Friday, October 21, 2016


As I have been trundling up and down Smith Street on the tram, I have occasionally noticed a place called Pabu.  Mostly, I seem to be looking at the other side of the rad.  But Pabu grabbed my attention because that is the Japanese word for Pub.  So the next time I went past, I looked more closely.  Aha. It is also labelled as an Izakaya, which is where you go in Japan for drinks and pub-type food.  Further information suggested that it is a Grill and Sake place.  Definitely warrants further investigation.

Lindsey works late on Tuesday evenings.  Ian is often out of town.  But last Tuesday he happened to be around.  What should we do for dinner?  I suggested a trip to Pabu.  Turns out that the and Lindsey have been a few times, but not recently. He was definitely up for it.  Alas, poor Lindsey was slaving over a hot salt mine - I mean surgery - so she couldn't join us.  But we three trundled up Smith Street and had a delightful evening.

I have to say that not only was the food very good, but so was the service.  We decided to have the tasting menu which included sashimi and other raw fish.  Jim is not a big fan of raw fish.  We asked if there might be alternatives.  And there could be. So we feasted on edamame, oysters, crumbed chicken instead of sashimi, pork gyoza instead of the other raw fish. We had minced beef on sticks, spiced prawns and, as the main attraction, a rack of lamb. For dessert we had chocolate cake with black sesame ice cream.  We might also have had the odd glass or three of wine.  It was very, very tasty. Not only is there good food and excellent service, but there are also many vegetarian options and a whole vegetarian tasting menu.  You should all go.  I'll come with you :-)

A tasting rack of lamb for three
Then we meandered back to the flat, where Lindsey rolled in a little later, not anything like as well fed and watered.  Still, she and Ian are in Melbourne for all of this week.  They went out last night and seem to have had an equally good time.

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday, but very VERY windy.  It's nothing like as windy today but it is overcast and showery.  I could really do with a day of sunshine and light wind so I can get that herb bed finished!!! And we have potatoes to plant and other gardeny things to do.  We need veg beds prepared

Just to prove that I am really here.
Photo courtesy of Ian

Monday, October 17, 2016

Daybreak and moonset over the CBD, early Monday morning

In the end, I didn't spend all our money on plane tickets with Jetstar. The most recent Friday Frenzy email didn't really have anywhere that we particularly wanted to go. I had a hunt around on the flight comparison websites and bought tickets with Virgin Australia to Auckland instead.  We're going in mid-November for four days. Ian, alas, can't come with us. His diary says NO.  But Lindsey can.  So we booked tickets for her too.  We have two nights booked in an Airbnb place near Rotorua.  Lindsey is hunting for somewhere in Auckland for us to stay. I'm quite looking forward to it.  I have never been to New Zealand and nor has The Builder so it should be quite an adventure.  Lindsey has been. Excellent.  She can be our guide!

My Senior's Card has arrived in the post, accompanied by a senior's Myki card which will give me discounted travel on the trams, buses and suburban trains. This is good.  In England I wouldn't get a senior's travel discount until I turned 66.

I called into the Mount Clear butcher's shop on Friday and asked if he ever had any unsmoked bacon.  Most Australian bacon and ham is smoked and that's OK, but I really prefer unsmoked bacon. He said he could organise to make some for me.  In fact he had a huge piece of bacon that he had just cured and was about to cook and smoke.  He could set some of it aside unsmoked for me to collect later.  I felt that really, I could probably cook it myself so he sold me a lovely chunk of cured but uncooked and unsmoked bacon.  Then he mentioned that they had won a gold medal in the previous week's regional ham championship.  Had I ever tasted their ham?  In fact, I have, but not for many years.  So he gave me a few slices.  Lindsey, Ian, The Builder and I had the ham for Saturday breakfast with some fresh eggs that a friend of Lindsey's had sent over.  You can see why the ham had won a gold medal! The bacon I roasted and we had it on Saturday evening with an apple and cider gravy and Sunday lunch style accompaniments. He wins awards for his bacon and sausages as well as his ham.  Again - you can see why.  The bacon continues to give. We had some for brunch on Sunday. I've used some in pasties for lunch tomorrow.  There's a small bit left.  I'm sure I can think of something to do with it for lunch on Wednesday.

We didn't have a home made lunch today.  We are in Melbourne today. Lindsey had a meeting at the surgery yesterday late in the afternoon so we came down with her. She has gone off to do useful things today.  Ian is also out doing useful things.  So The Builder and I left Sam the Dog to his own devices and went for an amble up Smith Street to suss out the shops, pubs, cafes and other interesting things.  The tram I take to the surgery goes up Smith Street, so I had some idea of what was out there, but nothing beats walking up and down a street to discover what it has to offer.  We have, in fact, walked up it before, two or three years ago, on a phenomenally hot mid-day.  We didn't really remember anything about that walk except that we had lunch in Jimmy Grant's and found a Japanese grocery shop. And that it was HOT.  We found the Japanese grocery shop again today, except it is closed on Mondays. We once again had lunch in Jimmy Grants. We found a magnificent butcher's shop and an amazing deli on the Fitzroy side of the street and another magnificent butcher's shop and a Japanese Izakaya on the Collingwood side. Lots of things for us to play with.

We've been here for oh-so-nearly two months and I still haven't been to play in Lygon Street.  I ought to do something about that!!

Drinking gin and eating slow roasted lamb, barbecued chicken,
flat bread and yoghurt dip at Jimmy Grant's

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Jetstar is a low cost airline which flies in and around Australasia and Far East Asia. It's a bit like easyJet and Ryanair. I recently joined their equivalent of a frequent flyer club and have been getting emails on Friday afternoons with enticingly cheap flights to places in New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan and other tempting destinations.

The only thing stopping me buying any of these tickets has been that my Resident's Re-entry visa expired in mid-September. I can live indefinitely in Australia without a re-entry visa but if I leave the country I can't get back in.  This would not be entirely convenient!!

Nothing for it.  I need a new one.  So on Thursday of last week I put in an online application for a new Re-entry visa.  I was not expecting it to be a straightforward matter.  You need to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to Australia to get one unless you have lived here for any length of time.  I haven't been here two full months yet. So I assumed I would need to go to the Melbourne Office of the Immigration Department to plead my case.  I have my documents and my arguments at the ready.

As it turned out, however, I don't need them.  An email turned up on Monday morning giving me a 12 month Re-entry visa.  I am now able to spend all our money on flights around the local regions :-)

We had an excellent weekend.  It was a glorious day on Saturday and we all turned out into the garden to do useful things.  The Builder and Ian chopped up a tree which had blown down in the gales two weeks ago.  I (almost) weeded the rockery out the front which Lindsey has been growing herbs in.  You can now see the oregano and the valiant parsley (which has struggled but has survived the weedy invasion).  We have new herbs ready to go - I just need to finish the weeding process.  Lindsey had to be careful how much she did - her ankle is looking very much better but it still doesn't want to get out and do vigorous exercise.  It was quite happy, though, to go to the Lakeside Farmers' Market with The Builder and me and have a gentle potter there.

Sunday was exceedingly windy.  It didn't deter Lindsey, The Builder and me from heading out to Blackwood and visiting the garden at St Erth.  I'm quite glad it was Lindsey driving and not me, though.  The car was definitely getting buffeted about.  There were lots of trees and branches down when Lindsey and I took Sam into Buninyong for his afternoon walk, and large parts of Ballarat were without power.  Fortunately, the Electricity Dogs smiled benignly upon the residents of Mount Helen and our power remained nice and stable.

Otherwise, things are settling into something of a routine.  We go to East Melbourne on Mondays. I go to work on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. We head back to Mount Helen on Wednesday afternoons or very early Thursday mornings and potter around in the Ballarat area until the following Monday.  It's not very onerous or very demanding - but even so, the days seem to be vanishing at speed.

Speaking of going to work, it's time I got ready to leave.

It was very windy in De Souza Park in Buninyong on Sunday
This tree did not enjoy it!

Monday, October 03, 2016

Public Holidays and other things

We went to have our hair cut on Thursday.  We thought we'd try the hairdresser in Mount Clear who has a sign on the window that says that no appointment in necessary.  Alas - on Thursday an appointment was necessary.  Only two hours hence, but even so.

We dropped in to the butcher for some supplies.  The butcher is always well used, but on Thursday it was unusually busy.

We popped out a fish shop in Wendouree in search of some fresh fish.  It's not a bad fish shop, but it's a bit out of the way for regular use. Must find out where Ian gets the Christmas crayfish from. I'm fairly sure it isn't right on the other side of Ballarat.  The fish shop wasn't particularly busy.

It was spectacularly busy in the supermarkets' shared car park.  No parking spaces to be found at all.  This struck me as odd.  It's not as though it was Christmas Eve.

It was only after we had gone back to the hairdresser, and she said that Wednesdays and Thursdays were usually the best days to drop in, being quieter than the other days she is open - it was only then that we clocked that Friday was a public holiday in Victoria. A public holiday because on Saturday was the Grand Final of the Australian Football League.  Seemed a bit odd to us to have a public holiday just because the following day there is a major sporting fixture.  You would have thought that the following Monday would be better, so people could nurse their Victory or Commiseration Hangovers in peace.  But there you go.

Still doesn't quite explain the frenzy in the supermarkets.  They were open pretty much their normal hours on the Friday, and even on the Saturday and Sunday (no restricted Sunday Trading Hours in Oz).

I didn't watch the football final. I am not absolutely interested in Aussie Rules footie, but I did have a passing interest in this particular match.  The Western Bulldogs, against all expectations, had managed to get a place in the final.  This is a team that has been followed in its various manifestations and through various trials and tribulations by my ex husband, by all three of my children and by various other family members for many, many years.  Mind you, it did pretty much split the family in half.  A substantial number of other family members follow the Sydney Swans who were the other team in the final.  Those of us who follow other teams, or no teams, swung in behind one of the finalists, mostly the Bulldogs. I didn't watch the match because the Bulldogs absolutely never win if I am watching, and I had, of course, swung in behind the Doggies.  They don't do all that well if I follow the quarter time scores.  At half time they were two points down -so I took Sam the (not Bull)dog for a long walk in the forest.  We had a lovely, muddy, splashy walk.  And got back to find that The Bulldogs had yet again defied expectation and managed to snatch a win.  Much jubilation.  Unless you are a Swans supporter!

Lindsey is back from her jaunt around Alaska, Canada and Japan.  Her plane got in at nearly midnight on Saturday.  Matt went to pick her, Bethan and Sage up and he, Sage and Lindsey stayed the night in the flat. I assume they took Bethan home! We tootled down on Sunday morning to pick Lindsey up.  We all had brunch in the coffee shop below the flat before Matt and Sage went home and we  returned to Ballarat where we were greeted by Sam - and quite an interesting wind and rain storm.  Undeterred, Lindsey and I decided we would take Sam for a short walk.  This was foreshortened by Sam refusing to walk in the wind and the rain, and by Lindsey turning her ankle quite badly, rendering her unable to walk and pretty much unable to speak (apart from words which couldn't possibly be quoted in my family-friendly blog!!!).  It's very swollen and quite blue this morning.  She's hobbling around aided by two short walking sticks.  I think I might remain on Sam walking duties for the next little while!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

And Done (I think!)

I have my Tax File Number!

I dropped by the Tax Department yesterday afternoon and spent about 20 minutes with a friendly man sorting it all out.

Turned out that they had my address at Main Road, Eltham.  I was never, ever going to guess that.  It was my first mother-in-law's address and she's been dead for well over a decade. I'm not at all sure why they had that address. Quite apart from the fact that all my tax returns have had addresses in Beaufort, Ballarat, North Carlton and the Tax Department had happily sent letters to those addresses; quite apart from that - I have never actually lived in Eltham.  Bizarre.  They have me living in Ballarat now.  And I have my TFN which means I can fill out a tax form at my new place of employment, which means they might actually pay me :-)

I think that is now everything that I need to make it possible actually to function in Australia.  Unless there is something I haven't thought about yet?

We had a good weekend. We went with our friend Pat out to the Swiss Mountain Hotel for lunch on Sunday.  Over the past 40 years or so I have driven past that hotel, out in the countryside on the road between Ballarat and Daylesford, innumerable times.  I have never been even remotely tempted to stop and go in.  It looked a bit grotty, a bit of a dive.  So I was slightly surprised when Pat suggested that we drive out there for lunch.  But I'll try most things once, so off we went.  And it's lovely.  It's been well renovated inside and the food was really very good. And clearly other people haven't been deceived by the exterior appearance of the place.  It was very, very busy.  We must go again

Farley and Pat at the Swiss Mountain Hotel

A lovely piece of steak with succulent mushrooms

Hot chocolate pudding

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Productive Couple of Days

We went into Ballarat on Friday and located the Centrelink offices, where you also deal with Medicare queries.  I wasn't expecting it to be particularly complicated to get a card of my own, and it wasn't.  I did expect to have to wait for a long, long time to be seen.  I was happily mistaken about that.  I think it was less than ten minutes before it was my turn to be seen.  I now have a Medicare card on its way, and a temporary paper copy to be going on with.

This meant that I could also register for a Senior's card.  It's on its way, apparently.

We took advantage of the spring sunshine yesterday and headed out to the lake to the twice monthly Farmers' Market.  Lots of other people were taking advantage of the sunshine too.  The market, the lakeside and the playgrounds were positively buzzing

And it wasn't just the humans and their dogs who were enjoying the spring sunshine:

Ten years ago the lake was so dry that you could have almost walked across it with dry feet - except you weren't supposed to.  This was for a number of reasons, one of which had been a prolonged drought.  The drought broke long since, and the other causes have long been addressed.  The lake is not dry any more.  At the moment, it is very noticeably Not Dry

There should be a path where that swan is swimming!

We called into the library on our way back and I now have a library card.  I think, apart from the Tax File Number which I'll tackle tomorrow afternoon, that should be everything in the way of Aussie red tape and paperwork.  For me, at least.

Walking with Sam on Saturday afternoon

Friday, September 23, 2016

I meant to say ...

We went to visit Stella and Tony on Tuesday and all went to the Dava for a pub lunch.  The Dava has very recently been refurbished and is looking good.

Stella and Tony were looking good too:

It's not raining this morning in Ballarat.  It's not even cloudy.  The sun is shining and the sky is blue! If only I had something to wash!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

An Exciting Start to the Morning

I didn't sleep very well last night.  No particular reason; I just kept waking up.

By about 6:00 I was beginning to wonder why Sam wasn't demanding his breakfast. No banging on the door from about 5:30.  I got up to see what he was doing.

He wasn't doing anything in particular at that moment, but overnight he had found the bag of seed potting mix that we had bought last week and left by the front door.  He had dragged it into the lounge area and obviously tried to play with it.  Very fortunately it didn't make a very satisfactory toy, so there was only a bit of potting mix scattered over the carpet.  I went to get the vacuum cleaner.

Then I trod on a plastic lid.  Odd.  Where would he get a plastic lid?  Hmm.  No wonder he hadn't been demanding breakfast.  He had found the box of dog treats and somehow managed to get the lid off.  He hadn't eaten them all.  There were lots scattered over the floor and couch.  But he had eaten about half of them.  I gathered up all that I could find and went to vacuum up the potting mix.

In the meantime, The Builder had gone to make a very much needed cup of tea.  The kettle wouldn't work.  He came to tell me that the power was off.  Except all the lights were on, and the vacuum cleaner worked.  We investigated further.  Power sockets were working our bedroom and in the snooker room.  It was just the kitchen.  Where are the trip switches?  A very good question.  Not in the garage.  Not obviously in the house.  I sent Lindsey a message. Before she could answer I remembered that in Australia meter boxes are very often outside.  Maybe the trip switches are also outside.  Put my lovely new Ugg boots on and went to explore.  And there on the front wall is a big brown box that we walk past several times a day and had never paid attention to.  And inside were the trip switches, one of which was in the wrong position.  Power is restored to the kitchen and all is now well - except that the ignition thingy on the stove won't stop clicking.  I've turned off its power supply and all is now quiet.

Ian rang from a freeway in Canada, en route to Calgary, in response to my message to Lindsey. By then I had found the trip switches but he was able to make some suggestions about the stove.  I haven't tried them yet.  I'll have another investigation later in the day.

And all of this had happened before we had had our first cup of tea!!!  I think we did very well, given that we were un-caffeinated.  We are caffeinated now!

I wonder what else this Thursday has in store for us ...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

First Things First

There is quite a lot of red tape that needs to be done when you move countries.

I must say that I don't remember it being quite so frustrating when I moved to Sheffield - although it might have been and I have simply blocked the memory out.  But I have found here that in order to get A you need B.  To get B, you need C.  To get C you need D and in order to get D you need A.  It was very clear that it was going to take quite some while to get it all sorted out.

The main problem was that I had no proof of (Australian) address.  Fortunately, you may remember, I had arranged to get an Australian HSBC bank account through my long association with the British arm of the bank. Officially they have me still in Tupton, but have the Mount Helen address as a correspondence address.  Then - they sent me a letter.  In the post.  A letter from the bank that came through the post to the Mount Helen address!!!! An official form of proof of address at last.  I finally had A, so to speak.

This meant that I could open an account with an Australian telecommunications company.  Both The Builder and I now have Aussie mobile phone numbers.  The British ones have been cancelled.

It also meant that I could transfer my British driving licence into a Victorian one.  Two ID strikes there - when it arrives I will have proof of address AND proof of identity other than my (British) passport.  Excellent!  I will have a B

Now all I need is a new Medicare card and my Tax File Number.  The Medicare card is complicated only because Medicare treats households as single units and I am still attached to the card that Ross, Tabitha and Freyja (but not Austin -what happened to Austin?) have.  I suspect that Ross in particular might not be entirely delighted if I summarily change his address to the Mount Helen one and in any case I really need a card of my own.  I don't think this will be particularly difficult to arrange but I need to take myself physically into a Medicare office to sort it out.  This might take some time just waiting to be seen.  But it must be done.  Without a Medicare card I can't get a Senior's card and I would quite like one of those - I'll get cheaper tram fares if nothing else!

The Tax File Number is going to be more troublesome.  I need that in order to work.  In fact, I have one.  I've had it for decades.  My only problem is that I don't remember what it is.  I rang them this afternoon to get it, but they and I disagree about what my last Australian address was, and I simply can't think what address they might have. I think I'm going to have to physically go into a Tax Office and plead with them for it.

Because I do need it.  In an exciting First Thing - I actually went to work this morning.  Real Work.  As in they are paying me to do it!  It's not very exciting work in itself - just scanning medical letters and related stuff.  But it is a proper job and will bring in beer and skittle money. It was somehow quite satisfying leaving the flat this morning and hopping on a tram and Going to Work.  It could be ongoing part time work - but only if I have my Tax File Number :-S

We are about to head back to Mount Helen.  I might see where the Medicare Office is in Ballarat and set about getting a Medicare Card of my own tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


We've had a fair bit of rain recently. There's been quite a bit of flooding around the state. Quite a bit around the Ballarat area.  We are midway up a fairly large hill; it would have to be quite a catastrophic flood that affected us.  But other places have not been as lucky (or as high!)

When we left Melbourne yesterday, after a very wet and gloomy day on Tuesday, it looked like this:

Mount Helen didn't look like that when we got here!!  It was foggy and rainy and gloomy and cold and very definitely not very nice.

Sam asked to go for a walk.  I put him in the back yard - very briefly.  He walked out and turned immediately around and came straight back in.  He was definitely NOT going out in that!  The day didn't improve so despite his begging, pleading, beseeching and sulking, there was no walk.  He was not a very gruntled dog. Mind you, he wouldn't have been gruntled if I had taken him out.  He doesn't like rain, wind and cold any more than I do!

He made us pay for it, though.  He was deeply reluctant to get on his bed when we turned in.  He managed to open the sliding door between our bit of the house and the rest of it at about midnight and came hurtling into our room and stood over us, wanting attention - and a walk.  I put him back near his bed and shut the sliding door firmly.  So he banged at it.  So I put him down in the lounge room and shut him in there.  He devoted the rest of the night to trashing the lounge room.  Not that he actually destroyed anything.  He just swiped it all off the tables, couches, shelves and rearranged it all over the floor. At about 4:30 he started banging on the door again. I let him in to our room.  No, thank you.  He didn't want to sit on the bed. He wanted breakfast.  At 4:30!!  I would say that I relented at 5:00 and got up and fed him.  But it wasn't really me relenting, more him nagging until I caved in.  The Builder also arose and made us a cup of tea.  Peace reigned.  Briefly.

Sam came back in after his breakfast and settled on the bed.  The Builder got up to get another cup of tea, tripped over something on his way back and fell on the bed, narrowly avoiding squashing Sam.  He did not drop his cup of tea, but he couldn't get back up while still holding it.  So I got up to help.  Sam took advantage of that to spread himself all over the bed.  The Builder and I gave up at that point, put our dressing gowns on and retired to the (tidied) lounge room, leaving Sam in possession of our bed.

Sam is not usually so disruptive over night.  I wondered if he was cold, for it was not a very warm night and The Builder had complained of being cold in the night.  Lindsey, cruising in Alaska/Canada, wondered if he was lonely and/or hungry.  Ian, also cruising in Alaska/Canada, postulated the distant presence of a thunder storm.  The Builder thinks Sam just hates him.   I don't know.  But fortunately, after a very foggy and damp start to the day, the weather cleared a bit and we took him for a nice walk this afternoon and he is ever so much happier.  He is now catching up on his lost sleep on the lounge room couch.

Out on our walk in Buninyong this afternoon

This is usually a quiet and unobtrusive mini-creek

And here the ducks are usually wandering around or sunbathing - not swimming!