Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

It was an absolutely glorious day on Saturday.  I actually hung the washing outside and it was oh so nearly dry when I brought it in later in the afternoon.

Jim and I went out for a potter at the Brown Hill market, which was satisfyingly busy, and then went out to Delacombe to the supermarket and to the new Bunnings.  We've bought a small plastic seed raising "greenhouse", which Jim has assembled. Mindful of the summer in Tupton when our plastic seed raising tent blew away, taking with it a large number of seedlings, and equally mindful that it can be quite windy where we live - he has attached it to the side of the house.

I am hopeful that we will be able to extend the growing season a little by using the seed tent.  And, of course, I want to start planting seeds now that they have a home to live in. However, I must remember that it is only August and is too early to be planting summer seeds. Although, I noticed at the weekend that the tarragon is starting to come back and the oregano and sage are beginning to show new leaves, so the soil must be warming up a bit.  In the meantime, we are eating cauliflowers and carrots from the boxes and the Hill House garden.

Sunday saw us off to Geelong, where we visited Irene and Flora for lunch. Gillie, Chris and John were also there. It's lovely drive to Geelong and takes about an hour on a Sunday morning.  We feasted on smoked salmon, an Italian sausage and bean casserole and finished with Irene's magnificent lemon tart. It was a convivial afternoon which we both enjoyed very much.

On Monday we went into town.  We don't go into the city centre all that often any more. Most of our needs can be met in Delacombe or Sebastopol. However, I wanted to go to the library.  I find that the little library in East Melbourne can provide more of what I want to read than the library in Ballarat, being part of the Melbourne city library service. On this occasion, however, the book that had come to my attention was not only part of the Central Highlands library collection but was actually sitting on the shelf in the Ballarat library.  We went and got it.  We called into Wilson's on a whim but didn't really need anything. And we finished the day at Hill House in the company of Rupert and Hugo.

And here we still are.  But I must make haste.  It's time for me to head to work.  At this time of year it has started to get light when I leave on Tuesdays and Fridays.  The only problem is the sun shining in my eyes as it gets up when I am driving down the freeway!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

This and That

This winter has, in my mind at least, been quite mild.  Some cold weather, but nothing much. Some rain, but not  a lot.  Rain storms, rather than ongoing rain.  Windy?  Yes!  We missed the weekend of proper winter weather. We were in Singpore when the snow came and  had to make do with a video from Lindsey.

So when the forecast for last weekend predicted mild temperatures, I wore spring like clothes for our visit to Mount Martha, sandals rather than shoes, a cardigan rather than a jumper.  I completely failed to take into account that the forecast for this week was for colder weather.  This wouldn't have mattered except that we were at Hill House on Sunday night and the weather changed mid-afternoon on Sunday to wet, windy and cold.  I had to borrow a pair of socks from Jim!  And went quite early on Monday down to Tani to get some proper clothes.  A nice winter jumper, rather than the light summery cardigan, for example. And shoes!

We had a good weekend. We headed down Mount Martha on Saturday. Stella, Jim and I drove across to Hastings, mainly for a look see.  I had noticed that there were some cabins for sale in the retirement villages there. It is a very long time since I was last in Hastings. Stella likewise.  Jim has never been.  It is much bigger than I remember it being.  It has a sizeable shopping centre, a pretty marina, lots of cafes and restaurants. It has a Bunnings and a Kmart.  It's less than a half hour drive from Mount Martha.

Both Jim and I thought that we could happily live there, in a cabin by the sea.  Except that we've been offered a 12 month extension to our lease, with no rent rise and we have accepted that. A holiday cabin wouldn't really be practical at this stage. (Tani pretty much is a holiday house :-D ) But I will keep Hastings on the list when we do go looking for a place of our own.  In the meantime, we are still enjoying living in Tani so are pleased to have another year guaranteed. And very pleased that there is no rent increase.

It was Freyja's birthday on Saturday and she and Simon came to Mount Martha to join us for a Sunday Birthday lunch. Fortunately, the weather held until after we got back from the pub.  It's a tight fit to squish five people into little Ziggy so she and Simon walked to and from the pub. The rain started when we were getting ready to head back to town and then (for Jim and me) to Ballarat.  The Pikes Creek reservoir, which had been quite low, is starting to look quite healthy again.  Even so, I think the rainfall averages so far this year are a bit low.  We have only just started using a rain gauge but Tony had been keeping records for many years.  Lindsey and I read his rain gauge when we are at Mount Martha and the total so far for this year is down on the August totals for previous years.

There's a new podiatrist at the surgery. Last week I took my feet for their first ever visit to a foot person.  I wanted to know if anything could be done about their misshapenness.  Alas, short of getting an orthopaedic surgeon to re-shape them (and I am not keen to do that) there isn't anything very much that can be done for them.  But they did enjoy having their toe nails properly cut, their callouses removed, their cracked heels oiled. I shall have to take them again. And wait patiently for warmer weather when I can  wear my sandals again.  Sandals don't make my feet hurt.  Proper shoes that are an appropriate length for my feet are never wide enough so I either wear shoes that are too long or too narrow.  Either way, they make my feet grumpy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

On the Buses - again

It must one said that if you are infirm, or elderly,  unable to walk far - or even just a bit lazy, the hop on hop off buses are ideal for sightseeing. For $SG47 per person for 24 hours, or $57 for 48 you get unlimited access to the Big Bus routes (other operators are available).  There are 4 city routes you can access, which take in different parts of the city. You can get on and off as you please. You can see pretty much anything there is to see.

We made full use of our tickets.  Jim was struggling to walk much and would not have enjoyed walking tours at all (you can also do walking tours with your bus ticket but we didn't).

We didn't hop off much.  At the botanic gardens on Saturday, and at the Singapore Flyer on Sunday. Apart from that we sat on the buses as they mooched around Singapore and admired the views.

It must also be said that bus tripping around is an excellent way to spend a last day, after you have had breakfast, packed, checked out and then pretty much have 6 hours to fill in before you head out to the airport.

It was a beautiful day. We hopped off at the Singapore Flyer on a whim.  We've been on it before but it was a very long time ago and given that it was a lovely day ...

Views from the Flyer:

It really was an excellent last day.

We flew home on our re-arranged Qantas flight.  And yes, we did miss out on our extra legroom at the front of the plane.  On the other hand, we got all the advantages of flying with Qantas rather than Jetstar - extra luggage allowance, blankets and pillows, food and wine, all the things you pay extra for on a budget flight. So I suppose it evened out.  The flight was full (I imagine other people from the cancelled flight were also on this one) but they had put us next to an empty seat so we had extra room to spread out.  And I think they did it deliberately.  When they were checking us in they rang somebody and then moved us from wherever we had been assigned and printed out new boarding passes. The cabin crew were surprised to find us sat next to an empty seat. I think it was the only one on the plane :-D

And then we were home again.  And now things return to their usual routine. I am about to get ready to head to work. Jim is still in bed but really he is already at work.  He gets to sleep on the job!  Rupert and Hugo are sleeping too, though they did get up when I did and relocate from the couch in the lounge room to the couches in the kitchen.  They look very settled and snuggly.

For some years I lived in a flat over a delicatessen in Sheffield.  I have to say that my flat, cute though it was, didn't look anything like as interesting as these from China Town in Singapore look:

(It didn't cost as much, either!!!)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

On the buses

In the end we took a taxi to Suntec. The reception staff said it was only a ten minute taxi ride and it wouldn't be much cheaper to go by train.  So we went by taxi and it cost just over $6.

Armed with our Big Bus Hop On Hop Off tickets (used to be Hippo buses but have now been taken over by a multinational company which has buses in Sydney but not Melbourne) we Hopped on a Yellow Line bus and tootled out past our hotel (two nearby stops, one on the Yellow Line and one Yellow and Blue lines), round the city, along to Orchard Road until the bus pulled in at the Botanic Gardens and we Hopped off

The Lakeside Market in Ballarat had been exhorting its followers on Facebook to go to the market despite the horrible weather and had been posting photos of hardy market goers all rugged up.  It wasn't absolutely convenient for Jim and me to go (although we probably would have, had we been in Ballarat).  But we could go to this

I had seen it advertised when we had been in the gardens on Friday, and had marked it as something to do if we had time.  Plus, I was curious how there could be a "Farmers" market when Singapore doesn't really have any farms!

Turns out the only actual produce that was being sold was tomatoes.  And someone had honey. Otherwise it was more of a Makers' Market.  We bought pastries and shampoo bars and mooched about chatting to the stall holders. I don't think it's a regular event, I think it might have been a pop up - but it was quite crowded and people were obviously enjoying it.

The ginger garden was rather lovely.  Plus there were bananas.  I could make bananas in ginger sauce, except I think I'd get into trouble for harvesting fruit and spices in a botanic garden :-D

We hopped back on another bus and rode back to Suntec where we had a surprisingly good hamburger and chips from a dodgy looking burger bar. Then we hopped on a blue line bus and went around for a different view of Singapore.  All the buses go in and out from Suntec, although you can, of course, hop on and off anywhere in the city, and you can change lines if you are minded.

We got off our final bus of the day a stop earlier than our nearest stop and walked along the river on Clark Quay, stopping for a drink at Hooters and to watch the boats on the river.

We finished the day with dinner in the Italian restaurant right next to our hotel.  Another good day.

Although it was ever so slightly disconcerting when I got a text message and an email shortly before we went to dinner telling me that our flight home this evening had been cancelled!!!!!  We have been re-booked on a Qantas flight an hour earlier. This doesn't seriously inconvenience us except that I suspect we won't get the extra legroom and bulkhead seats I had booked and paid for on the Jetstar flight.  Oh well.  At least we will get back home.  I hope!

Time to get dressed an get organised for the day

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Bus Tour

This hotel doesn't have lots of tourist brochures at its reception desk but it does have one, of bus trips you can take.  I had a look at it and decided that a half day city tour sounded good and booked it at the front desk on Thursday.

Our bus picked us up just before 9:30 on Friday and we drove out to Gardens by the Bay where we registered (and paid!).

I can't escape.  Even in Singapore I am tagged as RMG :-D

We went first to Little India, where we had a wander through one of the Tourist Tat markets.  I do enjoy a good Tourist Tat market.  Then we drove around the city. We couldn't go to the river mouth and greet the Merlion - most of the central streets were closed for the National Day parade. So we went directly to China Town and had extra time there.  More Tourist market stalls, but you also had the option to visit a mosque, a Hindu temple or a Buddhist temple.  Jim and I pottered around in the market.  Then we drove out to the botanic gardens and spent some time in the orchid garden

The bus then took us back to our hotel.  Sandwiches for lunch from the local supermarket and then we went for a stroll up the river.  Iced chocolates in a little cafe and a stroll back. Then a nice rest in our room.

There is a restaurant round the corner that does wagyu steak and burgers. We went there for dinner. I could get used to eating wagyu beef in a proper restaurant.  The steak was delicious and very tender.  We had shoestring fries, corn and mushrooms on the side but they were not your ordinary fries, corn  and mushrooms. No - they had been elevated to restaurant quality sides. As I say, I could get used to eating like this. My budget, however, would be Very Unhappy Indeed!!

Many of the locals were very excited about it being the National Day.  A taxi driver, who was waiting outside our hotel (not for us) wished us a Very Happy Birthday. The city is decorated for the occasion.  People have national flags flying and banners up

Early in the evening there was a fly past.  We didn't see it, but we certainly heard it.  And we caught the night time fireworks on our way back from the restaurant. We couldn't see all of it; the fireworks were at the marina and there are buildings between there and us.  But we saw enough.  Had we left the restaurant a couple of minutes earlier, we would have joined the people on the bridge.  As it was, we watched from the path.

 I am rubbish when it comes to taking photos of fireworks, but video seems to work quite well.

It was a good day.  And now we are at our last full day although we don't have to be at the airport until 6 tomorrow evening so we have most of tomorrow too. I have bought two-day passes for the Hop On Hop Off bus for us both so we have the city at our disposal.  But first we need to go to Suntec to pick the tickets up.  I think we might go by train.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Plaza Singapura

When I asked the receptionist where the nearest supermarket was on Wednesday evening, she gave me a tiny map of the very local area. We headed to the supermarket and laid in vital supplies such as milk, tea and wine.

I noted that Orchard Road didn't seem to be all that far away and that Plaza Singapura, an enormous shopping mall, was on the intersection of the main road that connects us with Orchard Road.

It was a lovely morning yesterday.  Not too hot.  Not too humid. Jim thought that he could probably walk there if we took it slowly (his feet, knees and hips are not happy about being expected to walk all over the place).

So off we went. It was a pleasant walk, up past Fort Canning Park.

En route
Through a park

And here we are.
Hello, Jelly People.  We meet again

I was a bit surprised to find a rather large one of these in Plaza Singapura:

I do like Daiso.  There is one in Richmond, not far from the flat but it's not as big or shiny as this one.

We also found one of these:

I like Coco Ichi as well.  We went there for lunch

No real need to travel as far as Japan - all my favourite Japanese things are to be found in this area of Singapore. Well, apart from Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki of course. Oh, and vending machines on every corner :-D

There's a Marks and Spencer, where we got some summer shirts for Jim.  The Build a Bear shop is now a Lego shop. There's a large supermarket in the basement. We spent all morning and part of the afternoon pottering around and (mostly :-D ) window shopping.

I have been wondering why shops, cafes, restaurants etc are offering discounts such as "buy one, get the second one at 54% off" or "selected items reduced by 54%".  Seems a very odd discount.  Then I realised that Singapore's National Day marks 54 years of life as an independent country. Made more sense after I made the connection.

The reviews for Robertson Quay Hotel almost universally slate the breakfast. I don't think it's too bad. You get a choice of two sorts of cereal, fried or scrambled eggs, toast, baked beans, chicken frankfurters. People complain that there's no variety but it seems varied enough to me.  The coffee, on the other hand, was HORRIBLE.  We headed to Starbucks to get a decent cup of coffee.  Iced coffee, I think.  

Starbucks does not do a decent iced coffee ;-(

Bitter black coffee, a bit of milk, lots of ice. Bleurgh.

The coffee shop in the centre of Plaza Singapura did better:

Made with  creamy milk, nice coffee.
Would have been perfect with ice cream

Daiso has ridden to the rescue for urgent cold coffee needs:

We turned left at the river yesterday evening and headed to Clarke Quay. There were more Japanese offerings but we went Greek instead.  A massive shared platter 

There is a layer of chips underneath this lot.
We didn't quite finish it

So a lovely day, capped by a lovely evening

Beware of unexpected dangers:

Better than being eaten by crocodiles, I suppose

Thursday, August 08, 2019


We passed our routine house inspection on Tuesday with flying colours. The boy estate agent wasn't in the house for as much as five minutes. He took a photo of each room, noticed that we have a veg garden in wooden boxes, and went away.  We had an email later in the afternoon thanking us for "maintaining the property in a neat and tidy condition".

Funny expression, "neat and tidy".  I would have said they were almost synonyms.  "Clean and tidy" would make more sense, when you think about it :-D

Anyway.  Wednesday was our wedding anniversary.  Much to our surprise, it was our tenth wedding anniversary.  We were surprised both because it hardly seems as though ten years could have passed so quickly, and also because I don't think we expected to last for almost 15 years when we first got together (it will be 15 years in January), still less be married for ten.  My mother has noted that she and my father made 63 years. Given that Jim is 77 and I am almost 64 it seems unlikely that we will match that milestone!!!!

We thought that an unexpected ten years merited something more substantial than lunch in the pub.  I suggested going to New Zealand to look at the glaciers while they were still there.  Jim reacted with horror.  Look at glaciers? In the middle of winter?  Are you mad???????????

No glaciers, then.  So I thought Singapore.  It's close enough to be viable for a short break. It's definitely not cold.  We both like it.  English is one of the official languages and most people speak it, so no need to learn Malay or Mandarin or Tamil.  I booked flights and a budget hotel by the river. If we don't particularly want to do anything much, we don't have to.  We can potter by the river and eat sandwiches, drink coffee, have wine when the day progresses far enough.  a nice quiet short break.

And here we are.  Our budget hotel is indisputably budget, but the wifi is sturdy, the location is magnificent.  I thought the bed was quite comfortable (although Jim finds it a bit hard). The shower is a good height for Jim and has good water pressure.  It lacks glasses and proper mugs in the room, but we are about to go out and fix that. It will definitely do.

We have found a supermarket close by, plus the river bank has innumerable places to eat.  It does look as though we have arrived in Little Japan - not one of the recognised areas of Singapore but there are lots of Japanese eating places near us. Given that yesterday was our actual anniversary we pushed the boat out and had dinner sat by the river in a Wagyu beef Yakiniku. It was very, very delicious, even if it did seem a bit odd to be sitting at a table with a central barbecue in high humidity and temperatures.  Although, as the sun set the humidity dropped and it was all rather pleasant.

Completely by coincidence, we are here for Singapore's National Day, which is tomorrow.  They were practising in the marina for tomorrow night's light (and firework) show.  We wondered why all the coloured lights were going on.

The view from our table

Practising the light display

The river by night

Right.  Shoes on.  Time to head out for the morning.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019


You may remember that last October Lindsey and I went to Japan for three weeks.  We were joined there by Lindsey's friend Sandy, who lives in Perth (Western Australia, not Perth Scotland!)

Sandy has been in Melbourne for the past couple of weeks and on Sunday came to Hill House for lunch, accompanied by her daughter in law.  Her son didn't come.  He was busy distressing a kitchen table.  Poor table!  Jim and I had also been invited, so up to Hill House we rocked, in time for the magnificent feast that Ian had prepared for omnivores, a vegetarian and a vegan.

We had:  slow cooked Moroccan lamb; seafood platter; roasted vegetables; green vegetables and rice; cauliflower salad; vegan friendly falafels; chocolate brownies; fruit salad; ice cream. And a lemon cake that Sandy and Bec had brought with them.  There was a lot of food.  Jim and I are man and womanfully eating our way through the leftovers

It was a great afternoon.  Rupert and Hugo were delighted to have new friends to play with. It was good to catch up with Sandy and to meet Bec

Three Amigos, reunited

Puppy love

Other than that, it was a very quiet weekend. Jim and I didn't leave the house on Saturday, unless you count a quick visit to the front garden to read the rain gauge, and a quick visit to the back garden to empty the kitchen bucket into the compost bin. I can't remember the last time we didn't go AnyWhere At All. Not even to the shop for milk and bread. We did a spot of tidying and a spot of cleaning in preparation for the "routine house inspection" that is due this morning. Apart from that, not a lot.

We are at Hill House this morning. I know that I needed to be up, dressed and ready to head down to our place to greet the estate agent when he turns up. I thought perhaps I'd go around 8:30 or 9.  The inspection is due sometime between 10 and 1, so that gives time for a lick and a polish.  I knew I needed to be up in good time.  I did not, however, need to be properly awake at 3am.  I managed, accidentally, to wake Rupert up who decided that it was clearly Getting Up time.  He nagged at a peacefully sleeping Hugo until Hugo was also properly awake.  All this woke up Jim.  I made a cup of tea for Jim and me.  And now here it is.  5am.  Jim, Rupert and Hugo have all gone back to sleep.  And I have tidied up the kitchen, had another cup of tea, done my Japanese practice, done some of my hand exercises, read the morning paper online and am still wide awake.  Not dressed, it is true. But up. And there is no point now going back to bed and trying to go back to sleep.  My alarm is set for 30 minute's time. I think it is going to be a very long day!

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Quiet Times

We haven't done very much lately.

We had a very quiet weekend, mostly at Hill House, though we did spend Sunday afternoon and evening at our place. Back up to Hill House on Monday.

We watched a bit of telly and ate and drank well.

Hugo, watching Nigella making pasta carbonara on the telly

Jim is watching too. Rupert is sleeping after a hard day of snoozing

We have had some beautiful mornings

and some cold, stormy days with lots of wind but not much rain.

Lindsey and Jim moved a squishy couch from the garage into the dining room.  Now there are two couches.  One big enough for two Great Danes, one only big enough for one.  Rupert still wants to be in sole possession of whichever couch Hugo is sleeping on!

Freyja and Simon came to dinner in the flat on Tuesday.  I made a roasted vegetable and tofu Japanese style curry.  They seemed to enjoy it.  Jim had a homemade chicken pie back at Hill House. I don't think he shared it with Rupert and Hugo.

Apart from all the usual things, like going to work, getting in supplies and stuff, nothing much has happened.  Excellent!