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!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

So here we are ...

... as Austin and Tatsuki say when starting a video log of their adventures.

No video log from me.  Just words and photos.

But this is where we are:

in a small studio apartment just outside of Lyttelton, which is not far from Christchurch in New Zealand's South Island

Here is the view from the balcony:

Not bad, eh?

You may remember that one of the conditions of Jim's Australian visa is that he can only stay for a maximum of three months at a time.  It is just under three months since we came back from our jaunt to the North Island last November.  I looked at various options for this trip and then came up with some reasonably cheap flights to Christchurch. I then went hunting for somewhere to stay and came up with this studio apartment outside of Lyttelton.  I had no idea where that was, but it looked like a pleasant place for a summer long weekend away. So here we are ...

Lindsey volunteered to take us to the airport and very sportingly did not withdraw the offer even when she realised that our flight was at 06:45 so we needed to be there by around 05:00!  There is not much that is open at that time of the morning at Tullamarine.  Not really anywhere to get breakfast, unless you fancy Burger King.  On the other hand, there are also not many people hanging about so it took almost no time to check in, get through security and then through immigration.

It didn't take very long to get to Christchurch, either.  The flight was almost half an hour early when it landed!  We cruised through immigration and customs, picked up our hire car and were in Lyttelton in time for an early lunch, late breakfast or brunch, depending on whether you have moved to New Zealand time or stayed on Melbourne time (NZ is two hours ahead of Melbourne).  We had bacon, eggs and mushrooms on toast - which I thought were rather expensive, until the plates arrived

Farley enjoying a mountain of bacon

The view from our lunch table
After we had settled in to our weekend home, we took the car down the hill and went for a walk along the beach path back towards Lyttelton.  It's much, much cooler here than it is back in Melbourne but although the wind keeps things cool, the sun has quite a bit of warmth in it - when it is out!

Friday afternoon walk along the bayside track

We bought provisions for dinner from the small supermarket, watched a bit of television - and had a very early night!

We woke up this morning to this:

One small, lonely cloud over the hill behind us

... and a helicopter, which looked as though it might be doing emergency drills

Lyttelton is a nice little place.  It has a port and a harbour and a goods railway line.  It has lots of cafes, gift shops, food shops, quirky shops.  And on Saturday mornings it has a farmer's, craft and antiques market.  Today is Saturday!  We went for a look.

The market was absolutely bustling. And bigger than the ones we go to in and around Ballarat.  We bought some bacon, chops and fish.  We bought vegetables and crusty bread. We bought a few eggs (We had eggs from the Airbnb chooks for breakfast this morning but didn't like to assume that more would be forthcoming!).  Then we called into the Organic/wholefood/spice shop and found, to my delight, that you can buy flour and oats and other things by the scoop.  We're only here for the weekend and can't take food like that back to Australia, so small scoops of things were very handy for me!  Now I can crumb the fish and lamb cutlets :)

It's not a bad location for a market!

We had thought, when we discussed it last evening, that we might hop in the car after visiting the market and go exploring, possibly driving out to look at the Pacific Ocean.  We are intending to go to Akaroa tomorrow and thought that we should probably go out somewhere this afternoon.  As it happens, once we got back from the market, had some fruit and juice for lunch and sorted ourselves out - once we had done all that we couldn't really be bothered.  We're going to go back down to the little beach and go for a walk along the bayside path instead.  But in the other direction.  After all, we're supposed to be having a weekend away, not a whistle stop tour of the South Island!

Heading down the road to the little beach

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

On Saturday, Lindsey, Rachel the visiting medical student and I took advantage of the pleasant weather and went into Ballarat for the monthly Bridge Mall Farmers' Market. It was a good market.  We bought lots of fruit and vegetables for Sunday. We bought spice mixes and eggs. We bought loads of artisan sausages for Sunday.  We bought lots!

Then we went to look at a small miner's cottage up by the showgrounds.  We first noticed it when Lindsey, Jim and I went to the Sunday Trash and Treasure market some weeks ago.  Then I noticed that there was an open inspection on Saturday so we thought we would go for a look see.  It's a very cute little cottage (little being the operative word!) but it needs quite a bit of work doing to it.  Its big advantage is that the kitchen has been completely renovated and the bathroom has been partially renovated.  The significant disadvantage is that it needs re-stumping (although we are not sure how much needs doing) and the weatherboards need attention.  The roof also needs some sort of attention, although the house did not feel damp and we've had quite a bit of rain on and off this summer.

Mind you, we have not yet sold the house in Tupton so are not in a position to buy another house. But it is useful to go and look at places that come up within our price range so we know what's around when eventually we do sell it. Just after Christmas we dropped the price on our place and there has been a flurry of interest since then.  We have our fingers crossed that this will continue and that one of the viewers might actually buy it - and then our researches here might actually be useful :-D And I quite fancy one of the little miner's cottages, especially one with a lovely kitchen and a reasonable size garden.

Anyway, after having a good look at the little house, we went to the lake where we met Emily and walked the perimeter.  It's a 6 km walk and took us just over an hour.  There was a schools' rowing regatta happening which gave us extra things to look at as we went round

I spent the afternoon making food for Sunday. I made sweet potato and lemongrass gyoza, and pork and ginger gyoza.  I roasted a mighty piece of topside beef. I grilled the sausages from the Bridge Mall market. I part roasted a load of the vegetables that we had bought there. Then we packaged everything up ready for Sunday.

For on Sunday everyone who could manage it was gathering at Stella and Tony's place in Mount Martha for a lunch celebrating Stella's birthday which is at the beginning of February.  Lindsey and I took the food down with us. We sliced the beef and chopped the sausages into chunks and had them cold.  We re-heated the vegetables with tomatoes and mushrooms dropped on top of them and made a roast vegetable ratatouille. We roasted loads of potatoes. I steamed the gyoza. There was food for the vegetarians and the vegan. Then we had fruit salad, made with the fruit we had bought in Bridge Mall, and Belinda brought a rhubarb and plum crumble.  We had a merry, mighty, magnificent feast.  Then we reassembled Stella and Tony's lounge room back to how it had been before we all invaded and made our various ways back to our homes.

Jim, Sam and I came back to Mount Helen in Ian's car and had a quiet evening and a quiet Monday. Then on Tuesday I went to the surgery to do some scanning. I delivered Ian's car back to him and then made my way back to Mount Helen by tram,train and bus.  I've never taken the bus from the station out to the university before and wasn't sure where the bus stops were in either place.  However, I found them quite easily and then wandered up through the forest to Bell Avenue and up the driveway to the house.  There is a direct path from the house to the bus stop, down the hill and through the university grounds.  I can see it quite clearly from the bottom of the driveway but I have never walked it.  And I couldn't find it when I got off the bus, so took a circuitous route up to Bell Avenue.  It was a rather nice walk, but I must walk down the hill to the bus stop to see if I can find the direct path up next time.

It's a lovely sunny day today, even if rather on the windy side. Jim, Sam and I have had a quiet and fairly late start to the morning.  I suppose I ought to go and do a few useful things.