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.