Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Time is still passing

Sam and I went for a walk

Lindsey, Jim and I went into Ballarat and bought everything that there was to buy.  Nothing left for anyone else!  At least, we went to the Rivers Clearance shop which is shortly to close and bought lots of things at dramatically reduced prices. We tried to go to the Post Office, but just missed it as it closed. We also failed to buy post cards.  We did, however, buy a few Christmas presents and some roses and a few bits and pieces, and rather more at Wilson's than we had intended to.  We pretty much filled the car and emptied our bank accounts :-)  Then Lindsey and Ian headed off for an evening's frivolity in Melbourne, leaving Jim, Sam and me in charge at Mount Helen.  We had fish and chips for dinner (homemade, not shop bought).  No frivolity!

This morning Jim and I went into Buninyong to look at the monthly craft market. It was a fairly typical country craft market. We bought some raspberry canes. Lindsey bought two a couple of weeks ago but there is not much point in having two raspberry canes.  I bought three pots at the craft fair.  Each pot has three or four canes in.  Now we just need somewhere to put them

We had somewhere ready for the roses:

Jim has been busy!

It looks very much as though Sam has been so busy that he's absolutely exhausted!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Time Passes

... as it does, and we have been busy in a gentle, quiet sort of a way.

We went to Mount Martha last Sunday for lunch with Stella and Tony.  Lindsey and Ian came from Melbourne, where they were spending the weekend.  We all went to the local pub for lunch, The Dava, and indulged in fish platters with chips.  It was all very convivial.  Stella and Tony were both looking well and cheerful. Sam was very pleased to see us when Jim and I got back to Mount Helen.  Lindsey and Ian went back to Melbourne to have dinner with Emily, who was in town for a reunion.

Stella, Farley and a Dirty Granny :-)
We headed back to Melbourne on Monday and did all the usual things. Then we came back to Mount Helen on Wednesday evening.

Lindsey headed off on Thursday to do her usual Thursday things. Ian was in Sydney.  The sun was shining.  So Jim headed out into the chook and veg gardens and began shifting the fence for the forthcoming redesign.  Sam and I headed out into the front garden to do a spot of seed potting on and general veg garden preparation.  I have to say that Sam was a bit puzzled by all of this.  He spent some time with me, on a long, long lead, and some time with Jim, with the gate to the chook yard shut.  He seemed to enjoy being with us but you could very clearly see him wondering what on earth we were doing, and why we were wasting such a lovely afternoon pottering in the garden when we could be going out for a nice, long walk! I must take him for a walk today.  It's not quite such a lovely day as yesterday but it's nice enough.  I think there might be a forest walk in prospect.  And there is definitely more time in the garden on the way.  I might even plant some more seeds!

Friday, October 21, 2016


As I have been trundling up and down Smith Street on the tram, I have occasionally noticed a place called Pabu.  Mostly, I seem to be looking at the other side of the rad.  But Pabu grabbed my attention because that is the Japanese word for Pub.  So the next time I went past, I looked more closely.  Aha. It is also labelled as an Izakaya, which is where you go in Japan for drinks and pub-type food.  Further information suggested that it is a Grill and Sake place.  Definitely warrants further investigation.

Lindsey works late on Tuesday evenings.  Ian is often out of town.  But last Tuesday he happened to be around.  What should we do for dinner?  I suggested a trip to Pabu.  Turns out that the and Lindsey have been a few times, but not recently. He was definitely up for it.  Alas, poor Lindsey was slaving over a hot salt mine - I mean surgery - so she couldn't join us.  But we three trundled up Smith Street and had a delightful evening.

I have to say that not only was the food very good, but so was the service.  We decided to have the tasting menu which included sashimi and other raw fish.  Jim is not a big fan of raw fish.  We asked if there might be alternatives.  And there could be. So we feasted on edamame, oysters, crumbed chicken instead of sashimi, pork gyoza instead of the other raw fish. We had minced beef on sticks, spiced prawns and, as the main attraction, a rack of lamb. For dessert we had chocolate cake with black sesame ice cream.  We might also have had the odd glass or three of wine.  It was very, very tasty. Not only is there good food and excellent service, but there are also many vegetarian options and a whole vegetarian tasting menu.  You should all go.  I'll come with you :-)

A tasting rack of lamb for three
Then we meandered back to the flat, where Lindsey rolled in a little later, not anything like as well fed and watered.  Still, she and Ian are in Melbourne for all of this week.  They went out last night and seem to have had an equally good time.

It was a beautiful sunny day yesterday, but very VERY windy.  It's nothing like as windy today but it is overcast and showery.  I could really do with a day of sunshine and light wind so I can get that herb bed finished!!! And we have potatoes to plant and other gardeny things to do.  We need veg beds prepared

Just to prove that I am really here.
Photo courtesy of Ian

Monday, October 17, 2016

Daybreak and moonset over the CBD, early Monday morning

In the end, I didn't spend all our money on plane tickets with Jetstar. The most recent Friday Frenzy email didn't really have anywhere that we particularly wanted to go. I had a hunt around on the flight comparison websites and bought tickets with Virgin Australia to Auckland instead.  We're going in mid-November for four days. Ian, alas, can't come with us. His diary says NO.  But Lindsey can.  So we booked tickets for her too.  We have two nights booked in an Airbnb place near Rotorua.  Lindsey is hunting for somewhere in Auckland for us to stay. I'm quite looking forward to it.  I have never been to New Zealand and nor has The Builder so it should be quite an adventure.  Lindsey has been. Excellent.  She can be our guide!

My Senior's Card has arrived in the post, accompanied by a senior's Myki card which will give me discounted travel on the trams, buses and suburban trains. This is good.  In England I wouldn't get a senior's travel discount until I turned 66.

I called into the Mount Clear butcher's shop on Friday and asked if he ever had any unsmoked bacon.  Most Australian bacon and ham is smoked and that's OK, but I really prefer unsmoked bacon. He said he could organise to make some for me.  In fact he had a huge piece of bacon that he had just cured and was about to cook and smoke.  He could set some of it aside unsmoked for me to collect later.  I felt that really, I could probably cook it myself so he sold me a lovely chunk of cured but uncooked and unsmoked bacon.  Then he mentioned that they had won a gold medal in the previous week's regional ham championship.  Had I ever tasted their ham?  In fact, I have, but not for many years.  So he gave me a few slices.  Lindsey, Ian, The Builder and I had the ham for Saturday breakfast with some fresh eggs that a friend of Lindsey's had sent over.  You can see why the ham had won a gold medal! The bacon I roasted and we had it on Saturday evening with an apple and cider gravy and Sunday lunch style accompaniments. He wins awards for his bacon and sausages as well as his ham.  Again - you can see why.  The bacon continues to give. We had some for brunch on Sunday. I've used some in pasties for lunch tomorrow.  There's a small bit left.  I'm sure I can think of something to do with it for lunch on Wednesday.

We didn't have a home made lunch today.  We are in Melbourne today. Lindsey had a meeting at the surgery yesterday late in the afternoon so we came down with her. She has gone off to do useful things today.  Ian is also out doing useful things.  So The Builder and I left Sam the Dog to his own devices and went for an amble up Smith Street to suss out the shops, pubs, cafes and other interesting things.  The tram I take to the surgery goes up Smith Street, so I had some idea of what was out there, but nothing beats walking up and down a street to discover what it has to offer.  We have, in fact, walked up it before, two or three years ago, on a phenomenally hot mid-day.  We didn't really remember anything about that walk except that we had lunch in Jimmy Grant's and found a Japanese grocery shop. And that it was HOT.  We found the Japanese grocery shop again today, except it is closed on Mondays. We once again had lunch in Jimmy Grants. We found a magnificent butcher's shop and an amazing deli on the Fitzroy side of the street and another magnificent butcher's shop and a Japanese Izakaya on the Collingwood side. Lots of things for us to play with.

We've been here for oh-so-nearly two months and I still haven't been to play in Lygon Street.  I ought to do something about that!!

Drinking gin and eating slow roasted lamb, barbecued chicken,
flat bread and yoghurt dip at Jimmy Grant's

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Jetstar is a low cost airline which flies in and around Australasia and Far East Asia. It's a bit like easyJet and Ryanair. I recently joined their equivalent of a frequent flyer club and have been getting emails on Friday afternoons with enticingly cheap flights to places in New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan and other tempting destinations.

The only thing stopping me buying any of these tickets has been that my Resident's Re-entry visa expired in mid-September. I can live indefinitely in Australia without a re-entry visa but if I leave the country I can't get back in.  This would not be entirely convenient!!

Nothing for it.  I need a new one.  So on Thursday of last week I put in an online application for a new Re-entry visa.  I was not expecting it to be a straightforward matter.  You need to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to Australia to get one unless you have lived here for any length of time.  I haven't been here two full months yet. So I assumed I would need to go to the Melbourne Office of the Immigration Department to plead my case.  I have my documents and my arguments at the ready.

As it turned out, however, I don't need them.  An email turned up on Monday morning giving me a 12 month Re-entry visa.  I am now able to spend all our money on flights around the local regions :-)

We had an excellent weekend.  It was a glorious day on Saturday and we all turned out into the garden to do useful things.  The Builder and Ian chopped up a tree which had blown down in the gales two weeks ago.  I (almost) weeded the rockery out the front which Lindsey has been growing herbs in.  You can now see the oregano and the valiant parsley (which has struggled but has survived the weedy invasion).  We have new herbs ready to go - I just need to finish the weeding process.  Lindsey had to be careful how much she did - her ankle is looking very much better but it still doesn't want to get out and do vigorous exercise.  It was quite happy, though, to go to the Lakeside Farmers' Market with The Builder and me and have a gentle potter there.

Sunday was exceedingly windy.  It didn't deter Lindsey, The Builder and me from heading out to Blackwood and visiting the garden at St Erth.  I'm quite glad it was Lindsey driving and not me, though.  The car was definitely getting buffeted about.  There were lots of trees and branches down when Lindsey and I took Sam into Buninyong for his afternoon walk, and large parts of Ballarat were without power.  Fortunately, the Electricity Dogs smiled benignly upon the residents of Mount Helen and our power remained nice and stable.

Otherwise, things are settling into something of a routine.  We go to East Melbourne on Mondays. I go to work on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. We head back to Mount Helen on Wednesday afternoons or very early Thursday mornings and potter around in the Ballarat area until the following Monday.  It's not very onerous or very demanding - but even so, the days seem to be vanishing at speed.

Speaking of going to work, it's time I got ready to leave.

It was very windy in De Souza Park in Buninyong on Sunday
This tree did not enjoy it!

Monday, October 03, 2016

Public Holidays and other things

We went to have our hair cut on Thursday.  We thought we'd try the hairdresser in Mount Clear who has a sign on the window that says that no appointment in necessary.  Alas - on Thursday an appointment was necessary.  Only two hours hence, but even so.

We dropped in to the butcher for some supplies.  The butcher is always well used, but on Thursday it was unusually busy.

We popped out a fish shop in Wendouree in search of some fresh fish.  It's not a bad fish shop, but it's a bit out of the way for regular use. Must find out where Ian gets the Christmas crayfish from. I'm fairly sure it isn't right on the other side of Ballarat.  The fish shop wasn't particularly busy.

It was spectacularly busy in the supermarkets' shared car park.  No parking spaces to be found at all.  This struck me as odd.  It's not as though it was Christmas Eve.

It was only after we had gone back to the hairdresser, and she said that Wednesdays and Thursdays were usually the best days to drop in, being quieter than the other days she is open - it was only then that we clocked that Friday was a public holiday in Victoria. A public holiday because on Saturday was the Grand Final of the Australian Football League.  Seemed a bit odd to us to have a public holiday just because the following day there is a major sporting fixture.  You would have thought that the following Monday would be better, so people could nurse their Victory or Commiseration Hangovers in peace.  But there you go.

Still doesn't quite explain the frenzy in the supermarkets.  They were open pretty much their normal hours on the Friday, and even on the Saturday and Sunday (no restricted Sunday Trading Hours in Oz).

I didn't watch the football final. I am not absolutely interested in Aussie Rules footie, but I did have a passing interest in this particular match.  The Western Bulldogs, against all expectations, had managed to get a place in the final.  This is a team that has been followed in its various manifestations and through various trials and tribulations by my ex husband, by all three of my children and by various other family members for many, many years.  Mind you, it did pretty much split the family in half.  A substantial number of other family members follow the Sydney Swans who were the other team in the final.  Those of us who follow other teams, or no teams, swung in behind one of the finalists, mostly the Bulldogs. I didn't watch the match because the Bulldogs absolutely never win if I am watching, and I had, of course, swung in behind the Doggies.  They don't do all that well if I follow the quarter time scores.  At half time they were two points down -so I took Sam the (not Bull)dog for a long walk in the forest.  We had a lovely, muddy, splashy walk.  And got back to find that The Bulldogs had yet again defied expectation and managed to snatch a win.  Much jubilation.  Unless you are a Swans supporter!

Lindsey is back from her jaunt around Alaska, Canada and Japan.  Her plane got in at nearly midnight on Saturday.  Matt went to pick her, Bethan and Sage up and he, Sage and Lindsey stayed the night in the flat. I assume they took Bethan home! We tootled down on Sunday morning to pick Lindsey up.  We all had brunch in the coffee shop below the flat before Matt and Sage went home and we  returned to Ballarat where we were greeted by Sam - and quite an interesting wind and rain storm.  Undeterred, Lindsey and I decided we would take Sam for a short walk.  This was foreshortened by Sam refusing to walk in the wind and the rain, and by Lindsey turning her ankle quite badly, rendering her unable to walk and pretty much unable to speak (apart from words which couldn't possibly be quoted in my family-friendly blog!!!).  It's very swollen and quite blue this morning.  She's hobbling around aided by two short walking sticks.  I think I might remain on Sam walking duties for the next little while!!