Dec 29, 2012

Jolly Christmas

Christmas was warm this year and on the day in question, after various present-openings and Skypings we drove off into the mountains to Jolly's Lookout, overlooking Samford Valley, for a barbecue.

Santa had in fact delivered the Roller Blades, much to Eloise's delight, and additionally she had been given a multitude of presents the likes of which I can't remember ever seeing before but which I'm sure pale into insignificance compared to the hauls captured by some children at this, the time of Goodwill to All Men. Aside from the blades, and not wishing to embark on a crass listing of every last bauble and trinket, there were painting sets, Attenborough DVDs, books, Lego, CDs, other stuff, and more stuff.

The painting set came up the mountain with us but was trumped by the Roller Blades. Lisa Mitchell was the soundtrack heading up the mountain, the Mumfords on the way down.

We had a plan to watch Attenboroughs in the evening and eat junk food, but there was more Skyping to be done and by the time, etc. etc.

We actually ate less than we eat normally. For shame.

'Tis the Season

'Tis the season, apparently, to be jolly, and so jolly we shall jolly well be.

An a fit of organisational unusualness, we actually got our Christmas shopping done pretty damn toot sweet, with Eloise catered for in varied and unusual ways and packages winging their way England-wards quite well ahead of time.

We even spend a couple of days getting stuff for ourselves, though we might not consider them Christmas presents per se. Nicole jibbed a bread-maker and I did my semi-annual DFO clothes shop, as part of which Eloise emerged with some spiffy new shoes.

Eloise has been play-dating away with various people whilst the school holidays have been on, and has had a couple of little chums over for "sleepovers," a social custom here where little people visit one another and terrorise households for an extended overnight period. I think it's sleep-over as in hang-over or something. All good fun at the time, but you kind of regret it afterwards, with the late nights, lack of sleep etc.

Anyway Eloise wrote a letter to Santa in which she requested Roller Blades, a Fish, and a Whippet.

We pointed out that Santa isn't in the Live Animal Transportation business and that consequently may not be able to deliver pets, but it seems that Roller Blades aren't outside his price range, and as he didn't see fit to consult his parents over the protracted periods of time that might be requested at the Skate Centre, that these may in fact be procured.

Brass Neck

The way she's tossed around by all and sundry round here, a baby needs to get a strong neck pretty quickly.

I can't remember how old a baby needs to be before you start tossing it around the room, but surely it can't be far off now.

Witching Hour

Nicole calls the time around sunset the Witching Hour. I don't know if Witches have a reputation for waking up around dusk and requiring massive amounts of milk from their mothers then refusing to go to sleep until they've drained the udders and reduced their mother to a wisp-like waif, but that's the impression I get of why Nicole might refer to it as that.


Eloise would never really go in a bouncy chair for long, but Lyra doesn't mind for a bit when we're cooking or eating, and sometimes gardening. Eloise and I mowed the lawn the other day and weeded one of the flower beds and tidied up the back bit where the hammocks once went but nothing much happens now except for the falling of leaves. Eloise decided that she was going to sweep up all the debris and I took it away, with Lyra looking on from the shade, contentedly.

Dec 16, 2012


A little smile through the sagging baby fat for you. We had lot of smiles at 4 o'clock this morning.

Dec 13, 2012

Smiles Without Wind

Baby engagement is increasing and I'm getting a little google-eyed and proud fatherly and all that, you know the stage where gurgling starts to happen and you spend hours or at least fractions of hours - well, minutes - gazing into one another's eyes, and maybe you might get a smile that isn't accompanied by seismic activity from beneath, like Mum's being getting for literally days now and you really think you deserve.

Neck strength continues to build as it has to since we aren't gentle with this baby; if she got through the birth canal in one piece then she can stand a little man-handling, so it's in the sling for dog walks and lugged around in arms at school pickup time. "Holy Dooley!" say the mums, "be careful with that child!" to which: "Who's this legendary Dooley anyway?"

And the guzzling continues as Lyra becomes appreciably heavier and larger: I think she looks like a Sumo wrestler and a moon-faced one at that, but Nicole mysteriously doesn't see it.

Dec 9, 2012

Swimming Carnival

Swimming Carnival time again at school. Eloise's last couple of swimming lessons had been devoted to championship heats, and she'd acquitted herself reasonable well, in the sense that she'd swum the proper strokes (e.g. no freestyle kicking in the breast stroke, able to actually swim the butterfly) and won her heats through elimination.

So when it came to the high-stakes, high-pressure, high-heat carnival day itself, in the absinthe of information we thought she might be in for a shout in those two races.

On the day, the hottest of the summer so far, the swimming pool was a heat-trap and we sat and sweltered in the 38 degree heat as things got underway. Some enterprising souls had a water-spray... nice. Otherwise the sun was high, the wind light, the air dry. The war-chants loud, the same as last year, not much originality there... again.

The carnival ran along the following lines: the final for each event (the best swimmers in the year) was held and then all the kids would race afterwards in a set of rapid-fire races that would earn their house points.

Eloise wasn't called up for freestyle, unsurprisingly, or for breast stroke or for butterfly, but was in the final for the back stroke, and though she came fifth out of sixth I'm proud that she made it to the final.

Due to some bizarre chicanery the championships were based on year of birth so the older kids would race in the carnival for the next year up. Who thought that one up is a total mystery, and was very confusing for a lot of people.

But Eloise did OK, her house came last as always, and the sounds of Gangnam Style (good grief) are still ringing in my ears, along with the worrying vision of a hundred and fifty kids (or however many it is) all doing the bleeding dance around the pool.

Dec 6, 2012

Weighty Matters

We popped into the chemist yesterday and while we were there we weighted the Lump, who clocked in a healthy 4.459kg.

Accounting for clothing, including a no-doubt saturated nappy, we reckon on roughly a 1kg weight gain since last checked around a month ago.

I did a rough-and-ready top-to-toe measurement too and estimate 57cm now, but that can't be right as she was only 51cm when born. We'll get the true figure in a couple of weeks time.

Nov 22, 2012

She Who Is Unnamed Is Named

Lyra Ishbel Gavin, come on down!

Actually now I think of it, I'm not sure how to spell Ishbel.

Nicole and I chose the first name, with not much actual method involved, just sort of brooding and not making a decision, especially when people were nagging us. Which they did.

Eloise chose the second name from a shortlist of three provided by us. Ishbel, Isobel or Elanore.

So maybe I should ask her to tell me how to spell it.

Number One Daughter

As you can see, bathtimes can be a "fun winding-down activity from the busy lifestyle modern children live" or something.

Eloise has her dance concert this weekend. She's doing six dances or something, and has been practicing for it for god alone knows how long.

Last Sunday she had a dress rehearsal up in Aspley that went on for eight hours. It went on too long; we had to be there for the last hour and half waiting for it to finish. There was a big storm while we were in there; all the Aussies were putting their cars under cover and we were wondering why, until someone told us that hailstones the size of tennis balls had been falling over Ashgrove and they were headed our way!

When I exited the hall and the blare of what passes for music these days, I was confronted by an intense curtain of rain blown by stormy gusts punctuated by lightning and thunder. I braved the elements and moved the car sort of under cover; all the good cover having been grabbed already.

No hail.

When I picked Eloise up from dancing today she was practicing her duo with her little chum. "They're not pointing their toes!" said Kristen the teacher. "You two are the only juniors I'm trusting to dance outside of a big group and you're not doing it properly!"

She has to go for an extra practice tomorrow. Last chance saloon. Then it's on stage, in front of lots of people. I expect nerves, and lots of them.

Nov 19, 2012


The Boss So: no name yet, don't nag.

Eyes appear to be focussing, intense locking of gaze is being achieved. Touching of faces with hands, etc, which is nice. Maybe even the vestiges of recognition. Who knows. She is, at any rate, taking an interest in the light and dark things that surround her.

Her legs are powerful, She has the ability to move in a limited way using them. She kicked me in the gonads today. Bless.

She is strong of neck, and appears to enjoy being suspended upside-down. At least it stops her crying.

Grip is good. As Nicole's hair will attest.

She doesn't entirely object to nappy changing, and I am fondly recalling the love I have for baby poo. Really!

Eloise is in charge of bathing, and discharges her duty with great care. I remember she used to absolutely hate having a bath, yet Spud 2 (or shall we let Woody stick) allows it reasonably fusslessly.

Breastfeeding continues to proceed without problems at considerable volume, though balance is yet to be achieved as Woody currently over-indulges and then vomits.

Last night for instance several hours of quality slumber were lost when a mega-vomit was expelled. Not a problem in itself, but Dionysian hunger soon followed, in the manner of a bingeing Roman, and the breasticles were unable to provide sufficient volumes.

Eventually, loud protests were silenced when one of the breasts was able to provide a snifter sufficient to suffer sleep, and slumber was restored.



One Astrological Event Displaces Another

In the sense that the birth of a child is an astrological event, and were it not for that astrological event, we could well have been in Cairns to experience the total solar eclipse that happened last week.

In the event, however, as it were, we weren't, we were in Brisbane, so we had to make do with the partial eclipse we got.

And, with our own little event in tow (Scorpio), we went to Chermside Retail Mecca, and parked in the Prammy Spaces, so parking was a breeze! But no eclipse glasses to be had: 'We sold out two weeks ago' said National Geographic Lady, 'we weren't expecting it to be a big deal, but we've had fifty calls today.'

So no eclipse glasses in Brisbane, but who needs eclipse glasses when you have binoculars and a piece of card! And if you don't have binoculars, you can borrow some!

So we borrowed some binoculars, got up at 6am as the sun was shrinking in the Eastern sky, and ate pancakes whilst projecting it onto a big piece of card. If you look on the picture, you'll see its crescent there.

And when maximum partiality was achieved, indeed the light did become a smidgeon unnatural, darkening a bit - not much, but it felt cooler than it should've.

Nov 13, 2012

Tired, Warm, Punctual

So even though things seem on the face of it easy, with nights only lightly punctuated by bawling and life progressing very much in a not-too-disrupted routine, other than regular stops for the tapping of the nork and medical visits to doctors and midwives, and the babe (still unnamed) sleeping a great deal, Nicole and I are still tired, for even though we profess not to have fallen victim to the same "china doll" syndrome that we probably had - though not nearly as badly as some - we are still obviously in a state of heightened emotions. And Nicole especially is tired, from recovering from Day Zero to constant breastfeeding, to the warm weather, to regularly overestimating her reserves of energy.

Spud (or Woody as the others call her, in recognition of her skill at woodpeckering) is now managing to point both her eyes in roughly the same direction, and we are having periods of marked lucidity and eye contact where it's just possible she might recognise that she's looking at something significant.

We have confirmed that she is not deaf by way of a clever machine at the hospital. She was wired up to electrodes and had ear pieces fitted. The machine played sounds in her ears and monitored the brain-stem for nerve impulses. We were impressed. Eloise's hearing test involved someone sneaking around a room and clapping!

She is almost back to her birth weight now, and drinking like a lunatic, especially when it's hot and she's thirsty.

We are constantly noting how a summer baby is so much easier than a winter baby, since not having to fit some kind of heated environmental spacesuit means you can actually be on time for things.

We're even managing to be on time for school, which is pretty amazing as Eloise insists on pushing the pram all the way there.

Nov 9, 2012

Separated at Birth?

Back to the familiar pattern of days of yore, the sleep-screech cycle, the recycling of liquid from the tap through the breast and - hopefully - into the nappy.

Spud II is being pretty good, after our couple of nights of drought-induced disquiet, we are settling into an easy pattern, as per the above.

The milk has come in and the babe is happy. Occasionally wifey absolutely requires draining when the breasticles become painful, and usually Spud is only too happy to oblige, before embarking upon five-hour daytime sleepathons which promise sleepless nights but somehow fail to deliver.

Nov 5, 2012

What is to be expected

So the sitrep is as follows:
Visitors: some
Breastfeeding: mixed
Sleep: patchy

Little Wotserface is doing well, no problems, to repeat the oft-repeated clichés she's got a good pair of lungs on 'er, she's gesturing like Superman, she's a hungry little thing, etc.

And hungry she is beyond the ability of Nicole to supply. In a situation where demand exceeds the productive capacity to supply, we expect inflation. And this is what is indeed happening as productive capacity is adjusted. The breasts they are a-growing, but in the meantime little Thingummë isn't taking No for an answer. After all, she doesn't know the word yet.

Night One was OK. We knew Night Two was going to be difficult. Eloise has been magnificent. After announcing that frankly she wasn't going to get to sleep with all this caterwauling, she assisted Nicole in keeping Sprog under control, even changing a nappy, before eventually flaking out.

I fell asleep on the sofa, fully in the knowledge that I might be called on later, and I was awoken at three in the morning by Nicole who was past the point of no return, having been bled dry of what little colostrum she had to offer. She lay herself down to sleep, and I set to pacing, rocking and humming upstairs through the ambulance call of Number Two's plaintive cries, her woodpeckering upon my breast, her near attempts at falling asleep so casually abandoned, until eventually she could maintain it no longer and we fell asleep on the sofa, she on the safe, backrest, side of my chest, and grabbed a few hours of sleep until around seven a.m.

Night Three wasn't quite a repeat, but it made a pretty good attempt at it. Nicole's norks were getting their acts together but the Night Terror, having emptied nine of them of what they had, just wanted more, and with a abdominal numbity and masticular discomfort on Nicole's part preventing further suckling, she began to express her frustration through the medium of voice.

Eloise was sound asleep and completely oblivious to any of this, but Nicole retired upstairs for some shuteye while I commenced the humming, rocking, pacing thing to occasional success. Having repeated Frère Jacques, Men of Harlech, Hark the Herald Angels Cry, Once in Royal David's Bitty, and the theme from Take H(e)art more times than I care to remember, having climbed into bed with hope in my heart and climbed out again with resignation in my gut to continue the trial, Nicole came in announcing it was three o'clock or something, I forget exactly what, that she'd had a nice kip and Spud seemed to have been very quiet.

"Oh, you bloody think so" said I, as I closed my eyes.

Nov 4, 2012

Express Delivery

Of course it's all a bit of a blur now, but as it's only likely to get blurrier, I suppose that I will write the story of Spud II's birthday while it's still fresh.

You'll be aware that Wolf has been cried a few times, but as I said to her the other day, Nicole always has appointments, like the hairdresser or whatever, and as I picked her up from the hairdresser she had a clear diary and it seemed like that would be like a red rag to a bull.

So when she woke me up at 6.30 on November the Second 2012, my first words were to the effect of "So we're on then, are we?"

And she said to me words along the lines of "Well I let you sleep in as long as I could but the contractions are now five minutes apart, so we should probably think about making a move."

So, first things first, get the coffee on, feed the dog, get dressed all that... a fever of half-asleep frenetic flapping.

Then a phone call to Marion to get Eloise taken care of, and it turns out that phones are really difficult to work when you need them to be easy and I hang up on her three times when I meant to do something else, and I'm sure the state of discombobulation conveys more than anything that something is afoot.

Nicole in the background, pacing, having contractions. "Can we get the TENS machine on, do you think?"

"OK, where are the instructions...."

Marion and Hannah arrive to pick Eloise up and it's all high-pitched female coo-ing excitement for a while, and I'm trying desperately to remember whether red is positive or is it black, and somehow Google is unhelpful to the point where we open Marion's bonnet (on her car) to look at the battery and even that's impossible to comprehend!

Anyway we wire up the TENS and Eloise has gone and the TENS is working so I'd better get the baby car seat mounted into the car and all that... and Matilda comes out of the gate with me and climbs into the boot of the car while I'm fiddling, because she really doesn't know what's going on, and frankly who does?

A quick spot of breakfast cereal whilst the last of the bags are packed and then we're off through the sluggish traffic with some nice relaxing Brian Eno to complement the very unrelaxing presence of the labouring woman with the three-minute contractions doubling her over whilst waiting for the lights to change on Newmarket Road.

The best laid plans of mice and men! We'd envisaged a nice relaxing trip down to the hospital, lazily scanning the area for a parking space (to avoid the exorbitant parking fees) and then a gently stroll along leafy streets to the hospital while the Carpenters played in the background.

Reality: straight into the exorbitantly priced multi-storey car park and a slow, heavily laden journey through the concrete cavern, lugging baggage and quiche, accompanied by moans and commuter traffic.

Into bright sunshine and stopping for a pause outside the cafe I offer Nicole a bar to lean against as another contraction comes, but she waves me off and we hurry, if hurry's the word, into the Atrium and into the womb of the hospital, into the lifts, and into the Birth Centre, and to our room, and.... relax.

It's 8am, the contractions are coming thick and fast, and the bath is full, but ignored as a midwife called Jill from Sunderland gives us a quick tour which I think she secretly knows we aren't really listening to, as we nod politely, occasionally retiring to a nearby trolley to lean against as another wave of contraction takes hold.

And it's just like last time, only more intense, Nicole in more pain, and another midwife comes along, our midwife for the day, Kelly, who is a Londoner, with child herself. And I say it's intense but at the same time it's relaxed and low-key, kind of a hum of activity as people do stuff in the background, and offer occasional encouragement and make chit-chat until "There's another one coming" and I man the Boost button and the pain, with Nicole bracing against the trolley then crouching down as though she's winding a spring in her legs and getting ready to leap.

After a while I remember there's an arrangement that I need to make, because Eloise has gone into before-school care her teacher probably needs to know what's going on and who she can contact so I nip outside to send a quick text message with my still-inept phone fingers, and when I come back in there's Gas and Air and loud moaning and things are clearly moving along.

Nicole says she needs to push and the midwife says -- yeah, go on, go for it; I suggest the beach ball but we opt for a large bean bag, and Nicole on all fours, goes for it.

I think, that's a bit odd, I thought the pushing was for stage two, but little do I know, for intensity mounts and the pain is intense, and Nicole lets us know that, and she's pushing down hard. Someone says "It's still in the sac" and I look down to the business end and Bugger Me! there's a head, in the sac, bloody hell! Better get the camera!

Jill is back and she says give me the camera so I do and one last push and there's a gush as the sac goes and the baby slides out, and there it is, grey and tiny, and that moment of dread before it starts breathing, and then it does, it takes a breath and cries, and I have it in my arms.

It's 9.23. And it's a she!

Nicole, flopped down, her face in the beanbag, exhausted, while a hug the baby, complains I'm pulling on the cord, and of course it's still attached to her, and we go through some complex manouevring to get Nicole sat up with baby on her chest. Their eyes meet. It's kind of special.

Image: Nicole, shaking like a leaf, gasping for air, tine baby on her chest looking up at her.

And that's it, aside from the placenta which is collected for research purposes, the trip down the corridor to load the infant into a bizzare machine that goes whoosh to measure her volume and weight etc, the heel-prick tests necessitated by Nicole's gestational diabetes diagnosis, and the marginal fail on one of those tests that threatens a 24-hour stay in hospital.

Hours have passed, and it seems right that Eloise should meet her sister, so I drive up to the school, not even minding the exorbitant parking charge, and meet her as she leaves class.

- We have a baby, I say.
- Is it a boy?
- No, you have a little sister.

Her shoulders sag a bit and she's a bit disappointed because, like every other person who's deigned to offer an opinion, and there's a been a few, she's expected a boy. She's wanted him for rough play, but I say she still has me, and she looks at me and says Yes I do.

We're on the way and I ask her how she's feeling and she says Happy but nervous.

But when she gets to the hospital and we go into the room and see Mum there with the babe and she gets to hold it her heart melts and she falls in love and all is well.

I deliver Eloise to Hannah's house where she'll stay the night then some phone calls and back to the hospital, where the blood tests are passed and we are free to go, back home by eight o'clock, twelve hours after we left, bruised, battered, tired. But happy.

Nov 2, 2012

The Arrival of the Spud

No words, too tired. Story later.
Suffice it to say: 9.23am, 3.3kg (7lbs 3oz), female.

Nov 1, 2012


Expectancy Since Nicole's Saturday night efforts we've had a couple of further episodes where contractions have started and then abated. I'm on tenterhooks, Nicole is ready to get the child out.

She's getting larger and larger, though by many people's standards she's really quite petite and really looks to be in great shape, trim and happy but with a bloody great beachball stuck up her dress.

Still around nightfall, the sprog wakes up and wombey things begin to happen, and we hang in there and see if it's something real or not.

Last night it looked to be something real, and Nicole was very uncomfortable but things again abated in the early hours.

And today, I went out to walk the dog with Nicole having regular tightenings and suggesting that when I got back we might think about the TENS machine, but again, no dice.

Oct 28, 2012


Nicole started with the contractions yesterday, and we set about getting things in order. People were phoned, Eloise bundled off, photographs taken.

We went to bed wondering how things were going to progress.

And then, the contractions stopped in the night.

So it looks like we might be a little bit stop-start on this one.

Oct 14, 2012

Non-Baby Shower

Rightly or wrongly, and for my money rightly, Nicole didn't want a baby shower. And who would, with all that fluffy nonsense and giggling women having kittens over baby nonsense? Not Nicole.

And, correct me if she's wrong, but aren't baby showers just for the first-born?

Well apparently not according to Nicole's work friends, who would not take no for an answer. But, knowing that Nicole is hoping, when the baby is born, that it will be neither a boy nor a girl but a whippet, Bronwyn from work organised a little something at the greyhound races.

So we pitched up at the Albion Racecourse to see the dogs, eat rubbish food and mingle with the gambling classes whilst watching racing hounds hammering around the track.

A nice touch that the course offered was to let us pat a dog, and name some races so we were treated to the Blowing the Baby Bonus Stakes, the Tiny Memorial and the other one whose name I've forgotten already...

Anyway aside from Nicole's work friends and some attendant children we had Eloise's little chums Hannah, Mia and Jessica with parents and siblings and with a grassy area to frolic in, not to mention, um, gambling and dog petting, all were happy for the four hours we were there.

We didn't win anything, of course, but naturally the sharing of our impending joy with our friends was, um, success enough.

I shouldn't mention the horrendous joke we played on Bronwyn, who fell for it hook line and sinker as Nicole texted her claiming that labour had started and hid in the toilets when she arrived. And I won't. I suppose some small measure of revenge was had when she made us eat baby food and attempt to guess its provenance.

Oct 12, 2012

Emergency Belly Cast

I don't know what the definition of traditional is, but I'm going to apply it very loosely to the practice of Belly Casting. We did it for Eloise, and her cast is sitting somewhere in Sunny Blighty, collecting dust, and the other day we did it for Little Spud, soon to be with us, but not as soon as Nicole thought that fine day.

In what can only be described as the first in a set of false alarms ("Wolf") Nicole thought she had "that feeling" that doom was impending and that if we wanted to do the belly case - and we did - we'd better do it now or we might never get the chance.

And so we embarked upon the hilarious process of deploying splash-sheets, unpacking the plaster-impregnated bandages, and then trying to get a seven-year-old red-head to do something in a methodical manner.

Oct 6, 2012

Give it to me straight

Eloise Eloise was rather pleased with her hair cut, and it did last a few days.

Oct 5, 2012

The Developing Foetal Mass

NME So as you can see, give it a couple of months and it doth a-burgeon. It this particular point in time, the day of the Lunch, long-distance walking was off the agenda, much to Eloise's delight, and probably Matilda's too, and shortness of breath a regular feature as more and more internal space previously reserved for silly activities like, oh, breathing and digesting food were subject to a hostile takeover by whatever it is that's in there.

Observe, though, the wellington boots.

The End of the Work as She Knows It

New Farm Park in Bloom Nicole's working week has involved working like a dog since she decided to do this PhD thingy, but she's usually had Friday off.

Eventually it all had to come to an end, and as she has been expanding bit by bit, the weekend work on the ward has become increasingly difficult, and even on light duties she has struggled with the twelve hour shifts.

So it came as a considerable relief when her last weekend came up and we went down to New Farm Park for luncheon... well, chips, to celebrate.

Eloise had a haircut booked in, too. And she emerged as usual with it straightened. With the dryness around here at the moment, it might stay straight for a few days, too.

Anyway, lunch down at the Powerhouse and Eloise wouldn't sink to chips so had a medley of breads with exotic dips instead. Bless her.

The Jacaranda trees down at New Farm Park were in full swing; for some reason they are very vibrant this year, strange really since it's been as dry as a bone.

Sep 29, 2012


I will now briefly relay to you the story of our visit this year to Riverfire, the Late Night to end all Late Nights.

You'll no doubt be aware that Brisbane is famous the world over (probably) for its Riverfire Firework Display which rounds off the River Festival in this, the River City. Riverfire has in the past been renowned internationally (probably) for the most excellently exciting flyover by the General Dynamics F-111 bomber aircraft, which pioneered the swing-wing configuration of military aircraft and had the (probably unique) capability to dump its fuel into the exhaust of its jets, creating a spectacle which, bar none (and pas de deux) is the most amazing thing that I have ever seen at a fireworks display, with a jet aircraft flying low along the river, past the high-rises, with a sun-bright fifty metre flame behind it, before executing a reach-for-the-stars power climb into the clouds above, all with the blistering roar of its engines shaking the very bones of the hundreds of thousands over gawkers beneath.

I say "probably unique" in an exploratory way, for having no actual knowledge on the subject, the only other example of jet aircraft at firework displays is the F-18A "Hornet" conveyance which we have now that the F-111 has been retired, having finally confronted the inconventient truth of its ancient rust-bucketiness.

Anyway all this is by way of a whetting introduction.

Nicole was of course drudging at work, as is/was her lot, leaving Eloise and I to brave the sweating throng between us.

Public Transport was our weapon of choice. We drove down to the Hospital to catch a bus from the mega-terminal there, and caught a bus before too long, embarking down the busway, a piece of urban infrastructure whose praises I cannot sing too highly. Under the golf-ball shield to Kelvin Grove and under the city we went then up into the open air and over the bridge where we were jaw-droppingly astonished to see an Apache helicopter rise over the eaves and hover, keeping pace with us, waggling its gun, thwocking its rotors.

"You just keep your eye on the road" I astutely advised the driver.

"Right-o" he said.

We walked across to the South Bank. The Apaches retreated only for some Black Hawks to take their place.

We watched an Artist do Art for a while. He was quite good. We bought a twinkly shiny lighty necklace for Eloise from the Riverfire Tat Stall.

We entered The Throng.

And a throng it was, a congealed mass of a zillion people all wanting the same thing, and all heading to the same place to get it. And we went with it, hand in hand.

I did lose Eloise for a while when she went to put something in a bin. - Do you know where the bins are? I said. - Over there, somewhere, she waved nonchalantly.

We made it down to near to the riverside and hopped up onto a wall behind which was what was once a flowerbed but was now a viewing platform, and joined the Sub-Throng that was using the flower bed as a viewing platform. I hovered at the back, wondering how I was to deploy the picnic blanket. Eloise went down to the front.

There was a certain amount of angst as I struggled with the conflict between:
1) the parental urge to actually have some idea of where one's child is an a huge throng of people and animals, and
2) the English urge to unfurl one's picnic blanket.

The struggle played itself out over a reasonable protracted period of time, with option 2) having the upper hand for most of the time, until I reached a denouement, decided that option 1) might be a winner after all, and issued the Monoversal Whistle of Immediate Return.

Eloise returned.

We sat down on the wall, and then someone plonked their child down next to Eloise, and with her new friend, we waited for the time, as the sea of people washed up and down around us, parting for the paramedics, eddying around the islands of established camp chairs, filling up the available space.

And then the Hornets overhead, roaring a quiet, civilised roar which didn't really shake the bones, and deploying decoy flares which floated prettily, but not amazingly, over the river and the fireworks started, and the lasers.

Adele's Set Fire to the Rain came on the speakers, blaring out beneath the cacophony of incendiary violence, and it started to rain a little, and we existed in a timeless continuum of rain from above, noise and light from around, and the crowd below, for a timeless period that lasted for, ooh, about half an hour.

And then, the fireworks over, and amazement in our hearts, we realised we had no real idea how we were going to get home.

A visit to the busstop revealed it closed with officials pointed in a direction to the temporary arrangements. We looked along their extended arms and moved in that directions beneath our humberellas, coming to a line of buses that did not include our own, but which expanded with new buses, some of which looked like they should have been ours, but mysteriously changed their numbers upon arrival.

Finally, exhausted, our bus arrived, and did not change its number, and we got on, and it was free, and we were delighted, and it left, and we talked, and I delivered a monologue on the subject of something-or-other and we missed our stop.

The next stop on the Busway, Brisbane's fine municipal Public Transport Infrastructure, whose praises I cannot sing highly enough, is about halfway between our home and the Hospital.

With no choice, we deployed sweeties for fortify us, and proceeded to hike.

At one point Eloise said "You know what, I actually really enjoy walking long distances" before we elected to tackle the final hill by elevator by way of taking a shortcut through the Hospital, and home in time for, well, bed.

Changing Seasons

The sun she gets warmer, and having topped up our Vitamin D over the winter months, it is time to re-apply the suncream and make faces at each other to make it seem like fun.

Sep 28, 2012

Holiday Days

The school holidays were somewhat busy for us, what with our ongoing daily commitments to walk the dog and a daily swimming lesson to attend.

Eloise has been promoted another level in swimming and is now a "Shark" which means that she gets to sneak up on unsuspecting children in shallow water and sink her teeth into their dangling limbs. Or so you'd think.

Actually what it means is slightly unclear, but seems to signal that the Powers That Be consider her Ept at swimming and have therefore decreed that she be made ready in this, the Final Stage, for the Fun to Stop and for mindless swimming Up and Down at Maximum Speed to become the goal of all endeavour.

Anyway we surreptitiously requested that she be lined up with Jesse, her favourite swimming instructor, for these holiday lessons, and lo, it came to pass.

And her lessons were in the Big Pool, and she did swim Lengths of it.

And while she swam lengths of it, employing the various strokes, I did swim a Quick Twenty Lengths.

And after I had swum my Quick Twenty Lengths, I did get out of the pool and watch Number One Daughter dive beautifully.

And then she would Meet Up Randomly with Friends and People She Knew, and play with them in the Waters.

And when we had finished in the Waters we would retire to walk the Dog and to pursue our Other Pursuits.

Such as visiting the Roma Street Parklands where there are Beautiful Gardens. Eloise has decreed them so.

Or visiting Michael the Cat, of whom I shall write further on a separate occasion, no doubt.

Or going to Birthday Parties, and Playing With Friends, and generally Having a Good Time.

Sep 23, 2012

School Holidays

The school holidays this time kicked off with an extended sleepover with young Hannah J, our little Eloise's bestest friend. Mother J was taking herself off to Stradbroke Island to get rat-arsed celebrate a birthday with her friends, and we offered to help by looking after Number One Daughter for the weekend.

Oh, and it was Nicole's birthday.

So after some convoluted logistics we rendez-voused with the H at our house after we'd been to the market and she'd been up to whatever it is she gets up to of a Saturday morning, and we went to see The Mummy at the Queensland Museum.

The Mummy is in Brisbane at the moment. Some Mummies from the British Museum have come to visit. There's a 3-D fillum you go to see and then an exhibition with caskets and trinkets and whot not.

Young Hannah unfortunately must have been watching too many horror videos because in the run up to our visit she had convinced herself that she would be absolutely petrified and that it was going to be scariest thing of all time ever and that Mummies were evil etc etc.

And sure enough after - and again I use this word advisedly - literally twenty-two seconds of watching the 3-D file, to be precise the bit where the camera flies between the computer-generated Mummy's feet and aims itself like a remotely piloted drone at the Cadaver's long-evaporated yet tastefully redacted gonads, poor Hannah broke down in tears and had to be removed.

She soon recovered, if not in the actual exhibition, which she turned out not to be really in the mood for, then in the shop, where a mummy-shaped pencil case lifted her spirits most excellently.

Then the fighting began when Eloise discovered some computer screens and the taking-turns artifice broke down, as it always and inevitably does.

Nicole took her leave and set down somewhere to rest her burgeoning birthday bump and I took a hands-off approach to mediation and entertainment as we looked at various things and other things.

Oh, the shock on their little faces when I delicately finger-tipped the tippy-tail bone of the Muttaburrasaurus! The delight when they felt with their own little fingers the difference between twenty-two and twenty-four degrees, or whatever the real number were, and understood the difference between a boy and a girl for the egg of a turtle.

After the Museum we dragged our tired behinds to West End and ate Tibetan food in a restaurant where manners broke down because we were all tired and hungry, but recovered when we became un-hungry.

For want of a thing to do the next day, rather than ponce about in the garden we went to the beach where we collected shells, built sandcastles and jumped over waves, before going in for an actual swim in the actual sea. No dolphins this day though. Little Hannah was missing her Mum and we tried to phone her, but it transpired in later investigations that my phone had bricked itself, which is a story in itself.

Anyway we were at the beach for - and I use this word advisedly - literally hours and totally buggered by the end of it. Well I was. And as I was the only one who remained awake for the drive home, I assume so were they.

Monday meant home-time for Hannah but work-time for Eloise as she went for a three-hour marathon lesson at Dance School to learn the Duet she is to perform at The Concert.

Sep 19, 2012


The weather people are keeping their weather eyes on the Southern Oscillation Index, a number which tells us something about the distribution of heat in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and South America, and telling us to expect an El Nino year, one in which the summer is hot and dry.

Apparently it's been a wet winter, though I didn't notice or can't remember, and out there in the countryside undergrowth and grass has been busily growing as though there is, in fact, no tomorrow.

This leads to the necessity of a program of controlled burning out in the countryside, and sometimes nearerby, where cooler, smaller, fires are set and closely monitored in order to burn the combustible fuel at the base of forests or in the fields and paddocks and reduce the risk of major wildfires.

So from time to time we will see a pall of smoke rising over a distant hill, or sometimes a closer hill. And sometimes the fires do get out of control, such as happened a few weeks ago between The Gap and Ferny Grove where a controlled burn got some legs.


Spring is springing, as it is prone to do, and the trees around the neighbourhood are taking it in turns to get their blossoms out. It's a lovely time of year in Brisbane, when it becomes very colourful with the flowers of the jacarandas, the poincianas, and all those other trees whose names I either never knew or can't now remember.

Sep 9, 2012

Skateboarding, Without the 8

Late afternoon, the sun setting, the neighbourhood quiet, strollers on their way to the brook with their dogs. Running the gauntlet of the Ginger Peril on the Skateboard of Doom. Along with, of course, the Elbow and Knee Pads of Truth and Justice.

Sep 3, 2012


What could be nicer than a tune on the Ukelele, the Piano or the Violin, played by my daughter, the Apple of My Eye, the nascent musical Genius?

A tune on the instrument of your choice played by someone who knows vaguely what they're doing, that's what.

The ukelele and the piano are acceptable I suppose, but the violin. My god.

Aug 24, 2012


Oh look, here's the bump, as of August 24th, a little while ago, resplendent in the Maternity Swimming Suit.

To her credit, despite the twists and turns, Nicole has maintained a most excellently healthy regime involving swimming, sleep and Rennies.

Eloise has swimming lessons on Monday and we go for a quick twenty lengths while she's in  her lesson. When Eloise is at dancing (that'll be Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) we go for a quick twenty lengths. On Friday we'll pop down sometimes for a quick twenty lengths.

Nicole has been working jolly hard on her Ph.D. and between that and her ward job has been working six days a week for goodness knows how long. All this while up the duff. Remarkable!


Ballet exam time again and the leotard is pink this year. Bun precision is high on the agenda after last year when Nicole was lauded, or rather failed to be chastised, for the quality of her bunning.

Aug 21, 2012

Amendments to School Routine

Sleeping Dog Some changes have been made to the school routine.

Whereas previously Eloise would attend (voluntarily and on her own initiative) before-school activities such as Reading Club and Maths Club, these have now unilaterally and inexplicably been withdrawn by the school due to children actually using and enjoying them rather than being frogmarched along to them for purely remedial purposes, without prior warning or any communication at all really, which to be honest rather pissed us off, but there you go.

Anyway, this leaves us with a gamut of morning time, which generally speaking has been taken up with transporting the Ever-Expanding Nicole to work and then back again home to walk/cycle/scooter to school.

The dog usually accompanies us to school in the morning nowadays, with Eloise on her bike or scooter on a non-dancing day. On a dancing day she will walk or scoot and I will pick her up from school and take her down to dancing as it seems a bit silly and self-defeating to rush around like blue-arsed flies to get home for a panic-stricken and time-fraught snack-in and change-up just to drive back the way we came anyway.

On a non-dancing day though, it's leg-power of some kind or other all the way.

So some days Matilda gets three walks: it's no wonder the old girl is in such fantastic health, and in need of so... much.... sleep.

Aug 15, 2012


We were taken a little by surprise when this Jillaroo, or so she called herself, bounded up to us. And bound she did, like some pre-Olympic enhanced experiment, for her legs were crafted from the finest carbon-fibre and she could leap - and I misuse this word advisedly - literally metres into the air, taking in small vehicles and perhaps even garden sheds beneath a single well-sprung hop.

And furthermore there are wheels underneath those feet so I can only begin to imagine the speeds that would be available to such a creature on its daily commute.

Very charming she was for all that, though, and we left her with a photo as a keepsake to embolden us as we shamelessly jumped the queue for the Showbag Pavilion.


A jolly old philosophical time we had in the duck shed where row upon row of hapless beasts lay decked out before us like a eugenic battery farm of poetic poultry imprisonment. What specimens! From the Aylesbury to the Mallard to the.... Duck.... the stalls beckoned us to leer and poke at their - fortunately very stupid - occupants, brandishing their prize ribbons on their bars and railings, trophies won by trophies.


Of course the chicks are always a favourite. Eloise is clearly blossoming in terms of her social and environmental skills as she made me queue for her whilst buggering off and amusing herself at a Bovine Lactation demonstration. There was a certain amount of angst as I struggled with the conflict between
1) the parental urge to actually have some idea of where one's child is an a huge throng of people and animals, and
2) the English urge not to lose one's place in a queue

The struggle played itself out over a reasonable protracted period of time, with option 2) having the upper hand for most - well actually all - the time, until I reached the head of the queue, actually had to let someone go before me (teeth grinding behind my polite smile), and then Little Miss Punctual Sunshine skips up, and in we go to molest some chickens.


A Nicole-less Ekka this year, just the sprog and I on a swelter-weight tour of duty around Flusville, Queensland, braving the crowds on the public holiday on an amazing ambulation of agriculture and animalia.

Just to be different we arrived at a new entrance this year, from which Nicole dropped us. I can't remember exactly why she didn't come this year, probably something to do with being pregnant and knacked - I'm sure she'll confirm.

However first stop was a shed in which freestyle blacksmithery was taking place, adding coals to the fire of an already warm and sunny winter's day, which in Queensland, as you'll no doubt recall can be deceptive in hiding the strength of the sun's rays within a diaphonous veil of being just quite warm.

A-wandering around the lower part of the venue - somewhat ensmallened this year due to the onward march of capitalist forces making apparently inevitable the necessity to sell previously public space to the highest bidder on which to build - what else - "blue chip" apartment complexes - we checked out the Ekka-tat stalls and looked at some of the Sideshow Alley distractions before find our focus and going in search of some furry animals friends to cuddle.

Aug 10, 2012


And here, the bun, and look how pleased the wearer is to have such excellent craft lavished upon her ginger barnet.

The ballet exam itself went without incident, she missed out on her distinction by just a couple of points, apparently she lost the plot in her character dress or something.

Aug 8, 2012


The forests get pretty in late Winter when the purples of what I am reliably informed are called Hovias and the yellows of what I am reliably informed are Wattles come out in droves.

Jul 22, 2012


Eloise has some little chums, and sometimes they come to play. A favourite is hide and seek, though it has to said that skill is somewhat lacking, or should I say subtlety, as once-successful hiding places are attempted again in the earnest hope that the seeker, which usually seems to be, will have somehow forgotten.

Jul 3, 2012

End of Another School Term

Ballet Class School has ended again, and the last week of term heralded the temporary abandonment of before-school reading clubs and maths clubs, a respite which allowed lie-ins until half past seven in the morning, hurray!

Eloise received a glowing report card, from which I will quote:

Eloise is an enthusiastic, cooperative and helpful student who always works hard and is keen to please. She is an active participant in class and group activities and makes an effort to achieve her best. Eloise has a caring nature and charming personality and she has developed good peer relationships. Basic skills are progressing nicely and Eloise has continued to demonstrate greater confidence when attempting more challenging tasks. I have been impressed with the support for all homework tasks. Well done Eloise for a great semester!

So we are very proud of little Eloise, especially her reading which has come on in leaps and bounds.

Speaking of leaps and bounds we had the not entirely unblemished pleasure of being admitted to her last week of dancing classes to observe her leaping and bounding around in her ballet, tap, jazz, kicks and turns and acrobatics classes.

We ended up going to half of them, from the graceful ballet to the ear-pounding tap to the death-defying acrobatics. She is amazingly supple and very very agile!

Now we are on school holidays and the holiday routine of dog-walking, museum-browsing and friend-playing.

Jun 19, 2012

Twenty Week Scan

Yesterday we went along to use the wonders of modern technology to peer inside the burgeoning gravid baby-tank and observe the progress of the latest progeny.

The little bugger was wriggling around all over the place, sucking thumbs, turning over, very active. With the Ultrasoundette we counted bones, looked at the hemispheres of the brain, the lenses of the eyes, listened to the heartbeat and generally observed the correctness of every detail.

Nicole is doing well, showing now and slowly swelling into her maternity clothes. Tired as soon as the sun goes down and vomiting from time to time, but looking well.

Jun 11, 2012

Dog Days

Dog Days It's been the Queen's Birthday this weekend, officially, as no doubt you'll be aware. The Australians of course always have a public holiday monday for the Queen's Birthday, unlike the Brits, ironically.

This weekend has been quite busy. I was asked at the last minute to do some photography for the Queensland Championship dog show, for the Rhodesian Ridgebacks ring, and quite an experience it was for Eloise and me.

Eloise is of course an animals person and she was very much in her element. She had to be because I was spending my whole time snapping away as one round after another happened in a rapid-fire procession of processions.

The show itself was at Durack, in South-West Brisbane so it was a bit of a worry getting there on time but is it happened, even after finding the showground we got lost trying to find the Rhodesians. Even after we did, not very far from where we parked, we were a bit early and lent a hand helping out with the setting up.

The dogs, with very serious owners - it's a serious business this - were camped out around the ring, the dogs in cages, the owners on camping chairs, underneath those pergola pavilion thingies. Everyone was dressed up in their Sunday Best... apart from us... and then The Judge turned up, one Mr Parquette from Canada.

He held court on his ring with authority and an insouciant wave of the hand here and there as smartly dressed man and women jogged skirts and suits in their slipstream around the ring at his beck and call with dogs trotting along beside them. Then, when at a standstill, the dogs assumed the Stack stance, legs outstretched, shanks vertical, chests out, heads up, as they were poked and prodded and teeth checked and proportions assessed. What a life!

Things eventually built to a crescendo and it became pretty clear who the contenders were, by looking at the owners really rather than the dogs, fine beasts tough they were.

Just for fun, they trotted out the old dogs in a "Veteran's Parade." Eloise was asked to take out Matani, who proceeded to pull her in any direction apart from the correct one. Eloise thought it the high point of her day.

The day had started cloudy but the sun crept out in the afternoon and without us really noticing was beating down with a bit of bite by the time the game was up.

We slunk home with headaches and fell asleep on the sofa.

May 19, 2012

The Curse of the Mummies

So there was this one day when the Senior Slimms took Eloise to South Bank to see the Mummies exhibition, where the Egyptian Mummies from the British Museum came to visit Brisbane and look upon this Antipodean River Paradise of Suburban Modernity with their cold, dead eyes.

I dropped them off down there and arranged to pick them up from the same spot outside the State Library of Queensland, then embarked upon the day's business.

I was on my way to walk the dog when I was surprised by the premature call for retrieval. I should add that this was a couple of hours later and the Mummies had been fully enjoyed. The terrible trio were now in the Entertainment Precinct and hanging around in the pool area, and Eloise was toying with the idea of a metropolitan swim.

I walked the dog anyway before heading off back into the city, touching base with Grandad to discover Disunity.

Yes, they had become split-up.

Twenty minutes or so later I arrived at the Extraction Point to find Grandad Mick waiting, lonely. No sign of Anne, or my precious daughter!

Michael was dispatched to track back along the likely route that the Displaced Duo should take to the previously agreed Rendezvous Point, whilst I drove up to find a parking place for the car, from where I would walk in the opposite direction, searching the other end of the South Bank Complex.

Needless to say parking places were hard to come by but eventually I collared one and proceeded, with dog, with the search, exploring the market and pool area as well as the ornamental gardens before running into Mick, who was still alone, but convincingly calm and level-headed.

Of course, Anne had no mobile phone, and no numbers written down to contact anyone even if she could get hold of one, and we didn't know if she and Eloise were still together, or where they were, or what they might do, so a level head was very important!

I have an "app" on my handheld device which has a spirit level, but I didn't need to use that to know that my head was as level as they come.

We talked to a Lifeguard, and called Security in.

Mick stayed with the Authorities while a search was ordered and I marched back to the RV point in a final desperate re-tracing of potentially probable steps to discover them there, tight-lipped and anxious.

It seems that when they split up, they agreed on a re-meeting place by the pool, and Eloise and Anne had departed to the water-park area where they had hung around for an awfully long time waiting for Grandad Mick, who was waiting by a different pool. And while we were carrying out our pincer-search they cleverly eluded us by walking to the Pick-Up Point and waiting there.

Oh, how we laughed!