COVID-19 DIARY – REVIEW OF FIGHTER WORLD AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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February 15

We awoke Monday morning, checked out of our hotel, drove out of the basement and made our way to Newcastle.

Long term readers will recall, Karen and I stayed near RAAF Williamtown three years ago on a trip to Newcastle but did not go to Fighter World which was literally down the road. I was hoping to make amends for that on this trip. Driving out of Sydney on a monday morning was interesting. It seemed like we were perpetually in a school zone of 40kms per hour for the whole city.

Eventually we got out on the open road and made it to our destination.

We fuelled up at the same servo we had years earlier near the airport.

Many years ago a friend of mine from high school served at RAAF Williamtown. He told me there was a great cafe at Fighter World and so that is where we were lucky enough to have breakfast and he was right – it was excellent! As we ate jets flew past low level outside.

Upon arriving at Fighter World we had noted huge crowds.

I wondered if it had something to do with the RAAF’s Centenary this year.

When we got to the front of the line we were handed a brochure and told to go in. I asked where we paid and the door greeter informed me that we had arrived on the annual open day. Admission was free.

Many years ago I went to the RAF Museum at Hendon in England which was just a smorgasboard of all kinds of aircraft types. There is nothing in Australia that can compare to Hendon but there is something a little special about taking in history that you feel belongs to you.

Like I said a friend of mine actually served in the RAAF, in my home city the F-111s flew overhead from nearby RAAF Amberley at Riverfire and did their famous Dump and Burn. Afterburners igniting jet fuel dumped to light up the night sky before the fireworks display. There was nothing like it in the world and here was the aircraft that did it – for me to see up close for the first time.

Early jet aircraft like the Meteors, Vampires, Sabres through to Mirage IIIs and then a bomber in the F-111 known affectionately as The Pig for its ability to fly low level.

For a while there we always seemed a little behind the curve, Meteors first flying in the closing days of World War II were sent to Korea by the RAAF and quickly found themselves outmatched by the cutting edge MiG-15 and switched to the ground attack role.

RAAF Sabres missed that war but served in the Malayan Emergency and were sent to Ubon, Thailand to fly air patrols during the Vietnam War at a time when the  F-4 Phantom was a generation ahead of that aircraft. We leased some Phantoms in the early 1970s but had procured instead the French made Mirage IIIs which proved versatile if not terribly sophisticated.

Working through the teething problems of acquiring the F-111 in the early 1970s and acquring the F/A-18 Hornet in the late 1980s changed everything.

The Aardvark was a medium range bomber and state of the art – there was nothing like it in the rest of South East Asia.

The Hornet would go on to fly Combat Air Patrols over Diego Garcia during the war in Afghanistan and drop bombs in anger in Iraq.

Though a little outdated during the peak of their service in the RAAF, these early jet aircraft were still game changers and beautiful planes to see up close that served our nation valiantly over the years.

The first aircraft to break the sound barrier in Australia was a Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation built  Avon Sabre A94-101 flown into a dive by RAAF test pilot Flight Lieutenant William Scott on the 21st of August, 1953 near Avalon Airfield, Geelong, Victoria.

Karen and I arrived on the look out deck of the museum just in time to see what appeared to be Hawk Jet Trainers fly past us low level. A real treat.

Fighter World was a real delight. We got glider planes for Karen’s nephews to play with and a whole raft of posters too that Karen picked up. On our way out an older couple had their posters fly loose across the driveway leading me and the husband to race off after them. They seemed in pretty good nick.

Not for the first time did I marvel at our RAAF personnel who served our nation. Plenty flew humanitiaran missions as well as in war time. Plenty lost their lives or had their health affected to keep those birds up in the air flying. There is a rich history preserved by the staff and volunteers at Fighter World that I was grateful to get to see.

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You can read my review of FIghter World at Weekend Notes Fighter World – Newcastle (weekendnotes.com)

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

It was well past midday now so Karen and I started off again for Brisbane and home.

I didn’t want to stop at the same old places so on the way back I took a turn off the highway and ended up at a place called South Valla Beach. We parked and looked out over the ocean. A woman nearby in a car looked at me with distrust and befuddlement.

As if she was thinking, “What the hell are you doing here? Nobody comes around here to our place.”

Next we went to a cafe that was shut and parked around the back where there was a pharmacy.

I asked the pharmacist if we could please use his bathroom and he said yes. After we did they closed the shop.

Must have just got in.

As the drive carried on I got white line fever but Karen got thirsty. Husband and wives may know where this conversation led. There are a few twists and turns in such a conversation but in the end I parked outside a servo far off the highway as the sun was setting.

I did however get to see the beautiful area around the town of Grafton. It would be nice to go there sometime properly.

The sun set, we drove past big trucks, big trucks drove past us, the country roads got dark and high beam lights were turned on and off with traffic. I was reminded of my tense late night drive back to Newcastle from Sydney three years earlier, as we passed Byron Bay and headed for the border of New South Wales.

But the darkness didn’t last as long this time, the road didn’t curve and slant as dramatically as it did outside Sydney.

Familar landmarks that let you know you are close to home do make you rest easy for some reason. That’s how I felt as I crossed the border back into the state of Queensland.

My second holiday in twelve months came to a close with 213,556 kilometres on the odometer.

A new record 902 kilometres driven in one day.

That was a 1,785 kilometre trip all up, a jam packed weekend, a wonderful wedding with friends.

I feel very grateful and fortunate to have attended my friend’s wedding, to have enjoyed a night out in Sydney and a day at Fighter World.

Some have not been so lucky.

On the 15th of February the World Health Organisation reported there had been 108,610,574 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 343,411.

There had been 2,403,419 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 10,076.

In Australia there had been 28,898 confirmed cases with a daily increase of six. There had been 909 deaths.

In Canada there had been 823,353 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,047. There had been 21,228 deaths with a daily increase of 66.

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,045,589 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 8,751. There had been 117,166 deaths with a daily increase of 258. February 12th Great Britain had reached more than 4 million cases with 4,011,961 reported.

In India there had been 10,916,589 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11,649. There had been 155,732 deaths with a daily increase of 90.

In the United States of America there had been 27,309,503 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 87,896. There had been 480,464 deaths with a daily increase of 3,317.

The highest number of reported daily deaths occurred the day before on February 14th with 5,512 recorded. 5,182 had been the previous record set on the 6th of February.

This thing was not over but we had a really wonderful weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ROAD TRIP TO SYDNEY

February 13

On Saturday Karen and I set off to drive to Sydney to attend a wedding.

Longtime readers may recall my first real holiday in six years in 2017 was a long weekend drive to Newcastle and back.

We went to Fort Scratchley the only Australian military fort that ever fired its guns in anger.

We also ducked in to Sydney and ate at Darling Harbour.

The drive to Newcastle on Saturday and the drive back to Brisbane from Newcastle was the furtherest I had ever driven in a day.

Now I planned to drive further to Sydney in one day.

I had taken the Friday and Tuesday to give me a buffer of a day to prepare and recover in between the trip and being at work.

We didn’t get away early on Saturday morning but off we we went witht the odometer reading 211,771 kilometres.

I haven’t travelled very much but this would mark the third time I was driving down the east coast of New South Wales.

In 2012 I drove to Port Macquaire to meet coincidentally the bride newly dating the groom for this wedding. A lot of the highway was being worked on at the time and constantly the speed limit was set at 80kms per hour.

In 2017 it was a lot smoother going to Newcastle.

In 2021 there was no question where the first stop would be and sure enough we stopped at Ballina.

In 2017 we parked at the Bunnings car park and made our way across a road with no traffic lights and heavy traffic to grab something to eat from a bakery/cafe. This time we parked in their car park and didn’t have to cross the road.

It was a perfect beautiful temperate sunny day in the morning at Ballina.

We went into the Wicked Delights Bakery, I spotted a bread role and asked what was on it and they mentioned salami and some condiments. It was soooooooooooooo good. I think I had a jam and cream doughnut too or something.

After we had finished eating I waited a while the person there served someone else and told her this was the place to always stop going down the coast.

I had waited to be able to thank her.

Anybody who goes on road trips knows the joy of eating at such places and how their reputations tend to travel.

Last time in 2017, we stopped for KFC at Coffs Harbour but I didn’t want to hit all the same places again on our second trip.

Except for the Wicked Delights Bakery in Ballina!

We filled up for fuel in in Coffs.

Then ended up on some turn off road around Taree for a bathroom break.

I was keen to drive on and reach our destination as soon as possible. It was getting late.

The weather changed on us.

We drove through rain.

Sometimes cars passed us, sometimes I tore up the passing lane myself on those wet wet roads with the rain so thick that visibility was poor.

It was getting dark but still light as we drove along road cut into mountains around Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The indidcation we were about to reach Sydney.

Karen activated google maps as we entered Sydney traffic. One of the wipers had reached the end of its usefulness. It was the one on the driver side. It was still raining and visibility was now at an all time low as I made my way to the hotel but made it we did.

The odometer read 212,654 kilometres.

The most kilometres I had driven in a day – 883.

I had been sucked in by the photos on the website, I’d checked other things but I saw that window looking over Sydney Harbour, looked at the price, looked at the room and thought yeah that will do.

It turned out View Hotels – Harbourview was an interesting mix of the sublime and pecuilar.

The rooms were nice even though full length window in the bathroom that would facilitate some kinky acts if you didn’t pull down the draw sheet.

The carpark was underground and looked suitable for shooting a horror film.

On the other hand after we checked in, we went down to the restraurant in the lobby as we fast approached 9pm and were given a table last minute by the excellent staff. Our meals were delicious, I’m not a big pork belly guy but I loved the one I ate there.

I had checked in with the groom and a third great friend who were staying elsewhere in Sydney.

I looked out over the Harbour.

Tomorrow my friend would get married to the woman he loved and Karen and I would be there.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – REVIEW OF QUEENSLAND MARITIME MUSEUM AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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February 06

Karen and I set out on a very warm summer’s Saturday to the Queensland Maritime Museum (QMM).

The QMM was set up in 1971 at an old dry dock.

I remember going to it around the time of Expo ’88 as a kid. The showpiece of the museum was an old anti-submarine warfare frigate named HMAS Diamantina. You can imagine how exciting it was for an eight year old to walk across the planks, the bottom of the dry dock metres below. Climb down step ladders and walk along railings in the guts of an actual naval warship.

HMAS Diamantina had not long been retired at that point having served decades before coming the martime musem in the early 1980s.

Years later as a young university student studying a journalist subject across the river at QUT I went across and looked for someone to interview.

I found a volunteer who had served in World War II with Z Special Force and had previously been a coal stoker on corvettes in the navy.

He had lied about his age to join, he had also been working in a munitions factory before his service.

He was in his early 80s then, having spent his life working many jobs and beating cancer, with the sprightly energy of a toddler he danced on his feet.

His life and stories were fascinating but he never talked about the combat he may have seen.

If I can find the old assignment I will post it here with his name. For now of him I took back in 2003.

QMM Volunteer

There was another R.A.N. veteran who volunteered at QMM at that time who had served in the Korean War. He told me of a stop over at Okinawa during their voyage north. He told me how the trees had still not grown to a proper height years after the battles on that island.

These were the kind of people who kept the Queensland Maritime Museum running and still do.

In 1974 Brisbane was flooded and so was the museum situated on the banks of our river.

In 2011 Brisbane was flooded again, volunteers came down and repositioned the ropes to ensure that is the water in the dry dock rose HMAS Diamantina was not damaged by crashing into its own dock.

Expo ’88 came and went replaced by Southbank. The city and the area changed but HMAS Diamantina and its museum remained.

After 16 year old Jessica Watson sailed around the globe, her 10 metre long ship became part of the collection at QMM.

Floods, recessions and the Global FInancial Crisis all came and went but when COVID hit all of sudden the huge workforce of volunteer of over 60s could not do their work and attendance was also affected.

The financial situation of the museum radically changed and quickly.

They closed their doors.

But they were not out for the count yet.

A petition was raised to secure the future of the museum which you can click on here and put your name to Petition · Secure the future of Queensland Maritime Museum · Change.org

You could also donate money to helping them keep open which I did and when they opened their doors in late January I went to buy tickets but they were sold out.

So um I bought them the following weekend and we went.

The museum was a little different then I remembered with some new interesting stuff and slightly younger volunteers. We could walk the deck but to COVID restrictions we could not go below decks on HMAS Diamantina. I also got to see Ella’s Pink Lady up close.

I wrote a review of it which you can read here at Weekend Notes Queensland Maritime Museum – Brisbane (weekendnotes.com)

I took a lot of photos and put a lot of thought of where they were placed in the narrative of the review. The review was featured on the Facebook site of the Queensland Maritime Museum.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

I wish the Queensland Maritime Museum all the best, it is a wonderful Museum that should be ensured for generations to enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – REVIEW OF THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY FLYING MUSUEM AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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                                    Copyright Lloyd Marken. The view of Oakey airfield.

At the gym on Friday night I saw on the TV that India became the second country to pass 9 million COVID-19 cases. The only one since the U.S.

Per chance I was about to catch up with my brother from another mother the next day who had family in India. 

It was a scary time but we intended to have a nice day out in each other’s company.

 

November 21

 

We were driving out west to the small town of Oakey.

Famous for the race horse Bernborough and where I had recently been reminded my grandmother had been born.

As a result I wore a hat that my grandfather had worn in travels when I was a boy. The hat fitted his head better but I wanted to wear it and pose at the statue of Bernborough like he had in a photograph many years ago. 

It’s true.

They live on in us.  

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                                Copyright Lloyd Marken. Me with Bernborough.

I was with my wife Karen, her sister and her husband, as we had been a few weeks earlier when we travelled to Capriccios Pizza in Maleny in the wake of his Uncle passing from COVID-19 in India.

I’ve never met a man who didn’t work harder. As we drove along he passed along information of everywhere we went. A ride share worker who had previously driven cabs and worked his way up in trucking to drive semis interstate. He knew when we were coming up to the well known Fernvale Bakery in Ipswich, he told us of businesses off the main track he’d gone to as we started to get out in the country. He quietly advised and offered stories of so many places.

We did stop at the bakery in Fernvale although I went for the sweets rather than their famous and beloved pies. We will have to return and partake properly.

Around people I truly love I relaxed a little and even started to sing songs like Don McLean’s American Pie and Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees. I am not a singer so spare a thought for the poor people in that car who had to conjure their best poker faces as they realised, “Oh man Lloyd’s really going for it!”.

It was a beautiful sunny day,  the Museum is housed in a hangar that is located on the perimeter of the fencing of the defence base. You do not need to enter the base to enter the museum as a result. Very cleverly located. 

 

Maintained by local volunteers it is a wonderful display of aircraft and stories from Australian Military Aviation. 

I wrote a review which I was lucky enough to have published on Weekend Notes which you can read here Australian Army Flying Museum – Brisbane (weekendnotes.com)

 

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Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

We had a late lunch at the Oakey RSL Club.

 

 

Having driven north from Ipswich through Fernvale, past Wivenhoe Dam and through Esk I decided on the way back we would drive through Toowoomba.

I was hoping we would find the University of Southern Queensland campus where there is a beautiful Japanese peace garden but we actually googled just a public garden in Toowoomba and ended up there. A callback to simpler times when sometimes you just turned down a road and found you were where you wanted to be.

The Japanese Garden are well known and are quite beautiful and peaceful in these troubled times.

At one point we went over a bridge and looked down at ducks in a pond. In the late afternoon I exclaimed with excitement when I saw a creature underneath the water and realised it was not a fish. I grabbed everybody’s attention and the words escaped me on instinct “Look a platypus!”

A platypus sighting at that time of day with those amount of people would have been very special indeed but alas what became abundantly clear in the next couple of seconds was we were looking at turtle.

Oh well, still pretty special.

 

 

As we drove out of Toowoomba my sister-in-law spoke of working as a speech pathologist in the town years ago making long commutes for the job. My wife had also worked around as a speechie. 

In the late spring of Australia, the jacarandas were in full bloom in Toowoomba and so much more beautiful there. 

It was only a 2 hour drive out of Brisbane but it had been years since I had come to Toowoomba and I had no memories of Oakey. Seeing this part of the world buoyed my spirits in the way only getting out and about can. I understood I was becoming older and now came to understand weekend trips as a child where we were packed out and driven out to dams and beaches that held no interest for me then.

As much as I appreciated my freedom which earlier in the year had not been possible and was not currently for so many around the world. 

What I appreciated more was the company I kept. 

It was a good day out.

 

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                                                             Copyright Lloyd Marken.

November 22

On the 22nd of November the World Health Organisation reported there had been 57,939,958 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 625,981.

There had been 1,380,494 deaths globally with a daily increase of 9,831.

In Australia there had been 27,807 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 18. There had been 907 Australian deaths.

In Canada there had been 320,719 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,968. There had been 11,334 deaths with a daily increase of 69.

In the United Kingdom there had been 1,493,387 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 19,875. There had been 54,626 deaths with a daily increase of 340.

In India there had been 9,095,806 with a daily increase of 45,209. There had been 133,227 deaths with a daily increase of 501.

Coronavirus news highlights: Delhi continues to post high Covid-19 numbers  with 7,486 new cases, 131 deaths | Deccan Herald

In the United States of America there had been 11,789,012 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 191,033.

America surpassed a quarter of million deaths due to COVID-19 on the 21st of November, 2020.

250,607 with a daily increase of 2,036.

On the 22nd of November there had been 252,460 deaths with a daily increase of 1,853.

Ballbag played golf over the weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – A BEAUTIFUL OLD TOWN CALLED MARYBOROUGH

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

August 16

The World Health Organisation reported 21,570,528 COVID-19 cases globally with a daily increase of 253,701.

There had been 767,267 deaths with a daily increase of 5,374.

In Australia there had been 23,288 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 253. There had been 396 deaths with a daily increase of 17.

In Canada there had been 121,889 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 237. There had been 9,024 deaths with a daily increase of four. Spring was a good time in Canada in terms of decrease in numbers compared to earlier during the pandemic.

In the United Kingdom there were 318,488 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,040. There had been 41,366 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In India there had been 2,647,663 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 57,981. There had been 50,921 deaths with a daily increase of 941. This was the day the number of deaths in India reached more than 50,000.

In the United States of America there had been 5,312,940 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 54,375. There had been 168,345 deaths with a daily increase of 1,144.

August 17

Monday I was on holidays again during my secondment. Not something I particularly wanted to occur but there is not much the manager of that area can’t get me to do if she is the one telling me to do it.

I had worked on a story to be published about a retired Principal over the weekend, I went to the Queensland University of Technology on Monday or Tuesday to see if enquiries about records there would pay off in researching about former teachers who had studied at the old Kelvin Grove Teachers College. There were no specific dividends sadly but I had received gotten some insight into a time and a place.

I also attended a Doctor’s appointment.

I know how to party.

Things were further developing in Victoria while we all held our breath about what would would happen in Queensland.
The below clips are again the excellent ABC program Four Corners on the second wave in Victoria and the next is from 60 Minutes Australia for nurse Dan Collins who contracted COVID-19.

Dan Collins is one of many extraordinary heroes who have served us, saved lives, comforted others and suffered. The courage of him and all our health care frontline workers cannot be honoured enough and when people try to justify ignorance and risk they should ask themselves – would they do what our nurses are doing?

Dan Collins is 24 years old. 24 years old. I stand in awe.

August 19

With the number of active cases in Queensland still relatively low and on holidays I was keen to strike out and support local areas with tourism dollars.
I have travelled as far north as Longreach in my home state but had never driven in my own car further north than the Sunshine Coast.

So Karen and I drove up to a town called Maryborough for the day.

Maryborough is the hometown of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and a beautiful old town. I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to interview two teachers who live and work in Maryborough in the days ahead.

I chose to drive the 255 kilometres from Brisbane to Maryborough after a doctor’s appointment starting late so there wasn’t a lot of time when we got there. We walked around the town and looked for a place to eat but nobody would have us. We instead took in prawns from the Parkyn Parade co-op at Mooloolaba which was a real treat on our way home.

However we did get to see the Maryborough Colonial and Military Museum which has been developed by local volunteers into a first rate place in recent years. Nearby Hervey Bay famous for whale watchers is where a lot of veterans have retired too.

Model airplanes hung everywhere as well as some military vehicles and uniforms adorned the place. Most impressive was the number of medal collections of former serving members. Both military and civillians who had risked their lives and been recognised for gallantry.

These included Keith Payne who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Vietnam War and served in Korea, Malaya and Oman. His work with veterans post military service saw him awarded the Order of Australia medal.

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Keith Payne’s Medals. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Western Australia Police Constable Timothy Britten was on leave from his overseas posting to the United Nations Mission in East Timor in 2002 in Bali when the Sari club was bombed by terrorists. In a singlet top, shorts and thongs Constable Britten ran 800 metres to the club and went into the fire to try and retrieve a woman as gas cylinders exploded around him. Forced out by the flames Britten went back into the fire three times and with a man named Mr Joyes he got her out. He pulled survivors out of the club all night. 202 people were killed in the terrorist bombings including 88 Australians. Constable Britten’s efforts in saving lives and risking his own saw him awarded the highest civillian award for gallantry – the Cross of Valour.

Major Harry Smith served in the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War. He was the Commanding Officer of Delta Company 6RAR when it was pinned down in the rubber plantations of Long Tan in a desperate fight for survival from a numerically larger enemy force. A long contested battle over many decades saw the veterans of Delta Company recognised more appropriately for what they lived through that day.

James Runham witnessed a bank robbery and followed the robber being fired upon point blank and wounded. He received numerous death threats leading up to testifying at the trial. He has served in the Queensland Rural Fire Service through several natural disasters, been a Cadet Instructor for Naval Cadets and formed the Australian Bravery Association. His bravery in this particular incident saw him receive the Star of Courage.

Major General John Cantwell you may recall me writing about a long time ago. Cantwell served in the Persian Gulf War, the war in Iraq and commanded the deployment of Australian forces throughout the Middle East and during the horrendous Victorian bushfires of 2009. An extraordinary man who has worked through PTSD. I once went to a welcome home parade for troops from Operation Slipper, Australia’s operational deployments to Afghanistan. I was absolutely delighted to see a retired General Cantwell at the head of it marching in uniform. This will sound extremely stupid but I had wanted to give thanks to those who served and having him be one of them was such a delight and surprise.

All of these individuals have shown exceptional courage and shown lifelong service to the community at great risk to themselves. Just like nurse Dan Collins.

-Lloyd Marken

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Dinner at Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

COVID-19 DIARY – EATING AND WALKING, WALKING AND EATING – PART IV

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The Polish Place. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

July 3

Friday morning we packed up our gear and headed off into the morning for our last brunch and walk of our holiday.

We had made a 10am booking at The Polish place which boasts spectacular views. My in-laws had stayed in the accommodation there previously and were very happy with their stay. It is well known on the Mountain.

We got an early booking because like every other establishment we had eaten at that week they could only make bookings for their indoor area at 50%. Random show-upperers could probably get a spot but booking capacity was limited by COVID. I didn’t run to risk it and just as well. Despite not being a morning person we rocked up at 9:30 with cars parked outside and a few couples waiting in the courtyard outback as it was watered down with a karchered down.

A popular joint.

We were given an option of outdoors and shown to the table we picked. Karen and I ordered Polish coffees (a bit too strong for us) and potato pancakes.

Suddenly two lorikeets popped up on the railing next to our table, they didn’t flinch when I shooed them with my arm. They just stood there for a while before toddling off.

When the young waitress came back, I asked if the birds were going to be a problem. She assured me they absolutely could be known for jumping up on tables while you’re your meal. She did helpfully point out however they seem to be go for the sweet stuff so the delicious cream in a jug that came with our coffees must have gotten their attention.

I’ll put you out of your suspense. We never saw the lorikeets again.

The next bird we saw was The Polish Place’s signature dish a roasted duck for two. Stuffed with Granny Smith apples and marjoram and served with red cabbage, Polish gnocchi, fried apple and cherry sauce.

It was bursting with flavour, I wasn’t used to a savoury dish with lots of sharp tart and fresh flavours mixed in the meat. I quite liked it and again, as tempting as the chicken in creamy dill sauce looked, we were enjoying something that was possibly fairly unique to this place.

As soon as we were done with the duck I looked to a nearby tree where three magpies flew into view and perched themselves. As soon as we stood up they flew down and the waitress did have to push them out of the way as she cleared our plates. Karen was surrounded by the three before she left the table. This amused her as I walked over to her and asked her to come with me.

We hadn’t really bothered been bothered by the birds, the staff was lovely, the views spectacular and the food amazing! Still I wondered if next time I would dine indoors.

 

 

Then we walked up the road to the beginning of Witches Falls, a 3.5km circuit I believe. There was a sign at the beginning that said not to work it during rainfall and as we went along I could see why. The path was narrow, elevated and would be very tricky if it became muddy due to rain.

Thankfully it was a beautiful day and as we descended there was literally a metre where the path was covered in vines and as you walked through it you moved from bush to rainforest. Amazing.

There was a fork in the circuit where you could go on and find the lookout, go back the way you came or continue and finish up the circuit. We went on to the lookout, when we came back we noticed a lot of people pausing and so I offered directions.

I had dressed for the restaurant so with my jumper off I was wearing a dress shirt with suspenders and black trousers.

This amused a lot of people, as a group of older women came by and I offered directions they noted I was very dressed up and one of them even offered “I hope she says yes.”

This cracked Karen up.

We began our ascent and left a scrunchy we found on the path on a post.

 

 

We got back to the car and just started driving back to Brisbane.

I left gifts for my Mum and Dad in their backyard and then called them. To my surprise they offered to talk to me through the window.

Instead when I went to the backyard they set up chairs for us to sit apart and chat.

It was the first time I had seen my mother in person since the 8th of March and my Dad the 15th of March. It was the 3rd of July.

A reminder sometimes you have got to push your luck.

My parents had not entertained visitors as restrictions lowered and active case numbers became single digits in Queensland. The wisdom of this strong stance was only going to bear out as the right call as the situation continued to deteriorate in Australia.

Yet here was a little respite for me, for them, for the country.

The perfect final touch to my very unlikely holiday in years during a pandemic.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – EATING AND WALKING, WALKING AND EATING – PART III

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Stonehaven Guest House. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

July 2

If I had ever entertained the idea of going up to Mount Tamborine and relaxing with my spa and backyard my wishes quickly evaporated. Sprung loose from our regular dwellings Karen was ready to seize the day. So Thursday we drove a short drive to Gallery Walk.

Gallery Walk is what a lot of us think about when we think about Mt Tamborine. It is where all the niche shops are lined up on one long street like so many small towns that cater for couples of all ages getting away to a romantic B&B, staying nearby as somebody they know gets married our just hoping to live it up at a winery.

You know the type of strip I’m talking about, there was a German cuckoo clock shop with stein mugs, there was a crystal shop, a leather shop, a retro clothes shop and a few liquer shops.

 

 

Karen and I walked up and down it twice figuring out what gifts we were buying and for whom. Karen’s main goal was to pick up a bottle from the Tamborine Mountain Distillery. Years ago this had been located elsewhere and the owner was a bushy white bearded man who’s wife had come from the former USSR.

I have memories of going up there to get a bottle for my sister and send it to her in the UK. It felt like I had wandered into a garage shed and picked up a Soviet knickknack. The new location and owners lacked this sense of discovery or character. Now it was just another business sadly but Karen liked her liquer and I liked that she was happy.

She also wanted to check out the Red Baron airplane at the Bavarian Cafe which I had gone to by myself years earlier while attempting to go hiking. This is where we saw the beginning of the trail for the Witches Fall circuit. We did see some of the beautiful sunset as well as a crowd gathering but we were hungry.

 

 

That night we had a booking at Belvederes to sit and eat inside where we were served by wonderful staff and ate some great wood-fired oven made pizzas. Highly recommend.

The shop is hard to miss, just look for the place painted in the colours of the Italian flag. I clocked four other couples dispersed across it, every one of them looked like city people on holidays at a B&B. Must be interesting to live in a town where people are constantly coming to your place to get away from their own.

 

 

That night I went down to the backyard again in the evening where a voice called out to me in the dark. He told me not to be alarmed, his name was Quacker and I had met him earlier that week.

A duck came out from the shadows into the light. I said “Hello,” and he replied “How’s it goin?”. After exchanging pleasantries he informed me that he had a couple of mates who were trying to sell their house.

 

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Quacker when I met him earlier in the week. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

I sympathised given the market, I myself was still trying to save up for a deposit. He told me the house wasn’t too expensive because his mates were fairies.

He took me up the creek where I met his friends who had a beautiful home with a stepping stone path. I asked how much and their price was very reasonable.

The fairies set one condition, they were hoping to stay in Brisbane from time to time and would the new owners let them stay overnight during these times. They would be out by morning they promised and would leave the place spick and span.

I said I thought I knew some owners who would be happy to accommodate that. So I bought the house and thanked Quacker and the fairies and handed the house to my niece and nephew the following weekend and asked them to honour the deal which they seemed more than happy to agree to.

It had been a productive day so I went inside to have my spa and go to bed.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – EATING AND WALKING, WALKING AND EATING – PART II

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

July 1

Karen and I awoke Wednesday to enjoy our holiday at Mt Tamborine. We walked down from where we were staying to enjoy a hearty breakfast at a local cafe where a Kookaburra sat outside from a nearby creek.

 

 

The Curtis Falls walk was just outside the cafe.

This set the pattern for the next couple of days, brunch followed by walking so our pants wouldn’t be too tight when we stat down for an early dinner followed by an early dinner and a spa bath.

In fact you can skip the next couple of posts after that paragraph. That is pretty much what happens.

We went up to Curtis Falls which had quite a few people on the track, it was school holidays. We tried to maintain social distancing and it seems most people were on board with that but it is important to note that at the time the number of active cases in Queensland were single digits. There were still some restrictions in my place but we were feeling a little safer.

It was a quick 1.5km circuit walk although we were to find that we are not as fast as we used to be when covering these small distances.

 

 

Next up inspired by Curtis Falls I was keen to check out one of the more epic waterfalls I knew this area had to offer. We ended up at Purling Brook Falls circuit at Springbrook National Park.

This was 4km which involves quite an descent and ascent but it was pretty easy going. For the sights it is quite worthwhile and unlike say Mapleton Falls in the Sunshine Coast this walk allows you to climb down to the valley floor and take the waterfall in from another angle.

As we descended a group of young people came up behind me. Out the front was some gym bunny with a blonde ponytail and tight bike pants that she had probably never worn while actually riding a bike.

There was no “Excuse me,” or a polite inquiry if I could move aside. She just came barreling down on top of me hoping the sound of her voice as she chatted on with her companions about some people she knew right now right behind my head would be hint enough that I should just jump out of her way and let her inherit the world as clearly my time had passed on.

 

 

I paused and turned as the blonde black blur passed me still informing the valley about her latest personal developments. I smiled at her companions who smiled back, they seemed grateful for my courtesy and I appreciated theirs.

I didn’t hear Bunny Girl much after that as I was too busy doing an impersonation of her for Karen’s enjoyment or probably more accurately my own.

We never saw her again but we did take in the beautiful views, listened to the wildlife around us or took time to take pictures of our lovely surroundings.

There was even a moment when I went fairly close to a ledge up high. Just cause.

Down on the valley floor the falls looked spectacular and once we got to the job I went back on the track to the first look-out just to take it in one last time.

It was not lost on me that people were having to isolate home and worse and yet here I was on holidays looking out over a valley. I guess when you’re denied so many things long enough you have a new found appreciation for well..anything..all of it-life!

 

 

On the way back we stopped at the top of Mt Tamborine. Cars all pulled over to the side of the road and people walked over to a lookout hill. We were spread far and wide, metres apart, socially distancing but we sat down together as one and we watched the sunset.

There was something communal and comforting in that small window of time after weeks of being cut off from groups.

Many years ago I worked long hours in a job that stressed me out. On weekends I would go into the office and on a sunday afternoon I would walk across the road to Eagle street pier and watch the sun set over my river.

It seemed to help and it has never been lost on me that perhaps we should take time more often to watch the sun set rather than racing home or setting out dinner which is how it often seems to be.

Anyway Karen and I picked up pizza from a place called Belvederes at North Tamborine, ate our fill from the box and went outside to the backyard which was beautifully lit up.

The night was fairly cold so we eventually went in for our spa and bed.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – EATING AND WALKING, WALKING AND EATING – PART I

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Karen and I on holidays with the last days of my beard. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

As the year moved on I was told at work in the strongest terms despite the pandemic or even because of it, I should give myself a break. At the time there was a possibility that people may only be able to travel up to 250 kilometres from home. So I planned around that.

I had not taken recreational work from work in many years. We had gone to Newcastle for a long weekend in 2017, my first holiday in six years. I had attended my sisters wedding in London in country for 58 hours in 2018, there had been stays in hotels for a night or two but this was me taking recreational leave from work for the first time in a long time.

I did not want to stay at home on the couch and watch Netflix but I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

I also wanted Karen to have a holiday too.

So while thousands died across the world, I went on holidays and I am going to write about it. I’m sorry if that seems tone deaf. I guess I was following health advice from my government, maybe spending money in the area was good for some businesses but I went on holidays. I had a nice time and know that is only due to the grace of God.

June 30

Karen and I drove down to where we were staying at North Tamborine.

It was a Scottish themed manor named Stonehaven Guest House, by that I mean there was a lot of wood in it and Scottish themed paraphernalia everywhere. We stayed in a room called Edinburgh. Next day was Balmoral. One day I walked downstairs musing to my wife about the Australian battle Coral-Balmoral during the Vietnam War and wondering how Balmoral related to Scotland.
It’s where the Royal Family holidays of course which my wife reminded me of with the patience of a saint. Damnit and I’m the one with the Scottish heritage.

We loved the place, the staff were great but kind of left us alone which suited us. There was a beautiful backyard with a creek and a gazebo that was lit up at nights.

 

 

Our first night we walked around our up the road and got a layout of our surroundings. Up the road was a series of shops and the local ANZAC Memorial.

 

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Tamborine Mountain ANZAC Honour Roll. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

We went to a nearby Irish pub but they were booked out until later with the spacing required due to COVID-19. Fair enough. I looked around on my phone and made a call to a place called The Fox & Hounds Inn.

The gentleman on the other end said he would be happy to take a booking and asked me what time and I said now was fine. He laughed and told me he still didn’t open for another 8 minutes so we agreed to half an hour.

The pub was cosy on a cold winter’s night and even with social distancing there were a few customers that night. I got some salmon with a thing called bubble and squeak. I didn’t mind but didn’t love the bubble and squeak but my goodness the salmon was amazing. Karen really enjoyed her Guiness pie too.

Some of the pub is made with parts of a pub imported from England contributing to the construction of the inn.

 

 

There were also English ales available with a range more varied and authentic than say what you would get in Brisbane at the franchise Pig’n’Whistle. Nothing against the Pig’n’Whistle which I love but when in Rome you hope you’re enjoying something you can’t get back home.

There is also the Foxy Lady Ginger Cider which is brewed locally and exclusively for them.

We finished off with dessert, I got a Raspberry Eton Mess which basically was a mixture of cream, meringue and raspberries in a glass and my goodness it was good.

I think Karen had an apple and rhubarb crumble but I didn’t care because I had the best dessert after she beat me with the best meal. An even draw.

All night there was one waitress working the floor, taking orders, delivering food and passing good vibes along to every customer as they waited for food or got served drinks.

The owner out the back worked the entire kitchen by himself and the food was delicious and kept coming.

The waitress was so good, I called him out from the kitchen to pass on how much of a credit she was to the place and he agreed advising me he didn’t have her there full time because she was still going to school.

A lot of us will live entire lives without being able to remain that calm and quick under the pressure of a restaurant setting. I think she’ll go far, I wished I had also passed on what a great job he did.

 

 

It could have been being on holidays for the first time in a while but there was a little magic in the air.

The kind of magic you have when you’re on holidays and you find a little place to eat that just fits the bill and the staff are so good and the place is so nice you feel it was almost done all for your benefit.

We had a similar night at a place in Maleny in 2008 called Capriccios and it was nice to have it again.

Now though we made our way back to Stonehaven, our home for the next three nights and the spa we had in our room.

-Lloyd Marken

 

ROCKET MAN – AN AUSTRALIAN IN LONDON

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I awoke rather late in what would be last day in a foreign capital. I should have risen at dawn, I should have carried on throughout the night but I didn’t. My funds were limited and my mind was elsewhere. When I got back to the Premier Inn at Bexleyheath I took a bath and tried to clear my head. I awoke late on Thursday April 5th and walked towards the train station. Originally I had envisioned leaving the wedding to sit at the airport with my brother until our planes took off. But the flights booked included one out of Heathrow at 10:35pm so I was going sightseeing. I got to Bexleyheath station and hopped on a train that had been delayed. In 2002 I caught trains for 3 weeks without incident, now I was finding out why locals mocked the reliability of British rail.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

We did eventually move as I studied my old maps from 2002, the line went into London finishing at Charing Cross. I was keen to see Hyde Park, Westminster, Tower Bridge and most importantly St Paul’s. So I figured I would change trains and head for St Paul’s but then I saw Charing Cross was at Trafalgar Square I decided I would just hop off there. Years ago I had gone on a tourist bus there and we had gone into a local pub for lunch surrounded by businessmen doing the same. Romantically I envisioned a similar destination this time with me taking the chance to try a warm beer for the first time. The journey was slow but slowly the houses gave way to apartment buildings and leafy parks to industrial areas. More and more buildings climbed higher into the sky and then started to become of older architecture. I didn’t need a map to tell me I was getting close and then when I hopped off my train I saw clearly the London Eye.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

Coming out onto the main street on a sunny afternoon I looked around for a pub but soon decided I didn’t want to spend time or money on food. I saw a shop named Garfunkels that served British breakfast for about 10pound, I suspected it was a franchise and in I went to sit down with a nice window seat looking at Trafalgar. I settled in to do some people watching but instead ended up reading my Michael Caine biography What’s It All About? Reading about someone who came from London while in London also seemed appropriate and fulfilling.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

Having chosen a rather boring meal to eat while in a foreign land I noticed with the sauces there was bottle of something I did not recognise – malt vinegar that the bottle said was to be poured over the chips. I could tell from its placement that this was as common in England as the other sauces and while not a huge vinegar fan I decided to have a go and found I quite liked it. Now I was truly cosmopolitan and eating something different.

I paid and walked over to Trafalgar Square. I was thrilled to be in old London town and such a place made the experience all so real and yet I was alone and with vaunted memories of 2002 that today couldn’t possibly measure up to. It was here in 2002 during a particular heat wave that Nadia and I joined others climbing into the world famous fountains to cool our feet. Now there were signs everywhere saying keep out of the water. Lions I had once bravely climbed towered above me out of reach. These were feelings I would often have throughout the day.

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An elderly gentleman kindly took this photo of me outside St Paul’s. Copyright Lloyd Marken

So I set off for the one place I wanted to go above all else – St Paul’s Cathedral and headed straight for Paul Mall.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I didn’t get too far before I righted myself and found if I stuck to The Strand it would take me there. Apologies to all Londoners who will be tearing their hair out at my lack of geographical mainstays. So off I went, the amazing thing about London is there is so much to see or do in such a small area. At one point I saw a black gothic building and stopped to take a picture as the battery on my phone gave out. I had a spare charger on me but needed the phone to last a while yet so I stuck to The Strand and headed for my destination. Along the way I saw police and a gentleman outside a Church that looked like some trouble brewing or blowing over.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

When I got to St Paul’s there were bag inspections and dozens of people sitting down on the steps. I walked up and was asked to open my bags and I warned the gentlemen that one compartment had dirty clothes in it. Those around me were asked if I was going to the evening service but not me. The Church had closed to the general public in the last half hour or less but there were evening services. I will tell you about my love for St Paul’s another time but it was one of the highlights of my trip to London in 2002. Over the years when I ask people who have gone to London did they go and see it and they always helpfully reply that they’ve been to St Peter’s in Italy or there is really quite a nice cathedral in Kent. Having not gone to those places I will give them the benefit of the doubt but how you can dilly daddle around with Big Ben or Trafalgar Square when St Paul’s Cathedral is right there is really beyond me! Ahem but to each their own.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I walked and sat down on the pews waiting for the evening service and taking in the grand sight above me. There was something comforting in how it was just as beautiful and grand as I remembered her but soon my thoughts turned to how in less than six hours time my flight home was scheduled to take off. Could I afford to spend my time here taking in what I believed would a be a very special experience. Perhaps not. I got up and walked over to those who had welcome me and said “I’m terribly sorry but I’m going to have to leave.” As I stood there with a suitcase wrapped around me she replied “Maybe you can come back tomorrow.” And I smiled and I said “That would be lovely.” And it would be and maybe if not tomorrow then one day soon. On my way out I grabbed my loose change and put it in the donation boxes and hoped this squared me away with God who had been kind enough to get me here to see my favourite place in London and to support the staff who had kindly taken me in for the evening service I was now abandoning.

In 2002 one of the few well known tourist attractions we did not go to was The Monument so off I set to see that. My journey that day became a series of seeing the hint of famous landmarks in obscure and unexpected ways that let me know I was finally nearby. The Monument was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert King and erected as a memorial to the Great Fire. Standing at 202 feet or 61 metres if laid down on its foundations the end of it would reach Pudding Lane where the fire was believed to have begun in 1666. I am getting worse with heights and more out of shape every year so I was glad I had been recently going to the gym when I entered the narrow spiral stone staircase of 311 steps leading to a viewing platform. I stopped as other came down past me. One gentleman hopefully said to me “That I would have left the suitcase at home.” Out of breath I fired back “There is no home.” So I told him. Heh. Ahead of me was a father taking his kids up the monument with their grandfather. Dad was struggling but with great pride noted aloud that his father in his 70s was shooting ahead. Age is just a number I guess.

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The view of Tower Bridge from The Monument. Copyright Lloyd Marken

When we got to the top I heard the father pointing out to his kids where Granddad had grown up. Not far from Michael Caine or Beetley Pete I thought. In fact Tower Bridge was in front of me and I did think of Pete knowing he did not grow up far from there. I struggled around a full lap of the viewing platform and took a selfie showing how far the ground was below.

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The selfie with the ground nearly 50 metres below. Copyright Lloyd Marken

I’ve abseiled off Kangaroo Point at 18 metres and off 20 metre towers. I’ve stood on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but it was just as well I did not know that I was 48.7 metres above the ground right at that moment.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

The Copper Urn with flames gives the monument the extra 13 metres. To be truthful though with the wire fencing around to stop jumpers made me feel more safe and I felt pretty comfortable despite the height. As I went to leave I suggested to a couple at the door “You go first, you’ll be faster than me.”

 

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The Tower of London, Copyright Lloyd Marken

Now I made my way to the Tower of London which was understandably closed and then I walked across the beautiful and unique Tower Bridge. Years ago Nadia and I spent a day in London together where we went to Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, Globe Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, Convent Garden and yes Trafalgar Square.

Chockfull of peak hour traffic Tower Bridge was still enchanting but I was now strictly sighting tourist landmarks rather than experiencing them. Instead I experienced the hum of the city as workers left for the day and young people and tourists took to the river for entertainment or a meal. The day’s ending suited my own feelings of wistfulness and farewell but also that a new part of the day was starting.

I crossed the river 3 or 4 times I think finally crossing the Millennium Bridge which I had not done fifteen years ago. I was on the wrong side of the river when I went past the Globe Theatre which Nadia saw in 2002 while I was on HMS Belfast. Maybe next time.

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HMS Belfast infront of Tower Bridge. Copyright Lloyd Marken

Some things had changed and looked more touristy, some things remained the same. There were a lot of concrete structures on each bridge that looked like old worn down ticket turn stiles of a bygone era. But I did not remember them from last time.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

The sun continued to lower and I looked to see The London Eye off in the distance not thinking it could be much further but it was. Finally I came to an area with a Merry Go Round around Southbank where a busker was playing a beautiful version of Rocket Man. I took note of his name at the time and gave him all my loose change but I cannot remember it for the life of me.

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If you look carefully in the background you can see the very talented busker. Copyright Lloyd Marken

The lights were coming on now and the song moved me as I strolled away. These kinds of moments are what make trips, of what makes life. I was impressed by how many performers were entertaining people along Southbank. There is a whole culture to buskers in London followed by bloggers with their own dedicated youtube sites. Some make a living, not great money but a living doing what they love and my hat off to their achievement of that, their talent and to what they bring to the river Thames every day.

I walked all afternoon covering at least 10 kilometres with 7 kilos are my back. I don’t know if Karen would’ve liked that but not for the first time did I think about her being there.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

The London Eye came into view and I knew I was close. Big Ben was surrounded by scaffolding as I crossed Westminster Bridge.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

It was where we essentially started our journey as London tourists in 2002, the tourist vendor on the corner I checked out to see if there were suitable gifts. This was where we first came in 2002, this was where that bastard attacked and killed people on 22 March, 2017 injuring 50 and killing five. I had thought about us on that bridge as a family fulfilling a lifelong dream on a weekday morning back in 2002 when that terrorist attack took place. As soon as I saw the concrete structures again on Westminster Bridge I knew what they were for and that they had not been there in 2002.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

Less than a year after September 11, 2001 we travelled across the globe with new restrictions and laws and heightened security and at war. Now all these years later there had been even more terrorist attacks and more heightened security. Yet all around me were people out and about having a good time. That made me happy.

I saw up ahead Churchill’s statue and decided I would say hello before leaving. Photos of me with my siblings and Churchill were some of the first taken of as a family in London all those years ago. I was coming full circle almost by design but when I saw the Cenotaph I knew I had one more place to go. My face was red from wind blast, my steps were slow and deliberate due to blisters. In the beautiful blue twilight of a European autumn evening with golden shimmering lights and dropping temperatures I crossed the road and bowed my head in front of the war memorial.

When I descended down Westminster station I asked for directions. It was getting late and I had not the time nor energy to waste. A kind staff member sensed this and told me to catch the next train and switch at South Kensington. I swapped and waited anxiously for my train. I’ll admit that I had left in good time but if my train was delayed like earlier that day I was well and truly stranded. As a man who does not think of himself as brave I am it would seem casually reckless none the less. Next I had to swap trains again as I was going to Heathrow Terminal 4 and this train was only going to Heathrow Terminal 1, 2 or 3. One more anxious wait and my train came, soon I limped up to Terminal 4 to get my bag checked. I was asked where my boarding pass was and I helpfully replied “I thought I was getting that from you.” Thankfully again this good staff member showed me where to go where China Southern Airlines and I returned a few minutes later with my boarding pass. I had an hour to spare until take off but he told me with relief that I had just got in. Fair enough.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I now entered a gift shop having gotten things for some family members at The Monument, I now got a tote bag for Karen, a stuffed toy for my older sister, a tea towel for parents and a snow globe for some children. Plus magnets. A long term collector of spoons I didn’t get one. It did not seem long until we had boarded and were taking off from the tarmac. I had made it, I was on my way home. When I first booked the flights my imagination had gone to taking Karen to London in the near future. Now I was not so sure. It had been an eventful trip, it felt like a monkey was off my back in my long term longing for travelling overseas and yet also it seemed more possible now than ever. Seeing London again was wonderful but Karen’s absence also made me realise that there were other things more important. I don’t know what the future will bring, who does? The golden lights of a metropolitan city lay out before us outside the window. I looked desperately for a landmark and seconds passed as I failed to recognise anything. Then I saw what looked unmistakably like Tower Bridge and I smiled. In that moment for whatever reason I was struck by a feeling of farewell like I was seeing London for the last time and so I wished it well and thanked that beautiful grand old city of fond memories and my sister’s home. The wings tilted and the ground went out of view and I began my journey to Brisbane and my home.

-Lloyd Marken