Guide to Ipswich

Ipswich is the charming county town of Suffolk, located on the estuary of the river Orwell, presumed to be the inspiration for author Blaire to change his name to George Orwell.

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Replete with well-preserved and quaint one-storey buildings, including the 15th century ‘Ancient House’ in the Buttermarket area, Ipswich offers a pleasant contrast to the bustle of London, which is only 100 kms away.

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Wander around the town centre – The layout of the town centre can only be described as adorable, with local pubs, vegetable market, town churches et al jostling for your attention. Take a stroll around the buttermarket area, gaze at the heritage buildings, peep into adorable homes, grab a lunch at Zizzi’s, watch the latest movie, drop into the reading room, hear the church bells toll while you savour a pastry from Patesserie Valerie.

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Meet the Giles Family – The town of Ipswich is steeped in history, Charles Dickens stayed at the Great White Horse Hotel when he wrote ‘Pickwick Papers’; Dr. George Birkbeck founded one of the first ‘Mechanics’ Institute’ which operates to this day as the Ipswich library and reading room. One such famed icon was cartoonist Carl Giles who lived in Ipswich and whose popular satirical cartoon was widely loved. He is commemorated with a statue of Grandma and the ‘Giles family’ menagerie in Queen Street, overlooking the window of the newspaper office where he worked.

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Picnic at Holywells Park – The Holywells park much like the rest of Ipswich has history going back thousands of years. Tools from the Stone Age, as well as Bronze Age axes and Roman Coins have been discovered at this 67 acre park. The beautiful park is home to a large number of birdlife and is ideal for a summer picnic. On the way back to the town, head to the pier at sunset for a romantic walk under the shimmering lights of the waterfront.

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Visit Cambridge – The famed university town of Cambridge is a short train ride away from Ipswich and visit it you must. Cambridge’s architecture and gardens are spectacular; Punting in Cambridge is a wonderful way of looking at the beautiful ‘Bridge of Sighs’ and the ‘Mathematical Bridge’ while on the river Cam. I especially enjoyed musing over the sculptural and entirely mechanical ‘Corpus Clock’.

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Guide to Bali

Bali with it’s distinctive style of architecture built out of volcanic rock, black sand beaches and lush jungles, is a tropical paradise like none other.

Here are some of the things you must do while in Bali –

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Stay in an eco-friendly resort – Travel responsibly; It is entirely possible to experience the beauty of Bali while supporting businesses that take steps to preserve Bali’s natural resources for perpetuity.

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Watch the sunset at Ayana, Jimbaran – Perched on a cliff atop Jimbaran bay, Ayana boasts a spectacular sunset, the likes of which one has never seen.

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Explore Bali’s Wildlife – Bali’s lush jungles are a veritable treat for wildlife lovers, plan a trip to West Bali National park or explore underwater sea life at the islands of Lembogan, Menjangan and Lovina.

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Buy Balinese Furniture – Bali produces some of the best furniture in the world owing to an abundance of locally-grown, high quality wood. The many shops around Kerobokan stock beautiful furniture and are an aesthete’s delight.

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Stay at an Airbnb in Canggu – Choose one with enormous French windows that open up to Canggu’s endless paddy fields and is a short drive from Canggu’s popular organic cafe – The Shady Shack.

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Visit Tanah Lot – Tanah Lot is the most enchanting of the seven sea temples built on the Balinese coast. At low tide one can walk up the trail of rocks leading to the ancient temple.

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Unwind at the Sunset Lounge at Pan Pacific Resort – A great way to enjoy the breathtaking sunset over Tanah Lot is from the aptly named Sunset Lounge at the Pan Pacific Resort. The resort in itself is beautifully landscaped and a treat for golf aficionados.

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Surf Bali’s black sand beaches – Bali’s rolling waves and quiet, beautiful beaches are a surfer’s delight. So much so, that several classic surf movies such as ‘Morning of the Earth’ and ‘Endless Summer’ were shot here.

Penguin Bloom – The Rescued Magpie

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Cameron Bloom tells us the story of their beloved magpie, ‘Penguin’.

When Noah found Penguin

Penguin was just a small, wobbly-headed magpie chick when my son, Noah, found her lying injured on the grass after being blown out of her nest, located some 20 metres up a towering Norfolk Island pine tree. She was very lucky to survive such a horrendous fall but without immediate care would have died within a day. We built her a simple nest, fashioned from an old cane basket, and kept her warm with a small blanket.

Our sons immediately named her Penguin, for to her black and white plumage.

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Caring for Penguin

We undertook a great deal of research about magpies and were extremely grateful for all the specialist veterinary advice we received, especially in regard to Penguin’s diet. There were days when Penguin looked so weak we thought we might lose her, and some evenings when we knew there was a chance she wouldn’t survive the night. We continued to do all we could for the smallest member of our family, over time she regained her strength and soon after she began to explore her world and discover her abilities.

I’ll never forget when Penguin took her very first flight – it was an amazing moment for all of us.

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Penguin thinks she is a puppy

Whenever we’d pull up in the driveway after being away from the house Penguin will let out a loud and melodic warble to welcome us home then flap her wings with excitement and run straight to the front door to be let inside. Penguin always seemed to know exactly when our boys would be walking home from school.

At around 3.30pm she would position herself in the orange tree at the edge of the yard, waiting for them to come around the corner and into view. As soon as she heard them approaching she would break out in song and the boys would happily reply in their best magpie impersonation, and then she would call back to them again – just as if they were having a musical conversation.

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Free to fly

While she will always be a part of our family Penguin does not belong to us. The world is hers to explore and she regularly travels for days at a time. It isn’t always easy for Penguin, the older, resident magpies are fiercely territorial and at times have attacked her, tearing off feathers and inflicting painful wounds with their sharp beaks. Despite her many encounters with bully-birds, Penguin maintains a bright and friendly personality and is kind to all the birds she meets. She has built a close friendship with a pied currawong with whom she shares scraps at the back door, and has even baby-sat a sickly rainbow lorikeet.

We all love this crazy little bird, and the experience of caring for her when she was utterly helpless and then watching her mature into a strong, brave and wise bird has been a blessing.

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The ‘Penguin Bloom’ Book

There is a lot more to Penguin’s story than I can easily convey here, or even through the images I share, which is why I’m delighted to announce that I have created a book about Penguin with New York Times best-selling author, Bradley Trevor Greive.

I’d like to add that BTG and I, along with our publisher, ABC Books, are donating 10% of all royalties from Penguin Bloom to Spinal Cure Australia. When you read our book – which will make you laugh out aloud and also bring you to tears – you’ll soon realise just why this cause is so important to us and why I hope you’ll consider supporting this wonderful charity yourself.

You can pre-order the ‘Penguin Bloom’ book here.

Should you ever run into a similar situation of caring for an injured bird, here is a handy book that should help.

One rainy afternoon in Singapore

I visited the Jurong Bird Park and found it deserted, except for the beautiful birds and their caretakers. Enjoying the surprising calm and wary of the setting sun, I hurried along to take in as much as I could in the pouring rain.

Trudging along the rainforest, close to the spectacular 100-ft Jurong waterfall, I heard a voice saying ‘Hello’. I turned around and there was no one; I moved along even faster!

Then I noticed a beautiful black bird following my path; He would swoop ahead of me and I would hear a ‘Hello’.

I skeptically greeted him back and there it was again, a ‘Hello’ from the bird himself. Having made my acquaintance, he accompanied me around – hovering to match my pace, allowed me to feed him a papaya and even take his pictures while he peered curiously at me.

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It was a magical afternoon and one I won’t forget too soon.

P.S. Thanks to David of Incidental Naturalist, I now know that my feathered friend is a ‘Hill Mynah’.

If you are interested to know more about the birds in the region, take a look at this beautifully illustrated guide – Birds of Southeast Asia.