Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Well that didn't last long

Normal life, that is.

The plan was that Lindsey would follow her usual weekly pattern, and that I would go for my usual pattern of scanning in the surgery.  Stella trundled off to hospital, as planned, on Tuesday for her, as planned, hip replacement operation.  The plans for the week all looked good.

Then Ian reported that Emily's stuff, which was being freighted down from Townsville was due to arrive at the house in Mount Helen on Wednesday afternoon.  Neither he nor Lindsey were available to receive it.  So Jim and I changed our plans and came back to Mount Helen to supervise its arrival, and I arranged to go to Melbourne with Lindsey on Friday to do a mammoth scanning session.

Quite often trucks find getting up and down the driveway at Mount Helen a bit problematic.  They give up, or persevere and take out water pipes or run over the letter box at the bottom of the drive.  The bloke who was driving the truck with Emily's stuff on it had no such bother.

Reversing up the driveway

No water pipes or letterboxes were hurt in the making of this delivery
So far, so good.

On Thursday, Lindsey went to pick up her new car, went about her normal Thursday activities.  Jim and I pottered in the garden with Sam

Lindsey came home and she and I took Sam for a walk in the park. We were about to hop back in the car to come home when her phone rang.  It was Tony.  He had taken a tumble outside the pharmacy in Mount Martha and well and truly cracked his head.  The pharmacist was in attendance.  An ambulance was on its way.

This was not a little disconcerting.  We have Lindsey, Jim and me in Mount Helen with all the cars, including Ian's.  We have Ian in Melbourne, with no cars.  We have Stella in Hospital in Mornington recovering from her hip operation.  And we have Tony unexpectedly in the ED in Frankston Hospital, then admitted for a couple of nights.  Oh - and we have Tony and Stella's car in the shopping car park in Mount Martha.

Wendy had not long got back home from visiting both Stella and Tony (at that point not having fallen over).  Simon was in Queensland. Matthew wasn't any closer than we were.  Ian borrowed a car and took himself to Frankston, and Mornington, and Mount Martha, and back to Frankston and then back to Melbourne, getting back in the wee smalls.

Lindsey and I rearranged our Friday. Lindsey cleared her list for Friday afternoon. I abandoned my scanning.  Down to Frankston we went to see what was happening to Tony.  On to Mornington to visit Stella.  Then to Mount Martha to rescue the car. Back to Mornington to drop off supplies for Stella, thence to Frankston to drop off supplies to Tony and on back to Mount Helen.  It was a long, long day.

Lindsey has gone today to spring Tony from the Frankston Hospital and will stay overnight. Various people will be there tomorrow for (planned) visits to Stella and (less planned) visits to Tony.  Then Jim and I will decamp down to the Peninsula and stay for a few days until Tony is fully recuperated and Stella is in rehab or even back home.  No scanning for me!

Memo to you all

All things are subject to change with absolutely no notice whatsoever. 

Sometimes 15 times overnight!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Last Day

And so we came to our last day in New Zealand.

We started out in Rotorua, having breakfast looking out over a sun-speckled lake.  Lindsey and I took a stroll along the sandy lakeside.

We were ready to leave very early, so we drove into Rotorua itself and had a wander through the Government Gardens.  It was a very pleasant place to have a potter, and there were some beautiful buildings, but Lindsey and I were both agreed that it would have been more accurate to have named the place the Government Lawns.  There were *some* flowers but mostly it was rolling lawns.  Although we did find this:

An enormous Rose Garden, of which this is just a portion
After a not very exciting coffee and cake in a not very exciting cafe, we made our way up the middle of the country to Hamilton.  It was quite a pretty drive, but I have to agree with Lindsey that freeway driving, though efficient and effective, isn't anything like as interesting as taking the more scenic, slower roads.  However, as we were actually heading to Hamilton there wasn't very much choice :-)

When I told Freyja that we were going to Auckland and Rotorua for a few days she asked if we were going to visit Ellen and Noel.  Freyja and Ellen had worked together for a time in Sheffield and become friends, and Jim and I had got to know them in their time there.  They returned to New Zealand some years ago.  I knew what town they were in but didn't know where it was.  Freyja replied that it was about half way between Auckland and Rotorua.  I got in touch with Ellen, said we were about and asked if we could perhaps catch up.  We were invited to lunch.

And a very lovely lunch it was too.  Ellen had made a smoked salmon roulade from first principles.  We had salads and asparagus to go with it, and a NZ Sauvignon Blanc to wash it down.  We had home made ginger biscuits.  We had lots of fun, chatter and laughter. It was great to catch up with them again.

Ellen and Frannie, taken by Lindsey
And then it was time to make our way back to Auckland airport for our flight back to Melbourne.

When we tried to use the e-passport readers to get into New Zealand, they let Lindsey and me in with no trouble at all.  Jim either didn't get the little ticket you need or he didn't notice it to pick it up.  Either way, he had to go to the assistance desk to get in.  On the way out, the e-passport reader let Jim through, no worries - but wouldn't let Lindsey or me out.  We had to go to the assistance desk in order to escape.  Australian e-readers let us all in and out with no need of assistance desk!

We liked New Zealand.  We must go back for a longer stay.  Preferably without the excitement of earthquakes which have been troubling the country recently.  But for now, we are back in Melbourne and it is back to normal life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


We have had a fabulous time in Rotorua.

We came down yesterday, mostly along a scenic route rather than the most direct route down the middle of the country.  We saw fields and cows and hills that wouldn't have looked out of place in Hampshire.  We saw Mountains and Valleys and Rivers that definitely wouldn't have looked out of place in Middle Earth (although we saw no hobbits nor any soaring eagles!).  We tried to stop in Tauranga for lunch but couldn't see anything suitable.  So we ended up at Mount Maunganui. Not the actual mountain but the waterside shopping strip, where we found an eaterie and had rather a good platter of antipasti to share.

And so to our home for the next two nights.  The garden backs directly on to Lake Rotorua.  We have an absolutely fabulous view.  The weather wasn't all that it might be; it was wet and windy and gloomy.  But we didn't care.  We opened the wine, cooked the chicken we had found in Rotorua itself, and served it with the veg we had bought at the Farmers' Market in Hobsonville.

Our evening view from our lounge room

The sun was shining brightly when we got up, although it was still extremely windy.

Morning view

We partook of a leisurely breakfast and were pondering what to do with the day.  I noticed the owner hanging her washing out and went out so say hello.  She asked how our dinner had been and what we had had for breakfast. (I think she had been surprised but pleased when she started to tell us about the eating out options and we had said that we had brought food and intended to cook for ourselves).  Then she said that there was a small Farmers' Market in the centre of town on Sundays that she thought we might enjoy.  It runs until 11:30.  By then it was 9:30 so we hopped in the car and went to look for it.

It might have been small, but it was really very lovely.  If we had lived here, or had been staying for longer, we could have bought lots and lots of things. But we can't take Farmers' Market food back into Australia so we restricted ourselves to a truly beautiful bunch of asparagus and went on our way.

To a flea market by the lake 😊

Right.  It's time to go and do sensible things.  We made our way to Whakarewarewa Living Village which is a place a little bit like Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, though smaller, with people actually living there, and with thermal springs and geysers.  Oh - and nature walks.  We went on one of the self guided nature walks, which are not well sign posted and ended up walking all around all sorts of places that we hadn't intended to go to but which were amazing to happen upon.

And so to Waimangu Volcanic Village, where we walked downdowndowndowndown past steam bursts, craters, boiling rivers, downdowndowndown. Then we picked up a small bus (you could have walked the rest of the way but we were a bit short of time) and went down to Lake Rotomahana and took a small boat on a 45 minute guided tour of the lake. It was absolutely fascinating. I've never toured a volcanic crater by boat before.  I don't think I've had anything much to do with volcanoes at all until this weekend!

We took a bus back all the upness.  We were beginning to tire by that stage.

We have had lovely sunshine and not very much wind all day today.  Back at base, the wind is howling gustily.  You could almost go out surfing on the (landlocked!) lake.

We have lots of Farmers' Market veg for tea tonight and some steak - and and still some mushrooms for a mushroom sauce.

Tomorrow we head to Hamilton and thence Melbourne.  And our first trip to New Zealand will be done

Saturday, November 19, 2016


We had a lovely time in Auckland.

As I said, we were staying in an apartment in a new development to the north of Auckland.  It was quite an attractive development but it isn't finished yet and there didn't seem to be a lot to do.  Not that this mattered much.  There were shops and we eventually found a bank machine. There were liquor outlets and take away places.  And the apartment was extremely well kitted out.

This is where we are staying 
Friday was a  very good day.

After breakfast we went for a wander, to see what was what.  We followed a sign that led to the Coast Walk.  And we found this

It turned out that there were lots of coastal, country and historic things dotted about, once you got outside the new development.  We must go back one day and have another exploration.

But there wasn't time on Friday.  We were due on the other side of Auckland to meet a former work colleague of mine for tea and cake.  She worked in the Adsetts Library for a few years but moved back to New Zealand five years ago shortly before the birth of her second child.  She noticed on Facebook that we were on our way over and so we arranged to meet.  It was lovely to see her again, and to meet the two children I hadn't met before.  The older one, who I had met as a baby was at school and her husband was at work. But the rest of us had a good time, sat outside in the sunny garden.

She suggested that we should go to Cornwall Park for the afternoon. It was only  short drive from their place, so off we went.  We had an absolutely delicious lunch in the bistro.  jim and I had the fish of the day and It has to have been one of the best fish meals I have ever eaten.  The skin was so beautifully crisp the Jim ate his - and he never eats the skin of fish!  The flesh was succulent and delicious.  Lindsey had green pasta with broad beans and asparagus and snow peas and a pea veloute. I think she very much enjoyed that too.  We drove to the top of the hill, One Tree Hill and had a mooch around.

Looking out over Auckland

Then we made our way to Mount Eden. Jim declined our invitation to walk to the top.  He stayed in the car and Lindsey and I went

Nearly at the top

Then we rounded a corner and saw the trig point All The Way Up There 

Looking out at Auckland over a sacred volcanic crater

Back on the ground we headed back towards home, via a trip at the Westgate shopping complex. It wasn't all that exciting a complex so we headed on home for dinner and an evening watching the telly and relaxing.  We're heading to Rotorua tomorrow so need to be up relatively early so we can pack the car and tidy the apartment.

We have enjoyed Auckland.  We must come again.

Friday, November 18, 2016

On New Zealand Time

I *knew* I wasn't properly on Melbourne time!  I routinely wake at about 4 and am snoozing by 8 or 9 in the evening.  It's very frustrating!!

We're in Auckland and Rotorua this weekend.  No snoozing on the (very comfy) couch for me yesterday evening.  I was in bed at 10:30 or so and didn't wake until just after 6.  There is a two hour time difference.  I have been unknowingly on New Zealand time for the past three months.

We are here because Jim's tourist visa allows him multiple entries into Australia over the course of 12 months, but only for a maximum of three months at a time. We are nearly at the end of three months and we don't want him accidentally to become an illegal alien so a visit somewhere outside of Australia seemed like a plan.  Lindsey has come with us.  Ian's diary, alas, said No.

We oh-so-nearly went to the South Island, which Lindsey knows better than the /North Island.  But on the day I went looking for flights there were only quite expensive ones to the South and some reasonably cheap ones to the North. Just as well, as it turned out.  I think the SOuth Island has enough to do in the aftermath of quite a nasty earthquake. This will do us quite nicely.

We arrived mid-afternoon yesterday. Lindsey had arranged a hire car and had booked an Airbnb pose for us in a relatively new development in North Auckland. We are close to the sea, to local shops nd to a supermarket.  There's a Farm market tomorrow morning which we thought we might go and look at.  And today we are meeting a former work colleague of mine for coffee before going out exploring this afternoon.  I wasn't really aware that she lived in Auckland until a brief exchange on Facebook at Tullamarine Airport yesterday.  First, though, a spot of breakfast and then a walk down to the end of the promontory that we find ourselves on.

Monday, November 14, 2016


The Under-Gardener has dug over the potato bed and taken out a dead tree

He has planted 2 rows of 9 potatoes and one of 8

And I have potted up three runner beans and four dwarf beans
and put them in the newly restored greenhouse

I have also potted up tomato plants, zucchinis and cucumbers. They also are in the greenhouse.  I'll plant more seeds when we are next in Ballarat but that won't be for almost two weeks.  We are off adventuring later this week and there didn't seem to be much point in planting seeds when there wasn't anybody much around to nurture them.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

That Was The Week That Was

Last Saturday we all ambled into Ballarat to run a series of errands.  Library, post office, shops, Bridge Mall Market, that sort of thing.  At one point Ian or Lindsey said:  Right; shall we do Bunnings (think B&Q) or Oscar's next?  Jim and I almost in unison said:  Oscar's! though we had no idea what Oscar's might be.  Turns out it's a restaurant where I lunched on a magnificent chicken pie with almost the best mashed potato I think I have ever eaten.  We did Bunnings after that :-)

On Sunday I put some leftovers out on the front lawn for the delectation of the magpies and crows. They were noisily and belligerently enthusiastic about this.  Suddenly it went very quiet.  I wandered over to the kitchen window to see what they were doing.  And there they weren't.  Instead there was an elderly and very, very nervous fox munching on the rejected cheese biscuits.  Nibble a bit of biscuit, then look apprehensively about.  Another bit of biscuit, another apprehensive glance.  So apprehensive was he that he disappeared like a shot when I gently put my hand in my pocket to get out my phone to take his portrait.  We knew there was at least one fox around.  We've seen it in the paddocks.  But we need to make the new chicken run Alcatraz-like before we introduce the new chooks.  Lindsey doesn't want her new acquisitions to turn into fox food!!

Monday was enlivened by Ian's car.  The tyre had been going flat for a little while and on Saturday was noticeably down.  He has Run Flat tyres on his car so no spare.  On Monday morning he, in his car and Lindsey, in hers were making their way to the new tyre shop, thence to the car hire place.  They hadn't got very far when Ian's poorly tyre blew :-S  He had to wait over an hour for a tow truck to come and rescue him.  Lindsey came back to the house.  Eventually it was all sorted out and Lindsey, Jim and I were on time for our meeting with Bethan.  We were booked to meet her mid-afternoon and take Sam to a new Dog Walking park (well, new to Sam and to us - not actually new and not new to Bethan either; that's how we found out about it). We had a lovely time in the park and Sam thoroughly enjoyed meeting puppies, other dogs and other people, all except for the Jack Russell that rather injudiciously decided to come and snap around his ankles.  Mind you - Sam just turned round and glared at the little dog and it ran away. Sam doesn't like it when small dogs come and snap around his ankles!

On Tuesday I actually went to work.  And again on Wednesday. Two days in a row.  I am slowly getting on top of the mountain of scanning.

Ordinarily we go back to Ballarat on Wednesday evenings.  On this occasion, however, Jim and I stayed in town.  For on Thursday we were meeting Friend Robert for lunch in Lygon Street.  Somehow, we have managed to be here for oh-so-nearly three months without either going to Lygon Street or meeting up with Robert.  This seemed unlikely to me, but it was very definitely the case.  We have rectified that now. We came back to Ballarat later that afternoon on the train. I must say I am enjoying the public transport system, despite the fact that our train was delayed at Southern Cross Station when the doors refused to close.  I have a Senior's travel card so I get half price travel.  Jim can't have one yet (he isn't an Australian resident) so he pays full fare but even so it isn't very expensive by British standards.  Fortunately Lindsey met us at the station.  We could have gone by bus our to Mount Helen. There is one which runs out to the University.  But the University is down in the valley and Lindsey and Ian's place is half way up the hill and there is a VERY steep driveway to contend with.  Coming back in the car was a much better option.

Yesterday was a (local) public holiday in Ballarat.  Lindsey and Ian were both working in Melbourne.  Jim and I stayed at the house.  I roasted and pureed and sieved most of a big box of tomatoes that we had bought at Wilson's on Thursday on our way past.  Jim set to and began digging a new bed to put potatoes in.  It was pleasantly warm yesterday.  It is very nearly time to plant the potatoes and there was nowhere ready to put them. It was quite a productive day, to say that it was a local holiday.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Mostly Feasting

It has been a week of much good food, much frivolity and much fun.

We went to Simon's place for dinner on Monday.

Tuesday was a public holiday in Melbourne.  I didn't go to work.  Instead, Jim and I hopped on a train and took ourselves off to Geelong.  I don't recall ever having been to Geelong on the train before.  Trips to Geelong have mostly been of the "Ooh - it's a nice day; let's go to Geelong and have fish and chips in the beach" variety and we have gone in the car. We will definitely go on the train again. It's not very expensive (cheaper on the way there than on the way back - we were off peak going and peak hour returning) and it's a pleasant hour or so sitting and watching the countryside go by. I do wish they had wifi on the trains, though.  It's all very well arguing that people have generous data plans with their phone contracts, but that's no use if you have no phone signal!

Anyway.  I digress.  We went to our friend Irene's place for lunch.  Her friend Gillie picked us up from the station and we had a mighty feast of bounty from the garden, augmented with a few other things.  It was a very convivial afternoon and the food was delicious.

In the evening, Lindsey, Ian, Jim and I wandered down into Richmond and had a remarkably nice Vietnamese meal.  We had two starters and four main courses to share between us. I might have done it more justice had I not had a three course meal at lunchtime, but I gave it a good shot, and everyone else did their best too.  We didn't leave much!

Wednesday was a feasting rest day

Thursday was Jacob's 18th birthday, and the last day of his end of school exams.  As many of the family as were available met at Neighbourhood Wine in North Fitzroy for a tasting menu celebration. It was a noisy and cheerful celebration. The staff were very attentive and the food was lovely.

We came back to Ballarat with Ian on Friday and he cooked up a feast for us in the evening.  Lindsey was feasting separately in Melbourne, but we enjoyed a lovely meal of barramundi with Asian style vegetables and sauces.

It is possible that we might need to do less feasting next week!!

Mind you, I managed nearly 8 km of walking yesterday. I set off for the Victoria Market on foot, then in a moment of inattention wandered off down towards the other side of the city centre.  By the time I realised this and had set myself back in the right direction I think I had added another 2 or 3 km to the round trip.  It was exactly 7 km on my Run Keeper when I got back to the flat - and we still had to take the dog out for a walk before we got in the car to head back to Ballarat!!

There were lots of people on the platform to Flemington at Southern Cross Station on Tuesday.  It was Melbourne Cup Day and they were clearly going to the races, dressed in their glad rags.  Floaty dresses, fancy hats, fascinators and unsuitably high heels for the ladies, lounge suits or dress suits for the gentlemen. It was, in fact, quite a nice day but not nearly warm enough for floaty dresses and skimpy shoes.  I was wearing trousers, shirt and a jumper!