Happy memories

The great green glory of nature is encapsulated in the hypnotic rustle and sway of the grasses, surrounding Coate Water.

Nine years have passed since I last trod upon this pleasant land. Sadness and loss formed the backdrop of that visit. It took the wedding of a special family member and much coercing to get me to make the journey.

Time with family in celebration and basking in the warmth of friendship have made many happy memories.

In drinking deeply of the verdant oases of Swindon, Portishead and the surrounding countryside of Wiltshire and Somerset, I have renewed my love of England, country of my birth.

Invigorated and refreshed; we soon commence our return to Australia, via Italy.

Goddard Arms, UK

Swindon’s oldest hotel started life as a coaching inn when it opened its doors in 1810. It was named in honour of the Goddard family.

The following is taken from The Swindon Advertiser from 11 April 2008, Hotel’s History of Love and Murder:

The Goddard Arms became, for more than a century, the focus of Swindon’s commercial life.

Livestock and property auctions were held there and magistrates and county court hearings were held in its Assembly Rooms.

The hotel also saw drama and tragedies.

In 1819 hangman Jack Ketch, and the criminal he was to execute early the next day, both spent the night there.

The criminal, named Watkins, convicted of attempting to murder a Purton farmer on his way home from market, was reported to have eaten a hearty last meal before being taken in procession to the gallows, which had been put up at Purton Stoke.

The public hanging took place in a heavy thunderstorm and was witnessed by a large crowd, many of whom believed the condemned man was innocent.

In 1863 the body of a newborn infant, hidden in a lumber room at the hotel, was found by a shocked boots boy whose job was to clean guests’ shoes.

The body had been there for so long that it was impossible to discern the cause of death or even the baby’s sex.

Another, and perhaps even more shocking tragedy, took place at the Goddard Arms Hotel on April 29, 1914.

A 22-year-old painter and decorator named Walter James Harris arrived at the hotel and asked if he could see Frances Hunter, who worked there as a between floors maid, or ‘tweeny.

Unknown to anyone, Harris, described as “an eccentric but harmless-looking” young man, had a pistol in his pocket.

He had been walking out with Frances and was devastated when somebody told him she had had an affair with a married man while working in South Wales.

Harris took her to a coal shed at the rear of the hotel and asked her if the story was true.

When she admitted it was, he shot her dead.

Then he waited quietly to be arrested.

Within a week Swindon Magistrates sent him for trial at Wiltshire Assizes, where he denied murder.

His trial lasted less than a day and the jury took only half an hour to find him guilty.

They added a strong recommendation for mercy on the grounds of his youth and 5,000 people signed a petition asking for clemency.

Neither carried any weight with the Home Secretary. White was hanged at Winchester Prison on June 15, less than seven weeks after killing the girl he loved.

An estimated 10,000 people thronged outside St Mark’s Church for Frances’ funeral.

Lunch destination

When walking Stan at the weekend we often include lunch at a cafe. We had our favourites in and around Leichhardt including, Monté, Capriccio, and the Pig and Pastry.

After collecting a set of keys and remote control for the aircon from the real estate agent we tried out the Little Hideout Café, Balmoral.

Delicious food, great coffee, and friendly service combined with outdoor seating make for a perfect destination that is 20 minutes walk from home.

Unexpected turnaround

Our ISP, iPrimus let us know that the phone and ADSL would be connected on Friday 31 August. After receiving notification of the number, we connected the modem/wireless router. Based on experience I was unsurprised to find that neither the Internet nor telephone was working; from all four outlets in the house.

At 8:30 am on Saturday we sought assistance from iPrimus. After escalating our enquiry they let us know that we would receive further information in the next 24 hours and that we would be liable for $165 if the fault was due to our equipment. It is not the first time we have received this warning, on all occasions our equipment was found to have been functioning perfectly well.

At around noon there was a knock at the door. A burly ‘Field Technician’ (FT) from the phone company who provides infrastructure, bustled into our home brandishing meter adorned devices, with cables dangling. After poking and prodding, emitting high pitched noises and making himself comfortable on our soft furnishings he went to the ‘exchange’ to fix the problem. The FT returned two hours later, fault fixed, somewhat exasperated by the time it had taken.

To say we were gobsmacked would be an understatement; fixed on the same day!

Day three of our new life

Day three of living in Queensland, coincidentally the first day of Spring in Australia.

Wednesday

The day was taken up with cleaning the house in Sydney, as Bob and Daz from Mullumbimby Removals did a sterling job of packing our household and garden into the truck. After eight hours, we were pleased to see it begin it’s ten hour journey, north.

We wasted time waiting around for the real estate agent to take back the rental property in Leichhardt. He didn’t show as he “had a lot going on”; tell us about it!

Brisbane boys, Wade and Ben made our Virgin Australia flight enjoyable, delivering us to Brisbane at 8:30 pm; exhausted. The Colmslie Hotel, Morningside provided respite from the day’s trials.

Thursday

10:00 am, the unloading began. Thankfully, Bob and Eddie (Daz’s replacement) had a couple of helpers. Only six hours from arrival to payment.

In addition to moving boxes and furniture we ticked off the day’s goals of assembling the bed, sofa bed, and daybed.

Friday

We spent the day:

  • Installing the fridge’s innards;
  • Assembling racking in the garage;
  • Getting the espresso maker working;
  • Unpacking boxes; and
  • Arranging plants, so that they could be watered. The picture, above is the result.

Saturday

Today, a sore lower back is limiting my ability to do very much.

Coat hanger

Sydney Harbour Bridge is ungraciously described as the coat hanger. Our plastic and timber collection, proved too great for a cardboard box.

At last the book chest is contributing to the move, five days and counting!

Child repellent

Whenever we sit down at an outdoor café table Stan goes into protection mode. Medium to large dogs, walking by with their owners and children around 75cm high receive the ferocious force of a guard dog.

Stan’s passion is intense enough to move tables and chairs with his lead. When Stan is sitting on one of our laps all is right with the world, peace and calm prevails.

Barking at other dogs started when we moved to Leichhardt, almost four years ago. Stan’s issue with children began after an incident outside the Pig and Pastry, Petersham. We were quietly having lunch when a young girl slapped him on top of his head, as she walked past.

UTS sunset

I worked at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) for around eleven and a half years. During that time, I learned a lot about myself, the institution’s operations from faculty and central student administration perspectives, and the higher education sector.

It holds a special place in my memories, as the University took a chance on someone, a migrant, looking to change career direction.

The serenity of a Winter sunset, reflected in one of it’s buildings contrasted against the bustle of Broadway mirrors my mind as our move interstate looms.

Count down

28 days from now we will have:

  • Been to the Weekend Transfer Station (tip) to dispose of a king sized bed;
  • Donated to Vinnies;
  • Sorted the garden and plants out;
  • Had many farewells with friends;
  • Seen Mission: Impossible – Fallout;
  • Celebrated a 31st birthday;
  • Exited work;
  • Finished packing up the house in Leichhardt;
  • Travelled 927.7 km (576.45 miles) north;
  • Stayed one night at the Colmslie Hotel; and
  • Slept two nights in our new home in Morningside.

I first used the clock and calendar picture, early in my blogging career; you can read the post, from 2012 here: Life Through Time.

Food service in restaurants

The other evening we were watching Bitter Sweet, a Starz television series, set in a fine dining restaurant. One of the themes of this episode was the heroine earning the accolade of being able to carry three hot plated meals, without a waiter’s cloth.

This got me thinking of how much food service in restaurants has changed in the 36 years since I was trained in silver service.

My studies demanded work experience. Being the embodiment of bathos, I had three jobs: function waiter at the Raven Hotel; hall porter at the Chateau Impney Hotel; and counter hand at Neptune’s Pantry, fish and chip shop.

Even at banquets with tables of ten plus people, everything was silver served. Runners, myself included, would lead by gathering a pile of superheated plates from the hot cupboard in the kitchen and stagger to the table, under the weight of the china.

The stack sat on the left forearm with one end of a folded waiter’s cloth underneath. The right hand, using the other end of the cloth polished and placed each down, from the left, in front of the seated guest.

One of the many Boadicean characters who had honed their craft year in year out followed with a silver flat of sliced meat and sauce. Behind came another runner serving vegetables. If you were unlucky the two compartment silver dish contained mashed potato in one and peas in the other. I am sure you can imagine the gloopy white and green nightmare that results from serving one then the other repeatedly, using a spoon and fork in one hand while carrying the dish with the other.

The shift started with the meat being plated then kitchens became more visible. Culminating in the presentation of the food being the signature of the chef.

Six years ago, during a sojourn in Sorrento, we were delighted to experience the drama of Crêpe Suzette in the restaurant of the Hotel Grand Excelsior Vittoria. The sauce was prepared and cooked from scratch at the table. The flambé echoed Versuvius’ antics, across the bay. It was reassuring to see that the theatre of food in the hands of talented wait staff was not dead.