James’s end of the World in 2012

Well Hello one and All

From Sydney Australia – well not quite – from Woy Woy NSW. Yes really……

and for those who I have not been much in touch with this year, my apologies and my regrets. Finally, here is an update and boy, it has been a year (or two) full of change and exciting upheavals:Image!

No – I have not become a born-again Mormon preacher, neither am I rehearsing for The Crucible (a play, incidentally, which if I never saw again, would be too soon!).

No – I shall be appearing en plein air come the Autumn (UK Spring) in a theatrical event celebrating and reenacting something about the building of the Great North Road (from Sydney to the Hunter Valley). Built entirely by hand, using Convict labour for 10 years  in the 1820s and 1830s it was redundant as it was completed, due to the discovery of steam transportation which meant paddle steamers. So the road was largely unused and is in great shape. I shall expand on that in another Blog!

So, as ever I digress : the sun has returned today, after what they say was the wettest Christmas in memory. certainly it rained solidly from Christmas Eve in the afternoon till the night-time on Christmas Day!  Which made travelling for Xmas lunch a touch dreary, but on the other hand, our water tank – where we collect rain water for the garden etc. and which was 2/3 empty – is now completely full.

I am living here:

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288 Burge Road  Woy Woy 2256 NSW.   I attach a few more shots, with no apologies. I am inordinately proud of the fact that I am looking after a proper garden and am actually growing tomatoes, peas and pumpkins – from seed! Something I have never attempted and – as you will see – the tomatoes at least are coming along well. So, a couple more shots of the front and rear “gardens” – though we use the term loosely. Tis mostly sandy soil, paving and bricks, though I have cleared a little space or two for lawn at the back, which will be turfed very soon.

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Now to the back :

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This is looking across at my little ‘Granny” flat – the next a reverse shot showing where there will be lawn and also the rear carport, featuring a semi-shot of Brenda’s new electric tricycle!!

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And last but not least, my veggie and duck garden! The previous owner here had something of a passion for stone ducks and for weeks after moving in, I was finding ducks behind stones, under plants and all over. I decided that they should be en famille, so to speak and this is the sunniest corner of the back yard, hence it is also perfect for tomatoes – please take a moment to admire them. You can’t see the peas or pumpkin – yet.Image

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I surprised myself with the erection of this self-made A frame to support the tomatoes – forgive an old geezer’s indulgence!!

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Anyway, the earlier Blogs came to a fairly sudden close back in January this year when I returned from Napier (NZ) to make my last Visa renewal, and there were no problems when I returned to Oz.  I see I started to Draft Blog in June and got side-tracked (too much going on) so I must bring you up to speed – and explain what has been going on.

The first and biggest news – if you haven’t already heard – is that I plan now to stay in Australia for the foreseeable future.  I have been living since I arrived (May 2011) with an old and dear friend – Brenda Lea – no, not the singer, for those old enough to remember her, and “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Anyway, she was Brenda Lee and is older even than Brenda and me!

Brenda and I were at Drama School in Sidcup, suburban London sooo long ago it hurts (Ok, mid 1970s) and have been best buddies ever since, though she couldn’t work acting in the UK and i couldn’t in Oz. But we kept in  touch, I did go first to Oz in the mid 80s with a play and we always joked that when we reached our dotage (and we have!) we should hitch our wagons together and ride off into the sunset. Unless of course, we had someone else to do that with by then.

Well we didn’t and we have. Hitched the wagons, metaphorically that is, but not yet ridden into the sunset, but moved to Woy Woy. And settled into companionship, support and mutual admiration (hmm, sometimes).

After I had been living with Brenda for a year we applied for a Sponsor Visa which was granted in September so now I am allowed to stay and to work.  It is called a “temporary” Visa but on the assumption that nothing will have changed in two years time, it will become “Permanent” more of less straightforwardly. Three years later Citizenship is a possibility.

Well, if that has come as a surprise to you – imagine what it did to me and to Brenda.  Fate, God, the Furies, the devil’s sense of humour certainly can come up with some unexpected events.  You know, I realised in retrospect that when I first came here in 1985 my heart told me to stay. But my head told me I still had stardom, fame and fortune waiting back “home” so back I went. Somewhere along the line those goals eluded me and though I came and went again several times, it took 25 years for the fates to properly align again!! I can highly recommend going with the flow (in fate’s terms).

GardenXmas2012 014This is Brenda about to take our little foundling poodle – Rimsky – for a walk tonight. She will NOT thank me for the shot where (if you look closely) she is wearing her “poodle patterned” casual slacks!!

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Woy Woy lies on Brisbane Water – a large inlet from the ocean into the Hawkesbury River,  50 miles or so north of Sydney. It is a quiet backwater – if you visited me at Seaford  before I left England, it would not feel so different. Architectural styles nothwithstanding, it is a little run-down – too many charity shops, too many old dears (I suppose that includes me and Bren now!)  Too many low-income kids with their own kids. But people are nice enough and it is about the same travel time from Sydney as (say) Brighton is from London. And this little house is a better proposition in terms of space and location than would be the case were we closer to the City centre.

Spike Milligan’s parents retired here – there is even a footbridge over the water named in his honour – though I doubt many current residents would have any idea who he was! The Goon Shows are so far in the past, even I heard about them from an older generation! Though I often wonder if some of the place names around here inspired him:

Woy Woy is aboriginal and may mean Big Lagoon! Then there is Mooney Mooney,  Tumbi Umbi, Ku-Ring-Gai and Wyong.  Though we also have Blackwall – named for the Thameside suburb, Brooklyn and Copacabana!  There’s even a little place called Tascott – which took its name from the first owner of the land – called Thomas Alison Scott!  Rumoured to be the first man in Oz to grow sugar cane.  Sweet.

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This is a random “bush” photo taken a little inland – typical of the wild and woody nature of what surrounds all the cities in this SE corner of the continent. It would have looked much like this when the first Europeans arrived.

One of the most fascinating things about Australia is that, whilst the powers-that-be in London considered it a Penal Colony, the first few Governors and many of the free immigrants took a different and more humane view. Though you might well have been transported here (often for a very petty offence), the application of hard work and perseverance could lead you not only to freedom but to a grant of land and eventually the sort of comfort that would never have been possible back in the motherland. There are a myriad stories of forgers becoming eminent managers of the Mint, convicts becoming Police Chiefs and female convicts becoming Bank founders!!

I am absorbed and intrigued by much of it and – if it interests you, I recommend you read The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, a first rate modern re-examination of the journey out and the realities of coming here.  And for a contemporary and on-the-spot report written by a young Marine officer who arrived with the First Fleet in 1788, but saw the land and the native residents with reality and humanity, search for ‘A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay’ by Watkin Tench. I will happily lend a copy to anyone really keen.

So now I can work and I have fossicked around and retrieved some of the many hats I have worn over recent years.   Event and exhibition work has been coming my way – largely as an MC and/or Compere introducing and bantering with the stars of a popular TV show and live event called Better Homes & Gardens (think Ideal Home Show) and Masterchef – a version which you have in the UK too.

In addition I have registered with acting and extra agencies and have managed a few paid jobs and several small independent films so far. Paradoxically, both the first two jobs featured booze (beer and then Wild Turkey bourbon respectively) which will amuse those who know how much booze I ingest these days!!  then i have been an irascible school-teacher, an old letcher (don’t ask!), a wedding guest and of course (the highlight of my acting year) –  Santa Claus for the delight of the kids in a posh North Sydney suburb (think Golders Green). Think Debenhams and you’d get an idea of my actual work location though.

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My cousin Jim Sweeney summed it up with the comment that it was ‘a part you were born to play” confusing Santa, I think with Ebenezer Scrooge in his dotage! Though to my surprise and delight, I think I may be becoming Scrooge AFTER the various visitations; you know the one that actually likes Tiny Tim!  Tell that to the old JC!

(Sorry for the bedroom shot, incidentally; the shot was taken at a highly secret extra appearance by special request at Brenda’s family Christmas do where the various great-nephews and nieces were completely boggled to have a real live Santa of their own!) Left to my own devices I would have posted the entire costume and “Santa Belly” back to its owners by now.

Otherwise, I have been fortunate in creating a little network of Poodle owners who live in very nice places and travel quite often, needing someone efficient and safe to manage the house and the dear doggies. Step forward that qualified English Butler Mr JC. I offer a couple of snaphots of locations: one with stunning Sydney views, the other more northerly (close in fact to the suburb where Santa appeared!).

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This suburb is called Killara:

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But I can’t find a picture of the house – so I offer instead a Lunch held there for an old friend – Miguel – before he returned to Europe. Also present: Brenda of course, my old artist pal Steven from Canberra (now), Graham (a fantastic zoologist friend – his partner Debra is on the camera!).

There are more plans for further house/dog sitting at both locations in the New Year and I am working on widening the contacts list. There’s a lot of competition from the so-called ‘grey nomads’  (look that up!) who will house-sit for free, whereas my comprehensive services have a cost! Luckily my word-of-mouth recommendations work well enough.

As I said at the start, I am involved with an exciting theatre project in a few months which you can read about soon on a further blog.

But for now, as December 27th draws to a close here (and a Happy Birthday to one of my oldest friends, Marilyn in the Orkneys), I shall also draw this blog to a close.

The adventure continues. I hope to be back in the UK sometime in 2013 – there are (inevitably) things to sort and various possessions to be sold off, or passed to deserving causes! Watch out for a good garage sale too!

In the meantime – I wish you all as exciting, stimulating, scary and fulfilling year in 2013 as this year has been. With love and all good wishes.

JC

j5DONEoo-er, missus………

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3 responses to “James’s end of the World in 2012

  1. Chuffed to pieces to see your blog – and what wonderful news it carries, too! So fulfilling and lovely and as I sit here in dreary Shoreditch looking out over “silicone roundabout” you have reminded me that the best is yet to come! Happy New Year and keep ’em coming. G xxx

    PS my own blog ground to a halt for much the same reasons as yours, but as I am no longer middeagingdisgracefully (too damn tired) it is undergoing a wholesale refurbishment! doing some writing meantime for platform505.com

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