Heading home

Heading home
Eastbourne, United Kingdom

Eastbourne, United Kingdom


And then, all too soon, yet not soon enough, it was time to go home. I’m not sure how people travel for weeks at a time and see heaps of stuff and keep themselves alert and interested. I’m exhausted and suffering attraction overload. I’ve seen what seems like so much, but there are so many many things I didn’t see and wish I had. I’ve loved what I’ve seen and am so grateful to have had this chance to make this journey and see my family.

But I miss Juniordwarf and Slabs. I’ve Skyped Juniordwarf almost every day, and he’s told me he’ll be going away for 2 weeks soon, just like I did. He’s going to see the Wizard of Oz, and he’ll be Skyping in to home and school. So I guess I’ll be living with an iPad version of him for 2 weeks. I can’t wait to see him.

So today we were treated to a beautiful red sunrise over the beach and I went for a final walk along the pier. They were up early working on the reconstruction. It’s going to be a big job, and I’ll be following its progress with interest over coming months.

I had a closer look at the Queen’s Hotel. It was built in a right angled shape to block the view of the less swanky boarding houses on the eastern side of the seafront from the posh hotels in the main part. It appears that the pier was similar to. Hobart’s ‘flannelette curtain’ and it just wasn’t on to go east of the pier.

In the model of the hotel we saw at the Heritage Centre, it looked like the back wall was a totally blank brick wall with no windows. Certainly I could see what looked like part of this wall from behind the hotel (I went east). I wondered if there were guest rooms there and, if there were, whether had no view or if they had some more acceptable fake seaside view.

I reluctantly returned to our hotel, the Cavendish, which was directly across the road from the Eastbourne Bandstand. The east wing was destroyed in a bombing raid in May 1942, but it wasn’t repaired until the 1960s – it’s interesting how they didn’t try to duplicate the previous style but built it in what was a more modern style. Whether this was due to costs or unavailability of materials, or as a monument that the hotel has survived I don’t know.

My bag weighed in at 22.9 kg, which is 6.5 kg heavier than when I left home. That’s a lot of tacky souvenirs.

We’d booked and pre-paid a taxi to take us to Heathrow. Any other option involved at least 3 service changes, including from train to bus and back again, or leaving Eastbourne some time around 8.30 am. (That would never have happened.) Multiple service changes didn’t sound like fun. Especially not in this rain, which started falling right on cue as we were leaving.

Good old English weather. It took you 2 weeks, but you finally arrived.

We expected the journey to take a bit under 2 hours, but with road closures (and the ‘restructuring’ of the train services over the weekend) there was a lot of traffic on the road, and we arrived at Heathrow at about 2.40 pm. It was a long trip, but our driver was lovely and gave us a great commentary on the way.

Online check in proved to be only marginally faster than not having checked in. The check-in man mucked around for ages with our boarding passes and passports and we have no idea what the hold up was. All we know (because he told us at least twice) is we’ll have to pick up our bags in Melbourne, they won’t go all the way through.

Then security. I think I ended up carrying more stuff out of my bag than was left in my bag, after taking all the things out that needed to go through separately. I’m just glad I didn’t have to go through the process of turning everything on this time.

Finally we were on our way to Dubai. That was a 7 hour flight, followed by the Dubai March. We were told to get off the plane and make our way back to the plane as quickly as possible. If anyone knows why you have to go through security in Dubai when you’ve not even left the departure lounge I’d love to know, because at 4 am on Sunday morning, when you’re exhausted, it seems bizarre. A sign of how tired I was: I would have left my laptop on the security slider thing if Lil Sis hadn’t picked it up for me.

And as for getting back to the gate quickly, we had time to get some water, spend our last dirhams (or is the plural still dirham?), take a refreshment break, phone home and still be waiting at the gate for over 20 minutes.

The next leg was the 6880 km to Brunei, which took about 8 hours, arriving at about 5.30 pm on Sunday evening (8.30 pm home time). You already know my thoughts on this airport. It’s still being refurbished. I’ll say no more.

And now it’s time to get on the plane for the last international leg of our trip, to Melbourne. We’ll be arriving shortly before 6 am on Monday. Then we’ll nearly be home!

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Last day

Last day
Eastbourne, United Kingdom

Eastbourne, United Kingdom


Today was our last full day in Eastbourne, as you can tell by the imaginative title of this post.

We had thought of going to Battle to see some of the 1066 history, but we both felt sight-seen out and history fatigued, so we decided to continue the family history trail. I went to the library to track down the old street directories that would tell us the street number of the butcher shop in Seaside, where our father had said his family had either lived above or next door to when he was born. (Seaside, incidentally, is the name of a road that begins life as Seaside Road, and then becomes simply Seaside, a strange name, as my father said, for a road with no title and not by the seaside by at least a couple of blocks.)

The butcher was at 338 Seaside, but there was no record of Dad’s family having lived there, or anywhere else in Eastbourne in 1932. I was confused, but the library man told me their name would only come up in the directory if they had owned the property. If they’d been lodgers, the name of the owner would have been shown. OK so that solved that mystery.

The next step was to find the place. That was pretty easy. It was on the same bus route as the route to our Aunt’s place so as, that’s where we were intending to go, we headed off in that direction. We found the address, duly took photos and then went off to find another street they’d lived in.

This was Ecmod Road, which was a new street that had been built by the bus company our grandfather had worked for (Eastbourne Corporation Motor Omnibus Department – Ecmod).

We also found one of Dad’s early schools, and the staff there were lovely, invited us in and offered to look through their old admissions books to see if they could find his records. Unfortunately they couldn’t because a lot of their old records had been destroyed by a flood, but we appreciated them taking the time to look for us.

We met our Aunt and cousin on their way into town. They took us on a bit of a tour of the area, including showing us the house our Dad was born in. Not the same one as he’d said. We think we believe our Aunt’s account simply because she was older when he was born and ought to know where she’d lived.

We had a lovely afternoon with her and our cousin in town, and then met up with another cousin and his wife, before waiting half an hour for a bus that was running very late because ‘we’re busy and the timetable is ****’.

It was great to see our Aunt for the first time in almost 20 years and it was sad to have to leave. There’s so much more I’d like to have asked about my Dad. And I’d love to get to know her better – she’s the only sibling either of our parents have.

She was quite adamant that Lil Sis looked like Dad and I didn’t look like anyone. I was kicking myself on the way back for forgetting to show Bear to her. I’d love to know if she had any stories about him, or if she even remembered him.

I must remember to send her a fridge magnet from home. She has a collection that rivals mine. (I’ve added to mine quite a lot this last couple of weeks.)

More history

More history
Eastbourne, United Kingdom

Eastbourne, United Kingdom


We don’t have amy plans for the rest of our trip. There are a few things on the ‘nice to see list’ and we might get to them, but really we want to spend time with our aunt and cousin and find out a bit more about our father.

Today we decided to go to the the Eastbourne Heritage Centre, to see what we could find. Before we went there, we went for a stroll down the road to find St John’s Church in Meads, which is where our father was baptised. He said he was unsure why he would have been baptised there, as Meads was the wealthier area of Eastbourne and his family hadn’t lived there.

We found the church easily enough, and discovered it had been a victim of bombing in May 1942, with only the tower surviving. It was restored in 1960, so the church we saw wasn’t the actual building our father had been baptised in. However I contacted the Eastbourne Library and the staff in the history centre were able to find some old pictures of the church for me, so at least we know what it looked like.

After visiting St John’s we went to the Heritage Centre, only to find it didn’t open until 2pm. So we wandered round the town and found Lil Sis a frock to wear out to dinner for our aunt’s birthday party tonight. There are heaps of charity shops here, and they have a lot of really good clothes, and she found a couple of nice dresses. I found a scarf.

Unfortunately I spent most of the charity shop tour engaged in a huge coughing fit – you know the type where you get a tickle in your throat, and you cough, and that irritates the tickle and you cough more and you can’t stop and you go really red in the face and tears are streaming down your face and you’re expecting the health authorities to pick you up and put you in quarantine for a month. Yeah, that. Unpleasant.

We made our way back to the Heritage Centre and we were a bit early, so we had lunch at the ice cream parlour across the road. Lunch. Of the sweet, frozen kind. As you do.

The opening of the Heritage Centre was beset by drama and mishap, and 40 minutes after the advertised opening time, we were able to go in. The ground floor has some interesting pictures of the development of the town and the upper floor has an exhibition about Eastbourne in World War II. This was the part that interested us most, as this is when our father was here – well actually he wasn’t; he was evacuated in July 1940 with a lot of other children. Originally Eastbourne was one of the places children from London were evacuated to – our Dad’s family even hosted one – but this changed later in 1940 when the bombs started falling on Eastbourne.

Eastbourne was the most bombed southern coastal town in England during World War II and, while many people evacuated, many stayed on to keep the town running.

You wouldn’t know it to see the town now, but the photos of the devastation at the time were pretty harrowing. Because I don’t know the place well, it was hard for me to imagine what it would have been like.

We asked at the Heritage Centre if they knew of a particular address that Dad said was the house he was born in. They didn’t know, but referred us to the library to have a look in the old street directories. That’s a job for tomorrow. We spent the rest of the afternoon with our aunt and cousin, before going back to the hotel to get changed.

One of us looked swanky and gorgeous, the other one looked barely passable. I’ll let you decide which was which.

It was a fun night and we met some more relatives. The less said about my heroic attempt at rescuing a bottle of wine that ended up in the birthday girl wearing the contents of my glass the better.

Pevensey Castle

Pevensey Castle
Pevensey, United Kingdom

Pevensey, United Kingdom


FIrst up this morning we spent some time exploring the Eastbourne Pier, which is one of Eastbourne’s most famous sights. It was built in the 1860s and 70s, and the sightseeing tour commentary said it was built so people could go out to sea without getting their feet wet.

It’s about 300 metres long and houses a number of shops and attractions. Sadly the old building closest to the beach was destroyed by a fire a couple of months ago, but they managed to save the rest of the pier and it was reopened last weekend, so we were lucky to be able to see it.

Once we’d looked around the pier, we got on the Hop on Hop off bus to finish off our tour of Eastbourne – today we went east of the pier and back into town again.

Then it was time to continue the family history trail.

Our Dad was a draughtsman in the Royal Engineers Corps, but this wasn’t something I knew growing up. I knew he was good at drawing, a skill that bypassed me, but I didn’t know the use he had put this skill to.

He left a folio of his drawings, which included some drawings of Pevensey Castle near Eastbourne. So we thought it would be nice to go and see the castle for ourselves. We mentioned this to our Aunt yesterday. She’d seen the drawing, and thought it was a good idea, but she did say she didn’t think Dad had ever been there.

No matter, we were going.

Pevensey is a very small town a short bus ride out of Eastbourne. We successfully caught our first English bus.

The castle was originally a Roman fort built in about 290AD and was used by the Normans in around 1066 and they added to the original Roman structure. We heard stories about the castle coming under siege several times, and it was abandoned in the 16th century and fell into disrepair. Its most recent use was in World War II, when the surrounding area was considered to be a potential target area for a German invasion.

One of the pictures that Dad drew was dated 1957, so we think it’s possible he did go to the castle, because he left England for New Zealand in 1957. He could have gone there before he left and done the drawings – or maybe he did them on the boat journey. I guess it doesn’t really matter – we’ve seen the original now, and the drawings are pretty good.

We tried to work out where they might have been done, and take the same photo. We got close but it wasn’t an easy thing to figure out.

The white cliffs of Eastbourne

The white cliffs of Eastbourne
Beachy Head, United Kingdom

Beachy Head, United Kingdom


As on our first day in London, we decided to use our first day in Eastbourne to explore the city a bit with the Hop on Hop off bus tour. The tour goes along the seafront, then up to Beachy Head and does a lap around the road through the Sussex Downs and the town of East Dean and back into town and back along the seafront.

Lil Sis was keen to see the white cliffs around Beachy Head and Birling Gap. These are much the same as the white cliffs of Dover, and of many other areas along the south coast of England. These cliffs are continuously retreating due to a natural process of erosion and rock falls, which is always exposing new white chalk, which gives the cliffs their renowned white colouring.

The rate of erosion averages about a metre per year, and the tour commentary said in one recent year almost 7 metres of cliff was lost in some areas. Apparently the erosion happens in fits and starts rather than being a gradual process.

The authorities have decided that they won’t do anything to the area, and will let nature take its course. This includes not protecting any buildings that are close to the cliff face – basically once the cliff retreats so close to a building as to make it unsafe, the building will be demolished.

To quote the visitor guide – ‘Change here is inevitable, and adapting to it rather than trying to hold back the tide is the best way to secure a sustainable future for people and wildlife.’

It’s a bit surreal. There is a series of photos in the Visitor Centre showing how much the cliff at Birling Gap has receded over the past 100 years, and how many buildings have been lost.

After a slight hiccup, we got off the bus at the Beachy Point Visitor Centre and walked up to the track that follows the edge of the cliff. The first thing we noticed was the lack of fencing around the cliff edge and the very few signs that warned of ay danger. I guess this is because they’d have to move the fence every couple of years, and they assume that people are sufficiently aware of the danger of getting to close to the edge of an unstable cliff to keep a safe distance.

The first point of interest was the Beachy Head lighthouse. It’s actually on the beach rather than being on top of the cliffs like you might think a lighthouse would be. The reason for this is that the older lighthouse, Belle Toute, at the top of the cliff, used to get so obscured by fog that ships didn’t see it. Not a particularly useful lighthouse then.

The other interesting thing about Belle Tout is that it was in danger of being a victim of cliff erosion and they went to the trouble of moving it back 17 metres from the cliff in 1999. By my calculations, this gives it an expected lifespan in the new location of 17 years, which will run out in 2016. Whether they’re going to move it again, no one said.

We continued on the track past Belle Toute to Birling Gap, Here there is a visitor centre, a row of houses and steps down to the beach. I feel a bit sorry for the row of houses, because some have already been demolished and you can see the patching of the side wall of the house that is now closest to the cliff, and you wonder how much longer that house has left.

Once we’d walked down to the pebble beach and had a close up look at the cliffs, we caught the bus back to town (eventually), and it was time to visit our Aunt.

We had a fun afternoon and dinner with her and our youngest cousin.

The sunniest place in the UK

The sunniest place in the UK
Eastbourne, United Kingdom

Eastbourne, United Kingdom


After a week in London, it was time to move on. It hardly seems like a week ago that we arrived in England and had our first meal at an English pub. It seems like so much longer than that. We’ve done so much and seen so many things, yet barely scraped the surface.

After getting a minor hiccup with our next hotel reservation sorted, we checked out of the Imperial Hotel in Bloomsbury. We had to get to Victoria Station for our train to Eastbourne, and decided that the best way to do this with luggage would be without having to change tube services. So rather than walk the couple of blocks to Russell Square Station and have to change onto the Victoria line, we got a cab to Kings Cross Station so we only had to get on one train. It was £10 well spent.

The cab driver might have muttered something like ‘feels like you’ve got a house in there’ as he helped us get our luggage out of the cab, and we’re still not sure why the bags are suddenly 5kg heavier than when we arrived. I just hope I’m not 5kg heavier.

The train to Eastbourne was with Southern Rail, and it took about an hour and a half. Somewhere along the way it started to rain, and I wondered if finally I might get some use out of the extravagant purchase that was my travel coat. I packed for cooler weather and possible rain, neither of which have eventuated. I have way too many cool weather clothes and nowhere near enough warm weather ones. Who’d have thought.

We arrived in Eastbourne just before midday and took another cab to our hotel. First cab on the rank rule applies here, as we found when we thought we’d take the second-in-line van for our luggage, rather than the sedan at the front. It fitted easily though, so we were fine.

We have a beautiful sea view room, and the hotel feels very swanky. I feel very under-dressed.

I think if you add my and Lil Sis’ ages together you might get the average age of the guests here.

Unlike our London hotel, this one has a fridge in the room, and it even has a library. There are small bowls of sugar cubes on the table in the bar complete with little tongs. It’s a bit posh!

We can see the Eastbourne Pier from our window – part of this burnt down a couple of months ago, which is sad, as this is one of Eastbourne’s iconic attractions. I believe the rest of the pier was re-opened to the public on the weekend, so we should be able to go and have a look.

Our first stop after checking in was the Rainbows Launderette in Seaview Road (the road doesn’t actually have a sea view). The man there was lovely and very helpful and I give this place the thumbs up. While our washing was washing, we walked through the town to the Visitor Centre to pick up some brochures. Eastbourne seems to be one of those places where there’s the tourist centre (aka the beachfront, with its row of massive hotels) and the town centre which is the real world.

Right now we’re in the bar looking out over the beach, sampling the different beers. The WiFi is a lot better here than in our rooms (the receptionist asked if we wanted WiFi when we got here, adding ‘you look like the type of people who do’ – I guess pulling out the iPad to give her our reservation details gave that away), so sadly I might be spending a lot of time here.

I’m very sad about this.

Cheers.