Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Austin's 25th birthday

Hooray! Austin is a quarter of a century old! Hippo birdie two ewes!

Although it might be best not to ring him quite at the time we got up!!

Mind you, that was unusually late for us. WE had assured Matthew and Belinda that we would be up by at the latest half past seven. The Builder had been press ganged into making tea for them. We didn’t wake up until nearly ten to eight! Belinda had tried to make tea for us – but could only find the decaffeinated tea bags. Blurk!! Happily The Builder knew where the proper tea bags were. So, everyone sat about and drank tea and chatted, and Sage and William played with the rocking camel and the Biggest Toy Camel in the World, and I tormented them, until it was time for them all to go away to Kaniva, where they are visiting Belinda’s mother for the rest of the school holidays.

We were peacefully sat about, playing with the computer, vaguely thinking about making Yorkshire pudding batter, pondering in our minds various things, when Lindsey came in and said: “Right. Are you ready?” Ready? Ready for what? Lunch? We’re going out for lunch? It would seem so. Because it’s Saturday. Apparently I should have known that Saturday is Going Out To Lunch day. It’s not Going Out To Lunch Day in Bridge Street. That tends to be Sunday. But I’m more than willing to go on a Saturday if the need arises. Always happy to go out to lunch. First, though, we had to go to Yummy Cakes to buy a quarter of a century mud birthday cake. Then we went to the Boatshed by the lake for Nasi Goreng (which apparently comes with a Nazi sauce!) and a glass of wine, before making our way to the supermarket for Birthday Tea provisions. Then we implemented The Plan.

Now, this was Austin’s plan. We had communicated earlier in the morning and established The Plan. Which was to meet him and Julia at the ten pin bowling alley to go a-bowling. I came comprehensively last in each game. My knee hurts. My groin hurts. My wrist and arm complained mightily. And it was great fun. Do you think I might play slightly better if I did it more than once every four years? The Builder and Lindsey had a little, mini-competition going to see which of them could outdo the other (The Builder in the first game, Lindsey on the final round in the second). Austin, Ian and Austin’s pal Zoy had a proper competition to see who would really win (Zoy, just, in the first game; Austin quite comfortably in the second). Julia occupied the middle ground. Was a good afternoon. Then Ian took Austin, Julia and Zoy away for hot chocolate, and Lindsey, The Builder and I went off for yet more supplies and to go home and prepare for the feast.

Ant arrived.

Potatoes were peeled, peas were podded, Yorkshire Pudding batter was made, things were proceeding nicely. I decided to take my achey body away and give it a spa bath. Filled the bath with water and bubble liquid. Got in. The Builder brought me a glass of wine. Luxury! Turned the spa on, the bubbles formed. And formed. And FORMED! Was like swimming in a giant cappuccino!!! Got out of the bath to tell The Builder this by text message. Got back in to find, to my alarm, that the bubbles were now just over the top of the bath. Turned the spa off. The Builder came in and laughed. Lindsey came in and also laughed. Then showed me how to have the spa going without turning the bathroom into a giant cappuccino.

Julia’s parents came for the Birthday Feast. We had tempura vegetables and prawns, followed by a giant shepherd’s pie with Yorkshire puddings and vegetables, then rice pudding, and profiteroles and mud cake. Was a magnificent feast. The boys played a kind of racing snooker. There was much wine, chat and merriment Rod rang from Melbourne to wish Austin a happy birthday. Tabitha rang from Sheffield. I think he had a Good Time.

It’s been raining on and off today. And there have been lots of big black clouds. But not enough rain to fill the lake.
Oh, and Simon and Karen didn’t get the house. Not by a long way, it seems. He sent me a text message to say that the bidding had taken off and lef them standing right from the start. Went for lots more than they were willing to pay. Pity. But nil desperandum. Their house is out there somewhere, just waiting for them to find it

Friday 23rd June

Well, the day started in a leisurely enough manner. The Builder got up at about ten to seven too make us a nice cup of tea. I was momentarily surprised to realise that Lindsey and Ian were up and watching television, until I remembered that this was the day of the Big Soccer match which Australia needed to draw if they were to advance into the next level of the World Cup. Fortunately, they did draw! Everyone retired back to bed.

We left the apartment at around half past nine and wandered into Cowes for breakfast. The people at the sandwich shop had devised a cunning plan for getting around the restaurant licensing laws. They didn’t have their restaurant licence yet, so they were operating as a take away outfit. Our egg, bacon, tomato and cheese toasties (and Ian’s fruit toast) came in take away boxes, and we were invited to sit at their outside tables while we ate them! Was very pleasant, sat outside munching our sandwiches. Then Lindsey and Ian took themselves off to Melbourne and The Builder and I mooched about and explored the food shops.

Right. We’ve got plenty of time, and The Builder hasn’t been to Phillip Island before. We made our way to The Nobbies and had a lovely walk along the boardwalks. It was still a beautiful morning, if a bit on the chilly side. We could see penguin burrows, and some of the artificial ones the rangers have put in. We could see the penguin tracks up the cliff side (it’s amazing how steep some of those tracks are; they’re only little birds). We could certainly smell penguin presence! As we came back, we found that the visitor centre was just opening. So, a quick trip to the loo, a meander in the gift shop and then it was more than time for tea. We drank or tea, looking out over Bass Strait, then started to make our way back to the car. I patted my pocket. What’s that? It’s the camera case. But where’s the camera? Bugger! I haven’t got it. Went back into the loo. Not there. Not in the gift shop or the café either. Where can it be? I don’t remember putting it down at all – and the first place I went into was the loo. What’s that over your tummy, enquired The Builder. Patted my tummy. It’s the camera! Ah yes. I remember. I had put it, and my icy, chilly hands, into the pouch in my new wind cheater to warm my hands up and entirely forgotten about the camera. Sigh! Have now put the camera back in its case and Put Them Away!!!

Time to head back to Melbourne. We stopped in San Remo, just over the bridge, for a mushroom pie each (strangely garlicky for an Aussie pie from an Aussie bakery) and then made our way to East Ivanhoe, where we were supposed to be meeting Karen and Simon at about half past three. We were nearly an hour early. I had assumed that the roads would be quite busy and allowed extra time for going along Burke Road. The roads were really quite clear and Burke Road was an absolute dream. Must be the school holiday effect. Simon and Karen had asked The Builder to go and inspect a house they were thinking of buying. It’s quite a nice house. 1950s, backs onto the golf course. Quite spacious. You could almost strata title it, there being bathrooms, living room, bedrooms and, if not a kitchen, at least the possibility of a kitchen on both levels. There are a few things that need doing. to it, but it would suit me virtually as it is. It’s up for auction tomorrow.

A Thai green curry at Simon and Karen’s then back to Ballarat, where we found Matthew and Belinda, together with Lindsey and Ian, drinking wine and chatting. I want to drink wine and chat too. I seem to be strangely sober!!!!! So I did. As did The Builder, though he was not strangely sober, having had wine and scotch at East Ivanhoe And so to bed.

Rain threatened at many points during the day, but didn’t really materialise in any significant way. Was quite foggy coming back along the back roads from the freeway, though. And The Builder was asleep for quite a bit of the way. I was reduced to listening to the football on the radio!!!!!!! (Actually, it was quite an exciting match between North Melbourne and Carlton. And the commentators didn’t shriek)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Thursday 22nd June

Today involved quite a bit of walking.

Matthew, Belinda, Sage and William disappeared off quite early to go and see Dorothy the Dinosaur (of Wiggles fame), leaving the rest of us to drink tea, eat cereal, get showered and dressed, play on our computers and generally meander our way into the day.

Ian had some work he needed to do before we left for Phillip Island so The Builder, Lindsey and I decided to go for a short stroll. Off we set, in the winter sunshine, up Brandy Creek Road. Oh, we wondered. What’s that building tucked in under the hill over there? So we turned off along an unmade road, to find a water treatment plant tucked away off the main road. Had never realised it was there. Was a lovely morning for a walk, but we couldn’t go far; Ian was expecting to be ready to leave at about 11.

Back we went to prepare to leave. The Dorothy visitors came back, having had a good time, then The Builder and I hopped in our car and took ourselves off towards Droiun, Lang Lang and on to Phillip Island. It was a lovely drive, marred only by the presence in front of us, on the way between Drouin and Lang Lang, of a P plater driving excruciatingly badly. Drove very close to the central line, kept crossing double white lines, sudden and abrupt speed changes. I kept a long way back behind her so I’d be able to stop should she clip someone!

The road to Phillip Island itself is now a lovely, smooth freeway for most of the way. Certainly wasn’t like that the last time I was there. Come to think of it, I don’t remember the last time I was there. I came as a teenager, of course, but I have absolutely no recollection of coming as an adult. I didn’t recognise anything once I got here. Perhaps I haven’t been as an adult. If anyone knows different ….

We got to Cowes and were parking near the main street just as Lindsey sent a message to say they were crossing the bridge. The Builder and I went for a wander, ending up on the jetty, sun shining on the sea, silver gulls bouncing around and lads fishing unsuccessfully off the sides. We met Lindsey and Ian and went for fish and chips for lunch, followed by a meander around the shops. Then we found the apartment we are staying in for the night. Very nice. Very white. Very hot! We turned the heating down, then Lindsey, The Builder and I left Ian to his PowerPoint and went for a walk on the beach. There were horses. And rain clouds blowing in from Bass Strait.

Right. Time for tea. For we are off on an adventure. And you need to be stoked up with tea for an adventure!

Now. When I said: Ooooh. Phillip Island; let’s go and see the penguins, I didn’t mean: Ooooh! Let’s dress up as a SWAT team and go and invade a small country (Ian suggested Tasmania, but that would be silly; we invaded that in January!). I meant: let’s go and amble along the appropriate beach, hot chocolate in our be-mittened hands and watch the penguins come in. Not that we have mittens. Or hot chocolate come to that. But no. Lindsey and Ian had other ideas. We went on a ten person Penguin Expedition, led by a ranger. We wore proper waterproof rain gear (it hasn’t rained for weeks and weeks – decided to rain as we set off on our adventure. Perhaps we should go adventuring more often!). We had night vision binoculars, a red light torch, headphones for listening to the ranger and a mat for sitting on. We were driven a short distance to a secluded beach (no coach party hoi polloi for us) where we walked to a sand dune and sat against it and, as darkness fell, watched the Little Penguins (they used to be Fairy Penguins – why was their name changed?!?) coming in from the ocean to cross the beach back to their burrows. Was very quiet and peaceful – and dry. The rain stopped as we set off and didn’t start again until we got back! There were about 60 penguins crossed our bit of beach. Then we walked quietly back, in single file, along the beach using our red light torches, then back along the (now closed) road to the Visitor Centre. Was fantastic. And much more exciting than my original thought of just going to the public beach and watching. But it’s just as well we had tea before we went out. You really do need to be prepared with tea for that sort of an adventure.

Back to Cowes, and off to Harry’s on the Esplanade for dinner. Fish for me again!! A lovely piece of snapper, nice and flaky, followed by a steamed pudding shared with The Builder and some of Ian’s cheese and biscuits. A lovely day. With lots of walking AND penguins.

There was a fantastic sunrise this morning. The Builder and I watched it from inside the somewhat chilly bungalow, warmly snuggled under Matt and Belinda’s very cosy doona.

Australia is through to the second round of the World Cup finals. Everyone is very excited. It’s never happened before. In fact, this was only the second time that Australia had qualified for the finals ever. England got through some time ago

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wednesday 21st June -- Shortest Day

You might think it odd, going from Mount Martha to Warragul via Parkville, but that’s exactly what we did! It made sense originally, when we were going to leave the hire car outside Simon and Karen’s and meet up with Lindsey and Ian in East Ivanhoe – but this plan had been long abandoned. Nevertheless, the arrangement to meet Robert for lunch had been made and had to stand, otherwise we wouldn’t get to see him at all. (Memo to others: when I contact you and say that I will be in the neighbourhood and let’s arrange a time to meet, arrange it, otherwise other people leap in and fill my diary up and there will be no space left for you!!!)

So we left Stella and Tony’s place just before 10, bidding it a fond farewell. We confidently expect them to be in their new place the next time we come to call. We stopped at the Mount Martha shops to inspect the gift shop, which is imminently about to close for ever (gloom!) and then ambled along the Nepean Highway towards Ormond College, arriving almost exactly to time. We found Robert in his study and wandered down through the University grounds to University House, which is the staff private club, for lunch. I think that the Howard Suite at Hallam is probably a nicer room, but the selection of food, and especially of wine, is far and away better at University House. You almost never see people drinking at lunchtime in the Howard Suite and if you do they are usually visitors. Melbourne academics have no such compunction! Fish for me. Again. Though I am finding that Australian chefs are undercooking fish quite a bit. I’m not sure if that is because they think that fish should be eaten nearly raw, or whether they are just mistiming their cooking. I agree that fish shouldn’t be over-cooked but I do prefer it to flake when I eat it!

Anyway. The company more than made up for undercooked perch. It was good to catch up with Robert, even if briefly. He and Pat are the only non-family who know that we are here, and Pat lives in Ballarat so it might have been difficult to avoid her (though I haven’t actually bumped into her since we arrived). Robert is planning to retire in the not too dim distant future. Must plot things for him to do.

So. Robert had a meeting to go to in the city centre. We left him planning to remonstrate with the chef about the fish (The Builder’s beef had been lovely and Robert didn’t complain about his ravioli; must be a fishy thing then!) and The Builder and I went for a lovely stroll in the sunshine through the grounds of Melbourne Uni. Then back to the car to make our way to Warragul.

The problem is, though, that I don’t know how to get to Warragul anymore from the city centre. CityLink and other new roads haven’t half complicated things. So we headed along the Eastern freeway and down Burke Road until we ran across the new M1 freeway which brought us directly to Matthew and Belinda’s house.

The dogs did not alert anyone at all to the fact that we were there. Just as well we are not mad axe murders. Or worse.

We found Matt and Belinda and Lindsey and Ian in the lounge room in front of a wood stove, drinking tea. We found Sage playing with Lindsey. We found William crying. I’m assured that he had stopped, once or twice since we saw him in Carlton!!!

We’ve had a lovely stroll through their garden and admired their avocados and lemons, oranges and mandarins. We somewhat tentatively tried a medlar each. Tentatively because Sage refers to them as poo fruit and Matt said they were an acquired taste. Actually, they’re quite pleasant, if an unusual texture. We’ve eaten lamb pie and potatoes and vegetables. We’ve drunk lots of wine. We’ve chatted and caught up. We’ve had a good time. And we didn’t go to bed quite so early. Consequently it was after six before I decided that it was time for tea!

The Builder and I slept in their bungalow. It’s a touch on the chilly side this morning (Thursday) but there was a glorious sunrise and it’s nice and snugly warm inside their fluffy duvet. Best get up, though, and see if there’s life in the house (the dogs expressed no interest in The Builder when he went in to make the tea!!!!!)

The word from Robert is that the chef was very apologetic. The fish wasn’t supposed to be nearly raw. It was a mistake. Was bawled out by the catering manager. No one suggested a refund, though.

Oh. And Sage has stolen my pyjamas. Went to bed last night in bright pink PJs with green frogs on them. Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiine! (Belinda says that she has an exactly matching pair as well!)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tuesday 20th June

Tuesday 20th June

A truly peaceful day. We all sat around in the morning and read papers and magazines and generally pottered about. Nice and relaxed.

As lunchtime approached we moved to Tony’s car and ambled off to inspect where they will be going to live. Obviously we had to look at the show house cos theirs isn’t finished yet. And it’s really lovely. Three bedrooms (though they will use one as a study), lovely, light open plan lounge, dining and kitchen – and the kitchen is very well appointed. Two bathrooms, one almost en suite from the main bedroom, the other en suite from the guest room. Mind you, I don’t think they have even yet fully grasped the concept of a “small house”. Not small. Not small at all. A medium sized house, perhaps. Although, having said that, I tend to refer to our house as a small one and it isn’t, either. It too is a medium sized house.

Anyway, enough verbal pedantry. Off we go to lunch, at the Flinders Pub in, er, Flinders. Nice food. Nice bottle of wine. I had barramundi (another type of fish, for those that don’t know) with a really nice Moroccan style chick pea and veg stew underneath it. The Builder had a local corned beef wodge, something that bears absolutely no resemblance to any kind of corned beef which might come out of a tin! And then we went for an explore around the Flinders area, including another drive through the golf course to admire the bay (We did this the last time we were here too – it’s a lovely drive). Then we detoured away to look at Martha Cove, a spectacularly expensive “estate” with marina they’re building between Mount Martha and Safety Beach. The marina will be lovely; I’m not so sure about the housing around it. Looks a bit cluttered to me. Will be interesting to see what it looks like when it’s finished. They’ve had to build an artificial harbour for the marina, with a canal leading up from the bay. And so as not to completely block the main coast road they’ve put a tunnel underneath the canal for the traffic. The design is intended to look like a whale (who knows why!) but some of the locals are complaining that the “whale bone” decoration along the top is unsightly and impeding their views of the sea. Don’t know what will be done about that – the contractors say they’ve done what they were asked to do and are not taking them down. Don’t think the council will. I believe it will cost over $1k per whale bone to remove them!!

Back to Mount Martha for a late afternoon gently pottering about. Tony comprehensively destroyed The Builder playing snooker. We had lasagne and the rest had ice cream for dinner. I watched what must surely be the last sunset I will see from this house (Tony and Stella are due to move in September and it seems unlikely we will be back before then!!! Lottery win, perhaps?) and the sun turned on a spectacular show for me. And once again, early to bed. All this going to bed early is all very well, and I’m sure it’s very good for me – but I do tend to wake up around half past three ready to bounce out of bed … well, ready for tea, at least!

Monday 19th June

A nice and peaceful day in comparison to previous days. But only in comparison! Started quietly enough. The Builder and I pottered about, drank tea, ate toast, ambled around. Then we took ourselves into town for supplies. A quick reconnoitre around the supermarket, then we trundled off to Dan Murphy to acquire replacement wine supplies. We seem to have drunk most of Lindsey’s!

All was well until we tried to pay. The Builder handed across his Maestro card. The reader didn’t recognise it. No worries. He has another card. Trouble is it’s a Debit Visa and they don’t have those here. I told him to select “savings” from the options(they don’t have these options in the UK). This didn’t work because it’s not a savings account. This brought the cards reader to a grinding halt of deep confusion and made it crash. Sigh. Remember to select credit in the future! And pay in cash. Thus wiping out our cash supplies!

Happily The Builder was carrying English notes. We wandered to the bank and emerged many minutes later with nice plastic notes. Scary to think how many plastic notes we’ve got through already, though.

So. Back to Mount Helen, where Austin appeared at about half past eleven, having finished his Japanese exam a tad early. He thinks he’s done quite well with it. He and The Builder had a game of snooker, then he, Lindsey, The Builder and I all headed off to Ballarat for lunch at Pipers on the lake. Well, it used to be Pipers on the lake. It’s now more like Piper’s by the swamp. The last year before I left Ballarat the lake was full to overflowing. Now there’s very little water in it. Partly as a result of a ten year drought and partly (I believe) because one of the sources of water has been diverted to a private concern. Personally, I think they should divert it back, though I think I recall Lindsey saying that “They” are thinking of importing water from somewhere next year.

Anyway. Lunch. Austin rolled in accompanied by Julia, who is supposed to be finishing an overdue essay (overdue? OVERDUE?!?!?!? I never handed in overdue essays, oh no, not me ………) It was a lovely lunch. I had a Greek lamb salad, as I always do when I have lunch there. Perhaps I should branch out and have something different the next time.

Then back down to Melbourne. Again!!! Lindsey and Ian are in the process of acquiring an apartment in central Melbourne. Perhaps next time I’ll base us there and radiate out. The highway between Ballarat and Melbourne has to be one of the most boring in the whole world.

Not that we were actually heading to Melbourne. We were off to Mount Martha to visit Stella and Tony for a couple of nights. The traffic after the Burnley tunnel was entertainingly heavy. And we managed to get mildly misplaced after I missed the Blackburn Road turn off and had to come down Springvale Road. Not that this was really getting misplaced, but Springvale itself tends to be very very busy and usually we avoid it. Mind you, it’s a bit of a worry when you have to show your navigator exactly where you are on the map (“We’ve just crossed the railway line.” “We can’t have done; there isn’t one on the map!” There is if you are looking in the right place!!!!!)

So here we are in Mount Martha. Was a beautiful evening with a lovely sunset over the bay and many stars twinkling in a very cold sky. Smoked pork chops for dinner. A couple of bottles of very nice wine, general chit chat, then everyone retired to bed very early.

So it was a quite peaceful day really. But I’ll be glad of a day when I am not trundling up or down the Western Highway!

The weather remains truly beautiful. But there’s been no significant rain for over a month and the reservoirs are only at 48% of capacity. Not good, not really. Not if you are a local.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Party Animals

Well, we came to party – and party we did.

Sunday morning saw Lindsey and me heading to Drummond Street to collect Austin and Julia. Mind you, locating Drummond Street was made more problematic by Lindsey telling me I was going to turn right. Obediently, I pulled into the right hand lane. “Where are you going?” asked Lindsey. “You’d be better in the middle lane.” Odd, though I, but she was the navigator. I pulled back into the middle lane. “Go up that road” said Lindsey, pointing to a road to the left!! Her sad and pathetic excuse for this novel form of navigating was that doctors always have to transpose left and right when looking at their patients!

Anyway. We headed back to Mount Helen and all squashed into Lindsey’s car and headed back to Carlton (don’t know why we didn’t just arrange to spend the whole weekend in Carlton really) for the Family Party. Café Italia. Absolutely splendid restaurant. Coped remarkably well with the influx of Hydes for Sunday lunch. I fear that the waiter wanting to take drinks orders found the experience akin to herding a large number of cats. Mind you, I forget the full on effect of a complete Hyde family gathering. It takes me a while to get my ear back into tune with being spoken to simultaneously by 6 million people all at once. Well, perhaps not 6 million. But lots. We all had a fantastic time. Everyone was there except Tabitha and Freyja. William howled. The children played. We all ate and drank and chatted. I had a fantastic piece of black trevally. Haven’t had black trevally before, just ordinary trevally. Was lovely. (Trevally is a fish for those that don’t know.) And I drank fizzy wine. I have decided that if wine is to be consumed at lunchtime then the only sort is fizzy wine (though I did have a glass of red when everyone else was drinking scotch and/or more red). It was a good afternoon. But then Belinda decided it was time to take the Howling William away and necessarily took Matthew and Sage as well. Our party wandered off into the city centre. Lindsey and Emily went to change some sweatshirts of Emily’s. Austin and Julia ambled off shopping. The Builder and I went back to the shot tower in Melbourne Central and had a proper look at it. Then we explored the Australian Geographic shop and bought presents for the grandchildren. An amble through Myer, drooling over the kitchenware which was on special. Then we all gathered outside Myer, flagged down Ian in Lindsey’s car and came back to Ballarat.

At least Ian stayed awake on the way back. Just as well, really. He was driving. The rest of us slept our way back. Nice quick trip! Absolutely fantastic sausages for dinner. And more wine J

It’s been absolutely lovely weather since we got here. Crisp and sunny in the mornings, pleasantly warm in the afternoons, frosty and cold at night. Nice for us, though the reservoirs are looking very, very dry. The one by the Western Freeway heading into Melbourne is extremely low. When I first started running up and down the Western Freeway, about 20 years ago, water routinely ran over the overflow. There is now absolutely no water in the overflow dam. Nice holiday weather, then, but the locals could really do with some rain.

This week appears to have become somewhat complicated. I’ve had to write down the schedule! Offline intermittently for a few days now. Will update the blog as and when Internet access becomes available

And a comment from Freyja

freyja said...
Well Happy Birthday to everyone deserving happy birthdays.In an earlier post Frannie was wondering if she can feed the ducks from my window - I'd like to confirm that yes you can. You can also blow bubbles at them and watch all the drunken crazies on a Saturday night. (I live on the end of town where most of the night time drunks have whittled down to only the hardcore I-can't-stand-up-but-I-can-still-keep-drinking drunks)Luckily I'm on the top floor so they can't really see me back or throw things at my window.


p.s. Frannie: I'm very very jealous
June 18, 2006

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Gone to Oz

Well, it’s been quite a busy few days, weeks even.

A synopsis then, since I haven’t updated the blog in ages!

Finally we’ve moved. We’ve got all the furniture across – made all the more exciting by the van’s decision to break down while we still have the fridge and several large plant tubs at the Mudhut. Fortunately Steve-next-door is (i) amiable and (ii) the possessor of a van and offered to take The Builder across to collect these things. We’ve cleaned up the Mudhut (you should have seen me cleaning the shower, stark naked, from the inside, although perhaps it’s just as well that you didn’t from your point of view). The kitchen positively sparkled, thanks to the use of a positively environmentally lethal form of oven and stove cleaner I found. The new place (which I shall call The Sidings, given as how it is next to the railway siding at Tupton, until someone comes up with something better) is more or less unpacked and more or less straight.

We’ve been to Peter and Gill’s for dinner, which we ate outside. It was a lovely evening but the midges decided that I was ever such a yummy tidbit. Ordinarily this doesn’t worry me much, but the bites didn’t half come up all swollen. We had a former colleague of mine round to The Sidings for dinner, which again we ate outside. Untroubled by midges on this occasion. I fished out the Aeroguard! In fact, we’ve eaten the majority of our meals outside since we moved in. It’s a lovely garden for munching in. And there are frogs. The day we left we abandoned all the sensible plans we had for the afternoon (or at least, I did!) and sat outside eating lunch and drinking rosé (me) and elderflower cordial (The Builder) and counted the frogs (5 in the end) and just pootled about outside.

Then we left. Got almost past Grassmoor when we realised I’d left my mobile phone behind. Now I can manage without this for a few hours, but two whole weeks? Absolutely not! So we went back for it. Drove on to Tabitha and Gareth’s, and saw the bus we were intending to be on disappearing off as we got there. Now the next bus might very well have done, but the 86 is notoriously unreliable and the 60 gets notoriously held up in Broomhill. Fortunately for us, poor Gareth happened to be at home, so I shanghaied him into taking us to the station. And off we trundled merrily to London. We stayed in a cheap B&B in King’s Cross, had pizza and wine for dinner and fell into bed, ready for the next day’s flight to Heathrow.

So many other things didn’t quite go disastrously wrong. Like, I took us to Terminals 1,2,3 at Heathrow when QANTAS flights fly from Terminal 4. We oh-so-nearly got onto the train to London instead of the train to Terminal 4. The queue for the flight was soooooo long I was beginning to wonder if arriving 3 hours before departure was actually enough. In the end, though, we got onto the plane and off we set. I gave up flying QANTAS some years ago when I found they were very very expensive and very very dull. Other airlines were much cheaper and provided very much more for you money. QANTAS appears to have decided their approach wasn’t working. I had taken extra sandwiches and fruit because on the other airlines they feed you when you get on and just before you get off. I tend to get hungry about half way through the long sector. Not this time. They brought round snack packs at about the half way mark. The sandwiches eventually got thrown away.

Simon sent me a message in London to say that Karen’s parents were ion the same flight as us. We looked for them at Heathrow but didn’t see them. So I looked very closely indeed in Hong Kong at the people who had been herded through to the departure section of the airport. Now bear in mind that I haven’t seen Noel and Marlene for years. I scanned the crowd careful and decided there was only one person who could be Noel. I approached him. And it was. Whiled away the time waiting to board chatting to them. Didn’t see them again though, once we got to Melbourne.

Oh – and something else that didn’t quite go catastrophically wrong. We were held up in quarantine by people who had brought loads of doubtful things scattered all though their luggage. Everything had to be unpacked and carefully considered. Eventually we had out turn and were more or less waved through (though absolutely all bags are scanned). We grabbed our stuff and rushed outside to where Lindsey and Emily were patiently waiting for us. We were putting the stuff in the car when The Builder said: Where’s the laptop. Bugger. We’d left it on the conveyor belt in Quarantine. The Builder absolutely legged it back to see if he could retrieve it. Now you can’t actually get back in once you’ve left. But happily the person he asked about this was just taking the laptop to Lost Property. We were reunited with our (almost brand new!) laptop.

So. We’re here to party. And the partying has commenced. First off the rank was Ant’s 21st last night. At the Queensbury pub in Carlton. Was a good night. Lindsey, Ian, Emily, her friend Helen, The Builder and I stayed in apartments just off Lygon Street. Simon and Wendy were there. There was almost unlimited wine and beer. Ian made a very funny, well illustrated speech. We ate party pies and chocolate mud birthday cake. There were loads of people there. I think we abandoned the ship at just before midnight. Ant and his pals (including Christian) rocked on into the small hours. A good start to the party season.

I’ve had pizza on Lygon Street. And poached eggs and ham this morning for breakfast. I like Lygon Street.

Today Lindsey, The Builder and I have been into Melbourne to buy Matt’s 40th birthday present. We’ve been to Melbourne Central and shown The Builder the shot tower. We’ve had a walk around town. We m et Ian, Emily and Helen back at Ant’s place where we offloaded his presents from last night (including the biggest bean chair in the whole world). They had been on an unsuccessful dress search. Dress searches are usually unsuccessful in my experience! Then Ian, Emily and Helen disappeared off and Lindsey, The Builder and I ambled off to Eltham, Cottles Bridge and Yarrambat for a tour around memory lane. Then we came back to Ballarat more or less across country. Very pleasant for Lindsey and me and, I hope, interesting for The Builder.

Explain to me, if you can, how it is that I came here for a two week party season ---- and didn’t bring any of my party clothes with me? We’ve had to go shopping!

I’ve seen Austin. He came around on Thursday evening. And he’s coming for dinner this evening.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Moving Update

I'm beginning to think that the new house (we still haven't given it a name, folks. Come on! At the moment I'm thinking of it as the Bermuda Triangle) is deliberately hiding things. Yesterday morning I took my glasses off, the better to see what I was doing. Put them on the ironing board. I'm *sure* I put them on the ironing board. Went back to get them later and they had completely vanished. I hunted and hunted and hunted. Then I decided that it didn't really matter for what I was doing and I was bound to run across them eventually because I was tidying and sorting and cleaning and shifting things about. They'd turn up somewhere.

So I did. I cleaned and tidied and sorted and shifted and unpacked and put away and washed and ironed and cleaned and tidied and sorted. By the end of the day there were no unpacked boxes left, most things had found a home of some sort, even if it's not the final home. Most of the pictures are up. By the time the Builder came home at 17:30 The house was shiny and bright and orderly. And I was peacefully doing the ironing. Without my glasses.

So we hunted. We went through the house with a fine toothcomb. We couldn't find them. They had completely vanished. I had been using my spare pair but I can almost see better without them so they're not much use really.

Anyway. The Builder put up some hooks and a magnetic knife strip and some wotnots for me. We congratulated ourselves on each having had a successful day. And sat down with a congratulatory drink. But puzzled by the lack of glasses. The Builder then turned around and idly asked two teddy bears, who sit on our new sofa, if they had any idea. He lifted them up -- and there, somewhere we'd already looked several times, were the glasses, half hidden by Janet bear and a pile of fairy lights. Fairy lights which, this morning, had been on the ironing board. Where I am sure I put my glasses.

Hooray! I can see again!!!

I note that Matt (SiL, not bro) is trying to wriggle out of taking the blame for the Great Washing Machine Disaster. Hmmmm. However, I also note that the cupboard under the sink is still very wet. It appears that the pipe the washing machine drains into is leaking at the bottom. The presence of a red, slightly water stained bowl in the cupboard perhaps should have alerted us to a probable problem. I'm not sure quite how I can manage to mount the argument for this also being Matt's fault, especially given that it clearly pre-dates our moving in. But I'm sure, given time and plenty of hard thinking -- I will! The Builder is enjoying this. Under normal circumstances absolutely everything is *his* fault!

Monday, June 05, 2006

I sense a small spot of Order approaching

I've found my USB stick! It was in my jacket pocket. Well, of course it was. Where else would you put something you wanted to make sure you took to work? Ordinarily, of course, I put them in my pink bag, but that was missing too (The Builder found that, eventually, hiding somewhere I had already looked several times!) The difficulty was that it was a glorious day yesterday and I didn't actually wear my jacket until quite late on so didn't notice there was anything in the pockets.

So. We've more or less packed Freyja up. I've been round to her flat now and it's very dinky, very cute and has FANTASTIC views out over the Don and Ladys Bridge and bits of The Wicker. And there are ducks. I have seen them with my very own eyes.

I have transfered the data from the PC to the laptop, so the PC is ready to move to Freyja's. (Wonder if I can throw bread crumbs from her lounge room window to the ducks ...) Might do that tomorrow or Wednesday. The Builder has done an amazing job of touching up the bedroom and the attic. We just need to get the study sorted out and re-decorate the kitchen and the Mudhut will be ready to hand back.

I've found the kitchen at the new place (I'm not hearing very many suggestions for a name for it!) I've also nearly found the lounge room. And the bathroom is pretty much sorted and our bedroom is functional. I fear we might need some visitors, though, before we are provoked into sorting out the study/spare room. Any volunteers?

So, the house now looks not so much deeply, dismayingly chaotic as very untidy. Clearly progress is being made. I shall make even more tomorrow. I have taken the day off for some intensive, hard core tidying!

Oh. You may remember that the house next door had, in 1953, acquired a swathe of garden from No 2. The house next door is now in the hands of receivers, or bailiffs, or someone and there's a notice on the window to say that no one may enter unless in the company of someone from the estate agency. I rang them today to enquire about the possibility of buying it back. It would make an excellent kitchen garden and would also obviate the need for an allotment. The agent has said she will contact the company who is dealing with the house and put my suggestion to them. Don't want the whole house. Just that bit of garden. No one would miss it, surely? Re-cross fingers and toes.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Chaos and Mayhem all around I see!

We're in the process of moving! It's completely chaotic. Can't find anything. Can't think straight. Have got used to living a mere 5 minute walk from Collegiate rather than a 30 minute drive so it was even more chaotic this morning. I think moving is like having a baby. If you could remember what it was like no one would ever do it more than once!

But anyway.

Gareth and Tabitha came around yesterday morning at about half past ten. The Builder had already packed most of our stuff into the van and was just waiting for Gareth to arrive to put the washing machine, freezer and two mattresses on. I'd more or less packed up the kitchen. There's still the study left to do but I need the PC and laptop in one place while I sort them out -- the PC is going to Freyja's and I want some of the files on it moved to the laptop. Made more difficult by the fact that I can't find my USB pen *anywhere*. I saw it last evening; it had gone into hiding by the time I got up this morning! We were ready to roll.

And it was a magnificent day for rolling. The sun was shining; the sky was blue; it was pleasantly warm. Excellent.

So. Over to the new house (we must give it a name. Any suggestions?) we trundled. Gareth and The Builder in the van, Taffa and me in The Vixen. The car and the van were unpacked, then The Builder and Gaz went back to The Mudhut for more stuff and Taffa and I started putting things away. Not very efficiently, I must say. I'm usually much more organised than this when moving. I think it's because there are things in the house which are eventually going to move outside or into the sheds and it kind of cornswaggled me!

Ok. We've now got two van loads of stuff in the house (and a bit of stuff still at the Mudhut). Lunchtime. Not the local pubs. They seem to be heaving with people watching England slaughter Jamaica in a Football Friendly (6-0 doesn't seem all that friendly to me!). Let's try the Hunloke Arms on the A61 up near Wingerworth. It looks OK from the outside. And it is OK. They were watching football in there too, but there was a soccer free zone for us to sit in. I had haddock and chips. The chips were lovely (and clearly freshly made) and haddock was beautifully cooked. The Builder had liver and onions (he doesn't get to eat liver very often because I don't eat it so therefore don't buy it and in any case have no idea how to cook it - and he does so love it). Gareth had steak and ale pie. And Tabitha had the BIGGEST plate of poached mussels in the whole known universe. Even bigger than the plate that The Builder had when we were at the Heifer last December.

Thus fortified we took Tabitha and Gareth back to Sheffield. Lots and lots of thanks to Taffa and Gaz for helping! Loaded the car up again, went to the supermarket for supplies and headed home. To the chaos and confusion that I had happily forgotten about whilst munching on my chips and supping my cider.

Matt (the son-in-law, not the brother) sent a text asking how the move was going. Very, very foolishly I said it seemed to be going quite smoothly, all things considered. Just as I sent that, the muffled swearing and cussing that was emanating from the kitchen, turned into full on Swearing and Cursing and Yelling. The Builder was swapping over the washing machines. The house came with an integrated washing machine, but I really wanted to keep my own, for it is both energy and water efficient and it also has a cold wash cycle which is Very Rare indeed in England. Now, I knew that this process wasn't going altogether swimmingly, by the swearing and cussing I could hear, but I deemed it best to keep out the way and get on with organising places for us to sit and somewhere for us to sleep. The change in tone suggested that I should investigate and quite quickly. Oops. The kitchen is merrily flooding with water. Hot water. Very, very hot water. We neither of us knew where the main water tap was. We had no possible idea how to turn the water supply off. Oh no! The kitchen floor is also brand spanking new and is rapidly becoming a pond bed. Oh, and The Builder is rootling around in the cupboard under the sink trying to stem the downpour from the washing machine hot tap which had just disintegrated in his hand, and is starting to cook. I ran upstairs and turned the (combination -- hot water on demand) boiler off. Didn't stop the flow of water but at least it was no longer hot! Eventually, the Builder found the switch. Under a (fixed!) shelf in the farthest possible corner of the under-the-sink cupboard. Mopping up commenced. The Builder now has a sore head where he banged it on the under-the-sink cupboard top; a sore back which gave out on him while he was straining to turn off the water; hot paws where the hot, hot water tried to cook him; a short temper because it had all gone horribly wrong.

I blame Matt, myself. He should have known better than to ask such a question. It was bound to go horribly wrong after that. Still. No real harm done. The towels all needed washing anyway and the kitchen floor seems to have survived. And we have water in the rest of the house. Don't ask me how but The Builder seems to have managed it. But that needs fixing. If *I* should have a sudden need to turn off the water, I need a tap. Somewhere obvious. That I can turn off. Not a small screw type thing in the farthest reaches of a cupboard that I need a screwdriver for!

Enough then. No more for the evening. It's time for a stiff gin and tonic or three and a stroll in the garden in the sunshine. Then we finished off the roast chicken we've been eating this week (it was expensive in that it cost near on £10 at the Chatsworth farm shop, but we've had three main meals and two lunches out of it and under normal circumstances would also have soup. But I'm not making soup today!) with Jersey Royals and asparagus and lettuce and tomatoes and bean shoots and sweet corn with tzatziki and a balsamic vinegar dressing and drank wine and retired to bed.Which I had fortunately made up before the Great Washing Machine disaster.

I think things moved themselves around in the night. Not only can I not now find my USB pen, but the screwdrivers went AWOL and my pink bag had gone into hiding and things just weren't where they should be. I really must tidy up a bit this evening. Though we won't be back till late. I'm in the relative peace and tranquility of the Collegiate Learning Centre today. The Builder is a-buildering at the Mudhut. Freyja is going around this afternoon to pack up more of her stuff, then we're taking it (and her) back to her new flat. Haven't seen it yet. It overlooks the river Don. And she tells me there are ducks!

It was lovely this morning, in amongst all the chaos. The sun was shining. There were loads of birds, and I ate my breakfast (very, very quickly) looking at fields and listening to the birds and some sheep. You can see horses on the hill too.

Think tidy, orderly, calm thoughts!