Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

All change, please!

In the event, we picked up the keys to the new place on Friday afternoon.

We spent most of Saturday moving things from one place to the other.  Freyja and Simon heroically took large things around on Lindsey and Ian's three wheeled trolley. Jim and I took smaller things around by the carload. By the time we had to stop, midway through the afternoon we had almost cleared Tani #1 and made a start on sorting out Tani #2

First meal at the new place
Then Ian took Freyja to work in Melbourne and Simon back to their place.  Jim, Lindsey and I made our way to East Melbourne. Ian joined us there and we headed to Southbank for the RMG Christmas Knees Up.

I must say that neither Lindsey nor I was particularly looking forward to it.  Noisy, crowded wine bars have never been a favourite haunt for either of us, not even in our younger days. But, you know - it wasn't too bad.  They had set a section of the bar aside for us.  We were at the front and the windows were all open. We could see the river. The wine flowed. The food wasn't bad at all and there was plenty of it.  All in all, it was a good evening - much better than we had anticipated.

Frannie, Jim and Lindsey
down by the riverside.
Photo by Ian

Sunday breakfast. Blueberry muffins straight out of the oven. No, I didn't make them.  There's a cafe beneath our feet at the flat in East Melbourne.  They were taking them out of the oven as I walked in in search of coffee and muffins.

Then Lindsey, Jim and I headed back to Ballarat.  A visit to the Christmas Makers' Market at the netball stadium and then back to Buninyong to the Men's Shed pop up shop where we bought a wooden Christmas tree and a reindeer.  There wasn't room for both the tree and me in the car, so Lindsey took the tree and Jim back to Tani #2 and then came back for me.  In the meantime I went to the bakery for pies for lunch and was chatting to the bloke who is opening a new noodle place next to the bakery when Lindsey came back for me

New tree, outside our front door.
I will decorate it, but closer to Christmas.

No pets allowed at our new place
but they surely can't object to my very cute reindeer
Jim and I slept at the new place on Sunday night and spent most of Monday emptying Tani #1. There is now perhaps half a carload of stuff to take around.  Tani #2 is now filled with boxes and crates and stuff everywhere. It won't take long to sort out but many things will not be in their final resting place, as it were.  Oddly, there are more cupboards and drawers in the new place.  I say "oddly" because I had always thought that the first place had loads of storage space and had expected there to be a bit less in a slightly smaller place.  Only I don't think it actually is very much smaller. It's just arranged slightly differently. And I think that Freyja is right when she says that the new place is cosier than the first.  I think, once we get it sorted out, it will do Quite Nicely.

But first we have to clean Tani #1 to within an inch of its life.  I want my bond back!

We had visitors at Lindsey and Ian's place the other evening. They certainly made themselves at home

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


It was a lovely weekend.  The sun shone. It was pleasantly warm. There were lots of fun things to do.

Amongst the fun things on offer was the Bacchus Marsh Strawberry and Cherry Fair.  We went last year not really knowing what we were going to. We decided to go again this year. And this year we took Stella with us.  Or - Lindsey did. She and Stella were in East Melbourne and drove up. We were in Mount Helen and drove down.

It was VERY busy!

Jim pushed Stella in her wheelchair. Lindsey and I ambled about. We had (free) sausages from the sausage sizzle outside the travel agency. We bought strawberries, raspberries and cherries. We bought Christmassy stuff. We had lunch at Flannagan's, sat where we were sat last year, outside on the patio. This year we had a carb feast.  Chips and wedges and nachos and a bit of chicken.  We need to remember for next year that the "Light" sizes are enormous and only to buy half the number of dishes!

Then we all went back to Mount Helen. Stella stayed at Hill House overnight.  We had a rare night at our place. We were at Hill House all last week and are expecting to be there for most of this coming week. And we pick up the keys to the new place on Saturday and will begin to move in next weekend so there aren't many more opportunities for sleeping over at our place.

But there was time for one last Sunday lunch.  Lindsey, Ian and Stella came down and we had slow cooked lamb shanks with roast veg and fresh veg on the side.  We had donuts for dessert, which Lindsey bought in Bacchus Marsh. Then Ian took Stella home and Lindsey went on an emergency mission for dog biscuits.  Rupert and Hugo had Run Out!!!!!!!

And the sun shone all weekend.

It was lovely.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

On the move again

We knew, when we took the lease on Tani no uchi, that the unit was on the market. We knew that our 12 month lease was safe, so any new owners couldn't chuck us out until March 2019.  We were also aware that the estate agency was marketing it to investors rather than to private buyers.

Alas, the investors weren't all that interested and in the event the unit has been sold to a private buyer.  We have been given written notice to quit at the end of the lease plus written notification that if we chose to leave earlier, with 28 days notice, the new owners wouldn't argue.

We like living where we do.  We like the unit, but we also like the area.  Mount Helen is a fairly quiet place but it is only a tad under 3 km to Mount Clear in one direction, and to Buninyong in the other.  It's 2 km from Lindsey and Ian's place. It's an easy drive into Ballarat. It's not a difficult drive into Melbourne.

I was listening to someone the radio the other day saying that people are buying or renting in the new developments on the edges of Melbourne and Sydney because housing is more affordable but that then people get there and find that, although there might be bus stops, there aren't actually any buses yet. There are no local shops. Commuting to work is expensive.  You can afford the house but you don't get the lifestyle.  In Mount Helen you get a lifestyle that Jim and I enjoy and we can afford to rent there.

I didn't want to sleepwalk my way into February 2019 and find that we had to find somewhere new to live in a hurry, so I started looking. And there was a unit round the corner that looked very similar to where we are living now.  Jim, Lindsey and I went to look at it. I think it may have been built by the same developer, but it is older and each room is a bit smaller.  We left thinking that we aren't in any hurry and it wasn't quite what we were looking for.

A day or two later, Jim and I went to look at an actual house much closer to central Ballarat. There were LOTS of people looking at it. We came away thinking that it was a nice house and we would consider buying it if we were looking to buy but it wasn't for us as a rental (the kitchen and bathroom had both been fully renovated but the rest of the Victorian building had not. I would want to do the rest of it!).

The unit in Mount Helen had another viewing on the Saturday, so Jim and I went to have another look at it. I think if we had seen it before the place we're currently living in we would have thought it was perfectly satisfactory. It seems less so because it is 7 years older (and it has purple carpets but they would seem less dramatic if there was furniture to divert the eye).

We put in an application for it.  And yesterday it was approved. We pick up the keys next Saturday.  I must remember to arrange to have the gas, electricity, internet, water transferred there.  And to give our 28 days notice on Monday.  It's only a 5 minute walk from where we are now.  We should be able to shift most things by car or on foot.

Now all we need to do is to sell our place in the UK.  We are exploring the auction option again.  But with a different auction company. Unless you fancy buying it?  We could be persuaded to arrange a mate's discount :-D

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Out and About at the Weekend

We went to Geelong on Saturday, for lunch at Irene's place.  Gillie couldn't be there but Chris and John were, and Irene's friend Stephen was there.  We had a very delicious time.

We had eggs from the chooks and veg from the garden, plus veg from other places.  We had soup and casserole, cheese and tiramisu. We had wine and gentle conversation. It was a lovely day.

Irene has a new dog.  Her name is Flora and she is a 12 month old Kelpie.  She is very friendly and wriggly

Lovely to meet you too :-D
Sunday was a glorious day and we indulged in two firsts.  I can't say that I had no idea about either of them because I knew that they both existed, but we had never been to either of them so didn't know what was there.

The first was the annual Gordon Community Fair. We had a lovely drive across country to get there. It's a long, long time since I was last in Gordon, which is a small, pretty township off the freeway. I might go again and have a little potter around on a sunny weekend day when there is not much else to do.

The fair itself was at the Recreation ground outside of the township. We met Lindsey there and had a lovely potter about.  It was very well attended, and there were a surprising number of stalls and activities.  Then Lindsey went to Melbourne and Jim and I head back towards home, again across country.

But not directly home.  It was a beautiful afternoon, so we went exploring.

We pass through Lal Lal fairly frequently.  We went to their tiny, cute village fair a couple of weeks ago, you may remember.  There is a signpost to the Lal Lal Falls, pointing away from the village.  The pub is called The Lal Lal Falls.  So we knew that there was a waterfall somewhere nearby but we had never followed the signpost to see where. On Sunday we did.

And we found a reserve, with barbecue area, picnic tables, children's play equipment and walking tracks.  There is a small gorge with a little waterfall.  Mind you, it's been quite dry recently so the creek that feeds it didn't have much water.  I suspect after a storm, or during winter it would be quite spectacular.

I would definitely not be this close if the creek was full.
I think I'd almost certainly be swept over the cliff and down the falls!!

So yes, I knew that the Falls existed, but I didn't know about the reserve or the walking tracks or the picnic area.  I didn't know anything about the Moorabool Falls, which I hadn't heard of. I know now that they exist because we saw a car park at the start of the Moorabool Falls Trail.  I might need to find a walking companion or three to go and look, though. It's a nearly 6 km round trip (on foot, no vehicular access) and I think Jim's feet would not enjoy it much.

I have to say that it was a very lovely weekend. We should go exploring more often.

We gave this jigsaw to Tony last Christmas but he didn't get around to doing it.  So we brought it back to our place and Jim did it on his behalf.

He's doing a bigger, more complicated (but less interesting?) one now

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Were we scared or shaken up by the neighbours' fire on Sunday?

People have asked this.  And no, not really.  There wasn't any danger to us from the fire in the outbuildings. The only danger to us was if the cypress tree had fallen our way.  Realistically, it wouldn't have fallen on our place, but it would have got one or two of the units opposite us and almost certainly spread onto the drive.  And then we wouldn't have been able to get out. Much more sensible to go while the way was clear.  And that is what the Fire Safety advice is.  If you're going, go early. As it happens, it didn't fall (but it's not looking very happy!).  None of the other trees caught fire, which might have been interesting. And we haven't had any smoke damage to our place.  I've had to re-wash the clothes that were out on the line and, until the heavy rain this morning, it smelled very smoky outside. But that's no real bother.

I realise that the list of things I grabbed on the way out seems paltry, but it was things that you need if you should lose everything else.  Passports because they are a primary form of ID (and Jim's bridging visa is attached to his). Wallets because they have your driving licence (another primary form of ID) and access to money. Phones so you can contact people.  Laptop in my case because that's where most of the photos are, plus all the documentation for Jim's residency application.  iPad because it has a vast collection of e-books stored on it.  Lindsey says I should have taken the file with the original documents, like birth certificates, wedding certificate and so on.  She's absolutely right. They are now in a bag ready to be taken if we have to leave in a hurry.

Everything else? Well of course, there are things that I would miss but nothing that is actually irreplaceable.  We are insured against fire and other disasters.  And I have started again before.  It's kind of fun in many ways.  Although if my china collection went I might be forced to start a completely new one.  Would be expensive, though.  The pretty plates and serving dishes and so on that I had my eye on were in a gallery in Nagoya in Japan :-D

And now it's all good.  Apart from whatever was in the shed that (mysteriously) spontaneously combusted, and the poor cypress tree. And whatever other shrubbery was damaged.  I've haven't been along for a sticky yet

Sunday, November 04, 2018

An exciting weekend

Jeanette, Matt and Evie came to visit us for the weekend.

They flew into Avalon on Saturday morning and I went and picked them up.  We came back to Tani no Uchi, where Jim was waiting for us.  Pies from the local bakery for lunch.  Then Lindsey and Ian came down and she, Jeanette, Evie and I went out and about, and Ian, Jim and Matt headed to Buninyong. We reconvened at Hill House later, played with the dogs (who LERVED Evie) and then left Lindsey and Ian to their own devices and came back to our place for roast chicken (and veggie koftas for Jeanette) for dinner.

So far so not very exciting, apart from the Diwali fireworks at around 9:30 at the University.

Not very exciting, I agree. Though I must say that Evie has developed into a very good dinner conversationalist.  She has some very interesting things to say, especially to say she's only 11.

Sunday morning saw us eating fruit, cheese and toast for breakfast.  We had arranged for Lindsey and Ian to come down to our place at around 12:00 so were just sitting about and relaxing as the morning progressed.

I went into the study to do something - and saw smoke billowing around.  I thought I should go and investigate.  Went to open the front door and saw a Rather Large fire, over there, behind the trees.  I went to have a look.  Jim followed me down.

So.  Behind this block of units is a scrubby reserve.  The reserve comes down to the road behind the units opposite us,  but narrows to a suburban block size.  On the other side of that is a fence, and beyond that is a large block of land with lots of trees, a house and many outbuildings.  At least one of the outbuildings was on fire. I could hear fire engines in the distances.

The fire got larger.  The clouds of smoke got blacker.  The flames got higher. And now there were banging noises, such as those of small explosions.

One of the cypress trees caught fire.


I came back and said to Jeanette, Matt and Evie that they should get their stuff.  We were heading off.

They already had their stuff.  They hadn't brought much for an overnight visit and were holding their bags and waiting.

I grabbed my iPad, laptop, the passports and my wallet, the house keys and the car keys. We all leapt into the car and headed off.

On this occasion we went up to Lindsey and Ian's place.  I wouldn't do that if it were a bushfire.  I would head to Ballarat or Melbourne. If I couldn't get to those places I would go to the muster place at the University or IBM.  But on this occasion the danger came from the tree.  Had it fallen our way it might easily have reached our place.  I have no wish to be squashed by a flaming cypress tree!

Lindsey and Ian had been watching the fire from their hill (Ian had rung me to tell me about it, in case I hadn't noticed) so weren't particularly surprised when we all rocked up. We still went to the Lake for lunch. And very nice it was too.  We managed a potter around part of the lake and a wander in the botanical gardens, where are the busts of heads of all the Prime Minsters (apart from the last two although I'm sure they'll be along; the last two lasted such a short time that the sculptors haven't had time to keep up!)

When We got back to our place 4 hours later, prior to taking Jeanette, Matt and Evie back to the airport, there were still several fire engines, many police cars and two Scene of Crime vans in place.

If nothing else, it was a good practice should we have to evacuate in an emergency.  I knew what I had to get and where things were.  We were in the car and moving out within 3 or 4 minutes. Other people were also in their cars and moving out. Something to think about in the event of a big emergency. The roads will be busy!  We would need to think about where we were going if a bushfire comes through, but my Fire Action Plan worked well enough. (My fire action plan has always been: Run Away; and we did :-D)

Jeanette, Matt and Evie are on their way back to Sydney.  I got breathalysed in a Booze Bus operation on he way to the airport.  I was as clean as a whistle.  Not a drop of alcohol had passed my lips over breakfast or lunch.

In the end it was a much more exciting weekend than any of us had anticipated!!!

I have some musings to put down, but I'll do that on another occasion