Sailing up the Thames before dawn and under Tower Bridge to dock by HMS Belfast right opposite the Tower of London is an experience for even the most jaded travellers to beat
Indeed lucky to be heading off to the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo tonight, with reserved seats in the Royal Enclosure.
We take a novel route to the Castle under the leadership of a humorous Scot, John. Leaving the Silver Wind, with the hills of Fyfe looming hazily across the Forth, we drive past the building that inspired J K Rowling to develop Hogwart’s School – Fettes College, where Tony Blair went to school.
Seeing the old honey-coloured sandstone stone buildings of 19th century, now coloured to crepuscular grey, in the ‘New Town’, which was developed to get away from the smog and coal dust from Edinburgh. Makes me want to return and see more. Palace front stone terraces with grand porticoes in the centre surround private gardens of established green in the Squares, with gas lights.
Our convoy gathers for a security check at the start of the ‘Royal Mile’, and with motor cycle Police escort we make the steep climb to the reach the Royal Box overlooking the Esplanade of the Castle.
The spectacle of 9,000 people gathered in the stands and the excitement as the massed pipes of the regiments come streaming out of the entrance to the Castle ‘like a conjurer pulling coloured ribbons from the sleeve’, bagpipes swirling. Bands of many countries perform not only band music but also dances reflecting the cultures of their countries. These include India, France, and the USA.
An unexpected spot of entertainment was the singing of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ with the finale sung by a soprano from the Japanese Armed Forces. The video is included in these pictures.
Then, high up in castle battlements everything goes dark; a sole piper appears playing a soul-stirring lament; followed with lines from Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel’, and for effect, spoken in darkness.
“Land of the mountain and the flood,
Land of my sires! what mortal hand
Can e’er untie the filial band,
That knits me to thy rugged strand!
Scotland. Scotland the Brave!”
. . . and bagpipes swirl and fireworks explode filling the sky.
Last week Prince Charles and Prince William took the Salute. Tonight it is a French Rear-Admiral. After the performance, we joined the ‘brass and braid’ set for a Champagne and Canapés Reception before driving back to Silver Wind.
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WE TAKE THE SLOW ROAD . . . TO THE BONNIE BONNIE BANKS.
We weren’t going to let the grey and dreichy day spoil our excursion from the ship to the west of Scotland. Lunch in front of a log fire in an old Scottish coaching inn near the banks of Loch Lomond is medicine enough for low clouds and rain blotting out nearly all the light from the ‘bonnie bonnie banks’.
Hanging pots of fuschia and begonia outside little cottages, and bright red and orange rose hips intertwined in the hedges, add the touch of colour.
It didn’t matter that the sun was never going to peep through today. I’d written about the Trossachs and Loch Lomond fifty years ago, and I’ve never been.
And, despite Ken’s hesitation, I ordered haggis for the first time, an £11 experiment. At least I can now tell you that it is fifty percent oats with ground lamb, onion and heavily spiced; all tucked into the natural lining of a sheep’s lung. We all tasted. We’re all still breathing. But we’ll remember the salty Cumbrae oysters and beef and guiness pie better.
Making our way out of Edinburgh from the ship, our Scottish chatty cabby, Douglas, wants to show us the exclusive Fettes College, which J K Rowling used as the basis for her ‘Hogwarts’ Academy in the Harry Potter stories. (Tony Blair was educated here).
There are so many beautiful areas of this city – of squares, elegant stone mansions, established ‘green’, and wide streets (from the era when horse and carriages had to turnaround).
Then, over the Forth Bridge, and on the slow back-roads through little Scottish villages, forests, and fields of cows and sheep to reach Lake Lomond, gateway to the Highlands.
Ken suggests a pint in a traditional local pub, ‘The Trades House’, which we admire for its turned wood, stained glass, and colourful Victorian decor, only to find that it is a clever make-over of an old Bank!
Walking for a mile in the heat (yes, in the heat for the first time since leaving Australia), we reach place 3. Modern! Lifeless! But there is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (yesterday’s!) on the menu. So-so.
I take-off on foot to Dundee’s ‘Discovery Point’, centred on Antarctic exploration, and the sea. It’s exciting to see Captain Robert Scott’s 1901 preserved Antarctic research vessel RRS Discovery moored in a dock. Right next to the old three-master, an architecturally impressive new V &A Museum of Design (that, from certain angles, also resembles a boat) is under construction. I imagine the locals are hoping that it will become a magnet for visitors just as Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum breathed life back into what were old railway yards in Bilbao.
Sailing into the Orkneys in the early morning and stepping out on to a wet balcony, I feel the cold wind and rain lash across my face. I can sense the remoteness. The whistling of the wind has such an eerie feel and I have the notion that Agatha Christie has been here before me.
Disembarking at the dock in Kirkwall later in the morning, the lashing rain and wind returns but when the sun does peep through in the afternoon it creates such a gentle quality of light.
As sightseers, we find our way to the main street and the wonderful 11th century St Magnus Cathedral. Across the way, there’s the ruins of the 17th century Renaissance-style Earl’s Palace built by Patrick, Earl of Orkney, the illegitimate cousin of King James VI. The whole area is welcoming and provides many photo opportunities.
Sydney friends, Sue and Graeme Crabbe had been to the Orkneys for a few days over Easter. They were all for my venturing south of the islands to a little bistro on the cliffs on the southern tip of South Ronaldsay. That we do, and so easily, after we engage local taxi driver Gail outside the Cathedral. And what a great local tour guide to boot, all for £40 per hour.
We bet that the weather will be better on the way home, so we don’t spend too much time at the Churchill Barriers or the Italian Chapel, and continue our drive through pasture lands in the rain. Beautifully situated along twists and turns of country lanes, we find Skerries Bistro, a few metres from the cliff, and in good time to get a window table with the whole panorama of sea and Scotland before us.
The scallops were just delicious, crisp on the outside from the hot pan, and moist and flavoursome. Even the orange roe, so sweet, that I don’t usually like was delicious. Eat your hearts out friends, while I eat the ‘partan’s tae’, the delicious claw of an Orkney crab – just a wee part of my local seafood platter that followed. Looking at Pam’s organic salmon fish cake, I was wishing that I’d had more room.
Coming back to the ship in the sunshine, we stop at the Italian Chapel, a beautiful Roman Catholic chapel on the edge of Scapa Flow. The chapel consisting of two Nissen huts was built by WWII Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa and put to work on the Churchill Barriers. It is the most visited tourist attraction in all of the Orkneys.
I don’t believe that all four of us fronted up for Afternoon Tea with hot scones and little sandwiches when we got back to the ship. Mea cupla!
‘MIDSOMER MURDERS’ IN THE SHETLANDS
‘Miss Marple’ hasn’t been seen tucking-in to a bowl of mussels and eating chips in a pub, but her double was there with a sparkle in her eye just across from me at lunch at the Scalloway Hotel in the Shetlands today.
And ‘Doc Martin’ hasn’t been seen holidaying in the Shetlands, but, seemingly, it was he walking past the window of our pub on a grey drizzly seashore.
I half expected ‘Vera’ to rock-up in her battered old 4WD and get out in her tatty old rain coat and hat and come into the pub in Scalloway looking for a murderer.
But it was only we four, Pam and Ken, Jim and I, fantasising about nothing as we sat there with a beer hoping that something exciting might occur as we waited for the freshly caught lobster to be brought to the table. The lobster was indeed fresh, and the meat in the claws particularly, so sweet.
Showers and drizzle never make for a nice day out, and even less so in this wind-swept island of bleak old Victorian stone houses on the North Sea. Back to the boat for a read, but as usual, the reading soon gives way to more sleeping.
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Rain and fog as we drive around three of the eighteen Faroe Islands, but the experience couldn’t have been more bright with our local guide and driver, Birnir Hauksson illuminating the whole proceedings. One of the beautiful little villages on the west-side of Vágar is Bøur. It has a magnificent view over the sea and salmon farms to the rocky islet Tindholmur with its many peaks. The village has charming old wooden houses and a traditional church from 1865.
I’m getting this posted before I race for my Stematil and to to batten down the hatches. The Captain has just interrupted our civilised afternoon tea (cucumber sandwiches and hot scones) to make an announcement. “We’re leaving port right now, and sailing at full speed to reach the the Shetlands before the onslaught of an approaching really bad weather depression for the area. Expect stormy seas, high waves, and gale force winds overnight, and hang on to railings in staircases”.
Too many people to mention, but today, Sam, Jonathan and Kane with all the guys at Apollo truly turned on ‘Apollo’s Feast’ for all 75 of us.
More photos and comments will come in a day or two (if you’re not totally over my being 75 by then!)
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Friend Gerhard went all out to transform Apollo for the 75th without detracting from the simplicity of the restaurant. Olive trees, lemons, pomegranates, artichokes and other vegetables formed the main display, with bay and rosemary wreaths made for the walls. Thanks Gerhard for a great ‘installation’. (And thank you to Robyn for ‘pruning’ her lemon trees and bringing the laden branches.)
Great having my immediate family from Queensland come down for the celebration.
eldest brother, Tony and Ruth
Sister Anne and Trev, and
younger brother, Mark and Jenny
ST IGNATIUS FEAST DAY CELEBRATIONS AT ST CANICE’S
Students from three of Sydney’s Jesuit Colleges came to St Canice’s this weekend to join in the parish Feast Day celebrations and to share of their recent ‘immersion’ experiences at our sister parish in East Timor, at the Jesuit Railaco Mission. Fr Tom Renshaw celebrated all three Masses. After the 10.30am Mass, parishioners gathered in the forecourt for morning tea.
Thanks to your collective generosity, we’ll be sending more than $10,000 to Fr Bong in Railaco to support the humanitarian works of our sister parish.
Click here to see Photos from the Masses on the special weekend, and of parishioners enjoying morning tea in the forecourt after the 10.30 am Mass.
I’ve written an extensive ‘report’ on his trip, going beyond sharing what’s going on with the Children’s Feeding Program, Mobile Medical Clinic, and Secondary School. My aim of this ‘report’ is to share more of the ‘back-story’ about conditions and life ‘on the front lines’ in Timor. I learned a lot from first-hand experiences in meeting many Jesuits and speaking to other volunteers.
The Vision of the Jesuits up there is to see a Timor-Leste Church and Nation that is grounded in faith and justice of the gospel, and where the humanisation of life especially youth, women and children is included. The works of the Jesuits and volunteers allow marginalised families to grow in community, opportunity, and hope.
Click here to read my story, ‘The First Letter of Michael to the Caniceians’. (Written with St Canice parishioners as the primary audience.)
he links to all the albums from our recent trip are grouped in this one blog. This interim measure gives easy access to the photos and storylines for all 15 Google Albums. The stories are by and large personal experiences or items of interest learned through local conversations. Some other references are taken from reliable sources to provide historical context and sense of place.
To view, simply click on name of each destination listed below. Pam and Ken and Edmundo did not accompany me on the Italian long weekend in the Romagna Region.
If your time is limited, I suggest that you choose 1. Berat and Apolonia, Albania, 2. Sarajevo, Bosnia Day 1, and 3. Ravenna, Italy to give you the flavour of what we experienced.
Michael, Pam, Ken, Edmundo.
Humanitarian good works in East Timor
Food for Kids . . .
Today, in Railaco East Timor, a small team of women, already mothers themselves, grow, buy and prepare nutritious food, before setting out in a 4WD, bumping over pot-holed roads in the mountains, to serve a nutritious meal to thirty grateful pre-school kids in three remote communities.
These poor kids have nothing and they rely on this meal for sustenance three times a week. A boiled egg and a glass of milk is only part of the nutritional meal they receive.
How the children eat on other days is something to think about.
Medicines for Mums . . .
Also in East Timor, Fr Bong, a Filipino doctor and Jesuit priest, runs mobile medical clinics in eleven remote communities serving poor people who live in the mountains outside the reach of local government services. They walk for miles to see the doctor. Two trained local assistants accompany ‘Bong’ in his battered old 4WD to receive the patients, and dispense medications.
Making a difference through quality Education . . .
There are more than three hundred students enrolled in the Railaco Secondary School in 2017. Twenty of the sixty-seven students who graduated in 2016 obtained entry to the National University of East Timor in 2017!
This academic achievement talks to the sustainability of the education programs that assist the poorest of the poor to do something not only for their own and their families futures, but for the nation in this still struggling, emerging neighbour country.
Who is behind all this?
At the heart of all this is the Jesuit Mission in Railaco. These ‘men and women of the Mission’ live the ideal that we hear of ever more frequently these days in the exhortations of Pope Francis.
“. . . it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.” (Pope Francis)
Daily, unselfishly, these trusted men and women in Railaco carry out humanitarian works caring for the poorest of the poor, on our behalf.
I’ll deposit whatever amount you wish to send me into the Jesuit Mission Overseas Development Aid Fund ABN 47 915 006 050, and arrange for a tax-deductible receipt to be sent to you.
Bank: NAB Potts Point BSB 082 048 Account # 85 902 6967 Name: L M Musgrave
ude Live at the Art Gallery of New South Wales is anything but ‘still life’.
The choreography for the hour-long ‘performance’ displays the creative talent of Sydney Dance Company’s Rafael Bonacela. The choice of music further deepens my involvement in the whole experience.
I was fortunate to be invited to the opening performance this evening – a wonderful collaboration between the Sydney Dance Company, the Art Gallery of NSW, and Sydney Festival.
The initial voyeurism (inevitable), and the novel of nudity very quickly gives way to an appreciation of the dance. The closeness and audience involvement with the dancers in the informality of a gallery setting completes a spectacular triumvirate of exhilarating connectedness.
I know those of my friends who’d wish I had more of the ‘inside’ shots to illustrate this event more in the flesh, but you have to be content. I can’t go around photographing a person’s bottom or ‘dangly bits’, even in this day and age.
This one minute video is but a teaser to the real ‘Nude Live’ experience.
My first stop of the evening is just after nightfall. Thanks to Brad, I have an excellent vantage point. Australian Navy ships dock in Woolloomooloo Bay right below me and then there’s sweeping views over to the Sydney CBD, Bridge and Sydney Opera House.
With a glass of chilled white in my hand, I’m ready and waiting for the first NYE fireworks like all the other kiddies who’ll then go home to bed, sensibly.
Wine in hand, my eye goes straight to the gyoza in Joy’s beautiful spread. Michael’s been busy making Japanese gyoza, and after tasting my first, I was wishing that I was staying for the yet-to-be-served home-made Malaysian chicken curry.
You might imagine how ‘twixt and between I was at times this evening. Between Joy and brother Michael’s Malaysian catering – and Dr Pat’s mother’s Vietnamese cooking, I was spoiled for choice.
New Year’s Day Mass brings the chance to meet-up with Joy’s family from New Zealand again, and also with my nephew Bill and Mindy, and my soon to be seven grand nephew, Jude. See how they grow!
Click on the first photo and a Lightbox opens to a Slideshow and also allows you to use the arrows at the side to scroll through and to read the captions.
Threatening skies didn’t deter him from setting-up the lunch table in the garden, and those of us outside had sufficient pre-luncheon bubbles not to worry about the few sprinkles.
We drove up to Brisbane from the Gold Coast to the home of big brother,Tony and Ruth. Younger brother Mark and Jenny joined us in a very relaxed family pre-Christmas get-together. And so, the four Musgrave siblings were together. Jenny brought along my favourite curried egg sandwiches.
Another pre-Christmas lunch, this time at Nobby Beach to share a plate of prawns with my nephew Mark, Chrissy and the girls.
My visit also coincides with the 75th birthday of friend of 50 years, Alan, who came to dinner to share a few glasses of bubbly, and bowls of freshly-peeled prawns.
I’m not doing anything overtly festive this year but that doesn’t prevent me in the lead up to the ‘main event’ on Christmas Day from setting the scene to mark the festive season.
Gerhard was in yesterday with pots of poinsettia and herbs to give the balcony a touch of Christmas colour (and fresh basil for those summer tomatoes that I’m looking forward to).
Then over the bridge in an Uber to cousin Julie and Dennis’ to join friends for a pre-Christmas meal of Sydney rock oysters, and swordfish from the barbecue. Reminds me that I should go back to swordfish again and got search for my old mango and cucumber salsa recipe as the garnish.
A plaintive plea from 100-year-old Aunt Beth (via a one-finger, one-line email) telling of her craving for some easy to handle stone fruit had me busy pressing the new-season nectarines, plums and apricots at Harris Farm wondering which of the wide choice might be the sweeter, and ready-to-eat. My friend the Chookman, Ian, kindly walked around some little chicken sandwiches to compete the mini-Christmas lunch in Beth’s room.
The final Christmas touch for my apartment has always has been to retrieve the Lladro ‘Flight into Egypt’ porcelain from its box (that I’d bought years ago in New York with my late good friend, Joe Walsh), and set it up in pride of place, until Epiphany.
The seven years since we all were all together at a Susan and Bill’s previous home on Miami Beach seems more like seven days. Tonight we share a meal, much laughter (and minimal Hillary/Trump differences of opinion) in their new home in Miami Shores – with the four Westies members of the family – Cupcake, Winston, Annabel and Muffin.