Watchorn, who lives at Grange Farm which is 700 years old) took us for a drive to the old family farmland and homestead, to the family church and grave yard etc. Saw plenty of Watchorn headstones – all related to Ken. We past by Rockingham Castle which took our breath away. Still lived in today, it was built by William the Conqueror, and is an amazing site. Like the imaginary Norman castles of old. Henry VIII stayed there as did Charles Dickens. Owned now by the Watsons, the family is plagued with a genetic illness which kills their people in their early adult years.

Headed then on up towards York and across to Manchester where I met up with my brother and his two beautiful daughters. They had travelled up from Bristol for the day. Oh it was so good to see them again and they were all looking so good. We visited the cemetery where my Grandparents and father lie. I contacted a man I had corresponded via email with, a son of an old friend’s of Dad’s. We met and he took Mike and I around to visit his Dad, so a couple of hours of reminiscing followed. Paul (the son) then rang into his work and took the next three hours off to show us around. He was so good to us. A very nice man, about our age. He drove us to where my grandparents had lived, where my father was born, where Dad had gone to school etc. Such amazing generosity. At one point as we were standing outside my grandparent’s home, an old man walked past. He wandered back in the opposite direction a short time later. Not sure of the area, Mike my brother, quietly approached the man and asked if he had lived here long. He was in his 80s and had lived here all his life. Did he know of the Preeces? (my maiden name). “Oooh yes, my mother was a Preece”. We all nearly fell backwards! He was happy to share what he knew but being rather frail and in the hot summer sun (yes – no exaggeration – blue sky, not a breath of wind, sunshine and heat in the middle of Salford!) any way with him being frail’n like, we didn’t want to tire him, so reluctantly released him to go on his merry way. Mike’s girls and Ken all remarked on the similarity in appearance between this grey haired old fellow and my brother Mike.

Having to make our way back towards London as much as possible that night, Mike offered to take us on a journey through Wales, travelling to Welshpool, and Montgomery where the Preeces originated from before they hit Manchester. What beautiful countryside. There must have been a lot of money to be made up North in the 1860s to entice the family away from such a beautiful area. Travelling from there alongside the River Wye, past TinTern Abbey showed Wales in its glory. How beautiful it is – and such a reason for every Welsh voice to rise up in song about their home country. I would be singing now – if I was Welsh – and if I could sing.

Leaving Mike and the girls at Bristol was sad but we needed to head on. Neither Ken nor I relished the thought of returning the car to its rental yards right in the heart on Kings Cross, with its no go areas, one way areas, unfamiliar streets and busy London traffic. We’d had a long day, and needed a good night’s sleep. A few stiff gins to steady the nerves may have been needed but we decided to tackle it with the full fear of the toughest Disneyland horror ride. Despite a detour, buses blocking out the essential road signs and a bad accident which threatened to get us hopelessly lost, we made it. Someone has been looking out for us every inch of the way on our trip. Not even one scratch on the car, no irate drivers yelling abuse at us – in fact just the opposite. People could not have been more pleasant or courteous.

And now? Hmm we have just had lunch and Ken’s fallen asleep on the couch in Renee’s lounge.


Just to recap – L. A. was fantastic. So clean, the weather was amazing – a bit too hot perhaps and just right for the compulsory siestas. We did the LA tour – Hollywood, the Oscars theatre, theside walk stars, Paris Hilton’s jail right in the middle of downtown LA, OJ’s one close by – drove by his house. Also Aaron Spellings 128 bedroomed hillside mansion. Most notable for me was the homes in an ordinary suburb with jail bars on the windows – to keep the good people safe inside. Not all of the houses had these but in some suburbs they did seem to. Spent a day atUniversal Studios. Felt ill after the “Mummy Ride” and wouldn’t recommend it. Double Yuk! The tour through the studios was very interesting. Learnt how they do some of the high speed chases, and special effects in movies. Didn’t see anyone famous – however there are so many famous and we are so out of touch now that we wouldn’t even recognise one if we came up close and personal. Went to a farmers market and played on the new i-phones. Hmmm can see these really taking off! I’ll have to wait for the cheaper versions though. Met a nice couple at a Mexican restaurant where we went for lunch. Invited us to their home in Santa Monica for dinner. Went to to Santa Monica beach and paddled in the Pacific Ocean – just as we do at Pikowai. On to Venice Beach with its aging 70s and 80 hippies and recovering population.

Glad we had two days to do the Disney Parks. We certainly needed that time to do it justice. Some favourite rides? Pirates of the Carribean, The Nemo Submarine and The Haunted House.

Flights have been OK. Air NZ superb. A bit of a bumpy ride from LA to Frankfurt, made a little more tense by a very nervous Polish man in the next seat to me. Frankfurt very warm. Weather has been great – although v little blue sky in London and the height of summer is certainly disguised here. Out of London though it has been superb.

We had a brilliant day in Windsor. Went through the castle, walked the streets of Eaton and listened to the posh accents. Finished the day off in Richmond where we met Renee’s friends for a dinner. A Sunday roast at a local pub which was very very nice. Ken shouldn’t really mix cider and beer though. The next night was a good one too – with Ken doing quite nicely on warm and flat pub ales. I cooked “a good down home” roast lamb dinner complete with broccoli cheese, carrots parsnips and parsley etc finished off with strawberries and chocolate icecream. A couple of the flatties were going out that night. When they spied what was on top of the oven, they changed their plans and were at home all evening ;-). We did have such a good night. Renee has such great flat mates. They have accommodated our stay extremely well and have gone out of their way to be helpful. Sooo very nice.

Not sure what we have planned for the weekend. Renee has something organised for us tomorrow (a surprise) and we thought we may head down to Brighton on Sunday. We leave for Amsterdam and Europe on Monday.

Meant to mention too that we have done the tourist sites – the Palace, 10 Downing Street, Westminster, big Ben, St Pauls etc. Went to Harrods. Looking at the jewellery there was like glimpsing the Tower’s jewels. Wow! Such massive gems. I was gobsmacked. Just stood there drooling. A very nice gentleman walked over and asked if he could help me – he thought I was a customer. Just about hugged him – did he really I was in that league?! I smiled and thanked him very much for making my day!

Well I had better get myself organised. This computer has been interesting. I never know quite where the cursor is going to jump to and several times it seems to have disappeared altogether during my typing – so not sure where the letters have ended up. Without the time to proofread, I hope it all makes sense.

Hey, take care

With best wishes


PS The Lion King was superb – such creative genious. Off to the soccer now – Arsenal playing Manchester. Hmmm think I will go with Manchester!


Our Cluster Journey Together Into New Horizons.