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Random ramblings

So we’ve been away three months more or less. Time enough to take stock on what it’s like to be away from normal life for a while; to be on the Other side of life in fact. This site is also called that because one of my favourite songs bears the same name. It’s also because I couldn’t think of anything better that wasn’t already in use.

The time feels as if it’s passed quickly, in the same way that an annual fortnight in the sun goes quickly. Some places you visit are better than others and the weather if it’s not great can make a great place dreary. Rain is the curse of the casual camper, we’ve discovered that. Australia is a hot country, but it can be a wet one and chilly one this time of year. Our route now leads us back towards the coast near the Queensland border, via some small towns and national parks. Some of the small one street town’s are very quaint and friendly, lovely places to grow up. Although we did stop in one or two small towns in New South Wales that looked quite down at heel, and as if it would be front page news if somebody sneezed while sat their porch.

The other night we stayed in a medium size town called Glen Innes, a place founded by the Scots. It’s about 4000 feet up and was quite cold even before nightfall. We decided to sleep in the bed in the back of the car as it was just a one night stopover and was quite cold. In the morning the car had frost on the roof, it was like a winters morn’ at home. It wasn’t actually very cold inside the card though, we slept quite well. However we had to question the rationale of our Celtic cousins. Why would you come all the way to Australia and then decide to settle in probably the coldest part of the continent?  Glen Innes also had its own version of Stonehenge, apparently a spiritual place, which the tourist information office proudly boasted dated right back to 1991. We gave that one a miss.

The campsite at Glen Innes – brushing my teeth while enjoying the view.

Before we left home I spent a stressful few weeks trying to pull together all the little things that seem unnecessary at home but become a real boon when you’re on the road. Most useful is a good head torch, along with our LED magnetic light which gets stuck to the side of the car or hung on the roof of the tent most nights. That was the best £3 I ever spent in Morrisons. The array of chargers for batteries and laptop and phone has also been invaluable. They can all be powered from the car so we don’t need on site power anywhere. The smart phone I bought second hand was also a great investment. A phone, GPS street navigation, internet and email, games, texting and more. Most things here cost quite a bit more than at home (£5 for a beer, £3 for a loaf) but the mobile internet is only £6 month. As opposed to about £25 a month at home. The best thing is we can download Radio 4 programs to it every week. I don’t think we’ve missed an episode of the News Quiz since we got here. All good bedtime or drive -time listening (we can plug the phone into the car radio).

Heinz Tomato soup is something I miss. They have it here but it’s not the same, strangely we bought some Heinz Baked beans labelled ‘English Recipe’ the other day. Clearly our Baked Beans are a culinary delight here, although they’ve had the wisdom not to adopt the Donner Kebab.

English Baked Beans – an object of apparent desire.

Pubs here are mostly called Hotels or Bars and generally double as a betting shop. They have TV screens in abundance with horse and dog racing showing non stop, with all the betting machinery dotted about the place. On one side are the pokies, basic fruit machines where the serious gamblers, most of them grey haired, while away their hours and their income. Imagine if Ladbrookes ran our pubs, drink and gambling under one roof is either a profitable business or a dangerous combination, depending on your viewpoint. Australia has quite a big gambling problem; it’s not hard to see why.

On the plus side most towns have an RSL club, sort of a British Legion meets Top Rank or Mecca, only much better. Nice comfy large places that do decent food and drink all day, and where the staff  are welcoming. They seem to be a real meeting point for the local community, the kind of places we just don’t have in the UK, I wish we did. We’ve many a warm and comfortable hour supping a beer at the local RSL, before heading back to the rigours of the cold dark tent.

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