Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Thursday, November 28, 2019

We went to the Flinders pub for lunch on Sunday.  It has good food and some local wines and it is, of course, a lovely drive there and back, especially if you drive along the golf course road along the top of the cliffs.  Some lovely views of Westernport Bay and Phillip Island

Here is Stella doing a remarkably good job of representing the Queen in a recent conversation with her third child:

*WHAT* did you say?

And Jim, channelling Prince Phillip:

He did what?????????

Then laughing at my photos:

We enjoyed our lunches, though I am not sure Stella really enjoyed hers

Confit duck with lentils

She had to force herself to eat every scrap:

Except the green things. She doesn't do green things

Saturday, November 23, 2019

I was driving to work on Wednesday and listening to the breakfast show on Radio National. There was much consternation about the weather conditions in South Australia.  Extremely hot, extremely windy and extreme fire danger, rising to catastrophic in some parts of the state.

You can keep that, I thought, as I turned into the car park.

It is true that, on the whole, our weather comes from the direction of South Australia.  Before weather forecasting got more accurate computers and modelling, if you wanted to know what the weather was going to be like in Melbourne tomorrow you would look and see what it was doing in Adelaide today. It's not an absolute given, but it's close enough.

It was therefore unsurprising that for Thursday, parts of Victoria were graded as Code Red for fire danger (the equivalent of Catastrophic in other states) and there was a statewide total fire ban.

We were not in any of the Code Red parts of the state (if we had been I would have put Jim, Rupert and Hugo in the car on Wednesday evening and gone elsewhere). But we did have very strong, swirly, gusty wind.  By lunchtime it was about 38d. We had the air conditioning on in the lounge room to keep the dogs cool, plus we had loads of containers filled with water both in and outside the house - for the dogs and the birds and anything else that was thirsty.

There were no fires close to us, although it was hard to tell what the band of cloud/smoke/mist/mirk/whatever which was heading towards us from the west was.  It turned out it was cloud and dust. It didn't bring any rain, but it did bring a cool change.  At 1pm the temperature was 38d and the wind was from the north.By 2:30 it was 20d and the wind was from the south west.  By 4pm it was 15d and when we went to bed it was around 10d.

When I got up yesterday morning I gave serious consideration to putting the heating on!!  I didn't but it definitely was not very warm. My poor summer vegetable seedlings, some of which I have just planted out, are very confused.

Jim, Rupert and I were in the dining room on Wednesday afternoon, shortly before the cool change went through.  Hugo was sleeping in the lounge room.  Suddenly he came belting down the hallway and rushed out into the side garden barking loudly.  This woke Rupert up who also ran outside to help with whatever it was.  I went down to the front garden and went out to see what was going on.  All I could see was a rubbish bin that had blown over.  I wouldn't have thought that that would upset Hugo quite so much, but I picked it up and pushed it against the wall.

Later in the afternoon I heard a commotion in the lounge room.  Lindsey had returned home and was yelling at us to close the kitchen door. Hugo was barking.  Rupert, Jim and I went to find out why. And there was a young fox on the front lawn, paying no attention at all to Hugo (and now Rupert) barking at it.  It ambled off once it noticed that there were now also three humans watching it through the window.  Jim has seen it again since.  I wonder if it was the fox that had Hugo so exercised earlier in the afternoon. I thought his reaction was a bit extreme for a blown over rubbish bin!

Off to Mount Martha later this morning.  Fortunately most of the bits of trees that blew around on Thursday have been cleared away and the weather conditions are pleasant and mild. Lindsey says it was HORRIBLE driving back to Ballarat on Thursday. Much nicer today.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

And home

It is quite disconcerting when you have checked yourselves and your bags in at the airport, decided have something to eat before heading airside and have just sat down with a mushroom and cheese burger, chips and a glass of wine --- and your name is paged to return to the checkin counter (just as well we hadn't already gone airside!)

I went to find out  why they wanted me and what was wrong.

They had isolated Wendy's suitcase.  Apparently there was a battery in it.  This surprised me a bit.  I couldn't think what Wendy would be carrying that would upset the battery scanner.  The staff asked if I minded if they had a look.  I did not mind.  They couldn't find a battery. We looked in all the pockets. They shuffled through the contents.  No battery.  So bit by bit they unpacked Wendy's VERY carefully packed small suitcase.  No battery.  So they divided up the contents into small bundles and put them through the scanner in little trays.  Eventually, right at the very bottom, they found a small battery power pack.  This also surprised me.  It didn't seem like the sort of thing that Wendy would be carrying, plus she had watched Lindsey unpack her suitcase when we saw the multiple signs warning that mobile batteries (like power packs) had to be carried in the carry on luggage.

The staff and I re-packed the little suitcase - not quite so carefully but we did manage to get it properly closed. Then I went back to my abandoned burger, chips and wine and to berate Wendy for not having removed the battery in the first place.

She was completely bewildered.  She didn't have any batteries of any sort. I showed her the power pack.  "What is it?"she asked.  Not hers.  But in her suitcase.  I looked at it more closely.  It had an iPhone jack which didn't fit Wendy's phone.  Then light dawned.  She was using Tony's small suitcase.  The one he used for hospital trips or short visits, say, to Ballarat.  Extra power packs were exactly the sort of thing he would carry. Wendy hadn't noticed it tucked in the bottom corner of the bag and wouldn't have know what it was even if she had seen it.  Trust Tony to cause a degree of confusion at the end of our trip.  And Stella is complaining that we apparently took him on our travels but refused to take her - and she isn't dead yet :-D

Otherwise, our journey home was completely uneventful.  We didn't get much sleep on the overnight flight from Tokyo to the little Gold Coast airport but I got a bit.  We had plenty of time to get through immigration and customs and then catch our onward flight to Melbourne (It had a 110 minute turnaround time which I thought would be a bit tight but turned out to be plenty). Wendy took herself home on a suburban bus which very conveniently goes past her street - although it takes quite a bit of time. Lindsey and I taxied back to the flat and collected her car.

And now she is at her place, and Jim and I are at ours.  I should probably think about getting dressed. It's lunchtime and I am still in my pyjamas!

Final Day

We decided to make our final day a relatively easy day, so we abandoned our luggage at the hotel and set off into Tokyo station on the train

Tokyo Station.
I have never seen the outside before.
I tend to pass through the inside looking for metro stops,
the shinkansen
or the Narita Express.
It's a beautiful building on the outside - and much calmer!

We made our way to the Hop Bus stop and then spent most of the day cruising around on the tourist buses

When you are in Tokyo, you should remember to raise your eyes to the heavens:

Akihabara, electronics heaven

Akihabara again

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Skytree

But don't forget to look at eye level as well:

Asakusa from the bus

Sight seeing by go kart

while dressed as cartoon characters and super heroes

Watch out for wild predators:

Unexpected attack by Star Wars:

and Christmas:

Above all, remember to watch your feet:

Friday, November 15, 2019


We fly home tonight at just before 9:00 so we need to be at the airport for 6.  Check out time for both the Teeny Tiny apartment in Kuramae and for most hotels is 11am.  In most hotels you can leave your luggage for the day.  Most apartments don't have provision for that.

So when we were planning this trip, Lindsey and I thought it would be good to have our last night in a hotel.  We could leave our luggage and go out for the day, before checking in later in the afternoon. And, we can leave our luggage in the morning and head out for a last day of exploring.

So we did.  I found the Hotel Niwa (which means garden in Japanese) and booked us into a three bed room. I don't think our three bed room in the hotel is significantly smaller than the two bedroom apartment in Kuramae and there is much more room to move :-D

We abandoned our bags and took off to explore.  First of all, shopping in Ginza. A wander through Loft, a potter in the Tokyu Plaza. Japanese pizzas for lunch. Then in to the Hibiya Park and on to the Imperial Park to gaze at the Imperial Palace.

I turned around from taking photos to find Lindsey trying to explain to an American lady how to get to Tokyo station. We think that eventually the lady had grasped the route but I wasn't confident she could actually read the map. Then she pointed to the bridge leading up to the Imperial Palace and asked why we weren't allowed up there. We managed to remain polite as we explained that wandering up there would be much like ambling into Buckingham Palace or the White House. Not something you would be likely to do and if you did you would be arrested!

Hibiya Park

Hibiya Park

You could almost be in East Melbourne walking through this park

And then you turn around and see this - definitely NOT in East Melbourne!

One of the Queen's swans has emigrated!
 Back at the hotel, it was very tempting to put our pyjamas on and to declare the day finished.  However, we had promised ourselves a proper dinner to finish the trip and there is a restaurant in the hotel.  So it is true that we didn't actually have to leave the building but it seemed slightly inappropriate to go to dinner in our PJs.

We were very glad we decided to leave our day clothes on.  The restaurant offers a tasting menu.  And this was it:

Course 1:

Course 2:

 Course 3:

Course 4:

 Course 5:

And finally, course 6:

Very, very pretty. Very, very tasty

(Some of the food photos are Lindsey's)