Dec 29, 2014

Hanky Tanky

The Ipswich Railway Museum is sometimes good for a bit of a laugh so in the absence of any other superficially alluring alternatives we hoofed it down there for a play. Eloise did have to navigate a bit, filling in for Nicole in the murky depths of Ipswich when I became a little unsure of the route but all was well in the end. Our main navigational issue was which end of the car park to park the car at. I opted for the end nearest to the Museum; Eloise was unfathomably opposed to this.

Thomas the Tank Engine sat proudly on the forecourt. We ate our healthy provisions admiring his large plastic face before shamelessly jumping the queue to manipulate his knobs and levers.

There was a sciency bit: Eloise enjoyed pumping air into a contraption which pinged a pong-pong ball up a tube when a button was pressed - she was most perturbed when boys kept coming up and pressing the button for her without asking. Lyra enjoyed walking over the finely constructed archy bridge.

Then we stopped while an unconvincing Fat Controller whose upholstery was clearly, well, upholstery read us some dodgy Thomas the Tank Engine story. Did I mention that the whole thing was Thomas the Tank Engine themed?

Though the Fat Controller was undeniably fascinating, after a few seconds we moved on to view a trainset and then on to the indoor playground where go-karts were being trundled about by little bastards people who wouldn't surrender their two-seat go-karts to Eloise even though many of them - for shame! - didn't have passengers, and even though Eloise hadn't actually asked them.

The time came eventually when a two-manner came free and then the gloves were off, by Jingo.

Temperature rising indoors, we headed for the air-conditioned play area where Lyra announced that she'd had a nappyful so that got changed, but tempers remained elevated and it became clear that it was time to depart.

Not wishing to start a paragraph with a letter other than T, Lyra was sound asleep within about, oh, three minutes, and we stopped off at Supercheap Auto to get some garage door lubricant.


Dec 28, 2014

Glutinous Maximus

Our sort-of-real Christmas Feast happened a couple of days after Christmas. It bucketed down that day, if memory serves. It must have done because I have pictures of Lyra jumping up and down in the gutter, dressed in her Sunday best, with dirty dribbles running down her tummy from the puddle-guzzling she'd been up to.

It was a two-table affair with a posse of Nicole's work-buddies and assorted children demolishing some roast thingy the details of which I am unconcerned with which Nicole overcooked in the barbie. I, the difficult veggie, was served up with Nicole's signature nut roast and cranberry pie, which is lovely, to say the least, and was destined to last into the New Year as the staple leftover of choice. People brought nibbles and cake and cake. We ate the nibbles and cake and cake as well as the gastronomic piece de resistance.

And so, we ate and drank into the early evening, and in the immortal words of some poor mortal, "a good time was probably had by most."

I almost made it through without farting uncontrollably in front of Nicole's esteemed colleagues.

Dec 26, 2014

Post-Night Boxing Day

Poor old Nicole toddled off to work last thing on Christmas night, after a day bereft of preparatory sleep and not looking too terribly happy about it.

With the usual mixed success at night-time slumbering afforded to us by our recalcitrant junior team-member, I was somewhat jaded the next morning when she returned, though to describe her as jaded would be something of an understatement; still she discharged further Skype duties with admirable aplomb before collapsing in a heap while the remaining noisy Gavinators made ourselves scarce.

I must admit that we can't have to got up to anything very exciting. We may in fact have only really made it to the other end of the house. Certainly at some point a car appeared on our drive, and I thought either Christmas had come late or else next Christmas had come very early as there were no actual people associated with it, but then I realised that it was Carole's car and she was using our drive as a convenient parking space while she visited a couple of doors up before coming back to us to give those lucky kiddies even more presents. So no new car for us. In the words of Lyra, "Not funny."

At some other point, we had a visitation from Peter, and we talked about the inevitable impoverishment of almost everybody as the velvet glove of relentless automation makes our skills irrelevant and our labour redundant. And cuddly animals.

Later on, when heat permitted, we went for a very short walk with Peppa Pig, Lyra pushing her in the trike. As you can imagine, that didn't last long.

Dec 25, 2014

Christmas Day Amongst the Heathens and the Lonely. And the Outdoor-Oriented.

Christmas Day started at a pretty reasonable time, owing to Eloise not being a morning person, though when she did arise there could be no doubt as to the order of things.

She was always going to be in for a disappointment, Santa-wise, since she refused to disclose the content of her letter to him - citing a pretty credible lapse in memory - which pretty much scuppered any chance of, you know, actual real people backstopping the mythical merry man you may have seen in famous department stores such as Myer and David Jones or who knows even British Home Stores, if that still exists.

So no livestock deliveries for Eloise, just a make-your-own lip balm kit. What was he thinking. He did rather better with Lyra, delivering a huge Peppa Pig.

See that fan there? That came out of the top-notch crackers we cracked. Lasted about ten minutes, that fan. Still, the jokes were as usual totally awesome. How do you make Lady Gaga cry? We'll leave that one hanging in the air.

After Skype-mediated present opening was undertaken and the beneath-the-tree modest pile of present denuded, and breakfast consumed, we headed out to Tamborine Mountain to swim in the waterholes on the cascades of Cedar Creek.

Needless to say we had minor navigational issues which were of course completely my fault, but after we left Cedar Creek (the village) and headed up to Cedar Creek (the section of Tamborine National Park) and Lyra fell asleep we found what we had hoped would be a deserted approach to the waterholes completely inaccessible due to all these damned people who had the temerity not to have relatives who would host them on Christmas Day in their houses to have a traditional Anglo-Saxon Christmas Feast which would last all day and involve lots of telly and sleeping in armchairs. Jeepers! Some of them didn't even look Christian. Still, nice day for a spot of outdoors.

Instead they had all gone to Tamborine Mountain to have barbecues! Which left us a bit scuppered really. So we drove up to the top of the mountain where, at a different section of the National Park, we lucked out with a parking space, Lyra woke up, and we went to a lookout to snack while we considered our options.

The Knoll, which we were at, was blissfully free of anything remotely Knoll-like, but blisslessly full of the rest of humanity, many of whom were frankly unnecessarily loud on such a sacred day as this, and some of whom were hogging the barbies. Nicole got bitten by a bull ant almost immediately, so we retired to the lookout to munch Doritos, whinge about sore feet, and plan a segue to Burleigh Heads, since swimming clearly was no longer on the Alain Menu.

However, luck or perhaps Yahweh was on our side and just as we were thinking about departing for the Fair Shores, a barbecue became vacant and so Eloise and I played frisbee while Nicole cooked and Lyra chased bush turkeys with Peppa. Oink Oink.

We pulled more crackers. What did the fish say when he swam into a wall?

And then we headed home, for more Skyping. Ho Ho Ho!

Dec 24, 2014

Prancing About in the Mountains

To start off the Christmas festivities, last minute panic shopping notwithstanding, we headed out to Samford for the first of what will no doubt be many barbecues and picnics. Lyra had not slept and required sedation, and halfway to Samford was sound asleep in the back of the car so we carried on in that general direction, took a left, and headed up the winding mountain road to the top of the range, then back down to Mount Nebo, where as luck would have it Lyra woke up again.

So we stopped at Jolly's Lookout where we pulled crackers, drank drinks, ate lovely food, kicked balls, and pranced around, looking out over the valley. No-one else around really. It was peaceful.

Dec 21, 2014

Ten Years Of Unremitting Joy and Happiness Having Been Made Official

On Midwinter's Day ten short years ago Nicole looked me in the eye, thought "Oh Shit" and broke down in tears. But there were people watching and she couldn't very well turn back, what with me in my specially bought clean suit and everything, and all that food to be eaten. And her being up the duff!

Still in those ten short years, following the seven previous ones, we've made a few changes, just little things like getting degrees, changing jobs, having a child, looking after the child, challenging traditional gender roles, having another child, looking after that child, oh - did I forget moving to another country? Or becoming a Master of whatever it is? Or finally getting a sun-tan?

On Midsummer's Day Nicole found time in her busy schedule for us to having a small celebration of our Anniversary. We went up to the beach at Moolooloolababa where we re-lived old times with the dogs, only without them. The tide was low and the rock pools at Point Cartwright warm, as they say, as a bath.

I watched the girls pussyfoot around the Ocean's gurgling edge. Nicole made a pretty decent attempt at drowning Lyra, but she put it behind her pretty quickly. A nice man suggested that we might like to move away from the rocks as there was a "wicked rip," whatever that is.

So tempting was the sea that I decided not to trek back to the car to get my togs (as we call them now, rather than trunks, or dare I say dookers), instead just stripping down to my smallclothes there on the beach and leaping with gay abandon into the swell with Eloise aghast at my brazen behaviour.

We discussed the mechanics of hydrodynamic currents as we bobbed in the waves before they crashed gently on upon another. The seabed was soft and sandy and shallow and though the waves became higher we could still touch the bottom. Eloise thought she could feel things nibbling on her legs, or maybe jellyfish, but in fact all was happening really was that her unprotected back was surreptitiously pinking up nicely.

We drove up to Alex Heads for a bite to eat and ended up dining with the Common Man at the Surf Club, negotiating a Byzantine neo-Communist retail experience which saw us escorted to our table by what seemed to all intents and purposes to be a waiter, but informed by the bar staff we visited when our table failed to be waited upon that no waiter service was provided. Instead we had to order our food from a counter, unless it was restaurant food in which case a second counter needed to be visited, and our drinks from the bar, unless they were 'beverages' in which case a third counter was the place to order, all of which was paid for separately. Food was delivered to the table, but I neglected to ask the exact title these people enjoyed.

Of course we over-ordered on the pizza, pasta, bruschetta and chips. It was the bruschetta that really finished us off. Lyra greatly enjoyed the whack-a-frog-mercilessly-on-the-head game, even though she was crap at it.

Dec 18, 2014

The Pregnant Sky

Storm Clouds

We were heading South to procure veal schnitzel for young Eloise when we saw these clouds, and made a quick diversion down to the flood channel beneath Pickering Street to have a look. We met a bare-chested fellow and his exotic-sounding companion who were coming to check on the ducklings living on the dirty, concreted stream. 

The clouds soared overhead, a thick dark base with a crown of violence, advancing right to left, a gathering breath of air beneath them promising to deliver the bounty of the day's heat and humidity.

Dec 17, 2014

Sleep Eludes the Infant On a Thing-Packed Day

Wednesday, like many days of late, was mind-buggeringly hot.

We had arranged to go out on a bike ride, to test out Eloise's new whizz-bang you-beaut bike, with Jessica. Her Mum texted to say that the wheels were pumped and she was raring to go, and I tentatively, not wishing to appear like a Jessie, replied to the effect that it might be a little warm, but no reply...

So off we rode round to their house, through the blistering heat, sweat running down my back and doubts running through my mind, to find Mum texting us back to say yes actually, now you mention it, etc etc.

So instead, we opted for Plan B, a revisit to the Obliteration Room, where the air conditioning is set to stun and a few hours of entertainment was sure to be had.

With the car parks full with the air-conditioned cars of air-conditioning seekers of like mind to us, we ended up parking at the far end of South Bank, and walking through the blistering heat with Lyra in my arms and a bag full of provisions, when who should we meet but Claire and Georgia travelling the other way, bound for the South Bank pools. After a brief hello-what-are-you-doing-here-isnt-it-a-small-world-goodbye we made our way on, stopping for a brief hello with a mystery Mum outside the Museum whose baby interested Lyra (now on foot now that we were under cover).

Jessica: "Was that a random stranger you were talking to then or someone else you knew?"
Me: "Yep, a random stranger."
Jessica: "You're not supposed to talk to random strangers, you know."

Anyway we obliterated the Obliteration Room for an hour or so, which was cool, and full of cool coolness-pilgrims. I took a call from Valerie and she requested a mercy mission in the afternoon to the dentist to fix her broken tooth - her car was at the fixer-uperers. Then Jessica, with Mum's money in her pocket, decided it was catering time, so we retired back to the Museum Cafe where they attempted to blag me into buying them fizzy sugary drinks. Instead we bought mountains of junk food, and ate it. Dinosaur Nuggets and Chips and Velociburgers. I ate the chips, and had a sandwich.

Back in the Hot World, we returned to Jessica's where swimming was done, and a lot of water splashed around, before leaving, just the three of us, and sojourning down to the dance school to pick up a DVD, then over to Valerie's to pick up Valerie, then to Ashgrove to drop her off at the dentist.

"I'll only be five minutes" she said. "We'll drive around the block and get this sleepy-looking child to sleep" I proclaimed. We drove around the block five times and we drove round the block five times more to get that infant off to sleep and I'd almost got her there before we hit a speed bump a bit too fast and she jerked awake and that was that. No sleep for Lyra.

Anyway, Valerie retrieved and delivered home, the question was, what to do now? And it being Christmas time, we went and bought our real tree and attempted to load it into the car.

Loading it into the car involved a wholesale rearrangement of the back seat architecture, with the booster/child seat swapping sides in order to facilitate the folding-down of the two-seat side of the back seat assembly, which allowed the tree just to fit in with its crown gently tickling my gear knob.

The needles got bloody everywhere. "We're going to be itchy" opined Eloise. "What nonsense" I archly retorted. "Since when did pine needles make us itchy!"

Lyra enjoyed our trip home in a miniature forest. If I could find our copy of Where the Wild Things Are, I would have showed her the bit where a forest grows in Max's bedroom. That's just what it was like in our car, notwithstanding that the tree was horizontal and kind of thrust into her face, with its fragrant needles tickling up against her most pleasingly.

Every time I changed gear my elbow rubbed up against piney twigs and needles. It wasn't long before I started to get itchy. Eloise got one of those looks on her face, when my ill-advised counterpoints have found me out.

We lugged the tree up into the house, and installed it in the living room, then installed the lights and the decorations upon the tree, and switched on the lights. We admired our handiwork, attempted to prevent Lyra from uninstalling the lights and decorations, and reinstalled the lights and decorations, beginning a cycle of installation and uninstallation that will no doubt last well into the new year.

Like the extra hoovering. Bloody needles.

Dec 15, 2014

Christmas Comes But Twice a Year

Eloise has been creaking about on a bike she inherited from Faye, rest her soul, for the last year or so, an ancient relic of the days when ladies' bike were real ladies' bikes, with low-slung crossbars and back-pedal brakes, no gears and a baggage tray at the back.

A girl of her calibre can't be expected to put up with that sort of nonsense for ever, especially potentially dangerous nonsense whose brakes don't really work that well and whose lack of gears prevent any meaningful multi-gradient progress.

So it was with great pleasure that, after forcing Eloise to march around Germside to buy Christmas presents for her friends and family and forcefully reminding her that we weren't shopping for her, I took her to a bike shop and allowed her to choose the Bicycle Of Her Dreams as a pre-Christmas Christmas present.

We spoke of getting the duck-blue, but there were none in stock, so we ended up with white; I don't think she'll tyre of it. (handle)Barring any disasters, this one should last her for years. But the deal is: she has to get her arse into Gear and go on a few more rides with us without complaining, because now she has a new bike we can't Tread the "my bike is just too rubbish" path any more.

She's delighted, but she knows that there won't be any more presents from Mum and Dad this year. Or will there?!!

Dec 13, 2014

A Turn for the Mildly Inclement

Most of last week we spent sitting around in reasonably uncomfortable heat and humidity, the sort where you're sitting around during the day and the urge to remove your clothes comes over you, subsiding after you have removed said clothes, before continuing to do whatever it was you were doing before.

Before you attempt to imagine me putting out the washing naked, my Adonis-like physique rippling as I peg out the family's small-clothes, the sweat dripping across my finely sculpted musculature like fragrant oil on a pankratiast, I should say that I drew the line at taking my T-shirt off, so imagine all of the above if you must, but with my shorts on, please.

After Thursday's storm and protracted rain, however, the heat has passed, leaving us basking in room-temperature heat and strongish breezes, something of a shock to the system, though not enough to break out the long trousers just yet.

Worm Farm Fair Game for Fowl

Clara's the black one, Amy's the white one. Both enjoying a perkily productive peck into the Kingdom of the Worms.

Lyra has enjoyed at least two unaided capture-and-cuddles with Amy recently with no ill effects, successes with which she has been exceptionally delighted.

Dec 11, 2014

Obliteration Room

The Obliteration Room: downstairs at the Gallery of Modern Art, a re-appearance of the immersive installation by some Japanese bloke (or lady) whose name, by the Power of Google, is Yayoi Kusama. Last time it was a living room, if I recall, and this time a more hard-furnished kitchen/office space with plenty of shelves and objects upon them, all brilliant white.

The idea is to stick stickers on everything (probably not the things that move); the stickers accumulate over time; the white is occluded by dots of colour; everyone has contributed. And sticking stickers is, after all, fun.

Claire had observed this and put it on the agenda, and a good idea it was too, what with the day being stinking hot and stinking humid, and the Gallery of Modern Art's air-conditioning permanently set to Antarctic, so off we toddled, toddlers in tow, for a happy couple of hours sticking stuff to stuff and exploring stuff, and stuff.

We supped coffee at the cafe beforehand, and ate of Georgia's food (she has a superior caterer), before Lyra mysteriously disappeared, precipitating a bemused search which was cut short by the Gavin dog-whistle, which within moments brought the little tyke out of the cafe where she was hiding.

Then into the Gallery where we picked up our stickers, and Lyra and Georgia explored away, messing about with the various objects and sticking stickers, when they could be bothered, mostly to themselves. It was entertaining, in a sort of oddly arty way. Lyra tried to relieve other children of their stickers, when she could, which wasn't often, and tried to relieve the Obliteration Room of its stickers, when she could. Lord knows what she made of it.

More weather on the radar, and imminent sleep-time sent us back to the car, the heat as we left the Gallery a hot damp flannel upon the skin. Soon we were in the cool car and a bit of synth-based classical elevator music had them asleep in no time; back at home, the storm was thunderingly loud, toe-curlingly electric and the rain heavy and enduring.

Marion brought Eloise home from school as the storm passed; before long the rain started again. Later on we picked Nicole up from work, and there was a minor flood on Bowen Bridge Road. When it rains, it rains.

Dec 6, 2014

The Legendary Aladdin Dance Concert 2014

I am unable to share any photographs of Eloise in action in any of the roughly seventy-three dances she participated in at this year's concert because photography was forbidden. However she did make an appearance at the bar before the evening performance in all her finery, so we knew she was OK.

When we dropped her off at 9 in the morning the rain was tumbling down pretty intensely, and Lyra and I waited in the car while Nicole escorted a nervous Eloise into the theatre to find out what was going on.

Nicole had been on a night-shift so it was straight off to bed for her, while Lyra and I hung loose waiting for the rain to abate before heading off to the markets.

The day unfolded as many have; Lyra "helped" with the shopping, we ate our steamed dumplings and our various prefix-chinos. Lyra fell asleep on the way home (the admittedly tortuous way home).

Nicole woke up late in the afternoon and soon we were heading down to the theatre for our evening performance, in our smartest smart-casual threads (which in my case isn't that smart). We had a couple of drinks before finding our seats and the show began.

It was loosely based around some sort of Aladdin story type thing, so the music was sort of Eastern-ish which was nice for a change, and the dancing was sort of Eastern-ish, which was nice for a change. There was singing (um), contemporary dance, ballet, jazz, modern, tap, singing, hip-hop, and all that, over an hour and a half in two halves, the first half of which Lyra sat still for, the second half of which Nicole had to supervise a roving toddler who was determined to get on stage. And almost did.

Eloise had some major parts to play in some dances, which was good for her, and she pulled off all her moves reasonably flawlessly (as far as I could see). I was pleased because I actually recognised her underneath all the slap.

So it was good, lots of variety, different music, just one costume.

Dec 5, 2014

Santa with Lyra Sitting on his Knee. G.R.I.M.A.C.E.

Childcare Centre Christmas Party - storms around, party outdoors, mostly. Given recent events in Brisbane there were a lot of people looking with concerned expressions on their faces at the clouds.

Still, a good hundred people trying to keep track of the ankle-biters while the sausages sizzled and the falafels fizzled, waited upon by highly qualified early childhood education professionals with trays of food.

We didn't worry about the face painting, but we waited in line to see one of the less convincing Santas I've seen. I mean, Santa, with his access to manufactured goods from around the world, sporting specs from the nineties? Please.

Lyra was a little hesitant, but unlike Eloise at the same age who was frankly histrionic over the whole Santa thing, she took it all in her strides, not actually enjoying it, and making a bit of a face at being manhandled by this strange man dressed up as a cross between a can of Coca-Cola and Professor Dumbledore.

Dec 4, 2014

Snatching Defeat, Yet Again, From the Jaws of Victory

Lane 2. Lyra and I toddled along to Eloise's swim carnival. Now that she's getting a bit senior the event runs over two days, and I wasn't about to subject Lyra to that (or vice versa) (oh, let alone me).

Eloise wasn't in any Championship races this year, not having done well enough in the class-based time trials, but we went along to see her do her backstroke race as part of the general pool. You can see how she did. Pretty well, I think, she was going at the head of the field for a while but lost it a bit towards the end. I should be a swimming coach, me. We can't decide exactly where she came.

She won her race for breaststroke, she claims, but places for the other races are all subject to official confirmation, which I'm not sure any of us are sufficiently interested to obtain.

Dec 2, 2014

Rainforest Adventure Tuesday

So the Tuesday bike-ride-cum-playground-visit adventure had mysteriously failed to send Lyra to the Land of Nod. Although she was showing definite tendencies next door's building site, combined with three-doors-down's building site, put paid to any peaceful slumber and so once again it fell to the gentle automotive caresses of the car to see her right.

This Tuesday we had time on our side, so instead of a totally pointless round-the-houses there-and-back-again type trundle I thought we should go and visit my favourite tree up at Mount Glorious, and hope that Lyra would be willing to do the walk.

By the time we were a quarter of the way there Lyra was asleep, and she slumbered on as we negotiated the switchbacks of the mountain road underneath the wild eucalypts, the occasional wild garlic perfume working its way in. I started to worry that she wouldn't wake up at all, but I dealt with that when we arrived at the car park at Maiala National Park by driving over the speed bumps quickly and the resulting jolts brought her back to the land of the living. When I told her we were going to see some dinosaurs, well her eyes lit up and she was raring to go.

If she had been wearing cotton socks, I would have blessed them - not that I'm qualified - as she oohed and aaahed at the ancient trees, negotiated the stone rainwater channels and toddled down the staircases which take the walk down into the valley and into the belly of the rainforest.

We listened to the sounds of the birds, calling out to the catbirds, or maiowbirdies as they will henceforward be designated.

We climbed over the sprawling roots and hung from the dangling vines.

We followed the calls of the catbirds until a Lyra-squeal startled them and they flew, three in formation, away between the trees, their cries a cross between an angry cat and a starving baby.

We passed some German tourists. "Guten tag!" we said, and they replied with something incomprehensible.

We arrived at my favourite tree and spent two or three minutes exploring its amazing root system, and the dried-up riverbed that runs beneath it before hopping across the stepping stones and carrying on up the other side of the valley.

As we ascended the other side, we were privileged to see as sight that you don't see very often. I held a finger to my lips, Lyra on my hip, as we watched a little forest wallaby called a Pademelon on the path ahead of us, looking right back at us before hopping away into the undergrowth, a rhythmic crunching of leaves marking its course into the wild.

Unfit Git

It has come to my attention that I am ridiculously unfit, having finally felt integral enough in my superstructure to attempt a protracted swim.

While Eloise slogged it out in Lane 8, swimming as usual I am sure like the proverbial fish and making me a proud Dad as always, I lowered myself carefully into lane 2 to embark upon my usual but not attempted these four months twenty lengths, alternating breasty stroky with front crawl or as they call it these days, "freestyle."

I had to stop for a breather after eight lengths, my little heart hammering away, having overextended a little on the left hand side, and from there on in it was two- and four-length stretches with breathers in between before I hit my twenty and got out as soon as I could.

I was expecting to be sore the next day, but only in the end suffered being extremely knacked that evening.

The next day, reflecting on my generally poor stamina and physical strength, I resolved that we should go on a bike ride, and so after extreme reluctance from Lyra, overcome lactically, we set off for a 20km bike ride out to Arana Hills where we stopped off at the playground there for a while where we tinkled out some beautifully orchestrated harmonised twinkle twinkles.

I had to stop off for this rather magnificent poinciana tree:

As you can see, the skies were overcast, but the air was still hot and I was sweating like the proverbial pig on a stick by the time we were done. Later on my legs hurt, and one of my feet.

Oh, the sweet suffering.

Nov 30, 2014

Un Dimanche En Famille a la Piscine Avec Croissants

It's wall to wall Dancing Concert rehearsals at the moment and Nicole has signed a form to say that we will be available wherever, whenever we are required, with a set of proposed dates that has taken up a couple of weekends with truly epic rehearsals (because Eloise does all the different dances under the sun).

So we were pretty pleased to have been given Sunday off so that we could have some of this "family time" I have heard mention of. We kicked off the day with some gardening (I stayed in the upstairs bed though) until mid-morning when Eloise and I went croissant-hunting, giving me the opportunity archly to explain in detail the concept of the queue and how the very essence if civilisation as we know it depends upon the observance of its unwritten rules.

Having polished off our croissants, heady affairs from the Red Brick Bakery infused with pistachio essence and topped with almonds, alongside pains au chocolat and Huehuetenango coffee, we realised that if Lyra were reliably to nap then some exercise activity would have to be taken and so we wended our way down to Spring Hill to get out of the building heat and lounge in the cool water, where we spent a happy hour or two before returning to chez nous for a nap and a flick and some home-barbecued pizza Nicole-stylee.

Which was yum. Or nom nom.

Nov 29, 2014

Birds on a Wire

Sitting on our newly reupholstered rocking chair on the verandydiddledeedoodah, for no particular reason the other day at sunset, watching the different bird species just hanging out together, for  change.

Nov 28, 2014

Ahead of the Game

Look at this. This is Christmas present wrapping, happening a whole month before Christmas. This is an event literally probably unprecendented in the history of our family. This year, Christmas presents may actually arrive amongst our nearest (yes, and dearest) before Christmas does.

Nov 27, 2014

Hail Scary

We were on our way back from dropping Eloise at dancing, via Homezone where I had received a text alert saying there were thunderstorms around, so far so reasonable normal. Northbound to drop our playmates C&G off, I looked over my shoulder to observe that L, after a whole day tenaciously holding onto what passes for consciousness, had finally relented and was gently slumbering. Looking a little further round, there was a spectacularly ominous grey sky looming through the rear-view window.

So, a quick disengagement of the second childseat later, a couple of rumbles in the air, strangely reminiscent of the discarding of a large piece of sheet metal from an over-enthusiastic home improvement, we were headed back for the five-minute drive home. About a minute into that leg of the journey, stopped at the traffic lights, a gust of wind and a squall of rain and suddenly visibility was down to fifty metres and we were in the middle of a fast-moving cloud of water lashing us arhythmically as the wind pulsed and the clouds would be skittering overhead if only we could see them.

By the time we got home, I was glad of the electric garage door as we drove the car underneath the house which was already showing the early signs of flooding. Lyra was extracted from the car, which woke her up, but the storm would have done that in a few minutes anyway as the wind really got up and the huge bamboo and trees in the back garden started to wave around rather alarmingly amid the still-torrential rain.

I nipped downstairs to take a little video of the torrentette running past the house, and the hail started, with stones the size of marbles skittering down and bouncing around, grapeshot applause on the tin roof, little blocks of ice at odds with the still-warm air dancing around underneath the house, bringing the rain with it, the drains overflowing, the water tank overwhelmed, the thunder still rumbling around.

Violent and exciting though all this was, it seems we were only on the fringes of the largest hailstorm to hit Brisbane in 30 years(reportedly), with many many windows in South Brisbane and the City Centre punctured and shattered, roofs blown off, cars battered by hail, streets flooded, trees downed and general chaos ensuing. Nobody died, but there were some injuries, and a great deal of damage; the Army was called in to help to clear things up.

Half an hour later, a message from dance school came through that all classes were cancelled because the teacher couldn't get there and could we pick up our little treasures please. Eloise was very unhappy to be taken away an hour early when they were playing such a lovely game of Ninja, whatever that is.

Down at the dance school in Newmarket the locals were a little dazed and there was tree debris strewn across the streets. We checked a couple of cars parked on the street for hail damage but they seemed fine.

It had stopped raining and Eloise just couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

Alfresco Nugget Production

On a short coffee break on a Thursday mini-adventure, here is Lyra in full "Bish" (i.e. "go away and leave me alone") mode, usually indicative of poo poo production, hanging out behind the coffee shop and making the relevant fa(e)ces.

A couple of old dears were giving us unamused looks through the large plate-glass window that inexplicably offers the stairwell a view of some diners, and some diners an explicable view of a stairwell, while around the corner students lounged studiously taking advantage presumably of the State Library's wi-fi to do some work, which certainly isn't how it was done in my day, but I suppose in my day laptops hadn't been invented yet, let alone wireless networking.

When Lyra would let anyone near her again, I took her to the parents' room, which was button-operated and therefore inherently amusing, where an on-the-back inspection on the fold-out toddler exposure table revealed the tiniest of nuggets, just one, nestled between her glutei maximi.

Nov 26, 2014

Save the Beast Til Last

The final Lyra birthday present to arrive, from those who could be arsed to send one, was from Uncle James, having been delayed by the insurmountable clerical error of having misaddressed the parcel with Road instead of Street, a mistake that was clearly beyond the capabilities of whoever the delivery company was to remediate.

Regardless of all that, after quite a lot of fist pumping, a shapeless mass of heavy-duty latex slowly took the form of a cow-like entity, the arrival of which delighted Lyra. She immediately perceived that the creature was there to be cuddled, ridden, and to have peanut butter back massages.

And at breakfast, after having originally attempted a table-top cattle-rustling rodeo adventure, she just decided to invite the as-yet-nameless ruminant to breakfast.

Nov 22, 2014

Amphibian Petting Fun

Herbacious Heather had a surprise in store for Eloise at the Market on Saturday. Apparently over the week a little (or large, depending upon your perspective I suppose) tree frog had taken up residence among her herbs, and had made it to the market where in the balmy heat it was seeking out cool dark places to hang out, much like Fungus the Bogeyman might.

Still for Eloise's benefit minds and hands were bent to rifling through the trays for a sign of the amphibian stowaway and before too long he (or she) was having the time of his (or her) life being snuggled in Eloise's arms and being given a great deal of love.

We even went the extra mile in caring for him (or her) by keeping him (or her) the hell away from Lyra, who was looking at him (or her), jumping up and down like she had springs on her shoes and shouting "Frog! Frog! Frog!"

Nov 21, 2014

Birthday Dress

There's a bit of growing room in there, look.

Shopping with Lyra

Mystery Shopper

Compare and contrast these pictures of infant supermarket skill. Of course the idea that Lyra should spend her shopping time patiently sitting and annotating shopping lists is far from the normal reality where she steadfastly refuses to get into a trolley but insteads runs up and down the aisles, occasionally attempting to hide behind complete strangers, moves everything she can, wants to be carried, wants to be put down, then makes a run for the checkouts from where she can easily make a further run for Dina the Explina.

Nov 20, 2014

Festive String-Tickling Brings Christmas Early to Infants Who Just Don't Understand the Deeper Concepts

I heard on the radio that the legendary Jay Laga'aia was in town, the Great Man of Australian Children's Entertainment, whose silky tones set him apart from all those other hoity-toity private-school-educated Playschool presenters, although probably equally condescending to children. The level of hyphenation in his name suggests either exotic South Sea Island descent or else some other-wordly science-fiction heritage, although I haven't heard it pronounced with an actual glottal stop, as the hyphen might suggest.

To get back to the point - was there a point? - he was the star turn at a kiddie's classical concert to be given by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra down on South Bank, which I thought I'd give a shot as part of Lyra's cultural education. I was half asleep when I heard the announcement so I didn't realise that it a) cost money, or b) involved Christmas themes, but I tried not to let that put me off, because somewhere inside this bah humbug scroogulous bastard there is a ventricle or at least a tricuspid valve that does flutter a little at the thought of the kiddies' faces at Christmas. Just a little though.

There was some confusion as different information sources upon the internet offered different information regarding shows that were available and some negotiation, it having at some point become a joint enterprise with young Claire and a friend of hers whose name for privacy reasons I will not divulge except to say that it also starts with C, or perhaps K, and rhymes with Autocrat.

So Lyra and I pitched up at South Bank, looking for the Spiegeltent where the event was to take place, to find - pretty much as expected actually - that the Spiegeltent wasn't there any more, as it was part of the River Festival thingy that was on months and months ago. So we headed down to the Piazza or Plaza or Pizza or whatever it's called and hey presto the 10am performance had started. I had a chat to the ticketing person, and she said yes there's another show at 11.30. I was happy, and I knew it. Coincidentally "If you're happy and you know it" was being played at that moment by the orchestra, so it seemed only appropriate to buy tickets.

After a trip to the Museum where we communed with the dinosaurs and danced along to the Sleepy Stegosaurus Stomp (I didn't) we headed back to the Spiegeltent to meet up with the ladies, procure coffee, and enter the Arena, which was rather sparsely populated with people, all of whom had congregated in the mosh-pit where they had set out picnics and such-like with cushions and a nice big green mat, perhaps making it a nosh-pit.

We purloined some front-row genuine plastic fold-up seats of the type found on the public transport of your choice, and as the orchestra began we sat and listened appreciatively to the William Tell before Jay came out and really got the party going with his hilarious show-biz banter. Children danced, Lyra danced, even I danced a little bit. Lyra busted her balletic moves and Georgia performed Pingu pirouettes. It was kind of low-key, but it was nice. The orchestra were good, Lyra didn't do anything too appalling. No fence-scaling, no ropes-infringing. There was a bit of water-bottle-borrowing.

Santa came out and such was the fuss that was made that everyone under the age of four became petrified. Santa didn't help by not actually handing out presents.

The orchestra struck up some sort of Bear Hunt tune which was just a pastiche of old James Bond themes, but oh! the fun when Legendary Jay led a procession of children around the Piazza or Plaza or whatever. He picked up a child, and made it cry. Our children didn't see the need to participate. Then a man-sized bear appeared and everyone was petrified!

Afterwards we went to the playground for a while, but before long it was time to depart, our cultural event for the week a landmark time-point that we will no doubt talk about for days to come.

Nov 19, 2014

One Tree in an Island

I can't remember where I was on my way to or from, perhaps I was on my way to or from nowhere in particular, but this tree near where we live caught my eye, blossoming in a traffic island.

Nov 16, 2014

Running the Velvet Gauntlet

After an early morning wake-up and a deconstruction of almost military efficiency, if you disregard all the fannying around and slow-building-heat-induced-shortish-temper, we forewent the cooling swim to bask in the air-conditioning of the car and took the quick route home that didn't involve hairy dusty almost-road mountain climbing, got home in an hour and a half, unpacked the car, did all that stuff and proceeded to stew in the heat of the house.

We resolved to impulse-buy a Dyson pedestal fan after a sweaty nap for Lyra and then headed off into the city to Spring Hill baths for a shady swim, passing easily through the G20 roadblocks and traffic control apparatus, the police very much in evidence with convoys of paddy-wagons in strategic holding areas, but not bothering us. Our run of the velvet gauntlet was easy and eventless.

In the pool we languished luxuriantly, Lyra demonstrating her independent swimming skillz with only a noodle to save her, and even though we had forgotten our goggles in our rush for water, we still managed to have a nice time with lots of fun games like Toss The Baby and Monkey Monkey. There was hardly anyone there and we had plenty of room for manoeuvre; Lyra did a lot of jumping into the pool, Eloise did a lot of classy swimming and somersaults, we made use of noodles until they came out of our ears, and we stayed there until the bitter-sweet end.

We tried to buy more ice creams, but the till had been closed. So no ice cream for us.

Nov 15, 2014


Down at the river we all paddled a while before bidding farewell to the fly-by-nights. Marion had her sunbrella deployed, with the pointy end of the shaft shoved into the soft river-bed sand by the side of the denuded flow.

Man it was hot but being in water was nice. A Jack Russell Terrier drifted by on a Boogie Board and Lyra took this as inspiration to steal someone else's and use it in a similar fashion. Generally we just, you know, utilised the specific heat capacity and thermodynamic properties of the water in which we were immersed to enhance our thermostatic capabilities.

After a while Nicole and Lyra retired back to camp for something to eat and a nap.

A steady breeze was blowing up the watercourse and as Eloise, Hannah and Lyra frolicked and I "supervised" along with Marion, the ability of the sand to hold the sunbrella in place against the gentle gusts of wind carrying it away, Mary Poppins-like, was put to the test.

We ended up fastening it with little pegs that came from somewhere or other with guy-ropes at finely attuned angles to maximise the load distribution and set about the business of floating neck-deep in the water with my sun-smock acting as a filter for the fine dust in the water stirred up from the bottom of the river (or as it is technically referred to, the "river-bed"), its white material slowly turning more brown.

I had my hat on, but some of us didn't, and so eventually we sought shade and snacks before we too returned to camp, to find Lyra sound asleep under the only open-air shade to be had, the camping table.

When she woke up and we had had something to eat, we all went into Kenilworth to locate ice cream and cold drinks. Faces were looking pink, some (one) with a bit of sunburn due to possibly injudicious application of sunscreen. Some of us were flagging in the heat. Personally, being, you know, a man and all, I didn't mind it too much. I mean, it was hot, but that's OK, right? I can take a bit of discomfort in the name of outdoorsy adventure. But others, particularly the young, were looking a bit flushed and, is their wont, moaning about it. We found ice cream, and we found cold drinks. I found coffee. We hung around in the shade. We chatted to a few folks. If there was a statistical analysis of the content of the chatting, the word "disgusting" would feature predominantly.

As the heat of the day started to abate, we returned to the river and as shade crept over we figuratively exhaled as the temperature at least seemed to drop a bit.

With just us Gs and the Js and Professor Joan left, we ate pasta and once more sat around the campfire attempting to keep Lyra in check.

That night's nocturnal Lyra-denza was somewhat more subdued than the previous night's but still we elected, with the weather forecast predicting an even hotter day to come, to return to the throbbing metropolis where at least we had fans to move the air around.

Morning, Sun, Heat, Charge, Water

Our little tent city was in the shade first thing in the morning, and probably the sensible thing to do if we were early morning types like every other bleeder who lives in Queensland seems to be would have been to, well, get up early and make the most of the fresh morning air with dew underfoot, brewing a cup of joe on the camping stove while rashers of bacon wafted their fragrances over one.

But I'm not a morning person so instead I lolled in my pit, my bedroom in shade, along with my fellow non-morning people, listening to the sounds of our fellow campers (who live in Queensland and apparently embrace this early-morning philosophy thing) brewing up cups of joe and rashering rashers of bacon, etc.

Eventually it became clear around seven o'clock (in the morning that is) that slumbertime was over and so we emerged one by one, with me in the vanguard to blearily breathe the morning air and make vague attempts at grunting conversation while hooking up the intravenous caffeine infusion equipment. I'm not a morning person.

From what I recall, and I am a little hazy on the details, the cool morning air wasn't that cool. In fact it could charitably be described as warm and warming as time went on. Still, I had something for breakfast, I don't remember what, and coffee must have been drunk, because that's what I do, and pretty soon I reckon that the fire was re-lit, because I have a photo of that, and people started to think about swimming, because that's what they did.

I was more preoccupied with getting the car going so I went to see Gibbo (remember him) about his jump-leads, and to apologise for waking up the entire planet in the middle of the night. He was good about the waking-up thing but it turned out that what had previously been identified is an independently-powered jump lead unit was in fact something to do with a leaf-blower. Why you would take that camping is anybody's guess. But not mine.

So I was forced to make another couple of cups of coffee, before scouting the campsite for some jump leads.

I didn't have to scout very far as the next tentopolis I asked had jump leads easily to hand and within a matter of minutes we men were maneuvering to get those jumpers connected and see if we couldn't spark a bit of life into our inert chariot.

The Mazda chuntered into life, much to my relief, and off I drove to get a replacement battery, stopping off on the way for a regal moment, paying close attention not to switch off the car. And thence to Kenilworth to search out a mechanic, which didn't take long.

With a new battery installed, mobility restored, I headed back to the campsite. Our little tent city was suddenly a shadow of its former self as these crazy Aussies were only staying for one night, with the palaver to leisure ratio apparently completely not an issue. But they were all going for a swim before leaving.

I headed straight for the river. The probably ridiculously inaccurate thermometer on the dash was telling me that it was 43 degrees outside, and it was damn hot, and if that doesn't call for immersion in cool water, I don't know what does.

Let's Wake Up The Entire Campsite

Sometime in the middle of the night, Lyra woke up, as she does. I suppose it was either the temperature being roughly the same as it was during the day, being in a strangely soft inflatable bed with unusual covers in a strange-sounding room with a gentle breeze flapping the walls and a door that zipped and the outside right there, practically inside, or some combination of one or more of the above, but she launched into a fine cadenza of screamingly epic proportions that lasted for quite a few longer-than-average dead-of-night minutes while Nicole and I tried to bring her back down to Earth just as a temporary stopoff on her journey back to the Land of Nod.

It was a cadenza that must have woken up everyone within a two-hundred metre radius - if not more - such was its volume and emotional charge with full-throated screaming carrying across the night air like a nail gun in the eardrum.

That certainly set us up for the next day of fun in the inescapable outdoor all-encompassing oven.

Nov 14, 2014

O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.

You can imagine that, many miles away from civilisation, parked at the remotest end of a huge campsite, and deprived of transport by a mystery car fault, I was slightly concerned at our predicament, and I expect that it showed. Although in the high thirties heat sweat was in profuse supply no matter where you looked, some of my sweat was anxiety-related.

Nathan, amateur (in the nicest possible way) mechanic and car-fixer-upper admitted to being outside his classic car comfort zone, but offered helpful suggestions such as immobilisers or alternators and Lyra with her little playful fingers was in the firing line as theories went, but after running my sweaty fingers through the actual car manual and coming up stumped, I decided to take a chance take a chance take a take a chance chance and phone the Mazda garage which services our chariot, a risky move late on a Friday afternoon.

Nice Xavier, no doubt a hoopy frood who really knows where his towel is, suggested that the behaviour that I was describing to him was indicative of a flat battery which caused me a slight bout of relief and soon I was cruising the campsite looking for jump-leads.

I didn't have to cruise very far as the next-door polyester metropolis looked through their trailers-full of equipment and located what looked suspiciously like a set of jump-leads in Gibbo's trailer. Gibbo was away for a swim though so I would have to wait for his return.

I settled down beneath the shade of Marion's enormous sun-brella as the others went off to the river in all those other cars. I lay down, and gently experienced my tender ribs while looking up at the sky hoping in vain for a cloud to form, and eventually closed my eyes just a little, just for a short while.

When I woke up I thought that well actually that since Jumping Gibbo hadn't shown his face, and it was actually really quite warm, and that even if I did get a jump what would I do, since the battery (if it was the battery) was evidently knackered and no garage would be open to replace it, that I should probably stop lying underneath Marion's enormous sun-brella and go for a swim.

So I walked, yes walked the fifty metres to the river, arriving of course at the precise moment that everyone else was leaving and stood just short of knee-dip in the water which was frankly a little turgid with the muddy upwellings of the Mary River and not really inviting me in for a swim. Nevertheless there I stood, standing in the water, enjoying being cool from the knees down and the feeling of not-so-hotness slowly spreading even to the line around my head where my hair met my hat.

And as the sun westered in the sky and shade crept across the water we headed back to find our company of campers was completed, the final peripatetic professor professing to have proceeded providentially. Apparently Professor Claire and her family had stopped off at McDonalds.

So we men, working in a team of men, erected the final polyester pleasuredome (it was kind of square actually) in a most manly way, only resorting to the instructions once in our attempts to perform the colour-coded pole dance and work out where the front of the palace was supposed to be.

And hey presto, before we knew it it was beer o'clock, followed closely by sunset which made fire essential, though Nicole mysteriously wasn't involved. Then as darkness gathered and the campfire roared, flickering over the tents assembled all around, shimmering on the slightly dishevelled bodywork of the assembled motorcade, playing on the faces of the score or so of campers, barbecue o'clock struck and a procession of frankly ridiculous amounts of food made its way from the outsides of people to the insides of people, and a guitar appeared, and there was the strumming of notes and the buzz of light conversation and the crackling of embers.

Eloise was friends with everybody and everybody was friends with Eloise. Lyra moved around having a jolly nice time when she wasn't scaring the pants off all those maternal types with her too-close relationship with the fire. Oh, and she decided to visit the next-door camp and check out their fire too, and their tents, before anyone noticed.

Maybe she was looking for the jump leads.

Can this be all we will desire? Straw houses in the promised land?

The G20 Roadshow - cavalcades, protests, world leaders, trans-anarchistas, paramilitary security, transport disruption and all - is coming to town, and for all sanity-seeking Brisbane residents this is an invitation, nay a demand if not just a firm mixed-message encouragement to get the hell out of Dodge.

Marion had for a while been advocating a camping trip and Nicole took this to heart to the extent that she invited many people from work, and many people from play, many of the former acceding, many of the latter declining. The veritable smorgasbord of fellow short-stay camperoonies created booking difficulties and where we were originally headed for Tallebudgera down on the Gold Coast, for various reasons and a lot of casting around we found ourselves headed for a campsite out at Kenilworth up in the Mary Valley, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, with a promise of idyllic river-swimming and countryside camping reinforced by the most cursory inspection of the web-based marketing literature.

The elements dealt us an interesting hand in the form of a heatwave, which promised to roll it's velvet glove over us on the very day of our departure so we resolved to get an early start and in a near-miracle of logistical organisation by SWMBO, we were away, fully packed, by 0930 Zulu.

The car was packed to the gunnels (an optional extra we were really proud to have negotiated) to the extent that there was no room for Eloise, and she had to go in Marion's car, fist-pumping all the way probably.

We were expecting there to be a reasonably massive exodus which normally creates a pretty good bung in Bruce's passage, but we thought to chance our arms. We weren't (or were, depending on whether you're more satisfied with being proven correct or having a clear run) disappointed when we ran into the first knot of traffic around Deception Bay, and when Our Little Treasure started piping up about being stuck and thirsty and hungry and unhappy, and the volume started to increase, we took the strategically sensible but tactically incompetent decision to leave the Bruce at Morayfield to go off-piste.

In true style, we Gavinated our long-cut which proved just as bunged up as the Bruce if not more so, compounding our errors by erring further from the beaten track, missing turnings, winding up on a dirt-track somewhere in the middle of the Beerburrum State Forest.

Not to be discouraged by this sort of nonsense, we made our way back to civilisation in the form of Steve Irwin Way, and then for some reason took a scenic route over the mountains through Maleny and  Montville, and over past the Mapleton Falls to another winding dirt track which frankly scared the crap out of me and my navigatrix as we edged our way down a single-lane dusty ribbon of what could only be loosely described as road which wound its way down the mountain side, a cliff on the right, a precipice on the left, tailgated by a wanker in a Commodore with a death-wish (for us).

We breathed a sigh of relief when we got to the bottom, a further sigh of relief when we found the campsite, and a further sigh of relief when we found Joan waiting for us at the camp site with Marion, Hannah and Eloise who had arrived there an hour before us.

When we got out of the car it was utterly stinking hot so we made camp in the stinking heat, Lyra playing in the car, pushing this knob, pulling the lever, switching this light on, tooting that horn with her tummy. The car was covered in dust from our motorised mountaineering long-short-cut adventure.

Camperoonies trickled in bit by bit, and soon we had our own little canvas village, industriously unpacking, constructing, and complaining about the weather.

We decided to cool off in the river. It was too hot to walk, apparently, so we got into the car to drive the hundred metres to the accessible with the beach and the waterhole.

I turned the key, and the car clicked, the dashboard lit up, and all the lights flashed. The needles shot round to the far end of the dials, then returned to zero. The car did not start.

I tried again. Same result. The one male in attendance came to look, drew breath through his teeth, tradesman-like. Could be battery? Hopefully?

Oh, crappy crap on a crapping crapstick.