England. Thomas Skelton.

Thomas Skelton (4girlsandaghost.files.wordpress.com)

I visited Muncaster Castle in the beautiful Lake District of England a few years ago and the haunting face in this painting stayed with me long after my visit. Meet Thomas Skelton. He was a court jester and trusted servant of the Pennington family. Here is the story that haunted my visit (from The Witching Hour)

“Known for sitting beneath an old chestnut tree outside the front entrance of the castle, Tom Skelton was often asked for directions. This position also gave him opportunity to witness the comings and goings of people to and from the castle, which is how he allegedly spotted Pennington’s daughter Helwise sneak off with a local carpenter.

When Skelton told his master what he’d seen, he’d been ordered by Sir William Pennington to get rid of the carpenter. Only one method of disposal would work for Tom. The fool got the carpenter drunk on cider one evening and, for a somewhat poetic lark, he used the carpenter’s own tools– mallet and broad chisel– to decapitate the poor, love-struck man. Tom is rumored to have said, “When the lazy dolt wakes up, he’ll have trouble finding his head.”

Skelton then presented his lord with the head of the carpenter, but it is unclear from historical records how the Sir William Pennington reacted. Ghostly footsteps and what sounds like the thunk of a body being drug up one particular set of stairs add an element of reality to this Muncaster legend.”


It was once thought that Thomas Skelton was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Tom Fool but history places any meeting between the two after King Lear was written.

Muncaster Castle. (upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/Muncaster_Castle.jpg)

Have you been to Muncaster Castle? Were you haunted by Thomas Skelton…? I’d love to hear all about it!


El Salvador. The Ring of Fire.



Erupting volcano (http://inapcache.boston.com)

As part of the famous Ring of Fire, the tiny country of El Salvador has more than 20 active volcanoes dotted around the landscape. The largest is San Salvador which stands tall over the capital city by the same name. It last erupted in 1917 after an enormous earthquake in the region.

In December 2013, the Chaparrastique volcano erupted in the coffee growing region to the East of the country. Thousands were evacuated but thankfully there were no injuries or loss of property. Chaparrastique is the third largest active volcano in El Salvador.


Ring of Fire (earthobservatory.nasa.gov)

Have you been? Have you seen or climbed these amazing volcanoes? We’d love to hear about it!


Doris Lessing: On not winning the Nobel Prize

Some moving words from the recently departed Doris Lessing.

Speak for Yourself

lessingDoris Lessing, who has died aged 94, was  not impressed  when she got the news she’d won the Nobel Prize in 2007, as the very entertaining video below will show you. Unable to travel to Sweden for the awards ceremony, her Nobel lecture was delivered in Stockholm by Nicholas Pearson, her publisher in the UK; while  she was presented with the award at a special event in London, where her  publisher, HarperCollins,  announced the gift of 10,000 books to Zimbabwe in her honour.

We’d expect a Nobel Laureate in Literature to have something impressive to say. Nonetheless, Lessing’s Nobel lecture is a stunner. It is reproduced below,  videos and text may all be found on the Nobel website,  here. To hear the great author speak  in person,  watch  this interview  given one year later, to Professor John Mullen.


I am standing in a doorway looking through clouds of…

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Word from the West. Sweet.

Fairy bread sweetness

Fairy bread sweetness

I spent a gorgeous day with my two little ones; running around in the sunshine, exploring Old Parliament House in Parramatta Park and eating fairy bread. Coffee and treats at Lachlan’s café is the perfect way to begin your day in Parramatta Park.  Here is a photo from under the shade of the very old grape vine…

Our view over Old Government House

Our view over Old Government House

For more info on Old Government House http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/nsw/old-government-house



Belgium. The Abbey of Saint Sixtus.

At The Abbey of Saint Sixtus, approx. 30 trappist monks live a quiet, peaceful life, searching for God…and making beer! The Westvleteren ‘Trappist’ beer is sold exclusively at the abbey shop but only after an arrangement has been made by phone.

Beer from The Abbey of St. Sixtus (http://www.guymag.net)

The Abbey of St. Sixtus (http://mw2.google.com)

The Abbey of St. Sixtus beer (http://media.npr.org)

Despite the huge demand for this very special brew, the monks make the same small quantity they made pre WWII. Customers are limited to 1 case each and must make the trip out to the monastery to collect it! Still, I have it on very good authority that it’s a very worthwhile trip!

A beer coaster for my brother! Beer expert, ex-Belgium resident, inspiration for this post and fellow child of a beer coaster collector! (http://www.upfront-live.com)

For more information and to reserve your case visit http://www.sintsixtus.be/eng/home.htm

Have you tried it?

What was it like? I’d love to hear from you!

Arctic. Breaking the ice.


The Artic doesn’t appear in the Caravanserai 230 destination guide (The Travel Book from Lonely Planet) but I really wanted to include a short post on these majestic giants of the North.

Aside from the size and power of the modern icebreakers, perhaps the most surprising thing (for me anyway!) is the speed! Check out the link below of the 50 Let Pobedy in action. This is the largest ice breaker in the world and is driven by nuclear power.





Powerful and awe inspiring, these giant ships have a specially fortified hull to break through thick sea ice as they carve pathways through the Artic and to the North Pole.


They work by pushing directly into ice pockets or, in the case of thinker ice; the bow is steered onto the ice to crack it with the ships immense weight.



Antarctica. An Icy Ghost


Young Ice Fish

These amazing looking fish are found in the icy waters of Antarctica. One of their many unusual features is the absence of haemoglobin in their blood and this gives them a ghostly white/clear appearance.

Ice Fish

Ice Fish

They have evolved to survive without haemoglobin by absorbing oxygen directly through their skin. In the sub zero temperatures of the Antarctic, the (extremely!) cold water has a much higher dissolved oxygen content than warm water. They feed on krill, small fish and crabs.

Here’s some more info…http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/2012/08/03/how-the-antarctic-icefish-lost-its-red-blood-cells-but-survived-anyway/

Have you been to Antarctica?

Would you like to go?

Let me know what you think of these incredible creatures!