Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Saturday, December 31, 2022

New Year's Eve

Freyja contacted me a couple of days ago, to ask if I fancied going to Harry's Hepburn for lunch today. I certainly did!

We asked Stella if she fancied joining us. She did!

We didn't invite Jim. I thought Harry's might be too small and crowded for his comfort. I took him back a lemon meringue tart instead.

It was a beautiful day for a drive out to Hepburn Springs, which is not far from Daylesford and takes about 45 minutes from Mount Clear. We went past the Swiss Mountain Hotel in Blampied, which we have taken Stella to a few times. You can see a ring of small non-active volcanoes as you drive across the plain, and then we drove through a sunlit forest. And, Greatest Blessing of All - found a parking spot just across the road from Harry's in Hepburn Springs.

Gathered for lunch (I was there too!):

And here is my lunch:

There is a piece of steak somewhere under all that
and some cheese-loaded chips under the steak!!

I took Stella back to her place, then visited Jim, with his lemon meringue pie and some pear juice to go on the side. He seemed quite happy - especially when he saw the pie!

Then I went to the supermarket to get supplies for tomorrow. We are gathering at my place for lunch, to see in 2023. It's supposed to be in the mid-30s tomorrow so I am thinking cold food rather than the proper Sunday roast that I might otherwise have done. Although there will, of course, be hot roast potatoes. I think there might be a coup in my kitchen if there were no hot roast potatoes at a celebratory feast!

I will not be staying up to see out 2022. I think lunch at Harry's was a sufficient acknowledgement of its passing. I will greet the New Year as the day dawns in the morning, with the tuneful warbling of the magpies and, if I'm lucky, the laughter of kookaburras.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

The InterFest

We took Stella and Jim to the Golden Point hotel for lunch on Tuesday. Lindsey, Ian, Freyja, Simon and Stephen and I all accompanied them. It was something of an experiment in taking Jim out. His social graces are slowly deserting him. 

He is not usually particularly disruptive, although he can be noisy sometimes. But his table manners can be, unusual. Not a problem if he is in a private home, but some restaurants and places might find it a bit disconcerting when he tries to stuff all the roast potatoes in his mouth, like a manic hamster. No roast potatoes for the rest of us!

I collected Stella from her room and we went to collect Jim. He was sitting on his bed, mostly naked, not very fragrant and most definitely not ready for an outing!!!! I asked for someone to help me clean him up and get him dressed. A carer turned up and efficiently showered him and got him dressed. Much more acceptable for an outing - and much more fragrant.

Apart from that slight hitch, the outing was a success. The Golden Point hotel has a large family dining room, which was full of families with children, and old people and younger people and everyone. People were very helpful as I navigated a wheelchair and a walker to our table. Nobody particularly noticed us, although one of the staff did tell us off for moving a chair to the head of the table and propping the walker there. Apparently it was a trip hazard in a designated walkway. She did nothing about the children's shoes scattered all over the floor, and then put the errant chair in front of the cupboard containing the fire equipment 😂

We had a lovely lunch. Jim very much enjoyed his fish and chips and pint of ale - and the piece of my pizza which I couldn't finish. I think everyone enjoyed their food. It was very busy, and our food and drinks took a while to get to us, but the food was hot and fresh and the staff were pleasant and friendly.

He was very well behaved, perfect table manners, nice and relaxed and calm. We will take him there again.

Freyja, Simon and Stephen went back to Melbourne. I found myself alone in my house, apart from the cats. I quite like living alone, but it was strangely quiet on Tuesday evening.

I was at work yesterday, the first day back after a four and a half day break for the surgery. It wasn't as busy as you might have expected it to be. And people were generally happy and calm. The shopping centre also wasn't as busy as I expected it to be. The traffic was delightful. We should have more days like that.

Today, after several days of 35℃+ temperatures it is cool (cold, in my view :D) and overcast and a bit damp. I think the top temperature is due to be around 19°. I wish someone could convince the Weather Dogs that there is a happy medium. Summer days of around 24, 25° with a light breeze are very pleasant. Mind you, temperatures of 35°+ do help with drying the washing. It took almost no time to get all the sheets and towels washed and dried.

I knew I had turned into a grown up when, living in Tupton, I woke up one summer morning to a beautiful day, blue skies, sunshine, warm temperatures - and went looking for things to wash 😃

Tuesday, December 27, 2022


Lindsey and I went out for a little gentle shopping on Saturday. We didn't do our usual First Thing In The Morning Early shop for Christmas but we did hit the supermarket - and went out to the Tomato Farm at Yendon which was doing a small market. We had gone to the Mushroom Farm on Thursday. No need to go back.

I enjoyed the little market at Yendon. We run across the tomato farmer at the actual markets but they had a small number of producers that I haven't seen before. There was one stall selling honey, plus their own blended flavoured salts. I am not a huge fan of salt, but Freyja loves it. I got her some lemon myrtle salt and some smoked salt. I bought some black garlic salt for Ian. And some tomatoes, cucumber - and Australian native herb flavoured stuffing mix for me

Usually, I host Christmas Eve. This year, we went to Hill House. Emily and Andre are over from Canada. Stephen, of course, is here from England. We sprung Stella from the care home. It was a good evening. Ian cooked up a mighty seafood spread. Lindsey and I did not queue up to collect it. And neither did Ian. He had collected it earlier in the week!

Ross turned up and took Freyja and Simon to my place, and Stephen to the cathedral for the midnight service.

I slept in my room at Hill House.

I came down to Tani early on Christmas morning, which was a beautiful day. We had breakfast in the courtyard, then Stephen and I went to the 10:00 service, back at the cathedral. We took Jim to Hill house for Christmas lunch, where we had a light lunch of chicken, ham, left overs from Christmas Eve, salad.

Freyja, Simon and Stephen went with Ross to Our Friend Pat's house. I took Jim back to the care home and then drove to Melbourne.

My bed, dressed for Christmas

Emily and Andre

Rupert and Stephen

Jim on Christmas Day

I was staying at Freyja and Simon's house, which is about 2 km from my brother Simon's house, where the Christmas Night feast was being hosted. I decided to walk there, despite the heat. We haven't had a hot summer for several years and the spring was cold and wet. So a hot evening was unexpected, to me, at least. I briefly considered taking the car but then I would have had to go and collect it early on Boxing Day morning.

I was VERY hot when I arrived at Simon's place. Lindsey offered to pour a bottle of cold water over my head. I declined her kind offer. We had a mighty feast, lots of food, lots of people. Then Emily drove me back to Westgarth. She drove Lindsey and Stella to the flat.

I think Stephen thinks we usually spend Christmas rushing about all over the place. He, Freyja, Simon and Ross were at Hill House for the night looking after the dogs. I was at Freyja and Simon's place, looking after their cat. My cats were left to their own devices. In fact, I don't usually travel at all at Christmas. Either I stay at Hill House, where the Christmas Feast is usually held, or Wendy takes me down to my place and I wake up in my own bed on Boxing Day morning.

It was therefore disconcerting to wake up in Melbourne and then to have to make my way back to Ballarat. There was a lot more traffic than I was expecting, particularly once I got past Bacchus Marsh. There isn't usually that amount of traffic even during peak hour during the week!!

Freyja, Simon, Stephen and I went to the Ballarat Wildlife Park, where we had a picnic lunch and then wandered around on a surprisingly hot Boxing Day to look at the animals. The koalas had misting pipes overhead. The kangaroos were lounging around in the shade. The penguins were swimming in their pool.

I'm in my pool too!

though I would eat any spare food you happen to have

The coat of arms, in the shade 

Koalas in the mist

I see no need to move, I have food on hand.

Today is a public holiday, in lieu of Christmas Day, which was on Sunday. It's going to be another hot day, with cooler temperatures for the rest of the week. It's a beautiful morning. Stephen is here with me. Freyja and Simon are at Ross' place. Time for another cup of tea, I think. And I must water the pots and tubs before the sun reaches around to them. And I think that tonight, most people will be back in their own beds. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022


I got the text message (and email) telling me that Freyja and my flight had been delayed by two and a bit hours while Stephen and I were waiting for the bus back to the hotel on Saturday afternoon.

At least the delay didn't happen once we had boarded!

So instead of rushing to the hotel, grabbing our bags and hotfooting it out to the airport, we went back, collected our bags and sat in the foyer for a while. Freyja ate some of the stuff she had bought at the vegan deli. Stephen had a pizza from the bakery. I had one of their sticky buns.

Then we went to the airport by train. Taxi is, of course, quicker but costs around SGD 30. The train cost us each around SGD 2, using out travel passes. And we were now in no hurry.

We delivered Stephen to the calm, collected and civilised Terminal 3, where there was a brass band playing Christmas songs, where he checked in to his Singapore Air flight and ambled through into Departures. Freyja and I went to the chaotic, busy and frenetic Terminal 1 for our Jetstar flight. No brass band for us!

We were still very early for our flight so had a wander around airside. We had a drink. Freyja had another wander. Then we boarded and headed back to Oz.

We had no trouble getting back into Australia. We used the machines to go through immigration. We went to collect our baggage. Freyja's bag came through in no time. Mine did not! It was one of the last bags to come through. This wouldn't normally matter, but we still had to tackle the very long queue for customs, and if I didn't make the 12:45 shuttle bus back to Ballarat, there wasn't another one for two hours. I was very tired of sitting around and waiting for things!

Fortunately, we got through quite quickly. I had 15 minutes to get to the shuttle bus departure spot. It's about a 12 minute brisk walk! Stephen had arrived well before us and he and Simon were waiting in a coffee shop. Simon had bought a coffee for me, which I grabbed as I dashed past (belated thanks to Simon for the coffee) and walked as briskly as I could to the bus stop. I got there just as the bus was pulling up!!!

Lindsey met me at the station and took me home.Were the cats pleased to see me? Hard to say. They said hello, and then went out through the patio door, which I opened as I came in, to lie in the courtyard in the sunshine. Rupert and Hugo were pleased to see me when I came up to Hill House yesterday. Normal life has been restored!

Oh - and my uncharged Fitbit held up until five minutes to midnight, Melbourne time, when the weekly step challenge ended. I came second on the leaderboard. This was quite an achievement - which I do not expect to replicate this week!!

Not as tropical, green or warm as the
garden at Lyf Farrer
but a perfectly adequate spot
for an evening tipple

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Singapore 6

Last day of our holiday, which has gone very quickly!

We had breakfast in The Old Hen, which is where we had our first breakfast in Singapore. I was very impressed with them. Not only is the food nice, and the coffee delicious - but they remembered the variations we had with our orders. Avocado, no egg for Freyja. Eggs on toast, plain butter, not garlic butter for me. Oat milk latte, not cow's milk, for Freyja. Given that we had only been in once, 5 days ago, I thought it was remarkable that he remembered all that!

Checkout wasn't until 12:00, so we went back to our rooms and packed and got organised. At 11:30 we met in the foyer, left our bags, and made our way to the MacRitchie Reservoir Park, which Freyja had found while pottering around on the Internet.

We went by bus. So now we have: taxi, MRT trains, boat, cable cars, light rail and buses on our transport list. I think the only thing we have left is the monorail. No time for the monorail this time. We'll have to do it next time.

The MacRitchie Reservoir Park is lovely. An Oasis in the middle of urban Singapore. We only touched the surface of it, but we really enjoyed our walk around, even if it rained halfway through. At least this time it was warm, light rain.

Had time permitted and the Weather Dogs allowed we might have done the tree top walk. Alas, not this time. 

Freyja saw two small monkeys running up a tree. I did not 😔

When we said we were going to Singapore, Stella said that we had to go to Raffles. You can't, apparently, go to Singapore without going to Raffles - although I have. Several times! It turned out that people had also asked Stephen if he planned to go to Raffles for a drink. They were also asking Freyja. We thought, perhaps, that we had better go to Raffles.

So we did. On the bus.

The Weather Dogs were indulging in a tropical rainstorm when we got off the bus. Fortunately, the bus stop in next to a covered colonnade, which takes you to the staircase for the Long Bar.

Should you be minded to visit The Long Bar in Raffles, you might be best to go during the week, and not mid-afternoon on a Saturday. Be also aware that you might need to queue to get a table. Keep in mind  that the only food they serve in The Long Bar is a large, complimentary sack of unshelled peanuts, which they plomp on the table as you arrive. Peanut shells, by some weird tradition that I don't know about but which you can look up if minded, get thrown on the floor. If you want to eat as well as drink, you need to go into the courtyard, or some other place in the hotel. We did not feel the need to eat sitting outside in a torrential rainstorm!

We queued for less than 30 minutes to get in. We didn't particularly mind. We were undercover and had books with us, plus we could watch the street in the rain from a nice dry vantage point. Freyja and Stephen had Singapore Slings, as is customary. You will be aware that I am not really a drinker of cocktails. I had a glass of wine. We ate some of the peanuts and, as required, threw the debris on the floor. Freyja and Stephen enjoyed their Singapore Slings, though I don't know if they would have them again. We threw caution to the winds and had a second drink. The waiter recommended the Christmas cocktail menu.

Stephen had one of Rudolph's cocktails, I don't remember its name but it was chocolate flavoured and creamy. He said it was very nice, but it would best with a cup of coffee after Christmas lunch. Freyja had a Santa's Old Fashioned. At least, I think it was an Old Fashioned. I had another glass of wine. Nothing adventurous about me!

I'm not sure I would go again, although I wouldn't absolutely refuse. I'm glad I have been in, and it's quite interesting,  but it's a very expensive way to had a drink (which you would, of course, expect)

Then Freyja went to buy supplies for the plane from a nearby vegan deli. Stephen and I went in search of the cathedral, which I knew was nearby. It had stopped raining, and everything was more or less dry!

We fetched up in the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, which is the RC cathedral. Stephen is an Anglican, and there is an Anglican cathedral somewhere close by. We went in anyway. I think it's beautiful. It's quite understated, reasonably plain, and (I think) gorgeous

We walked by the Anglican cathedral on our way to the bus stop, but didn't have time to visit. Stephen is just going to have to come back, for the monorail and the other cathedral. A perfectly good reason to visit Singapore from Sheffield!

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Singapore 5

We did Chinatown yesterday. We took the metro and then just pottered around the markets, laneways and streets. Completely chaotic, compared to much of Singapore. Lively. Vibrant. Fun.

There are many murals like this in Chinatown

Taking my Christmas tree for a walk :D 

Then we called into a large Buddhist temple complex

Stephen made the comment that we hadn't really seen very much sunshine while we had been here. I think he regretted that comment when the sun did come out - and it got quite hot!!

I think he regretted even more that he had also commented that he hadn't seen any of the torrential downpours that people had spoken of. As if on cue - the torrential rains came at the exact time we were setting off to meet Freyja in a shopping complex where she had found a vegetarian/vegan Japanese restaurant. We were completely drenched by the time we got there. Soaked through to my underwear, I was! Fortunately, the rain was warm rain, but I really could have managed without a tropical downpour!

Me - soaked to the skin at the restaurant

Stephen's first taste of natto
and his first attempt using chopsticks


We walked back. The rain hadn't stopped, but it was no longer torrential and we were still wet anyway. And it wasn't far. Then we changed into dry clothes and met in the garden for our last evening's tipple. We're going home later tonight. Or, Freyja and I are going home. Stephen is also coming to Australia, but his home is in England. He's not going home until sometime later in January

They've Christmassed up the foyer in our hotel

Friday, December 16, 2022

Singapore 4

If you look at the little transit map, there is a section in the top corner that looks like little dragonflies


I quite liked the idea of traveling around by dragonfly, but it turned out that they were a small light rail system.

We went out to have a look, and travelled round the Punggol loop. It's very cute. The light rail trains are one or two carriages. We got a good view of some of the residential apartment blocks, and even glimpses across the strait into Malaysia

Then we took the metro all the way back down to the bay and went to play with the Gardens by the Bay. It was raining when we got there, so we couldn't buy tickets for the Sky Walk. But we could wander around the gardens themselves, which are free to access. It wasn't raining much, and it stopped shortly after we arrived

I take it that the next Chinese year will be the Year of the Rabbit 😀

I was not a little dismayed late yesterday afternoon to discover that our little community fridge, conveniently located right outside our bedroom doors, had been taken away for "maintenance". Due back in two days, according to the notice. Fortunately, my water bottle wasn't in it, only because I hadn't got around to putting it back after taking it on our day's adventures. But our milk was in it and I was definitely going to want a cup of tea this morning when I got up.

Freyja went to the cinema. Stephen and I met at the Pizza place in the foyer, bought pizzas and repaired to the garden to eat them and to drink our wine. We called at the convenience store for replacement milk. They only had UHT milk. But needs must, and I couldn't be bothered going all the way across the road back to the supermarket. 

When Stephen and I got back to our rooms - the fridge was back!!! And so was our milk. Although the KFC boxes which had been in the fridge since we got here had disappeared. So had lots of other stuff that had been there since we arrived. I was pleased to see the return of our milk, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the carton of UHT milk. I don't need it here and I can't take it back to Oz. I might label it as free for anyone to use and put it in the kitchen on Level 4

I have been doing very well in the Fitbit step challenge this week. Normally I am towards the bottom of the pack (made up of family members around the world, and one friend who bravely joins us each week). This week I am easily towards the top of the pack. Alas - I haven't brought my Fitbit charger cable with me and my Fitbit is about to run out of juice. I would buy a cable but you can't easily buy them in the shops and I don't need an actual new Fitbit. Back to the bottom of the pack I go. I shall just have to treasure the memory of the day I was at the TOP of the leaderboard. Until Freyja synched her Fitbit and pushed me to second 😂