Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thursday in Tomahawk

Having taken the wave ski on the roof all the way up there, Thursday was our last roll of the dice to get some use out of it. I thought we should try Tomahawk, about 30km east of Bridport. I remembered it being a very flat beach from when I was there with Dad about 30 years previously.

Fortunately it was a superb day, just perfect. Sunny and no wind, although it can be a very windy spot. The coast goes NE in a great sweeping curve, and out in front of us on Cape Portland we could actually see the wind farm. At first I counted 13 turbines but later in the day when the sun was behind us, I saw more like 30 or 40.

Cape Portland (not the view from the beach)
This IS a view from Tomahawk beach but not my photo (thanks
Packing for the day I forgot that the iPad was my camera on this trip, and just thought "beach, iPad, nope".
So I have no photos of each of us taking a turn in the wave ski, or of Winston rushing out bravely to “save’ us then remembering that waves are scary and turning tail for the sand.

Michael is not a strong swimmer and has been a less than enthusiastic paddler in the past, but he had a good go and even got straight back in when dumped. Marcus is actually more proficient than me now in the surf - I was dumped time after time as I just couldn’t think straight in the moment. Kept putting the wrong blade of the paddle in as I was slewing sideways, making it worse instead of righting the ship.

Elf had a good long go took we all enjoyed it enormously. One reason I think Michael doesn’t paddle much is that unlike us, he doesn’t get bored when it’s not his turn. He is extremely happy just poking at the sand making little dams and dykes.

I bought us lunch at the caravan park shop. I ordered six spring rolls, thinking they would be like the Vietnamese ones, about finger size. Of course they were Marathon Spring Rolls which are essentially off-brand Chikos, the same size. I had to eat four of them.

So the perfect end to the day was a very long walk.  We walked along to the river and back. Black cockatoos were nesting near where we parked the car. I was very tired on the drive home and actually thought I was sunburnt, but didn’t seem so the next day.

Lavender with everything

Note to self - learn to take photos with the iPad without fogging half the lens.
On Wednesday we made a beeline for Bridestowe Lavender Farm. As you can see it’s not the most impressive time of year to visit - that would be in January when it looks like this;

This pic is one of several beauties on Ross Tours website.
Even in July the place is beautiful; the contoured rows are very handsome. They don’t need to irrigate at all - the site was carefully chosen for its soil type and rainfall. Having learned this, it was a real shock to see that the original bush surrounded the farm is scraggiest you'll see, and the soil looks spectacularly unpromising.

85% of their lavender oil is exported. Their boom product in recent years has been plush bears full of lavender-infused wheat, to use as heat packs. They have a limit of one per person, and elaborate anti-piracy measures so you can register your bear and confirm it is genuine.

I think they are running into the problem of how to be a viable commercial supplier of lavender oil while meeting demand for these bears, and how to be an efficient working farm when they are swamped with visitors at most crucial time of year. I see on their site that they charge $7.50 per head to visit in December and January.

I think most of the visitors are Asian tourists, and there was some forceful home-made signage around to the effect that NO YOU CANNOT TAKE PHOTOS HERE, and a few oblique comments. Cultural diversity is a wonderful thing, but I felt that in this case WE were providing the diversity.

They sell lavender-infused everything. Foods, napery, bath oils and lotions etc. We bought lavender furniture polish, lavender and apple jelly, and a pair of lavender oven mitts. Then we had pancakes with lavender ice cream, and lavender scones.

The large pup was in the car during our visit, so we kept it short; but in truth there was not that much to do and few other visitors clogging up the scone production line. 

The day was turning rainy so when we got back to the shack, we went to the local library in two shifts, and loaded up on books. The rest of the day was spent working our way through them and spinning LPs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shacked up in Bridport

Today we loaded up kids, dog, wave ski and a few clothes, and hit the road. I am writing this on Monday night in a borrowed shack in Bridport. It's feels weird to be on the coast, but not the East Coast or Northwest Coast or even West Coast. We are on the Northeast coast, and it was a torturous drive. We didn't bring a map, and I decided to just drive in to Launceston and follow road signs to get here from Scottsdale, which turns out to be a very rally-driving way to go. Twists and turns. Even just getting through the centre of Launceston and onto the road to Scottsdale is an adventure in randomness. Quite a beautiful drive though. The view from Sideling Lookout over the valley is amazing.

 This is my friend Andrea's family shack. She lives in Perth now so doesn't get here often; her siblings and their friends use it but we managed to get a free timeslot in the school holidays. We are just going to dag around, reading and walking on the beach and maybe having a paddle if we feel brave. Poor Winston is ready to go home. We left him inside here while we went down to the pub for dinner and he practically turned inside out with his leapings when we returned. We have explained that we are here for 4 days and he will hopefully get used to it.

 We have a singing neighbour. He seemed to be practising a song called Thinkin' Bout The Way Things Used To Be, yodelling it across the hillside with a lyric sheet in his hand. When he's happy with his work he finishes with a bit of a "Yoooow!!"

 Good night's sleep generally, Winston had a bit of a prowl around inside but went back to his designated 'bed' (old sheet on the floor) when asked to. Our beds are soft and warm and after a busy day that's all I need.

 On the way here yesterday we drove through Scottsdale, and I told the family the story of the 1967 Scottsdale Magpies who won the NTFA premiership, and then the state final. That year there was a Championship of Australia held at Adelaide Oval. Scottsdale were competitive but were outplayed by Subiaco, then met Glenelg in the 3rd place playoff the next day and were belted mercilessly Glenelg 29.27 (201) d Scottsdale 10.8 (68)

After breakfast we went for a long walk with Winston through town along the sandy river flats at low tide. When the Visitors Centre was open we got some maps and had a chat about places to take the dog and the wave ski. The lady in there was on the phone when we arrived, taking advice on whether to fly the flag or not - apparently Governor Peter Underwood passed away overnight. This is sad news, he was a brave supporter of human rights and peace movements. He invited all Amnesty members to a reception at Govt House once, and shook every single hand.

 We came home to the shack for lunch and for me to spin a few more LPs from the collection; I'm really enjoying being reunited with Mad Not Mad by Madness (1985). Then we went off to try to find Adams Beach - we just missed it yesterday. Now fully enmapped, we were able to track it down. A magnificent deserted expanse of sand, with no rocks. Most of the beaches here are hemmed in with huge granite boulders. Marcus and I swam but it was beastly cold. Michael paddled bravely. We walked a pretty long way then turned back and were nearly back to our shoe-pile before we saw anyone else. The surf was too wild for us to put the wave ski in, so hopefully that might happen tomorrow.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The great outdoors

On Sunday I filled in for a friend's proper outdoor soccer team, and played a full 90 minutes out there on real grass. It was fantastic.

 I am currently playing indoor soccer twice a week; competitive league 4-a-side at the cricket centre on Fridays, and casual kickabout no-ref soccer in a school gym on Tuesdays.

Josh, a Balinese guy in our Friday night team, also plays in the Over 35 outdoor league I played in a couple of years back, but he runs around for Beachside. I played then for University, and Marcus now plays for Olympia, so I felt briefly conflicted when I was asked to don the lurid green of Beachside, but I got over it quickly.

Their home ground is Sandown Park, by the beach in Sandy Bay. Marcus played there the other day, and it was horribly waterlogged. Josh and I arrived and saw that it was much worse, covered in standing water. There is another ground which is on a slightly higher level, and looked fine to play on. I asked the other Beachside guys if we might play on that instead; even though this is their home, they seemed to think that was a novel idea.

The referee arrived and inspected the first pitch. It was hilarious. There were, let's say, 25 large puddles. he asked for a ball, and went up and down the ground and attempted to roll a ball through every one. I don't know if there is something in his manual about this. he was so thorough. And every time the ball stopped rolling and started floating, he looked grim and disappointed. he came back and said "Sorry, game's off." He too seemed to think the idea of playing on the other pitch was beyond the pale. Eventually someone bashfully suggested he have a look at it. "Ohhhhh sure, move the nets onto the goals up there and let's do it".

I played left back and had a hoot. There was lots to do; Beachside aren't much good at keeping the ball so there was plenty of defending required. I did my best and made a few nice tackles and passes. Due to a technicality I had best not go into, I was going by the name of 'Brian' for the day. (Weirdly I was telling someone about this today and he said, oh I know Brian, he's married to my wife's cousin.) There was a smattering of "well done Brian" from on and off the field.

I even got on the scoresheet. At the wrong end. There are two kinds of acceptable own goals; the lunge and the deflection. I lunged and got to the ball before my man who was coming in at the far post; but I needed to get some scoop into my lunge -- all I did was foot-punch the ball into my own net.

Apart from that I felt like I did OK and my team-mates were very keen for me to Brian it up again this weekend. The player shortage that led to me being drafted is now worse after a couple of injuries on Sunday, so I think I have a game there any time I want one.

Final score was Hobart Utd 5 d Beachside 0.

Monday, June 30, 2014

MRI at the RCH

On Friday Michael and I went to Melbourne for the day, so he could have an MRI scan at the Royal Children's Hospital. He was born with a heart defect that was corrected by surgery when he was a week old. He has annual checks in Hobart, and every 3 or 4 years goes back to the RCH for more intensive checks. This is make sure his heart is growing as its should, and to see if the scars and slightly stretched vessels are affecting its function. So far so good! He really is a remarkably healthy, resilient and happy little guy, and I can honestly say that I don't think about his heart from one week to the next.

Our state government pays for our costs to undergo procedures like this interstate, when the local system can't provide the specialist people or equipment. Which is a great system – it was a very welcome surprise, hard on the heels of the unwelcome surprise of Michael's diagnosis when was he only hours old.

I always believe its better to be being bored at the airport than frantic on the road, so we had plenty of time to wait. Then a power outage in Sydney delayed our flight by an hour. The low morning sun shines powerfully into the departure lounge at Hobart Airport, so we got out the bits and pieces we had available and did shadow/reflection experiments to pass the time.


We finally got airborne and I started prepping Michael for the quiz I was planning to give him. There was a strong possibility he would need to have a cannula (IV drip) in his hand, to put a contrast agent into his blood for the MRI. This is when I would start asking him tricky flag questions, such as "Which Brazilian state has the word 'nego' on it's flag?"

The lady dozing beside me on the plane while we talked flags opened her eyes to say to Michael "you are a VERY clever boy aren't you?". I told her a bit about him and he answered some fairly detailed questions. She closed by saying "Hmm, Michael Rees. I'll keep my eye out for you Michael".

My plan had been to have lunch and see the resident meerkats at RCH before our appointment, but as we were now an hour behind, we just sped straight there in a cab. I took along my iPad to document the day; Michael had been prevailed upon to write a report on it all for his class, so I was taking pics as memory-joggers for him primarily. He doesn't like having his picture taken.

I was allowed in to sit with him while he was in the scanner. He was very relaxed about it and, as always, very easy to look after. He is the opposite of a drama queen - just keen to be accommodating and cause minimum fuss.

The scan takes about 40 minutes. Kids can choose a movie from a menu (Michael took Ice Age 2) which they can watch using a mirror set-up in the head-cradle thingy. They have audio from the movie and instructions from the operator coming in through the headset as well. They have to hold their breath in, hold it out, etc as commanded. This is quite tricky to master for younger kids, and that's why Michael has not had an MRI up until now (he's 10).

The scanner makes some pretty terrible noises, but not constantly, just intermittently. I had earmuffs, and I watched he movie without sound and dozed. I couldn't speak to Michael so there really wasn't much I could do, but he didn't need me anyway. As it happened they didn't need to stick anything in him, which was a happy result.

Once it was all done they let me stand in the doorway of the MRI suite and get some pics for Michael's report.

So, that was that. We'll get the results at some stage via his cardiologist.

We went up to pay a brief visit to the meerkats and have something to eat. There has been massive upgrade of the hospital since we were last there, in fact I didn't recognise it at all. It used to be that the McDonalds was the most prominent feature of the ground floor. Now there is a small aquarium (but big enough to have at least one shark in it), the meerkat enclosure a number of cafes and a sort of interactive-video-touch-screen-fun-wall, where kids can play Pong-style games but involving their whole bodies. Great idea.

Then we had to summon another cab to get us across to the Melbourne Museum for the 3.15 tour of the Aztecs exhibition. We were running late but the ticket said that's OK as long as you aren't TOO late. While we waited for our cab, someone called my name - it was our friend Andy, a pediatrician who works part of the week at the RCH. She was dropping off some paperwork in the 5 minute parking zone, kids in the car yelling, and so we had a quick catch-up on family news and general goss.

The Aztecs were great! They certainly know how to turn a chunk of basalt into an upsetting icon of the malevolent undead spirits.

This one below reminds me of 1980s swamp-billy band The Gun Club, for some reason.

These perky dudes are actual sacrificial knives, used by priests to cut out the hearts of the unlucky victims. They have human teeth stuck on and eyes made of obsidian and ... white stuff. The spike on the right was used for non-fatal self-mutilation to supply the gods with a bit of extra blood from time to time.

I wish I could recall all of the long Aztec names of the diferent gods. Suffice to say this guy below is offering you some of his liver...

... and this is a mask made a from a real skull. With a knife in its teeth! And googly eyes. Weird enough for ya?

At closing time we scooted out of there and met Dugald Jellie, author, journalist and football blogger, who walked us over to Lygon St for early dinner at his favourite pizza place. He's a terrific fellow who has the happy knack of talking to kids and actually listening to them – which is surprisingly rare.

Dugald even hailed a cab for us. Next thing we knew we were crowded into the tarmac-level hell-basement that is Tullamarine mega-gate 26/27/28/29/30. Having been in a Peruvian bus station during the Festival of San Isidro I felt right at home. The galling thing is the disparity between Gates 1-24 (TV! Tiki bars! Restaurants! Toilets and drinking water!) and the third world downstairs. Never fails to bring me down.

Due to the Sydney shenanigans, we were on a small plane, packed to the gills, and with more legroom than the Peruvian buses but only just. Bumpy slewing takeoff and landing. Delighted to get to our car and hit the road, actually controlling the mode of conveyance. As we turned into South Hobart we counted down the landmarks before home. "Last traffic lights before home ... last cafe ... last pub  ... last turnoff ... HOME!!"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Awkward time of the afternoon

I came upstairs yesterday and the boys were perched on the back of the couch cheek by jowl. Turns out the sun was in their eyes as they tried to watch Adventure Time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What I did on my holidays (3)

This is about 3 months in the past now, and still I haven’t got around to blogging all of it. I think I will just do these last chapters as photos with captions. Better for all of us really. We borrowed Phillip and Andrea’s car for the day to go to AQWA, and had a freeway adventure just getting there and back. The coastal highway is a little bit CHiPs if anyone else remembers that show.

This is my favourite letterbox I have ever seen anywhere.
This was at AQWA, the fabulous aquarium at Hillary's Boat Harbour, north of Perth. 
I was trying to get the classic ‘just cracked a joke’ expression moray eels have, and didn’t quite nail it.
Baby crocodile. Cute but fangy.
Toadfish, y’all.
Contractually obliged to call this a ‘denizen of the deep’. Sigh.
Sun setting into the sea -that’s worth travelling 3000km to witness. This was our local beach.


I asked Michael today what this meant, and where he got it from. He said it was joke, but nobody got it. And he had just made it up. It’s got a translated-from-ancient-Greek-ness about it. I’ve said it before and I’ll doubtless say it again - he’s unique, that one. But having said that, as his cousin Arthur grows up some very interesting parallels are apparent.

Boys in the paper, again

Our platypus. They look quite a lot like a rock when they are sitting still, but fortunately he was pretty busy.

Marcus and Michael watch the platypus in the rivulet, with Lily and Katherine McShane. Photos by Sharyn Jones.
The other day Nick and Anna and their girls Lily & Katherine came up for lunch. Lately there have been a lot of sightings of a platypus in the Hobart Rivulet – Elf has seen it herself so many times on her way to work that its practically a big yawn to her now. Nevertheless, she thought we should take the visitors and Winston for a walk down there to see if we could locate the little monotreme.

We did - this was made easier by the presence of a photographer squatting on the bank, giving him the once over with the long lens. She was delighted to get some human interest involved, and so the kids stayed on the bank for about 15 minutes watching him very close up, while they were snapped from all angles.

The story in the newspaper is here, and West Hobart mother of two, Anna Berger, even got in with a nice quote. 

We did think though – doesn't that picture of the kids look a bit Photoshopped? The edge of Michael’s shadow is flat and perfectly vertical. Odd.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bad dog


One very stormy night, with the power of panic, Winston worked out he could get in through the cat door. Since then he has done it regularly whenever he is left at home and the door is not blocked. I set up the iPad to catch him, so we could see how he does it. This clip shows his eventual success after about 12 attempts.