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I fell in love on my farm work… but here’s the dark side no one tells you about

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i fell in love on my farm work but heres the dark side no one tells you about

Pick fruit, find love and get likes on Instagram.

That’s the message Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is using to appeal to young Australians, as he tries to fill the looming harvest labour shortage of around 26,000 workers by March.

In itself, the message is a pretty cringeworthy attempt to lure young people across the country to ditch the dole in favour of ‘fun on the farm’ – even claiming that regional work could ‘change the way you live’.

Farm life: I ended up doing regional work in Bundaberg to get my 88 days done and dusted - and while an incredible experience, there's some things that are a physical nightmare. (Pictured third from left)

Farm life: I ended up doing regional work in Bundaberg to get my 88 days done and dusted - and while an incredible experience, there's some things that are a physical nightmare. (Pictured third from left)

Farm life: I ended up doing regional work in Bundaberg to get my 88 days done and dusted – and while an incredible experience, there’s some things that are a physical nightmare. (Pictured third from left)

But reluctantly, every word McCormack is saying rings true for me. 

As a backpacker, I did end up falling head-over-heels in love on a farm, have an abundance of friends I’ll have for the rest of my life and carry so many ridiculous memories that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. 

He pretty much has it bang on. 

However, within his speech of positivity, McCormack didn’t explore why working in the farm industry in Australia can be an absolute horror story for so many young people around the world.

Extremely low pay, sleazy farmers and getting hit and screamed at by supervisors all appeared to be part and parcel of working in agriculture, and something we heard about all too much during our three months on a farm.

As I hail from England, like every backpacker we’re required to complete 88 days of regional work in order to apply for a second working holiday visa in Australia – unless you’re sponsored by an employer, or go on a partnership visa.

Friends for life: We stayed with the same people in our working hostel during the pandemic. Pictured: Outside Federal Hostel, weeks before the entire building burned down in front of us

Friends for life: We stayed with the same people in our working hostel during the pandemic. Pictured: Outside Federal Hostel, weeks before the entire building burned down in front of us

Friends for life: We stayed with the same people in our working hostel during the pandemic. Pictured: Outside Federal Hostel, weeks before the entire building burned down in front of us

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s solution to fruit picker shortages 

 ‘Have a go, come to regional Australia, bring your mobile and have that Instagram moment… up a ladder, picking fruit, blue sky in the background, wonderful country breeze, wonderful friends around.

 ‘You’ll find more friends. You might even find the love of your life out in regional Australia.’

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Despite everyone telling me not to, I chose to do my farm work at Federal Hostel in Bundaberg, Queensland, which is a hotspot for international backpackers on the hunt for hourly work.

For a whopping $236 a week – the same amount I was paying for a double bed in Coogee in Sydney – you’re placed on a waiting list for a coveted hourly paid job, and share a room with eight other people all eager to get their days done and get back to city life.

The rooms themselves were pretty run down, bonking was rampant on the bunk beds nearby so you never truly got a good night’s sleep, and we were fined $500 if even a slither of alcohol was found in the hostel.

At first glance, I figured I’d just be popping a couple of lemons into a basket and drinking goon for the rest of the time.

But while the latter was completely true, the actual work resulted in countless breakdowns, people tearfully leaving their jobs and some of the most old-fashioned and backwards treatment of workers I’ve ever known.

‘BACKPACKERS!’ I heard being screamed to us on day one of my sweet potato farm job. ‘NO TALKING!’

Now, I’m not going to lie – I honestly haven’t worked a day of manual labour in all of my 27 years, but I swear I gave it the best crack I possibly could.

Hard life: Living in a working hostel, you often see many people who have never done a day of manual labour in their life - myself included (pictured)

Hard life: Living in a working hostel, you often see many people who have never done a day of manual labour in their life - myself included (pictured)

Hard life: Living in a working hostel, you often see many people who have never done a day of manual labour in their life – myself included (pictured)

Best friends: McCormack was right about one thing - you definitely meet pals for life while working in the hellish conditions

Best friends: McCormack was right about one thing - you definitely meet pals for life while working in the hellish conditions

Best friends: McCormack was right about one thing – you definitely meet pals for life while working in the hellish conditions

But as we reached the sixth hour of attempting to plant sweet potatoes in the ground, I felt my legs being lightly whipped with a vine by our supervisor as she tried to make me run faster down the field.

‘You’ll have to fire me as I’m literally gasping for breath, I can’t keep up,’ I said, wondering what on earth was happening.

And she did. 

Day one. Fired. Mortifying.

During my two weeks of unemployment – during which I still had to pay full rent – my friends would tell me countless horror stories of what had happened to them on their farms that day.

The same supervisor who dashed my legs with a vine ended up smacking one of the boys on the arm. 

‘Everyone was shocked,’ he said, adding that the woman in question was never allowed near him again after the incident.

Our Irish roommate, Nuala, walked in one day and showed us her war wound. Her job had been to drag huge fallen macadamia trees into a giant chipper, which would grind them up into tiny pieces.

But one of the trees got stuck. Her arm was dragged into said machine, and she physically had to bang her arm against the side to be set free.

‘I almost got minced!’ she said, with a look of sheer horror on her face. But she needed to get her days done, so she reluctantly returned to work the next morning to keep on ticking them off.

Bonking: Our hostel (pictured) would cost $236 a week, and would regularly feature rampant couples spending the night together every night

Bonking: Our hostel (pictured) would cost $236 a week, and would regularly feature rampant couples spending the night together every night

Distress: Most of the backpackers who came home from work would do so in tears

Distress: Most of the backpackers who came home from work would do so in tears

Bonking: Our hostel (pictured) would cost $236 a week, and would regularly feature rampant couples spending the night together every night

All the fun: The different hostels were filled with hundreds of backpackers all over the world, trying to get their second or third year Visas approved

All the fun: The different hostels were filled with hundreds of backpackers all over the world, trying to get their second or third year Visas approved

All the fun: The different hostels were filled with hundreds of backpackers all over the world, trying to get their second or third year Visas approved

Horror stories: Every person on the farm had a different tale to tell - but it never appeared to be easy to get 88 days signed off

Horror stories: Every person on the farm had a different tale to tell - but it never appeared to be easy to get 88 days signed off

Horror stories: Every person on the farm had a different tale to tell – but it never appeared to be easy to get 88 days signed off

Another of my friends, Ellie, had been working at a different hostel on ‘piece rate’ – where you’re paid for what you pick, rather than an hourly wage.

‘It was f**king grim,’ she said. ‘The lowest we got paid is about $23 for hours and hours of picking, and there was just nothing to pick. We couldn’t afford rent, but of course they didn’t care and we had to pay anyway.’

Because a lot of the work is aimed at boys, some of the girls I met found that they even turned a blind eye when it came to sleazy farmers making advances towards them.

‘I let him touch my bum, because I honestly needed to keep my job,’ a friend of mine said to me.

When another of my pals was out in the field, a radio went off in one of the vans – one which is connected to all the other farmers.

‘I can’t concentrate today,’ the creepy farmer said on the other end of the line. ‘She’s got her short shorts on.’ 

On a different farm, I was asked to fix water sprinklers in a field when one of the farmers came over to me.

‘It looks like you’ve got a wet p***y there,’ he said. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  

And this is it; for so many, things that are normally so hideously outrageous become ‘just another day’ on the farm. If we don’t do the days, we have to leave the country. It’s as simple as that. 

Help: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is drastically trying to fill the looming harvest labour shortage of around 26,000 workers by March

Help: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is drastically trying to fill the looming harvest labour shortage of around 26,000 workers by March

Help: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is drastically trying to fill the looming harvest labour shortage of around 26,000 workers by March

Bliss: For the most part, farm life was an unbelievable experience that not one of us will forget

Bliss: For the most part, farm life was an unbelievable experience that not one of us will forget

Bliss: For the most part, farm life was an unbelievable experience that not one of us will forget

Following my dramatically awful stint on sweet potatoes, I worked on two other farms during my season. 

When COVID-19 was in full swing we were only able to socialise with those in our hostels and on our farms – getting daily temperature checks in the process – so we became a tight-knit family who spent every waking moment together.

The macadamia farm I ended up on was incredible. Working with your best friends made a world of difference, and despite a few breakdowns it was probably the best experience it could be.

And, as Mr McCormack predicted, I fell in love in the midst of farm work. I’ll never know if it was the way he seductively drove a tractor, how he made planting macadamia trees look so easy or just how stunning he was to look at, but I knew I’d fallen for Josh within a matter of weeks.

Within a couple of months I’d moved in with him, and now he’s come over to Sydney so we can live together here. I’ve honestly never been happier. 

My experience was probably a little different to many others, because to top off a bizarre few months our hostel ended up burning to the ground the day before I was supposed to leave.

On the day itself, me and the girls had been drinking bottles of Prosecco to celebrate the end of my 88 days in true Bundaberg style. But as midnight drew closer, the fire alarms went off and we were forced to evacuate the building. 

He was right! I ended up finding love on a macadamia farm (Pictured with Josh)

He was right! I ended up finding love on a macadamia farm (Pictured with Josh)

He was right! I ended up finding love on a macadamia farm (Pictured with Josh)

He was right! I ended up finding love on a macadamia farm (Pictured with Josh)

He was right! I ended up finding love on a macadamia farm (Pictured with Josh) 

Moving on: We've now moved away from Bundaberg and back into Sydney

Moving on: We've now moved away from Bundaberg and back into Sydney

Moving on: We’ve now moved away from Bundaberg and back into Sydney

Horror: What started as a small fire in the pub next door, turned into a blazing inferno which engulfed our entire hostel - and we all just watched it from outside

Horror: What started as a small fire in the pub next door, turned into a blazing inferno which engulfed our entire hostel - and we all just watched it from outside

Horror: What started as a small fire in the pub next door, turned into a blazing inferno which engulfed our entire hostel – and we all just watched it from outside

We dozily dragged our bodies through the corridor, still drunk, barefoot and wearing nothing but pyjamas as we waited outside in the hopes we’d return to our beds at any minute.

But we never did.

What started as a small fire in the pub next door, turned into a blazing inferno which engulfed our entire hostel.

We stood and watched outside, helpless as everything we’d owned burned down in front of our eyes. Clothes, memories, laptops and suitcases – all completely gone within seconds.

On the farm, we’d all been listening to the podcast about Childers Backpackers some 40 minutes away from us, which was burned down in an arson attack 20 years ago. The devastating tragedy saw 15 backpackers, doing their farm work just like us, lose their lives in an instant.

We were so, so lucky that every single person in our hostel escaped unharmed that night. 

The management were incredible. The people of Bundaberg were incredible, donating anything and everything to make sure we were OK. And our best friends were incredible, raising a massive $16,000 for those who lost their belongings.

It was this incident that encompassed everything about farm work for me; even as everything burned down in front of us, everyone cracked on and tried to make light of a horrific situation. 

And that’s exactly what farm work is – an awful situation made incredible by the people you meet along the way.

Devastated: Myself (left) and friends Nuala (centre) and Ro (right) watched as our home was demolished, with everything we owned inside

Devastated: Myself (left) and friends Nuala (centre) and Ro (right) watched as our home was demolished, with everything we owned inside

Devastated: Myself (left) and friends Nuala (centre) and Ro (right) watched as our home was demolished, with everything we owned inside

I’m not going to lie –  the outrageous parties, stories of bunk-bed hopping and never-ending supply of drinks is all true. The whole experience is absolutely unforgettable, and I have zero regrets about doing a minute of farm work – even with the hostel burning down.

However, if Mr McCormack wants to incentivise more people to sign up to regional work, there should be more than just the hope of ‘romance’ and cute Instagram snaps on the cards.

Piece rate should be regulated; no one should have to work hours on end in a scorching hot field for literal pennies. 

Farms should be more regulated. If someone smacked someone in London for not doing their job properly, they’d be locked up. Why it’s any different for backpackers is unbelievable.  

We came out of this process having the utmost respect for those who work in the sector, and I know that so many do this worldwide without complaint.

But if workers were treated with a little more respect, it wouldn’t be such a battle to fill these positions.

For me and my friends, Bundaberg was one hell of a ride – two of us even got the most horrific tattoos known to man to commemorate the whole experience. 

But would I do six months of fruit picking to get a third year in Australia? 

Never in a million years. 

Horrific: Two of us even got two of the worst tattoos in the entire word inked on us, to commemorate the bizarre few months

Horrific: Two of us even got two of the worst tattoos in the entire word inked on us, to commemorate the bizarre few months

Horrific: Two of us even got two of the worst tattoos in the entire word inked on us, to commemorate the bizarre few months

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

Australia

Royals can’t sing national anthem at Westminster Abbey Armistice Day service due to Covid-19 rules 

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royals cant sing national anthem at westminster abbey armistice day service due to covid 19 rules

Members of the Royal Family, the Government and the Armed Forces will not be allowed to sing hymns or even the national anthem when they gather at Westminster Abbey on Armistice Day.

This year, November 11 marks 100 years since London came to a halt for the two events which have defined the way Britain honours its war dead – the unveiling of the Cenotaph on Whitehall and the Funeral of the Unknown Warrior at the Abbey.

A special Abbey service to mark that day in 1920 will be attended by an invited VIP congregation of 80, while proceedings are also televised live on BBC1.

However, Government rules on Covid-19 mean even the royal guests cannot sing God Save The Queen, or anything else, ‘because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets’. 

(L-R) Prince William, Prince Harry, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge attend the annual Armistice Day ceremony in Westminster Abbey in 2018 [File photo]

(L-R) Prince William, Prince Harry, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge attend the annual Armistice Day ceremony in Westminster Abbey in 2018 [File photo]

(L-R) Prince William, Prince Harry, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge attend the annual Armistice Day ceremony in Westminster Abbey in 2018 [File photo]

An Abbey spokesman confirmed that the only voices which can break in to song are those of the socially-distanced choir.

The ruling follows a Government ban on ‘communal singing’, one of several restrictions which were branded ‘farcical’ by veterans’ groups last night. 

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith said: ‘If the Government and the British Legion limit Remembrance Sunday to the point that it becomes pointless, then we have to ask ourselves: what did they die for?’

The situation is even more extreme in Scotland where all ceremonies at all local war memorials have been cancelled, by order of the Scottish Government.

Until this week, the general rules against singing had extended to next weekend’s main act of commemoration at the Cenotaph, where the Queen will attend the traditional service along with members of the Royal Family, party leaders and Commonwealth diplomats. 

Only 30 veterans will be admitted while all members of the public are excluded and the Metropolitan Police plan to erect giant screens at either end of Whitehall to deter sightseers.

Singing will go ahead at the Cenotaph ceremony, which is held outdoors. Pictured: The Queen lays a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in 2015 [File photo]

Singing will go ahead at the Cenotaph ceremony, which is held outdoors. Pictured: The Queen lays a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in 2015 [File photo]

Singing will go ahead at the Cenotaph ceremony, which is held outdoors. Pictured: The Queen lays a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in 2015 [File photo]

Acting on advice from Public Health England, the Department of Culture, which organises the service, had ruled that only the Choir of the Chapel Royal would be permitted to sing the national anthem and the traditional hymn, O God Our Help In Ages Past.

However, the Government has granted an exemption for this event rather than risk a backlash for preventing the Prince of Wales and the rest of the Royal Family from singing God Save The Queen in front of the Queen herself, live on television.

The situation remains unclear, however, for ceremonies at war memorials around the country. 

In England, these are a matter for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. 

Officials there have been unable to explain why the ban on singing has been lifted at the Cenotaph but not elsewhere.

Veterans are becoming increasingly critical of this year’s arrangements, and many are dismayed by the Government’s decision to shrink the national commemorations at the Cenotaph to a token presence. 

Vivien Foster, president of the Merchant Navy Association, has been laying the organisation’s familiar wreath – in the shape of an anchor – every year for the past two decades. ‘The whole situation is farcical,’ she said yesterday.  

 Last post for common sense: A ban on singing the national anthem at remembrance events is the latest example of how Covid threatens our sanity, writes ROBERT HARDMAN 

As if this week’s threats of police raids on over-sized Christmas Day gatherings were not barmy enough, then along comes something even sillier: a ban on singing the national anthem.

Even the Welsh Government’s comedy order prohibiting the sale of kettles does not come close to the absurdity of forbidding loyal ex-servicemen and women and even members of the Royal Family from singing God Save The Queen in the days ahead.

It is merely the latest example of how coronavirus does not merely threaten the health of the vulnerable, but the sanity of us all.

Tomorrow week – Remembrance Sunday – is the most sacred date in the national calendar. By all means, feel free to head for a supermarket that day – as well as the pub, the gym and even the golf club in many parts of Britain.

However, if you are planning to turn up at a war memorial for the traditional service and two-minute silence at 11am, hold your horses. Because special rules apply. Not only must numbers be ‘minimised’, there is a ban on ‘communal singing’. In many places, ceremonies have simply been cancelled. In others, they are closed to all but a few local representatives.

The Queen is pictured with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a National Service to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 2018 [File photo]

The Queen is pictured with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a National Service to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 2018 [File photo]

The Queen is pictured with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a National Service to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 2018 [File photo]

To read the new rules for next weekend, you sense that officialdom regards Remembrance Sunday like Cup Final day or Halloween – just another irksome, public order issue that needs some tight controls. Astonishingly, it turns out the Government has not even drafted its own legislation correctly.

The latest Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 bolted on to the 1984 Public Health Act dictate what commemorative events may take place and how. Legally, councils can authorise a ceremony only if ‘the gathering takes place to commemorate Remembrance Sunday’.

This is nonsense. We do not gather to ‘commemorate Remembrance Sunday’. We gather on Remembrance Sunday to commemorate our war dead, not the day itself. This is just sloppy legislation. If the Government can’t even word its own rules accurately, then how the hell can they expect the rest of us to observe them?

The official ministerial guidance to local authorities is blunt and wholly negative. Organisers are repeatedly ordered to ‘keep numbers to a minimum’, to ‘take reasonable steps to ensure the public attend alone’ and to take everyone’s details.

We all accept these are exceptional times. But this is not just another annual tradition.

For millions, Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are hallowed days of obligation, occasions when we make an effort to honour those who gave their all for our freedoms. For many, who are still mourning loved ones killed in the line of duty, it is a day of great sadness and pride. The Government has urged people to stay at home and switch on the telly. But for countless people, that is simply not going to suffice.

Where is the common sense here? Everyone accepts the need for social distancing. And the sort of people who turn up at remembrance events do not behave like people piling out of bars at a 10pm curfew or protesters in Trafalgar Square. They come in the quiet expectation of dignity and solemnity. Above all, most services of commemoration are outside. It is why many veterans are dismayed that the traditional open-air Royal British Legion parade at the Cenotaph has virtually disappeared.

Veterans attending the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall in 2016 [File photo]

Veterans attending the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall in 2016 [File photo]

Veterans attending the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall in 2016 [File photo]

The turnout of politicians will be the same but that eternally poignant march-past of ex-servicemen and women is off. Obviously, a parade of 10,000 veterans – watched by huge crowds – is out of the question.

However, the Legion had been planning a Covid-compliant alternative. Last month, charities such as Blind Veterans UK were offered ten socially distanced places in a much-reduced parade. All representatives would have to be ‘physically fit’ and ‘have the ability to march for 45 minutes’ without escorts or wheelchairs. There would be no room for carers. But at least it was something. The Legion had worked out it could accommodate about 2,000 veterans at well-regulated intervals.

Then Public Health England weighed in. That number has now been reduced to just 30 able-bodied veterans. Everyone else wishing to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph can do so online or by mail order.

Meanwhile, the Met Police are preparing rigorous counter-measures to deter any passers-by from dawdling. Large white screens are to be erected at either end of Whitehall to block the view. ‘Move along now, nothing to see here. Just the Queen on her balcony…’

Quite apart from the oppressive sense of overkill, has anyone paused to contemplate what sort of message all these restrictions are sending out? From the outset, the official mindset has got it all wrong. Rather than finding constructive ways to help people commemorate safely and sensibly, the priority has been to shoo them elsewhere. Let them go shopping or drinking instead.

At the same time, people are still banned from ‘communal singing’ in line with the edict from the Ministry of Housing and Communities.

Following the Government’s latest U-turn allowing VIPs to sing at the Cenotaph, officials have hinted that the rules may now be changed for outdoor – but not indoor – ceremonies. As of last night, however, the blanket singing ban remained in place on the Government website.

The ruling has hit other major events. All the Armed Forces taking part in next Saturday’s Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall – which will be screened on BBC1 – must remain mute. ‘There is no singing by anyone other than the choir and the individual artists,’ a Legion spokesperson explained.

Speaking for millions of veterans and their families, no doubt, the President of the Merchant Navy Association, Vivien Foster, sums it all up in one word: ‘Ridiculous’.

Elsewhere, the public are left wondering where and how they are allowed to pay their respects.

Truro in Cornwall will have a small invitation-only ceremony at the cathedral. Coventry is among many places holding its official ceremony online. Many towns and villages have taken their lead from the Government and simply cancelled their ceremonies.

Not so much the Last Post as the last straw. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Prince Charles and Camilla invite the Mail to Highgrove

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prince charles and camilla invite the mail to highgrove

Not every day do you see a herd of elephants migrating through the Cotswolds. Particularly in the gardens of the Prince of Wales’s beloved country home, Highgrove. And yet here they are.

Five life-sized – and utterly glorious – model pachyderms being greeted by Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, on a glorious autumnal morning as they gingerly navigate the future king’s prized wildflower meadow.

They have welcomed the unusual additions to the Gloucestershire estate in memory of Camilla’s late brother, Mark Shand.

Not every day do you see a herd of elephants migrating through the Cotswolds. Particularly in the gardens of the Prince of Wales’s beloved country home, Highgrove. And yet here they are

Not every day do you see a herd of elephants migrating through the Cotswolds. Particularly in the gardens of the Prince of Wales’s beloved country home, Highgrove. And yet here they are

Not every day do you see a herd of elephants migrating through the Cotswolds. Particularly in the gardens of the Prince of Wales’s beloved country home, Highgrove. And yet here they are

Mark was an adventurer, conservationist, travel writer, lover of women and free spirit who led a truly fascinating life until his tragic death six years ago.

He was also passionate about his work preserving the endangered Asian elephant and founded a charity, Elephant Family, of which Charles and Camilla are joint royal patrons.

They are now bringing to fruition CoExistence, an environmental art campaign Mark dreamed up with trustee Ruth Ganesh a decade ago, but was sadly never able to realise.

Their stunning elephant sculptures, made by artisans in the jungles of southern India, are part of a 125-strong herd which had been due to be exhibited in aid of Elephant Family across London’s Royal Parks this summer.

Instead, having made the 5,200-mile journey to Britain by lorry and boat at the beginning of the year, these exotic beasts found themselves locked down due to the pandemic.

Mark was an adventurer, conservationist, travel writer, lover of women and free spirit who led a truly fascinating life until his tragic death six years ago

Mark was an adventurer, conservationist, travel writer, lover of women and free spirit who led a truly fascinating life until his tragic death six years ago

Mark was an adventurer, conservationist, travel writer, lover of women and free spirit who led a truly fascinating life until his tragic death six years ago

So Camilla, 73, took it upon herself to personally write dozens of letters to family and friends, asking them to temporarily adopt an elephant – or five – until they can finally be exhibited next summer.

The duchess still finds it hard to believe that she won’t ever hear her adored younger brother’s throaty tones again.

‘He used to call me ‘Camills’,’ she told the Daily Mail in an exclusive interview on Monday. ‘The phone would ring, and I always knew it was him as I’d hear my name: ‘Camills, please can you help with the elephants?’

Charles, who wasn’t scheduled to join her, makes an unexpected appearance. He knows how much this means to his wife and is keen to ensure the elephants are placed just so.

Charles, who wasn't scheduled to join her, makes an unexpected appearance. He knows how much this means to his wife and is keen to ensure the elephants are placed just so

Charles, who wasn't scheduled to join her, makes an unexpected appearance. He knows how much this means to his wife and is keen to ensure the elephants are placed just so

Charles, who wasn’t scheduled to join her, makes an unexpected appearance. He knows how much this means to his wife and is keen to ensure the elephants are placed just so

He’s sporting a much-loved and well-worn (in fact it appears almost threadbare in places) full-length embroidered coat given to him in Pakistan, which he habitually wears when walking around his estate. Although its existence is fabled, it’s never been seen in public before. It’s sweetly eccentric and makes you realise how relaxed he feels here.

The prince chats enthusiastically about how the elephants, which were five years in the making, have been fashioned from Lantana camara, a horribly invasive weed introduced to India as an ornamental by British tea planters in the 19th century, but which is now choking the protected forests of Asia.

Conflict between humans and wildlife for food and space claims the lives of one person and one elephant in India on average every day. ‘That’s why it is even more important that we have to raise funds now,’ says Camilla.

‘They were doing so well with these ‘elephant corridors’ (which let the animals wander without coming into contact with villagers) and had a good scheme about rehousing the people. Then along comes Covid and everything comes to a grinding halt. It is so important now that we keep this going.

‘If everything goes on being as crowded as it is, the elephants will have nothing to eat. You have got to sort it out for the people, the habitat and the elephants. Everything works together.’ 

I remark that she reminds me of her husband, who has been urging man to work in harmony with nature, not against it, for decades, despite public derision at times.

‘Everyone said he was talking nonsense,’ the duchess says. ‘He has been going on about it for 40 years and look, it’s almost too late now. That is the frightening thing.

‘Covid hasn’t helped. What happens to all the PPE? The masks? People putting stuff in plastic wrapping again. It is a terrible worry.

‘But on a positive note, wherever my brother is, I am sure he is praying these beautiful creatures will make a lot of money for the charity. And look at them. How could you resist?’

They are now bringing to fruition CoExistence, an environmental art campaign Mark dreamed up with trustee Ruth Ganesh (pictured) a decade ago, but was sadly never able to realise

They are now bringing to fruition CoExistence, an environmental art campaign Mark dreamed up with trustee Ruth Ganesh (pictured) a decade ago, but was sadly never able to realise

They are now bringing to fruition CoExistence, an environmental art campaign Mark dreamed up with trustee Ruth Ganesh (pictured) a decade ago, but was sadly never able to realise

Her sister, Annabel Elliot, couldn’t. Mrs Elliot, who is also a trustee of Elephant Family, has three model elephants joining two large elephant topiaries that Mark gave her in a field at her Dorset home. Like Camilla, she also misses Mark desperately.

‘He lived here with me when he was in England,’ she says. 

‘What is nice now, though, is that his daughter, Ayesha, has become part of my family. She comes down here a lot and sleeps in Mark’s room, which is so nice.’ Mark received a fatal head injury when he tripped on a pavement in New York after a fundraiser for his charity.

Mrs Elliot adds: ‘Mark was always a traveller, off on another expedition. And what’s so ironic is that given all of the things he faced – being shipwrecked, being charged by animals – it was just falling down that killed him. It’s so strange, isn’t it?

‘This is a lovely tribute, though, and next summer, all being well, to have the whole herd in London will be amazing.’

Jilly Cooper would surely agree. The author, 83, has taken on two of Camilla’s elephants. ‘Aren’t they just glorious?’ she says proudly. 

Jilly explains she would meet Mark Shand – ‘such a handsome man’ – at the duchess’s house when Camilla was married to her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles. ‘I think my darling Mark must be so pleased,’ she says. 

Lady Bathurst, the chatelaine of Cirencester Park, also has five elephants on public display, as does Lord Rothschild, whose herd will be part of the 'winter walk' at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. 'It's going to be very hard to see them go next spring,' says Lady Bathurst

Lady Bathurst, the chatelaine of Cirencester Park, also has five elephants on public display, as does Lord Rothschild, whose herd will be part of the 'winter walk' at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. 'It's going to be very hard to see them go next spring,' says Lady Bathurst

Lady Bathurst, the chatelaine of Cirencester Park, also has five elephants on public display, as does Lord Rothschild, whose herd will be part of the ‘winter walk’ at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. ‘It’s going to be very hard to see them go next spring,’ says Lady Bathurst

Author Jilly Cooper, 83, has taken on two of Camilla's elephants. 'Aren't they just glorious?' she says proudly

Author Jilly Cooper, 83, has taken on two of Camilla's elephants. 'Aren't they just glorious?' she says proudly

Author Jilly Cooper, 83, has taken on two of Camilla’s elephants. ‘Aren’t they just glorious?’ she says proudly

‘He was so heavenly and didn’t care about himself at all. It was all about the elephants. He’ll be looking down, parting the clouds in heaven and smiling.’

Lady Bathurst, the chatelaine of Cirencester Park, also has five elephants on public display, as does Lord Rothschild, whose herd will be part of the ‘winter walk’ at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. 

‘It’s going to be very hard to see them go next spring,’ says Lady Bathurst. ‘But thankfully they will be travelling on to their next, wonderful elephant adventure.’

There’s no doubt, says Camilla, that her dear, much-missed brother, would have heartily approved.

To find out more, or how to adopt or purchase an elephant, please visit coexistencestory.org

For more details on Elephant Family, see elephant-family.org

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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The 12 clever and crazy items to pack for pandemic-friendly travel

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the 12 clever and crazy items to pack for pandemic friendly travel
This backpack, emblazoned with the Girl With A Pearl Earring wearing a mask, is sure to raise a smile

This backpack, emblazoned with the Girl With A Pearl Earring wearing a mask, is sure to raise a smile

This backpack, emblazoned with the Girl With A Pearl Earring wearing a mask, is sure to raise a smile 

For some companies, the pandemic has been an opportunity to show how innovative they are.

Here we reveal 12 travel items essential for pandemic-friendly travel, including a small silicone tip for operating public touch screens like those at cash machines, stations and airports and a sterilising box that can disinfect phones, glasses, cash or pens when you are on the go.

Artistic licence

Girl With A Pearl Earring (and mask) backpack, £39.04

A perfectly useable backpack for any travels — but the facemask-wearing version of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s painting Girl With A Pearl Earring will turn heads and raise a smile.

Breath of fresh air

AVICHE necklace wearable mini personal air purifier with USB, £29.99

The idea is you charge this little pendant (using the USB slot) and wear it around your neck. Makers claim the device creates a 3ft-wide bubble of ‘purified air’ to keep viruses at bay. 

One reviewer said they always wear one because ‘it’s reassuring’ and battery life is enough for any long-haul flight. The science of its anti-virus powers is sketchy but it definitely clears smelly and smoky air.

Stop the spread

The Tru Eco disposable wooden cutlery set contains 150 birch wood knives, forks and spoons

The Tru Eco disposable wooden cutlery set contains 150 birch wood knives, forks and spoons

The Tru Eco disposable wooden cutlery set contains 150 birch wood knives, forks and spoons

Tru Eco disposable wooden cutlery set, £6.99

For those who don’t trust that the hotel cutlery is virus-free, or don’t want inadvertently to pass any infection to restaurant staff, this lightweight, wooden cutlery set is designed to be used once and thrown away afterwards. The pack contains 150 birch wood knives, forks and spoons to take on your travels.

Packed full of humour

F.L.OPOPO cloth carrier bag, £11.18

It takes a certain type of traveller to appear with a bright red bag emblazoned with ‘2020 Covid-19 Survivor’ and a picture of a toilet roll. There’s nothing else virus-related about this foil-lined, zipped and pocketed cloth carrier. A sense of humour is required.

Back up

Sggual backpack, £18.99

Another backpack that has no particular attributes to make it hygienic or safe, but perhaps its tasteless design — images of coronavirus particles — will keep people socially distanced.

Throw in the towel

Babydo beach towel, £21.49

The Babydo beach towel, which comes in acid yellow, should create a social distance around you

The Babydo beach towel, which comes in acid yellow, should create a social distance around you

The Babydo beach towel, which comes in acid yellow, should create a social distance around you 

However crowded the beach, you wouldn’t lose this extra-large towel. If the acid yellow and What Virus? slogan weren’t enough, the picture of someone in a gas mask should create a social distance all around you. And who would dare move this from your poolside sun-lounger?  

Bottle it

Fast Pro bottles (ten-pack) for hand sanitiser, £8.99

A travel pack of ten squeezable bottles that travellers can fill with hand sanitiser, then attach upside down to key rings or belts. You can have instant disinfected hands wherever you go.

Mask protector

Wateralone mask case, £1.39

This lightweight case keeps your mask clean when not being worn. The pocket-sized box made of hygienic plastic clips tightly shut to form a waterproof, dust-proof seal. It comes in white or pastel blue, pink or green. 

Get a handle on it

Fredor door opener, £3.99

This small zinc device can be used to open doors and the silicone tip can operate public touch screens such as those at cash machines, stations and airports

This small zinc device can be used to open doors and the silicone tip can operate public touch screens such as those at cash machines, stations and airports

This small zinc device can be used to open doors and the silicone tip can operate public touch screens such as those at cash machines, stations and airports 

Attach this small zinc device to your key fob with the supplied ring and then wherever you go you can open doors, which are a high-touch area, without risking infection. There is also a small silicone tip for operating public touch screens such as those at cash machines, stations and airports.

Note that the ‘hygiene hook’ is excellent for doors with angular handles — but useless if they are round.

Light years ahead

Crown LED portable disinfection lamp, £43.95

A small light (it’s just five inches long) that claims to remove ‘up to 99.9 per cent’ of viruses. Simply shine it at any worrying surfaces for 30 seconds. It claims to work on everything from steering wheels to TV remote controls in hotels.

Picture perfect

The Cities Of Silence book, which includes powerful images of London and New York

The Cities Of Silence book, which includes powerful images of London and New York

The Cities Of Silence book, which includes powerful images of London and New York 

Cities Of Silence book, £12

A glossy hardback of extraordinary photos telling the story of travel in 2020. 

Among the powerful images you will see the London Eye at a standstill and New York’s Brooklyn Bridge looking abandoned.

Germ killer

Cahot portable UV light steriliser box, £34.99

Disinfect phones, glasses, cash or pens when you are on the go by putting them in this steriliser box. Close the magnetic lid and eight internal ultraviolet lights destroy germs in three minutes.

The USB-powered device does not specifically claim to protect against Covid but against ‘illness-causing hazards’.

Oddly, it can also wirelessly charge phones.

  • All products available on Amazon.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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