Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Ziggy is back And Stephen has Gone

The last weekend in January was Stephen's last weekend with us. We had heard tell of a pop up Vegemite exhibition in Beaufort at the weekend. Sounded intriguing.

So Freyja, Simon and Stephen came up for the weekend on the train.

Lindsey, Wendy and I went to the Zoo drive market, then Wendy and I collected Stella in Lindsey's car (which she had very kindly lent me) and made our way to Beaufort. Freyja, Simon and Stephen went in Julia, Travis and Henry's people carrier.

The exhibition was in a little room off what used to be a small service station on the approach to the Beaufort shops. It was small, cute and reasonably typical of exhibitions in small country towns and villages, I suspect around the world:

Freyja, Stephen and Stella on the Beaufort Main Street
Photo, I think, by Wendy

Then we headed out to the lake for a picnic lunch. Fish and chips from the Beaufort chippy, and picnic food that Julia brought.

It was a really good day - although Stella was very, very tired when she got back to her place.

This did not stop her joining us for lunch on Sunday! We had it at my place. The weather held up enough for me to use the newly resurrected barbecue, although not well enough for us to eat outside. The barbecue worked well, although it has never got as hot as I would expect it to, not even when it was new. I might have to take the jet things off and thoroughly clean them and see if that helps. Oh - and I must remember to move the thyme plant next time I used the barbecue. It's looking a bit singed on one side!

These are Freyja's photos from Sunday:

I did this cross stitch of the traditional county
of Yorkshire in the 1990s
I really must get it framed and put on the wall!

Bye Bye Stephen. 
It's been a real pleasure

We're going to miss you

Today I took the bus into Ballarat. I have never before taken the bus from Mount Helen to the station. I've done it the other way several times, but this was a first for me. The bus stop is a few minutes' walk from my place and the bus goes past it twice. I had been a bit puzzled, when I looked at the PTV website for the timetable, to see that there were apparently buses about 7 minutes apart twice an hour. It's because the bus comes from Buninyong, past that bus stop, then swings up and around the University in a big loop, before going past it again.  That answers that, then :D

And so by train to Bacchus Marsh. I also don't think I have ever had any reason to get off the train at Bacchus Marsh. Usually, I would be heading into Melbourne if I happened to be on the train. Then a wait in the sunshine for a taxi into the town centre. And there was Ziggy, waiting to be released from hospital and to come home.

We managed to get up the Pikes Creek Reservoir Hill without incident and stopped for lunch both for me and for Ziggy at the Ballan service station

Out and about once more

Nice new tyres
to replace the shredded nice new tyres

And Stephen is on his way home:

Freyja's photo

Now that Ziggy is home, I have put a spare broad brimmed hat, a tube of sunscreen and a roll on tube of insect repellant in the car. All of these things would have been Very Useful Indeed last Friday when Wendy  and I were stood on the side of the freeway for an hour or so. The back of my neck got quite sunburnt. I hadn't expected to be outside at all so hadn't been properly equipped, plus I was wearing scrubs so my neck was more exposed than it usually would be. I'm prepared now, although I hope the next time I am unexpectedly outside in the sunshine it is because I am on an impromptu visit to the beach. Or a beer garden

Saturday, January 28, 2023


I was at work yesterday morning, covering someone who was away. Wendy had been intending to come up to Ballarat on the train during the afternoon. She only lives a 20 minute drive from the surgery and it seemed silly for her to take the trains when I was close by with a car.

I left work at lunchtime and went to pick her up. This was complicated by my sat nav wanting me to turn right where there was a clear No Right Turn sign. I turned left. The sat nav was determined that I should go back to that intersection and turn right!!  I didn't. I did make it to her house, eventually.

I was pondering whether to get fuel at the Ballan service station, the Warrenheip service station or whether I perhaps had enough to get fuel today at my local service station. I was overtaking a car going up the freeway at Pikes Creek Reservoir. It's quite a steep hill and lots of vehicles slow down as they go up it. There's also a truck lane. And often very fast cars in the overtaking lane.

As I went up the hill, in the overtaking lane, I saw something in the middle of my lane. I wasn't sure what it was but it was big and metal. A ladder perhaps? I swerved into the emergency lane.


Wendy says I only just clipped the object and oh-so, oh-so nearly missed it. Alas, I didn't miss it and it shredded both the inside tyres. I managed to get into the truck lane and limped up the rest of the hill. I was hoping to get to the proper lay-by about a kilometre along the road. But just after the top of the hill there's a pull off, which was used by construction vehicles when the road was being remade. It meant that Ziggy the Jazz was well off the roadway, even allowing for trucks coming up the hill.

I rang the breakdown service. Object in road. Two tyres shredded. Two passengers. Blue Jazz, just up, along from the reservoir. She sad she would send help. Wendy and I stepped over the safety barrier. It was a lovely day. mid- to high 20s. Light breeze. Sunny.  Eagles flying overhead. It would, of course, have been better if we had been sitting in a pub's beer garden rather than by the side of a freeway, but you can't have everything.

After talking to the breakdown service I contacted Lindsey so see if she could get Ross to go to their place and feed Rupert and Hugo, which had been on my list of things to do. Then I went to call the police, to tell them about the large object in the middle of the freeway.

At which point - a police car turned up. Apparently they had had lots of calls alerting them to the object, which they said was a large, heavy metal ramp which had probably fallen off the back of a truck. They had moved it to the side of the road. They checked to see if we were ok. Looked at the tyres. Decided that we were probably safe enough where we were and went away.

The breakdown service turned up after about 30 minutes. The dispatcher had sent a car to change my tyre. We needed more than that. I only have one spare tyre. He arranged for a tow truck to come. And 30 minutes after that a tow truck turned up and took us back to Bacchus Marsh.

It can be a challenge getting up into a tow truck when you are 67 and not in the habit of scaling mountains. There is no chance we would have got Stella into it!!

The tow truck driver took us to the Bacchus Marsh railway station and then took Ziggy to their yard. The tyre place had closed for the night.

A train to Ballarat turned up within 5 minutes or so. We settled in, got to Ballan. And there we stopped. The train was broken. We all had to get off, troop over the pedestrian bridge to the other platform and catch the next train. Fortunately there wasn't too long a wait.

We took a taxi home when we finally reached the Ballarat railway station. There are buses but by that time of the evening they only run out my way every hour. I wasn't going to wait that long.

We finally walked into the house at around 7:15, about 6 hours after I had left work.

Next time I am asked to cover a shift at the surgery, I think I will borrow Lindsey's NO button and stay at home.

Poor Ziggy. Brand new tyres - shredded 😫

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Garden Stuff

I really should go and visit Susan and Robert's garden - I mean Robert and Susan - more often. It prompted me into getting out into my sad, neglected, overgrown back yard and sorting it out. A bit!

It's only taken me two years to lay these three paving slabs. I can't think why it took so long to get motivated. It took 30 minutes, tops. I know they're not perfectly aligned or level but they'll do for now. I'll wait until we've had some weather and they've settled a bit before taking further action. If necessary. Nobody much is likely to be walking on them.

This led me to moving and making level the barbecue, which has been balanced at a very precarious angle on the unlaid slabs - probably also for two years or so. This meant, of course, that it couldn't be used.  It needs cleaning before I use it, and I need to make sure that the now rather grumpy spiders which have been living in it have moved out. I have no wish to start barbecuing spiders!


I've got a thyme plant on one side. I need to think about which other herbs I use a lot and put one in the empty pot on the other side. There's oregano, lemon thyme and tarragon in the box to the side. The cats' outside water bowl is underneath.

I have weeded, swept and reorganised the patio, taking away pots which had dead herbs in them. The sage plant on the coffee table is positively thriving. It was down on the ground, more or less where the barbecue is now. I don't use a lot of sage but it is a very pretty plant.

I do use a lot of parsley and there are parsley plants in the bed at the back of the photos. They're almost finished though. I need to get or sow some more. And weed that bed. It's got a random potato plant growing in it which I need to dig up before it dislodges the apple tree. Although, having said that, the apple trees, which were sticks when I planted them last autumn, seem to be thriving.

I really should have taken a "before' shot before I embarked on the back yard. It's almost unrecognisable. For a start off, I have cut the grass. Twice! I have sorted out the bed on the right of the photo, which is where the wizened potatoes are. The grey "fence" is to stop the cats digging it all up. The boxes on the left of the photo will be moved round the back in the autumn or winter. The nearer box is actually empty. It's got my fruit trees in pots, waiting to be planted in the potato bed, which will then become a fruit and flower bed. The bed at the very back is next on my list to sort out. It has lemon trees, and gooseberry and black currant bushes in it. The rhubarb plant and blueberry bushes will also go in there, when they die back in the winter and I can move them from their current location. In the meantime, the weeds and the grass are having a fine old time.

It is, of course, a work in progress. Gardens are always works in progress. But my guess is that this is probably the best it's going to look. Until I next visit Susan and Robert's garden. Ot they come to visit mine 😂

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Weather, Stuff and Sunday

On Monday and Tuesday the weather was in the high 30°s. Not unpleasantly humid but definitely on the hot-side.

On Wednesday the temperature plummeted to about 16° and it was cloudy and damp. No actual rain, though.

The temperature has slowly clawed its way back up to the mid-20s, which is very pleasant. But the weather is strangely autumnal, given that it's only January. Foggy or misty and cool in the mornings, cloudy, clearing to sunny as the day progresses. I'm not complaining, you understand. I quite like that sort of autumn weather. Except that it's mid-summer so not quite what I was expecting right now.

I think the weather is supposed to warm up again as this coming week goes by.

We had something of a kerfuffle yesterday morning. I was inside, at about 7 am, reading the news and drinking a cup of tea. Whiskey was eating his biscuits. Brandy was outside in the courtyard. Suddenly he started yelling, as in: I am not happy about this - do something!

Whiskey and I went to investigate. And there was Brandy, by what will eventually be a bed of fruit trees but currently has very late-planted potatoes in it, being very disgruntled about a strange cat who was sitting on top of the fence. Whiskey was disgruntled too, once he saw it. It disappeared into one of the trees over the side fence when it saw me, then peeped over the fence to see what we were doing.

It wasn't a cat I had seen before. A quite cute, quite young tabby. It ran away when I approached the fence to talk to it. I have suspicion it might have run down the laneway over the front fence. Certainly, Brandy and Whiskey rushed into the house and down to the windows in my bedroom. I think it if had run the other way they probably wouldn't have done that.

Lindsey and I went out to Elaine to check out the Elaine Farm Shop, which has recently moved from the Ballarat side of Elaine to the Meredith side. They are still in their shipping containers but have taken the opportunity to reorganise and to put in proper parking area. I didn't need much so just got some milk and some biscuits for Jim. They had some nice stuff, though. Must go back out when my freezers and pantry have been emptied out a bit.

I have been motivated  (shamed!) by my visit to Susan and Robert's beautiful garden last Sunday to try and do something about getting mine under some sort of control. Granted theirs is much more established than mine, but mine would be quite nice if it got a bit more attention. I can see very clearly what needs to be done and even how to go about doing it. I just need to clear a bit of time (and enthusiasm!) to get on with it. I have started by moving the last of the hexagonal garden beds in the back yard and putting the soil on the side bed which will, in the late autumn, have a peach, a Bromley apple and a Tahitian lime tree planted in it. In the meantime it has some wizened, very very late planted seed potatoes chucked in to see what, if anything, they will do. I've also put some late tomato plants, zucchini and cucumber plants out the front. It's probably too late to get much from them, but I had them in my little greenhouse anyway. It was way too cold and wet to plant them out in the spring and early summer. I figured I didn't have anything to lose by putting them in the ground now that it's (sort of!) warmed up.

Lindsey, Ian, Stella and I have just been for Sunday lunch at Pipers by the Lake. We haven't been there for a while. We had a table looking out over the lake and it was all very beautiful. The food was good, too. My lamb backstrap, Mediterranean style, was delightful.

Stella's all right!
Three drinks glasses:
Lemon lime and bitters,
and white wine!

My lamb backstrap,
with giant couscous, pomegranate reduction
and salad

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

And Home

I met Wendy for breakfast on Monday morning. She lives on the same train route as Freyja and Simon so took the train to Westgarth Station. I met her there. We went to 4 Beans Cafe.

Wendy had a restrained plate of fruit toast. I had a variation on my Saturday breakfast and had fried eggs with a side of bacon - and avocado. The avocado was perfect. Exactly as ripe as it should be. I don't know what Wendy had for lunch, but I had fruit toast when I got home, from a loaf I had bought at the Alphington market.

After breakfast,  I topped up Ghost's biscuits and freshened her water bowls and came home, where my cats were quite pleased to see me.

Except that Brandy didn't seem to be particularly hungry. He went outside as soon as I opened the patio door. I knew that Lindsey had fed them on Sunday evening and the biscuit bowls were empty so it was entirely possible that he wasn't actually hungry. But as the afternoon went on he became progressively more unhappy. To the point that I made an appointment for him to see the vet this afternoon. He was crying, on and off, and licking his lips, and his ears were sad. He wasn't eating or chasing butterflies and then later he was hiding under the furniture.

I think he's feeling better this morning. He made it very clear when I got up for a loo stop at about 4am that he was HUNGRY and it was breakfast time. He hasn't stopped eating since. His ears are pricked. His eyes are shiny. All seems well. I'll cancel the vet appointment, which was an emergency spot. Someone else might need it and I'll book him in for a regular appointment, when one becomes available, for a check up. I should probably take Whiskey for a check up as well. They don't either of them trouble the vet's time.

I don't know what the problem was, but I did find a dead frog in their outside water bowl. I haven't ever noticed frogs in or around our place in the four years we have lived here and I found two dead ones yesterday when I got home. One in the cats' water bowl out the back, and one by the window of the spare bedroom out the front. I don't know where they came from. I don't know why they are dead. I don't know if it was their presence that made Brandy unwell. But the dead frogs have been removed. And Brandy is better.

Speaking of wildlife, I have noticed before that there is quite a lot of noise around dawn at Freyja and Simon's place. On Sunday morning I went out to investigate what might be making it. Birds, perhaps? But no. It was the fruit bats that I see heading out for dinner at dusk when I am at the flat in East Melbourne, returning to their roosts at dawn over Westgarth. It was quite a pleasure standing on the front porch, cup of tea in hand, watching the bats returning home. I wonder where they roost.

Monday, January 16, 2023


Compared with the weather on Saturday (and today, which is also forecast to be hot and sunny), yesterday was cool, damp and grey. It was very tempting to stay in the house and drink tea and eat cake. Except I didn't have any cake and in any case - there were plans!

One of which was to put fuel in the car, which was very thirsty.

And then I went out to the Alphington Farmers' market, where I had breakfast and bought supplies for the coming week. I was there quite early and it was already very busy. I was reading a review on Trip Advisor (not a resource that I take particularly seriously) which complained that it only seemed to have produce and food and no artisan or craft stalls and was more like a farmers' market than a Sunday market. Personally, I think the clue is in the name!

I was happy enough

Sunday breakfast

I had given much thought to going out to North Balwyn, where I was expected for lunch, by tram. It's an easy enough trip - tram into town, tram out to North Balwyn - and would cost me nothing (senior's travel card allows free tram travel at the weekends). But it would also take 90 minutes or so, rather than 15 minutes by car. Also, if I went by car, I could stop in Clifton Hill for some sparkling water and teabags at the cute McCoppins supermarket. There is also a small Woollies, but I didn't notice that until I had been into McCoppins.

So out to North Balwyn I went, to Robert and Susan's house for Sunday lunch. I was unsurprised when Rod also arrived. No-one had said he was coming but I had vaguely thought that he might. Anyway, the table was set for four! And a very delicious lunch it was too, plus, of course, convivial company.

Unaccountably, I didn't take any photos of the humans present. I did get the resident cats, though :D

Leonardo, with bone

Bella, without bone

Then I came back to Westgarth, by a circuitous route, just because I could

Sunday, January 15, 2023

It's Just Like Being on Holiday

Freyja, Simon, Stephen and Ross are actually on holiday. They're in Western Australia, about to take the Indian Pacific across the Nullarbor to Sydney. (I have been tormenting Stella by saying that they are camping their way across the continent 😆; Lindsey says they're "tramping" - camping on a train).

While they are away, someone is coming in to make sure Ghost, Freyja and Simon's cat, is fed and watered. And I have come for the weekend so she has someone to play with. Lindsey is feeding my cats while I am cat-sitting Ghost. It's a Cat Shuffle!

I was working on Friday, so came to Westgarth after work, stopping for fish and chips on the way. Ghost is not a people cat, on the whole, unless she knows you really well. However, I bribed my way into her heart and stomach at Christmas with LOTS of cat treats. She clearly remembers me as the Crazy Cat Treat Lady and, as soon as she realised it was me who had come in on Friday evening, went and sat where the treats are kept and miaowed at me. She also wanted my chips, but cats don't eat hot potato chips. Or so I told Ghost!

I had intended to go into the city yesterday but there wasn't anything I particularly wanted to do in the city and the forecast was for a hot afternoon. So I didn't. I pottered around in the local area instead. I'm in the funny position that I know Westgarth (which is part of the suburb of Northcote) reasonably well. The tram from the city out to work goes along the High Street. I am moderately familiar with the streets around Freyja and Simon's place. But I don't really know it properly. So I took the opportunity for a bit of an explore.

But first. Breakfast! I had had a cup of tea when I got up but they have a proper coffee machine. I have a plunger jug at my place and am a bit intimidated by machines that make coffee. So I went to the 4 Beans cafe, which I have been to before when we were going to Marlo and bought takeaway coffee for the trip. They make good coffee. It turns out they also make good food!

I got there about 20 minutes after they opened.
It was filling up when I left

A double shot cappuccino.
It was on the edge of being too strong for me!

You cannot complain about the
amount you get when you ask for
poached eggs on toast with a side of bacon

I decided to head out mid-morning to look at the local shops. I had heard tell of a fancy pants deli-type shop in the Westgarth shops that I might like. Instead of using one of the pedestrian crossings across the railway I decided to go up to the vehicle crossing - only to find that the lights and boom gates were stuck and nobody, either in vehicles or on foot, could get across. Traffic chaos abounded! I found a pedestrian bridge and went over that

Terra Madre is indeed a fancy deli/supermarket/grocers. It is also much like a Tardis. Looks like an ordinary shop outside. Goes on forever, inside, and is much like a rabbit warren.  Couldn't find any tea, though I assume there is some, somewhere. But I did find pasta and a tomato pasta sauce, parmesan cheese and coffee milk, fancy sparkling waters. Many, many other tempting things, but I didn't really need all the tempting things. Plus, of course, I had to carry everything back to the house!

The boom gates were still stuck down when I went back. I crossed over the train tracks at one of the pedestrian crossings

Most vehicles gave up waiting and turned around
and went back or along small side streets

I think this truck was going to have considerable difficulty
turning around!

I decided, later in the afternoon, to go and have a look at the Merri Creek, which runs along the bottom of Freyja and Simon's street. It was still quite hot, but it wasn't humid and there was a gentle, cool-ish breeze blowing. One day, when it is a bit cooler, I'll go for a proper walk. For yesterday, a gentle potter was sufficient.

So a good day. I finished it with my pasta in the tomato sauce, with some green beans and peas I had brought with me from home, with parmesan and plain yoghurt over the top. Delicious!

A study of Ghost:

Sitting on my knee, no less!

Plaintively wishing I would let her out
into the courtyard.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Roads and Shopping

Last weekend was the annual national bike championships in Buninyong and Mount Helen, which sees many of the roads closed so the bikes can do their racing stuff.

This event irritates me far more than is merited by the level of inconvenience that it causes me, which is minimal and only lasts for a few days.

I don't know who decides when road repairs should be carried out in Ballarat, but I would lay a hefty wager on whoever it is having woken up one morning and thought: Now what can we do that will irritate, inconvenience and annoy the Good People of Buninyong and Mount Helen to the greatest possible extent? I know - let's dig up Whitehorse Road, which runs between Mount Clear and Sebastopol and provides an alternative route to that side of Ballarat when the Nats are on. And let's reduce it to just one lane for traffic so that everyone has to queue. And let's do it on the very weekend that the roads are closed in Buninyong and Mount Helen for bicycle racing. Oh, and even better, let's close the road that the entrance to the car park of the Aged Care Facility is on so that people who aren't familiar with the roads around the back can't get in, always supposing they've been able to get to Mount Clear in the first place.

Fortunately, we know about the roads around the back.

I went out shopping yesterday. On my own! I hardly ever go shopping on my own, apart from visits to the supermarket. I went to Kathmandu in town and bought a picnic blanket which had been reduced from $60 to $30. I had a $20 Kathmandu voucher. So my brand new picnic blanket cost me the princely sum of $10. Bargain! 

I also went to Bunnings, where I got some reduced price mulch and seedlings for the front garden beds. It's a bit late to be planting out seedlings but the spring and first couple of weeks of summer were so cold and wet that nothing summery would have survived anyway. Might as well give it a go and see what happens.

I went to Wilsons and bought some not-reduced fruit and veg.

Then I went home and had some lunch.

Yesterday Lindsey and I bought flights to and from Japan at the end of March. That was definitely exciting. We hadn't expected to be away for so long when we left in November 2019 and for a while thought that Japan might not open its borders  again in our lifetimes. But now it has, and they're fully open so we can move around as we wish. We're going for two weeks and will base ourselves at Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki's place. They've been in their "new" house for two and a half years and we haven't seen it yet!

My bank balance is looking a tiny bit unhappy now. No more wandering around the shops on my own until its health improves!

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Overnight in East Melbourne

I was working at the surgery on Friday. This is unusual but two receptionists were away, one was unavailable and one is away with covid. This left the practice manager and me to hold the fort!

The early part of the morning was enlivened by a loud bang out in the shopping centre, followed by a protracted whooshing sound, followed by the emergency evacuation alert. Fortunately it was a pleasant morning, so no hardship waiting outside in the car park until we could go back in.

Otherwise, it was an unremarkable day. Except that I was also working on Saturday morning and it seemed silly to go back to Ballarat, only to turn around and to come straight back early on Saturday morning. I went to the flat in East Melbourne instead.

And it was lovely. I picked up a chicken souvlaki from the takeaway shop and sat on the balcony to eat it, looking out over the Melbourne CBD and watching the sun set over the city, and the fruit bats out looking for their dinner. It was a lovely way to spend the evening.

My evening view on Friday

I got to the surgery in good time on Saturday. It's only a 20 minute or so drive from the flat. Now, normally when you open the door on Saturday morning an avalanche of people pour through, looking for pathology. Yesterday, there was only one person. The surgery had its normal number of patients for a Saturday morning, but the number of people coming for pathology was very, very low. In fact, quite often the waiting room looked like this:

I assume everyone was at the beach.
They certainly weren't cluttering
up our place!

It was all a bit bizarre. Still, it did mean that we got away on time. The traffic was very light and I was back at home by about 3pm. The Pretty Kitty Kats were quite pleased to see me, but not overly excited. Lindsey had fed them brunch. They had plenty of biscuits. They weren't hungry. Their main excitement was that they got to go outside and lie in the sun on the patio.

This is an enticing thought. It's another lovely morning and it is very tempting to sit on the patio and do nothing very much. Alas, there are things to do so the cats will have to enjoy their sun lounging without me.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Ballarat Tramway Museum

Stephen, as you may have noticed, is a big fan of trams and trains and most forms of transport. So yesterday he and I headed up to the lake to visit the tramway museum.

If you are familiar with the tram museum in Crich, Derbyshire, you might think that our museum is teeny and tiny. And that is true. It is small, quite new (it was rebuilt in 2021) and very cute. The entry ticket includes a ride on a heritage tram along the top of the lake. It was a beautiful day for a tram ride along the lake.

My kitchen is not yet all electric. I still have the gas hob, although I don't use it and have two mobile induction hobs over the top of it. I also have gas hot water, though I am hoping to change that this year, or possibly next depending on finances. My multiplicity of ovens are electric (one fan oven, one bench top oven, one air fryer). I'm working on it!

Mind you - I'm sure I remember a campaign (in the 70s perhaps?) encouraging people to switch *to* gas as being more efficient than electricity for cooking. But I may be imagining that.

I must find and fill in the form to apply for government subsidies for solar panels, then that plan can go ahead.

Freyja, Simon and Stephen have gone back to Melbourne, ready for their next set of exciting adventures. I am up at Hill House, having looked after Rupert and Hugo overnight. It is much cooler than it has been over the past few days. It was in the high 20s yesterday. I think we are expecting the high teens today and maybe some rain.

2023 is settling in. I wonder what plans it has for us all.