Wednesday, August 31, 2005

When I take you out in my Scenic with the Infringement on top

After a poor night's sleep, woke early to drive to Manchester for my vehicle re-test with VOSA. With only a couple of items to be checked, I was in and out in a half hour with the necessary SVA form in hand. Back to Wigan to fill out a stack of forms for registration, and then drove up the M6 a short way to Preston to visit the DVLA to drop off these forms, making sure they had everything they needed. With any luck, the tax disks will be sent to me within a few days and then I can have some registration plates made up.
More birth/death/marriage certificates arrived in the mail from Australia, showing ancestors from Ireland and the Isle of Wight. I seem to have pretty thorough coverage of the British Isles so far: Ireland, Wales & Scotland, and then within England: London/Middlesex, Shropshire, Somerset, Cornwall, Lancashire, Isle of Wight, Wiltshire.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Left Talgarth around noon, stopped for lunch at Leominster (Ler-minster), just north of Hereford, and headed up the A49, getting into Wigan around 5pm. Blisteringly hot day. Finished reading Michael Frayn's early (first?) novel The Tin Men.

4 new certificates from the NSW Hatch, Match and Dispatch registry - many more overdue from London. Discovered from bank statement, that car rental agency had double-billed me for time in July. Smallish package from Amazon including:

  • Mark Helprin's new novel Freddy and Fredericka.
  • Newsradio seasons 1-2 on DVD
  • The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) - CD of a set of short musicals, the same story being multiply presented in the style of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sondheim, Herman, Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Didn't we have a lovely day, the day we went to Abereiron?

Drove 2 hrs to the coast, just down from Abereiron. Stopped at the north end of a long beach and walked to New Quay, which is supposedly the setting for Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood. Very wet until we got to the beach, and then started clearing. Bondi enjoyed romping around with the other dogs, and we had a fine set of omelettes in New Quay. Spent a little time on the smaller swimming beach there, which dogs played, and we watched dolphins frolicking about a hundred feet offshore. Cardigan Bay has the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in British waters.

Hurried back to the car, having to wade through a section of beach that the incoming tide had reclaimed.

Enjoyed simple dinner at Llandovery on the way back to Talgarth.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Mynydd Llangors

Walk around and over Mynydd Llangors, a peak in the Black Mountains. Stopped in Talgarth again on the way back to the farm, for more of the festival (and not just to catch the Punch and Judy show).

Nick, an old friend of Ross, and his son Sebastian had arrived to stay for a few days. Nick is an international aid worker, and was off to Bangladesh in a few days. The four of us watched bootleg DVD copies of The Telegoons, an early TV show which had puppets enacting Goon show scripts. Many silly voices, plenty of drinking and sharing very bad jokes. Realized that most Kiwi jokes could be transferred to Welsh.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


oken by cow trying to butt its head through my bedroom window.

Ross had to travel into nearby Brecon this morning to have some new tyres fitted. My car-battery had failed last night, so I came in too to get a replacement. While waiting for that to be done, we took the dogs for a long walk along the canal path.

Took Bondi into Hay-on-Wye to have a quick look in a few bookstores. Picked up
  • Humphrey Carpenter's collective bio of literary Angry Young Men: Amis, Colin Wilson et al
  • Beyond Beyond the Fringe - a critical bio of Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Alan Bennett.
  • Gloriana - Michael Moorcock's fictional homage to Mervyn Peake. I have his critical/bio effort on order. [Still on order in January 2007!]

Stopped in Talgarth on the way back, where the town festival was underway. A cover band was delivering (Show me the way to) Amarillo to a street full of revellers. The town's mayor (or a collector of gold bottle caps?) welcomed Bondi.

Over dinner, Ross mentioned that the previous tenant of this lodge (subdivision within the farm) was writer Jasper Fforde, and that I was sleeping on his office floor.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Dial MPH

Renault installed (£69) the new instrument panel (£25) so I now have dual dial to satisfy the car-testers next week. And now I'm - as promised - buggering off to Wales for 4 days, staying on the edge of the Brecon Beacons near booktown Hay-on-Wye. I'm taking a slightly scenic route down through Llanymynech, which is where my twice great grandmother (daughter of Samuel Jones) lived in the 1860s and got married in 1869.

Left for Wales around midday, with roads already filling with Bank Holiday traffic. Stopped briefly in Llanymynech, south of Oswestry and Llangollen.

We got into Talgarth, in the Wye Valley, on the northern perimeter of the Becon Breacons National Park, just before 5pm. Talgarth is 8 miles from the booktown Hay-on-Wye, where I had met this weekend's host, Ross, two months earlier. Yesterday, he'd given me extensive instructions to find his "ranch" on a mountain road out of town. While there were a few turns involved, it was only 10 minutes until we rolled into the farmhouse's courtyard.

We were greeted by Ross, Judy the dog, and the neighbour's dog Sirrah (who was staying over) . Unpacked in our cabin across the courtyard from the main house.

PS 3000 page views on this blog [on MSN spaces]! A new milestone.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

3 months away today!

I have made some progress on the car. After much scouring of cyberspace, located a company in Derby who make instrument panels. They happened to have one for a Scenic in stock and posted it pronto, so that arrived this morning - at first glance all the correct elements are there.

Trotted down to the local Renault dealer and booked the car in for tomorrow to have the new panel installed. Then called VOSA and got the next slot (Wednesday 31 9am) for a re-test. Assuming the car passes muster this time, then I can attempt the final registration hurdle, and with any luck, the car will be done well before I head for Spain at the end of September.

If all goes well with the re-fit tomorrow, then we'll bugger off to Hereford/Wales for a few days R&R (no not Regulations & Recriminations!).

Had thought some birth family tree certificates might have trickled in today, but made some surprising progress with census information from 1881 and 1901, particularly with my great-great grandmother's JONES siblings and their progeny. It seems that most of them left Wales and either went to Newton-Le-Willows, which is just around the corner from where I'm staying now OR the main contingent moved to central London. A scattering also in Coventry and Cheshire/Merseyside. There's also a great-great aunt WILLIAMS working as a parlour maid in Hertfordshire.

It is interesting to contemplate that when my great-grandfather came to London as a medical student in the late 1890s, he would have had a family support circle of aunts, uncles and cousins pretty close to hand.

Something else I've noticed is that most of the males I've entered into the tree during the 18th and 19th centuries are younger than their wives. On the other hand, my great-grand-mother Hannah, who was 6yrs older than her husband, managed to lop a year or so off her age at every census. That's made her difficult to trace through birth records.

You can also see the progress of technology and economic opportunity conferring new roles on each generation. Prior to 1850 I see mostly labourers, then drapers, joiners and iron workers, followed by (in 1901) a doctor, police constable, motor fitter and chromo lithographic artist.

1901 is the wall I've run up against in tracing the family forward. I don't have any names of those born after that census apart from those in Australia. I know where one WILLIAMS was living in 1922 but that's it. I don't have enough data to track females who may have married, and then there's the factors of WWI and II...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Judge's decision is final

Bad day all around here. Bondi sick and heaving. My car was failed by VOSA on two points: window tinting on passenger doors (verboten) and lack of MPH markings on speedometer. The first issue was handled quickly with a razor blade but the second is more complicated/expensive. Basically I can either:
  1. order a new dual-marker dial (£65 + fitting, 4 week wait);
  2. wire-in a converter (£300 + fitting,); or
  3. install a replacement Renault unit (£400 + fitting).

Now if time were not an issue then #1 would be a no-brainer, but I wanted to have the car registered by the beginning of October for the trip to Spain. However the process of getting a dial, retesting the vehicle and waiting for DLVA to register it will take nearly twice the 5 weeks I have.

The other options are to re-register the car in Oz and take it to Spain thus, or leave the car in UK and find alternate transport to Salamanca for Bondi & self.

All suggestions on the back of a postcard please...

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Dish, with stuffing

Headed southwest again, past Chester and into Wales: destination Llangollen. Home to both a major Eistedfodd and Balloon Festival (it's a wonder it's not called Lung-ollen), this is where my twice-great grandmother and her family lived at census time in 1861. The census record says Abbey St, but I believe Abbey Rd would be the venue; it's the main bit of road skirting the town centre.

It reminded me very much of Dolgellau in its location and the way the town was presented, albeit without the narrow winding streets: this was much more of a grid affair.
We turned around and stopped a while in Wrexham, the major market-town for North Wales...and in the few hours I was there, I didn't see much to do there but shop. The famous Monday outdoor markets seemed to consist of maybe a dozen food stalls in a car-park, with a butcher calling cuts of meats like a bingo-game.

Final stop for the day was the Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank, another place I alluded to in one of my first blog entries for this trip. There's a small visitor centre with a handful of displays, a cafeteria, gift-shop inappropriately selling astrological mugs and a theatrette where you can watch a 10 minute Australian-made 3D film about a trip to Mars. Tourist sites may mention a no-longer-open planetarium. There is also an arboretum , but since the entire area is off-limits to dogs, it was too hot to leave Bondi in the car and I gave most of it a miss.

This evening's TV highlight: on BBC2 a documentary "Taxidermy: Stuff the World", which has some pretty um unique characters. I'm not sure if the winner of a regional competition - "It's a hollow victory" - appreciated the irony of his remarks. However I'm not sure if i was more disturbed by the woman with the refrigerator full of cervine testicles (which she mounts on plaques), or those who go out and shoot animals for the sole purpose of mounting them thus...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Beeston Castle / Northwich Floatel

Returned to Chester, which I'd visited months before, simply having lunch and a stroll on the city walls. En route to our hotel in Northwich, we visited Beeston Castle in North Cheshire. Sited atop a crag, and overlooking 8 counties, it's a truly spectacular site (and very fine picnic spot).

Starting life as a hill-fort in the Bronze Age, some 4000yrs ago, it has been redeveloped time and again. For the distance, I'm reminded of one of the Mayan pyramids at Tikal in Guatemala that I'd visited in 2000: centuries of growth had covered all but the very tips of these structures. Beeston's fort is actually perched on top but is very overgrown and ferny within its walls. From the top you can see Chester, Liverpool and the Pennines.

The Floatel at Northwich turned out to be a bit of a let down. It's been around since 1989, and while OK as a cheap pet-friendly hotel, it's suffering from neglect. While the staff are cheerful enough, I don't think anyone had cleaned the water-level porch of my room in months - it was dirty, cobwebbed and strewn with cigarette butts: not a place where one would go for a romantic getaway. I did luck onto a really nice restaurant just up the road - The Curious Orange. The Northwich town centre is mainly timber-framed, but from Victorian times, not Tudor. I'm curious about the human gargoyle that looked like QEII.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Haigh Hall, Haigh Hall - it's off to Bolton we go

Even more family tree progress today, tracking both through Australian and Welsh forebears of the 19th century. I think I have about a dozen certificates on order now which will clear up much of the Australian past along my mother's mother's line. I was also contacted by a distant relative with extensive narrative information about my earliest Australian ancestor, Thomas Golledge. Tom was transported in 1790 - after spending a couple of years in hulks - via the notorious vessel Neptune, part of the Second Fleet.

Jenny French writes:

When the Second fleet landed at Port Jackson it must have been a sickening sight. When the officials boarded the three transports they were confronted with the sight of convicts, most near naked, lying where they were chained. Most were emaciated with a lot dead in their chains or very close to death. The majority of the convicts were unable to speak, walk or even get to their feet. All were degraded, covered in their own body waste, dirt and infested with lice- and all exhibited the savage brutality of beatings or floggings as well as the visible signs of the starvation they had endured.

I have also made some progress with my gg-grandmother Hannah, who has posed some difficulties due to her family's movements. I am fairly confident that I have identified her father Samuel (a civil engineer, birthplace unknown), mother Jane (from Cornwall), and 5 younger siblings (I think born in Yspytty-Ystwyth and Aberystwyth). Census records from 1861 however do leave me with some concerns that Samuel had another wife stowed away in a different part of Wales....

Bondi and I returned to the local country park at Haigh Hall, spending some (dry) hours beside a shaded stream. We then went off to visit another large local centre, Bolton, but can't report anything of interest.

Tomorrow we're off to Chester and surrounds again, and staying at the Northwich Floatel., "the only floating hotel in the UK".

Friday, August 19, 2005

Births, deaths and marriages ...and parking inspectors

Out of London by 10am and into Wigan around 1.30pm. Radio 4 had a short documentary on London parking inspectors, most of whom are college-educated West Africans unable to get suitable white-collar employment in the UK.
Four new Birth, Death and Marriage certificates awaited me: I was surprised and gratified to discover that some of the records requested from Sydney had arrived just as quickly as those from London. The details therein enabled me to put at least a name and birth-year to all of my sixteen great-great-grandparents, and added the names of two more great-great-great-grandparents: Ellis Williams (labourer) and Samuel Jones (civil engineer). I have an Australian marriage certificate where the groom's surname is Wales and the witnesses' surname is Ireland...

If I look at the nationality stats for those closest generations I have:
0: 1 x Australia (moi)
1: 2 x Australia
2: 4 x Australia
3: 7 x Australia, 1 x Wales
4: 13 x Australia, 1 x Wales, 1 x England, 1 x Sweden
5: 4 x Australia, 2 x Wales, 3 x England, 2 x Sweden (assumed), 2 x Germany, 1 x Ireland, 3 x Scotland, 15 x Unknown (probably Anglo-Irish or Australian)
I'd be interested to know how many other people could claim to have so many Australian ancestors of post-1788 stock.
Australia has the highest population proportion of foreign-born @ 23%, followed by Canada at 18% and the USA trailing at 11%. 50% of the population has at least one parent born outside Australia.

Northumbrian rain

Woke to a very misty morning, which became thunder & lightning by 10am and heavy rain that barely flagged all day. All this put paid to a boat-ride out to the Farne Islands, so we drifted into Alnwick so I could browse through Barter Books again, and make another attempt to check email.

Leaving Bondi in the car, out of the continuing deluge, I hop between cafes, escaping one which had a horrendous stream of pop hits for pan-pipe ("Barbie Girl" and Take That's "I Want You Back") playing.
With no particular plan, I headed in the direction of Amble, visiting Warkworth Castle, home of the Harry "Hotspur" Percy of Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1. I didn't bother stopping in Amble, and headed back up the coast to Dunstanburgh Castle. I had to park a mile down the coast and walk through a few sheep fields to reach the crumbling remains of this cliffside fortress. Both castles had slimy green walls in places and tower bases rapidy pooling with rainwater. The only dry places in Warkworth were the beer cellar (with Bondi, above) and the wine cellar.

Finally back to Bamburgh, and our lodgings at the Mizen Head pub. Bondi strode in and took a detour in the main bar where the staff were congregating, plopped himself down amidst them and put on his "aren't I gorgeous" act.

Later in the evening I took Bondi back to the bar area for dinner. I remember 4 other dogs being through there during the meal and not a noise from any of them.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Prom tiddly prom prom

Headed off to London at 9.30am. Stopped in at Birmingham after 11am to collect a large framed photo/picture that I had bought on my previous trip. The gallery staff were standing outside when I arrived, and as we turned to go in they discovered they'd locked themselves out. Impatient to get back on the road, while they looked for strategies to recover keys etc I tested the door with my left arm a couple of times, and then opened it on the third try.
Got to my London storage locker after 1pm and dumped some excess clothing and books, and extracted my rear car seats. Showered quickly at my hotel and then, leaving my car near a suburban tube station, rode into the city for the afternoon. I was on the lookout for some particular items, but couldn't find what I was after. I found myself on Bond St ( Brand St or Designer Label Drive would be more appropriate) and popped into Chappells where I picked up some odd pieces of sheet music, should I ever find myself in front of a piano in the near future.
Walked the mile or so to the Royal Albert Hall to collect my ticket for that evening's Prom performance. My seat turned out to be immediately behind the second violins, so I had could almost read the score off their music-stands, and I was almost at eye-level with the conductor, James Judd.

The evening's performance began with a Maori welcome, part chant, part dance and lots of rubbing of nose parts between rather pudgy warrior(?), maidens and conductor. This was the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's first Proms appearance. It would have been nice if they'd done one of their Split Enz orchestral covers, but they opted for the safer choice of Douglas Lilburn's 3rd Symphony. A short, single-movement work from 1961, it was very much a piece of its time, with a Sibelius-like opening gesture, it moved quickly to a spritely set of cells with paired-instruments taking up melodic fragments around and across the orchestra, followed by several serial digressions away from the tonal centre. I was reminded of some of the later works of English symphonist Robert Simpson. Not a hugely attractive work, but it didn't overstay its welcome.

The second piece was dramatically different: a set of song selections from a youthful Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn . Although engaging presented by Samoan bass-baritone Jonatan Lemalu, they really sounded like orchestrally backed shaggy-hund stories.
After the intermission came the very popular Second Symphony of Sibelius, in its 41st Proms hearing. The conductor snapped the top of his baton off on his desk about a minute into the opening but luckily it just missed the first violins' front desk, and the orchestra pulled off a sound but not exceptional reading. Nevertheless this is a work that commands attention throughout its 45 minutes. Bridging Sibelius' early romanticism with the darker utterances of his remaining career, I feel it opens the gate for much of the 20th century's orchestral work. Unless you are writing neoclassical homage or mining Schumann for film scores there is a debt to Sibelius (and his shorter-lived contemporary, Mahler).

The show ended at 9.30 with a short Russian-sounding encore, but a combination of train delays and A41 and M1 roadwork kept me from my hotel until 11.30.