Sep 29, 2014

Longbows at Fifty Paces

In an example of home-grown naturalised Australian (née) Slimm-plification, our cross-family trip to the Abbey Museum took a little organising. Originally semi-scheduled for the week before but then rescheduled for the week after, Nicole was committed to an "event" down at the Gold Coast, so with Monday the only day that the Bs were available, we were going to follow her down there, except it turned out that she'd only be there for like an hour and a half doing some three-minute thesis thingy, then it transpired that actually it wasn't that day at all, it was Tuesday, so the Abbey was back on again.


The Abbey Museum up at Caboolture is modest, quaint, unassuming and a charming little location for an easy, laid-back day out. We're fond of going there in the holidays when they put on schoolkids activities, like mummification lessons, dress up like a Roman, build a Pyramid, all that jazz. It's manned by volunteers and they are enthusiastic and unpretentious.

Eloise is particularly fond of the archery and regardless of the particular period of history that allegedly underpins the activities in the place, archery is always on. So this time, the theme was Ancient Greece, and while the Achaeans did get a look in through the medium of Pritt Stick, squares of paper and a mosaic thingy as well as those weird theatre masks the Greeks were fond of, it was really the archery we were going for.

The kick with the Abbey archery is that it is gloriously un-Health and Safety because you get to shoot arrows at a real person, albeit one who is dressed up to the nines in period armour.

Damien is the name of the hirsutely historical hindividual underneath the pseudo-Saracen get-up, a committed and possibly lunatic historical enthusiast with tremendous technical knowledge of any period of history you care to mention as long as it's medieval - and the loquacious vocabulary to communicate his enthusiasm to all ages.

He's the guy that teaches the kids how to shoot the admittedly weak-kneed longbows with the rubber-ended arrows a reasonable distance up the field. And he is the guy that stands a reasonable distance up the field a lets the kids shoot the rubber-ended arrows at him.

He's on reasonably safe ground, he says, until a Mum picks up a bow, and then he starts to worry.

We were there with Jessica, Penny and Elliot with mum Debra. To my knowledge she represented no significant threat, and was more interested in what her offspring were up to. Janice and Eva toddled along to and Janice was the one whose arrows had to be batted away by the shield and who did in fact represent a clear and present danger, at least to the poor bugger performing target duties.

Eloise, on this at least her third attempt at this archery lark, was enthusiastic if not that spectacularly impressive. She just couldn't get the range. Whether is was a question of technique or strength remains open to debate.

Between the two of them Eloise and Jessica managed to swing an extra archery session, so charming or cheeky were they. They practised cloud-shooting, the technique the massed longbowmen of the English Army used at Azincourt to defeat the French, although the eloquent Damien, admitting to French heritage, claimed that the English couldn't take the credit for the French defeat, and that the French needed to take all the credit for themselves, somewhat flying in the face of the (commonly?) accepted story.

Anyway it was a hot day, a bit of sun was caught, soft drinks were deployed, and sweeties. We ran the gamut of activities and were there for hours, relatively inexpensively, and quite enjoyably.

I had a bit of a go myself. It was a bit painful, and my aim was awful. I did manage to shoot a tree though.

Eloise moaned bitterly for days afterward about her "string-slap" and fletch-cuts. I say sometimes there's a balance to be struck between pleasure and pain.

Sep 28, 2014

A Farewell to Alms

What with me and my bones back to supposedly fighting fitness, or at least relatively unrestricted mobility with only middling discomfort, and Mum probably being sick to the back teeth of living on our sofa, and today's date being printed on her ticket, the time had come for her to depart these fair shores and attend to her life back in the Still United Kingdom.

We went out to breakfast at a new place to us called something strange like Form7even, which given its name held out little hope but had reputation and recommendations. It turned out to be quite nice, open and spacious and not next to a busy road, not too noisy, which kids' activities and quite nice coffee with quite nice food served on unusual platters (my veggie smeggie breakfast was served on slate, for that genuine just-mined flavour). Mum even unexpectedly picked up the tab, which was nice.

In the afternoon it was time to say farewell and we dropped her off at the airport, watching her disappear to run the gauntlet of security and automated passport control.

Thanks to Mum for travelling half way around the world to help us out in our hour of need. You executed your duties with character and distinction.

Sep 27, 2014

Riverfire: Airborne Assault on the Senses, Mainly Hearing

I don't actually remember what we did for Riverfire last year.

You'll no doubt recall, be aware, or be completely ignorant of the Brisbane Festival, which this year has offered us the delights of a huge inflatable cure for dyslexia and a mysterious bamboo construction of dubious utility, as well as a "veritable" "cornucopia" of "performances," none of which we have attended (that I recall).

It all culminates in a fat-bottomed firework display over the river. There are jet planes flying around and choppers chopping up chop (that's a nautical term), and it's an event, possibly the event in the Brisbane calendar of events.

Anyway last year, we were bogged down with babies and what we did is lost in the fog of war. Two years ago with Nicole doing something, probably working, Eloise and I dared he public transport system and were delighted when an Apache helicopter followed us across the Victoria Bridge, hovering outside the window of our bus and wiggling its weapon at us like a big macho chopper should do. It transpires that Eloise now remembers nothing of that remarkable occurrence and it will be up to me, the old codger with the fading brainwaves to carry the flag of that memory for future generations.

This year, we went down in the car with a Mum, and an Esky, and a Baby, and parked underneath South Bank for maximum utility. Not wishing to draw attention to myself in the surveillance superstate we must all toil under, I will merely say that there has been a heightened security status her to do with the T-word you'll be familiar with through historical events such as Omagh, the King David Hotel, and Gavrillo Princep (was that even his name?) and so we were a bit worried that our Esky would be frisked and any illicit liquids contained therein confiscated, and indeed such was the concern over the potential heavy-handedness on the part of short-term-contract thuggery that it seemed many would be keeping away from the festivities this year.

All this concern proved unfounded as our lift doors opened onto the South Bank Arbour we were greeted by a charming old fellow, yes a Grey Guardian but a nice one in a yellow T-shirt who helpfully directed us to the places we were most likely to find a spot to sit. And even at three in the afternoon things were starting to get a little bust with it.

We cast around a little bit for a decent place to sit then came across a little place just behind the Green and next to Janelle's Lovely Herb Garden where we could lay out our modest little pied a terre aka picnic mat, which we layed out then laid on, and listened to the sounds of the river, with the boats chuntering up and down, the hum of the crowds moving along the footpaths, the playgrounds behind us, the generator not far away.

Pretty much no sooner had we done that than the air was filled with the raucous rip of high-power jet engines as the two Super Hornet jet fighters began hairy-arsedly splitting the very heavens with the power of their mighty turbine outlets, streaking nakedly overhead in various degrees of tilt, bifurcating my bloody vestibules with their terrifying cacophany.

I liked it, it was exciting but Eloise objected to the noise on the grounds of its volume. I'll remind her of that in years to come when night-clubbing becomes the thing and playing loud Goth music in her bedroom.

After showboating up and down the river a few times, the jets tipped themselves onto their bottoms and powered into the sky, disappearing beneath the sparse clouds, and we began the waiting game. The kids went off to the playground, and my game of choice was lying on my back in zen-like communion which my swollen ribcage watching clouds start to form over Australia. I couldn't do anything, just watched them swing with the wind out to sea.

Eventually the helicopters showed their rotors and started messing abut on the river, spraying their spray, buzzing boats, waving at the crowds, wiggling their big guns. All very macho.

There were five of them I think, Apaches and Black Hawks. I know what a Black Hawk looks like, I think, from the fillum of the same name, but I didn't see Orlando Bloom doing any abseiling.

The Apache I remember from such classics as The Iraq War and the Other Iraq War, though these particular examples hadn't to my knowledge or ability to detect been outfitted with the Hellfire missiles that made them such effective anti-armour machines.

Instead they had apparently amiable dinky-di Aussie pilots who waved and wiggled their weapons in a very jolly way. The crowds waved back at least, though thankfully their weaponry remained under wraps.

The choppers went on for ages, then coffee seemed appropriate and various foodstuffs were dispensed and drawing was done as the sun dipped and the air began to cool. Clothes were fetched and put on and before long night was falling and the build-up to the actual fireworks crescendoed as the Fighter Planes rattled our bones with their sub-bass kerosene roar, the sound bouncing of the buildings in the gathering dusk and then they were power-climbing again through the apricot clouds.

Really I should have taken my tripod and proper camera, but well I didn't so you'll have to make do with this firework photo taken with my mobile phone. As soon as the fireworks started Eloise disappeared but I tracked her down pretty quickly, leaving behind Lyra with her face buried in Nicole's neck.

Eloise and I made it down onto the beach and had a pretty good view of the stretch of river looking up towards the Victoria Bridge; the fireworks were going off in perfect synchronisation, clearly under computer control. It was in impressive display; it always is. It's rear end was, as previously trailed, generously proportioned.

Sep 26, 2014

It's a Natural Progression

Eloise managed to snap another very nice picture of a kangaroo with her joey refusing the leave home:

Macropus Copulus Sighted at the Koala Sanctuary

The annual pass to Lone Pine, the Koala Sanctuary of choice for the Discerning Macropod Appreciator, got another outing the other day and Grandma Mary, in the twilight of her support mission, was treated to one of the finer wildlife experiences that Brisbane has to offer.

Eloise was particularly excited to make the trip as her best friend Hannah was in attendance, and she had some personal successes also. I will make a list:

1) A personal photograph with a Dingo, yes a Dingo! The Dingo, probably called something like Sandy, owing to its sandy coat, was out for a walk with his/her handler. His/her handler appeared to have a handler of his own, and Eloise somehow caught the handler's handler's eye while they were having a conversation about something deeply technical and the handler's handler, in a mysteriously American accent, suggested a photo for the "little girl" which the dingo's handler was only too pleased to agree to.

2) The Bird of Prey show where Eloise was able to demonstrate her general geniusness to anyone who would listen by identifying, at the top of her voice, the barn owl. Mysteriously the American handler handler, who must have been some visiting official or something, volunteered for some raptor action, and hey presto, there he was messing with the big birds, bypassing all the paying customers in one easy swoop.

3) There was great excitement on the Kangaroo fields as a pair of amorous roos consummated their unstoppable romantic urges in the most public - if not the most protracted - display of affection I've seen for a while. Eloise was there with her camera, and snapped a shot which I have edited here for decency, but which deserves a place on the success list nonetheless.

Amusingly, children were approaching the pair as they were carrying out their... activity... and offering them encouragement by holding handfuls of roo-food underneath their noses. Food in which the roos were perhaps understandably uninterested. The parents, keeping their distance, not wanting to get involved, called from afar: "Maybe not those kangaroos, Aspidistra! Why don't you try those others over there! The ones that aren't cuddling!"

I got some knowing glances from some grownups though when Eloise bounded across the fields to me shouting "Come and look! There are some kangaroos mating!" Maybe that should go on the list too, for sheer Attenborough-ish-ness.

Hooray for animal love! And hooray for lists of personal success!

In other news, everyone had fun with the lorikeets, Lyra and I got to molest a wombat up close (and when I say molest, I mean annoy with a net full of hay, which really needs explanation - unfortunately), and the cockatoos didn't utter a single word.

Sep 24, 2014

Balloon Without a View

We went down to the South Bank a couple of times to have a go at this funny rubber thingy with the frankly stupid name of Exxopolis. The xx is supposed to represent twenty years of the company who makes these things, the nature of which I'll elaborate on momentarily, has been making these things. But it just made me think of oil companies, and tigers.

Ridiculous name aside, and by way of background, for the last couple of weeks the Brisbane Festival has been running, you know the one that culminates in Riverfire. There has been the obligatory Spiegeltent, the universal nature of whose design and name bemuses me, in which various performances occurred. There was a big lit-up sculpture made of bamboo which was no doubt deeply significant, but which left me, well, fill in the gap before boozled.

And then there was the Exxopolis thingy, which cost money to get into so was a bit of a gamble but the photos looked good.

From the outside it looked like a recreation of a little castle from the Yellow Submarine film, in the style of, if you know what I mean, because I can't be sure that there was a castle in the film, but imagine a sort of curvy not-quite straight wobbly rubber-looking complex shape with protuberances and patches of colour, about five metres tall and maybe twenty metres on each side, and towers and cupolas of different colour poking out above the rest like rubber gas-bubbles.

Mum, Lyra, Georgia and Claire approached with anticipation, running the gauntlet of what I now understand are locally referred to as "Greeters."

Once we had relieved ourselves of our shoes, and received the obligatory corporate-bollocks introductory statement, and the airlock had been opened, we stepped in. Instantly the atmosphere changed, with soft music and ambient light - filtered through the walls of the enormous balloon it turned out we were inside - changed to bizarre primary colours inside this strange maze reminiscent as much as anything as a really very clean and complicated gastro-intestinal tract, kind of organic in an artificial way, with no straight lines and no natural colours. Passages undulated away with colours changing with distance, so we could be standing in a bright red space - and the very air would be red, our faces and everything filtered through red light, like being in the red bowels of a red thing, but looking down the corridor a could of turns the walls would be bright green or blue.

We had been told in no uncertain terms that it was not a bouncing castle, but the homunculi were disinclined to respect that instruction, so we spent a happy and slightly strange hour-and-a-half wandering, lolling, and taking pictures.

There were a few large rooms, very tall, which had clear Gaudi-esque lines to them, and the architect was reputed to have given the place an Islamic feel. Around the rooms were alcoves where people were just sitting, relaxing, or playing with their kids.

Lyra enjoyed finding the ventilation ducts where air was pumped in to keep the structure inflated, then letting the breeze blow into her face.

I enjoyed lying down on the floor on my back and my ribs giving me enough pain stroke discomfort to be unable to get back up again, and then having my child stroke children come and sit upon me just when I had no hope of escape.

I say children, for we went back the following week with Eloise, so impressed was I with the general discomfitude of the experience. She immediately disappeared with Georgia, with Lyra departing in a different direction. We spent many a happy minute wandering the fleshy halls and passages in search of our offspring, who were clearly also moving. By the time we had found them and exhaled, were surprised to be told that our time was up this week, because it was the school holidays and $16 only bought us twenty minutes or something ridiculous like that.

So bugger it: first week very good, second week not so very good. Note: go when not crowded.

Sep 23, 2014

Moody Eloise Attempts the Smoulder

Eloise art-directed for this one, in her new haircut, posing like a poseur, giving face. As they say.

The Desculptification of the Playground

If a picture says a thousand words, then I don't think it unreasonable to claim that three pictures munged together in Photoshop shouldn't say three thousand, and that therefore this photograph represents a significant essay in the art of using playground equipment to ruin a finely sculpted, yes sculpted and not entirely inexpensive up-town inner-city metropolitan sassy stylish haircut that many of the world's disadvantaged would at least salivate over.

Haircut One

It's the New World.

Gone are the days of the pudding-bowl daggers-at-dusk two-shakes-of-a-lamb's-tail look-after-the-pennies-and-personal-esteem-will-look-after-itself mother's cut; this is twenty-first century suburban narcissistic Australia and on this, the twenty-third of September, just shy of her second birthday, Lyra visited the salon for the first time to have her hair cut, for the first time.

It says something of young Nicole's devotion to her studies that she decided that she couldn't be there for this most auspicious of events, and it's a gratifying testimony of her faith in me to keep my mouth should and trust the Professionals to get on with the job and make the critical decisions in a timely manner.

It was a worry, in the loosest possible sense of the word, to have Lightning Lyra in such close proximity (what other kind of proximity is there?) to scissors with molecule-sharp edges, but with Eloise in tow, Lyra was putty in young Tom's culpable hands as he proceeded to sculpt, yes sculpt her hair into what can only be described as a Blunt Bob (because that's what he described it as).

Eloise was next, and, sassooned member of the preened clientele that she is, she simply proceeded to the basin to have her hair deep-cleansed then straightened, as usual, and sculpted yes sculpted I tell you into what I can only describe as a style of some kind whose name I don't know because I wasn't sufficiently interested to ask, beautiful though it , and she, is, and are.


Afterwards we went to New Farm Park with Mum and messed it all up.

Sep 22, 2014

Nicole: Bellbird Bidet Barbie

It is customary for Nicole to perform a barbecue activity upon the occasion of her birthday each year. I, as a committed veggo loser (we are in Straya after all) am unable to appreciate the quality of her carnal knowledge (as it were), and must make myself content with imitation snags, but I am convinced that she performs miracles of marvelous meaty manipulation each time she so much as glances in the direction of a barbie, public or otherwise.

Horror of horrors, she failed to take the day off for her birthday this year, instead electing rather foolishly to leave the logistical preparation up to me. Normally we forget to take something critically important, and it seemed to me that this year's ill-conceived strategy would end up with more than just the usual omissions. Still I attempted bravely to constitute a comprehensive collection of cutlery, comestibles and, um.... crockery (plastic) along with the necessary implements and ingredient, alcohol and alternatively alliterative articles. What an effort!

There were a number of potential destinations we had in mind, but given Nicole wasn't to finish her work until four, we had limited time to travel and so we settled on a jaunt out to The D'Aguilar Mountains and a little dell in a valley with which we are acquainted by the name of Bellbird Grove.

The heavens were thinking about indulging in a spot of foreboding as we arrived and selected our bbq by the wide field of ball-playing beneath the gum-encrusted hills around, the colours dulled in the grey light. We neglected to remember from last time that the wood-fired ancient barbecues of charm and dignity were at the other end of the recreation area, but by the time we'd remembered that we'd forgotten to remember that, well: it was too late. We were committed. And we had packed sticks especially.

I did remember the oil, which I counted as a personal triumph, but this did not herald universal success. On my list had been a spatula, and I had looked at the spatula in the drawer of the kitchen, but apparently that was as far as I'd taken that as the spatula was nowhere to be found. Also it became apparent that I had failed to bring along any tea towels for Nicole to drape over her shoulder in order to look culinarily cool.

We played something resembling a ball game for a while but my daughters are frankly balls at ball games, much like their father. "Tiggy," or "Chase" if you prefer (a game that involves chasing, for the uninitiated) was out of the question for recuperational reasons. We indulged in some balancing, and some going to the toilet, and some messing around generally, but soon the wild birds - They Who Should Not Be Fed - began to arrive, scenting the aromas of the preparation of food by that Cuisiniere of Repute, my darling wife, on the occasion of her quarty-tree birthday.

There were certain elements present who will remain nameless who chose to disregard the do-not-feed signs and soon little parcels of food were appearing around the place in the hopes of enticing the kookaburras, magpies and miners down from their perches to eat from the hands of children, with some success.

We ate in the fading light, discovered that I'd forgotten some other critically important stuff (I don't remember what), ate the profiteroles that we'd had to go back home to get earlier, because I'd forgotten them, and as the rain gathered its wits we returned home to get the ankle-biter to bed in time for us to watch yesterday's Doctor Who on catch-up.

Which we singularly failed to do...

Sep 21, 2014

Lyra's Legendary Un-Laziness

How is it that the saying goes: That you can lead a duck to water but you cannot make it swim.

And so it is, metaphorically, with young Lyra, whose aversion to sleep is legendary and a little exasperating. I remember Eloise used to be a bugger for sleeping, but this Lyra...

If she's cream-crackered like after a swim or some protracted exercise-type activity, and a full tummy (which is a feat in itself) then you might stand a chance of getting her to sleep in a bed, and if you do then it's liable to be a three-hour napaganza.

Otherwise the solution is transport-related: the car will do it after a while, the pram possibly. A pram to the playground might work on the way back, maybe. She hasn't fallen asleep on the scooter yet; she used to fall asleep on the bike. We'll see about that sometime in the future again.

Reliable during-the-day time to yourself, though? Forget it.

Sep 20, 2014

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / My Dad Drives a Motor Car

"Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car." - E.B. White
My first outing behind the wheel was the day after my epiphanous medical release, when as usual on a Saturday morning we headed off for Kelvin Grove market, only this time I was in the driver's seat. It was like I had never been away. No stalls, no kangaroo clutches, just smooth sailing with only the occasional inadvertent windscreen-wiper moment coming up to corners. Turning the wheel was OK if a bit of a stretch and changing gear was a little twingy, but any slight discomfort was more than outweighed by the pleasure of rediscovering the expression of 21st Century freedom that the motor car represents.
Still not up to heavy porterage, I had to leave trolley and pram manoeuvring to the more able-bodied once we were on the ground, so I kept an eye on Lyra as we worked our way around the usual suspects - Krazy Justin, Herbal Heather, Stanthorpe Mark, Spuddy Max, Terri Tea and Roost Krista amongst others - with stop-offs to hug lamp-posts, munch on tomatoes, sample apples, drink coffee and eat chinese dumplings in our two-hour free-parking-deliineated slow-whisk which all too often represents our Saturday morning.
Eloise served at the Unwaxed Apple stall, we chatted at the Herb stall, traded cheap innuendo with the Spud Man. Our vegetables were purchased efficiently leaving plenty of time for the coffee and catering activities. Lyra climbed up next to the free-standing electricity substation to sample the delights of static induction.
And I drove us home again. Contentment. Then to top off, I dropped Nicole at work, and drove Lyra around a bit to get her to sleep.

Sep 19, 2014

Freedom of Movement

It was with joy in my heart that I left hospital the other day, after a brief examination by a doctor which followed what he expressed to be a completely pointless X-ray, which was preceded by a not actually ridiculously long wait.

My mood was so good because I had been proclaimed as fit for anything other than lifting heavy weights. My freedom of movement, as demonstrated by lifting my arm high into the air with only the slightest of stoic grimaces, by scratching my back and by generally being loose in my (arm) movements, was rewarded with freedom of movement, to whit: driving.

When I asked him if I was fit to be behind the wheel he just looked at me and said - yeah, of course, there's no reason why not, you've made a very good recovery, blah blah blah.

And so, after five weeks, my life of dependency is, shall we say, over.

Sep 17, 2014

The Calm Within the Storm

The morning rush was in full swing with Eloise in defiant mood this morning, unwilling to decide on food choices, unwilling to get out of bed, unwilling to do anything very much.

Lyra slept through it all, and didn't wake up until after Eloise and Mum had left the house, frazzled.

Sep 15, 2014

Bowing Under the Pressure

Part of the deal with the strings thing, which Eloise secretly enjoys but professes not to, is that practice is necessary. It's really that part that she objects to, in a sort of don't want to do it but quite enjoy when we do. That and the early Friday morning rehearsals.

When we practice it's quite nice because I tinkle away on the piano and she scratches away on the violin, and we play together, and she gets a bit better each time. My God though the din she makes.

She has a Concert coming up. It's a big deal in the school calendar. But she's missed out on a lot of Orchestra and doesn't know her music. So we have had a few evenings of intensive work with learning the tunes, which has been kind of fun for me if not for her, and rewarding for both of us as she can now play the tunes with confidence and won't need to mime like I did when we did that orchestra tour of Germany back when I was at school.

A Spot of Morning Tea

With the back doors open it was easy for our ever-tamer butcherbird friend to come into our house rather than just hang around on the back deck and camp upon our cooker hood-top with, well, who knows what in mind.

He just sat there for a while, checking us out. After a few minutes I approached, and off he flew.

Sep 14, 2014

A Spot of Sunday Cetacean Spotting

Up bright and early this morning because today was Nicole's day off and that means treat day! A break from the drudgery of everyday life,  a temporary escape from Brisbane, a rare jaunt in these days of injury-curtailment and time-poverty.

Nicole's wish was that we should finally, after many years, bite the bullet and finally go whalewatching, so in a test of my limited organisation capabilities (I'm joking, potential employers) I typed "whale watching brisbane" into Google and chose the one that was nearest. In a further stroke of genius I telephoned them (I know, right?!) and booked some places. With an attention to detail you might find difficult to credit (joking again) I order vegetarian meals for Eloise and me.

We would have been there with heaps of time to spare if I'd remembered to pack my pain relief tablets and my sling. But we made up time by bravely over-ruling the GPS lady and taking a naughty short-cut. Defeat was almost snatched from the jaws of victory though when it turned out that it was Market Day in Redcliffe and so parking spaces were at a premium.

However some inspired parking-space-hunting from Mrs Gavin (nee Slimm) got us slotted in and a stroll through the market got us to the jetty, and there in the distance the MV Eye Spy, a craft named in the Grand Australian Tradition of assigning Crap Names to things. At least it wasn't named after a faceless bureaucrat though, I am supposing.

I managed to bluff us onto the vessel, though not much bluffing was required as we had a valid confirmation number and our names were on the passenger manifest, but still it was a relief to know that I hadn't made some basic error like failing to pay or booking for the wrong day, or a different ship, or a different activity altogether, or anything like that. I felt quietly gratified as we wandered through the large passenger lounge, across the front deck (which I will choose to call the beam deck, because that sounds good and like it might be right, but almost certainly isn't), around the first-floor passenger lounge, the shaded seating area round the back, up to the roof-top viewing area, and back down again into the lounge we'd previously wandered around, where we found some seats and sat down in them.

Eloise, it turns out, despite being a fine swimmer, is a nervous sailor, worried about sensible things like the ship spontaneously splitting in half or wobbling itself apart. I reassured her that that was an unlikely scenario but maybe she should take some seasickness pills, and I would hold her hand if we needed to go for a wander while the ship was in motion.

Before long we set off and the Eye Spy's custom-built silent running engines, specially designed not to disturb whales, roared into life propelling the catamaran across the smooth water of Moreton Bay. Dido's "White Flag" played upon the stereo as the craft wallowed quickly across the slight swell: "I will go down with this ship / And I won't put my hands up and surrender."

We sailed up the bay-side coast of Moreton Island and soon rounded Point Whatsit, whereupon, now that we were out on the Open Ocean (with Capital letters and all) the passengers were exhorted to keep their eyes peeled, with almost immediate results - throttling back in shallows off Point Thingy, the Eye Spy was soon idling between two pods of whales.

Up on the top deck, Nicole and Lyra had a groovy view of the dark behemoths gliding mirage-like beneath the waves. Down on the first floor, Eloise and I were joined by Mary as the dark bulk of the Humpacks' dorsals eased out of the water and the whales blew sprays metres into the air.

Captain Bloke took station at a little deck-side helm station and began talking about stuff.

It became clear that were surrounded by many more whales than we had ever suspected might be possible: there were at least five humpbacks swimming along not ten metres away in a pod, and there were more a little further away.

The cetaceans were, Captain Bloke assured us, completely at ease with us being there, as with only two ships operating in the Moreton Bay area and many more humpbacks wild in the environment these days there was no need for the ships to hassle the whales.

And the whales did indeed seem relaxed, gently ambling around, blowing off and sunning their backs but not doing much more.

We didn't mind. We were just happy to be able to see these celebrated creatures out in the wild without being the sort of wankers about it who would, you know, chase them down just to get a look.

After a while lunch was called for and we went down to get our vegetarian special orders. While we were queueing, you know with cameras inside and everything, the tannoy got all excited about whales waving their tails about and stuff, but I wasn't losing my place in that queue for no-one, no way.

We looked out as were getting to the end of the queue and there was a whaley Mum with her whaley Baby. Aww.

But look, because after lunch the whales must have sensed our renewed energy, or post-prandial torpor, or something different, because heads started to appear from the water and then the photograph that everyone had been waiting for presented itself to those who were sufficiently on the case:

Shortly after this the whales got bored or had some urgent appointment in their humpback diaries or something, because with a few thrusts of their tail-flukes the huge shapes just powered away, leaving us in the middle of the shallow blue sea weighing options.

Captain Bloke saw a pod off in the distance which were slapping their fins or something and before long we were breasting the Ocean Swell, Capital letters and all, at flank speed with an instrumental jazz-funk version of Sade's "Smooth Operator" playing to speed us on our way.

These whales stopped performing when we got near, and soon it became clear that Lyra was flagging, and after she vomited a bit I took her out back into the shade where she fell asleep in my arms as we wended our way back to port.

We were pretty happy with it: it was expensive, to be sure, but good value - we were out for four and a half hours - and even though the whales weren't as active as they reportedly are, normally, it was an exciting (no I won't say humbling because that would be bollocks) experience. One of those that is kind of a culturally significant experience, a sign of our notionally ecologist times. Definitely worth it.

Sep 7, 2014

A Little Bit of Father's Day Marsupial Fondling

It's Father's Day today in Orstralia, and so it fell to me to make certain decisions. I didn't really want to make any of them, and the flow was there, presenting itself to me to be gone with.

The first manifestation of flow was when I awoke to find breakfast in bed mysteriously absent from the day's agenda. Actually I realised that later. The first thing I realised that my nearest and dearest was still asleep, though my youngest was actually the nearest but she was asleep too, if that makes any sense?

I got up to make some coffee and tea, and found Eloise on the back deck engaging in arts and crafts. That piqued my interest - arts and crafts at 8.30am on a Sunday morning is a bit Stepford Wives at any time of the year - but after Eloise told me what she was up to, and I realised that it was Father's Day, my interest was eclipsed by the feeling of having been somehow robbed of my breakfast in bed, which was clearly not going to be forthcoming.

Unencumbered by bitterness in any of its wicked forms, I finished making the drinks and went back to bed. A simply joyous round of present-opening at some later time; a "beer-saver," a "credit-card lamp," a "wallet " from Eloise. Lovely! Eloise was very pleased with her efforts and her infectious enthusiasm was heart-warming if ultimately treatable.

Lyra's presents were retrieved from the Nursery bag where they had been languishing forgotten since Monday, but she decided that they were hers actually and that she didn't wish to surrender them to me, which was a pity since the laminated foot-book-mark might actually come in handy.

I gently suggested that we might breakfast upon the bready delights of the Red Brick Bakery and the suggestion was met with wholehearted welcome, and some time later, croissants and pains au chocolat and friandes were washed down with coffee and hot chocolate.

The flow came to haunt me when the time came to decide what we would be doing today. I said that I didn't care, and that was true, although obviously I didn't want to spend it suspended upside down, hanging from my shrivelling testicles by crocodile clips in a sub-zero room-sized refrigerator surrounded by the corpses of brahman bulls, their tongues lolling limply from between their blackened lips; basically it was a choice between a walk on the beach and a trip to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Now on the one hand, the beach did appeal, but it would be a drive and then a walk and, not to be defined by my recent injuries or anything, limited mobility would no doubt vecome an issue. No swimming (actually a plus given the water temperatures at the moment). But walking, running, fatigue, sandcastles, pain, fatigue.

On the other hand, Eloise suggested Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and I though, here's a girl who's actually put a bit of an effort into this Father's Day thing, and even though Nicole doesn't like koalas, there will be places to sit down, resg would be possible, always polenta to do and we can bail out gracefully if we need to.

So the flow was clearly pointed me in Eloise's direction and that was the way that I went.

Just the four of us going, easy pack, out the door, Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt, off we go.

So we got there, monkeyed around a bit, Eloise cuddled a koala, snore, then we went to the birds of prey demonstration thingy.

The birds of prey thingy was very good, the owls were really on their game; this Barking Owl zoomed down our row and almost took Lyra out with its wing as she was standing on my lap. She wasn't fazed though, and it certainly got her attention. Zoom! Iluka the sea eagle was a regal eagle, vocal in its disdain for us and afterwards we chatted with Chantelle, the eagle's legal keeper about Iluka's story.

Eloise and I swanned around with the sheep dog and the sheep and a spot of shearing for a bit before going to the farm yard where Eloise got herself all in a lather just because I told her that the sheep were butting today. Every time Lyra went near one Eloise would wade in and have a panic, trying to pull her away and being generally obstructive and upsetting before we told her to emm her oh flaming bee because how is Lyra ever going to learn anything if she's forcibly removed from any potential threat before it actually you know actuates?!

So then a spot of lunch, so far so good, before Lyra started to flag.

Well, off to the toilet, where I have to wait for a stall to come free, watching trainers tapping to mysterious music, before making a little awkward noise of my own.

Then to the kangaroos, which where Lyra's flag turned into a fully-fledged banner emblazoned with the word "Tantrum."

Eloise and I went to see the wombats, but the wombats were covering their ears trying to keep out the screaming. Tourists were moving past at a rapid rate, looking disarrayed and dishevelled. When things calmed down a bit I want back to check on Nicole who was weathering the storm with composure and fielding offers from help from well-meaning strangers with professional detachment.

She looked like she was doing all right, and my presence had ensured at least another five minutes of tantrum, and now Lyra was head-butting the tarmac path, so I thought that my place was probably really with Eloise, trying to make sure Number One daughter wasn't mauled by any rogue boxing kangaroos.

We wandered around for a while, but the kangaroos and wallabies were on their siesta. Soon Nicole and a much-improved Lyra caught up with us, and with the screaming having abated the marsupials came out for feeding and fondling.

Lyra and Eloise made friends with lots of our Australian Furry Friends, and the four bags of Roo Feed we'd bought and were completely sure that would be too much what with siestas and all, turned out in the end to be inadequate.

So, food spent, and at Eloise's insistence, we went to feed the lorikeet mob, which was lots of fun as it always is and that was that, game over, time up, hasta lavista, arriverderci, so long, ciao, grazie, au revoir.

Pizza? Yes please.

Sep 5, 2014

Oink Oink

Lyra loved her pig tails today. They were an unexpected event, she only asked to have her hair put up!

But here's a question, right: I get that a pony tail hangs off the back of the head, but do pigs have two tails, one growing from each buttock?

Elf and Safety

You cannot say that I have allowed my recent mishap to turn me into a complete arsehole. Well, perhaps it has, and I haven't noticed yet... actually I have my suspicions. But, and I won't go into them for fear of boring you more rigid than you are already, dear, rare reader, but... at least I haven't turned into the sort of arsehole who won't now let his children leave the house without donning protective equipment to the nth degree.

I'm not above some honest-to-goodness lecturing though, so when we went skating this afternoon and Eloise forgot her kneepads etc that Uncle James bought for her many moons ago, I did give her a little lecture about how, yes, it didn't seem like she needed them now, but you never know when something's going to happen.

I did lecture her only after she'd actually fallen over and it occurred to me that kneepads might have made a slight difference. So maybe I'm only subliminally mentally defined by my recent trauma. I do seem to bang on about it interminably, much to everybody's complete boredom and annoyance. It'll be a wonder if I have any friends left by the end of this.

Still we got Lyra onto her too-big scooter that we bought the other week in response to a "You'd better get one of these scooters because prices are just bound to go up soon because of international geo-political complicated issues that we don't understand" message that the toy shop sent us.

It's too big, but I'm too tight to spring for the mini-person handelbar (it plays music) and seat attachment. Besides, Lyra wouldn't accept it if it's not a big person's accessory.

I took Eloise's camera down; it needs some use before it rusts up completely, and thought I'd get some action shots of the girls zipping around. Only drawback being that Lyra can't zip and every time a camera is pointed at her she takes evasive action. I caught her unawares later on though when her guards was down and she'd finally plucked up the courage to use her Death Machine the way a Death Machine should be used.

Sep 3, 2014

Learn to Swim

Credit where credit is due: my Mother hates water, hates swimming, hates getting her hair wet. So I think that it did take some courage - call it resolve - to get into the swimming pool with Lyra and sing inane songs with the other mums while at the same time preventing toddlers from drowning, and hopefully having fun. If those three things can be carried out at the same time, then something must be going right.

When I do it, I do try to add taking the piss out of the instructor without her noticing, making for four concurrent activities, but then I read somewhere that the human ability to seamlessly multitask is a complete myth anyway. And I've had lots of practice, unlike Mum. So we can forgive her not worrying too much about the singing.