Don’t Mention The Weather

We were on a college summer camp on Rottnest Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, well only 18 kilometres from Fremantle, Western Australia, but one of the girls had to be airlifted off by helicopter as she had heatstroke. Happy days – when we emigrated to Australia in 1964 nobody worried about skin cancer or staying hydrated. Fortunately my parents were aware the sun was hot. Dad was out in Egypt after WW2 before he was demobbed and told of ’idiots’ being stretchered out with third degree burns after sun bathing. Fortunately my parents avoided the beach after being taken to Scarborough Beach by our sponsors on our first day in Australia. Huge waves and hot sand did not appeal and we went to pleasant shady spots by the River Swan.

My novel Quarter Acre Block was inspired by our first year in Australia.

Unfortunately school outings were gloriously free of sun hats and sun lotion and I recall an early outing when we spent the whole day on the beach and next day my nose peeled and bled! Outings with youth groups on hot days were often followed by me feeling sick the next day; setting off without any money and probably a picnic with a plastic bottle of cordial, I obviously didn’t drink enough. At school we did have plenty of water fountains, I didn’t spend my whole time dehydrated, but my sister recalls that if you were thirsty when you were out you stayed thirsty. I’m sure other people were buying bottles of coke and cool drinks of lurid colour, but we were not.

Sun and shade in Western Australia.

Our current heatwave has brought endless dire warnings of the dangers of going out – or staying inside homes not designed to cope with hot weather. Modern parents never let their children out without a bottle of water, but they should not panic – if Prince George could sit in the heat of Wimbledon dressed in a jacket and tie there is no need to pamper children.

How is the weather where you are?

Into Infinity

Grand Prix, everyday traffic – noise and pollution, I hate it, bring back the horse.

…but put big fuel guzzling engines up in the skies and I love them, carbon footprints forgotten.

I don’t fly often, perhaps if I did the novelty would wear off, but for me a trip abroad begins the moment the cabin floor starts to slope upwards and the engines blast into full power. A window seat and clear sky provide the fascination of identifying landmarks, but if the plane ascends through heavy cloud cover there is still the fun of being up in a fluffy heaven.


My first ever flight was across the world, when we emigrated to Australia. My novel ‘Quarter Acre Block’ was inspired by our experiences; in that story none of the Palmer family had flown before, but in real life my father had been a flight engineer in WW2. He was determined we would fly rather than sail out. I have flown across the world a few times since then, but perhaps more exciting was my shortest ever trip, flying in a light aircraft from Jandacot, Perth, Western Australia across twelve miles of Indian Ocean to Rottnest Island – real flying.

But mostly I have been on the ground looking up. At Farnborough Air Show, as children, we would marvel as jets flew silently by, followed several moments later by their sound.


Years later, living very near Heathrow Airport, we would spot four planes in the sky at a time coming into land, at night like ‘UFO’ lights. But the aeroplane we never tired of watching or hearing was Concorde. If many Concordes had been built and flown the noise would have been unbearable, but the two flights a day were an event; teachers in local schools would stop talking at eleven a.m., working in an airside passenger lounge with a great view of the runway, we watched her take off like a graceful bird. On winter evenings I would dash out of the kitchen into the garden to see her glowing afterburners soaring up. Alas poor Concorde…


The end of August brings the Bournemouth Air Festival, now in its eleventh year. If you don’t like the noise, are not interested in aeroplanes and live near the cliff top, there is no opting out, unless you go on holiday. Roads are closed, there are diversions, daily routine is disrupted as over a million visitors come over the four days. But this does not affect me. With visitors coming I have no intention of going anywhere except the kitchen, local shops and the sea front.


The longer the journey your visitors have made and especially if it is their first visit to the Air Festival, the more likely it is to rain. But with the festival spread over four days there is always some good flying weather. The cliff tops make ideal viewing and the beach is crowded. You can book a place on board a boat, but if the weather turns rough you are stuck out at sea! There are hospitality tents and deals at cliff top hotels with balconies.


It all starts tomorrow, so in next week’s blog I’ll fill you in on the highlights and weather, with hopefully some photographs.


Today is ANZAC day and what better way to mark it than with these poignant words from a special guest blogger. In the first of an occasional series my Sister Down Under writes about a unique island.

A Very Humble Monument   by Kate Doswell

Some thoughts for ANZAC day   25th April, 2018.



I’m not sure what it’s like in other Commonwealth countries, but in Australia we take our war memorials very seriously, and rightly so. “Lest We Forget” is inscribed on most of them, and as we read down the long, alphabetical lists of names, we are reminded of the truly terrible cost of war. Even in tiny outback towns, the list seems far too long, far too many of the youngest and strongest of the community taken from those that are left behind to carry on.

Most of these monuments are made of stone, imposing obelisks in bluestone or limestone or granite, depending on where they are situated. They are usually in the centre of town. Running around the monument and integral to its form is a ledge wide enough to sit on. People may sit and contemplate awhile, or simply pass by on their daily business or as a visitor to the town. How many, I wonder, stop and read the names and wonder at the fate of these lost men? Do the locals become so used to it that they just pass by?


However, not all monuments are as striking or as prominent, and last week I found one that was truly humdrum. It was on the Island of Rottnest, 20 km from the West Australian Port of Fremantle. For many years this Island has functioned as a much loved holiday playground for the people of Western Australia, and the tourists who come to our isolated part of the world. It has a rather grand Roman Catholic church high on a hill, but the Anglican church is represented by a much older, but more modest chapel of limestone and whitewashed render.



I visited the chapel late in the day, as there were other tourist activities that had claimed my attention. The door was stiff to open, and the interior gathering the gloom of the impending sunset, so the first thing I noticed was the distinctive smell of very old (to our European Australian eyes) limestone buildings from the early settlement era. Above the altar, I could see a simple, but attractive stained glass window depicting The Annunciation. Turning from there I looked at the pews, some thought to have been made by the Aboriginal Prisoners for whom this Island acted as a prison for 60 years. There were brass plaques on the wall in memory of various European families who had played important roles in the Island’s history, but the one that caught my eye was one on the door of a storage cupboard at the back of the chapel. It looked relatively new – certainly not crafted by the Aboriginal men in the 18th century – and I guessed it had been built and installed after the chapel was reconsecrated in 1965. It was utilitarian – capacious and solidly built but without ornament or distinctive features. Except for the plaque. A simple paper notice, its words carefully handwritten in Old English script, and framed with a plain wooden frame, so small it could be covered by two hands.

“This cabinet is dedicated to the memory of those Rottnest Islanders who served their country in times of war and peace.”

I have never seen such a monument before, if I can even use the word monument. Is this the only place in the Commonwealth to have such a homely reminder of the dead?







I didn’t open the cupboard, I had no business to do so, but I imagined it containing vestments for the visiting priest, the chalice and paten, hymn books and orders of service, all the paraphernalia of a functioning chapel. I thought of those remembered by this most humble of monuments, and wondered if they would have been disappointed, aggrieved, or even angry that they had nothing grander built in their memory? But then again, maybe they would have been pleased that, having it placed on an object that was in regular use for the worshipers, they would readily and frequently come to people’s minds. These people, no doubt, would have attended this chapel, maybe some even came in the week before they left to sail away to war. Now, each time someone opens the cupboard and sees that little plaque, they are back here again. Back home to stay.




Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.