Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween

Little Bo Peep - 1959 - Pink net skirt and hat, cerise velvet* bodice and trim, crook is net-wrapped concrete rod, Lambie-Pie* was gift from family friend.

*50 years on, I still have Lambie-Pie and swathe of cerise velvet.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Horses and Dogs

I knew from Sharon's email that there was a horse in the family and that it normally lived in a field at their place. Sadly, when we were there, the horse was at its other home, a riding stable whose owner usually boards a second horse with Sharon and Tom, in addition to their own.

However, I was very pleased to make the acquaintance of Gabby, a young rescued dog. She had a great big scary bark, but she was actually very affectionate and a little shy. She couldn't get enough of our attention, once she got over being nervous, and I filled up on doggie love, having not had any for so long.

Despite her size she was definitely a lap dog and between Tom and Bill, she was obviously a very happy puppy.

Then it turned out that we did have a horse in our future. Her name is Chelsea and she's a Great Dane. She came out of the back of the house the first morning when I was talking with Sharon and it was quite a shock seeing her standing there looking at me.

Fortunately, Chelsea turned out to be just as affectionate as Gabby. Equally fortunate, Chelsea being quite a bit older wasn't nearly as bouncy, though she did try to gambol about with Gabby a couple of times in the yard. It made Bill and me fall about laughing, she looked so comical. The yard is plenty big, but she's so enormous that it only took her a couple of gallops to cover the length of it.

Bless her, Chelsea preferred the couch to the yard, just as Gabby preferred laps to the floor.

I petted each for as long as they liked, but stayed out of lap-dog reach, fearing I'd be buried completely, having seen it happen to both Bill and Tom.

So far as I could tell, the large couch actually belonged to the dogs, which is a concept that I grew up understanding. They generously let Bill use it, in return for a little attention.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Perth - Part III

Sorry this has been delayed -- our internet connection has been really dodgy and for a while Blogger wasn't doing very well either. Fingers crossed the British Telecom people have sorted it. So where were we? Still in Perth, I believe...

The next day Sharon took us to a place called Serpentine Falls where the about the first thing we saw was this kangaroo that didn't seem at all concerned about our proximity. I thought he looked pretty confident about being able to make a quick getaway if we tried anything silly.

It was a beautiful day, just a touch on the cool side. The falls were noisy and full of water. I know that sounds daft, but rainfall and water aren't to be taken for granted in Australia.

I was still in love with the colours and the (you'd never believe it) the trees.

I got Bill to snap a few photos of Sharon and me. I know I look goofy here, but as often happens with these things one of us was talking or distracted when the other looked OK; I decided to let Sharon have the better photo this time.

We then moved on to Turner Cottage, more or less across the road.

It is one of the old original farms that I bet will eventually be swamped by suburbia, but not yet and for now one of the farm buildings was a little cafe. Another used to be a craft / souvenir shop, but sadly they'd turned that into an office. I was looking forward to some shopping. After looking over the grounds and then the menu we ate outside and talked.

After lunch we looked over their collection of old farm equipment

and admired their dog (with different coloured eyes, I now notice)

and horses.

And then we went back to Sharon's place. Luke and Jo dropped by with baby Tommy about the time Tom got home. Everyone sat out in the covered yard between the main house and our little apartment. Bill and I organised our packing as we were leaving that night.

I really enjoyed trying to catch pictures of Tom and Tommy.

We would like to have taken Sharon and Tom out to a nice restaurant for dinner, but Tom wisely pointed out that just the slightest glitch in seating or service would produce worry about making our check in time, etc., so we'll just have to save that for another time. I know it sounds like we're leaving Perth now, but I have more to tell you, so (with a little cooperation from British Telecom and we'll carry on a bit longer in the next posts.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Perth - Part II

After lunch at the cafe,

Sharon showed us Cottesloe Beach and the older

neighbourhoods where she and Tom, her husband, each grew up. As with many larger sprawling cities, the older inner areas have become quite trendy, being more convenient for

commuting. We agreed that we grew up in a different era, when parents sent children to neighbourhood parks and play areas to entertain

themselves, without today's worries about kidnapping or molestation. I was envious of Sharon having grown up within walking distance of a beautiful beach.

We weren't back at the house for too long when we got to meet Tom, now home from work. Then their son, Luke and his wife, Jo, brought over the Blessed Grandson, Tommy. Luke and Jo were off to a concert they were really excited about (?No FX?) and Grandma had promised to babysit ages ago before we were scheduled to come. Tom was off to a meeting, something about the local sports league organisation, in which he's been heavily involved for years.

Meanwhile Sharon started making dinner. Now, I'm useless with babies -- they generally start crying as soon as I pick them up -- but Bill proved himself entirely competent and Grandpa-ready.

Sharon was well impressed, as was I. She fed us a huge chicken dinner and I don't think we managed more than a cup of tea or two after the dishes but we were ready to crash and burn yet again. I worried a bit that we weren't very good guests. Mind, when I thought about it later, Sharon and I talked pretty much non-stop for the whole visit. Bill maybe got a dozen words in there, I think. No wonder he picked up little Tommy -- he needed someone to talk to.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Perth - Part I

For our first full day in Perth, Sharon suggested Kings Park and Botanic Gardens. It was an excellent place to wander around, admiring unusual plants and trees, not to mention stunning

views of Perth.

That body of water is the Swan River, the mouth of which is at shipping port, Fremantle, just south. Sharon and Bill got to know each other a bit whilst I did my usual with the camera.

Check out this weird, huge (sweet-potato-looking) boab tree,

transplanted to this spot from nearly 2,000 miles away.

Also, the state flower of Western Australia, kangaroo paws.

Sharon had thoughtfully provided a bouquet of these in our bedroom, as well as some lovely yellow freesias in our sitting room.

I haven't mentioned, have I, that they put us up in the one bedroom apartment in the back of their house on the other side of the swimming pool. We had our own kitchen facilities with breakfast goods so we could take our time getting ready in the mornings. I must have mentioned in one of our squillion emails over the past 14 months that I'm not really a morning person...

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Dusty Sydney

There are many more things I want to tell you about our visit to Sydney, but those can wait for now. It's time to move on to the last part of our trip, which we spent in Perth, which is on the west coast of Australia in a state called Western Australia (fyi, Sydney is in New South Wales). You'll have 'heard' me mention my cousin Sharon quite a few times. She and her husband Tom live in Perth and, as we'd come this far to Australia and particularly as it was more or less on the way back home, Bill (bless him) suggested we drop in and meet Sharon in person. So we did.

Unfortunately, we were scheduled to fly out of Sydney on the 23rd of September. You may have heard about this freak dust storm.

At first the news was that flights would be cancelled, then that they were delayed, then that

they were as scheduled. The airlines didn't seem to know what they were doing, but we decided to

show up as normal, in spite of the fact that the view from Jane's window was anything but.

At first our flight was said to only be delayed by about 30 minutes ...then 1 hour...then 2...then 3 and then I forget. What with the check in time in front of the scheduled flight time, we spent 6 hours waiting in the airport, 5 hours on the flight and about an hour picking up luggage, car and driving to Sharon's house.

She'd given us sterling directions and a map so that was no problem. Our problem was that we'd had a very long, stressful day and were trashed. Fortunately, as Sharon later wrote, "it was very much a meeting of friends & not at all a meeting of strangers." Bless her, she gave us a cup of tea and sent us straight to bed.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Jane's Birthday Lunch

Now we come to our main reason for going to Australia, to celebrate Jane's 60th birthday. When Bill started talking about this, her response was that she'd be happier to just ignore it, but he wasn't having that.

Once it was established that we would be coming over, I started worrying that Jane would end up doing something very frugal and involving a lot of labour. I couldn't think of much worse than loading down the birthday celebrant with cooking and cleaning, but she came up with a fabulous idea: she booked a buffet lunch for 40 at a very nice restaurant, Echo on the Marina. I'd assumed we would all pay our own way, but no, she made Chris buy everyone's lunch. Well done, her!

We had a choice of chicken or fish and I ended up having the fish, barramundi, to be more specific. I can recommend it. I can also attest to having witnessed Bill eat roasted olives, he who does not eat olives. Nor, actually, does he eat avocado or 'squidgy food' like mussels, but he did when they were served to him on this trip -- proving once again that he really is a grown up, in spite of the usual impression. Also in spite of the fact that he referred to said olives as [kanga-] "roo poos".

It was a lovely day, perfect weather, in fact. Jane gave a little speech thanking everyone for coming.

There were lots of family group photos taken.

I went around snapping over 200 pictures (it's been really tough choosing which ones to share here).

We decided we should buy the lovely navy blue boat on offer in the marina beside our tables. Everyone got to catch up with people they don't see often enough. The only children there, appropriately, were Jane's two grandchildren. She figured there were enough potential minders present that they couldn't run too wild and she was right.

Bill and I sat with the Canberra contingent, Michael and Caroline, whom we had met on our trip to Prague last year; and with Gwenda and Ray (who was in London in the 1970's along with Chris and Bruce). We'd heard about Gwenda as she, Jane and Jenni had spent a week in a place called Palumpa, teaching the Aboriginal women there how to sew, which sounded really exciting. They were all very good company. We had a discussion about digital cameras and Michael was explaining Australian politics to me, but I must admit it was largely over my head. I'm still trying to figure out Europe!

Eventually the party dispersed and a handful of people came back to the house with us where Jane opened her birthday gifts. She got loads of lovely things including a patchwork book I covet and a beautiful green scarf that perfectly complemented her already gorgeous outfit.

I think Jane had a pretty good birthday celebration -- I know I did!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Art Part

You could look at much of the collection in the art gallery if you wished.

Somehow though it's not the same as wandering through a large elegant space.

I was going to add something about the reverent silence, but this wasn't really the case. The usual staid atmosphere was lightened by musical entertainment of some sort. It wasn't something that interested me, however, and I must admit that I prefer the restful quiet one generally finds. Entrance to the gallery was free of charge, as it is to most of the galleries around our part of England.

I asked if photographs were allowed; they said yes, of all bar the photographic work and the Aboriginal works. I snapped a pictures of this, which Bill admired.

Near by was this art deco statue, which I quite liked.

Also, this marble that I thought was beautiful.

I was very interested excited about the Village Girl by Jules Goupil, but not because of the painting, because of the sign beside it. It said that though the girl now held a book in the portrait, this was not what she had originally held. Goupil had painted over the original artifact, something that had only become apparent with time. It said that something revealed in this way was called a 'peliment' -- or something like that. My photo of the sign didn't come out well at all and I cannot find any other information about the painting or that term anywhere on the internet. I was so excited about learning a new and unique word, not to be able to retrieve it is very frustrating (but I did eventually find it again!).

I thought this art class had a very dramatic setting.

Jenni had mentioned some sort of market that was on at the the weekend and I had rather hoped we'd managed that as well. When we emerged from the art gallery, however, I was pretty much walked out.

Just across the road was a tree with a rock in it, and several men standing on boxes, shouting about different subjects, mostly political, financial or religious. I might have stood and listened to one or another, but there weren't many others around. The speakers seem to want to debate their topics with the audience, something I'd be unlikely to do at the best of times, and certainly not when I was bushed. This, I was told, was Sydney's Speakers' Corner.

I've heard of Speaker's Corner, but turns out it is in Hyde Park in London, though other countries appear to have them, too. (Interestingly, there doesn't appear to be one in the US). I gather from this man's photos, there are often more than the handful of listeners that were there that day.

We meandered through, admiring more awesome trees and buildings, and continuing home, where I was very glad to put my feet up.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Picnic and Art - Part II

Along with Jenni came husband Cedric and big

brother Tim. Lunch was salad, bread and roast 'chook', delicious! We had to clear out sharpish

as the area had been reserved by a wedding party, for photos no doubt. On our way to the art gallery we noticed that preparations included stuffing doves into a cage for some momentous and joyous release - very silly we thought.

Jenni walked along side the pond and this creature emerged and appeared to swim along side her. I'm guessing it was an eel; it seemed to think she was likely to feed it or something (yuck!).

Also a flock of cockatoos which seemed quite tame. This man nearly but not quite coaxed on up onto his arm. Note the size of that bird. I keep getting 'cockatoo' and 'cockatiel' mixed up, but a 'too is 15-40 inches tall, compared to a 10 inch 'tiel. Beak and claws correspond...charming birds, I'm sure, but I wouldn't be attempting this one.

And I just had to include this photo of Jane because I thought she looked terrific!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Picnic and Art - Part I

Jane's daughter, Jenni, had asked to join in whatever we were were going the Sunday afternoon, which at the time was as yet unplanned. I suggested something indoors for a change, like an art gallery or something. Jane came up with the brilliant idea of a picnic.

We drove to Roseville train station where Jane

picked up a 'chook' (Aussie for chicken) from the deli. Then we hopped on a train and headed for the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Where Bill and I took pictures of more amazing

trees and bats.

I'd forgotten about the bats, which fascinated us the last time we were here; I've never understood

why they weren't living in a cave somewhere. Now that I've looked them up turn out to be 'fruit' bats (because they look like fruit hanging

from a tree), megabats or 'flying foxes'. These, obviously, aren't like the bats (or the flying foxes) in the US. (Click on the pic to see his cute litte face).