Feb 28, 2015

In Which Eloise Reprises Her Urban Climb Birthday Party Experience

As if it were possible to top the Pepe's Mexican Birthday Experience, for her tenth birthday Eloise chose, for her public party - her Official Celebration, if you will - to entertain a select gathering of her close friends to a rock-climbing experience the likes of which we have not seen since the last time we had a rock-climbing birthday experience, in 2012.

We found the Urban Climb experience much expanded, with towering cliff faces all around, and a rock-arch taking centre stage, all lowering over us in probably rather less than fifty shades of grey, studded with hand- and foot-holds and ropes and people.

Eloise wasn't as acrophilic as I remember her being last time, even with her musculature finely honed by swimming and dancing, but perhaps she just didn't place as much faith in my abilities as a belayer to keep her safe, or else (and perhaps understandably) her factual safety didn't resonate with her subconscious fear of being ten metres up in the air on a sheer rock face, unable to reach her next hand hold with her muscles complaining and her tired reach withdrawing.

Some of her little chums however were spidering up the climbs like rats up a drainpipe, a toute vitesse, particularly the newbies. Beginners' luck, I should think.

Anyway the time flitted by like a flighty fly, and before we knew it we had to go, sweaty and sticky and filled up with sugar. Another birthday bites the dust.

Apples and Pears

Lyra and Eloise both like to help out at the Market. Mark the Stanthorpe Apple Guy often has Eloise ladying the till, weighing up the punters' fruit and gazing vacantly into the distance while trying to do maths. Lyra's preference is to jump around in the back of his van, and to steal his money.

After the grocery part of the market is done and the consuming part begins, Eloise's preference is for Dairy Iced Chocolate and whatever sweet stuff she can lay her hands on, while Lyra goes for Eloise's Dairy Iced Chocolate and Michael's chinese dumplings. Nicole and I are still in our Cappucino and Shakshuka phase.

Feb 27, 2015


A fun Friday frolic is to visit the Museum. We have a season pass for downstairs, the interactive "Sciencentre" (to quote an over-used cliché, do you see what they did there?) so we can toddle in there at a moment's notice and mess about with stuff.

They have a thingummy on at the moment about the human body which is a bit, I don't know... rubbish? It's full of titanic machines which seek semi-interactively to educate around the senses and organs and all that. The machines really don't need to be as big as they are, and some of them don't seem really to work any more. It's a bit 1970s.

There's an amusing game about reproduction: amusing because you have to race a computer sperm (gasp) into the vagina (gasp) by hammering away at buttons. Lyra likes it because there are buttons. I believe the subtleties of the educational experience elude her, and she remains uncorrupted by the rude words (strangely enough, there's no mention of willies).

Another amusing one is the guts machine where we marvel at the length of the human intestinal tract, as represented by a rope which we pull out of the backside of a picture of a bloke. The rope stretches five metres or so (from memory) and when you let it go it snakes its way back up the man-figures arse. Only thing is, what with the picture being flat and all, the hole where the rope comes out is where the todger out to be, and so it seems very much more like you're grasping his one-eyed trouser snake and extruding it across the room through the medium of the tug-of-war pull. Lyra remains uncorrupted by the subtleties of any connotations an adult such as I might make.

The other half of the Sciencentre [sic] is much more fun. Lyra runs around in there, rushing from one thing to the next, pressing buttons with no regard whatsoever to the effect they might have, poking stuff, taking balls out and hiding them in other exhibits, and generally developing her motor skills and curiosity (hopefully).

For instance, here she is playing 3-dimensional Connect 4, having creatively re-interpreted the rules to enable the winning strategy of removing all the balls and throwing them across the room, watching them bounce amusingly and poor old Dad chase them around, even more amusingly.

And here she is sampling the delights of the Centrifugal Chair of Extreme Disorientation, which I imagine has left many a passenger reeling with nausea, but she took it gently and looked on it more as a pilot-harness fastening trainer.

My favourite is the Polypropylene Gas-Giant-In-A-Glass-Globe, which when spun at the appropriate speed forms little weather systems and climatic bands which swirl and dance in a fascinating and vaguely trippy way. I could play with that ball for hours.

Feb 25, 2015

Trashy Novels

Today's reading is from the thrilling literary tome "Frozen - Book of the Film."

Feb 22, 2015

Sign of Things That Came

It all felt a little anticlimactic at the time, but Lyra and I went for a walk down by the brook yesterday and there was... well, carnage might be a strong word, but there were men with machinery removing trees from the collapsed railings of footbridges, every available solid vertical structure was bedecked with straggled grass, the lomandras looked like they had nearly been swept away.

Feb 21, 2015


...by the telly.

Cyclone Marcia is Coming To Visit

We can't say we haven't been warned. They've been banging on for days now about how much rain we've been going to get as part of this low-pressure system that's been coming in from the Coral Sea for ages.

On Wednesday, was it, the low pressure system intensified in a cyclone which the powers-that-be named Marcia, apparently in some homage to the Partridge Family, or maybe not.

By Thursday, the storm was "powering" or "barrelling" towards the coast at Yeppoon and had intensified to a Category Five cyclone which is very exciting and as strong as you can get!

Coincidentally on Thursday the rain "they" had been banging on about for days was supposed to kick off; we were precautionary in our travels, expecting a deluge of 500mm. We met up with C&G down at South Bank and parked distantly for reasons that are slightly to un-simple for me to be bothered to type about or for you to be interested in, and I was slightly concerned that we would be caught out.

But the rain didn't arrive; just a few showers.

On Friday, the radio was telling us that Marcia was continuing to "relentlessly" "barrel" and "power" "remorselessly" towards the coast and that it would then continue down the coast.... towards us. The local radio went into Emergency Mode, which is always exciting, but the subtle tension and energy hovering behind the superficially calm announcers' was unmatched by the light rain and calm air outside.

The calm weather persisted all day, with the rain building up bit by bit. People were clearly expecting drama later in the day; and the rain continued to build up. We ended up picking H up from school along with E, with doubts in the air about evening traffic, but in the end no dramas; we went for a walk to the Brook and found its banks burst and the flow well spated, man.

And so, here were are, with the cyclone nearly upon us, right now, and the rain is getting heavier, but the air is still still. Oh, and it's not a cyclone anymore - it's "just" a tropical low, again.

I am making no predictions.

Feb 20, 2015


Kedron Brook catches water from a wide area upstream, but still it's quite amazing to see just how much water can fall from the sky and collect in one channel, gallumphing its way towards the sea,

Feb 19, 2015

One Decade Down, God Knows How Many To Go

I had ever such a cunning and cruel wheeze planned for Eloise's birthday, basically because I'm an emotionally bankrupt control-freak bastard who just wants to make everyone else's life shitty in order to garner short-term gratuitous kicks at the expense of everyone I am supposed to hold dear.

But enough about me. Oh no, hang on, not enough about me.

I spent literally minutes (an unspecified number of) buying presents for young Eloise, Lego-this, Ice-that, Book-the-other, and what with that awemazing bike she got for Christmas, and us telling her that could double up for her birthday, considering its awemazingness, and that big pile of internationally-shipped parcels sitting on the table whispering "Open me, now, don't wait until my birthday," a sibilantly tempting siren-call to the weak-hearted, I thought some of my efforts might be highlighted if I hid the good presents and put the crap one on the pile.

So, expecting temporary disappointment at the opening of the clarinet-cleaning cloth, to be closely followed by delight at the opening of the magically produced Lego, my plot was hatched.

Eloise foiled it at the first step as she was completely delighted by the clarinet-cleaning cloth, which rather took the wind out of my sails.

Still all the books, dresses, crossbows, lego, etc, all went down very well.

We ate Mexican in the evening, where the remaining presents were opened. The only fly in the ointment was when I trapped Eloise's fingers in her electric window. But she'll live.

Feb 15, 2015

Eloise in Ballet-Related Personal Success

This thing came up at Eloise's dancing school for an audition for a place doing some performance, after a few weekend-day's worth of practice, at some prize-giving ceremony that has something to do with some big ballet organisation or something, and Eloise thought, when someone had some words with her about it, that there might be something to it, and maybe it would be some fun, so she'd give it a go.

An indication of the level of the seriousness with which she was taking it was that she went for a sleepover around a friend's house the night before, and needless to say didn't go to bed til, I don't know, probably around midnight.

An indication of the level of seriousness with which I was taking it was that I let her go to this friend's place for a sleepover.

An indication of the level of seriousness with which Nicole was taking it was that she went around and fetched Eloise from the friend's place at 7.30am to get her ready. Bear in mind, though: Nicole's a morning person.

The story goes on as follows: the audition was at 8.30am, and Nicole, having taken Eloise the not very considerable distance to the venue, was told that she wasn't permitted to attend, and so came home again.

Eloise had to negotiate the whole thing solo, something I'm not sure that I would have had the confidence to do at that age, making friends and doing what she needed to do, being where she was supposed to be, paying attention, and all that.

Nicole had to return later on, and reported that parents had to wait outside before being brought in to escort their child home if the child was unsuccessful - and there were a few tear-stained walks of shame, I am told - or else retire, head held high, as the successful child would be spending the rest of the day there learning and rehearsing.

Nicole came back, on her own.

Feb 14, 2015

Trevor the Turbushken

A few months ago this bush turkey chick appeared in our garden. We would spot it from time to time furtively skulking around, a tiny little speck of a thing apparently bereft of parents, carers or guardians of any kind. Where was it getting its food? Its loving nurture? Its moral guidance?

It certainly was a nervous little thing, running away - as perhaps you would if you found yourself in its hapless situation - at the first sign of anything at all.

As time has marched on, the chick has grown into an adolescent, gaining the frankly questionable looks of its forebears: the dull read head, the yellow Elizabethan ruff. Lately it has grown some magnificent tail feathers.

Who knows what a bush turkey normally does in the wild? Well bush turkey experts obviously, but bush turkey experts we are not. All that we have found out as that they are prone to scratching around, eating anything they can, and are independent from a very early age. So maybe we shouldn't worry unduly about the bird's moral compass.

However our little bush turkey, Trevor I call him or her, has apparently become convinced that it is a member of our chickens' family. Perhaps I should rename him or her after a Doctor Who companion.

He or she now skulks a little less, but rather hangs around with the chickens, chilling out with them (if that's the right term in this, our hottest summer like ever), eating what they eat and generally, well, being a chicken.

Nicole was very pleased the other day when she went to feed the chickens and Trevor hooted at her.

I should point out that Trevor is my personal name for him or her, and I may not have told anyone else about it. It may change at any time without notice.

Feb 9, 2015


Eloise, now being a big Year Five Girl and all that, has taken a little step towards independence,

I've felt for a while that the time was ripe for her to be walking to school by herself: it's not that far, it's reasonably safe, only one road to cross, etc. But I'd never quite made the leap. There was always something... early starts, heavy bags, whatever.

But now Eloise has taken things in her own hands and has teamed up with a little chum, and now it's three times a week: we drop her round her mate's house and they walk from there. Bags and all.

Feb 8, 2015

Japanese Garden with an Authentic Ethnic Soundscape

On Sunday I was lying around in bed with children jumping on me, casting around for something to do when I happened to notice some traditional Japanese music was to be performed in the Japanese Garden at the Botty Gardens.

Eloise initially scoffed at the idea, preferring a trip to Germside to perform some kind of ritual birthday shopping, but I scoffed in my turn at that, and we arrived at an accommodation whereby I would ask her little friend along and then everybody would be happy.

I was pretty sure actually that Hannah wouldn't be interested but Eloise insisted and so I made the call, and as I understand it arms were twisted until a 'Yes' was procured.

When we arrived Hannah declared the Japanese Garden was her favourite part of the Botanical Gardens. We wended our way among the cacti and, um, other plants and as we approached the mediaeval doorway to the hidden Jardin Japonais the delicate lilting twang of the Koto floated over the wall, a distant invitation to sip tea, perhaps, or perform a shoe-changing ceremony, or perhaps behead an enemy with a single stroke of the katana.

Beneath the canopy of a pavilion, a lady played that tune from Civilisation IV which you'll be familiar with no doubt if you've played that game as Shogun Nobunaga. Her instrument was enormous - Eloise described it as a surfboard with strings. She plucked away at it with gom jabbar plectrums, sending rivulets of music singing like waterfalls across the placid pool, dancing with the gurgle of the stream as it flowed among the rocks.

Hannah and Eloise went out on the rocks to capture and torture frogs and toads. Lyra wanted to join them, an unreasonable request owing to Health and Safety Regulations.

The peace of the Japanese Garden was soon punctured.

We stopped a while to listen to a duet between the koto and the shamisen, but the call of the ice cream became too great, and the day was hot, and the hours drawing on, and so we bade our farewells to the Japanese Garden and headed for the Caff.

Feb 6, 2015


On Thursday Lyra became mysteriously very weary in the late afternoon as the Gavmobile made its way back from picking up Nicole after a day of gallivanting around Hawthorne with C&G and taxiing dancers and so on.

It was observed that she was running a temperature and paracetamol was administered, and all seemed to be improving until she attempted to eat some gunnoc-chi whilst sitting in Nicole's lap.

Nicole's lap was soon covered in a slick of milky creamy potato chunder, and the deck received a clean whilst a bath was hastily prepared.

Soon Lyra was asleep in our bed, having failed even to get to the end of the evening's pre-bed reading; an almost unique event.

The next day we resolved to have a sofa-day but Lyra, still sporting a temperature, had shaken off yesterday's torpor and was now as full of beans as a can of beans that's full. And no more vomiting. Though I did withhold the paracetamol.

Feb 5, 2015

Does My Bum Look Small In This

In an hilariously ingenious twist to the whole 'let's make mornings as chaotic as possible' routine the other day Lyra decided that she needed to go to school.

And so, having spotted Eloise's dress discarded nonchalantly in the middle of her bedroom floor, she decided to wear it as a statement of intent.

The hem was, ahem, brushing against the floor even when she drew herself up to her full majestic height and the T-shirt length sleeves reached past her elbows.

Clearly with a full day of play planned the dress would have difficulty surviving, and so, with extreme prejudice, it was removed and replaced with more practical clothing before embarking upon the day's activities.

Feb 1, 2015

'Orrible 'Istries

When the chance came up to go and see the Horrible Histories stage show, it couldn't be passed up. It's understood that the English version has been seen by the Wight Contingent and commented upon positively; and it's one of the few programmes that Eloise watches that might potentially have some educational value. And I enjoy it too. It's genuinely funny and rather entertaining, unlike most of the crap she claims at the time to be her favourite programme and completely unmissable.

So we ordered some plum seats and have been looking forward to it for a while.

Marion with her bargain-hunter nose for a deal bagged some last-minute cheapo tickets so we met up with them, in a manner of speaking, by exchanging text messages and waving to their distant shapes way back from our row two seats.

I'm sounding all hoity-toity about it but actually for this show a seat on the second row: possible mixed blessing. It soon became apparent that audience participation would be an element, leading to feelings of apprehension as the performers' eyes roved around looking for potential victims.

Still the show was entertaining, for all that the actors weren't the ones we were used to, and there were only two of them; the pace was quick, costume changes rapid, all delivered flawlessly as far as I could tell... there was just a certain something missing that I can't quite put my finger on that left me feeling just a smidge disappointed.

Still, never mind eh. We met up with the others during the interval and for a while afterwards then got in contact with Nicole who along with Lyra had been celebrating World Tutu Day, though mysteriously without tutus.

We waited in the car park for them, eager to use the car park pass that I'd bought with the HH tickets, then maundered around South Bank, eventually settling at the kids' play area of the State Library for an hour or so of fun and me, inexplicably weary, trying to keep my eyelids in the open position.