Tuesday, November 20, 2018


It was a lovely weekend.  The sun shone. It was pleasantly warm. There were lots of fun things to do.

Amongst the fun things on offer was the Bacchus Marsh Strawberry and Cherry Fair.  We went last year not really knowing what we were going to. We decided to go again this year. And this year we took Stella with us.  Or - Lindsey did. She and Stella were in East Melbourne and drove up. We were in Mount Helen and drove down.

It was VERY busy!

Jim pushed Stella in her wheelchair. Lindsey and I ambled about. We had (free) sausages from the sausage sizzle outside the travel agency. We bought strawberries, raspberries and cherries. We bought Christmassy stuff. We had lunch at Flannagan's, sat where we were sat last year, outside on the patio. This year we had a carb feast.  Chips and wedges and nachos and a bit of chicken.  We need to remember for next year that the "Light" sizes are enormous and only to buy half the number of dishes!

Then we all went back to Mount Helen. Stella stayed at Hill House overnight.  We had a rare night at our place. We were at Hill House all last week and are expecting to be there for most of this coming week. And we pick up the keys to the new place on Saturday and will begin to move in next weekend so there aren't many more opportunities for sleeping over at our place.

But there was time for one last Sunday lunch.  Lindsey, Ian and Stella came down and we had slow cooked lamb shanks with roast veg and fresh veg on the side.  We had donuts for dessert, which Lindsey bought in Bacchus Marsh. Then Ian took Stella home and Lindsey went on an emergency mission for dog biscuits.  Rupert and Hugo had Run Out!!!!!!!

And the sun shone all weekend.

It was lovely.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

On the move again

We knew, when we took the lease on Tani no uchi, that the unit was on the market. We knew that our 12 month lease was safe, so any new owners couldn't chuck us out until March 2019.  We were also aware that the estate agency was marketing it to investors rather than to private buyers.

Alas, the investors weren't all that interested and in the event the unit has been sold to a private buyer.  We have been given written notice to quit at the end of the lease plus written notification that if we chose to leave earlier, with 28 days notice, the new owners wouldn't argue.

We like living where we do.  We like the unit, but we also like the area.  Mount Helen is a fairly quiet place but it is only a tad under 3 km to Mount Clear in one direction, and to Buninyong in the other.  It's 2 km from Lindsey and Ian's place. It's an easy drive into Ballarat. It's not a difficult drive into Melbourne.

I was listening to someone the radio the other day saying that people are buying or renting in the new developments on the edges of Melbourne and Sydney because housing is more affordable but that then people get there and find that, although there might be bus stops, there aren't actually any buses yet. There are no local shops. Commuting to work is expensive.  You can afford the house but you don't get the lifestyle.  In Mount Helen you get a lifestyle that Jim and I enjoy and we can afford to rent there.

I didn't want to sleepwalk my way into February 2019 and find that we had to find somewhere new to live in a hurry, so I started looking. And there was a unit round the corner that looked very similar to where we are living now.  Jim, Lindsey and I went to look at it. I think it may have been built by the same developer, but it is older and each room is a bit smaller.  We left thinking that we aren't in any hurry and it wasn't quite what we were looking for.

A day or two later, Jim and I went to look at an actual house much closer to central Ballarat. There were LOTS of people looking at it. We came away thinking that it was a nice house and we would consider buying it if we were looking to buy but it wasn't for us as a rental (the kitchen and bathroom had both been fully renovated but the rest of the Victorian building had not. I would want to do the rest of it!).

The unit in Mount Helen had another viewing on the Saturday, so Jim and I went to have another look at it. I think if we had seen it before the place we're currently living in we would have thought it was perfectly satisfactory. It seems less so because it is 7 years older (and it has purple carpets but they would seem less dramatic if there was furniture to divert the eye).

We put in an application for it.  And yesterday it was approved. We pick up the keys next Saturday.  I must remember to arrange to have the gas, electricity, internet, water transferred there.  And to give our 28 days notice on Monday.  It's only a 5 minute walk from where we are now.  We should be able to shift most things by car or on foot.

Now all we need to do is to sell our place in the UK.  We are exploring the auction option again.  But with a different auction company. Unless you fancy buying it?  We could be persuaded to arrange a mate's discount :-D

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Out and About at the Weekend

We went to Geelong on Saturday, for lunch at Irene's place.  Gillie couldn't be there but Chris and John were, and Irene's friend Stephen was there.  We had a very delicious time.

We had eggs from the chooks and veg from the garden, plus veg from other places.  We had soup and casserole, cheese and tiramisu. We had wine and gentle conversation. It was a lovely day.

Irene has a new dog.  Her name is Flora and she is a 12 month old Kelpie.  She is very friendly and wriggly

Lovely to meet you too :-D
Sunday was a glorious day and we indulged in two firsts.  I can't say that I had no idea about either of them because I knew that they both existed, but we had never been to either of them so didn't know what was there.

The first was the annual Gordon Community Fair. We had a lovely drive across country to get there. It's a long, long time since I was last in Gordon, which is a small, pretty township off the freeway. I might go again and have a little potter around on a sunny weekend day when there is not much else to do.

The fair itself was at the Recreation ground outside of the township. We met Lindsey there and had a lovely potter about.  It was very well attended, and there were a surprising number of stalls and activities.  Then Lindsey went to Melbourne and Jim and I head back towards home, again across country.

But not directly home.  It was a beautiful afternoon, so we went exploring.

We pass through Lal Lal fairly frequently.  We went to their tiny, cute village fair a couple of weeks ago, you may remember.  There is a signpost to the Lal Lal Falls, pointing away from the village.  The pub is called The Lal Lal Falls.  So we knew that there was a waterfall somewhere nearby but we had never followed the signpost to see where. On Sunday we did.

And we found a reserve, with barbecue area, picnic tables, children's play equipment and walking tracks.  There is a small gorge with a little waterfall.  Mind you, it's been quite dry recently so the creek that feeds it didn't have much water.  I suspect after a storm, or during winter it would be quite spectacular.

I would definitely not be this close if the creek was full.
I think I'd almost certainly be swept over the cliff and down the falls!!

So yes, I knew that the Falls existed, but I didn't know about the reserve or the walking tracks or the picnic area.  I didn't know anything about the Moorabool Falls, which I hadn't heard of. I know now that they exist because we saw a car park at the start of the Moorabool Falls Trail.  I might need to find a walking companion or three to go and look, though. It's a nearly 6 km round trip (on foot, no vehicular access) and I think Jim's feet would not enjoy it much.

I have to say that it was a very lovely weekend. We should go exploring more often.

We gave this jigsaw to Tony last Christmas but he didn't get around to doing it.  So we brought it back to our place and Jim did it on his behalf.

He's doing a bigger, more complicated (but less interesting?) one now

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Were we scared or shaken up by the neighbours' fire on Sunday?

People have asked this.  And no, not really.  There wasn't any danger to us from the fire in the outbuildings. The only danger to us was if the cypress tree had fallen our way.  Realistically, it wouldn't have fallen on our place, but it would have got one or two of the units opposite us and almost certainly spread onto the drive.  And then we wouldn't have been able to get out. Much more sensible to go while the way was clear.  And that is what the Fire Safety advice is.  If you're going, go early. As it happens, it didn't fall (but it's not looking very happy!).  None of the other trees caught fire, which might have been interesting. And we haven't had any smoke damage to our place.  I've had to re-wash the clothes that were out on the line and, until the heavy rain this morning, it smelled very smoky outside. But that's no real bother.

I realise that the list of things I grabbed on the way out seems paltry, but it was things that you need if you should lose everything else.  Passports because they are a primary form of ID (and Jim's bridging visa is attached to his). Wallets because they have your driving licence (another primary form of ID) and access to money. Phones so you can contact people.  Laptop in my case because that's where most of the photos are, plus all the documentation for Jim's residency application.  iPad because it has a vast collection of e-books stored on it.  Lindsey says I should have taken the file with the original documents, like birth certificates, wedding certificate and so on.  She's absolutely right. They are now in a bag ready to be taken if we have to leave in a hurry.

Everything else? Well of course, there are things that I would miss but nothing that is actually irreplaceable.  We are insured against fire and other disasters.  And I have started again before.  It's kind of fun in many ways.  Although if my china collection went I might be forced to start a completely new one.  Would be expensive, though.  The pretty plates and serving dishes and so on that I had my eye on were in a gallery in Nagoya in Japan :-D

And now it's all good.  Apart from whatever was in the shed that (mysteriously) spontaneously combusted, and the poor cypress tree. And whatever other shrubbery was damaged.  I've haven't been along for a sticky yet

Sunday, November 04, 2018

An exciting weekend

Jeanette, Matt and Evie came to visit us for the weekend.

They flew into Avalon on Saturday morning and I went and picked them up.  We came back to Tani no Uchi, where Jim was waiting for us.  Pies from the local bakery for lunch.  Then Lindsey and Ian came down and she, Jeanette, Evie and I went out and about, and Ian, Jim and Matt headed to Buninyong. We reconvened at Hill House later, played with the dogs (who LERVED Evie) and then left Lindsey and Ian to their own devices and came back to our place for roast chicken (and veggie koftas for Jeanette) for dinner.

So far so not very exciting, apart from the Diwali fireworks at around 9:30 at the University.

Not very exciting, I agree. Though I must say that Evie has developed into a very good dinner conversationalist.  She has some very interesting things to say, especially to say she's only 11.

Sunday morning saw us eating fruit, cheese and toast for breakfast.  We had arranged for Lindsey and Ian to come down to our place at around 12:00 so were just sitting about and relaxing as the morning progressed.

I went into the study to do something - and saw smoke billowing around.  I thought I should go and investigate.  Went to open the front door and saw a Rather Large fire, over there, behind the trees.  I went to have a look.  Jim followed me down.

So.  Behind this block of units is a scrubby reserve.  The reserve comes down to the road behind the units opposite us,  but narrows to a suburban block size.  On the other side of that is a fence, and beyond that is a large block of land with lots of trees, a house and many outbuildings.  At least one of the outbuildings was on fire. I could hear fire engines in the distances.

The fire got larger.  The clouds of smoke got blacker.  The flames got higher. And now there were banging noises, such as those of small explosions.

One of the cypress trees caught fire.


I came back and said to Jeanette, Matt and Evie that they should get their stuff.  We were heading off.

They already had their stuff.  They hadn't brought much for an overnight visit and were holding their bags and waiting.

I grabbed my iPad, laptop, the passports and my wallet, the house keys and the car keys. We all leapt into the car and headed off.

On this occasion we went up to Lindsey and Ian's place.  I wouldn't do that if it were a bushfire.  I would head to Ballarat or Melbourne. If I couldn't get to those places I would go to the muster place at the University or IBM.  But on this occasion the danger came from the tree.  Had it fallen our way it might easily have reached our place.  I have no wish to be squashed by a flaming cypress tree!

Lindsey and Ian had been watching the fire from their hill (Ian had rung me to tell me about it, in case I hadn't noticed) so weren't particularly surprised when we all rocked up. We still went to the Lake for lunch. And very nice it was too.  We managed a potter around part of the lake and a wander in the botanical gardens, where are the busts of heads of all the Prime Minsters (apart from the last two although I'm sure they'll be along; the last two lasted such a short time that the sculptors haven't had time to keep up!)

When We got back to our place 4 hours later, prior to taking Jeanette, Matt and Evie back to the airport, there were still several fire engines, many police cars and two Scene of Crime vans in place.

If nothing else, it was a good practice should we have to evacuate in an emergency.  I knew what I had to get and where things were.  We were in the car and moving out within 3 or 4 minutes. Other people were also in their cars and moving out. Something to think about in the event of a big emergency. The roads will be busy!  We would need to think about where we were going if a bushfire comes through, but my Fire Action Plan worked well enough. (My fire action plan has always been: Run Away; and we did :-D)

Jeanette, Matt and Evie are on their way back to Sydney.  I got breathalysed in a Booze Bus operation on he way to the airport.  I was as clean as a whistle.  Not a drop of alcohol had passed my lips over breakfast or lunch.

In the end it was a much more exciting weekend than any of us had anticipated!!!

I have some musings to put down, but I'll do that on another occasion

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


The funeral was lovely

The weather was glorious.

It was in Tony's parish church.

The church was full.

We sang Jerusalem, as requested, and walked him out to Thine be the glory.  Amazing grace didn't get a look in!

Lindsey and other family members gave eulogies. Paul read a eulogy on behalf of the UK family. Some people read poems. I read the gospel reading. Ian had prepared slideshows of photos for the church and for the community centre.

Stella's elderly cousin came from Geelong, accompanied by her son. The practice was represented by former Partners, brought by the wife of a current Partner,  or a family member, and by the current Practice Manager and the Nurse Manager.

Some of their earliest Australian friends, now all deceased, were represented by their children.

It was a lovely service.

Tony was accompanied to the crematorium by Stella, his children and grandchildren.  Sorry Tony - but it was a largely pointless exercise.  We had said goodbye at the church. We didn't drive in convoy (would have been very difficult and the traffic was quite heavy) and just turned up at the crematorium to look at the coffin. Then we turned around again and drove back to Mount Martha. Would have been better (in my view) to have spent that time talking outside the church to the people who couldn't come to the wake. However, Tony had wanted us to go, and so we did.

The party was held in the community centre of their retirement village and was catered by a local coffee shop that they were very fond of (Stella still is!)

We sent him on his way wearing (amongst other things!!!) his piano key braces and his music socks.  We sent a hymn book for songs of rejoicing in the after life, plus a sheet of music.  We sent a glass or three of a good bottle of red wine. He had a copy of New Scientist to read on the journey. A golf tee in his pocket in case Paradise has a golf course. And his stethoscope, although I am not sure there will be much need for a stethoscope now.  But Just in Case!

Jim and I are at Mount Martha still. Jim is staying with Stella this week while I am at work. We will leave on Friday. Wendy will be here over the weekend. Then Stella will try her hand at living on her own next week.  Luckily she has very supportive neighbours.

Paul is on his way home. He should come for longer next time!

Some of you may remember me mentioning, some years ago, that my Uncle Peter had said that his ambition was to live for longer than Tony, his younger brother by 8 years. I told Tony. Tony took it on as a challenge - and beat his brother by 5 months. So a close run thing.

And Paul tells us that Tony died on his mother's birthday (Tony's mother, not Paul's). Oddly enough he died in a very similar way to his mother. Fading gently away, not eating or drinking much, not getting up much in the last week of life.  Not a bad way to go, I guess. Especially when you are full of years

We bought this plate for Tony when we were in Japan.

We hoped that it might encourage him to eat a bit.  Alas, he died before we could give it to him

So we gave it to Stella instead

She ate every scrap - although she cheated and ate the chocolate biscuit, hidden in the treasure chest, first :-D

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Preparing for the funeral

Actually, it was mostly Lindsey and Stella who put the funeral together, aided by one of the parish vicars and with telephone assistance from the rest of us.

We averted the inclusion of Amazing Grace in the service. Tony had, in any case, specifically said he didn't want it.  It was one of the few instructions he had given us.  No Amazing Grace. Definitely Jerusalem, which had been his school hymn. No going on his own to the crematorium. He had been at too many services where everyone has said farewell at the church and the centre of attention has trundled off to the crem on their own.  Apart from that, we were on our own. We made it up as best we could. Lindsey, Stella and the vicar have worked very hard.

Lindsey brought Stella up to Mount Helen.  Rupert and Hugo were pleased to see Lindsey - until they saw that Stella was there too!! They do love Stella.

In the meantime, cousin Paul has rocked up from the UK. He arrived on Friday morning and leaves tomorrow evening.  A short visit!  Obviously he had come for the funeral but we thought we ought to be a bit entertaining as well.  So on Saturday we went out to lunch. On Saturday evening everyone at the Mount Helen house came to our place for dinner.  On Sunday we took Paul and Stella to Lal Lal for the (small) annual community market, then we went to Buninyong to look for their spring market.  Couldn't find it. So we had coffee and cake instead in the Pig and Gooses.  Then discovered that the spring market was in the botanical gardens.  Couldn't be bothered hunting for it so all went home.

Jim and I have bought trousers and I've bought a shirt for the funeral.  I wish you to understand that I bought a proper, linen shirt for real money.  None of this $10 from Kmart stuff :-D

Lindsey and Stella have gone back to Mount Martha for a final chat with the vicar. Ian and Paul have gone to Melbourne. Jim and I  are up at Hill House.

We all convene at Mount Martha tomorrow lunchtime to send Tony on his way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Last day in Japan

We got up on Monday morning and had breakfast.  Then Lindsey and Sandy took themselves off to a multi-storey electronics shop for a look around.  I didn't go with them.  I have absolutely no room in my suitcase for anything else and didn't want to be tempted by shiny, electronic things.  Instead, I sat about in the hotel room, updated the blog, messed about on the internet and generally just enjoyed doing Absolutely Nothing.

Then they came back!

We had to check out by midday so left our luggage at the hotel and went to look at this building, the Umerta Sky Building:

You get up to the observation platform by escalator and glass lift:

Up we go, followed by the fast escalator to the top

There is a rooftop garden above the observation platform but it is closed for repairs after Typhoon Jebi damaged it early in September.  That's OK.  The observation platform gave us some lovely views of Osaka

Another Ferris wheel.  I haven't been on this one.
On the list for next time I am in Osaka

The well in the centre of the observation platform

We had some lunch and then went back to the hotel, which is really only a five minute walk away.  We had about an hour until our shuttle bus out to the airport.  So we had afternoon tea:

Lindsey's tea:
English breakfast tea, teapot sat on a candle warmer,
frothy hot milk in a china jug
water in wine glasses.
Lindsey's tea, and Lindsey's photo

And then we went home.  Bus to the airport, where we bade a fond farewell to Sandy. Cocktails for Lindsey and me prior to boarding (Moscow mule, anyone?  No, not me. Lindsey.  I had a gin and tonic). Then flight to Hong Kong, flight back to Melbourne, from where Lindsey went to Mount Martha to help sort things out with Matthew and Stella.

I took the airport bus back to Ballarat. Jim got spectacularly lost getting to the station but found it eventually. Back to Lindsey and Ian's place, where Rupert and Hugo were slightly pleased to see me (springs on paws, bouncing, much great tail wagging - and where are our presents???)

Many thanks to Lindsey and Sandy for a great couple of weeks touring around Japan, and to Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki for topping and tailing our holidays so well

Monday, October 22, 2018


As you may be aware, Tony was diagnosed with lung cancer some time ago.  For a very long time it sat there, minding its own business, not really doing anything particularly interesting.

Then it started to grow. Tony and Stella between them decided that it was better not to take any invasive action.  In fact, not really to take any action at all.  He was 87, already quite frail and any action that could be taken would probably make matters worse.

He continued to get more frail but otherwise seemed OK. His appetite decreased to almost nothing and he had got very thin, but he was managing with resource drinks, chocolate, ice cream, milo and red wine.

He was more or less OK when we left Melbourne not quite three weeks ago. The day we left he was talking about having a pub lunch when we got back.

He was more or less OK when I spoke to him six or so days ago.

Then he started to fade very quickly. He stopped getting out of bed.  He pretty much stopped eating and drinking.  It was clear that he didn't have long to go.  But it looked as though he would easily last until Lindsey and I got back. Even yesterday, when lots of the family went to visit, it seemed as though he had a week or so to go.

The only issue was that Stella was finding it difficult to manage overnight. During the day there were people about. At night she couldn't help him get up to go to the toilet, or to sit up for a drink.  Wendy has been down there for a few nights and last night Belinda was there.

I don't think, in fact, that it was the lung cancer that was causing the downward move.  He has had terrible head pain since he had shingles 6 or 7 years ago. He couldn't hear very much any more.  He couldn't play his flute. I think he was probably about to have his driving licence removed.  He had packed his bags and was ready to move on. No longer any will to live.

Even so, we were not expecting the phone call just after midnight (Japan time) this morning to say that he had died. We think that it might have been a heart attack that carried him off unexpectedly. Stella says that he woke up very agitated, desperate to get out of bed, everything was hurting. She persuaded him to lie back down and he just faded away.  Luckily Belinda was there. Simon and Jacob drove down when they heard the news.  Many of the family are there today.

Lindsey and I will fly back to Melbourne (as planned) this evening. It sort of worked out better that we weren't there for the occasion, otherwise we too would have gone today and I think Stella would have been a bit overwhelmed with visitors. As it is, we can spread the visits out a bit.

I can tell you, however, that a death in the middle of the night is VERY noisy, even if it isn't particularly noisy for the one has died.  Phones ring. And ring again. Messages come in. Messages go out.  Once everyone has calmed down and gone to bed and then woken up again, more phones ring and things need to be done and many conversations happen.

Poor Sandy was sharing a three bed room with us last night.  I don't think she got much sleep!

Stella and Tony at Le Petit Tractor last summer
Vale, Tony.  A long life, lived mostly with enthusiasm

Sunday, October 21, 2018


We all caught the train into central Osaka in the morning.

We started in a long, long shopping arcade.  It was very busy!

Photo by Sandy

We spent quite a bit of time there, stopping to admire various shops, to have coffee - and to eat chips. A shop that makes its own chips/crisps to order. And very delicious they were too

Child, interrupted eating :-D

As we got towards the end of the arcade, Tatsuki got more and more excited.  Then he started running towards a bridge.  Because over the bridge was this:

It's a ferris wheel which goes up the side of the building, on the left, then goes over the top the building and then comes down on the right hand side.  In order that the passengers don't get tipped over, the capsules adjust their orientation, making odd noises as they do so.  Tatsuki loves ferris wheels. He especially loves this one.  Kaori does not love it.  She did not go on. But the rest of us did

Tatsuki and Austin having fun.
I was in the capsule with them. Lindsey and Sandy were in the one behind us.

Look! A boat down below.  We should go on that later

Getting up quite high

At the very top
Then we went on the boat.  Tatsuki declared that boats were very scary and refused to go on.  Weird ferris wheels - not scary; perfectly ordinary boats - very scary :-D   He and Kaori waited by the bridge for us

A spot of lunch and another potter about, then Austin, Kaori, Tatsuki and I went back to the house while Sandy and Lindsey went to find a place to buy an extra suitcase (I said we should have brought an empty one when we set off :-D )

Don't eat the fugu.
They're very dangerous!
And so to bed after a very busy day.

This morning Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki went home.  Lindsey, Sandy and I relocated to the Westin where we dropped off our cases and then hit the shops.  We found the Osaka Kiddyland. We found the gigantic book shop. We had lunch in a food hall. We found the main Osaka Loft (a kind of discount department store). We had dinner in the hotel.  Not a bad way of spending our last full day in Japan for this trip.

The view from our room:

May I draw your attention to the lack of traffic on the bridge?
Most people seem to be on the trains which are packed!