MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
Day starts so well, with best coffee yet and a free Telegraph. Then I discover my passport is missing! Of woe is me. Where the hell did I leave it? I made an appointment with Australia House to get a new one, then, as a last resort, phoned the Prince of Wales pub at Kensington, where I had a couple of ales yesterday. It is there!!! Polish barmaid has kept it for me after an elderly lady rescued it from the floor, after it fell from my jacket. I give the barmaid 20 pounds and she is embarrassed to take it. Lovely lady. Drive south to Findon in West Sussex, via busy Lindfield – school finishing, and a wake at Brent Arms pub. Our room at Findon Manor is named after race horse, Ginevra. There is a wake at our hotel as well. Turns out there is one every day, given there is a crematorium just up the road. Drinks in Snooty Fox Bar where we run into former Independent ‘pollie’ from Queensland, Liz Cunningham and her husband, John, who looks like my late father-in-law, Kevin Donnelly’s mate, Gilly Cole. Also looks like Sir Les Patterson. Liz and John are heading to Cornwall. John doesn’t have much time for one or two columnists at The Courier-Mail.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8
Breakfast beside Sydney couple, who tell me Craig Farrugia (ex Roosters and Wynnum-Manly forward) has died running the water for Tweed Heads in a match at Tugun on the Gold Coast. He was only 54.
Marie and I walk to iron age fort, Cissbury Ring, eating wild blackberries on the way. Great views. Drive to Arundel, dodging an horrendous traffic jam by detouring via Littlehampton and Climping Beach. Walk in the countryside near classic Amberley village.
Dinner at ‘The Gun’ pub, Findon, where an unkempt blonde talks about her forthcoming trip to Majorca.
Back to Snooty Fox where there is an ‘old farts’ get-together, and Marie and I are invited into the inner circle, in particular talking to Neil Waterfall and Mike Stokoe. Neil is 65, but looks younger.
WEDNESDAY. SEPTEMBER 9
To Ambersham looking for polo action. Found the fields, but no action. Morning tea stop at Medhurst, where the war memorial includes an Afghanistan casualty – David O’Connor, a Royal Marine killed, along with a female medic. Drive south to Singleton (where I took my 1990 Kangaroo tour group for a walk around the Weald and Downs open air museum) and we trek the Levin Down circuit. One drink at lovely ‘Fox Goes Free’ pub at Charlton, looking up towards Goodwood where grandstands are in place for a classic cars event. Shooters populate the fields below Goodwood. Part of an episode of Dr Who was filmed at pub.
To ‘The Village’ pub for dinner back at Findon, where we have drinks with Neil Waterfall and his mate, Chris Reed. Publican was in Australia in 1966 and particularly remembers the six o’clock swill. (Google it). Four young blokes near us talk geometry, as you do in a pub. They would not have lasted long at the swill!!
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
Head to Bridport in Dorset and stop at Wareham for a leg stretch, then through Purbeck Hills to to very busy Lulworth Cove, where a ‘wedding’ is being set up on the green, mainly people of Indian appearance.
Our Bridport apartment is like a canal boat, but still nice. Proprietors are off to London for the weekend, for a show at Barbican. Drinks at Woodman Inn, then the George, where we talk to Pierre, who says he is ex-MI5. He stayed at Sebel in Sydney years ago. He is sworn to secrecy re., his working days.
Men of League magazine carries tributes to deceased Reg Austin (OAM), David Barnhill Snr., Ken Stonestreet and Ron Boden. Ron, who toured Britain, France and Italy with the 1959-60 Kangaroos, lived at Taree when I played for Wingham, and I remember him reading the gospel at Mass in the Catholic Church. He played for Queensland from the Toowoomba club competition, but is best known in New South Wales as a Parramatta player.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
Drive the coastal route to Weymouth, stopping at pretty Burton Bradstock along the way. The Kings Arms, where I enjoyed fresh prawns with a pint on the Weymouth waterfront in 1982, is now for lease, and is part of the Heinekin empire. We have lunch (seafood chowder and a crab bap) at Red Lion, opposite the old brewery, which was still operating in ’82. One of the yachts in the harbour is Tumbarumba, named after the Snowy Mountains town in New South Wales. We return to Bridport along the lane ways of the Black Downs and Valley of the Stones. Marie buys rib fillet from R J Balson and Sons in Bridport, a butcher shop that is celebrating its 500th year of operation. To Tanner’s Sports Bar, where we watch ‘highlights’ of Australia’s cricket Test loss to England in Leeds. Yorkshire, coached by Australian, Jason Gillespie, are English county champions. Then to ‘Ropemakers’ where they have live music and meat tray raffles. We get a free CD featuring local musos. Talk to a Kiwi, who says he cant go back to New Zealand. Wouldn’t tell us why.
SATURDAY. SEPTEMBER 12
St Swithuns band plays at Bridport street market. Buy lovely Somerset strawberries. Why can’t Australian strawberries taste that good? Country drive, including a stop to watch cricket on the green at Cattistock. Great views from Eggardon Down. I go to Brewery Field in the afternoon, but the rugby has finished. Cross over to St Mary’s Field for the last 10 minutes of the FA Cup soccer qualifier between Bridport and Larkhall. Locals lose 5-2. Crowd 120.
At Tanner’s Bar a young band plays Beatles and Kinks songs. At the ‘Ropemakers’, Rockabilly has the locals up and dancing.
Double dose of sad news today. Our youngest son, Lliam texts to say the father of one of his good mates, Hugh Wilson, has passed away from cancer. Only diagnosed a fortnight ago. Originally from Laidley in the Lockyer Valley, he was just 67.
And Kevin Soward, a brother of my wife’s brother-in-law, Neville Soward, has passed away while on holiday in Germany. He was 78.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
A lovely few hours at Forde Abbey house and gardens near Chard in Somerset, including garden vegetable soup for lunch. We drive there and back through amazing country lanes, stopping at Talbot Arms at Uplyme in Devon for a pint. The pub is decked out in rugby union World Cup merchandise. Next stop, Charmouth, for a walk along the fossil beach. Back at Bridport we have drinks at traditional Dorset ale house, ‘Tiger Inn’, followed by dinner at Olive Tree Restaurant. Home via ‘The George’ where ‘Custer’s last Blues band’ is providing good jazz. The lead singer is 80.
Learn of the death of former Queensland State of Origin team manager, Keith Welsh, who was also a Redcliffe and South Queensland Crushers stalwart. Prominent journalist, John Crook also has died. John was one of Australia’s top travel writers. Marie and I met him while staying at cottages in Queensland’s Blackall Range many years ago.