New Zealand: finally reaching Christchurch

It is not a good idea to travel on a bank holiday weekend if you can avoid it and certainly not one that is also the start of a half term holiday for a large part of England. We booked this trip many months ago and I cannot quite remember why we chose this weekend to fly out to New Zealand for a month. The weekend and holiday crowds were not really a problem. The thing that put the spanner in the works was the massive global IT failure experienced by British Airways. We had got to the airport fairly early on the day we were due to leave and problems only became apparent as the time progressed. Flights before ours had not left and a disaster was unfolding at Heathrow and across the world. Eventually we were told to reclaim our bags, go home and rebook the following day. It was fairly easy for us to take a train and taxi home and sleep in our own bed rather than on the floor of Terminal 5 at Heathrow in the chaos there. I had tried via the website, app and calling the airline to rebook as they had cancelled two of the four flights we were to take. That was all unsuccessful and it was apparent that it was going to take several days for things to return to any semblance of normality so we had to book alternative flights so that we could get there only a day later than planned.

We arrived mid-afternoon. Our last flight, from Brisbane to Christchurch was only three hours. As we got closer to New Zealand, the clouds thickened but as we descended, the mountains appeared and then the Canterbury plain surrounding Christchurch. After so many hours in transit, we dumped our luggage at the hotel and then walked around a little before it got dark. We are very close to Cathedral Square. The 1881 cathedral was badly damaged in the earthquakes, losing it’s spire and a large stained glass window.

The Transitional aka Cardboard Cathedral is currently in use while a battle rages between those who want the original restored and those who wish something new.



There are roadworks and building going on all around with art works helping to fill the gaps. We had planned to spend a day here as the parks, botanic garden, art gallery and museum and wandering by the river would all have been worth doing but the delays mean that will have to wait for another trip.

24 hours in Liverpool


For once, our journey to Liverpool was not for work but pleasure. James is a Bob Dylan fan and I had managed to get tickets for his Liverpool night in his current UK tour. We arrived in the morning as for some time I had wanted to visit the Anglican Cathedral with my 1927 guidebook. The Diocese of Liverpool was not founded until 1880 as previously it had been part of Lichfield and then Chester Dioceses. Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned to design the building at the age of 22 in 1902. By 1910 the Lady Chapel had been built and consecrated. Although work did not cease completely during the First World War, fund-raising had not been as successful as hoped and was limited to preventing what had already been built from deteriorating due to the weather. It was still under construction when my guidebook was published and it was not until 1942 that the central tower was completed and the first bells rang in 1951. We wandered around admiring the mix of the sacred with modern art. Here is the west window with a Tracey Emin installation below it.

Charles Lutyen’s Sculpture from wood ‘Outraged Christ’

The Lady Chapel is beautiful

and the Children’s Chapel has a Craigie Aitchison painting

Sadly no-one was playing the organ

You can climb to the top of the tower to see the view but I left that for another time. After a coffee in the mezzanine cafe we headed back down the hill past the entrance to China Town.

Along Bold Street I browsed in News from Nowhere, the radical bookshop but nothing grabbed me. I did find two books in Oxfam. The store had a re-vamp last year but still has a large shelf of newly arrived stock unlike any of their other stores that I have been in. Further down the hill, buskers were competing to see who could make the most noise. It was so sunny and warm we could not resist sitting outside with a cold beer for the first time this year before checking into our hotel. Before we could get into the arena, Simply Dylan, a tribute band were playing on the terrace at Jury’s Inn near the arena and quite a large crowd were listening. Nearby is the John Lennon memorial.
The Echo Arena does not allow photography so no photos of Bob in action. He is renowned for not having a support act, not interacting with the audience and just coming on and playing. A friend had said that he always starts on time so we were a little surprised that his start was delayed by people still coming in 15 minutes after the start time. The vast majority of people respected the no photography law with fewer phones flashing than at other events. Afterwards I only had my phone to get an evening shot as we headed back to the hotel.

Dubrovnik: walking the walls and exploring churches

Today was overcast and rain forecast for the afternoon so we set off to walk around the city walls first thing when they are quieter. There are good views over the town and the Adriatic, a few runs of steps to the viewpoints and Minčeta Tower which are good exercise and some spring flowers.



There was a small cafe in the walls providing a welcome espresso and others near the St John Fort and Maritime Museum where we started and finished our circuit. Wandering back along the Stradum I noted that a number of the places we have visited or are about to have been film sets for either Game of Thrones or Star Wars or both and here there are plenty of shops to buy souvenirs. Very few destinations are without an Irish pub and I have seen two of these so far. We had a look in the cathedral where there are some modern paintings depicting the stations of the cross


and then the church of St Blaise which has stained glass windows by Ivo Dulčić.


In the early evening we were wandering around trying to decide where to eat. As we we are a little out of season some places are not open. James was not keen to hang around the harbour until sunset at 19.17 so we headed back towards the centre of town and found a place (Konobo Colosseum) right next to Croatia’s equivalent of the Spanish steps.

A day in Liverpool

Despite working in Liverpool for almost seven years, there are still many sights I have not had the chance to visit so when James announced that he was attending a course there, it was a good opportunity to use some of my hotel points to get us a free night there. As the brief of summer weather had ended by Tuesday evening, we had a wet walk from the hotel to Panoramic 34, a restaurant at the top of a building. The views were indeed extensive and the food very good but as all the windows were covered in rain spots, photography was not an option. We ate our meal watching the Mersey and Isle of Man ferries departing.

This morning, I left James at the course venue and after a coffee, wandered down to the Pier Head to visit the Museum of Liverpool which I had never been in before and which is in a striking building. There were lots of things I had not known before and I learnt a lot about the city I have come to love. The photojournalist Lee Karen Stow, had an exhibition called Poppies: women at war which was very moving as I have had a number of patients who have escaped from war zones in several countries and are seeking asylum in the UK. Much of combat history is devoted to the men who are fighting so this was a refreshing change.

Museum iexterior 11 May 2015-1
Museum interior 11 May 2015-1

Afterwards I took a few photographs around the Pier Head and then visited one of the city’s secondhand bookshops, Kernaghan’s, in the Bluecoat. It was quiet so I had a good chat with the owner, his wife and her father covering caffeine metabolism, the school they used to run in Nepal and trekking in the Himalaya. I bought two books, one by some guys who did an overland trip in a Trabant. Their route covers a lot of the London to Sydney overland route we hope to do in a couple of years so it should be interesting. The other is on American myth, a topic of interest for this summer’s drive.

After lunch, James headed back to his course and I walked up the hill to visit 59 Rodney Street. Edward Chambré Hardman was a 1950s society photographer who lived and worked from the house for many years until his death in 1988. The National Trust have now taken it over and it is a fascinating insight into that era of photography and the Hardman’s lives, as they threw very little away. After the 90-minute guided tour which is a must for anyone interested in photography, I looked in both cathedrals as I had never been in them. I then walked back down Brownlow Hill towards the station, just as all the students were pouring out of the universities. On the short train journey back to Crewe, one of the staff was telling us which end of the first class section to sit in so that we had time to down the drinks and eat before we disembarked.

Hardman House 3 11 May 2015-1
Hardman House 4 11 May 2015-1

Metropolitan Cathedral 11 May 2015-1

A cathedral, palaces and the last beach of the trip

Having visited a small chapel yesterday, our first call today was St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. It is our most northerly cathedral and dates from the 12th century. Nearby are the ruins of the Earl’s and Bishop’s palaces.

St Magnus Cathedral 1 11 June 2015 (1 of 1)

After wandering around town, a couple of art exhibitions and a quick lunch, it was time to head out of town for the last beach walk of this trip. Waulkmill Bay is near to the RSPB reserve on Hobbister Hill we visited a couple of days ago. It is a Site of Special Interest and has some unusual plants which attract insects and many bird visitors. The tide was out and after walking down the cliff-side steps, we were able to wander across the huge expanse of sand. Several oystercatchers were feeding, a family were having a picnic and another couple were walking their dogs. On the way back to the cottage we saw that one farmer had set up a fake raptor as a scarecrow.

Waulkmill Bay 11 June 2015 (1 of 1)Waulkmill Bay 2 11 June 2015 (1 of 1)