Through Stratford to Sale

I might be forgiven for forgetting where I am sometimes……or is this land I’m in just a clone of the old mother country: aka ‘old blighty’?


I asked the girl who served my coffee where I could get tickets for tonight’s Shakespeare performance… took her several seconds to appreciate my unsubtle humour, but she then told me they do actually have a Shakespeare festival each year, and on the banks of the River Avon.


When I got to my destination for the day (by 1:30pm), I was reminded that my first cycling club back in the 70s was based in Sale (nr Manchester). Here in the land of billabongs


…life had come full circle. Come on, let’s have a tuneful rendering of Waltzing Matilda….didn’t the swagman camp by a billabong? Now you may think you know what a ‘swagman’ is….? In the UK, most people will probably visualise the cartoon image of a burglar carrying his bag of ‘swag’ (stuff he’s pinched) as he creeps away unobtrusively. Here in Oz, people who go swagging are campers who go with their ‘swag’ (bivvy sack) and usually sleep out in the open, under the stars. So, unless some alert Aussie corrects me on this, now you know what a swagman is? But, hands up, who really knows (without googling it) what a ‘billabong’ is?

Going back to the topic of roadkill, I have three possible explanations for this below:


1. It’s a snake’s slough
2. or it was a snake that didn’t know it’s highway code;
3. or it’s a ‘dead’ bungee (‘hockey strap’ to you Aussies). What do you think? (Footnote: I have been rightly corrected by an alert Aussie, Richard Tulloch, that it should read ‘ocky strap’ as in ‘octopus’…….thank you Richard!)
But joking apart, the highway shoulder is littered with dozens of bungees


…of all colours and lengths, and I began to ask myself why? I can only assume that there must be a lot of insecure luggage, surf boards and bicycles being transported about the country.
Talking of bicycles, the model below could be the ideal design for weaning the car addict from his car to riding a bike.


After all, he would still have a steering wheel in his hands!
Now, I have to say the Victorian transport authorities are really beginning to annoy me. Every few kms there’s some warning about dozing off at the wheel


….well some of us just need a bit of ‘shut-eye’ as we trundle along….can’t they just leave us alone?
And this sign, a universally recognised one, really got me wondering


….the age of steam came to an end several decades ago. Anyone under 40 only knows them as museum pieces, or fun things at the seaside. Isn’t it time the image was updated? Ah, you might ask: but to what?

The route today was fast and flat (I had covered the 100km by lunchtime), but the extreme heat radiated from all directions: from the sun (naturally), from passing trucks and cars, and from the tarmac. It was just like a sauna, except for the breeze created by pedalling at 25-30km per hour. When you stop, and therefore lose that breeze, that’s when heat exhaustion really begins to kick in. Solution? Find some diner that has A/C and wallow in the coolness…….as I’m doing now!

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on March 7, 2013, in Australia: Sydney to Melbourne 1000kms and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. We were thinking of you in the heat today. Glad you found a diner with some A/C. Safe journey Frank. By the ay, Brian reckons it is a tiger snake skin.

  2. Re the Train Crossing sign… We were in Tenby over the last weekend and driving around there we crossed a small branch line, the presence of which was announced by a road sign showing the silhouette of old stream engine, which I though was unusual. Checking later, I found it is still the current sign for an ungated or barrierless crossing.

    Keep those pedals turning safely Frank.

  3. nice one franki; cant imagine there would have been any convicts sent out there from posh stratford uk. !

  4. It’s an ‘ocky strap’ – as in ‘octopus strap’.

    And a billabong is the loop in a river cut off when the river finds a new course straight through the bend.

    Sorry, it’s the schoolteacher (and the smart arse) in me.

    • Richard, I would never have guessed the octopus connection…..but you didn’t qualify for answering the ‘billabong’ question…..just ‘cos you’re an Aussie (and all Aussies would know the answer anyway, n’est-ce pas?). I was targeting know-it-all Poms!

  5. Frank, now you’re really on my turf. My own house is in Stratford, my daughter lives there and is very involved with the Shaksper festival, and Sale is the Cathedral town of our Diocese. That was where I was working this time last year, before that I was the Rector of Stratford….on the river Avon, only they say it Avvon, not Ay Von. Before that, Paynesville, on the lakes nr. Bairnsdale. You have whisked so FAST through them all, I am quite exhausted! And I DO agree about VicRoads signage, the don’t drop off to sleep ones especially, seeing as if one iss drowsy, one is unlikely to see the wretched sign. How were our new rumble strips on the bike? Two very short sections, after the billabong but before Stratford? I suppose you’ll be near Warragul tonight, hope you can connect with the Connellys. Love and peace, etc., caroline

  6. Nice to read about your cycling journey through Victoria Frank – sounds great. I think living back and forth between Oz and the UK messes terribly with your geography. Even re-finding all the suburbs in Melbourne is strange – like Cheltenham and Chelsea and Canterbury – I had trouble placing them on a map because my brain was working out where they were in the UK first.

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