Friday, February 25, 2005

Finally! Snow in London!

It has been getting colder, and colder, and colder (just ask Carly!!), but still NO SNOW!!!

We'd had a few sprinklings of sleetish snow (which none of the Locals would allow us to call snow) on a few occaisons over the past few weeks, but this was the real thing!

With a day's warning, London was hit with a strong front passing across from the west and the Atlantic, bringing with it a cold snap and dry drifting snow for a night. Staying at our share-house at Barnes, we both got home to watch it come tumbling down, all the while the traffic carrying on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happenning - it had me buggered how they drove in the stuff, because I couldn't see shit out of the windows on my bus trip home!! We were also impressed to see the logistics in place to ensure the city keeps moving - all of the main roads are sprayed with salt to stop ice forming, and train station platforms receiving the same de-iceing treatment.

The snow starting to fall at my work Underground station; and Carly out in the snow near our place at Barnes

Our snow-covered house at Barnes; and the view from our window of the street outside

When we both got home we watched the white stuff keep falling from the warmth of inside our house, helped along by a very cold gale blowing it in at almost horizontal. But instead of staying in our pyjamas, we took the opportunity to get amongst it, just incase it was the only falls we'd see in London this year. We donned our ski pants, ski jackets, beanies, gloves and scarves, and headed out into it for a walk around the block. People were looking out of the windows and probably straight away realising that the crazies out in the snow at 10pm were almost certainly tourists! The photos we got were fantastic, including a few short video clips of some snowball throwing, and making foot tracks while skipping along the snow covered streets..

The view outside the next morning; and Carly in her pink coat walking to work amongst the remnants of the snow

One of the streets we'd walked down the night before as it came tumbling down

Although the following morning the storm front had passed, there was still a fair bit of it lying around, causing transport chaos for our trip to work. But it was beautiful to see all of the parks and Heaths covered in snow as we travelled on the 72 bus up to Hammersmith and on to work.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Two Spargo's in Ireland!

We've just returned to London after a quick weekend visit to Ireland, to visit my brother Michael and his girlfried Rebecca where they are living and working in the beautiful city of Cork.

We arrived in on Friday night direct from Heathrow on an AerLingus flight, and were collected at the airport arrivals gate by Rebecca, while Michael circled the airport carpark in his 'banger' - the much anticipated Opel Corsa that we'd heard so much about over the previous few weeks as they have been setting themselves up since arriving in Europe for a year of working and travelling.

After a night of catching up with a few pints of fresh Irish Guinness down at the local pub and at their fantastic 2-bedroom apartment, we spent the following morning looking around Cork city, seeing where they worked (Bec's school seemed nice, in contrast Mike's pharmacy was in a nightmare area of Cork!), looking around the newly developed main street area, and having a shop through the farmers markets full of fresh produce from the surrounding Cork county.

Shane out front of the Ireland Apple headquarters!!; Bec & Carly looking over Cork city

For lunch and the afternoon we headed towards the coast to see the beautiful fishing village of Kinsale, where we had fish and chips in one of the many restuarants in the town. Despite the winter weather, the scenery was spectacular around the inlet, and on our drive we came across the Bulman pub, where we stayed for a few drinks amongst the cosy funiture, locals, and the patrons dogs which seemed to be running the place. Once again, we noticed how great it was to be sitting in a pub, having an Ale, with absolutely no cigarette smoke wafting in the air - Smoking is banned in pubs and clubs in Ireland! You don't know how good it is until you experience it..

Shane & Michael at Kinsale; and the Bulman pub

That night we headed out for a pub crawl around Cork, and came across some fantastic bars and pubs, including one that was allegedly the oldest pub in Ireland! We also went into another bar which had a three-piece traditional Irish folk band, full of locals, and a barman who took great pleasure in taking the piss out of our Aussie accents, and giving us his best Home & Away quotes.. funny Irish bugger!!

The following day we headed out to take a drive in the banger along part of the Ring of Kerry, which is a scenic tourist drive along some beautiful country in Kerry county. Despite being on the end of the winter season and most of the plants and flowers in hibernation, it was still amazing countryside to see. We stopped at a few of the lookout spots along the road, donned out coats and hats, and got some fantastic photos of the lakes and river that cuts through this area of the drive. Simply beautiful countryside which we plan to see again when the weather's better.

Me & Carly; and Mike's car at the top of a long climb where we went through a very narrow cutting allowing the road through the ridgetop, where we joined the Ring of Kerry road

Fantastic scenery at the top of the pass

Carly; Carly & Mike, and Mike's banger!

Mike trying to keep warm; and Carly, Bec, & Mike

Mike, Bec, and Carly

Before we stopped into Killarney for lunch, we came across Ross Castle, where we took a few photos to send back to Carly's dad Ross Smith - hopefully it might give him some inspiration for when he builds down at his property at Canungra south of Brisbane.

Carly in front of Ross Castle

We returned back to Cork late in the afternoon, gathered our belongings, and headed to the airport for our flight back to the big smoke - after saying goodbye to brother Mike and Bec we checked in, and while waiting for the plane managed to get our photos from the trip uploaded so that everyone at home could see our photos of our time with Mike almost immediately.. Mum was pretty impressed, but not as much as Jay was!


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

We're moving house from Fulham to Barnes

We have been packing and cleaning over the weekend, and tonight we make our big move to our new place at Barnes - for our short three week stay which takes us up to when are away skiing from the 5th of March, then to Singapore a week later and then back to Brisbane for the Weddings trip..

The new place is a share house in Barnes, which is the next suburb westwards from Putney (Putney is just across the Thames from where we have been living next to Putney Bridge Tube station). You can see a map of our road, Roehampton Lane here: We are renting the room off of a Canadian guy who has gone back home for a month, so it has worked out perfectly.. Thanks Jason!

It's going to be very sad to walk out the door of our top floor river view apartment, after what has been a fantastic 4 month stay as we settled into London life and dealt with our first northern winter (we think regular Hurlingham dossers Dan and Willow will miss it just as much!) - but at the same time we're genuinely looking forward to trying out the great london 'Share House' experience for the 3 week stint, and all the fun that goes with that, like racing for the hot water in the shower each morning, queues for the toilet, cleaning rosters, and T.V. channel arguments.. The other guys in the house seem nice enough though so it should be fine -

Our next post will probably be from our new place at Barnes, and if not, then we'll report in while on our weekend adventure to Cork in Ireland, where we are visiting my brother Michael and girlfriend Rebecca since they moved there last month - hopefully plenty of Guinness and good craic, and hearing about their first month living and working over here!


On the web: Did you know you can post a Comment onto the spargo blog, viewable by anyone who reads the site? So feel free to leave us a message or comment, advice, input, abuse, or just say hi on any of the entries we make - click on the small envelope down the bottom-righthand side of each entry, write your comment, and then under Choose An Identity, select the 'Other' option to leave your name - you'll notice that younger brother Jay P. has made a few comments throughout the blog, but there aren't many others (and note that the rules have recently changed: it is no longer necessary to be a member to leave your name so post away without anonymity!)..
In the news: Prince Charles and Mrs Carmilla Parker-Bowles announced their engagement on Thursday, and that they will be married on St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle on the 8th of April.. Apparently the goofy Prince even got down on one knee.. For the last 3 days it has been the only thing on the news, as the whole nation debates whether it should happen, whether she can be Queen, and whether anyone actually cares! As I became a bit of a diamond ring expert duing my recent major purchase, I had to post details of this impressive one:

Jewellers described Mrs Parker Bowles’ engagement ring as having a classic 1920s look which when first struck would have had a wow factor. The platinum ring, a Royal Family heirloom believed to have once belonged to the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, features a central square diamond with three small rectangular shaped diamonds, or baguettes, down each shoulder. Paul Greer, manager of Bentley and Skinner, the Bond Street jewellers to the Royals, said if it did indeed date from the 1920s then it would have been at the forefront of fashion. “It’s a very popular style at the moment, very desirable,” he said. "Platinum only began being used in jewellery in about 1910, so if this is a heirloom dating from the 1920s, it would have a very cutting edge design,” Mr Greer said.
“A diamond does not sit with anything better than platinum — it just works.”

-from The Times, 11/2/05

Good to see the Royals like platinum too!

Monday, February 14, 2005

We meet the LDA ski team at The Porterhouse, Covent Garden; and experience The Swan Hotel in Stockwell

Even though we were meant to be busy all weekend packing/cleaning etc, we still managed to get out on Friday night to the Porterhouse Pub in Covent Garden where we met up with the guys we're going skiing at Les Deux Alpes (a.k.a. LDA) in France with, so we could meet them before the trip - plenty of pints of Porterhouse Red lager meant it was a late night tube home with Darren West and Alison Willet.. A very funny 'Ski Master' Payne was a bit messy when we left, surely getting some good drinking practise in before the trip!

Then on Saturday night, as if just to keep the ball rolling, we met Willow at The Jolly Gardener in Putney (a great pub famous for board games and reading the paper on weekend afternoon's) for a friends birthday gathering.. After a while there, it was decided that the group would call a few taxi's and head across the south-west suburbs to 'The Swan' Hotel on Clapham Road (near the Stockwell Tube station) for some late night dancing. What turned out to be a great night ended at about 3am, when we began our journey home via a night bus, a Kebab/Chip shop at Clapham Common, then a black cab over the river to Fulham, and then a second bus down to Putney Bridge Tube getting us home at 4am.

We only managed to crawl out of bed at about midday on Sunday to start packing and cleaning - Nothing like having your priorities all wrong!


Currently listening to: Morrissey - You are the Quarry - I was told this album was good, so on Saturday I went and bought it having never even heard a single track! I think it is growing on me, but after the 3rd listen-through it may take some time. Also purchased the classic Lennon Legend: The Best of John Lennon album which is great to listen to while traipsing around London..

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Travel Plans

People keep asking us when we will be leaving London, when we'll be arriving in Brisbane, and when we'll be coming back here etc.. So to make it simple we thought we'd just add an entry with all of these details so you can write them down in your own time.. (note: everything is in local time)

So here goes - our crazy March and April!!

  1. We leave our apartment at Fulham - Tuesday 15th February
  2. Over to Cork in Ireland to visit Michael and Bec for the weekend - from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th February.. can't wait for this trip!
  3. Last day at work - Friday 4th March
  4. Travel to Lyon, France for skiing at Les Deux Alps - leaving London early on Saturday 5th March, returning to London very late on Sunday 13th March
  5. Fly from London to Singapore for a two day stopover/sight-seeing break - leave London on Monday 14th March, arrive S'pore Tuesday 15th March
  6. Fly from Singapore to Brisbane - leave S'pore Thursday 16th March, arrive in Brisbane Friday 17th March, at 6:40am in the morning
  7. Conan and Sharlene's wedding - Saturday 18th March
  8. Brett Dioth's bucks weekend - Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd April
  9. The Dioth wedding - Saturday 9th April
  10. Shane flies back to London from Brisbane - Monday night, 11th April; arrives in London Tuesday 12th April (we still don't know when Carly is flying back!?)
  11. Fly to Jerez in Spain for a short stay in the Cadiz area - Tuesday 12th April... returning to London a week or two later..

It's quite hectic when you line it all up like that!! If you need more info, drop us a line..

-shane and carly

In the news: Today is the first day that licenced premises in England and Wales can apply for a 24-hour liquor licence so that they can stay open all night - recent changes in licencing legislation has allowed this in place of the existing restrictive 11pm curfew - Some people like us think it's a good idea, others are not so sure.. We will see..

Monday, February 07, 2005

Visit to Windsor Castle and Eton

Back to sightseeing again yesterday, but this time we took Daniel and Renee with us to see the villages of Windsor and Eton, which are south-west of London and home to the one of the Queen's residences, Windsor Castle, which at over 900 years old is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world..

Dan, Renee, and Carly infront of the quadrangle and in the background is the wing of the Castle in the Upper Ward where the Queen lives when in residence

Dan being a goose inside the Castle

The Windsor township is fairly non-descript, with the usual High Street and many pubs and quaint tea houses.. but it is its location on the upper reaches of the Thames River and in the shadow of the castle on the hill that make it and the adjacent Eton village very unique.

Carly and Dan in the Windsor villiage outside the Castle

Our timing for our visit to the castle was perfect, as they only open several of the semi-state rooms (previously George IV's private apartments) during winter time, so we were able to see things that the summer tourist crowds miss out on.. These were very impressive, more so because of the extensive restoration works that had been undertaken following the fire that destroyed just over 100 rooms in 1992 - you wouldn't have known that many of the imaculate rooms that we walked through had been completely destroyed, to the point of ceilings and floors collapsing, and priceless art works that had been thrown out from the top of the castle walls to safety are now back hanging on the walls.. Carly and Renee loved these rooms, especially the Crimson Drawing Room, as its furnishings and fittings are nothing short of regal and give you a good insight into what it would be like living like the Queen does..

Carly and Shane in front of the Round Tower at the centre of the Castle

Dan, Carly, and Renee

You are also able to walk down St George's Hall, which is the castle's State Dining room, which you see on TV when Heads of State visit or the Queen holds a banquet for a special occaision - considering the length of the 160 seat table they put in here, Dan of course contemplated how you would deal with passing the gravy..

They also had several rooms containing ancient armours, swords, and weaponry - most of which had been given to the Royals as gifts from conquered nations, tribes, and other Royals from around the world - it was a very impressive collection.. The Waterloo Chamber was also amazing, as it contained huge portraits undertaken to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, and is exactly the type of room with portraits adorning the walls that you see in television footage and documentary's taken inside the castle..

Carly, Shane, and Dan with one of the very serious looking guards standing around the Castle

We also visited the fourteenth century St George's Chapel adjacent to the Castle, where we saw the tombs of 10 sovereigns, as well as the Queen Mother..

While we were there we took the opportunity to walk around to the front of the Castle, where the Queen's residence looks directly south down the 3 mile long Long Walk which stretches all the way into Windsor Great Park.. We have already visited the Park at the other end of the Long Walk during the first few hours of being in England - see that entry and photos from the 16th September here:

Carly at the Castle end of the Long Walk, looking towards Windsor Great Park

We finished the day getting warm by the fire in a pub across the river in Eton, before the 40 minute train trip back on the train to Putney overland station - a day trip definitely recommended for any visitors coming over here later this year!


Friday, February 04, 2005

We see Nelsen Mandela and Sir Bob Geldof speak in Trafalgar Square

Today we did one of those things you can only do in a city like London - Carly planned for us to attended a rally in Trafalgar Square in town in support of Make Poverty History, which is the UK part of a global campaign, the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, and is made up of a unique alliance of charities, trade unions, campaigning groups, faith communities and high profile individuals who are uniting to tackle global poverty in 2005.

Before you start thinking you've lost us to a political action group - we were there to hear none other than former South African President Nelson Mandela speak, in possibly one of his last public appearances since retiring from public life last year..

An Oxfam webpage detailing the event can be seen by clicking here:

I met Carly at the Square during lunchtime with 20,000 other Londoners, to hear Nelson Mandela (introduced by none other than Sir Bob Geldof!) publicly give his support to the global campaign for action against poverty.. In his lead in, Bob spoke of his 'tiredness' of attempting to change things in Africa, and said that he was sick of hearing words, and little action.. quite appropriate for someone who has been doing this for 20 years since the original Band Aid and Live Aid, and the recent 20th Anniversary Band Aid recording.. After being introduced by Geldof as 'the President of the World', Mr Mandela walked slowly to the podium with his walking cane to the cheers of what sounded like the whole of London, and spoke with confidence on issues you could easily sense he had experienced personally.. Without adding in a transcript of his speech, one part of what this amazing 87 year old man said stood out for both of us:

"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. "

Bob Geldof introducing Nelson Mandela; and the view from where we stood

Nelson Mandela speaking

Mr Mandela and Sir Bob

We headed back to work soon after, knowing that we may have seen one of the last public speeches from one of the great leaders of the world (...and thanks to Carly for convincing me I should go after I had hesitated about going earlier that day..)

-shane (and carly)

On the web: I received this great link from Amanda at work.. for all you Hoff fans out there, here is a page that gives you all the latest showbiz news for our favourite Knight Rider/Baywatch/Chicago stage show star!! - go see