Oct 31, 2006

Bunya Forest

Our travels took us out to Bunya Forest today, which is outside Brisbane but only a fifteen minute drive or thereabouts up South Pine Road and onto the Old Northern Road. We couldn't see any evidence from our internet search before we went that dogs weren't allowed and saw no evidence when we got there, indeed some dogs were being walked as we arrived.

So we picked a secluded spot and off we went down a trail into a dry forest of tall eucalypts which the narrow track wound through. The dogs thoroughly enjoyed themselves though Matilda caused some angry cawing by some sulphur-crested cockatoos who were a little agitated before we got there, and their calls were echoing through the forest all the time we were there. Tiny just stuck by our heels and was happy to follow us around, as she so often is these days.

We kept walking up the trail, hoping my some chance that it might be circular, until we ran out of time. We retraced our steps, and were thankful that we weren't lost; although we hadn't actually taken any major turnings, you never know...

Eloise was practically asleep in the backpack by the time we got back. I put her to bed after Nicole had gone to work and I had to wake her up by hissing in her ear as shaking, cooing, unzipping and opening and closing cupboards doors hadn't done the trick. She was a very enthusiastic swimmer, though as usual somewhat lacking in concentration.

We went to Stafford shopping centre later to get some provisions to cook with (Haloumi and courgettes with salsa) and she caught the eye of a lady in a hairdresser who insisted on giving her a goody bag of hair care products on account of here cuteness and winning smile. Could this be the start of a subsistence strategy?

Oct 30, 2006

Miss Demeanour

Eloise is becoming quite a little character. They say that toddlers like to push boundaries and I suppose that she is no exception.

Here current modus operandi revolves around liquids. Give her a cup of milk, and she will happily glug away at it, until when she gets almost to the end - or sometimes before - she just tips the whole lot over the ground. This makes me grind my teeth. "Why," I demand, "why did you do that?" She looks at me as if to say "Go on, what do you think of that then. Do something, go on."

So today when she did it I carted her off and put her in her room for a couple of minutes. Perhaps, with repetition and gently persuasion, this will be effective as a means of communicating.

Now when Matilda does something wrong, such as, just as an example that springs to mind, jumping up on a work surface and eating my tea, Eloise will shout "Da! Get Da!"

So she does understand right from wrong. Doesn't she?

Get Around Town

It was my day off today. Eloise went to nursery at 9 o'clock. Nicole very kindly let me lie in and I slept, wedged between the dogs, until 8 o'clock, slowly coming awake to the sounds of the TV coming from downstairs (down the four stairs there are in our house, that is).

After dropping Sproggy off, we took the dogs up to a little-used car park at Mount Coot-tha and disappeared into the forest along a bush track. Then we (sshh! don't tell anyone) let the dogs off, and walked around for a good hour and a half, seeing only one soul. The dogs enjoyed themselves, and didn't misbehave in any way. The going was pretty heavy, as it's a Mount, and I don't relish having to yomp it laden down with a living backpack, but it adds another walk to our armoury. The weather wasn't that hot either - overcast and not very warm.

We got back and I burnt another omelette, which Nicole very kindly blamed on the pan again. Then she went to work, and rather than sit around on my Harris, I decided to catch a bus into the city and have a look around. I got off the bus on Ann Street, and walked down to Queen Street, which is the main road. It was quite busy with lots of busy people being busy about their business.

At the bottom of Queen Street I crossed the river and walked up and down the waterfront there, past the State Library and Centre for Performance Arts (Pirates of Penzance - they're really pushing the creative envelope) then back up and through the South Bank Parklands.

Looking across the river, I realised that the Riverside Expressway - the one that's got the hairline cracks and was closed for a while causing total traffic chaos - is actually built on concrete legs in the river itself. Seen across the river, it twists and turns with the exit and entry ramps swooping quite attractively around it, and a bike track undulating beneath it.

South Bank is where the legendary artificial beach (sorry, the Streets Beach, is nothing free of corporate sponsorship?) is, and I beheld it's magnificence for the first time. It's actually a reasonably sized swimming pool, attractively landscaped with sand around the edges. It even had its own Lifeguard posse.

Through the South Bank runs an Arbour, made up of a covered walkway flanked by steel arches to which cling bouganvilleas.

On a sunny day I imagine it's really very nice. The path is punctuated, naturally, by cafés, coffee shops, gardens, rainforest walks, as well as a concert venue, a college, and many other things I probably didn't even notice.

I crossed back over the river via the elaborate Goodwill Footbridge and walked alongside some Mangoves and through the Botanical Gardens to Edward Street where my bus was leaving from.

I got back home at 4.30, cleared the washing up away, cut my hand open when I dropped a glass, attempted to staunch the dribbling blood with a kitchen towel, and went to fetch Squeaky, who had had a lovely day and was completely cream crackered.

Tea was Spiced Creamy Vegetables with Basmati Rice. I did not burn it, but then, I did not use a frying pan.

Oct 26, 2006

Summer Frittata Brulée

What does it mean if a worker's supervisor (or, alternatively, food critic, if you like) blames his tools (that is, the frying pan used to lightly burn the frittata)?

Toddler Mayhem

At Nicole's suggestion I went along and signed E up to Caterpillar Kids this morning.

We drove out to Ashgrove, about a fifteen minute drive, and pulled up at this country club type affair, with swimming pools, squash courts etc. I followed the procession of mums getting out of their Chelsea Tractors weighed down with day bags full of God knows what, sunlight reflecting of their raybans and silvikrin ponytails and looked myself up and down in my worse-for-wear shorts, beaten up trainers and dodgy socks, and white collarless shirt, tails floating freely... at least I had a shower this morning!

Soon we arrived at a large room overlooking the pool, where we were greeted by an athletic gent by the name of Rob, and as I filled in the ubiquitous disclaimer forms, Eloise played with one of his accomplices and the room filled up and filled up until there must have been twenty little toddlers with attendant mothers/fathers/etc.

"Now then my little ones, let's begin!" shouted the previously calm but now transformed Rob and started running around the room like a Whirling Dervish who's overdone it on the Bolivian Marching Powder. "Everybody Stomp!" And all the kids started doing just that. Eloise's eyes lit up.

A succession of highly energetic antics followed, involving running, ball games, hoops, and enormous parachutes, climbing frames, slides and various other playground thingummybobs that appeared out of nowhere. At one point on excellent little bubble gun came out and the effusive Rob jumped around the room spraying bubbles everywhere to unanimous delight. Eloise insisted at every opportunity to escape the games and commandeer the bubble gun which was later left on the side.

Yesterday, I took her to the doctors for some jabs. Over here they immunise for Hepatitis B and Varicella (Chicken Pox to you and me). So she's perhaps not on top form. In fact about half an hour into the Caterpillar action she laid down on her back on the floor with a look on her eyes that said "No more please...!" But she recovered when the playground magically appeared from nowhere and never looked back.

She was out like a light when we got home.

Later we went up to Nudgee Beach and threw some balls into the River for Tiny. I was looking at the map and the river that comes out there is actually a later incarnation of the brook that runs just near our house.

The dogs are obviously getting used to things here, they are quite chilled out generally speaking although they have a tendency to hang around by the front gate and bark at passers-by. That seems to be the modus vivendi for canines round here though.

Some mornings a Jack Russell by the name of Jeb has been sauntering around in our garden, and sitting on our deck out front and barking. This wouldn't be a problem, except a) it means we have a breach in our garden defences - which I'm pretty sure I've located actually, and b) he does this at half past five in the bloody morning.

I'm not sure about boundary ownership and responsibility here. Yet.

Anyway I was sufficiently irritated at 5.30am yesterday to go and shout at the little bugger. The dogs picked up on this, and, ever sensitive to my state of mind, chased him around the house.

Later on he poked his head out of our utility room where he'd been hiding! It gave us quite a fright, and we gave him one right back - he wasn't back this morning.

Oct 24, 2006


This afternoon we went to our second swimming lesson at the John Carew Swimming School. It's on the other side of town at Indooroopilly, but even though Eloise's nap went on a little longer than planned and our lunch of vegetable samosas was a bit of a rush job, somehow we got there in plenty of time.

The classes are a bit different to what we're used to with good old Merbabies - none of that singing and playing nonsense. It's hardcore teaching from start to finish.

First the water wings ("floaties") go on. Then straight away it's grab onto the sides of the pool - the babies that is - then a length, supported blowing bubbles, then a length, support blowing bubbles and kicking legs. Then a length, swimming free, which is where it all goes a bit pear shaped as Eloise is actually much more interested in what everyone else is doing than what she is supposed to be - i.e. swimming towards me, blowing bubbles. Oh well.

Then we play a game of sit sproggy on the edge of the pool, get her to fall in, she then turns around, swims to the edge and holds on. Does very well. Repeat five times.

Then out comes a mat which floats on the surface and we play a great game of get your baby to walk from one end of the wobble wet mat to the other and jump into Dad's arms, which is great fun for Eloise and most of the other seven kids, but for one unfortunate it's all a bit scary and he bails out.

Then a game of get your baby to perform, as above, then jump straight into the pool. Which Eloise does with aplomb, jumping in with the biggest grin on her face and going deep into the water before I pull her back up, coughing a bit but still happy.

Then all the kiddies on the mat are ferried to the side boat style and the lesson is over. Fun fun fun!


I am pleased to report that I have harvested the first of the tomatoes from the back garden. Admitedly, there were only three, so wouldn't contribute greatly to even meagre salad, but you have to start somewhere. I am not even sure whether the tomato plants are there by design or default.

I am feeling inspired to commence a small kitchen garden. Northey Street, where the organic market is held, is also the site of a community allotment. They run courses so I might set about learning how to garden in the southeren hemisphere in semi-arrid conditions.

When it rained the other evening I managed to conserve only a watering can full of water. I spent the evening dreaming about water butts and recycling grey water.

I have been chatting to the lady at number 15 who has an impressive water recycling system going on in her garden. I have asked if she will come over sometime to tell me which plants are weeds. I had a little weeding session on Sunday afternoon and was worried that I would pull up plants cherished by Ric and Cate.

Oct 23, 2006

Lake Madchester

Some weeks ago, on the day of our visit to "Exciting Ipswich" we detoured on the way back to Brisbane and several miles up a dirt track found a road that led down to Lake Manchester, which is one of Brisbane's reservoirs. On that day time and stomachs were pressing so we didn't pursue it any further.

Yesterday Nicole had the genius idea (and I don't mean that sarcastically) of going there and having a go at it with the dogs, as it isn't in a National Park and we hadn't seen any "Get Those Dorgs Orf Moi Land" type signs last time round.

A trail led up from a cark park into the forest and we were encouraged by the sight as of someone else walking their dog albiet in a different direction. We had the baby back-pack with us so suitably equipped, off we marched. Several minutes of Eloise farting around saw her in the backpack and we started to make progress, but it was damn hard work as the path climbed up and down quite steep little hills.

Soon we came to a dam which held the Lake in, and, bypassing it and walking further up the path we could see the lake stretching out in front of us. Although not very large, it nestles very attractively in the upper hills East of Mount Coot-Tha. We walked along this path which wound round its shores for a while, and it was obvious how denuded the lake is, given the drought (now officially the worst in history according to some) that currently grips Australia. The banks are ringed by layers reminiscent of geological text books, or slowly sipped coffee mugs, or poorly maintained sinks, or vanilla slices, depending on your point of view.

Matilda as usual (well, as previously usual) explored anywhere she could and we whooped as she chased a lizard of some description - apparently about a foot long, quite substantial - up a tree, where it clung to the upper branches.

We were all knackered by the time we got back to the car.

After calling off the bike ride the other day when the storm came over Brisbane, we decided to give it a go. After a mere 2k or so up the Brook to an off-leash area with dogs on leads, an incident involving Matilda and some cockatoos (dog kept under control), an unscheduled toilet stop for Tiny (bike kept under control) we stopped for a rest.

On the way back things started to go a bit pear shaped as we found that even though we were sauntering along, the dogs couldn't keep up! To the point where Tiny, at the top of Agincourt St, decided she didn't want to play this game anymore and slipped here collar to go and do something else less interesting.

This was our first hint that the dogs' enforced 30-day rest time at the hands of the estimable Govt may not have done their fitness the world of good. Of which more earlier.

While Eloise is Away...

...the dogs will play! Eloise is enrolled at the nursery attached to Nicole's work and has been attending on Mondays for a few weeks now, building up her hours. Today was her first full day, which gives me a day off (richly deserved, though I say so myself).

We dropped her off at around 9 this morning with dogs in tow and headed up to Nudgee Beach where they chased balls slung from our ball slinger and sticks lobbed into the river. The tide was high and the waves lapped into a little forest of what I, with my lamentable knowledge of Aussie flora, can only describe as trees. We padded through the mud around the trees for a bit then got back to the beach and Tiny was at sixes and sevens deciding whether she wanted to chase the stick enough to get wet to fetch it - which she invariably did, keeping afloat not through any natural bouyancy but my batting down the water hard enough with her front legs to keep her head above water.

We marvelled at how unfit the dogs have become and reflected on the status dogs seem to have here; whereas we regard our dogs as keeping us fit with long walks etc while keeping themselves healthy by running about ten times as we walk exploring, as they do, every available nook and cranny, the general attitude here is not to walk dogs at all in many cases, and if you do, to walk them on-leash to the off-leash area then let them empty themselves and toss them a couple of sticks for ten minutes before returning home feeling perhaps a little saintly.

We might a guy from Indooroopilly who walks his pair up on the remote tracks of Mount Coot-tha and gave us some pointers which we might take him up on. Perhaps things aren't so dismal after all.

Eloise had a great time at nursery. She was there until five o'clock.

Oct 21, 2006

Thunderbolts and Lightning; Tiny Finds it Frightening

My glee it being awoken at five this morning by the dogs was beyond measure. We had hoped that buying them doggy beds similar to the ones we had in sunny Ipswich might have solved the problem we've been having but may not have mentioned here with Tiny in particular getting up in the night and scratching at the door (which is a sliding door on that room) until she manages to get it open - then the dogs swarm onto our bed. Generally around three in the morning we can't be bothered to do anything about it.

Nicole's first night shift was the test and they went through most of the night but go out quite early - I'm not sure of the time.

This morning Tiny was scratching at five am so I went and remonstrated with her firmly, and as I was as parched as a parched thing I went for a glass of water. A few clinks and a splosh later, monkeynuts was awake. Deep joy.

Nicole got back around 8am, and I had been up for three hours already. We had had three breakfasts by then and individuals were getting impatient to go out. This as usual was signalled by sitting in the pram and moving around the baby rucksack, along with meaningful stares.

So out we went and up the Kedron Brook. For a laugh I though I would let E roam free and no sooner was she out of the bag, as it were, than she was making a beeline for a playground just over the brow of the slope to our left.

So the poor doggies got tied up to a post while the munchkin slid her little heart out, swung for England, and wobbled herself into a playground frenzy. Then it started to rain, requiring an orderly withdrawal back to Agincourt Street via a flock of ducks inconsiderately waddling across the path - which Matilda seemed to enjoy in a shrill, anxious, "Let me at them" kind of way. Irritatingly the rain stopped shortly thereafter, and we hardly even got wet, but we were committed, and the skies looked sort of morose and vaguely, damply, limply threatening.

Back at the gaff we had a fourth breakfast, or what you might call an early elevenses, around 9.30 and the batteries gave out around 10am.

I retired to the al fresco reading area and the sun came out so it was only right that I should retire further to the hammock, there to read my current library book "The Eighth Day" which is a slightly silly rompy thriller thing (not that kind of romp).

Tiny joined me after a while. You wouldn't believe that a gangly dog like that could get into a hammock, let alone be actually keen to do so, but as you can see we have photographic proof.

After a while I started to sense the dangerous onset of slumber so in the spirit of sun safety I attended to a few chores until Squeaky woke up around twelve.

Nicole was duly awakened and pasta, pesto and salad made for quite a pleasant lunch. I even guessed approximately how to make a salad dressing. You might be proud if you were that way inclined.

We jiggled around in the afternoon - went to another playground, visited a "child-friendly" cafe in Ashgrove, collared a helium balloon - result... then went to Homezone to do some shopping and get the dog's nails trimmed.

The dog's nails for previously unannounced scheduling reasons was not performed. However a bank of cloud was hovering ominously to the South, and it seemed to take up half the sky. "Shall we walk the dogs then" said Nicole. "No" said I.

Back at the house we compromised. In the sense that I gave in. The advocated strategy was that we would get on our bikes (no, really) with Eloise on the back of mine. Nicole would take the dogs on the leads and we would cycle down to the Brook and a good time would be had by all. I suggested, and here is where the compromise comes in, that it's bad enough riding with one dog on a lead let alone two dogs, both of which are indecently interested in ducks, especially those that waddle over paths, and ibises which are a new kind of bird in our little canine world, and well worthy of a chase. So I would take Tiny and Nicole would stick with Matilda.

So out the bikes came. The sky was three-quarters ominous now, by the way.

As we got on the bikes and opened the front gate, the first rumble of thunder ooyahed out of the bank of clouds. The odd spot of rain was felt. "This is barking mad" I said, "it'll start really raining in five minutes."

Nicole insisted, and I can't quote verbatim, that that was an incorrect assumption, and that we should press on regardless. If I could raise only one eyebrow, I would have done. So we set off instead.

I heard a call from behind us. It was a neighbour from across the road. "You do realise there's a storm coming don't you? There's a cell rotating to the west and it's going to hit real soon." Feeling the start of what I hoped might be a protacted period of smugness I said "Oh yes, we know, we're only going round the block."

Kedron Brook safely aborted, with its ducks and ibises, we rode around Agincourt Street and did a two minute circuit and came safely home. The intensity of the rain built up considerably as we rode round.

"You were wrong anyway," Nicole said, "the rain started only two minutes after the first thunder." She so hates when I'm right. Need I say more? Anyone for a sentence with the word "always" in it?

Nicole then proceeded observe the storm as the lightning began and the thunder rolled around the sky above us. The heavens opened.

The metal roof on the house made it sound worse - or is that better - than it probably really was, and Eloise and Nicole frolicked around, Nicole putting out plants for natural water and generally getting very excited. Both were drenched with a few minutes. For me, discretion was the better part.

The dogs of course hated it. Tiny particularly hates unexplained outside noise, and thunderbolts and lightning is up there with fireworks.

So it was a bad dog day really. Never mind eh, it turned out to be a good day for being smug.

Oct 19, 2006


Hairline cracks found in a concrete overpass feeding onto the main motorway running through the centre of Brisbane have closed the road and resulted in gridlock in the city centre. Bus routes have been changed and people are flocking onto trains - the whole system is apparently at breaking point.

It seems that Britain isn't the only country with a groaning transport system.

My experience of driving over here is that the system is based on a grid system with traffic lights at many junctions. So it's a very stop-and-start affair. The sequencing of the lights doesn't seem to be particularly intelligent - that is to say that you can sit at a set of traffic lights on red whilst no traffic whatsoever is there to go through which light is green at that time.

Also something to get used to is choices of lanes. Sometimes a left lane will turn left, sometimes a right lane will turn right, sometimes not. Lights will allow a left or right turn only sometimes, leading to irritation when you want to turn right, say, but someone is in the right hand lane in front of you but wants to go straight on, but can't because the straight-ahead light isn't lit. Often it's necessary to predict what lane you'll need to be in two or three junctions in advance.

Locks and Ticks

Nicole is on nights tonight, so I am blessed with the pleasure of her company today. This morning we went to Nudgee Beach and the dogs frolicked - actually Matilda frolicked and Tiny barked haughtily from a distance - and swam in the river chasing other dogs' sticks. Eloise became obsessed with the dog water stations to the point where she was putting her feet in the
trays, and soaked her shoes and socks completely. "A good time was had by all."

I had to call out a locksmith yesterday as for the last couple of days the front door has refused to open. It seems that the latch mechanism internal to the handle-catch arrangement had broken and needed replacement. Another ton leaves the premises.

We are slowing discovering the value of money, in the sense that what with unplanned expenses such as new specs, vet bills, nursing books, daily gourmet food shopping (by yours truly, naturally) etc, we are burning more money than we are bringing down! So adjustment is required, and adjustment will, I am sure, be made.

You're probably goggling at the vet bills if you give a damn about the dogs, but don't worry, they just had a check-up, a top-up vaccination for kennel cough and the shock realisation that Matilda is weighing in at a hefty 25kgs whilst Tiny is a little lean at 17kgs. I have been standing guard at mealtimes to make sure no dirty tricks are being perpetrated.

The other insteresting factette that came up in our vet consultation is that Kedron Brook, where we have been walking our dogs in the mornings of late due to its length and off-leashishness, is a hot bed for Paralysis Ticks which are in season at the moment. One in ten dogs who get these buggers end up dead! So to overcome that we have to Frontline the dogs every fortnight, and we will also be frisking them every so often for ticks just to be sure - not that it's reaqlly all that much of a risk... probably....

Oh how we laughed when the Vet talked about "Tick Toxin" and we thought "The mouse runs up the cloxin." How we laughed.

Oct 17, 2006


Julie bought me a pair of blue thongs for my birthday this year. Apparantly they are the height of Australian fashion and every discerning girl has a pair in her wardrobe. We know them as flip flops. You can see my pair in the photo in the beach bum entry.

Cheesy Australian joke alert... What do you call a French man wearing thongs? Phillipe Faloppe. Well, it made me grown.

The rebirthing of the nursing geek

When we departed via Heathrow Airport we had a luggage allowance of 80kg. We actually weighed in at 90kg and therefore had to pay an excess that cost us 300 pounds. This mainly consisted of my nursing text books.

As part of my induction and preceptor period I am having to work through two huge folders of reading and activities. I am pleased to report that I have been putting the nursing text books that I brought from the United Kingdom to very good use. It makes me feel less guilty about the 300 quid unsceduled expense.

Kroll Park

Took this snap at Kroll Park, which is a decent dog walking area at Redcliffe where we went the other day on our drive up the Sunshine Coast.

We put up our hammocks out back the other day - the ones we bought in Sydney - and are very pleased with them. We now need to get hold of some canvas or something to make some sunshades with, then it's iced coffee and Tim Tams out back.

We went out to a little walk up the Aguilar Mountains drive and walked around up there for a while, which was nice. It's still proving very difficult to find decent dog walking locations as all the National Parks, of which there are many, ban domestic animals, even though there seems to be very little to protect from them.

Oct 14, 2006

Beach Bum

We went up the coast today to scout out potential off-leash walks for the dogs. These Aussies are doggy fascists unfortunately and you can only let your dogs off the lead in designated places. Good grief!

We went up the coast from Sandgate through Brighton and Margate, would you believe, and Redcliffe and Scarborough. Then up to Deception Bay and the Bribie Island.

It wasn't really til we got to Bribie Island that we found a nice beach to walk the pooches on. But it was very nice, we spent a good hour and a half there. Tiny went swimming but didn't really cope very well with the waves, and Matilda amused herself in the undergrowth. Eloise went super-commando and was prancing up and down the beach as naked as the day whe was born. We walked back as the sun was setting and drove back, stopping opposite the restaurant we had eaten at earlier to watch the sunset, when I took the picture at the top.

I was completed cream crackered so Nicole drove back. We reckon it was an hour's drive, so a little bit further than Rendlesham would have been back in Suff, but worth it on a weekend?

It's really nice to see that Eloise and the dogs are getting on so well after their time apart. She beams when she sees them for the first time in the morning and has them chase her, teasing them with food. She gives them cuddles and strokes. Tiny
goes so far as not to walk away in contempt now, and has even stopped growling when Eloise tries to show her affection.

Along with the title of the post I was going to put on a photo of E butt naked on the beach, but thought better of it for some reason.

In the Kingdom Of The Blind

....the One Eyed Man is King.

No sooner had Nicole returned to work at 6.30 in the morning this Tuesday that I decided it would be a great idea to clean my glasses. After doing this I had half a pair of glasses.

You might think this a minor inconvenience if you don't know the extent of my blindness. When I first started to have to wear glasses at the age of ten or so I was so embarrassed that I would refuse to do so, and wandered around in a permanent world of fuzz where anything further away from my face than eighteen inches or so could only really by described as a fizzy area of colour.

That feeling came back in trumps.

I was forced into emergency action and managed by putting my glasses - glass, really - on, and closing my left eye, to locate some superglue. You might envisage that superglueing a lens back into a broken frame would be a delicate operation, and you would be right. Envisage though what this would be like if there was a excited, curious baby, and two excited curious (and hungry) dogs hanging around like bears around honey and picture the scene.

So I got myself into a condition where I could at least get myself to an optician and $400 later, I have ordered a (yes Mum) bendy memory stuff set of glasses - which won't arrive til next Monday. Marvelous.

Eloise nutted me one in Zone Fresh and knackered the glasses again on Wednesday, what a hilarious check out procedure that was; and driving home with the left lens actually balanced in the frame was a tad precarious. Further supergluing ensued.

So I'm limping through on a wing and a prayer.

I do have a spare pair, but they are held together with sellotape. I think that says it all. The answer is probably contact lenses. No, the answer is almost certainly contact lenses.

Creepy crawlies

I have had my suspicions for the last week or so, but this evening I searched for "cockroach" on google and found that we are sharing our home with Peripanta australasaie. Well, that should put a few of you off from dropping in.

I went into the study the other evening and as I turned on the light there was this creature scuttling across the floor but it had disappeared by the time I called Neil. This morning there was a creature upside down and dead on the drive way. Then this evening I was on the telephone to Chris in New Zealand when one of them flew into the back lounge and landed upside down on its back. I quickly placed a bucket on it and after talking to Chis did my internet search.

What can I say, it is all part of this tropical lifestyle, not that it has been very tropical this week. Apart from becoming absolutely obsessional about minute crumbs on the kitchen floor I think I will just have to get used to it. Either that or we need Faye, Liz W or my mum to come and live with us.

But on a lighter note, at least I haven't needed to kill a snake in the back garden with a spade as one of the guys I work with was delighting in telling me one lunchtime this week. Do you still want to come mum?

Oct 13, 2006

No longer supernumerary

Well, I have now completed my fortnight of supernumerary status. I have worked in the Bone Marrow Transplant end of the unit these last two shifts and I realise the depth of my lack of knowledge. I have an awful lot to learn. For the nursing geeks who might be reading this I feel like an Advanced Beginner (Benner, 1984). Not only are there all the new protocols and policies, drug names, abbreviations, ward culture to learn but also not knowing where anything is, which is really frustrating. I have to keep remembering to ask someone to check my saline flushes but beds are even made differently. Florence would be turning in her grave! There is not a hospital corner in sight. Bed sheets are wound underneath the matress or tied. I need to get my books firmly stuck into some books but it is all so new that I feel exhausted by 8 o'clock in the evening.

Oct 11, 2006

Home Stretch

Not much to say... woke up, went for a little walk... the wind had died down and the sky was overcast. There were ducks and llamas in the grounds, which made for an interesting experience from my end of the lead. In the river which lapped gently against the shores, a dolphin was ambling around, and a pelican came in to land.

Breakfast was delivered to our room, and we ate it fairly quickly then left.

We drove up to Nambucca Heads itself where the wind was still quite strong and blowing some surf in off the Ocean proper. On the way back to the Highway we called in at a petrol station and actually had our tank filled by a one-armed pump attendant, which hadn't happened to either of us for a very long time - regardless of the dexterity of the filler.

The drive up went reasonably uneventfully. We soon stopped at a Forest Park whose name I don't remember and walked a little "Stretch Your Legs" trail where I stretched Eloise's legs while the dogs stretched Nicole's. We later stopped at a beach at Lennox Heads to walk the dogs properly. We were on pretty safe ground with the dogs as the weather wasn't great and there wasn't anyone around. The wind had picked up again and got progressively worse until we were getting sandblasted and Eloise started to look like she'd been coiffured by the Devil.

We had lunch at Byron Bay in a nice fish restaurant and pressed on. Before long, after driving past a giant Banana and a giant Shrimp, we were back in QLD and on the home strait.

Before long we were back home, and very relieved to be so. I thought Sproggy did very well to do what was basically four days of driving with very little bad humour, though I suppose I should thank some mystery being for her being unable to say "Are we nearly there yet?"

The dogs didn't sleep in our bed that night. They did wake us up at five o'clock though. The buggers.

Pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/neil.r.gavin/AnimalLiberation

Fiends Reunited

We got up fairly early, I seem to remember, and set about packing everything up. We were
excited about our impending reunification, Nicole very vocally so, I in my own way. There was an incident of appalling parenting where at one point Eloise evaded scrutiny and decided to visit the playground on the opposite side of the thankfully quiet road, solo. Whoever left that gate open....

After a little to-ing and fro-ing we were off on our way, with Gary leading as he knows his way round. Soon we were outside the gates to the Australian Quarantine and Importation Service Eastern Creek Reception Centre, on the phone desperately trying to get in... and eventually the gate started to creak aside like it was a State Penitentiary or something.

In reception there was a man arguing with an official over some bureacratic detail which hadn't been explained to him or which he hadn't got right or something; our hearts started to sink - what techicality would they get us on? But when it came to us through we breezed and off we went to Row 6 of the Dog Compound, where there was absolutely no-one waiting for us.

After a minutes though Candice turned up and soon we were frolicking in the corridor with our doggies, who were quite excited to see us, and then leads were on and we were marching to freedom with the barks and yowls of the still incarcerated echoing around us.

After what can only be termed a "stretch of the legs" at the end of which thankfully the dogs came back we bade our farewells and headed back up the Pacific Highway. The dogs soon established seating positions - Matilda in the footwell, Tiny at Eloise's side.

The drive went smoothly up the Highway, no false moves or wrong turns. We breezed up by Hornsby and Newcastle.

First stop was at Keruah by a lake where we had the most well-meaning but appalling service at a roadside café. The heat was building up though there was a stiff breeze, and we ate with the dogs tethered to our bench. Eloise got quite excited and we were all happy to be all together again.

Eventually my chips turned up ("Sorry!") but they weren't cooked so the dogs got most of them (I was full up after my pizza anyway) then eventually after a reminder my coffee turned up ("Sorry! Keep the mug!") but that was lukewarm and disposed of down the gullet in seconds. Then we were off again with the plan to find a place to walk the dogs properly and get to Port MacQuarie.

Now the thing about me that some of you may know is that although I disrespect authority I tend to wish not to confront it, and generally speaking am not so very good (or am I) at estimating the likelihood of such confrontation occurring should rules be broken. Nicole is not so encumbered by obsequious obedience. Is that a diplomatic way of putting it? Apparently I am a drama queen. Oh well.

In the light of that, it was quite a while before we found a beach where we could actually walk the dogs but the beach that we found after detouring from the Pacific on a Tourist Drive, was beautiful.

It was heading towards dusk and a mist was forming on the edge of the Pacific. The sounds of the gentle surf were very evocative. A creek flowed out of the forest and down the beach. On one side the beach led the eye away as far as it could see, on the other a little town nestled on a headland with bright cumulus overhead.

Eloise was wearing her new "I Do All My Own Stunts" T-shirt and took the slogan literally, paddling with the dogs in the fast-flowing creek and having a whale of a time, even after falling over into the water - needless to say her mood improved further when the nappy went and she could run and climb around freestyle. The dogs also made the most of their new found freedom gambolling around on the dunes and in the creek though they fought shy of actually surfing or anything like that.

Soon it was getting dark - rapidly - and we realised that we'd better get a move on and get to Nambucca Heads.

We got there about 8 o'clock. The wind started picking up almost as soon as we left the beach, and leaves were being blown around us quite disconcertingly. The motel lay down a palm-lined drive off the main road and was by the shore of the Nambucca River, I had read, but it was pitch black and we couldn't see anything much and certainly couldn't hear any evidence of water over the gusts of wind which were now getting very strong. We were disappointed to find that as it was Sunday there was no food laid on so we hot-footed it back into Macksville where we got takeaway Chinese which we ate watching crap TV... then crashed. Needless to say the dogs slept on the beds. Shameful.

Day of Rest

Thursday night's drive had bought us time to spend the day in Sydney before picking up the dogs tomorrow first thing. Everybody apart from me - I'm immune to that sort of thing - was terminally woken up to what appeared to be minor hangovers by Eloise locating the loft opening stick and throwing it to the ground to maximum acoustic effect.

We lounged for a good part of the morning, and Eloise spent the morning chasing the cat around, who didn't really seem to appreciate it, and scaling their drawer unit to the fishbowl which was quite out of the way, but not far enough for our little explorer. We (Nicole, Julie and I) then left Gary with the sleeping Eloise and went onto the local Newtown high street to a coffee shop to have breakfast. The ladies failed to hear their phones, and we returned to find Eloise awake again only having slept for half an hour or so and confronting Gary with every man's quandary - what to do with a bawling child.

We then did what you have to do and caught a train down to Circular Quay to look at the Bridge and the Opera House, which were still there. We wandered around for a bit and watched a Ricky Gervais sound-a-like complaining about the British, yeah, then doing some stunts on his bike with a chainsaw, right? He probably thought he was a chilled out entertainer. We then let the sprog loose to see what she'd make of the Aboriginal Didgeridoo Techno Trance music. She didn't dance, but did wander up to get a good look at the funny bloke with the dark skin and white paint blowing into the huge chocolate straw.

She did however make friends with a donkey which was inexplicably standing there by the harbour side, doing precisely nothing, with a small box into which we were presumably supposed to put money. The Monkey found this fascinating, I'm sure she'd rumbled that there was a bloke inside, especially when the ear came off, but she didn't let on for a minute.

The sun was getting quite strong so we caught the train back - Gary got a different train and struck some poses for the camera from across the rails, but frankly none of them are fit for publishing.

We walked down Newtown high street, and stopped at a shop where we bought some hammocks like the one G+J have on their verandah. I think Nicole had this planned all along. We also got some baby clothes, of which more later no doubt.

Then back to the pad where we had some visitors for a barby supper. Ed and Christina came round about five thirty. Ed went to college with Nicole, although I don't think they really remembered each other. He also by some amazing small-world coincidence went to school with a certain James Gavin, although they certainly don't remember each other (well James might I suppose). Yes it turns out Ed is an Ipswich boy and went to Holy Joe's, sailed at Waldringfield, etc etc.

So the barbie was very nice, there was lots of it, that Peacock seems to know his way around food... or a supermarket...

We retired around midnight. There was a certain amount of inebriation in the air.

Sydneython Day Two

Day two began with emotions running high as I tried to get over the embarrassment of last night's motel debacle, and failed.

We had breakfast, where Eloise was full of figurative beans.

Then off driving via the local shops onto the New England Highway, picking up the Thunderbolts Way at Urala. The scenery was very pleasant, rolling pastures punctuated by gum trees, with mountains in the distance. We were glad not to have come this way on the return trip as the dogs may have had difficulty remaining calm in the face of the sheep, cattle, horses etc. Nicole commented that it was like Scotland, without the rain.

We stopped off at Walcha to pick up petrol which was a little town nestling in the hills. Although it was quite sunny and we were expecting to open the car door to noticeable heat actually it was quite cool outside. Probably a result of Walcha sitting on a tableland and consequently being at reasonably high elevation.

The Thunderbolts Way soon started to wind up and down hills and became quite exciting. The scenery became quite breathtaking with the road hugging the steep slopes of the hills, with beautiful trees lining the sides.

We stopped at a lookout point and sent some time there. It was quite hazy but you could see for a very long way nevertheless. A layby was equipped with some covered benches and an enclosed toilet which was amusing to tiddle into as you could look straight down the khazi into a pit about twenty feet down below, which had to compete with chasing fags around the pub urinal for toilet time amusement.

A fence sealed us off from a steep dive into the valley below along which ran a little track then up the other side to the view you can see pictured on the left. Not a soul was in sight.

After a while the obligatory Ute pulled up, then a car with a dog with which Eloise was soon making friends. Pretty soon it was time to move on.

The road continued through the hills and down into valleys where it would cross over picturesque little creeks on little bridges. We Oohed and Aaahed. Eloise Yabbayabbayabbaed.

Descending from the hills eventually we wound up at Barrington, then Gloucester where we stopped and had some food and drink and changed nappies etc. Then on again picking up Bucketts Way.

After a while I fell asleep (Nicole was driving!) and when I woke up to Nicole's cry of confusion and fear we were in the middle of the Pacific Highway, turning across a lane of traffic onto the most confusing, un-signposted junction I have ever woken up to. Luckily Nicole thought quickly and got us onto the road but it was an absolutely terrifying moment!

The Pacific Highway took us down past Newcastle across yet more views and was sometimes literally cut out of increasingly steep crags with bridges crossing over seemingly hundreds of feet above us.

It became clear that we were entering metropolitania and so we tried to follow Gary's directions and were fine until we got to the Sydney Harbour Crossing where we got into the wrong lane and ended up cruising through an electronic toll - without the requisite electronic tag - straight into the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. Ooops.

Frustration began to mount as the map we had was not the best, and the driver was urgently in need of relief variety number one. The navigator however managed to locate and direct to the residence of Mr Gary Peacock and Ms Julie Seldon, and we knocked on the door to find.... nobody in.

So we took Eloise over to the little playground over the road, Nicole in an increasing state of panic over the imminent inundation of her panties, and phoned Julie who arrived two minutes later.

We admired their house and breathed a sigh of relief to have completed our journey, and drank ate and chatted our way towards bedtime.

Oct 10, 2006

Animal Liberation: Phase One

It seems like a long time ago now. On the day of the Sydneython we rose early - six o'clock - to take Mrs G into work so that we could pick her up later on and embark straight away on the Odyssey. Somehow I can never get used to being awake at that time in the morning, and frankly it's all a little hazy.

I do remember: raisin toast, hot air balloons, radio not working in the car, alternative approach to the hospital.

Nicole safely transported, we headed home and things continue to be hazy. A certain amount of packing was done, and attempts were made to resolve the radio situation.

When embarking upon a trek the staggering proportions of which were beginning to dawn fully on me, it is a Useful Thing in the allaying of boredom and fatigue to be able to listen to Radio 4. Failing that, it is a Useful Thing to be able to listen to the local alternative, which in this case is a station called ABC National, which is much the same as 4 but without the preoccupation with far too regular news delivered in clipped English tones and without the comedy, which is a pity - probably. There's the odd interesting programme on it anyway.

So annoying it is that, when changing the car battery yesterday, the radio re-initialised itself and now required a code to be entered in order to function. Not wishing to guess, I busied myself with trying to find some evidence of what the code might be amongst the vehicular documentation and phoned the garage that sold the car originally. They hung up on me accidentally, and I spent half and hour thinking I was on hold when I was in fact listening to the shell-like ambience of my own outer ear. When I phoned back they told me they didn't know what the code was, but that it should be written on the back of the radio. Not wishing to embark on that potential DIY catastrophe, I phoned the garage that did the last service. They told me that the garage that originally sold the radio should know the code and that taking those radios out is complicated, and that no, the code wouldn't be written on the back anyway.


So on the back of that we went shopping, and bought a handheld radio to keep us sane riding through the FM stations, the tumbleweed, the petrol stations (will all aboard this Yankee station prepare themselves for battle stations).

Also we got some doggy futons, and ordered some dog beds, and got snacked up.

Packing packing packing. Then some more packing. A bit of sleeping, then some packing. Some useful advice came over the airwaves via text message then it was time to go. So, punctual as punctual things we pitched up at the hospital and picked up Nicole ready to go. Then turned the wrong way out of the hospital and were instantly lost.

Magnificent navigation overcame my hotheaded mistake and we were back on track for Ipswich, racing on through the sluggish traffic like a mid-ranger in a go-slow bike race.

The first leg completed at Warwick at 6.30 or so, as it was getting dark. We decided to try to locate a place to eat. We found a nice cosy Italian restaurant and got them to switch their lights on and stoke up the cooker. We waved our arms to the three tenors, as identified by Nicole. Sounds more like Rene and Renato to me.

After the meal Nicole changed E into her pyjamas. She had her shoes on to walk to the car. The first fashion mistake of many I imagine. There was some sort of cavalcade of classic (ancient?) cars going on outside with jazz music, it was quite nice on a balmy night. But we had spent an hour and a half there and needed to be in Armidale at some sort of reasonable hour.

Nicole drove the next leg which took us through Tenterton, and Glen Innes (pictured, left) where we stopped for a coffee. The driving is tedious as it's dark and we pass through blink-and-you-miss-them towns, blinking. I derive my entertainment by attempting to tune the radio I spent $24 on earlier that day to a station it will keep track of for more than two minutes. Apart from a spot in the middle of the FM dial that's reliably completely silent - is it subliminal programming? The only reliable station is some dodgy rural AM station whose host complains about pinko lefties and how pot smoking should be punishable by death. The highlight of the night is Hungy Like the Wolf by Duran Duran... or was that a different life... Anyway eyes on the prize - Armidale only an hour away, and we've climbed quite far. It's pretty chilly and I'm wishing I packed my long trousers... and Eloise is not a happy bunny having been in a child seat for the last two hours straight and six hours really, very tired.

So onwards into Armidale, where we arrived around 11.30. We attempted to navigate to our Motel, but it was difficult because our map printouts were very faint and it was the middle of the night. We guess the route, and pass many motels on the way. Eventally we recognised our street and pulled up at the establish to which we are headed. We parked outside our room - the proprietor having informed me the other day that he would leave it open for us - and note that the door wasn't open. Furthermore we note that a television was clearly on, inside; though we couldn't see it through the drawn curtains, we could hear it through the now obviously locked glass door, along with what sounded suspiciously like the snoring of the clinically obese.

Oh, shit.

Thinking I may have mis-remembered the room number, I jiggled a couple of other nearby doors... and was greeted at one with an apparently naked Bruce holding a curtain to his succulents asking blearily "Did someone just try to get into my room?" But no open rooms.

Ohhh, shit.

So a phone call to reception, who I wasn't expecting to be there. However there was an answer, and a half-asleep man who said he was working relief came down to inpect the book and confirm what I suspect already - the bastards haven't got us booked in at all.

Thank God for the Best Western Cattleman's Motor Inn, whose last room we took ten minutes later. It was the first alternative we tried. We collapsed into bed, exhausted, and very pissed off.

Here endeth the first day.

Oct 4, 2006

Chug Chug

Got up this morning - performed ablutions. Swept floor of dining room which was resplendent with pasta, rice, cheery-ho-ho-hos and other assorted food matter ("Why didn't you hoover" says Nicole later. "Because we swept" said I).

With all this the little tyke was getting impatient to go out. She signalled this by firstly climbing into her pram, then looking at me meaningfully, whilst saying "Ugh!" and then tugging on the car door, then looking at me meaningfully, whilst saying "Ugh!" Her language skills are definitely coming on.

So I eventually relented, and opened up the car door, and in she climbed, though she made it pretty clear that she wasn't too happy about getting in the back in cattle class. She signalled this by tugging on the front door handle, then looking at me meaningfully.

Keys in the ignition - check. Immiboliser tweaked - check. Foot on clutch - check. Engage engine! Chug chug chug clickclickclickclick.

Do I hear the sound of an engine firing into life?


Thoughts spring to mind, such as: oh my god, did I fill it up the other day with the right kind of petrol? Is it some terminal problem? When I opened up the bonnet to check the oil levels etc (yes I really did that) did I jog something, maybe dislodge a nut or brush against a widget which has caused the car to cease functioning? Will RACQ come out, will I need to call out a mechanic, will it be fixed in time for the Sydneython? Will it be safe to drive on the Sydneython? Will we need to hire a car? Can we wing dogs in a hire car?

To cut a long story short I phoned the RACQ and after a little farting around (their records were in Cate's maiden name) they came out within 20 mins and a nice South African bloke diagnosed a dud battery, flogged me a new one, fitted it and off we went to buy dog beds.

We got dog futons. Posh! As if.

When Nicole got back we took a bike ride down to a park over Kalinga way, Melrose Park I think it's actually called. Eloise had great fun on the swings, the slides, the see-saws, the button lift thingy, and so did Nicole. So did I in fact. We met a woman who had blessed her child with the name "Ignacious." Which was nice... if wrong.

We set off and got back just as darkness was descending.

I have booked the accomodation for the Sydneython. We are staying in Armidale on the way down and Nambucca Heads on the way back.

We're looking forward to liberating the dogs from the totalitarian bureacrats who have forced them into bondage and incarceration. I spoke to Candice, one of the totalitarian bureacrats, today. She seemed like a very nice lady.

Oct 3, 2006


Here are some more pictures showing unhappy or comatose animals at the zoo.

We were up when the sparrows got their second wind after Nicole's hilarious mobile-phone-as-alarm-clock time zone confusion. For a while I thought it was going to be panic stations and a mercy run to the hospital but she was OK in the end. Maybe I should get a flashing light so we can blue light it into town should we need to. On the other hand, maybe I should get some dog beds.

E had me up and about by 7.30 or so, so we bunged on ABC and vegged in front of TV rubbish while waking up. All I can say is these Wiggles - whoever they are - really disturb me, and seem to have some kind of vice like hold on Oz. They think they can wave their fingers around and get away with it, how can they be so sure?

We Cheery ho-ho-hoed for breakfast then, by crikey, I did some hoovering down below (now now). Subliminally I think I have been thinking about hoovering for a while now, maybe related to the vacuum in my life previously occupied by work, or the vacuum in Nicole's life previously taken up by cooking, or could it be the build up of dirt on the floor... who knows. Eloise seems to have worked out the attachments, for after de-fluffing the brushy bit on the long thing that you rub on the ground which makes the dirt disappear, I came back and there she was holding out the dingly dangly tentacle thing that comes out of the bubbly bubbly ground hugger, indicating that I should connect the two, and squawking.

We then spent a delightful half hour driving the tuk-tuk as well as generally moving irrelevant things around, pointing at the sky, spying on neighbours and passers-by, and peeling dried paint off the drive with our fingernails. Beats watching it dry in the first place I suppose. Maybe. It did beat putting the Napisan (sp?) into the nappy bucket for a while. Perhaps that was the point.

All of which was killing time before going to the library, on the way to which there was no magpie action whatsoever. At the library, as it's Tuesday, there was story telling action, but - oh my god - it seems to have been nothing but a repeat of Friday! Same themes, same books, same songs (Bananas in Pyjamas, now that's just wrong).

Mysterious smells prompted our departure after trading in our books. We are keeping a weekly balance of four at the moment.

Then off to bed for Eloise, who was completely Jacobs.

In other news, the Jacaranda tree outside the house is getting its blossoms into gear.

Anything else interesting.... Spiced Vegetable and Cashew Nut Pilau. Yum, notwithstanding the blackened cashew nuts.

Snap to the left: Agincourt Street by night. Charming.

Nearly late

On Monday evening I came home exhausted from a late shift, not from actually working hard but because I hadn't slept well the night before. I set the alarm clock on my mobile phone for 05:30 as that pesky child has hidden my alarm clock and we have hunted high and low and it is nowhere to be found. I woke up to the sound of the birds outside after sleeping with my head between the pillows from 04:30 when they start singing. I thought I better check the time as it seemed to be fairly light outside and it was 06:05. I had a very quick shower, made sandwiches and cycled for my life into work. Luckily, I got there on time as it wouldn't do to be late so early on in my new job.

Oct 1, 2006

This is What We Were Doing

This means something to somebody.

Koala patting

After a quiet morning around the house making pizza dough and general tidying we went to Alma Zoo this afternoon. Can you believe our luck? We arrived at the same time as the interactive koala feeding. I sent Neil in with Eloise to intereact whilst I stood on the outside of the enclosure holding my breath and taking photographs of them both. I am pleased to report that she seemed more interested in a little boy than the koalas.

We were making our way to the cafe for the snake talk and were sidetracked by the emus. One of them took an interest in Eloise and she was perturbed by this and ran to my legs for support. The touch and feel boa constrictor, on the other hand, was large enough to eat a small child but she took great interest in its' head end when asked only to touch its' tail.

On the way out there was an enclosure of animals called tahrs, which are like deers. We were telling Eloise what the animals were called and she kept repeating "ta" back to us.