Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A good few days

We had really rather a nice weekend.

The sun shone all weekend.

Lindsey, Ian and I took Sam for a Saturday morning walk in the park in Buninyong.

Ian and Jim built a chook shed.

Lindsey and I hit Bunnings and the garden centre.

Lindsey, Jim and I took Sam for a Sunday morning walk along the wetlands bit of the lake.

Sam's tail got caught in the boot of the car and nobody noticed (even Sam) until he realised that he couldn't move it, which meant that he couldn't move his bum, which meant that he couldn't sit down properly in the back of the car. And Lindsey and I thought Jim was asking for Sam's towel (which we didn't have, and why would he need it?) until Sam started whimpering and we realised that Jim was saying we had caught Sam's tail. Fortunately Sam's tail wasn't hurt and he could sit down properly in the back of the car again.

Lindsey and Ian went to Melbourne to a barbecue.

Jim and I went to the Ballan Autumn Festival

There may have been some food and some wine.

The Ballan Autumn Festival was quite cute.  Jim was a bit disappointed that there wasn't much in the way of produce - he had assumed that it would be a Harvest Festival sort of fair. Really it was more like a proper village or small town fair, with rides for the children, music, food stalls, craft stalls, activities, all sorts of things going on. They had blocked off the main street for two blocks for the stalls and most of the shops were open.  I enjoyed it. We bought a few things. I was most pleased with a new vegetable peeler which has a normal peeler at one end and a julienne peeler on the other.  I hadn't realised how much I had missed my julienne peeler until I acquired this one and started using it!

I headed to Melbourne on Monday afternoon, leaving Sam and Jim in charge in Ballarat.  I met up with Lindsey and we pootled off to Kew where we bought lots of fruit, lots of salad things, lots of veg, and a few other things.  We took most of the fruit into the surgery on Tuesday and divided it up so there was some for me for my breakfast, some for Lindsey to snack on and a platter for the table in the staff kitchen.  The Diabetes Educator nurse was delighted when she came in and found the table filled with fruit instead of biscuits, cakes and chocolate!

I cam back to Mount Helen on Tuesday evening by tram, train and bus. It was actually quite a pleasant trip. I read an actual, proper book, then part of an e-book. I walked directly up the hill from the University without getting mislaid and avoiding the flooding on the concourse outside the University library - which a couple children were thoroughly enjoying playing in!  The only issue was that it took three and a half hours.  This wasn't a big issue for me yesterday but I wouldn't want to do it in both directions every day!!!

The sun isn't shining anymore.  The rain over the last 24 hours has filled the rain gauge completely.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Going to Work

I had been asked to cover on the reception desk yesterday morning, starting at 9.  No worries, thought I.  I'll be in Ballarat overnight, but I have access to Ian's car. I'll drive down first thing.

It usually takes about an hour and 40 minutes to get from Mount Helen to the surgery.  I left at 6:45, thinking that that would give me lots of time to get there, with time to eat my stewed plums and yoghurt for breakfast and have a cup of coffee before I started.

It was a beautiful morning for a drive.  Slightly on the chilly side, but a clear day and the sun wasn't shining directly in my eyes. Well, not most of the time.

I was slightly surprised when the sat nav took me off at Bacchus Marsh.  Usually it takes me off at Melton, or takes me directly through down towards Melbourne before turning off.  It depends entirely on the traffic.  But I was only slightly surprised. It's a route that we take sometimes anyway, depending on our mood. And I knew that there were roadworks up ahead towards Melton and the road was marked red on the sat nav.

So off I came at Bacchus Marsh and headed off towards Diggers Rest, assuming that the sat nav would take me onto the Calder.

It's a pretty drive between Bacchus Marsh and Diggers Rest. The sun was still shining, and still (mostly) not shining in my eyes.  There wasn't very much traffic until I approached the Calder.  I was quite enjoying my journey.

I was astonished, when I got to the Calder, that my sat nav didn't say "in 500 metres turn right, then take the Calder" but "in 500 metres go straight on".  My experience is that when the sat nav departs significantly from its usual patterns, there is usually a good reason for it.  It had never before said to go straight on at that intersection.  I decided to trust it.

So off we trundled towards Sunbury, beyond Sunbury, then turned right onto a country road that I don't remember having been along before (though I may well have; it would have been a route I might have taken when I lived in Beaufort and Ballarat and Lindsey and Ian lived in Cottles Bridge.) However, I really didn't remember it.  It was a twisty, winding, narrow road with single lane bridges, hairpin bends, humps and dips - and the sun shining in my eyes when it would have been very useful to have been able to see clearly!  It was apparent that everyone else's sat navs were taking them along this route too.  Traffic was very heavy along a road that I suspect hasn't seen nose to tail cars ever before in its history.  The route was beautiful and I would have thoroughly enjoyed the detour had it not been that my ETA had moved from 08:20 to 09:10.

Slowly, slowly, slowly we made our way to the far side of the airport, trundled around it and joined up with the Tullamarine Freeway, whereupon the traffic resolved itself and started to move freely.  I got to the surgery at bang on 09:00, meeting Lindsey, who had come from East Melbourne, in the carpark.

It's just as well I trusted the sat nav, though. It bypassed the Calder because there had been a massive accident in the inbound lane, which had closed it.  It didn't take me to Melton or towards the city to drop me onto the ring road because there had been two separate vehicle fires which had caused chaos.  It seems it had plotted the best route to get me from where I was to where I wanted to be under the circumstances.

I might try and drive that route again when there isn't traffic chaos on the freeways and when I am not more pushed for time than I had expected!

I had my stewed plums and yoghurt as dessert after my lunch :-D

Thursday, March 16, 2017

And we did indeed have a magnificent feast on Monday evening.  Emily came over and we all sat outside admiring another glorious Mount Helen sunset.  We dined on beef with mushroom sauce, salad boats using supermarket lettuce for the boats and some of the beans, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden for the filling, together with roasted potatoes (not from the garden) and zucchini (from the garden).

We have been getting some mighty harvests from the vegetable tubs and garden.  We are almost overrun with tomatoes and are doing very well for zucchinis and cucumbers.  I have taken to munching on cucumber much like other people munch on apples!  We are also filling the freezer with things to make winter stews and soups

Carrot thinnings
One day's harvest from the vegetable tubs

We have one lonely sunflower growing in with the sweet corn.  We planted four seedlings, but three got eaten before we realised that the feral rabbits were going to be a problem!

This is not the first harvest of potatoes.  We dug up one root early in February when we went to lunch for Stella's birthday.  We knew that was a bit too early but took them anyway. This is the harvest from two roots today.  We can leave the potatoes where they are for now.  It's still quite warm overnight and the plants are looking fairly healthy.  We aren't growing varieties that will store well so best to dig them as we need them.

As well as some lovely sunsets, we have also been having some beautiful sunrises. We woke up on Tuesday morning and it looked as though we had acquired an inland sea in the plains

Fortunately for the people who live there - we had not

I've been doing my bit for wildlife this week.  Jim mentioned that he had seen a skink run across our bedroom floor and under the bed.  I didn't worry about this too much. They are entirely harmless and are very small. Earlier this week, however, it ran across my foot while I was getting dressed and tried to hide under my shoe.  This wasn't a very successful manoeuvre on its part - I could see its tail 🤣  So I grabbed a plastic pot, put it over the skink, slid a postcard underneath and took it outside.  Mindful of Lindsey's story of once catching a mouse and putting it outside, only for it to be immediately eaten by a magpie, I took my skink and put it in some long-ish grass on the other side of the garden.  It ran away into the grass and we haven't seen it again.

Today we came back from the shops to find Sam sleeping soundly - and a small field mouse cowering in the passageway.  Jim stood guard over it while I went to get the plastic pot and postcard to take it out to the skink releasing place.  I don't think the mouse was particularly well. Mice don't usually sit and cower in passageways. They usually run away and hide.  It didn't run away when I put it in the long grass. It sat there and cowered.  It's gone now though. We will assume it recovered from its terrifying encounter with two giants, an enormous dog and a plastic pot and postcard, and left.  A much better outcome than being eaten by a magpie!

I do hope, however, that I don't encounter a kangaroo in the house.  I'm not sure that I have a plastic pot big enough to cover a kangaroo!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mostly Feasting (Again 😋 )

On Thursday we went out to Chris and John's place at Macedon for lunch.  We had intended to go by train but there was a replacement coach service last week. This actually didn't inconvenience us at all.  The coach we were on was express to Gisborne, where John picked us up.

We had a mighty feast indeed.  The vegetables were mostly from Chris and John's magnificent vegetable garden. The eggs came from their chooks.  I don't think they grew the ham that was in the quiche though 😄 Megan came over to join us.  The children came when they got back from school and nursery. We ate lots and lots of food and drank lots and lots of wine - and Megan's husband Mark drove us back to the station. He had not been feasting, nor had he been imbibing. Many thanks to everyone for a fantastic afternoon.

Magnificent vegetable garden in the sunshine

I might need one of these champagne glasses!
On Friday, Lindsey and Ian headed off to the final dinner of the international conference that Ian had been organising. Jim and I took ourselves up Smith Street and dined in Pabu.  We didn't feel that we needed the full Chef's Tasting Menu, so ordered a few selections of our own.  It was extremely delicious.

We started, as is our habit, with edamame

Then we munched our way through Chicken teriyaki sticks, gyoza and fried oysters. Then we finished with one plate of King Island lamb cutlets.  We didn't feel that we needed a whole main course each!

And then we walked home.

Saturday started with a stroll up Smith Street, in search of a birthday present. Then we ambled through the Fitzroy Gardens on our way into town.  Jim had never noticed or properly looked at the model Tudor Village so we stopped to  admire it

We met Ian for lunch.

Then Matt, Belinda, Sage and William arrived from Warragul.  We had dinner together in the pizza and pasta bar under our feet, then all headed off on the tram to Bethan's 21st birthday bash.  It was a great evening.  There were lots of people, including most of our family and Bethan's mother's family. There were tasty nibbles. There was lots of wine. The speeches were made by young people and were very funny. We headed back to the flat much later than I had expected!!

Sunday started with brunch in the coffee shop under our feet. Then Lindsey, Jim and I took Belinda on her inaugural visit to Costco and the rest of us went book shopping before people headed back to their country residences. You might think that the feasting had finished after our Sunday brunch - but no.  Ian took himself to the David Jones food hall and brought back the makings of a fine Mount Helen Sunday evening feast, which we ate outside on on fine Mount Helen Sunday evening.  Roasted pork belly, roasted vegetables, stuffed onions and a mighty asparagus and apple sauce.

You might think that that would conclude the feasting, today being Monday.  But today is a public holiday in Victoria and I notice that there are ingredients in the fridge that promise a Public Holiday feast later in the day!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Mount Martha

We had a nice little holiday down with Stella and Tony.

The weather was lovely, absolutely ideal for a short break by the seaside.

Tony went in for his tests with no dramas. Stella had a couple of visits to her specialists, that Tony took her to.

We had lots of delicious food (I particularly enjoyed the King George whiting 🍴😋)

Jim and I walked down to the pub on Friday afternoon and had a drink sat up on the top deck, looking at the sea.  We saw an eagle floating around over the bay.

I went for a lovely walk in the sunshine, down to the Dava shops, across to the Esplanade, along the top of the cliffs and then back to the house

We trundled back to East Melbourne on Saturday by bus, train and tram.  I get free public transport within the Melbourne Metropolitan area at the weekends (using my senior's Myki card) so it cost me absolutely nothing. It only cost $3 or $4 for Jim.  Good value!

We started the week last Sunday feasting for Tony's birthday.  We finished the week feasting at Mount Helen, sat outside in the warmth of the evening

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Stella went into hospital last Wednesday for what was supposed to be an overnight stay to have a stent put in an artery in her leg.  Until she mentioned that this was going to happen I didn't know you could have stents put into your legs.  I thought they were just for hearts. Just as well I don't get to treat the patients at the surgery!

It didn't go as well as it might.  If it could go wrong, it did go wrong. She had even remembered to take the Getting Better Penguin with her. Imagine what might have happened if she hadn't!

We didn't manage to spring her from the hospital until Sunday 😢

That did mean, though,  that she could join the Gathered Family at The Dava for Tony's birthday lunch.  It was a merry gathering. Lots of us were there - so many that we had to have two tables in the restaurant.

Stella and Tony at The Dava - photo courtesy of Wendy

Tony, Lindsey and a fine Birthday Cake back at home
I think Tony enjoyed his birthday.  Certainly the rest of us did. Mind you, it didn't half alarm the neighbour opposite when she looked out of her window and saw many of us gathered on the front porch. It was only that many of us got back from lunch before the car that was bringing Stella, Tony and the door key had arrived. She hadn't realised that it was Tony's birthday. If she had, she would have expected us to be there, although not necessarily all sat out on the porch.

Jim and I are back at Mount Martha for a few days.  Tony had to go for some (routine) tests yesterday and couldn't drive himself back.  Stella can't drive at the moment. So after I finished work on Tuesday  we came down by tram, train and bus. It was quite fun, especially on the bus. When we drive down we follow the freeways and the main roads. The bus from Frankston to Mount Martha goes along all the side roads. You see much more on the bus.

No hospital dramas for Tony.  He was ready to leave at the time they said he would be.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nothing much to say

Nothing particularly noteworthy has happened since we came back from Christchurch.

I have been to work.  As well as scanning, I have been learning how to work on the reception desk.  Many of the regular receptionists will be away over the (Melbourne) winter and I've been asked if I would mind filling in a few sessions.  I don't mind at all - but it would be useful if I knew what I was doing 😄

Jim, in his guise as the Under Gardener, has been dig, dig, digging in what will be the new vegetable garden.  It's looking really good

New beds, new path, new stone wall
made from the volcanic stones dug out of the veg beds
The vegetable tubs out the front are doing really well.  We are getting good supplies of cucumbers, zucchini/courgettes, rainbow chard and kale.  The tomatoes are starting to turn in:

 And what is more or less a herb tub is doing really well.  It does have the kale and the rainbow chard in, and a couple of runner bean plants, but mostly it's herbs.  I'm quite pleased with it.  I'm really pleased with the lemongrass.  I've never grown lemongrass before 😊

Lindsey, Jim and I spent some time over the weekend trailing around the local area.  We bought potatoes from a small potato farm, eggs from someone's front gate, tomatoes from a tomato farm and loads of veg from a farm which we see at the farmers' markets but which also has a shed outside the farm itself.  We ended up with lots of lovely veg for this week.

Otherwise, not much to report.

Oh - apart from this.  Our For Sale board in Tupton now looks like this:

Thanks to Gareth for the photo

As many of you will know, when it comes to selling houses in England, the path to completion is twisty, tortuous, winding and treacherous.  It could yet all go horribly wrong.  Fingers crossed that it doesn't!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


I knew, of course, that Christchurch had been very badly damaged in the series of earthquakes that hit the city in 2010 and particularly 2011. I knew that the cathedral had been massively damaged and that many buildings had come down and that many lives had been lost.  I knew all that.

It was nevertheless quite disconcerting to drive into the city yesterday morning and find large pockets of derelict ground being used as car parks; buildings in a state of disrepair; cranes and building works everywhere.

And despite the proliferation of temporary car parks, it was surprisingly difficult to find one that we could use (many of them are not available to the public but are reserved for various businesses).  But find one we did and off we went to explore.

It is a very English city - deliberately so.  It was designed as much as possible to mirror an English cathedral city

Bridges over the river Avon

They have punting on various stretches of the river!
We set off walking, but didn't really know where we were going. Then a tourist tram pulled up at the tram stop we were unknowingly stood at while we discussed what to do.  Tourist trams, as you will be aware, are very expensive - but I have to say that on this occasion it was money well spent.  We toured most of the city centre and were very well informed by the time we left about the effects of the earthquake, but also about the history of the city and the rebuilding activities since 2011.

I think they are doing some fabulous things.  They are making imaginative use of the spaces, and the building materials and objects for both permanent and temporary structures.

They are using lots of shipping containers, which make splendid, relatively mobile spaces for retail, food and hospitality.  There are coffee bars based in shipping containers.  And shops

They are also filling some of the empty spaces with pianos, artworks, sculptures and pavement chess boards

The city, which was obviously seriously traumatised by the 2011 earthquake and its aftermath, is nevertheless buzzing and vibrant and energetic.  And in the centre of the city, in Cathedral Square, stands this, bravely hanging on

Its future remains undecided.

In the meantime, rising from the catastrophe is the Transitional Cathedral

I think it is  glorious

We had something of an excitement trying to board our flight back to Melbourne.  At the check in desk they scanned our passports.  The lady looked at her screen, slightly puzzled.  She then asked me if we had visas for Australia.  I confirmed that we did.  She scanned the passports again.  Was I *sure* that we had visas for Australia?  Fortunately I carry paper copies of any visas we might need. I handed them over.  The rescanned my passport.  Yep.  All fine.  Here's your boarding pass.  Jim's, however, refused to believe he had a visa.  The lady called over someone else.  They stared intently at the screen and at the visa print out.  Eventually one of them exclaimed: Ah look - the dates of birth don't match.  And indeed they didn't.  The visa had a different month to the one on his passport.  Fortunately, a quick call to the Australian Immigration people sorted it out and Jim was allowed to board.

He's come into Australia on that visa multiple times since last August and up until then no one had noticed the discrepancy, not even the Australians!!

I wonder if the Frankston Gnome has come over to Christchurch on holiday!

Monday, February 13, 2017


You simply must go to Akaroa, they said.  You'll love it.  It's just your sort of place.

So to Akaroa we went.

To get there from Lyttelton takes about 90 minutes and you pass along some winding, twisty mountainous roads, which are rather fun to drive along.  Even more fun if you get behind someone going slightly more slowly than you so that you are no longer the one holding the rest of the traffic up :-)  The scenery is very beautiful, very much reminiscent of the Cumbrian Lake District, only slightly grander and bigger!

Akaroa is also rather beautiful.  It was also very crowded; there were two cruise ships in the harbour and the passengers were taking advantage of the rather lovely day to wander about the town.

We also wandered about the town. We had lunch in Bully Hayes, which doesn't look like much but which provides rather lovely food. We ambled up and down the harbour path and watched the Canada  geese pottering about in the bay and people swimming and paddling. We pottered about a bit more, and then hopped aboard the Ecoseaker boat to take a tour of the harbour.  We emphatically did not go swimming with the dolphins, but we did see some from our boat.  We also saw seals and cormorants and many seabirds - and a single, solitary penguin sunning itself on a rock.  Steve the Skipper said it was very unusual to see these penguins in that part of the harbour and he thought it might be a young bird starting to moult.  We were very lucky to see it.  The cliffs and rock formations around the harbour are stunning and it was an excellent couple of hours.  It was also quite fun.  We were at the front of a smallish boat, which used to act as an America's Cup chase boat.  I think I got quite a lot of exercise just staying upright!!

It was a fantastic day.  The people who told us to go were absolutely right.  Akaroa is just our sort of place.

Canada geese swimming in Akaroa Harbour

There are two cruise ships in town

Cormorants sunning themselves

Sea birds taking quite some interest in us

A basalt sea cave

with a beautiful ceiling

If you look hard you'll see a penguin snoozing on a rock

The Pacific Ocean reaches Akaroa Harbour!

More sea caves

Back on shore

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Saturday afternoon

We drove down to the beach.  I have walked up our road three or four times and it is something of a pull.  I do not think that Jim or I would enjoy walking all the way up from the beach!

It was Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining.  It was probably 26 or 27 d.  People had flocked down to the beach and were having a great time

We turned right at the beach and followed a path along the side of the cliff

It was a lovely walk, although we had to concentrate on our footing - you wouldn't want to trip and fall over the side of the cliff and land on the rocks below!!

We were heading to the next bay along when we came to a set of steps going up the cliff.  We pondered this and decided to head up the steps.  At the top, we had a choice of going left or right.  We decided to go right, heading back in the direction of our starting point.  It was again a lovely walk until this

more or less disappeared.  The path has slipped in places and all you have is a narrow bit of path, sloping downwards.  Not absolutely ideal if you are not a climber.  Or even a scrambler. I couldn't get a photo of it because I was too busy hanging on to tall grassy clumps, or agapanthus (agapanthus gets absolutely EVERYWHERE!!) or scratchy bushes.  It wasn't a very long bit of almost path but it took us a long time to cross it!!

But cross it we did.  And ended up in the car park on the point that we can see from our apartment

We walked back along the road, where there is an actual pavement!!!!

We got back to the carpark and decided that we were deserving of an ice cream.  Alas, the ice cream van only had ice creams with strawberries in them. Even the banana ice cream was stirred through with strawberry. Fine for me, but no good for Jim.  Kudos to the ice cream maker - when he realised that Jim couldn't eat strawberries he called us back from where we were sitting while I had my ice cream and said that he had washed out all the equipment and could make Jim a strawberry free banana ice cream.  We sat for a bit longer while Jim had an ice cream that  wasn't going to poison him :-)

I looked at an online map when we got back to the apartment.  If we had turned left rather than right at the top of the steps, it would have been a short path up to the road, about half a kilometre away from the car park on the point.  Oh well.  We'll know for next time.  (Although if we ever walk along those cliffs again, we might not go up the steps and just continue on to the next bay along.)

We very much enjoyed our dinner, which mostly came from things we had bought in the market.  I have to tell you that lamb chops coated in fairly finely milled oats are a real pleasure.  Alas - I used all the oats so tonight's fish will have to be cooked just in seasoned flour. I must remember to buy a lemon!