First time Perth

My second cruise of 2024 was on the Queen Mary 2 from Fremantle to Sydney, calling in at Adelaide and Melbourne. The two drivers for me booking this cruise were a desire to make another voyage on the QM2 and to fulfil my ambition to visit Perth.

The cruise was leaving Fremantle (Perth’s port) on Saturday February 17th; to have some sightseeing time I flew out to Perth from Melbourne on the preceding Tuesday afternoon. It’s a 4hr 15min flight (2721km/1691mi) and during daylight saving a three-hour time difference.

Since 2022 a rail service has connected the airport and city. I stayed at the Holiday Inn, Perth City Centre, a ten minute walk from the station and right next to the heart of the city. I’d happily stay there again.

My stay coincided with a heatwave. With an eye to the forecast temperatures (on the Thursday the mainland temperature would reach 41.7C/107F) I decided to spend Wednesday in Perth, Thursday on Rottnest Island and Friday in Fremantle. I obviously wasn’t going to see everything and the heat was energy sapping.

Having taken a quick Tuesday evening stroll to get my bearings, I decided to start Wednesday by joining the free Convicts and Colonials guided walk, one of nine volunteer-led walks run by City of Perth. Excellent and informative. Highlights included the Town Hall, Government House and Supreme Court.

Next a short walk to Elizabeth Quay, currently being redeveloped. The walk took me through the extraordinary London Court, a mock Tudor open-air shopping arcade built in the mid-1930s by Western Australian mining entrepreneur Claude Albo de Bernales. As his bio records, he amassed a fortune, lost it all, and died as a recluse in the UK. I went back to visit it several times.

From Elizabeth Quay busport I took the free bus to Kings Park, offering a view over the city centre. The park incorporates the Botanic Gardens but given the heat, I went no further than the entrance. Instead I took the bus back to the city to spend the afternoon in the Western Australia Museum Boola Bardip. The new museum building only opened in 2020.

On leaving I realised that my camera was missing – nowadays I generally take photos on my phone, only using my camera where I need either extremity of the zoom lens, so I wasn’t sure where I’d last seen it. A quick retrace of my steps in the museum failed to locate it. I decided to wait a day to see if it turned up.

Thursday, I took a train to Fremantle, then the Rottnest Express ferry. Rottnest Island is famed for its population of quokkas, small marsupials the size of a cat. You don’t have to look hard to see them. The shops have half-height swing doors to keep them out. Touching or feeding them is prohibited, but more than a few tourists ignore the signs, risking a fine.

Friday morning was spent retrieving my camera. It hadn’t been handed in at the museum or at King’s Park. On calling the bus company’s lost property number I was relieved to be told that they had it – it must have fallen out of my manbag on Wednesday’s bus ride back to the CBD. Collecting it necessitated a train ride to Claisebrook depot, but I was glad to get it back. In future I’ll be more careful!

Then off to Fremantle for the afternoon, visiting the Maritime Museum and the E-shed and 1897 markets. Time only allowed a quick look at the outside of Fremantle Prison, built by convicts In the 1850s, then back to the hotel.

My allotted boarding time for the QM2 was not until mid-afternoon, leaving the morning free. A twenty-minute walk from the hotel along Hay Street took me to Perth Mint. The one-hour tour, including a live gold pour, was well worth the cost.

Then back to the hotel to collect my case and, for the third day in a row, the train to Fremantle. Before too long I was aboard the ship, ready for the three-day sail to Adelaide. Hopefully I’ll be back in Perth at some point and be able to see the things I missed this time.


A cheap DVD player

Do people still buy DVD players? Yes, me, last week!

125 years ago being able to choose what you listened to or watched was an idea yet to happen. Now most listening and viewing is facilitated by streaming services. How did we get here?

Mass-market home entertainment began at the end of the nineteenth century with the mass production of phonographic cylinders. Flat 78rpm records followed (1898), then vinyl records (1948), audio cassettes (1963) and CDs (1982). Now, of course, most people get their music from iTunes, Amazon music and other streaming services.

On the video side, as with audio, streaming services like Netflix are now dominant.  Home video recorders, often only used to play pre-recorded tapes, didn’t appear until the 1970s, spawning video rental shops in most shopping centres. From the late 1990s VHS tapes were replaced by DVDs, then from 2006 Blu-ray disks. Blockbuster started in 1985; at its peak in 2004,it operated 9,094 stores employing 84,300 people worldwide. In 2014 the last company-owned store closed.

When I moved from UK to Melbourne in 2008 I didn’t bring much with me, around 500 books (I disposed of as many again before emigrating), my collection of 70+ souvenir coffee mugs from around the world (places I’d visited), my DVD collection (non Blu-ray) and not much else. Otherwise the plan was to buy everything I needed when I got here.

When it came to choosing a DVD player my choice was limited by needing an all-zone model so I could play my UK (zone 2) and any newly-purchased Australian (zone 4) disks. I found a Sony unit (DVP-NS708HB, just A$120) which has served me well for sixteen years but recently started to throw errors. Removing the cover and blowing out any dust didn’t change things so it was time to look for a new player. Of course I might have taken the old one to a repairer first but that could have meant paying a $50 assessment fee only to be told it was not repairable.

So to my new player. I was quite prepared to spend A$250 for a quality unit. I didn’t need Blu-ray but definitely needed a multi-region player. At one time the likes of Good Guys would have had dozens on display to choose from. No more: streaming has taken over and DVD players have all but disappeared from retail shelves. So off to Amazon where I settled on a Shiwakoto multi-region DVD Player for A$54.98 (UK £29) – if it didn’t deliver it was an amount I could afford to lose.

A couple of days later it arrived. Or did it? The box told me that it contained a Maite PDVD-955 MTDVD-10 Pro player, reassuringly made of ‘strong iron’, features including ‘Flexible controls … even play back‘! Fancy that: a DVD player that plays disks! According to their website, Maite produce more than two million DVDs and other audio products per year; their DVD range extends to 212 models!

Inside the box? The player, remote (no batteries), HDMI and RCA cables and an instruction manual for a Shiwakoto SH-DVP23 MAX, the manual cover picture looking nothing like the actual player. Inside it told me that “this product is guaranteed for six months”, “valid in North America only”. The player was, thankfully, fitted with an Australian plug.

Of course, I wasted no time in connecting it up. All good – the disk that my Sony had refused to load burst into life and I was back in business. Picture quality: I don’t know how a professional technician would assess it, but it’s perfectly acceptable. Of course if I had a mix of standard and Blu-ray disks, I’d no doubt be well aware of the better quality afforded by the latter’s 1920×1080 resolution as compared with standard DVDs (720×576).

If I remember, I’ll report back in a couple of years as to how well this unit is performing. If you’ve got any questions please put them in the comments.

Adelaide 2024

2024 started with two cruises, each of which included a visit to Adelaide.

Cruise one, January, on the Grand Princess, started and ended in Melbourne. Ports visited: Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln in South Australia, then Phillip Island in Victoria.

My trips to Adelaide usually include – not to the surprise of anyone who knows me – a trip to the National Railway Museum at Port Adelaide, but not this time. Instead I took the train from Outer Harbour (next to where cruise ships dock) to Adelaide, then a second train to Belair, 21.5km south.

My interest in Belair goes back to seeing the station and park entrance from the Overland train on earlier trips to/from Adelaide. The railway line and Belair station opened in 1883. Following gauge conversion of one track in 1995 the Belair line is now effectively two parallel single-track lines: the Belair-Adelaide commuter line (still broad gauge, 1600mm) and the standard gauge (1435mm) freight line, also used by the twice-weekly Overland.

The Belair National Park opened in 1891 – the second national park in Australia after Sydney’s Royal Park – and soon up to 1,000 visitors were visiting on weekends and public holidays. In 1893 dedicated picnic trains to Belair station were introduced, met by horse-drawn trolleys to transport passengers into the park. Now of course most visitors arrive by car. For reasons of time, temperature (34C) and a desire not to get lost, my walk in the park went no further than the lake but I enjoyed my time there. Then back to the station and ship.

Cruise two, February, was on the magnificent Queen Mary 2, a ten-night cruise from Fremantle to Sydney. This was one leg of the QM2’s 2024 world cruise. Several hundred of my fellow passengers had joined the ship in New York and would be disembarking there 126 days later! Much too long for me, even if I were able to afford it.

As before I took the train to Adelaide. The station, rebuilt 1926-28, is a magnificent building and is currently being renovated. A short walk through the station leads to the Adelaide Parklands and River Torrens. As luck would have it, the pleasure cruiser Popeye was just about to leave for a sightseeing cruise up and down river so I went aboard. The first Popeye was launched in 1935 and was so popular that three new boats were built between 1948 and 1950. The third fleet, currently in service, was launched in the early 1980s. An interesting trip with an excellent commentary.

Then back to the train, this time breaking my journey at Port Adelaide for a short visit to the railway museum. With the temperature climbing to 35.7C (96F), I was glad of the shade afforded by the museum sheds. The big change from my previous visits is that a new Port Dock railway line is being built to the rear of the museum site, reinstating a line that was there from 1856-1981. The museum occupies the former goods yard. Then back to the ship and on to Melbourne and Sydney.

Given Australian geography affords a limited number of cruise destinations, I’m sure that another cruise will see me back in Adelaide before too long.

Click on a picture to expand/contract it

A day in Port Lincoln

The first of my 2024 cruises – a seven-day cruise on the Grand Princess from Melbourne to South Australia and back – took me to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, places I’ve visited before, then to Port Lincoln, a new place for me. Long settled by Aboriginal people, in 1802, Matthew Flinders named the area after his native county of Lincolnshire in England. From Adelaide it’s a 650km seven-hour drive going round the top of the Spencer Gulf, though just 250km as the crow flies. Or you can just arrive by cruise ship!

Port Lincoln is home to Australia’s largest fishing fleet: tuna, abalone, Spencer Gulf prawns, muscles and oysters are the main catches, much of the harvest going to China and Japan. The city, estimated population about 17,000, is reputed to have the most millionaires per capita in Australia.

The port is quite capable of taking a large ship like the Grand Princess. Above the quay one cannot miss the massive grain handling conveyors and loaders. Ashore the grain silos have a total capacity of around 350,000 tonnes. These days all grain arrives by road train; road trains are not allowed in Port Lincoln when a cruise ship is in port. There have been proposals to rebuild the rail line so that it can handle grain traffic but nothing definite.

The last passenger train ran to Port Lincoln in 1968. The ground floor of the former railway station, built 1926-7, is now the Port Lincoln Railway Museum, opened in 1999. It’s open on Wednesday afternoons, Sunday afternoons during school holidays and all day on cruise ship days like ours, a Friday. Obviously, I took the opportunity to visit.

Princess Cruises offered a number of organised excursions. Most looked expensive to me; for example the ‘Rugged Coastal Discovery’ trip, just over four hours, was A$259.95 (£134) per head. For myself, I took the hour and a half ‘Easy Port Lincoln’ tour, just A$74.95 (£38), a drive round the city passing the fishing harbour with a stop at the Winters Hill lookout. The commentary was excellent.

After a wander round the town centre it was back to the ship and on to Phillip Island.


The road that never was

A rough guess as to the new road route
A rough guess as to the new road route

Back between the wars a new arterial road was planned running from Chessington to Sutton. It was never built but the route was still being safeguarded when I joined RBK in 1974. We had a map of it in the RBK planning office. While I was working there (c.1976?) the safeguarding was lifted but legacies of this plan remain.

The road (see the Sabre roads website Lost Arterial A24 for more detail) entered New Malden just south of the A3 then would have run along what are now Sheephouse Way and the end of South Lane – now you know why they have such generous grass verges. It would then have run across Malden Park and the railway. The line on the map above (from freemap.org) gives a rough idea of the intended route.

Look at the map and you’ll see a green swathe between Pembury Avenue and Risborough Drive. This was left undeveloped in the when Wates developed this area as the Worcester Park Station Estate in the 1930s and is now called Risborough Green. Rumour has it that its elevated ground level is down to the site being used as a dump for WW2 bomb site rubble.

The site between 133 Pembury Avenue and 200 Kingshill Avenue was also set aside for the new road – it’s now been infilled with a block of flats, Primrose Court. The houses on the other side of the road are much newer too.

Hopefully someone reading this knows a lot more about this road than I do. If so, please add a comment.

Sheephouse Way, New Malden - note the verge width
Sheephouse Way, New Malden – note the verge width
Risborough Green, Worcester Park
Risborough Green, Worcester Park
Primrose Court
Kingshill Avenue, Worcester Park
Kingshill Avenue, Worcester Park
Green Lane footpath - this might have been an arterial road
Green Lane footpath – this might have been an arterial road

Wates chalet spotting

Homes with “an exterior of outstanding loveliness”*.

Last month I wrote about Wates-built houses in New Malden, mainly in the area south of the A3 Kingston Bypass. Drive around the side streets and you can’t help noticing all the chalets, most built by Wates. At a quick glance you might think them all the same but not so.

The first chalets in Malden date from c.1932 – they are semi-detached and the roof slopes rise to a common ridge. Pictures (A) and (B) show two variants: I’m fairly sure that (A) with the front facing entrance door is the earlier and (B) with the side facing entrance door and Dutch gable (the small vertical tile-hung triangle at ridge level), later.

What came next – the semi-detached SC chalets or the more common link-detached variant? Once again we really need the RBK archive to tell us. My hunch is that the link-detached came first. Why? The 1935 Wilverley Park brochure offers buyers both options, promoting the semi-detached chalet as ‘New’:

C4 detached 3-bed chalet: “This wonderful Wates Chalet retains the sweeping roof lines which are so charming a feature of Wates original Chalets. Fully Detached with all its accompanying advantages of peace and privacy – a complete absence of ‘neighbour noise’ – the grand feeling that you really ARE in a house of your own – these are considerations which affect your personal comfort as a discerning Homeseeker.
Come and see for yourself the charm of these new wonder Chalets with their wide bays extending right to the eaves, mellow faced brickwork and smooth rendered walls blending into a delightful harmony – the new Wates Detached Chalet representing a standard of unrivalled value in planning, equipment and beauty.

SC3 Semi-detached Chalet: … For many years now Wates have been famed for their Chalets …. The New Semi-detached Chalet retains all the beauty of design, the bold sweeping roof lines and pleasing elevation which characterises every Wates-Built Chalet. With its newly revised arrangement of rooms it has won the approval of all purchasers. Come and see the improved planning, generous equipment and delightful appearance of these new semi-detached Chalets.

Urban legend had it that the link-detached option gave the advantages claimed above whilst allowing the house to be rated as semi-detached since it was (if only by the brick arch) connected to another house. True? I don’t know.

3-bed link-detached (C) and semi-detached chalets are by far the most common variant but there are others too. Two-bedroom chalets (D) – recognisable by the entrance door being towards the front of the flank wall – were created by deleting the front ground floor third bedroom. 4-bedroom chalets (E) are identifiable by a two-storey section at the rear; most also have a ground floor WC. Lastly, and very rare, are the detached chalets with integral garage (F) – this variation doesn’t work for me – and the corner chalets (G) which do.

Some chalets have a round porthole window lighting the first floor box room, others don’t. Some have a flat front-facing window to the ground floor third bedroom, others have an oriel window. Were these extra cost options?

Buyers were offered the option of buying freehold (FH) or leasehold (LH), the latter making housing more affordable. Here’s a summary (all 3-bed):

Detached chalet: FH £929, LH £749, weekly outgoings £1:12:9d/£1:10:11d, TFA ~95m2, lounge 14’3”x13’0” (4.34×3.96m)
Semi-detached chalet: FH £819, LH £639, weekly outgoings £1:8:11d/£1:7:1d, TFA ~95m2, lounge 14’3”x13’0” (4.34×3.96m)

And for comparison, traditional Wates ‘Tudor’ semis:

TDL Tudor Deluxe: FH: £729, LH: £579, weekly outgoings £1:5:9d/£1:4:3d, TFA ~98m2, lounge 14’3”x12’3” (4.34×3.73m)
TDL Tudor Major: FH: £649, LH: £499, weekly outgoings £1:2:11d/£1:1:6d, TFA ~79m2, lounge 13’1”x10’9” (3.99×3.28m)

Thus it can be seen that 1930s buyers paid a premium for chalets, justified by the space and architecture.

Ground rent, included in the LH weekly outgoings, was £9 a year for chalets, £7.10 for Tudor SDs, equating to a 5% return to Wates. I wonder how many people took the leasehold option, given that the saving was less than two shillings a week. Perhaps the reduced deposit was the key attraction. There was also an option to rent: in the 1930s many working class people had an aversion to going into debt even though we now see mortgage debt as ‘good’ debt.

Dormer additions: As built, chalets have a large under-roof box room next to the front bedroom. It’s relatively simple to build this out as an extra bedroom and many owners have done this (H). During my BCO days (1976-84) two local builders, Malcolm Carter and Tony Forte, did little else. Malcolm’s reputation was such that he ran an eighteen month waiting list. You didn’t decide whether to appoint him or not; he decided whether or not he wanted you as a customer. Another common alteration was adding a ground floor WC under the stairs: the space is tight but it can be done.

Other comments: Given Malden’s shrinkable clay subsoil, subsidence problems requiring underpinning were not unknown across my patch. Wates built houses were almost immune to such problems – the filed plans showed them as being built on Twisteel reinforced concrete rafts.

The plan above (for a chalet in Streatham, so may not reflect what was done in Malden) is interesting in that it shows cavity walls on three sides and a one-brick solid wall for the wall facing the mirrored chalet. When I was in primary school we were taught that cavity walls were introduced to improve insulation. They do, but the real reason was to eliminate the problem of driving rain finding its way through the wall. The facing walls are not, obviously, subject to driving rain.

1930s Wates houses also show the durability of concrete roof tiles: they were only introduced in the late 1920s so when these houses were built they were a new and untried innovation. Most roofs are original and still in excellent condition.

Click on an image to enlarge it; click again or press [Esc] to return. Please excuse the quality of the pics: I only had one day free when last in the UK and it was a wet, grey one.

* Weekly Dispatch (London) – Sunday 21 January 1934

Wates: The brothers who changed New Malden

In my September 2022 piece I noted the dominance of  developer Wates in shaping modern New Malden, especially south of the A3. This month I’m writing about the firm; next month I’ll concentrate on their archetypal chalets with their “exterior of outstanding loveliness”*.

The Wates business began around 1900 when Edward Wates (1873-1944) set up a furniture store in Streatham, South London, his brother Arthur joining him in 1902. The store, E & A Wates, sold furniture and furnishings and handled removals. It closed in May 2021 and the buildings are now being converted into flats under the name Wates Yard. Younger brothers William and Herbert, who were builders, joined the firm in 1904 and persuaded their older brothers to invest in some land in Purley to speculatively build two new houses. Wates was in the housebuilding business and by 1914 they’d built 139 houses.

During the 1920s Edward’s three sons, Norman (1905-69), Ronald (1907-86) and Allan (1909-85) joined the firm, progressively taking over from the first generation. Norman was the dominant figure: in 1926 under his leadership it embarked on ‘what was then an enormous speculation’, an estate of 1,000 houses in Streatham Vale, which took five years to complete. Ronald trained as a surveyor and took responsibility for site acquisition, later pursuing a second career as a borough and LCC councillor, for which in 1975 he was knighted. Allan joined the firm in 1930; from 1936 he was responsible for the contracting side of the business. All three brothers took an active role in community and philanthropic activities, something which younger members of the family have continued: since it was formed the Wates Foundation has made grants totalling over £100 million, which have provided vital support to thousands of charities.

The period up to WW2 saw enormous expansion, though activities were largely confined to a relatively small geographic area to the south of London from Twickenham in the west to Sidcup in the east. By doing this Wates could maintain a permanent workforce rather than using casual labour. By WW2 Wates  had completed 30,000 houses, 1500-2000 a year.

During the 1930s Wates built more homes in Malden than any other developer. From memory the first houses built by Wates in Malden were some  terraced houses on the south side of Kingston Road – built around 1930 IIRC. After this Wates moved on to build many of the houses in Cromwell Avenue estate. Kenneth Bland (1909-83) joined Wates as chief architect in 1933 and would be there until 1970s – he may be responsible for the Dutch gables found on later Wates houses (they’re not exclusive to Wates of course). Estate layouts, road and utility service design and the like were generally handled by Chart, Son & Reading, a Croydon firm of architects and surveyors.

With the opening of the Kingston Bypass (A3) on 28 October 1927 the land to its south was fair game for development and between 1928-34 Wates bought up multiple parcels of land. During the 1930s they were building houses by the hundred – Wilverley Park, Motspur Park, Barnfield and Wendover estates, the Worcester Park Station estate and several infill developments such as Burford Road.

From 1936 speculative house building in Greater London started to wind down. Most easy-to-develop land had been developed and the flow of new buyers had probably slowed down. The last Wates houses built in Malden before WW2 were for the most part larger detached houses pitched at a slightly different demographic.

As with other pieces in this occasional series, some of the information given here is drawn from memories of my time (1976-84) working at R.B.Kingston upon Thames Building Control and may be incorrect. If you can add anything or see any errors in what I’ve written please add a comment. Unfortunately the British Newspaper Archive has yet to digitise copies of the Surrey Comet for the period covered by these pieces.

* Weekly Dispatch (London) – Sunday 21 January 1934


The title I’ve given this page is a bit tongue in cheek. Wates were responsible for most of the interwar housing between the A3 and the Chessington railway line but a number of other builders were active in the Malden & Coombe BC area including

  • E&L Berg: Notable for their halls-adjoining semis in the High Drive area and their Berg Sunspan houses in Woodlands Avenue.
  • Crouch Group: Builders of many semis in the Kenley Road area.
  • Gleeson: Built lots of houses between the large Wates developments and the Hogsmill river. Their attempt to copy Wates chalets doesn’t IMO come off.
  • R.Lancaster (Wembley): Kingston Vale estate, SW15 (Bowness & Ullswater Crescents, Derwent, Grasmere and Keswick Avenues, Windermere Road). Large houses for better off buyers.
  • Lavender and Farrell: Developed the Worcester Park end of M&C: Manor Drive, Highdown and Leyfield. For a detailed history see Worcester Park Life, Dec 2012, Local History article.
  • New Ideal Homesteads: Set up in 1929 and grew to be the largest homebuilder in the 1930s. Undertook development to the north of Clarence Avenue
  • For more information see ‘Dictionary of British Housebuilders‘, Fred Wellings, 2015

A trip to Shepparton

For my latest mini-break (one night away from home) I went back to Shepparton, 181 kilometres north east of Melbourne. With a population at the last census of around 53,565 it’s the sixth largest city in Victoria. Shepparton is served by rail, but I drove, firstly because train services are currently suspended for track improvement works and secondly because I was paying my annual visit to SPC. Horrendous traffic, rail and hail made for a less than pleasant drive there.

SPC? In 1917 a group of fruit growers in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley formed a cooperative named the Shepparton Fruit Preserving Co. Ltd. It began operating in 1918, canning fruit under the brand name of SPC. After various changes of ownership in recent years, the company reverted to local ownership.

My interest in SPC? Shepparton town centre is home to their factory outlet store which carries lots of bargains: bulk buys, short dated products and end of line stock. I picked up lots of non-perishables and soft drinks which will see me through Christmas and well into the new year.

After a good night’s sleep at the Paradise Lakes motel, I went out to my car to find a flat tyre. Not what I wanted, especially with the spare wheel buried under a pile of food! Unlike the day before, it was a dry sunny morning and I got all sorted within an hour.

Late breakfast and then before driving home I visited MOVE, the Museum of Vehicle Evolution. I’d been there several times before, back to when it was Shepparton Motor Museum. It was rebuilt a few years ago and now houses large displays of cars, motorcycles, bicycles with a huge truck gallery where alongside the trucks the stories of their owners are told. Many came from southern Europe just after WW2 and built up sizeable transport businesses on the back of the fruit growing and canning industry. For those with little interest in transport there is a fashion gallery, display of vintage electronics and a gallery devoted to Furphy agricultural products.

Then home, thankfully a trouble-free easy drive.

Dubai stopover (QE2)

In recent years I’ve developed a special interest in and affection for Cunard ships. As a very small child I crossed the Atlantic on RMS Media in 1957, returning on the Queen Mary in 1959. In 2010 I was able to revisit the Queen Mary, now a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. In 2018 the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) finally reopened as a floating hotel, moored at Dubai’s Port Rashid, and visiting her got added to my to-do list.

In July I made my first post-Covid trip to the UK to see friends and family. In earlier times I took a direct flight from Melbourne though Singapore to London so as to maximise my time with family. Now retired, I took the opportunity to have a stopover in Dubai so I could fulfil my ambition.

The QE2 made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1969 then came to prominence when she was requisitioned for the Falklands War as a troop transport in 1982. In 1985 her engines were converted from steam to diesel. In 2007 she was sold to Dubai interests to become a floating hotel but this didn’t happen until 2018.

My stay on QE2

Originally I’d planned to stay for three nights but a late family wedding notification reduced this to two. I flew from Melbourne and arrived Wednesday mid-afternoon. Dubai taxis and Uber provide an efficient, reasonably priced service which is just as well since the QE2 is moored well away from public transport. Obviously the first thing to do was to check in. A large ship-inspired onshore building houses the reception along with a large number of QE2 artefacts.

I’d chosen a ‘Captain’s Room’, in service days designated as a first-class stateroom. No balcony! How things have changed since the 1960s: now every effort is made to maximise the number of balconies on cruise ships; back then only the elite got a balcony. I wasn’t fussed since Dubai in July is not balcony weather. My stateroom, breakfast included, cost a very reasonable AED563 per night (US$153; GBP125; AUD237); the room rate increases somewhat during the cooler months. The cheapest (‘Classic’) rooms start at about half this; if you’re feeling flush, the Royal Suite, once reserved for members of the Royal Family can be yours for AED3000+ per night.

Top of my to-do list was the Heritage tour. This is run twice a day and I was nicely in time for the 5.00p.m. tour, ably led by Craig. The tour took in a number of places that are not open to casual visitors including the bridge. Having just arrived, the tour served as a good orientation exercise. I spent a good few hours exploring the ship on my own, getting lost more than once!

For dinner I went to the Lido restaurant and enjoyed butter chicken and rice, very reasonably priced at AED70 (US$19; GBP16; AUD29) considering that they have a captive audience. On the Wednesday night the restaurant was all but deserted; it was much busier on Thursday. The included buffet breakfast was much as you’d get at any hotel.

As for Dubai itself

If Dubai had been my destination, rather than a stopover, I would not have gone in July! A daytime temperature of 39C did not lend itself to prolonged outside sightseeing. I spent most of Thursday in the huge Dubai Mall, also riding the Metro to Deira City Centre from where I walked down to the Dubai Creek. Dubai metro trains and trams have Gold Class cabins, offering additional comfort for a premium fare and there are also cabins set aside for women and children.

On Friday I didn’t need to go to the airport until about 7.30p.m. so went to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (830m, 2,722ft), named for a former president of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The cheaper of the two viewing decks is on the 124th floor: the views are spectacular.

Then all too soon it was time to go back to the QE2 and pack for the onward UK flight.



A less than bright spammer

This post is a work in progress, more to follow

Spam email from someone who thinks I own fastmail.com.au

Spam email from someone who thinks I own fastmail.com.au

Barely a day goes past without me getting an email like the above.  Does ‘Aaron’ not realise that fastmail.com.au is a major provider of email services to people like me?