Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


... was a horrible, horrible day.

It was VERY hot and VERY VERY windy.

Actually, according to Lindsey's outside thermometer, it probably didn't get much above 35 or 36, which isn't unusually hot for this time of year.  It was much hotter in other parts of the state.  The wind was worrying, though.  It was a swirly, twirly wind that made the trees dance.

From Hill House you can see right across the plain as far as the Grampians.  If there should be a fire in that direction you would be able to see it well in advance.  You can't see any fires coming up behind you, though.  The Hill is in the way!

In fact, there weren't many fires near us.  A couple of small ones that weren't particularly concerning. We needed to be watchful, though.  We didn't want to be trapped at the top of the driveway, not able to get off the property.

I was very worried about the wind. Hugo kept going outside and lying down under one of the trees. I could see why that would be enticing if you happen to be a Great Dane.  He, however, was not remotely concerned that a large branch might blow off the snow gum and squash him.  Or, indeed, that the tree he was lying under might squash him.

Had I realised that the fire danger rating for the day was Extreme, I might have bundled everyone into the car and gone away. But by the time I did realise I could see a cool change coming across from the west. Anyway, as far as I could see the whole state was rated at Extreme.  There didn't seem to be anywhere much safer to go.

It was somewhat surreal, though, when I got a breaking news alert to say that residents of Bundoora, Mill Park and Greensborough were under immediate fire threat and that some parts of Bundoora had been advised that was too late to leave.  Bundoora!  That's near the surgery.  It's a suburb of Melbourne.  It's true that it used to be a semi-rural area and then became an outer suburb.  But it isn't now. It's been well and truly swallowed up by suburban Melbourne. Fortunately, all was well. It was all a bit bizarre though.

In the end, the cool change reached us on Hill House.  It brought some rain with it.  Not enough to trouble the rain gauge at our place when I checked it this evening (although I don't really know how much it rained at the bottom of the hill). Enough, however, to reduce the risk of grass fire round about us.  I poured a glass of wine, sorted out a chicken salad for dinner and relaxed.

It's much cooler today and the forecast is much, much better.  We were lucky. Much luckier than the people in East Gippsland.  Conditions there remain horrendous. I must say that had I been holidaying or even living there, when "They" called for people in East Gippsland to evacuate a day or so before the expected fire storms - I would have gone. It is very, very unusual for an early evacuation warning to be issued for a whole region.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Liminal Days of the Interfest

We had Christmas Day breakfast at Hill House, prepared by Emily and Andre

We had lunch at our place

We had Christmas Night dinner at Simon's place, prepared by Simon and Christian

We had Boxing Day breakfast at Ghost's House (prepared by the person who makes the muffins for the 7-11 :-D)

We have had summer lunches out and light evening meals in.

The sun has shone and the weather has been glorious.

Stella has been at Hill House with Rupert and Hugo. So have we.  Lindsey and Ian have been in Sydney.  Now we have taken her back to her house.  Rupert, Hugo, Jim and I remain at Hill House.

Today it is hot and windy and we are watchful for fires and smoke

We have, of course, been confused about what day it is. Although I mark them off on the calendar, the calendar is at our place and we are not.

I have updated the website to reflect a retirement and new beginnings and new patterns. I go back to work tomorrow and the days will return to something like normality. But not full normality. Not yet.

For we wait. Poised for something.

The end of a decade.

And the start of a new one.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Christmas Eve at Hill House

 If you are going to have a hearty meal, first you must walk the hill:

The house is dressed for the festivities:

Lindsey found teeny, tiny crackers:

For a decent feast you need feasters:

Emily and Andre came to join us
So did Simon and his friend Beth.  Jim's here as well
So are Freyja and Stella just not in shot
At the Feasting Table, including Freyja and Stella
(but not Emily or Andre  who are there but not pictured
- and, oddly, no photos of Ian at all :S )

I was particularly pleased with my vegan friendly trifle
 I seem to have loads of photos of Hugo and none of Rupert.  Unusual for him to be so bashful!

Monday, December 23, 2019

A quiet weekend

We didn't really do very much over the weekend.  A little bit of shopping. A bit of tidying. A bit of pottering. A bit of baking.

Apart from that nothing much. We didn't even leave the house and garden yesterday.

We did have a visitor

I think it's a bit shy. It was sat outside the laundry door, quietly, minding its own business. It didn't seem particularly minded to come inside.  I think it might have heard Jim suggesting that we should "remove" it. We may have slightly overdone the warnings about the dangers to be found in some Australian critters!  I might not have been quite as sanguine had a redback spider been sitting by the back door but a huntsman won't hurt you. In fact, they are quite companionable creatures to have around.  They don't usually dash about, but tend to stay in the same place for several days unless disturbed.  They eat flies and other annoying insects. There are worse visitors to have.  Although it must be said that they are definitely alarming if they get into the car and unexpectedly drop on you while you are driving :-D

I wonder if it's still there.  I'll go out shortly and have a look.

Oh - and I have finally sorted out the calendars. I still don't know why some photos could be used and others not, but I converted a load of photos into Jpeg format and they were all acceptable.  Because I made them so late they won't get here until January is well underway.  So I  have made the starting month February.  Recipients of the calendars will be members of a Secret Society who will celebrate New Year's Eve on January 31st, New Year's Day on February 1st and the Queen's Birthday on February 2nd (which is Stella's birthday).

I'm just not sure what I'll do for a kitchen calendar for January 2020.  I may have to draw a calendar for the month so I've got somewhere to put appointments and fun things


It was ever so slightly on the warm side on Friday.

I was out watering the vegetable boxes by about 5:30 in the morning. We soaked the front garden.  We closed the curtains and shut all the windows. Then Jim wandered up to Hill House and I went to work with Lindsey.

It was quite quiet in the surgery. Come to that, it was quite quiet in the shopping centre. Very quiet when you consider how close it was to Christmas.

I went to Costco to collect sandwiches and chicken wings and sushi for lunch.  I got there about 15 or 20 minutes after it opened.  It was absolutely PACKED. People were obviously getting their Costco shopping done before the full brunt of the heat hit. It might also have explained why Summerhill was so quiet.

We had a practice lunch to celebrate the imminent retirement of one of the partners.  We closed the surgery at lunchtime for an hour. We had LOTS of food - not only did we have the Costco offerings but also pretty much everyone who came brought something. We borrowed bench top ovens from some of the staff to heat the sausage rolls, meat balls, Lebanese pastries and other things.

And everyone came.  Staff who weren't working. Retired doctors and their partners. Plus, of course, those of us who were already there. It was a lovely little party.

This is how Lindsey's car dashboard looked on our way home

Just a bit warm.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


I spent most of the weekend shopping.

Not unusual, I hear you say. You are often to be found shopping. You go to markets and farm shops and the butcher and the greengrocer and the supermarket.

True. I do. And I did. We went to the Lakeside market on Saturday morning. We went to the supermarket. I didn't get to the butcher.

I hardly ever go into Myer. Come to think of it, I don't very often go into any department store.  So I was somewhat surprised to find myself in the Ballarat store not once but twice over the weekend. And, I actually bought something!  Jim and I had gone in with Lindsey (who was intending to buy things) but I had had no actual shopping expectations.  But there, in front of me, was the very thing I had intended to buy for my Christmas present exchange partner on Christmas night.  So I figured I might as well get it, since it was there.

They have been extending the Delacombe Town Centre shopping complex over the last year or so. There is now a Bunnings (think B&Q). We've been into the Bunnings a couple of times since it opened. But just recently they have opened a Dan Murphy wine store and a Petstock and a little arcade of smaller shops. There were already a Kmart and a Woolworths. The Delacombe shops now have pretty much everything we usually use (apart, of course, from the markets, farm shops etc, although it does have a butcher's shop and a greengrocery). No need to drive to several locations around the Ballarat city centre any more.

I think I now have, or at least have ordered pretty much everything I need for Christmas.  Except I haven't made the calendars. I must, must, must do that tomorrow. The difficulty is that the webpage I use to make the calendars is refusing to accept many of the photos I want to use - and I can't work out why.  It isn't the file type. It doesn't seem to be the file size.  I took two photos, seconds apart of very similar things. The file types are the same. The file size is the same. I can't see anything different between the two photos. But one is acceptable and one is not. It's very odd.  It's not an insurmountable problem. I can change the unaccepted photos into a format that is acceptable but that is time consuming and inconvenient. It's very annoying.  I've looked at other websites but the same problem arises.  I guess I'll just have to griddle my lions and get on with it. Tomorrow. I am about to go to work now.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Birthday Feasting

It was my birthday last Saturday.

On the whole it was a very quiet day

Especially if you are a pampered Great Dane

The dogs are being very quiet.
I wonder where they are?
We started the day at Hill House and meandered down to our place around lunch time and pottered about in the garden

Lindsey and Ian came by at around 7:15 (in a taxi) and took us to Kambei where we had what is becoming the customary Birthday Dinner - the 6 course tasting menu. We've been there for 3 out of the past 4 years.  (We stayed at home and had crayfish salad for the missing year)

My birthday weekend continued to be quiet and peaceful. We pottered in the garden some more. We pottered in the house. We pottered out to the Delacombe shops. We pottered into the evening.  Lovely!

My birthday celebrations continued even unto Tuesday. Lindsey and I went to Brunswick in the evening and met Freyja and Simon at the Cornish Arms on Sydney Road for my birthday present of Dinner Out. It is not a pub that I had noticed before and it has a good menu catering for omnivores and vegans. The food is very good. You can walk to it from Freyja and Simon's place. It's not really walkable from the flat but it is tram-able.  Lindsey and I had taxied there because of time constraints but we trammed back, via the city centre where we stopped to look at the Christmas lights.

So  a much feasted birthday.  We should probably turn our attention now to Christmas which is bearing down upon us at speed.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019


It was a very festive weekend.

The RMG Christmas party was on Friday evening, at a pizza place in Strathmore. Lindsey, Jim and I went by train - and got rained on going from the tram to Parliament station. Ian came by car from Bacchus Marsh, didn't get rained on but also couldn't have much to drink. The good news from Lindsey, Jim's and my point of view was that we got driven home, didn't get rained on and could indulge in the wine and good food.

On Saturday Ian went back to Bacchus Marsh, Lindsey and I did the shops on Smith Street and Brunswick Street and Jim loitered in the flat. He and I had dinner in the Prince Patrick - and were engulfed by a 70th birthday party which appeared around us as we were finishing our dinner.

Sunday saw us making our way to Macedon for lunch at Chris and John's place, together with Irene and Gillie. We went by public transport. Our seniors' cards give us free tram travel at the weekends.  They also give us travel vouchers which can be exchanged for off peak travel in Victoria.  I have never used my vouchers but noticed them on my desk when we were getting ready to head to Melbourne on Friday. I picked them up and exchanged them for train tickets to and from Macedon. All of this meant that our travel to and from Sunday lunch in the country cost us absolutely nothing!  We had a magnificent lunch with good food, plenty of wine and good company.

Breakfast out on Monday at the coffee bar under our feet at the flat and then Jim and I went home.

I am, however, a bit puzzled.  My new-ish work jeans that fitted perfectly well last time I wore them were a bit on the tight side when I put them on yesterday morning. I can't think why

The surgery is getting ready for Christmas