October 31, 2016

Bank of England haunted by ghostly nun


Sarah's haunting love for her brother

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that bizarrely, people in London still claim today they've been asked by Sarah Whitehead the same repeated question: "Have you seen my brother?"

Bizarrely, because Sarah's brother was hanged in London in 1812 for forgery at The Bank of England where he worked, and Sarah herself died 25 years later.

But to this day, people swear they've been stopped near the bank on Threadneedle Street by a little old lady dressed in widow's weeds of long black gown and black veil from another era, and asked that question.

Knowing how close Sarah was to her brother Paul (often misidentified in the media as Philip,) family members withheld from her that he had been hanged, and she began going regularly to the bank to ask his whereabouts when he didn't return to the home that they shared.

No one would say, until a clerk finally blurted out the truth, and at that moment Sarah's mind snapped. She donned widow's weeds and every day for six years returned asking to see Paul, ultimately also demanding money she said the bank now owed her.

In 1818 the bank agreed to pay her a significant amount on condition she not visit them again, and Sarah agreed. But after her death, her ghost – dubbed The Black Nun – began appearing regularly in the bank and along Threadneedle Street, with scores of sightings of her continuing to this day, 179 years after her death.

And each time she politely asks those she encounters the same question: "Have you seen my brother?" and when told "No," simply vanishes…


[] A SKETCHED likeness of Sarah Whitehead, London's ghostly Black Nun, and The Bank of England she reputedly haunts to this day. (Wikimedia)

October 30, 2016

A Pet Friendly Holiday Destination in Northern NSW

Big bow-wows to paw-star travel

Pack the doggy's bag, head to the hills or a not-so-ruff hotel says Helen Flanagan.

Words such as walkies, car and park elicit an effusive response from self-named Ralph, the Kerry Blue terrier. And mention Mavis's, pandemonium ensues.

Woofs reach a new high from the back seat as he shoots the breeze through the partially opened window, takes in the sights, sounds and whiffs of occasional four-footers and flocks of squawking water birds, and we veer off the highway towards the Tweed Valley, up hills, down dales along roads parallel to meandering creeks and rivers.

After whines of what sounds like "are we there yet", is the Mt Warning National Park sign. Across the rickety Korrumbin Creek Bridge, around the corner at the base of Wollumbin-Mt Warning, there she stands, majestic Mavis's.

The Federation Queenslander, was originally sited at Labrador on the Gold Coast. It was where Peter Clarke was brought up and later he and partner Charlie Ebell transformed it into the Harley Street Brasserie.

"We decided on a tree change in 2007, so upped stumps and brought the building with us," dog-lovers Peter and Charlie explain. "It was cut into three pieces, put on three massive trucks, and painstakingly put back together; hence it looks as though it's been here forever." And so began the magic of Mavis's Kitchen and Cabins which is named after Charlie's mum, who taught him about the love of good food and the joy of sharing."

Mavis's Kitchen occupies a plum position on the ten hectares. Along the driveway is a 70's-built log cabin with a sun-drenched verandah. A smidgen of yesteryear has been retained – sort of rustic with a small R but with premium inclusions such as a fancy espresso machine.

The dairy, where guests sleep in the former creamery, is nearby, and set in the shadow of staghorn and epiphyte- studded trees and beside water lily-topped goldfish ponds, is a 100 year old renovated farm house with a big-enough-for-a-party deck. Ralph eyes off the day bed, slurps water from the bowl, drips it onto the shiny hoop pine floors in the country-style kitchen, but thankfully not in the living areas with hand-crafted timber furniture and bedrooms adorned with huge paintings of buxom women.

At the bottom of the rear stairs it's a different story. Ralph takes one look at Lionel the rooster and five happy clucking layers, before scarpering, tail between his legs. Obviously afraid of being hen-pecked.

A walk in the park-like gardens with 'hosts' Dallas the German Shepherd and Doberman Sac and a romp in the garden near bio-dynamic organic salad plants, herbs, leeks, tomatoes, celeriac, pumpkins and citrus trees, is much more fun.

Mavis's Kitchen serves simple food with integrity. Ingredients vary daily as does the backboard menu. All ingredients are fresh, seasonal, organic and sourced from local growers. Expect generous serves and delish choices such as a country-style terrine; roast loin of free-range pork; pan fried fish of the day; roasted organic chicken marinated in thyme orange and honey; and slow-cooked Greek-style lamb with rosemary and sea salt chips, Greek salad and tzatziki.

A breakfast feast of yoghurt, fresh fruit, muesli, bacon and free range eggs is supplied to guests. Walk it off and spot platypus, wallabies, black cockatoos, wood ducks and native frogs.

If you're feeling more adventurous make the steep climb up Mt Warning, 14 kilometres above sea level before dawn, and be the first on mainland Australia to witness sunrise. It was named by Captain Cook in 1770 during his trip up the east coast of Australia, in respect of the dangerous shoals encountered offshore,

The eponymous world heritage-listed magna plug, also the world's largest and oldest extinct volcano is densely covered in temperate and sub-tropical rainforest. A sign 'where the mountains touch the sky' succinctly describes the mystical peak which each morning is shrouded in mist.

Lunch at Mavis's Kitchens is not to be missed. Be seated early (alfresco only if joined by the four-footer), to catch the action of arriving Harleys, limousines and helicopters often with celebs such as Johnny Depp, Amanda Heard and their infamous dogs Pistol and Boo, onboard. Yes, Mavis's is for stars on four legs and two or just you and yours.

Mavis's Kitchen & Cabins: www.maviseskitchen.com.au

Words: Helen Flanagan

Images: Supplied by the property

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

October 04, 2016

A visit to the UK's National Motor Museum at Beaulieu

by Liz Swanton

When the other half lives and breathes all things automotive, there is a certain inevitability about holidays that include visits to car museums.

So it was hardly surprising that high on his ‘to do’ list for a recent trip to the UK was an excursion to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I must confess to being a petrol head too, lest you think I’ve been dragged along, kicking and screaming, for the ride.

But even with my own interest, car museums are a bit like castles and cathedrals: you can have too many of them in one holiday. It was the fact that a friend – who is definitely not a car aficionado – had raved about Beaulieu that definitely piqued my interest.

And she was right. Located in the pretty New Forest National Park region of Hampshire, Beaulieu was everything it promised to be and more, with more than 250 vehicles on display in a modern well-designed building that is packed to the gunwales with all things motoring.

Jack Tucker's Garage - an award-winning re-creation
of a 1930's garage, exactly as it would have appeared
at the time, including all the authentic tools and equipment.
Vehicles on display range from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the earliest motor cars built and a dreamfest of British sports machines, through to the Bluebird CN7 used by Donald Campbell for a land speed record on Lake Eyre in 1964, and the flying Ford Anglia that starred in the Harry Potter movie franchise.

Beaulieu is also home to the World of Top Gear, so if you loved watching the program with all the adventures of the three former hosts, and the cars they built for those exploits, you can see them here.

The sad thing about our first visit – yes, I said first – was that we arrived in the early afternoon, and it was soon quite clear we just wouldn’t have time to see everything. Because Beaulieu is not just a car museum …

That was when we discovered that there was a bonus to the £24 entry fee (£19, if you book on line in advance; £64/£49 for a family). If you return within a week of your first visit, your second visit is free. There are a few signatures needed, coming and going, but it’s a terrific idea and we decided to take up the offer.

Donald Campbell's Bluebird CN7 was powered by a 'turbo-shaft' engine
and reached in excess of 400mph on Lake Eyre in South Australia in 1964.
For our second visit, we were able to concentrate on Beaulieu Abbey and the gothic-style manor, known as Palace House.

Founded by King John in 1203, the Abbey was shut down by Henry VIII in 1538, as part of his Dissolution of the Monasteries move against the Catholic Church. Palace House, which was once just the gatehouse of the medieval abbey before it was ruined, has been home to the Montagu family since the 1500s.
The Palace House was created in 1538
It’s now one of the Treasure Houses of England, a group of 10 of the country’s most beautiful old homes, and worth spending several hours enjoying. The house has so much of its own ‘upstairs/downstairs’ history to be absorbed – jump on one of the tours to learn it all from costumed guides who are not just knowledgeable, but also entertaining.

To be honest, despite passing the better part of two days at Beaulieu, we felt we hadn’t ‘done it all’. There is just so much to see, it is already on the wishlist for the next trip.


New Forest,
United Kingdom,
SO42 7ZN

Ph:  01590 612345

October 03, 2016

Rebuilding the world's longest car

Struth! 100-footer was world's longest car
IN its hey-day, the 26-wheel, 100ft long American Dream carried its own helicopter, and needed a driver in both front and rear. (New York Autoseum)

David Ellis

STUDENTS at an automotive college in America's New York State have set themselves a massive task – they're rebuilding the world's longest car, a Cadillac-badged monster that's a whopping 100 feet, or just over 30 metres long.

The flamboyant auto was built in Burbank, California in the late 1980s by car buff Jay Ohrberg, who is both a collector and a specialist-vehicle builder for local movie and TV studios.

Basically a super-stretched 1970s Cadillac Eldorado and named American Dream, the monstrous 26-wheeler (with those wheels not only in front and back, but centre as well) had a special swivel in the middle so it could navigate around corners, and be taken apart for transporting on a low-loader to filming sites.

FORLORN: how it was found after being abandoned in an open carpark after Hollywood lost interest in its novelty value. It is now being rebuilt by students at an auto teaching museum in New York State. (New York Autoseum)
And on the road it needed specialist drivers both at the front and the rear.

Luxuries included a "living room" with a lounge and multiple-seat dining table with candelabra, a king-size bed, heated Jacuzzi tub, and an extended boot with splash pool and diving board covered by a folding landing pad for its own helicopter.

When Hollywood eventually lost interest in the American Dream it was simply abandoned in an open carpark and slowly stripped; in 2012 the New York Autoseum automotive teaching museum in the village of Mineola bought the forlorn-looking wreck at auction, and today it is being slowly rebuilt as a teaching project for students.

And that project, staff say, could take years.

October 01, 2016

The deserted and abandoned whaling stations of South Georgia

The famous manager's house at Stromness. On 20 May 1916, Sir Ernest Shackleton knocked on this door after his heroic open boat journey from Elephant Island. (Roderick Eime)

The history of whaling in and around South Georgia is a blood-curdling tale of brutality and exploitation that remains a blemish on the environmental record of mankind.

Today the remains of the whaling stations and their supporting infrastructure serve as memorials to this bleak period in history when the world’s great whales were hunted to the brink of extinction by greedy whalers seeking to maximise their catch without any thought for preserving these beautiful animals.

In late 1998, I was fortunate to visit the crumbling stations on these far-flung islands which now attract tourists in ever-increasing numbers. Much of the buildings are in a very poor state of repair and quite dangerous to enter, so these days much of it is roped off for good reason.

Looking for a cruise to South Georgia?
Whaling began on South Georgia at Grytviken in 1904 and continued until whale numbers became uneconomical in the mid-1960s. There were also major bases and facilities at Leith Harbour, Stromness and Husvik which stayed open intermittently until the same time. Other smaller bases were permanently closed prior to WWII.

Many polar explorers used South Georgia as a supply base prior to their Antarctic missions. Most notable among them was Sir Ernest Shackleton, who remains buried there in the whalers’ cemetery. He had died aboard his ship Quest while enroute to South Georgia in 1922. Captain Frank Hurley, Sir Hubert Wilkins and Captain James Cook also have ties to South Georgia, with Cook claiming the islands for Britain in 1775.

Related story: Sub-Antarctic Renaissance 

In April 1982, Argentine salvagers landed at Grytviken and Leith Harbour under the pretense of removing scrap metal, but this turned out to be a prelude to their invasion later that same month. This event was the first spark of the ensuing Falklands War and South Georgia was retaken by British forces on 25 April 1982, during Operation Paraquet.

Grytviken 07-31

Grytviken 06-09

Grytviken 07-32

Grytviken 06-06

Collapsed smokestack at Stromness, South Georgia




The day Swedish drivers swapped sides

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that when Sweden decided to change to driving on the right side of the road 49 years ago this month, over 80% of drivers opposed the idea saying it would result in roadway carnage.

After all, they argued, Swedes had been driving on the left side of the road since the first horses and buggies hit the streets 233 years before in 1734.

But with all neighbouring countries driving on the right-hand side of the road, and the majority of Sweden's vehicles being left-hand drive imports, the government swept aside public opposition, and decreed in 1963 that driving on the right-hand side of the road would become law at 5am on September 3 1967.

A massive education program was initiated called Dagen H (Dagen meaning "day" and H for Hogertrafik "right-hand traffic.") Dagen H logos were printed on everything from milk cartons to bras, 130,000 Dagen H reminder signs erected along roadways nationwide, and Dagen H stickers slapped on anything that moved.

One-way roads, crossings, roundabouts and flyovers had to be redesigned, and 360,000 road signs were changed country-wide. Traffic lights were reversed and road lines repainted during the night before the change-over– and buses had to have new passenger doors cut into their right-hand sides.

Then on September 3 only essential vehicles were allowed from 0100 to 0600, with these forced to stop at 0450, and at 0500 to cross carefully to the other side of the road.

And on the first "working Monday" after, there were 125 non-fatal traffic accidents nationwide – compared with 198 normally.

[] CHANGING from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right-hand side had its confusion for drivers in Sweden in 1967, but the country survived.

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