Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

So what have we been up to?

We went to the flat on Monday, via a visit to Tony in Cabrini, a trip to the supermarket and a quick dash in to buy some new sheets for the spare bed in the flat.  Tony was looking a bit better than we had heard on Sunday, but was still in the high dependency unit. They moved him later on Monday back into a single room.

We spent the evening at Simon's place for the usual Monday evening Steak Night

A typical Monday night plate

On Tuesday I went to the HSBC bank in Collins Street to open a new bank account.  The advantage of having belonged to an international bank for 20 years is that the London people spoke to the Melbourne people, arranged an introduction for me based on my banking history in the UK - and with very little effort on my part I am now the proud possessor of two Aussie bank accounts, one that operates in AUD and one which operates GBP. There is no charge for transferring money between HSBC accounts. It's all good.

When Lindsey and Ian very first came to visit us in The Sidings, they brought as a present a pair of proper Aussie Ugg boots for me.  That was in 2007.  I eventually threw them out at the start of last (British) winter because they were getting a bit threadbare and tatty.  That was in 2015.  That's not bad going when you think I wore them all winter every winter when I was at home (I didn't wear them to work, or out, although I did wear them outside when impulse took me out the back door). Lindsey said at the time that the best place to buy Ugg boots was at the Queen Vic Market, provided that you made sure you bought real ones, made in Australia, and not the less good quality Chinese made ones.  So after the bank, The Builder and I strolled up to the Vic Market, located the stall and bought me a pair.  We didn't get any for The Builder because we had already bought him a pair of slippers.  We'll get him some at the start of next (Aussie) winter.

Then we came down to Mount Martha by train, where we took the baton from Wendy.  Wendy met us at Frankston station and brought us back to Mount Martha. She pointed out a tiny owl that has started living in  a tree just up the road.  I can't get a decent photo of it - when I tried yesterday the wind kept blowing the branches in front of it.  This is the best I could do:

It's quite small.  I don't know what kind of owl it is; if you have any ideas, I would be glad to hear them.  It's in a wattle tree on the Mornington Peninsula. It's still there today and I gather it's been there for a few days.  Maybe it's planning to move in permanently

We went to visit Tony today.  He's looking ever so much better.  They are once again planning to move him to a rehab centre (hopefully the one in Mornington), but he needs a new assessment before he can go.  We are hopeful that he might move by or at the weekend.  Sunday is Fathers' Day in Australia and we are all planning to gather for lunch.  If he's at the rehab centre someone can go and borrow him for the lunch.  Much less easy if he's in your actual hospital in Malvern at least an hour's drive away!

Looking good

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tony continued to improve as the week progressed.  On Thursday he was almost back to his normal self.  He sounded better, looked better, had a twinkle in the eye and even tried a couple of small jokes. He was clearly more than ready to head to the rehab centre, which was ready to take him, just as soon as a bed became available.

We handed over the reins on Friday and headed back to town.  Matt, Belinda, Sage and William were on duty on Saturday, Wendy on Sunday.

Alas.  On Saturday Matt reported that Tony seemed a bit confused, not very bright and was shaking and twitching.

By Sunday he was very definitely taking a turn for the worse.  He was mostly sleeping, twitching and shaking quite a lot and was very confused. He was moved back to a high dependency ward.

It was quite clear he couldn't go to the rehab centre any time soon.  We will go, with Lindsey, to examine him this afternoon.  Wendy and Stella are going this morning.  We'll see how the land lies - although the hospital is reporting that he seems quite a lot better today.  He's had a battery of tests to try and find out what the problem is.  Maybe one of those will reveal an answer.  Or we may never know - it could just be one of those things.  Anyway, as of this morning he seems to have taken a turn for the better.

In the meantime, we had a good few days in Mount Martha.  We went shopping in Mount Martha and Mornington.  We made the trip to and from Malvern to visit Tony. We had delicious food and wine.  We even had a Mount Martha variant on Steak Night.  Stella bought some King Island steak.  I cooked it.  We had it with roast potatoes and veg rather than the habitual Monday evening salad.  It was delicious

Steak Night by the Sea

We came up to Mount Helen on Friday evening.  Sam was quite pleased to see us - although there was a very definite "And where do you think you've been?" in his greeting!

It is noticeably colder up in the hills than it was down by the bay.  It was a pleasantly mild 18 or so degrees in Mount Martha, and quite mild at night.  It's definitely a lot colder than that on Mount Helen!

Sam is nice and toasty warm

We had a good weekend.  We've pottered about, taken Sam for walks, organised a few things, checked out the shops, bought The Builder a few clothes (he was getting a bit tired of wandering around covered in a blanket :-D). Not really, of course - but he didn't have very many clothes and mostly they are summer clothes and not absolutely suitable for the tail end of a Ballarat winter. He seems quite pleased with his purchases.

We have a Bedroom with a View

A Mount Helen sunset

The setting sun

We'll be heading back to Melbourne shortly, then back to Mount Martha tomorrow afternoon.  Wendy was going to take the week off work so she could ferry Stella to and from the hospital, but it seemed silly for Wendy to take time off work when The Builder and I have no work to miss us. I have a bank appointment and a couple of errands to run tomorrow morning. After that, we'll take up the hospital run and Wendy can save her leave for something more fun.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

And so to Melbourne

We left Ichijōji on Sunday at about 11:00.  We took a taxi to the Kyoto Railway Station.  Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki went home in their car.

The Builder and I took the train out to the airport, arriving very much too early to check in for our flight.  So we had Mos burgers for lunch and then found an International Wine Bar where we bought a bottle of extortionately expensive French wine and amused ourselves by seeing how long we could stretch the wine out.

Pretty much until check in time :-D  Way to go, us!

Our next period of waiting was spent much more cheaply in the business lounge, sipping their wine and eating their snacks.

Then we flew to Cairns, arriving at 4:30 or so in the morning.

The airport was surprisingly busy for that time of day!

Even so, there isn't a whole lot to do when you have several hours to wait before you can check in for the next, and final flight for the trip.  There was more to do once we were checked in and could go airside, have something to eat and a potter around the shops, unencumbered by hauling round a small mountain of luggage.

And so we arrived in Melbourne.  Lindsey was waiting for us at the airport.  It did, however, take an enormous amount of time for our luggage to reappear. The carousel was absolutely full of luggage from a flight from Hobart.  Mysteriously, that flight number wasn't on the carousel's signboard.  Nor were there any obvious passengers from the flight.  That would be because they are all over there, waiting at the next carousel along, which does have their flight number on it.  Lindsey went over to tell them, but only a few paid any attention.  So she went over to the information desk and told them. They made an announcement - and all the Hobart people came rushing over, grabbed their bags and disappeared.  This made room for our bags to be put on the carousel.  I have to say that Tullamarine is one of the worst airports I have ever been in for baggage handling.  We always have delays there, and usually because of inefficiency or incompetence. You would have thought they would have cracked it by now.  After all, it's not as though baggage handling is something they only do every now and then.

Anyway.  We had the bags, so we headed back to the flat, had a shower, put some clean clothes on and went out to visit Tony. He was looking OK.  Not bad for an elderly gentleman who has had major surgery.  He is hoping to move to one of the rehab units closer to his home in the next day or two. Not only will that make it easier for Stella to visit him, but it also makes the possibility of him going home much closer.

Lindsey and Ian have a house guest at the moment.  She is a fellow student of Emily's and is doing a placement in Footscray. It's not absolutely practical to commute to Footscray from Townsville, so she is staying in the spare room at the flat.  No room for us :-S  So they booked one of the holiday flats for us overnight.  This was quite comfortable. And quite quiet.  We were a bit worried that we couldn't find a kettle (although Ian finally found it in a hidden cupboard over the fridge). I was a lot more worried that there wasn't wifi :-S No worries.  Lindsey lent me a phone which has a hot spot built in.  My devices wouldn't talk to it.  This was very very frustrating for me - I wanted to update the blog and check the bank accounts and do a number of useful things.  Eventually, I turned absolutely everything off and the devices all started talking to each other again.  Phew.  I do not like being cut off from the e-world!!!

We have come down to Mount Martha for a few days today.  We can take Stella to see Tony this afternoon, and have a gentle potter about.  And there is definitely wifi here :-D

Monday, August 22, 2016


So.  How to spend our last full day of our holiday in Kyoto?

We considered the possibility of going to Nara and visiting the giant Buddha and the sika deer in the park.

We considered the possibility of going into central Kyoto and visiting the Science museum.

We considered the possibility of going into Osaka and going for a ride on the Tenpozan Observation Wheel.

The Observation Wheel won.  It was a lovely, lovely day.  And Tatsuki loves Ferris Wheels.  So do I. A winner all round.

Plus, it had the advantage that we could travel by train from our little local railway station.  Not all the way, of course, but a little bit of the way.

So we did.

Tatsuki was magnificent.  When we were in Japan at the start of the year he was very firmly of the opinion that train hopping was a dreadful, dreadful waste of time.  I suspect he is still of that opinion, at least to some extent, but he happily train hopped all the way to the far side of Osaka.  Or, if not happily, then at least resignedly.

We all really, really enjoyed the wheel

The ride took about 45 minutes, I think.  It took considerably longer to get there :-D

We had lunch in the adjacent shopping mall and then made our way back to the house in Kyoto.

We had dinner in a Family restaurant a few minutes walk from the house.  It is similar to the Coco family restaurant not far from Austin and Kaori's place, but not quite the same quality.  On the other hand, my burger and chips were delicious, and not very pricy.

We have very much enjoyed our stay in Kyoto Ann's lovely little house in Ichijōji.  If you should find yourself looking for somewhere to stay outside of central Kyoto, I would thoroughly recommend it to you.  You'll find it on Airbnb.

We are off back to Osaka today.  It's time for the final leg of our journey, on to Melbourne, via Cairns.  I fear there is going to be a great deal of waiting around today.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Just Chillin'

We all very much enjoyed our day chilling yesterday.

We had a lovely, lazy start to the day. Breakfast.  Iced coffees. Watching the Olympics. Pottering.

Then we decided to go back to the shopping mall, where there is a child's play area.

Kaori went on one of the bikes that are provided here for the use of guests.  Their car only seats four people and, although we have squished five in when we have been here before, I am not sure that that is entirely legal.  And anyway, my bottom appears to have spread out since January and I have no wish to squish poor Kaori.  I was going to walk, but Kaori seemed quite happy to go on the bike.

I'm not sure that she was quite as delighted when she had to come back and give us the car keys, which had been put into her backpack for safe keeping when we were out on Thursday, and which hadn't been taken out again!

Tatsuki had a great time in the children's play area:

So did Austin!

I enjoyed it too, although sitting on the edge of the ball pool has its hazards.  A group of petite, slight girls came in to play.  It was what I imagine it would be like if you were sat on the side of a watering hole, accompanied by a load of buffalo!

We all pootled around in the shopping mall.  The Builder and I had iced coffees in Starbucks (not necessarily my coffee shop of choice, but needs must.)  Kaori did a bit of shopping.  The Builder and I did a bit of window shopping.  Then we re-convened in the food court before heading back to the house.

We tried for a Coco Curry for dinner in an outlet which was a six minute walk away.  Alas - it has vanished.  But there is another one about ten minutes walk in that direction over there, so we went there, followed by a lovely stroll in the (relative!) cool of the evening back to the house.  It was a very relaxing day.

This is where we are staying:

And this is our house:

Front of the house, with bicycles

Entrance shrine

Tatami room with futons

The view from our room

Living area, on the middle floor


View from the landing window
There is a third level with a couple of bedrooms, but Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki are using those at the moment and I think it would be a bit rude to burst in on them!!

Friday, August 19, 2016


We left the Osaka airport hotel at a little before midday on Wednesday (Happy birthday, Freyja!!)

We had very much enjoyed our day sitting about in the hotel and airport, but by the time we left at lunchtime on the Wednesday we were both agreed that we were getting a bit bored with having nothing much to do.  Fortunately, the afternoon brought quite a bit of adventure and entertainment!

There is a direct train from the Osaka airport to Kyoto.  It takes an hour and 20 minutes and is a very pleasant run.  Also - there is no need to change trains anywhere, carting your luggage with you!

It is possible to get from the Kyoto station to where we were staying by train, but it involves at least two and possibly three changes.  We took a taxi!

The taxi driver got us to the *area* we are staying in with no trouble at all.  Thereafter, he couldn't find the actual house.  I have a suspicion that had we been Japanese nationals, he would have dropped us at the Ichijōji station and let us make our own way to the house.  Given that we were foreigners, he took a bit of extra effort.  After all, you don't want to get a reputation (If you are driving a "Foreigner Friendly" taxi - no extra charges involved) for abandoning your foreigners and leaving them lost in Ichijōji, never to be seen again!!  We did eventually find the house, in a tiny side street, approximately one minute walk from the station.

We took our bags inside, connected to the wifi (priorities, doncha know!), made contact with Austin and Kaori and got ourselves sorted.  I decided I should go and find the car parking space - and got there just as Austin was parking up.  He and Kaori had had no trouble at all finding the place!!!!! And it wasn't even that the taxi driver was trying to diddle his foreigners out of extra money.  Once he realised that he couldn't find the house he turned his meter off.

It's a nice little (Airbnb) house, spread out over three floors.  A vast improvement on the Airbnb student house we had in Stepney.  On the entrance level there is a bathroom with laundry, a loo, and a tatami room with futons and an ensuite courtyard.  On the next level there is a kitchen and a dining and living area.  And on the third floor there are two, inter-connected bedrooms, one with a bunk bed and one with two single beds.  We put Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki up there. It seemed to make more sense than squishing them into the tatami room - and The Builder and I were never going to use the bunk beds :-D

It's a nice area.  If you head fifteen minutes in that direction you find a shopping complex, with supermarket, food hall, restaurants, general shops.  We headed there for supplies and something to eat.  An early dinner because no one had actually had any lunch. If you head towards the station, you find lots of smaller shops, a little supermarket, a bottle shop.  There's a park close by and lots of places to explore.

Our exploring yesterday took us by bus into central Kyoto, and then by another bus to the Kyoto Railway Museum. It's very large!  I almost immediately managed to lose all of my travelling companions!!  I wasn't particularly worried, though.  I knew they were all somewhere in the museum grounds.  Also - I had the key to the house in my wallet!!

1950s style railway sweet shop

Rooftop view

After we had headed back into Kyoto and had afternoon tea, we went up the Kyoto Tower to the observation deck:

Then we went home - and had small, tiny pizzas from a local pizza place for dinner. I'm not sure how they managed to sustain us through the night!

We didn't realise - and bought one each for dinner!
(The boxes don't fit in the fridge!)

With my wallet to the side, for a sense of scale

It's a lovely day today.  We thought we might spend it pottering around in the local neighbourhood.  After all, we have all been to Kyoto before, so no real need to dash about looking at temples, shrines and other important sites.  And we are on holiday. Relaxing locally is a good thing!

In other news:  Tony is in the hospital, still.  A different hospital.  When they were running all the tests after his fall a week or so ago, they found a tumour in his lung.  They think it is probably not cancerous, but they couldn't leave it where it was. It was making it hard to breathe.  It, and part of his lung, have now been removed.  I am told that he is recovering as well as it can be expected, when you are 85 years old and have just had major surgery in your chest.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


We're in the airport hotel in Osaka.  It's the middle of the night.  I am awake!

We got here at about 8am yesterday morning after a very, very bumpy flight from KL. The cabin crew were told to "be seated immediately" not once but twice during the six hour flight!  Fortunately, bumpy doesn't worry me much, although I don't think the crew were very happy about it.  It didn't really keep me awake, although it did mean that the hot drink service was suspended. You can see their point. You wouldn't want hot drinks flying around the cabin in an unsupervised way. But orange juice don't quite cut it as a wake-me-up! The second plane was quite a bit smaller than the first, which had been the first "double decker" plane I had ever flown in. First class and part of economy downstairs; business and the rest of economy upstairs. Lots of room to play with. Our seats were much less wide on the second flight.  More than enough legroom though, even for The Builder

Flight #1

Waiting for Flight #2

We were given beef and chicken satay sticks before dinner on both flights.
Very tasty!
We got through immigration and customs with remarkable speed and trundled over to the airport hotel. Fortunately, I had had the foresight to arrange an early check in! We showered and changed and went for a wander around the airport which, you may remember, has a large array of shops and restaurants. We had thought about going into Osaka itself and going for a ride on the Osaka Wheel, however the day was very hazy and cloudy and it didn't seem worth the money - we wouldn't have seen very much.  In any case, The Builder was rather tired after the London adventures. His feet and back were hurting.  He was quite happy just to sit in the hotel and mess about on the internet and relax. We are likely to be quite busy over the next few days in Kyoto, so a day just chilling and not travelling or exploring seemed like a good plan.  We did stir ourselves to go to the brasserie for the buffet dinner. We never really get our money's worth from the buffet, but it is very delicious and we do enjoy it. At the moment they are doing a "Brazilian barbecue" (I assume in honour of the Olympics).  There were no South American spices discernible in it, but I have to say it was very, very tasty.

And, of course, I had to have my now customary, build your own soft serve ice cream:

They are meant for the children
I don't care!
And now, alas, I am awake. It's not yet 4 am. Much too early to be awake. I might have a cup of tea and then perhaps an early morning snooze before breakfast.  Checkout here isn't until midday, and checkin in Kyoto isn't until 3pm so there's no real hurry today