The Return From Oz

Well I thought I would give you a bit of time to soak up my four part Australian adventure. I had a brilliant time there but obviously since I have returned to England things have become a little bit strange. I have certainly never experienced anything like this in my life before. The shear global scale and impact on the United Kingdom of the new Coronavirus pandemic is quite hard to comprehend.

I think personally that we have to listen to the experts and all of the people on the front line battling this thing and do as they say. There are so many mixed messages and incorrect pieces of information on the social media networks. I actually find that scarier than the actual virus. If we do what is asked of us we can all get through this thing together in the shortest possible time.

The plan at the moment is basically to try to control the number of cases in the country. In the hope that we can give the NHS a chance to give the required treatment to anybody who needs it. I appreciate staying in when you feel fine seems ridiculous but no one is exactly sure how long before symptoms show that you can transmit it. We know it spreads very quickly and is a nasty thing as it attacks the respiratory system. That as an Asthmatic is obviously something I am quite concerned about.

We just need to be sensible, follow instructions, social distance and look after each other. The aim of the game is to ease the pressure on the health service so if you or anybody you know requires their help. They will be in a position to be able to treat you in Hospital how you would expect if taken there in an emergency. If this thing continues to spread at the rate it has been they may struggle a little to achieve that, so let’s stick together and help each other out.

Stay at home if you can. If you are a key worker keep doing the brilliant job you are doing. We all really appreciate it. We can win this with a bit of common sense and some big self discipline. Stay safe and more importantly keep joking and having a laugh to.

Neil Quigley Presenter
Neil Quigley Presenter

Right that is the serious bit over but I felt I could not really ignore it and pretend that it was not happening. I would like to also point out that the things I am writing about and the things I have been to were actually a minimum of three weeks ago now before everything was cancelled. I have been closely following the government advice since it was made. Even though I find it slightly difficult to take someone who used to host Have I Got News For You and who got stuck on a Zip Wire seriously but sometimes needs must.

Neil Quigley

I went out for dinner in Berkhamsted about a month ago now. I was invited to a Turkish Restaurant there by a friend. We both wanted to have a few drinks. Initially I was going to get a taxi from where I live to Tring get the train to Berkhamsted and then do the same journey in reverse at the end of the night. However as it turned out the taxi would cost the about same amount as staying at Pendley Manor Hotel, which is within walking distance of Tring Railway Station. It seemed like a complete no-brainer to me, so a night away it was.

I had been to a few works parties and conferences at Pendley Manor but I think this was the first time that I had stayed there. It is a very regal looking building set in beautiful grounds. I cannot think of to many places where Peacocks wander around freely. I am not sure why I see that as a big selling point but for some reason I do. Once I was checked in I did the first thing I always do when I walk in to a hotel room I checked the bathroom to see if it was a shower or bath. I rarely have baths at home now so see this as a hotel room treat. It had a bath which I did take advantage of during my stay.

I walked from the hotel down to the station, which I will confess was slightly further than I thought and caught the train to Berkhamsted. It is only about an eight minute journey. I arrived at the restaurant a bit early but went in and got our table which was booked for six. My friend then arrived we ordered some wine and got the menu. It was the first time I had been to a Turkish restaurant. It is a bit like Tapas in that you order a selection of dishes to share. I must confess as a general rule like Joey from Friends I do not share food but I do make exceptions for these occasions.

Neil Quigley

The food was amazing. The variety of the dishes was fantastic. We had delicious Chicken, Lamb, Halloumi and Butternut Squash dishes. All washed down with a little more wine. I am not saying the portions were generous but it is very rare that I am too full to have dessert. It was a place called Tabure and I would certainly recommend it. When they gave us the bill my friend and I both double checked it as we thought that they had undercharged us. It was not cheap as such but I would say very reasonable for the standard and the amount of food plus the drink prices were fair to.

We left the restaurant about eight o’clock and went down the road to the Kings Arms. We were just chatting and having a few more glasses of wine when suddenly it was one in the morning and they were closing the bar. That is the sign of a good night by the way, if you can suddenly lose five hours in the same pub with no gaps in the conversation.

We said goodbye I got the train back to Tring and then strolled back to Pendley Manor for a good night’s sleep. It is a grand hotel but might be getting a little bit old now. It was a wet night and they had lots of buckets around catching water from the leaks in the roof. However it is still a nice place to stay, it has a cool look and feel to it.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Again several weeks ago now I went and saw my mate Mike Sterling do a show at the Kenton Theatre in Henley on Thames. I always like to catch his performances when I can. It was a bit of a mad dash to make this one as I was watching Tottenham play Wolves at the Spurs Stadium that afternoon. (Yes it was that long ago Premier League football was still being payed). I made it to the theatre about fifteen minutes before curtain up. That gave me time to order a beer before it started and the same again ready for the interval.

It was a new show he was performing for the first time. He was celebrating the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein and more. He was joined on stage by his long time friend and musical director Toby Cruse, who accompanied him on the piano. It also featured Joanne Pullen who was his “Christine” when he starred in The Phantom of The Opera. They performed versions of these great songs produced by the legendary composers and lyricists as well as explaining a bit about the history of the songs and the relationships of the people behind them.

Mike Sterling

There was also a cameo appearance at the end of the first half from the superstar that is Vince Hill. He did a few songs including the big hit song he had his version of Edelweiss, which was stunning. He is eighty-five years old but his voice, stage presence and mic control is still first class. What an amazingly talented and very lovely man. The whole show was excellent. It is a while since I have been to a concert featuring just a piano and the singers. It does produce a very raw and real feel to proceedings.

I managed as ever to catch up with Mike for a quick chat and a drink after the show at a little bash at one of the wine bars in Henley. I had a busy day the following day, so could not stay to long but it was nice to see him. I also got to have a brief conversation with Toby who had been working the hardest by far as he was playing the piano all night. He is another extremely talented and nice fella. I now look forward to seeing them both perform later in the year, when it is safe and acceptable to put such things on once again.

Mike Sterling and Neil Quigley

I had been to the Globe Theatre during their summer season in the past and always had a thoroughly enjoyable time. I also had a tour around there once I got to see everything apart from one small part as there was something going on in there.

That missing piece of the jigsaw was The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe. It is a smaller inside version of the main theatre in the same style and modelled on a venue of the same era. It is very compact, made of wood and candlelit. The room itself looks stunning!

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

I went and saw William Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew. I never studied the “Bard” at school so I am slowly getting around to seeing some of his plays in later life. The Wanamaker Playhouse is a great setting to watch these productions in to get a feel of what it might have been like seeing them the first time that they were performed. The Staff there are lovely and you can bring drinks in with you, which is handy as the first half of the play was an hour and fifty minutes long.

It is bench seating inside no individual seats so you will have to be a bit close and cosy with your fellow audience members, also there is nowhere really to stick your coats. I ended up sitting on mine. It is worth it though as it is such a lovely setting. The play was brilliant, the cast were amazing. I think it is a good sign that when the near two hour long first half ended I was like is that the interval already? The time flew by. It is a comedy so there were plenty of laughs to.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

The second half was equally as good. I can also confirm for the wine connoisseurs amongst you that they serve a very nice large glass of Rioja in there. It was a wonderful evening, the show, the location and the company I was with. I would happily go back and see something else there in the future.

The night out was rightly rounded off with another drink around Baker Street before we headed home. I fear this looks like the last show I will be seeing for a while, so it was nice to go out on a high.

Neil Quigley

Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil

Australia Part Four Sydney Reprise

Just as I arrived at Melbourne Airport and stepped in through the double doors I got a text from Qantas telling me my flight had been cancelled. That is not ideal news to receive at five o’clock in the morning. I went and spoke to someone at the desk and discovered they had now put me on a flight an hour later than the one that I was scheduled to be on. I now had a bonus extra sixty minutes to enjoy the departures lounge, so I ordered a nice big breakfast to pass a bit of the time.

It was only another short flight back to Sydney. When I arrived and had collected my luggage I took the train to meet up again with Phil on the outskirts of the city. For the first time since I had arrived the Sun was out in Sydney. And there was a certain thing I wanted to do where the nice weather would make it more fun. Therefore I threw my suitcase in to the boot of his car and we headed straight there. The place where we were going was not far from where he lives.

You cannot make the journey all the way to Australia without seeing some of the native animals of the country. It was with that goal very much in mind that we arrived at the Koala Park. I must confess I was again possibly way more excited than I should have been for a man of my age about the joys of this attraction. We paid our entrance fee and went in.

The Koala Park

Phil had been quite a few times over the years so knew his way around the place. We started off looking at the Lizards and Turtles, before we progressed on to the Snakes. It was at this point that he reassured me that in all the years he had lived there he had not seen as many deadly snakes in his garden as you might think. He did say he had seen a few Lizards but as they are harmless I was totally fine with that.


I then encountered my first Wombat, although I did not get a really good look at him as predictably he was asleep in a confined space. I had my picture taken with a lovely red breasted bird called a Flaming Goliath. Yes that is kind of where Alf from Home and Away’s famous catchphrase comes from. Next we found the Dingo enclosure. That is basically a wild dog as far as I can see. David Attenborough’s job is perfectly safe from me, I think.

Neil Quigley

We also saw a Kookaburra, which is a stunning looking bird by the way. There were some Cockatoo’s on display but they are actually pretty common and I had already seen some of them in Phil’s garden and at the roadside. Next came one of the creatures you have to see if you are in Australia the Kangaroos. On the way in to the park Phil purchased some Kangaroo food.

There is a special enclosure where you can join them and feed them. They are lovely animals and in case you are wondering, yes I did get a few of them to take some food from me. That was pretty cool.

Neil Quigley

We continued the animals you would expect to see in the place tour with the Emu’s. Phil decided to feed one of them. I am not sure if you are meant to do that to be honest, but what can I say the man is a bit of a maverick. I saw an Australian Eagle to. That is quite an imposing bird but I would say friendlier looking that its American counterpart. They also had a few goats in there. Who also got some food from Phil. They were more tongue and less beak than the Emu’s. I felt it was less likely he would need any medical treatment if things went wrong here.


There was just one more animal left to see, which you really should have worked out if you can still remember the name of the place that we visited. I mean it is illegal to go to Australia and not have your picture taken with a Koala Bear, surely. This is not as easy as you may think though, as the cute little things sleep for an average of twenty hours a day. Therefore getting a photo with their eyes open can be a bit of a challenge. But I have got a picture of me and a Koala, which is something I really wanted from this trip. Result!

Neil Quigley

After I had spent a lovely morning taking pictures of lots of amazing animals at the Koala Park we went back to Phil’s place. In his garden I then ended up feeding a stunning Rainbow Lorikeet. They visit on a daily basis and he always feeds them. As they do with the two Bush Turkeys who also regularly appear. We then had a quick bite to eat. In the afternoon I went exploring the local area. I got dropped off at the local Metro station. I just went one stop down the line to visit a new shopping and entertainment centre. I had a look around some of the shops.

Neil Quigley

Then I spotted a Bavarian style bar that was doing a happy hour where beers were only five dollars each. It was a lovely and sunny afternoon, so I found myself a seat outside the bar to catch a few rays on while enjoying in the end two happy hour schooners. It was a very relaxing way to finish the afternoon. It did seem that German themed bars were pretty popular around the Sydney area for some odd reason. I then managed to find my way back to Phil’s place all by myself on the Metro and the bus, which I was pretty pleased about.

Neil Quigley

That evening we had my favourite Saturday night dish of Sausages, potatoes and beans for dinner. We then watched a bit of A-League Soccer. Enjoyed a couple of beers and then video messaged my dad. We both had a short chat to him. Technology is quite good nowadays we were on opposite sides of the world and talking to him from the future. It was Saturday night in Australia but still Saturday morning back in England. Notice I did not video call any of the family at home until the rain had stopped and I had enjoyed a few days of sun. First I needed a bit of a tan to show off.

On the Sunday which was my final full day there. Phil’s son David and his wife Helen had very kindly agreed to have dinner with me. They booked us a table at a great rooftop bar overlooking the sights of Sydney. The Meal was booked for midday. Phil and I let the train take the strain to get into the city. We got there nice and early so we walked to the pub grabbing a hot drink on route. The pub they chose was perfect and clearly a popular place as it was packed. We had a lovely lunch there with some food and a couple of beers. We were lucky with the weather as it was a hot and sunny day.

Neil Quigley

It was great to spend some time with David, Helen and their two kids and so nice of them to suggest and organise it. I really did appreciate it and had a lovely time. Phil then had to go off to see his wife Jenny, who unfortunately could not join us for dinner. After he took me for a walk along the famous Harbour Bridge first, he then let me loose on my own to spend the rest of the day just exploring Sydney. While picking up a few souvenirs to take home.

Neil Quigley

Well as soon as I was left to my own devices the first thing I decided to do was to have another beer. David suggested a place almost next door to where we were called The Australian Hotel, so I had a quick schooner there outside in the sunshine. I will be honest I possibly could have stayed there for the rest of the day, but thought I should see more of the place while I was out there.

After a little bit of sightseeing around the streets I was drawn to a pub where I could hear some live music. It was called the Fortune of War and it is Sydney’s oldest pub, therefore it would have been rude not to go in there for a beer, so I did. The place was rammed and the duo performing were great. They were doing a mixture of pop and country classics. They had the whole bar singing along. It was ace. Luckily they stopped playing about the same time that I finished my drink. That made it a lot easier to leave and continue with my tour.

Oldest Pub

Then I decided to do quite a bit of walking. Firstly I visited Darling Harbour. I had a good look all around there. It has a lot of different attractions and a seemingly endless amount of restaurants and bars. After that I continued around the coast line going back to re-visit Barangaroo, this time in the sunshine. I then found myself back in an area of the city called The Rocks known for its bars. I found one that had some live music on. I stopped there for some light refreshment or to put it another way a beer.

Neil Quigley

Once I had finished that I decided to take my final look at Circular Quay. They have quite a bit of street entertainment in that area. I stopped to watch some traditional Aboriginal music, singing and dancing for a bit. As well as housing the ferry port this area is in the middle of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. There is a bar on the waterfront between the two. As the sun was about to set I had my final Australian beer between those two famous landmarks. Having already picked my presents for home on my travels earlier I then made my way back to Phil’s place for the final time.

Street Entertainment

We had a lovely evening relaxing, chatting and spending a bit of quality time together before I had to head home the next day. My flight was around four in the afternoon, so I had to be at the airport for around one. That meant I did not have that much time really on the day of travel. I said farewell to his lovely wife Jenny and then Phil dropped me off at the airport ready for my long journey home. It was brilliant spending time with all the family out there.

Phil and Jenny looked after me so well and made the whole trip a lovely and memorable experience for me. It was also wonderful to see David and Helen and Stephanie and Michael and their children. Everybody made me feel so welcome. I would like to thank them all very much for that. I hope I was a good house guest.

Quigley Family

Once again I was not particularly looking forward to the long flight but England is my home and I do quite like the place. It was the same journey but in reverse, so first I flew to Singapore. On this leg of the journey I decided to have a bit of a Bruce Springsteen fest. I watched Blinded by the Light. It is a true story about a young man from Luton who was inspired by the Boss’s music. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The main character was around my age, so it reminded me of my younger days a bit. Plus it does feature what I would say is a surprise cameo from Rob Brydon.

I also watched Western Star, which is a film Bruce made about his most recent album. It is basically him performing it with a complete Orchestra in a barn on his farm. There are clips of him explaining the songs as well as some old home videos. It is fantastic, he is such a great song writer and live performer. It was a bit strange hearing him play just acoustically. But he did that for over a year on his one man Broadway show that sadly I never got to see. Needless to say both of these films passed some of the time of my journey away nicely.

When arriving back into Heathrow I had made back up the eleven hours I had lost when I originally arrived in Sydney. I left Australia Monday afternoon travelled the best part of twenty four hours and still arrived in London early on Tuesday morning. That did feel a bit odd. I collected my luggage, found my taxi and went home, bringing to a close my great Australian adventure. I had a really brilliant time. Who knows if I will ever make it back there again in the future, I would like to. I did feel pretty at home when I was out there.

Neil Quigley

Have fun and I will speak to you soon. Cheers Neil