Monday, July 17, 2017

Lindsey and I both had a 7:00 Japanese lesson yesterday morning.  It was a Survival class so not very taxing for Lindsey and me.  I didn't learn anything I didn't already know - apart from the names of a few menu items.  But it never hurts to revisit very basic stuff when learning a language that you don't get the opportunity to use very often.  Stella did ask why we were learning survival phrases if we had no plans to visit Japan. We both looked at her slightly blank.  There are ALWAYS *plans* to visit Japan. In fact we have a plan.  It's just not until sometime next year.

Anyway.  After that we had a plan to pick up Emily and do a circuit of the lake.  So off we went, leaving Jim, Stella, Tony and Ian in the house.  Lindsey and I were discussing that we thought Jim wasn't looking absolutely happy.  We thought about it. And realised that apart from going across the road to pick up the post we couldn't actually remember when he had last left the house and garden.  We thought maybe a week?  Perhaps just over a week?  No wonder he isn't looking very happy!!

So when we got back from our walk around the lake I popped him into the Honda, the spare car and we went to Buninyong.  The car used to be Tony's.  Then, when he and Stella bought a new car, it went to Emily and was driven up to Townsville. When Emily came back to Ballarat she bought Lindsey's old car and the Honda went to Ant and Jess.  They have now bought Ian's old car and the Honda has come here to be the spare car. It needed its tyres pumping up so we did that and then we went to the Pig and Goose for lunch.

We've walked past the Pig and Goose many times and thought that we should pop in.  And so we should have.  The food was delicious - and we had to wait for it.  They cooked it to order.

Then we drove back to the house.  Lindsey mentioned that there was oil on the drive where the car had been.  We decided to check the oil levels in the morning.

Time passes.  Emily and a friend came up for Sunday evening roast which was cooked mostly by Lindsey but with some assistance from Ian and me (I made the Yorkshire puddings).  We watched a bit of TV (but missed Masterchef.  Fortunately the whole series is available on the Internet.  I might watch the whole season again from the very beginning. I've only seen it intermittently).  

I slept fairly well and woke at a reasonable time.

And from there the day went downhill.

The builders arrived, by appointment, to carry on with the proper fitting of the doors and windows.  Ian was planning to head to Melbourne.  Lindsey was planning to leave a bit later.  Jim and I went out to check the oil levels of the car. About half way up the dipstick.  Then the gasman came, unexpectedly quickly,  to fix the main gas heater. Then we checked the oil levels in the car again.  No oil.  So Lindsey and Ian called the breakdown people. They came and organised a tow truck.  Lindsey rang the Honda people who said they could look at the car on Wednesday.  Ian disappeared to Melbourne, laughing quietly.  The gasman went away.  The tow truck came and took the Honda away to the Honda hospital.  Sam was unhappy about the builders, the gasman and the general chaos.  Rupert was causing the general sort of chaos that 11 or 12 week old puppies do cause. Then Lindsey went away leaving a frail Stella, a poorly Tony, a reasonably robust Jim and me, almost voiceless and one earless, plus carless on Mount Helen!!!

Fortunately we are not short of food, milk, bread or wine. Lindsey and I made a quick dash to the local grocery store anyway to stock up on milk and tasty things.  Ian is due back tomorrow evening anyway.  But the lack of the Honda has thrown the rest of the week into a quiet level of disarray.  However, as far as I am aware, everyone is still breathing, the wood fire is lit, the dogs are contentedly sleeping and a level of peace has descended on the house (mind you it is almost 6:00 in the evening - you would hope things might have settled down by now!)

Oh. And the fridge in the kitchen has stopped making things cold.  And the stove top has cracked but is still working.  On the other hand, the main gas stove is working.  For now!

Off for a walk down the driveway.  In the wind!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

In Retrospect

it would probably have been better to have picked Stella up from the hospital in Frankston on Tuesday morning (a process which took much, much longer than I had expected it to), taken Tony to see his GP in Rosebud at lunchtime (something else which took longer than I had expected it to) and then stayed overnight in Mount Martha heading to Mount Helen on Wednesday morning.

As it was, by the time we had got back to Mount Martha after the GP visit, got packed and organised, very carefully packed the car with two walkers and everything else that was coming with us, got ourselves in the car and set off, by the time we had done all that we hit the Monash at peak hour and found it very, very busy what with road works, minor accidents and other hazards.  Then we got to Richmond and found the approach to the Burnley Tunnel at a complete standstill (I think there had been an accident on the approach to the Westgate Bridge).  The satnav took us off the freeway and then all around the houses until eventually it dropped us back onto the bridge.  It was well after six by the time we got to Mount Helen.  We hadn't had any lunch and everyone was tired and hungry.

We should have waited and come up on Wednesday morning!

No matter. We're all here now.  The builders have been and installed beautiful new doors and windows in the lounge room and kitchen. I went to work yesterday and tackled the mountain of scanning that had accumulated in my absence.  Mind you, I am really not sure what is happening with the traffic at the moment.  It's the school holidays and I had expected things to be better than normal. There were two absolutely massive hold ups getting back from work yesterday. The satnav tried to take me off the freeways both times, but the first time it changed its mind too late for me to change lanes and take the exit and at the second hold up I couldn't see any point in coming off the freeway, driving around loads of back roads in the dark and rejoining the freeway later.

Rupert has been here for a whole week and is settling in quite nicely.  He and Sam are mostly getting on quite well, although Sam wasn't even a little bit impressed when Rupert tried to take his pig's ear.  He wasn't absolutely delighted this morning either when Rupert (accidentally, I think) jumped on him while he (Sam) was having a nice sleep.

I have a couple of online Japanese lessons over the weekend and there's a baking festival today and tomorrow in the Mining Exchange. It's supposed to be very cold in and around Ballarat over the weekend but I think it's supposed to be quite nice.  We could take Tony and Stella for a drive, or out shopping or out for lunch. So many possibilities before us!

Monday, July 10, 2017

So.  Stella moved from her hospital ward to the rehab ward at Beleura.  I was a bit surprised - she still didn't seem all that well to me. But then I am a librarian and not a doctor or nurse and I'm sure they all knew what they were doing.  We were all prepared for her to leave the rehab unit and come home, when her cardiologist dropped in to see her.  I knew she didn't look all that well!  He had her moved pretty quickly into the cardiology ward at the Peninsula Private hospital in Frankston.

She's only been there a few days and is now very much improved.  She's due out tomorrow morning.  I have come down ready to pick her up tomorrow and then to take both Tony and Stella back to Mount Helen for a few days staying with us, Lindsey and Ian and Sam. We can feed and water them and make sure they're both properly back on their feet before returning them to Mount Martha. Lindsey is arranging various services to be put in place so that they can live at home comfortably and easily once they're fit enough.

Of course, they may not want to return home. As well as Jim, Lindsey, Ian, Sam and me, they now have this to play with at Mount Helen

Meet Rupert, who is ten weeks old and arrived on Saturday.  Sam was a bit surprised by his arrival but seems relatively OK with him.  Except today Rupert bounced at Sam so Sam bounced back - and squashed him!!  Apart from that, though, all is good

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Red Tape, Form Filling and Paperwork

As you may be aware, Jim and I have spent the last little while putting together an application for a partner visa for him.

It is a long, tortuous, drawn out process filled with frustrations, blind alleys, twisty turns and complications.

I spent the better part of a day filling in the online form for him.  Fortunately, we had already gathered together all the information we needed.  Each page had to be saved before you went to the next one.  It was therefore EXTREMELY frustrating when the website crashed and it took me back to a page before I had filled in ALL the details of his parents, siblings and offspring and all mine.  I had also filled in all the personal statements he needed to have put together.  I would swear that I had saved all the family details.  I hadn't saved the personal statements - the site crashed while I was doing that. But no.  It was all lost and had to be done again.  Finally the form was filled in, submitted and the application paid for.  Many, many, many dollars left my bank account and headed to the Australian government.

The following day I suddenly realised that I had paid for it not with my Australian bank account, which had many, many Australian dollars in it but with my British credit card - which did not!  Another morning wasted while I tried to transfer money from Australia to the UK.  I knew it shouldn't be as complicated as it seemed to be.  I have transferred money internationally before without trouble.  Eventually I gave up on the live chat on the internet and actually rang the bank.  The nice lady I spoke to said there was no need to worry at all about IBANs, Swift Codes or anything else (none of which had worked) and just to put my personal bank details in.  Worked like a charm.  As it should have done :-D

Then we faced the daunting task of adding all the supporting evidence that the government requires.  We have spent the last few months gathering it all together.  Birth certificates; tick. Marriage certificate; tick. Passports; tick. Statements from friends and family attesting that our relationship is genuine, long lasting and enduring. Tick. Bank statements, mortgage statement, passport photos, stuff, more stuff, even more stuff.  Tick, tick, tick, tick.  And always, just when we thought we had it all, we found more stuff that they wanted.  It all had to be copied, certified, scanned and added to precisely the section of the application that was relevant.  It took all weekend just to do the scanning and adding.        

I am extremely grateful that I speak English (no need for English tests for migrants in my view - filling in the form is all the evidence you need that someone can speak and read English!!). I am grateful that I have access to computers, scanners, printers and that I know how to use them. I am extremely fortunate that I had the money to pay for the application and the support of family, friends and colleagues in putting it together (many, many thanks to the practice nurse who certified a mountain of documents - almost as many as our friend Ginger had to certify when I was putting together my application to have my residency restored but he at least was rewarded with Sunday lunches after the bouts of certifying !!)

And let us all give thanks that we are not displaced, homeless, refugees or anyone else who has lost all their paperwork, identity documents and all the other things that make navigating bureaucracy and red tape possible.  I was reminded of this after the bushfires in Victoria in 2009 and again after the recent Grenfell Tower block in London when so many of the people who survived had lost everything, including the things that proved who they were, gave them access to government agencies, access to money and access to information.  I must once again put our documents in a safe place and remember to keep my phone and wallet somewhere where I can grab them if I have to leave in a hurry.  I have been a bit slack about that recently.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The trip from Mount Helen to Mount Martha last Monday certainly added an element of interest to the week.  Usually it takes around two and a quarter hours. The sat nav pretty much always takes us over the Westgate Bridge. (The sat nav likes to take us over the Westgate Bridge whenever there is any possible reason to go that way, but when moving from Helen to Martha that is the most sensible way to go.)  On Monday, however, it abruptly changed the route - so abruptly that I was in the wrong lane and had to move over -  and took us off on the ring road, and then down the Calder Freeway. Not sure why.  It looked as though it was going to take us over the Bolte Bridge but then at the last minute took us on a detour through Docklands and along loads of roads, small roads, and what looked like ramps and back streets.  Jim tells me that the Bolte was absolutely chockablock.  At one point he asked if we should check to see where we were.  In fact I knew where we were all the time we were heading along this weird route. I just didn't know where we were going - if you see what I mean.  Eventually we ended up in the Burnley tunnel (also almost at a standstill) and back on the usual route.  It took us almost an hour longer than usual to get to Mount Martha.

I'm not sure I could duplicate that route, left to my own devices!!!

Stella has had an up and down week. She was quite bright on Monday and very much less so on Tuesday. She's picked up a bit since then. She's still very breathless but quite a bit more animated and a bit more mobile.  She is hoping to go into the rehab unit over the weekend.  Tony isn't too bad at the moment.  Unless he has a horrible coughing fit at meal times he is eating quite well. He positively demolished the (small) plate of chicken and mushroom stew, mashed potatoes and vegetables that I gave him last night.

I have managed to get to work as arranged this week.  I have discovered that driving up and down the Eastern Freeway is a doddle compared to the Monash.  The traffic flows fairly freely and it takes about an hour and a quarter, a bit longer heading back because you set off in Melbourne's peak hour traffic.  Jim and Tony have been holding the fort at Mount Martha. Jim has taken Tony to visit Stella at lunchtime, with lunchtime pies in the hospital cafe. Then when I get back we've all been to visit her in the evening.

So far, so good.  Although I must say that I wouldn't mind a week or two resting in hospital with pneumonia.  Except without the pneumonia bit.  And the hospital!!

In other news I have this very day put in an application for a partner visa for Jim.  The actual application is in and paid for (application fees go up on Saturday and I think the forms change as well and so do some of the immigration conditions).  I have yet to scan and upload all the supporting documentation but I do have it all ready to go. I'll try and get it done on Saturday.  In the meantime he now has a bridging visa which will allow him to remain lawfully Australia until a decision has been made. I suspect that it will be a long long time before a decision is made.  I should imagine a very, very large number of applications have been submitted this week. The upside of the bridging visa is that we don't have to keep leaving the country every three months.  The downside is that the bridging visa he has doesn't allow him to re-enter the country should he leave it.  No overseas holidays for him in the next little while!!

He's a very expensive hobby to maintain, though.  It cost a fortune to put that application in :-S

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Adding degrees of difficulty

It was generally felt that the original thoracic surgeon who Tony had seen hadn't been particularly helpful.  So Simon arranged an appointment with a colleague of his for Friday morning, quite early.

In the meantime, one of Stella and Tony's oldest friends died.  The funeral was for Thursday afternoon.

Lindsey arranged to head down and take them to the funeral, and then to take them to the flat, ready for their Friday morning appointment in Melbourne.

Matthew and Belinda arranged to visit them on Thursday for lunch.

Jim and I were detailed to pick them up from the flat on Friday afternoon and take them home.  We thought we might stay overnight and head back to Mount Helen on Saturday after lunch.

With me so far?

The plans then that Lindsey, Ian, Matthew, Belinda, Sage and William would head to Far North Queensland on Saturday afternoon.  Jim and I would stay in Mount Helen and look after the house and dog, with me going to Melbourne on Tuesday overnight and coming back on Wednesday.  We all felt that Stella and Tony would be OK on their own for a few days.

Then on Thursday Matthew and Belinda arrived and found that Stella had not just the cold that she had told me about on Wednesday but what seemed to be bronchitis.  Lindsey arrived, took one look at Stella and called an ambulance.  She went in the ambulance with her. Then there was a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing between the Emergency Department, the hospital Stella eventually ended up in and the house in Mount Martha, before Matthew and Belinda finally managed to head home and Lindsey took Tony to the flat in readiness for his appointment on Friday morning.

Stella remembers nothing of any of this!

Jim and I went as planned to collect Tony and off we went to visit Stella, who has pneumonia, a chest infection and fluid on the lungs.  I must say that when we saw her early on Friday afternoon I thought I was probably shortly going to be writing an RIP post for her.  When we went to visit her again in the evening she was looking quite bit better, although definitely not actually well.  She was sitting up in a chair when we went on Saturday morning, although I'm told she wasn't as well last evening.

Wendy appeared on Saturday afternoon so we could come back to Mount Helen.  We hadn't taken spare clothes with us and someone had to look after the dog and the house.

This, however, has added a huge level of complexity to the coming week.  Wendy has just had a week off so can't take more time off this coming week.  I need to go into work on Tuesday and Wednesday, plus I need to go and talk to the Immigration Department before Friday to apply for a residency visa for Jim.  Tony can't drive at the moment so wouldn't be able to visit Stella and in any case probably would struggle entirely on his own for a more than a day or two. Simon can't abandon his operating lists at no notice.  And Lindsey, Ian, Matt and Belinda are, of course, in FNQ.

Jim and I decided that on the whole it would be much easier if he and I just head down to Mount Martha tomorrow morning and stay put for the week.  We are beginning to find it very confusing and quite tiring moving around all over the place. I can get to work from there as easily as from here, leaving Jim to take Tony to visit Stella.  And I can probably get myself organised to go to the Immigration Department on Wednesday morning if I push myself a bit.  And Ross has agreed to come and look after Sam and the house.

And to add just a tiny, tiny extra level of difficulty - my right ear has become very blocked and I can't hear through it.  This is making it quite difficult for Tony and me to communicate.  He is deaf in both ears and speaks quite softly.  He can't hear me.  I can't hear him.  We may have to resort to text messages!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

We started the shortened working week on Tuesday, with celebrations for Tabitha's 40th birthday.  Seems odd that my eldest child should have turned 40!  I think she will probably be perpetually 35 in my head.

I went to work on Tuesday and Wednesday (the scanning box isn't really getting much emptier but nor is it filling up any more) then Jim and I hitched a ride with Ian back up to Ballarat, where we pottered around on Thursday until making our way back down to Mount Martha late in the afternoon. We got there just after the security gates had shut.  Luckily, Ant and Jess were down there. Ant was about to take Tony to the shops (Tony has escaped from the hospital for now) so they were able to buzz us in as they went past.

On Friday I took Tony and Stella to their appointment with the specialist, while Jim stayed in the house to keep the cleaner company.  The news from the specialist wasn't particularly good news, but also wasn't surprising. Results from earlier tests and scans had suggested that all was not as it might be.  He has to have a few more tests and then decisions will be made about any treatment.  He's looking quite a bit better than he was before he went into hospital, and eating more than he was. He's also going to have regular physio sessions to keep him active.

Jim and I headed back to Melbourne after lunch on Saturday.  We had intended to go back to Ballarat but I had arranged to go in to work this morning for a couple of hours of gentle scanning and it seemed ridiculous to head all the way to Ballarat on Saturday afternoon just to turn round early on Sunday morning and head back again. So we are staying in the flat for the next few days.  Lindsey brought some clothes down for us (she was also working this morning) and I think we'll stay here now until Wednesday afternoon. Then things get complicated again what with various people heading to America, Canada, Far North Queensland and various other places.  All things are, of course, subject to change without notice but for now most of the week ahead looks reasonably calm and orderly.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Long Weekend

Last Monday was the Queen's Birthday holiday  in most of Australia.  It seems slightly unfair to me that we get a day off to celebrate but the poor queen does not!  However, it doesn't seem so unfair that I would turn the day off work down - although I don't usually work on Mondays anyway so I don't suppose it really made much difference to me.

Anyway. Lindsey, Jim and I left Ballarat fairly early on the Sunday and moseyed down to the Mornington Peninsula.  We dropped by Beleura hospital and kidnapped Tony and took him home for lunch.  We certainly had a magnificent feast.  Lindsey had laid in steak, potatoes, salads and veg.  Our niece Susie came down as well and brought pulled pork and the makings of a pie.  Tony celebrated his (temporary) escape from the hospital by having a doze in his favourite chair, a glass off quality red wine and eating very much more that we had expected him to. It was good to have a chance to chat with Susie.  We usually see her at big family gatherings when there isn't much chance to talk to anyone much.  Tony went back to the hospital.  Susie went home.  Stella, Lindsey, Jim and I settled in for the night.

On the Monday holiday we took Stella to visit Tony and then we went to The Rocks for lunch.  Not The Rocks in Sydney but a rather nice seafood restaurant in Mornington.  We were quite lucky to get a table as we hadn't booked and it was very busy. Lots of families there with parents, grandparents and mostly remarkably well behaved children.  We all had plates of fish and chips.  We were getting ready to leave when suddenly Stella and I were unexpectedly covered in water and a glass bounced down by our feet.  It seems that the children on the next table had been amusing themselves by seeing if they could actually tip over the supposedly untippable glass that they had.  I don't think they did succeed in tipping it over but they did manage to bounce it off the table, and jump it in the direction of our table.  We were surprised to find ourselves being splashed with water. We were even more surprised that the glass didn't break.!

So we took Stella home again and the three of us went back to East Melbourne ready to start a shortened working week.  Various people will go to visit Tony and to take Stella to various places. And Jim and I will go back down on Thursday, ready to take Tony and Stella to their appointment with the specialist on Friday morning.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

So our belongings finally arrived last Friday, a mere ten months after being packed away in boxes.  In the end, they arrived about an hour earlier than expected. I was still down in Mount Martha, but Jim was here and everything was successfully loaded into Lindsey and Ian's garage, apart from two boxes which had clothes and coats in them which were brought into the house.

We can't unpack most of the boxes - we don't have anywhere to put the contents. But on Thursday, when I happened to be in Mount Helen, we unpacked those two boxes, plus one marked Hats and another marked Books.  It was quite exciting to see what was inside them.  I had forgotten that I had packed some tea towels and have been buying them here against the day that we have a Kitchen of Our Own.  We are not going to be short of tea towels!  The box of clothes was mostly (very welcome) winter jumpers, but with a few other things included (such as the tea towels!)  The box of books included some of my Japanese study books and some cook books.  We have put back into the boxes things that we aren't going to use until we have a place of our own.

It was slightly puzzling that we had packed a big box of glasses wipes. Seemed like a very odd thing that we felt the need to transport them to the other side of the world. But then we remembered that we had asked the removal men to pack everything that was in the dining room except for the freezer, and the box of glasses wipes lived on the window sill in the dining room.  I wouldn't have selected them as being amongst my best treasures, but they will surely come in handy :-)  And in the event that we ever move again with removalists packing everything for us - I'll pack the clothes myself.  The coats were very scrunched up.  Jim's winter coat was so crumbled and squished that we had to iron it gently to render it wearable. He didn't like my idea that we should squish him into it and send him out into a torrential downpour to see if that would help :-D

It will be Very Exciting Indeed when we get to unpack all the other boxes.  Who knows what treasures we will find!

I stayed down at Mount Martha until Tuesday of this week.  Matthew and Belinda came for lunch on the Friday of last week. Wendy came for lunch on the Saturday.  Simon and his (adult) children came for afternoon tea on the Saturday.  Lindsey came on the Sunday and stayed over night.  Then on Monday Tony had loads of tests done at the hospital and was admitted after that.  Stella, Lindsey and I had lunch in the pub! Tony is now in the rehab unit, building up his strength. Stella is at home. Lindsey and I headed back to work on Tuesday and Wednesday.  My scanning box was delighted to see me.  It was very, very full.  It's still very very full despite me having spent something like 16 hours at it this week.  I'll have to try harder this coming week!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Poor Tony

really isn't at all well.  It's a bit of a vicious circle, really.  He feels nauseous so isn't eating.  He has lost a lot of weight. He is feeling very weak. He has a small something to eat or drink.  He feels nauseous so doesn't eat any more. He gets a bit weaker.  And he sleeps and sleeps and sleeps and sleeps.  He can't take any exercise, so doesn't really get hungry. And so it goes on.

He now has some anti nausea medicine so hopefully that will help.

He has eaten a few odd bits and pieces. And he went for a stroll with me around the complex the other evening.  He has some times when he feels quite bright. And other times when he feels quite terrible.  Today is a feeling terrible day ;-(

It doesn't help that his medical and hospital tests keep getting messed about so no one know what is supposed to be happening and when.

Except I think that some things have now been sorted out.  Lindsey came down on Monday and escorted Tony and Stella to see his surgeon on Tuesday.  The first set of results are partly encouraging but not so much that further tests can be ignored.  A load of tests have been arranged for Monday.  Lindsey and Jim went away after the hospital visit leaving me in situ at Mount Martha for the time being.  I think I will be here until at least Monday. We will review the situation then.

Tony wasn't well enough to go to the joint 60th birthday / housewarming lunch that Christian and Cassie were hosting in their beautiful new home, so he and Stella stayed at home. Fortunately Jim and I were well enough - partly because I had custody of the birthday presents from Stella and Tony, also because I had custody of the fruit platter Lindsey had asked me to get but mostly because I had Emily's car and she needed it back.  We had a lovely time at the party.  They had prepared some delicious salads, beautiful roast meats, lots of tasty morsels. There was lots of merriment, lots of delicious wine and two glorious birthday cakes. Then Jim and I came back to Mount Martha by train, train and taxi.

In other news - our furniture and boxes are due to be delivered to Mount Helen some time on Friday.  I had thought they might never leave their consolidation home in London but now they are oh so nearly here.  Now we just need to sell the house so we can get somewhere to put the furniture and contents of the boxes!

Friday, May 26, 2017

A busy, busy few days

So.  Back to last week.

I went on Tuesday morning, from Ballarat to the airport to pick up a young cousin and his companion who have been visiting Far North Queensland for a few weeks and had come to Melbourne to spend a few days with the Aussie Rellies.  Most fortunately, I had checked the flight status before I set off at the crack of dawn.  The plane was delayed by three hours on account of bad weather in Melbourne.  I gazed out at the glorious weather in Ballarat while I drank my morning cup of coffee and pondered the vagaries of the Weather Dogs.

It was foggy in Melbourne when I got there!

I took the visitors on the tram into Melbourne for a wander around and then left them to it and took the train and bus back to Mount Helen.

Wednesday I spent mostly making roasted tomato soup, slow cooked steak and ale stew, suet pastry to sit on top of the stew and sorting out vegetables.  For on Thursday Irene, Gillie, Chris and John came for lunch.  I thought it would be a good plan actually to have food for them.  I'm not sure that vegemite sandwiches would have cut it!

On Friday I actually managed to get to work for a few hours, then I went and picked up the youngsters and they, Lindsey and I all went back to Ballarat, where we were greeted by Jim, Sam and Ian, and an absolutely magnificent seafood paella made by Ian.

Walking around the Lake

On Saturday, Lindsey, the visitors and I walked around the lake.  Ian, Sam and Jim walked around a bit of the lake.  In the afternoon, all of us except Ian and Sam went to Sovereign Hill for a bit of a look around.  Sovereign Hill consistently wins awards as a tourist attraction - and I haven't been for decades.  I suppose it's the sort of place that locals don't go to unless they have visitors.  And I possibly should go more often than once every 30 years or so.  There's a lot to see and we only had a couple of hours.  If you wish to volunteer to come and visit so we can go again, please feel free!

On Sunday Lindsey, Ian and the visitors took themselves off to drive along part of the coast and then took the ferry across the bay and went to visit Stella and Tony, briefly.  Jim and I did very little.  I suppose I could have done an update here on Sunday - but I didn't!

On Monday, Jim and I pottered down to Melbourne and met Lindsey in the flat.  We wandered into town, did a bit of shopping, wandered around a bit more, pottered back to the flat - and in the evening everyone went out to celebrate Ian's 60th birthday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I actually managed to get into work.  The scanning mountain is growing!!!!!

On Thursday I was in Ballarat pondering whether to buy the rather nice dressing gown I was looking at which was at half price.  My phone rang.  It was Lindsey with a very complicated proposal involving car swaps, travel plans, dog feeding plans and various other things because someone needed to be in Mount Martha on Friday morning to take Tony for some hospital tests.  I abandoned my plans for the next couple of days and hastily packed for a week or so, grabbed Jim and we embarked on the car swap.  This was slightly complicated by the fact that we arrived to swap the cars when parents were picking their children up from school. No parking spaces to be had for love nor money.  Eventually we got it all sorted hopped in Emily's car to set off on our mercy mission - and Stella rang to say that the hospital visit had been postponed to next week :-(

We decided to come down anyway.  We were coming on Saturday in any case and it seemed silly to re-swap the cars, cancel the dog sitter and go back and unpack, especially given that we were sitting in the car ready to go.  So down we came.  I could have wished not to have hit the Burnley Tunnel and the Monash Freeway at just after 5 on a weekday, but in fact the traffic wasn't as bad as it sometimes is and we arrived in Mount Martha nicely in time for dinner.

So here we are.  The sun is shining.  We have no real plans until Sunday late morning.  It might not be quite so busy (although  the irony then is that there may be time to write the blog, but there is nothing to say :-S )

This feels  very much like a What I Did on my Holidays school essay!  So here are some pictures from our visit to Sovereign Hill:

Monday, May 15, 2017


It was Lindsey's 60th birthday last Thursday.  It was the Practice Manager's 50th birthday, also on Thursday.  It was decided to have a lunchtime celebration at the surgery on Wednesday, since neither of the birthday girls would be in on Thursday.

They got food in from the various eateries in the shopping centre that the surgery sits in.  We had pizza and sushi and calamari and chips and cold platters and all sorts.

And the Practice Nurse made a cake.  Except there wasn't actually any cake.  It was all made of various kinds of fruit.  It was amazing!

Thursday lunch time found Lindsey, Ian, Jim and me in a wine bar in Ballarat, eating Japanese style food.  I was the designated driver so no wine for me, which had the unexpected benefit of introducing me to a bitter grapefruit drink.  It was absolutely delicious.  I may have had two!

Ian took himself off to Brisbane via the airport bus and a plane after lunch.

Lindsey, Jim and I went home and prepared our stomachs for dinner, which we had with Emily, Ant and Jess in a Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant in Ballarat.  We had the tasting menu and it was amazing.

Yesterday was Mother's Day and the family (apart from Ian and Jess, but including Wendy's former mother in law Margaret) gathered at Mount Martha in celebration of all our mothers - and Lindsey's birthday.  I took a vegan shepherd's pie topped with sweet potato, and a meaty one topped with traditional potato.  Susie brought delicious sausage rolls and kofta.  Lindsey came with salads and a fruit platter. Stella had also bought salads, green beans and a cherry pie.  Belinda brought a rhubarb crumble. There was lots of wine. It was a very mighty feast indeed .

And now we have a celebratory pause.  No more birthdays until next week!

Monday, May 08, 2017


We started the day at the Farm Gate Market, which happens on Sundays a short stroll from our house. It's not anywhere near as big as the Salamanca Market, but it is definitely a food market.  We were a bit sad that we only had one more main meal to buy for!

Then we made our way up Mount Wellington, whose top was covered in cloud.  It turned out that the route to the top was also covered in snow.  The road to the summit was closed 6 km before you got there.

Cloud capped. We went up anyway

It was very picturesque driving up the mountain

View from the lookout

It's me!!

The road is closed up ahead.  We can go no  further

Thwarted in our ambition to reach the top we drove back down and then turned away from Hobart and headed out to Huonville in the Huon Valley, just for a look see.  The Huon Valley is apple country.  There were lots of cider making places.  We didn't visit them :-D  Instead we turned around and made our way to the historic township of Richmond where we had a rather nice lunch in the Richmond Arms, visited the model village of Colonial Hobart, collected the very pretty bridge and pottered around in the shops.

Richmond Arms

Model village

Model Village

Richmond Bridge

And so home where we spent out last evening watching Masterchef while eating the magnificent potatoes, veg and lamb fillets that we had bought in the market in the morning.

I could definitely live in or around Hobart.  It's a nice pace of life.  And the fresh food is amazing.  I might need a slightly better paying job to fund all the eating, though!

We're off back to Victoria shortly.  And then we have three or four weeks of birthdays and other excitements to look forward to.

Sunday, May 07, 2017


What do you do if you should find yourself in Hobart on a Saturday morning? Well, of course you go to the Salamanca Market.

I have been once before but it was over twenty years ago.  It's grown quite a lot since then!  There were hundreds of stalls and lots of people wandering around.  It was an excellent way of spending an hour or so on a Saturday morning - and perhaps one or two dollars as well :-)

Lindsey entering the Salamanca Market

We went for a wander around the Hobart City Centre.  It's a pretty little city.  Apart from its size, it reminds me a bit of Edinburgh.

It has a beautiful bridge which connects the two sides of the city in an easy drive. We've been over it several times. It got knocked down by a rogue ship in the 1970s.  This was a serious inconvenience to the people who lived on one side of the harbour but who worked in the city centre!

You would think that we might have thought to check the ferry time to Maria Island before we embarked on the day's activities.  But we didn't.  We just hopped in the car when we had finished the things we wanted to do in the morning and took ourselves off on the rather beautiful drive to Orford and Triabunna - only to find that we had missed the lunchtime ferry by about 20 minutes.  The next ferry wasn't until mid-afternoon and would only give you about half an hour on the island before the last ferry came back.  There's no late afternoon ferry in the off season.  So we abandoned the idea of Maria Island and went here for lunch instead, attracted by the chalk board out the front which advised us that the combination of a wood fire and shepherd's pie was not to to be missed

And it was a mighty fine shepherd's pie indeed. Country cooking at its best!

We liked Triabunna.  It's a small settlement, but it has cafes, a small supermarket, a gift shop, a butcher, a ferry port and marina, a pub and various other things.  You could almost live there even without a car to take you to Sorrel or Swansea.  I'm not so sure you could live in Orford without a car. It has many, many more houses but seems to have far fewer facilities. It does have a nice beach, though.

However, we aren't planning to move to either of these places and made our way back to Hobart, via the veg shop we were in on Friday, and an oyster shop where Lindsey bought oysters and prawns as an entree for our dinner.  We followed them with fish poached in lemon and olive oil, roast potatoes and lots of lovely veg

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Port Arthur

Lindsey and I thought it would be a good thing to take Jim to Port Arthur while we were here.  As you may know, he has a passing interest in Things Penitential and Port Arthur is extremely interesting as far as prisons go.  We had thought we might go today or even tomorrow but yesterday's weather forecast looked the best of the three days so we hopped in the car and went after breakfast.

We were not in any hurry and were definitely in exploring mode, so we stopped a few times on the way, including here at Pirate Bay (well, you almost have to take a detour if you are offered pirates en route to your destination!!)

Looking over Pirate Bay

Inspecting the Tesselated Pavement

The cobbles have been made by the sea, not by humans
Then on we drove to Port Arthur.  It is a truly beautiful place with a truly ugly history. I have once, many years ago, done a night walk around the site.  I would never do that again! Yesterday, however, with the sun shining and in daylight you could admire the beauty and appreciate some of the good things that happened there,  as well as pondering how even well intentioned people can also do truly appalling things.  The Separate prison was meant to be a model of prison reform!

We didn't go on a guided walk and just wandered around looking at the buildings. We did go on the ferry trip around the harbour.

The chapel, in the Separate Prison, which is set up so the prisoners couldn't see one another

The cells are tiny, and were very, very dark

The Separate prison was not just dark, but also entirely silent. No talking by the convicts

Guard tower

Outside the main penitentiary

The Isle of the Dead

Port Arthur  penitentiary looking for all the world like a stately house from the water

Friday, May 05, 2017


I wouldn't normally arrange to be in Christchurch, followed by Hobart in quite such a rush, but that was the way the discount flights fell.  It's not so much that there wasn't time to turn around.  There was plenty of time to do the washing, pack a bag for Hobart, pack another bag for town, head to Melbourne, go to work for a couple of days, head back to Ballarat, go to bed late, get up very early and make our way to Avalon Airport. Plenty of time, I tell you. (But it was all a bit of a rush :-P )

Anyway.  Here we are.  I bought the flights to Hobart back in November when Jetstar had them on offer.  It's Lindsey's 60th birthday next week and it seemed like a good plan to kickstart the birthday celebrations with a long weekend pottering around and exploring around Hobart.  Jim hasn't been to this bit of Tasmania before and it's years and years since I've been. Last time I was in Tasmania was when we came with Lindsey and Ian and we stayed in the north of the island.

The flights were out of Avalon which is a tiny airport near to Geelong.  I've never been to it before and it's very cute.  I'm not sure which would win the prize for the smallest airport I've ever been to. Avalon is definitely smaller than Sandakan, but it would be a close run thing in the race between Avalon and the little airport in Orkney.  But whichever were to win, they get a joint first prize for the ease of checkin in and going through security.  No immigration to worry about.  Flights to Orkney from Edinburgh and Hobart from Avalon are domestic flights.

We arrived in time for an early lunch.  Please note that if you decide to go into Mures Lower Deck for your early lunch that the portion sizes are ENORMOUS. Humungous.  I think that if Lindsey and I had shared her fisherman's basket we would still have struggled to eat it.  As it happened we didn't share it.  I had a gigantic seafood pizza to tackle. Even Jim was surprised to get two large pieces of fish with his fish and chips.  The couple who came to the table next to us had obviously been there before. They had a single plate of fish and chips with two sets of cutlery!  Oh- and Mures also has sparkling water as a complementary water offering, along with still water, both on tap for you to help yourself.

Lunchtime view
We are staying in an older part of Hobart, within easy walking distance of the centre of town.  If you head up our road, there is an amazing butcher 5 minutes walk away.  If you turn around the corner from our place there is a magnificent whole food and organic shop. Go the other way and there is a cheese and wine store.  Hop in the car and go in almost any direction and there are farm shops, little fish shops, fruit shops, all selling local produce together, in the case of some of the farm shops, supermarket staples.  It is a great great pity that Ian couldn't join us.  It's definitely his kind of place!

It pays to look up when you are wandering around in Hobart:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

And we did go for a final wander along the beach and round the headland into the estuary.  Then we packed up, tidied up our little apartment, packed everything in the car and drove off around the estuary, over the bridge, through Ferrymead to Sumner, which is a beach we could see across the water from Southshore.

It's much more vibrant in Sumner than it is in New Brighton.  I suspect that it can't have been as affected by the earthquakes in 2011. Southshore lost its shops, pub, takeaway food shops in the quakes, along with houses and other facilities.  Not surprisingly, people drifted away. There are lots of shops, eateries, facilities in Sumner, along with lots of activities.  While we were there there were surfing classes happening,  a group of scouts having a picnic on the esplanade, lots of groups of people doing things.

Friday's lunchtime view

And Friday's fish and chips
Clock tower on the esplanade
We had a wander along the esplanade, then headed along the beach towards the estuary to look at "our" spit of land from the Other Side

It was much too early to head to the airport, so we decided to go for a drive.  We headed up a steep road out of town.  The road I had intended to head along at the top was closed to traffic, so I swung left.  This almost immediately appeared to be a mistake.  There was a car ahead of us, which disappeared from view.  The road, then, was obviously used.  However, it was a narrow road, single lane only, winding, hugging the cliffside - and with no barrier between us and the steep, deep drop on our left.  I am sure it was perfectly safe but we didn't know where the road was going and we didn't quite see what we would do if another car came towards us.  There didn't seem to be many passing places.  At a larger than usual passing place, I turned around and headed back.  We then had a beautiful drive along a slightly wider mountain road with glorious views.

We had no dramas getting back to Melbourne. The flight was uneventful.  The Aussies let Jim back in. Lindsey was waiting for us and drove us back to Mount Helen.  Jim and I have had a lovely, quiet weekend which has been almost entirely uneventful.  Lindsey and Ian went on a day flight to King Island today. I don't think that counts as uneventful :-D