Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lazy Days

One of the nice things about being on holiday in the summer and not having anything that you particularly need to do is that you can have long leisurely mornings that pass by gently. The Builder and I have been waking quite early and just drifting along until lunch time.

Yesterday we went with Ian on the tram to Lygon Street, intending to have lunch at Papa Gino's. Alas, Papa Gino's is closed until mid-January. Quite a lot of the pizzerias, cafes and restaurants along Lygon Street were closed for a couple of weeks.  I'm sure the business holders know what they're doing, but I have to say that I would have been open.  There are lots of holiday makers around and the businesses that were open were absolutely packed. I appreciate that everyone needs a holiday from time to time but my worry would be that regular customers would go elsewhere because I was closed, and then potentially not come back.

Marinara pizza at Cafe Notturno

Anyway, we went elsewhere and had quite a pleasant lunch and then pottered off to see if we could get an iPad mini in the post Christmas sales to replace The Builder's Hudl which he has never really got on with. Lately the battery life has been absolutely pathetic and takes for ever to recharge. We got an iPad mini 2, which he seems much happier with.

After Lindsey got back from work we walked down to The Fox, where we met Simon, Jacob, Ant and Jess for dinner. The chip test was passed with flying colours. The T-bone steak I had was very tasty.  I even ate the salad!

Steak and chips at The Fox in Collingwood

Farley is attracting the puzzled attention of particularly the children who wander past and see him sitting near me, or on the table, or travelling in my backpack. So far, happily, no one has tried to steal him!

Another day, another lunch spot.  Today has been another fairly lazy day, enjoying the sunshine and the leisurely lifestyle.  Ian suggested that we go to the Boathouse Cafe in Studley Park for lunch.  So we did!  It was quite hot when we got there but we were by the Yarra and there was a pleasant breeze.  And rather nice food

Wednesday's lunch spot

But that's enough of this lazing about.  We are about to help ourselves to Lindsey's car and take ourselves off to Geelong for the night.  And thus commences a few days of moving around quite a bit. (Not that we have stolen Lindsey's car for all of that - only for tonight!!)  Time is beginning to get away and the schedule is busy now until we leave for Cairns next Thursday, en route to Japan.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

We came back to the flat after a very nice Sunday lunch in the Dava in Mount Martha.  Stella and Tony took us to Frankston and we caught the train. It's quite a nice journey from Frankston into town.  It takes about an hour.  Apart from a large group of very giggly and loud revellers (who really were old enough to know better than to be making all that racket on a train!) the trip back was uneventful.

The Builder has been thoroughly enjoying himself watching the Test Match at the MCG (on the telly - we didn't go wild and buy tickets!).  It is true that he could have done this at home, but he probably wouldn't.  Aside from the fact that it's winter and therefore football, not cricket season, most of the Melbourne test is played overnight if you are in the UK. He follows it, but doesn't actually watch it.  The chance to watch it has been something of a pleasure to him.  Mind you - he nearly had to watch it but not listen. I was changing the channels yesterday morning and the volume gradually decreased to the point that you couldn't hear anything at all!  A quick phone call to Ian fixed that.  Fortunately!

Lindsey and Ian arrived in the flat later in the afternoon, then a load of people lobbed in for dinner in the evening.  The customary steak had been procured at Chadstone (it might have been a public holiday yesterday, but the Chadstone Shopping Centre was absolutely packed). Lindsey made a salad.  We had roast potatoes on the side.  And today Lindsey has returned to work after over a month off.  Ian has gone to reclaim his laptop, which had to go to hospital for a new screen after it got dropped. And we are sat in the sunshine, admiring the view and contemplating the day.

This is what happens when you put lots of little bottles of tonic water in the freezer and forget about them for 12 hours

It wasn't me who forgot the tonic water!!

It's a great pity this happened a mere day after I had defrosted and cleaned out the freezer.  It had to be done all over again - but much more excitingly :-D

Sunday, December 27, 2015

After Christmas

People all got up much earlier than is usually the case on Boxing Day.  Ant needed to get back to town so he could go to the Boxing Day test match at the MCG. Matt, Belinda, Sage and William were off to Kaniva to see Belinda's mum.  Sue was off to Bendigo to visit friends. Simon and co were heading into Ballarat to meet a mate for coffee and then heading home.  Wendy went off with Christian and Cassie.  And Tony, Stella, The Builder and I were heading down to Geelong to catch the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento, and then back to Mount Martha. Leaving Lindsey, Ian and Sam in what I assume was a much appreciated peace and quiet.

About 8 km from Queenscliff, Tony decided that he needed a loo stop.  We had passed a service station a little while back but hadn't stopped, and no one was quite sure where the loos are in Queenscliff.  So he pulled up alongside some scrubland, which had lots of nice ti-trees forming a hedge that he could go behind.  I have to say, it didn't look particularly stable to me.  Lots of dead branches, foot traps and things.  Not stable at all.  As Tony discovered when he caught his foot in something and toppled over, into a dead ti-tree lying in the way :-S  This was all a bit disconcerting!  Fortunately, The Builder and I were there and eventually managed to get him up (it was The Builder who did most of it.  Happily he is tall, bulky and quite strong!).  I think it probably took about ten minutes to get Tony up and sort it all out.  Ten minutes after that, we were in Queenscliff, passing by a lovely block of public loos!!!

We caught the 13:00 ferry by the skin of our teeth.  Not that it would have mattered particularly - they run every hour.  But we were if not the last car on, then the second last. It was remarkably empty, although I suppose Boxing Day was the Saturday of what is a four day long weekend this year.  I guess most people aren't planning to head home until Monday.  It was a very pleasant crossing and we arrived back at Mount Martha in time for a light, late lunch.

But let there be no more scampering up scrubby slopes in search of relief stops.  Let us all use the find-a-loo app on our phones in future :-D

Tony and I went to the Sunday service at the Mount Martha church this morning.  A much better experience.  No 30 minute sermon, proper hymns - we even said some prayers. No temptation towards vicar smiting this morning!

It's nearly lunch time.  We are all off to the pub, then The Builder and I are heading back to Melbourne. It's beginning to get a bit hard to work out what day it is - and where we are supposed to be!!

Crossing Port Phillip Bay on Boxing Day

Saturday, December 26, 2015


I woke up bright and early on the morning of Christmas Eve.  Lindsey had said that we needed to leave at about 7 to get the fruit and veg and various other bits and pieces for Christmas Day.  The sun was just beginning to come up and it was just starting to get light.  That probably meant it was a little after 6.  Fortunately, before I leaped out of bed and started dashing about so as to be ready on time, I checked the time.  It was 2:15!  The "sun" was, in fact, a solar lamp out in the yard!!!  I went back to sleep.

I was awake and ready to leave by 7.  Again :-D  We headed to Wilson's to get the fruit and veg.  It was fairly busy but hadn't been open long so nothing like as busy as it would almost certainly be later in the day.  We went to Coles for the supermarket provisions.  That too was fairly, but not too busy.  Then we killed a bit of time until Dan Murphy's opened at 9.  We got there, oh about five past nine.  And it was packed.  Absolutely packed. By the time we came out again, the car park was chockers and Dan Murphy's was even more packed.  Glad we got there early!  We took all the shopping home and were back by 10:00.  We were ready for Christmas.  More or less

Stella and Tony arrived from Mount Martha at lunch time. They had come on the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff and driven up from Geelong.  Ian's brother, John, and Jane his wife dropped in in the afternoon on their way somewhere else.   It was a pleasant and quite relaxed Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning.  Tony and I took ourselves off to church.  We had decided to try one that neither of us had been to before.  And old, traditional looking Victorian church.  I was a bit worried when I walked in and saw that they had decorated the chancel with a Christmas tree and four yellowish comfy chairs.  I was a bit more worried when I found that they are intending to have a very "different" Christmas service.  It certainly was different. We talked very briefly about the people whose houses had been burned out in the bushfires a few days before, and the refugees. And then never spoke of them again. We sang some very odd songs. And a couple of Christmas carols. The vicar proclaimed a sermon that lasted for about half an hour and which said very little and was filled with some very peculiar notions. Much too fond of the sound of his own voice was that vicar.  The notices went on almost for ever too.  We had to imagine what God might give us as a Christmas present, if we were sat in his lounge room around his Christmas tree.  I was hoping for patience, lest I rise up and smite the prolix vicar.  Turned out it wasn't patience, but Jesus.  God granted me patience anyway - no vicar smiting happened on Christmas Day. But I think I might not bother going there again

Eventually the service finished and we went back to Mount Helen. And put up a tent.  As you do on Christmas morning!

As the afternoon progressed, revellers began to arrive.  The regular things happened.  Present exchanges. Backyard Cricket. Eating, drinking and making merry.  More drinking and merriment. It was all good.

We saw a pair of wedge tailed eagles circling around when the backyard cricket was happening.

The people sleeping in the tent forgot to close the awning when they went to bed, and got wet in the thunderstorm that rolled in in the wee smalls.

And my new, not yet acquired, kitchen got its first present. This is what the family bought me for my 60th birthday and Christmas present:

Click on the food processor to reach the Christmas photo album

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Well, it's oh so nearly Christmas. You more or less have to feast!

After a lovely Sunday lunch at Mount Martha,  we drove back to East Melbourne early in the afternoon on Monday so we were in time to walk to Simons' place in Clifton Hill for an evening meal of steak, roasties and veg. We took a taxi back!

On Tuesday we hopped on a train out to Macedon where we had a magnificent lunch with our friends Chris and John. Our friend Irene (who we met up with in Richmond when she was doing the coast to coast walk) also came. And so, for a time, did Chris and John's daughter Megan with Mabel, who is about 18 months old and had been sent home from child care with a fever. I think she just wanted her fair share of the chocolate dessert we were all indulging in.

It was a good afternoon. Thanks to Chris and John for a great lunch. And thanks to Mark, Megan's husband, for driving us into Gisborne so we could catch the train back.

And then it was Wednesday.  Lindsey and Ian were due back from their Great Adventures. And we had to be up and out early. First we had to get to Mount Clear to collect the Christmas meat and seafood. I was not a little disconcerted when the lad at the butcher couldn't find the order. I have no wish to be the one who broke Christmas! Then he nearly forgot the seafood :-s. But I think we have it all now. Then we took it to Mount Helen, where we found Ross and his little dog Bernard. I think Bernard thinks he's a cat, the way he bounces about all over everything. We also met Sam, Lindsey and Ian's somewhat serious and somewhat large Great Dane. I am told he can be somewhat aloof with strangers. Fortunately he seemed to like us!

Right. Off back to Melbourne to collect Lindsey and Ian from the airport (having first stowed the Christmas meat and seafood out of the way of the dogs) and then back to get Christmas underway. We need a tree. Ian and The Builder headed out in search of one and returned with what seemed to be the last one left in Ballarat. I can't see why it was the last one. It's a pretty tree, beautifully shaped. They also returned with the makings of lamb cutlets for our evening feast. And chocolate mousse.

We need veg and potatoes for the Christmas feast, and then I think we're done. Oh, and extra supplies of white wine. The family mostly seems to drink red. There's a lake of red wine the size of the Red Sea. Not enough white!

The blog might think it's the evening of December 23rd but really it's early in the morning of Christmas Eve. I don't know why Blog Time remains determinedly on UK time. Everything else adjusts itself to whatever time zone I happen to be in! Time to get up. There is much to do.

Part of Chris and John's beautiful garden

Monday, December 21, 2015


Not here. There are no fleas where I am!

We flew to Melbourne from Darwin on Friday and arrived in the early evening. Jess had volunteered to meet us and take us to Lindsey and Ian's flat in East Melbourne (Lindsey and Ian are in Tokyo). Poor Jess had to circle the airport several times before meeting us in the pick up place - our luggage took at least 20 minutes to turn up. Bad show QANTAS!  But the pick up points are brilliant. You tell your collector which lane you're in, they swing by and pick you up and off you go. No parking fees, no trekking off to the farthest reaches of the multi-storey because that was the only parking space available, no worries. Although I think we will park in the car park on Wednesday when we come to collect Lindsey and Ian. I no longer know my way around the airport well enough to circle it till I get the nod that they're in one of the pick up lanes!!

We braved the heat on Saturday to head to Lygon Street for some last minute Christmas shopping, although we took the tram rather than walking. Later in the day we took the tram into the city to buy another pair of shorts each and to look at the Myer Christmas Windows. By then it was not only very hot, but the wind, which earlier in the day had been pleasantly cool had now changed direction and was also very hot. We returned to the (air conditioned) flat and stayed in for the rest of the evening.

We came to Mount Martha on Sunday for lunch with Stella and Tony. Wendy, and Matt, Belinda, Sage and William came too. So, in the mid-afternoon, did a much appreciated cool change. All the other visitors went home after lunch but The Builder and I stayed over. We had a pleasant stroll with Tony round the complex once it had gone dark, to admire people's Christmas lights. And here we remain, on Monday morning, supping our breakfast tea and admiring the rather pleasant, much cooler morning.  We'll head back into the city later in the morning.

What's that? Ah yes. The fleas.

Tabitha, Gareth and Cally headed out to our place on Saturday, intending to stay overnight and to check the house out. They walked in to what they described as a tropical greenhouse! We had left the heating up quite high, not realising that the Derbyshire temperatures were going to lurch towards spring-type levels. They turned the heating down. Then went upstairs to find a marauding army of titchy, tiny,  teensy and VERY hungry baby fleas colonising the upstairs. Once the very hungry fleas noticed that food had arrived downstairs, they made for the stairs, engulfing a very alarmed Cally in their way down.. We assume that the high level of heat in an empty house had encouraged flea eggs lurking in the carpet to hatch out. They don't get much of a chance when we are there. Henry the Vacuum Cleaner keeps any fleas that decide to hatch under control. And Gareth has gone into battle against the marauding army of tiny fleas, first with Henry and later with masses of flea spray. It will be a brave flea that tries to form a new army!

And just in case you are still considering the idea of wandering by and emptying the house while we are away - the House Minders noticed very quickly that there were people in the house. They'd be bound to notice something as big as a removal van :-P

Melbourne Town Hall, prettied up for Christmas

Friday, December 18, 2015


When we first started thinking about what to do to celebrate my 60th birthday, we thought about taking a steam train trip around the Christmas markets of Bavaria. Lindsey and Ian were going to come too. But then they were invited to a wedding in South Africa at the time the steam train would be going. We thought about other options, but the timing was too tight if we were going to be n Melbourne for Christmas without a great deal of rushing about. I didn't want to rush about!

I thought about it a bit more. And then decided that coming into Australia via Darwin might be the way to go. Neither The Builder nor I had ever been to Darwin. I started investigating, and found that among the many, many things we could do was a day's coach trip to the Kakadu National Park. This all seemed like a suitable celebration for a sixtieth birthday, so I booked it all.

And this morning we were waiting at 6.00 for the coach to pick us up. An early start. But Kakadu is about a 2, 2.5 hour drive from Darwin and there was much to do when we got there. I had had the foresight to pack sandwiches for breakfast - no time to eat before we left, and really it was much too early!

I enjoyed the trip out. It started to rain here about two weeks ago and has very quickly turned the plains green from the parched brown they were by the end of the dry season. We paused for a coffee stop about half way, and then made our way into the park and to a cultural centre depicting the way of life and traditions of the indigenous Traditional Owners of the site. From there we made our way to a cruise along the billabongs and rivers of the wetlands (now filling up again after the dry season). Then lunch, and then a walk to view some aborigines rock paintings. And then home, arriving back at the apartment at about 8pm

It was a very long day. But it was also a very good day. Our driver guide was informative and entertaining. We saw brolgas and jabirus, sea eagles and egrets, little tiny jacanas, or lily hoppers and various herons, and of course the ubiquitous sulfur crested cockatoo. We saw lots of wallabies, some feral pigs and a young dingo. And we saw crocodiles. Lots of crocodiles! We enjoyed our lunch of cold meats, salad and tropical fruit. We very much enjoyed the river cruise and the rock art was fascinating. 

And we really have been lucky with the weather. No rain at all today, apart from a bit when we were on the coach this morning, and rather more when we heading back into Darwin this evening. But none at all that inconvenienced us.

So Darwin and Kakadu were my main birthday celebration. And a very good celebration they have been too. My ticket for the sunset cruise on Wednesday was paid for with money given to me for my birthday from work colleagues. Tabitha, Gareth, Freyja and Simon contributed towards the Kakadu trip. Contributions towards adventures are an excellent birthday present. 

There are photos to come. I'll let you know when they are ready. 

And now it is time to turn attention away from my birthday and forward towards Christmas. We're off to Melbourne this morning.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


We have been extremely lucky with the weather. We are in the Northern Territory at the start of the rainy season and have watched some very exciting rain storms swirl their way round the harbour.

We decided to do a trial walk this morning to the jetty where the sunset dinner cruise was due to depart from, partly to make sure we knew where it was but also to check how long it took. (15 minutes, since you ask). As we approached the jetty we saw a huge, big, black rainstorm heading our way. A huge,huge, very black rainstorm. We took cover in amongst the cafes and restaurants, which weren't open yet but which were sitting inside an enclosed area. No getting saturated for us :-D

The rainstorm observed this and headed off in search of other victims. We walked back into town - and incidentally found a whole, watery complex complete with wave pool, swimming pool, life guards and fish pools with barramundi and trevally in them. All protected from the estuarine crocodiles which roam the harbour!

Later in the afternoon, I watched a foggy, misty entity sneaking up on us from behind the apartment block. It seemed odd, fog when it was hot and humid outside. It brought a bit of rain but not much and then went away. We decided to have a short nap before our evening adventure and woke up half an hour later to find that you could see absolutely nothing from our windows except thick cloud and torrential rain. No city centre, no parks and gardens, no drowning people. Nothing. This was a worry. We were supposed to be leaving in 45 minutes and neither of us wanted to go out in that. Then it started to lift, gradually, almost imperceptibly. And by the time we were due to go it had all gone away and was merely drizzling gently.

The cruise itself was lovely. We were taken around the harbour for about half an hour and told about the buildings we could see on land and the history of the harbour and all sorts of things.  Then it was time to eat. We were supposed to be dining spread out over two levels but the air condoning on the lower deck had failed. While we were cruising around, the crew had relocated everything to the upper deck, which meant we were all much closer to our neighbours than we would have been. Which meant that we all talked to each other. It was great. The food wasn't too shabby either. Lots of local produce and very tastily cooked.

The rain held off until well after we got back at about 9.00. Now we are being entertained by the usual nightly thunderstorms. But we must go to bed soon. We have a spectacularly early start tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Neither The Builder nor I have ever been to Darwin before. I passed through the airport in 1965 en route to Melbourne for the first time, but that doesn't count. And even if we had taken the time to stop and have a look, things have changed dramatically since then. Not just because of the march of time; more substantially because Darwin was more or less destroyed on Christmas Eve in 1974 by Cyclone Tracey. It is effectively a new city.

It is also a very small city. The Central Business District looks to be about four streets wide. It takes about ten minutes to walk from one side to the other! And we are in an apartment on the edge of the CBD, overlooking it and the harbour. Nice and convenient! Its size makes it easy to get about on foot, which is all to the good when the previous day was very busy and was followed by an overnight flight of five hours which involved very little sleep.

So we had an easy day. We found a supermarket for the important purchases of tea, coffee and milk. We had a potter around. We found the Visitor Information Centre, where we booked an evening dinner cruise of the harbour for tomorrow. We found a cafe which sold us barramundi and chips for lunch. Mostly we spent the day watching the world pass by from our balcony. An excellent holiday day. No rushing about.

One of the main CBD streets at 5:30 on a Tuesday.

The alcohol licensing laws are interesting in the Darwin CBD. The Liquorland bottle shop opened at 10 but can't sell boxed wine until after midday. And then each adult can only buy one x 2 litre box per day. There were two of us, so we would be allowed to buy two.  I'm not sure what would happen if we wanted to buy a dozen bottles - he had cases of wine in the store. I believe the liquor laws are different outside the City Centre but it seemed a bit odd. If I wanted a ridiculous amount of wine in boxes, I can't see what would stop me going into every wine store in the Centre. Unless, of course, there is only one. Or, I guess, I could head to the suburbs.  The licensee didn't seem very impressed by it all.

The other thing I discovered, when we bought the tickets for the harbour cruise, is that you are entitled to Seniors' discounts in Australia from the age of 60 (thus I got two discounted tickets, being 60 years and 8 days old when I went to buy them). I mentioned this on Facebook and am told that you can get discounted tickets to some things in England from age 60. But you can't now get the equivalent of a seniors' card (or bus pass) until you reach the state pension age (for me that would be 66). But what a nice First - an age concession on a dinner harbour cruise :-)

So then. This visit to Darwin means that I now have all the capital cities in Australia. Darwin has long been the only omission. But it's a very long time since I was last in Adelaide or Brisbane. I might have to re-collect them.

                                                            I think I've worn him out!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


We had a lovely day in Singapore. And to make it even lovelier, it didn't rain - or at least not very much!

I had bought us coach and entry tickets out to the River Safari Park, one of the three zoo complexes in Singapore. And it was lovely. It's a zoo themed on the major rivers of the world. And we really enjoyed it.

We saw two of these

Two of these

And lots of these

We saw lots of other animals and fish too but it's almost impossible to sort out the photos on my iPad. I'll do a proper album when I have access to a desktop computer next week.

We went on a boat tour of the reservoir that the zoo is built around, which was interesting. Then we went on the Amazon Quest which was lots of fun. The people at the front of the boat got quite splashed as we set off down quite a steep watery slope. There were lots of animals to look at on both tours.

We have now done all the Singapore zoos. What will we do next time?

We were pottering around in Suntec City and went into a cookware shop. A bloke came up to us and asked if we were Australian. The Builder said that I was.  "Aha," said he. "Thought so! You have a hat. The Australians all wear hats!"

And then it was time to go. And now we have arrived in Darwin, very early in the morning. I had asked for an early checkin but hadn't heard anything back, so wasn't sure what time they would let us check in. I was therefore very pleased when we got here at around 6:00 this morning to find that they were ready, willing and perfectly happy to let us in. We are in a little apartment with a tiny living, kitchen area, a bed alcove, a bathroom and some fabulous views. Not a bad discovery on my part!

Our room with a view, Darwin

Monday, December 14, 2015

Let the World Birthday Tour commence

The rest of my week off at home trundled along uneventfully.  A man came to replace a slate that had blown off the roof during he gales. We remembered to ask Bev Nextdoor to look after the chooks and ducks. We tidied the house. I remembered to clean the fridge and, rather startlingly, the oven. We met Tabitha, Gareth and Cally at Cally's school Christmas fair. And then, suddenly, it was Saturday, and time to fly. It was raining as we left.

We flew with Lufthansa, Manchester to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Singapore. I looked at the hordes and hordes of people waiting to board the flight to Singapore. The noisy hordes. The shrieking children. I listened to the hubbub and kerfuffle. And I went to the enquiry desk and bought an upgrade to premium economy! (I couldn't afford business class and even if I could, I couldn't have done it from the enquiry desk.). But premium economy was more than adequate. Nice and quiet. Nice and comfortable. Extra leg room for The Builder. The only issue was that we were in the middle of the central section, sandwiched between a bloke who seemed to sleep the whole way and a burly German bloke who watched films the whole way. But this wasn't much of an issue. And I was all the happier when I discovered that I could get wifi ON THE PLANE. All the way up in the sky. Over a rather large ocean. How exciting was that? It was turned off when we were near China's air space but other than that it was sturdy and fast.

And now we are in Singapore. It as raining when we got here.

But at least it was warm rain. And it had stopped when we stepped out of the place we are staying in search of milk and wine. We've stayed here before and haven't previously realised that the building across the street houses a large supermarket in its basement. So very handy!  We're in Singapore for just one day and I've booked us onto a coach out to the the zoo complex.  We've done the Night Zoo with Lindsey. We've done the Singapore Zoo. Today we are off to the third and last of the zoos, which is themed on major world rivers. Then we will have run out of zoos. What shall we do next time?

The wifi here last night was dreadful. So slow that it was practically non-existent. I was almost tempted to get back on a Lufthansa plane so I could use the rest of my day's super fast High in the Sky wifi allowance!

This morning it seems to be fine. Mind you, it is only half past five. I assume everyone else is still asleep!

The view from our room. We're not looking out over water. That's the sports fields

The Singapore Recreation Centre, ready for Christmas

In the meantime, back in Woodseats, Marlo seems to be feeling at home

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Birthday Feastings

When you have significant birthdays you are pretty much obliged to party in my view.  I have long thought that my Uncle Peter was much mistaken when I asked him if he was having a party to celebrate his 80th birthday and his reply was that he couldn't see why you would have a party to celebrate the fact that you weren't dead yet.  We had the party to celebrate his life a few years later, after his funeral.  It would have been so much better if we had also partied when he was around to celebrate with us!

Yesterday was a fairly significant birthday for me.  We definitely partied!

We started on Saturday, with an afternoon tea.  I wanted everyone who came to be able to eat everything that was on the table.  I didn't think that I could cater so that everyone found everything delightful, but I could definitely take into account people's allergies, intolerances and dietary preferences.  And so I produced a table which was nut, strawberry, mushroom, shellfish and pumpkin seed free (taking into account all the allergies I knew about).  I also had a table which was suitable for vegetarians and, with the sole exception of a bowl of cows' milk yoghurt, also suitable for vegans. It was my party - I figured one bowl that the vegan friend couldn't eat wasn't bad.  She could eat everything else, including the cake.

A vegan-friendly feast

Cake and pastries, good for everyone to eat

The Builder and I are about to head off on a five week adventure in Singapore, Australia and Japan. We have people in place to look after the house and to feed the chickens and the ducks (so no point heading round with a furniture van to clear the house out while we are away - you'll upset the House Minders!!).  Marlo was invited to go and stay with Freyja, Simon and Aidan while we were gone. Sunday seemed like a good day to take him round to start his holiday.

Freyja and Simon have just come back from a few days exploring in and around Marrakech.  They brought this back with them

Amongst the exciting things they did while in Marrakech was to go on  a day course learning how to make Moroccan food.  On Sunday they gave their new tagine its inaugural flight.

Delicious vegetable tagine
They also bought a beautiful bowl while they were there.  I put a load of edamame beans in it. African and Asian fusion food :-D

I was very pleased with the Moroccan saffron that Freyja and Simon brought back for me.  But I was also very jealous of the tagine.  So you can imagine my delight when I opened my cards and presents yesterday and found that the vegan visitor on Saturday and her partner had bought me this

Isn't it beautiful?

Yesterday The Builder and I culminated the Birthday Feasting with a visit to the Three Cottages for lunch

A sharing platter to start

The Three Cottages is noted for its pies ...

... and its chips

A mighty birthday feast

We definitely didn't need anything else to eat after that!!

Marlo wasn't entirely convinced by his holiday destination.  Or indeed, the idea of a holiday at all. But he seems to be settling in

I think that I will sit on this squishy sofa

Or maybe I will sleep on Aidan
(The last two photos are courtesy of Freyja and Simon)