Tuesday 29 April 2008

What happened while I was away?

Cherry blossom, front garden weeds, and dog hair
in abundance, that's what.

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Sunday 27 April 2008

Saturday 26 April 2008


My thanks to Roger, who loves a bit of detective work, and Paul: they tell me my scary insect on the chair is a bagworm. Hideous name for a creature as ingenious as this. I think mine should be called the Greater Patio Pouch-Felting Megamoth, pet name Scary Thing (Gerroff!).

Thank you, chaps. The search for knowledge is never-ending. The link to the www.whatsthatbug.com/bagworm fully-functioning website that Roger sent me resolutely refuses to stay live on this post, but it contains lots of pictures of bagworms of all shapes, sizes and variety of cunning disguises; worth a look if you can access it and have a strong constitution.

Oh, and if you get into the site, do note the ads on the left: there really is an outfit that describes itself as the UK's foremost bedbug specialists.....I bet they're good fun at parties.

Friday 25 April 2008

All quiet and serene

Before I went off gallivanting to Kangaroo World, I was tagged by Lauren of My Aunt June to list seven things I thought were lame - I'm translating this term as things that annoy you enough to drive you into fits of quite unreasonable verbal crabbiness, or make you tut in that short-fused way that makes timid people avoid looking at you for a few moments. I don't quite understand what tagging really demands of its nominees, but by applying the rules of childhood games, I would guess that it's now my turn to compile a list.

Well, to my own mystification, having said all I need to say about British Airways,
I can't currently think of seven annoying things. I am now all sweetness and light! Australia appears to have changed my personality - another couple of visits, and I may equal His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the serenity league. But this may be a little phase I'm going through, or might just be masked jet lag; I will get back to you on this one. Have a think about your own list, though. I know some of you can sometimes - very very rarely, I know - be a teensy little bit cross or impatient, and one or two of you have occasionally said a slightly bad word as well. You might be able to think of one or two things that are lame/slightly annoying.

Now, I've found that jet lag is a strange phenomenon: despite being amazingly self-disciplined and keeping fairly normal bedtimes since I got home, the unfulfilled urge persists to have little sleeps through the day and to get up at 4 a.m. to have breakfast and start banging about. Today the dog joined in by asking to be let out at 4.20 a.m. She does this by scuttling about my bedroom, her claws clicking on the floorboards, till I get the message. As this is a dog who loves her bed above all else, any anxious scuttling-about at such an unearthly hour should not be ignored. But there's nothing quite like standing haggardly outside your front door
before dawn, with a coat on over your nightie, trying not to call loudly and abusively for a small dog to stop sniffing everything she can find in the street, and to bloody well get back indoors, to effectively put an end to any chance of falling asleep again.

Maybe I could just put Small Dog on the list of annoying things....maybe the Dalai Lama need not fear for his serene position after all.

Lovely lovely creatures

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Thursday 24 April 2008

Three Sisters

At Echo Point, Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains
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Object of desire, at Old Parliament House, Canberra.
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Not windy; we like our feathers this way

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Not from the garage

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Remember Weebles?

This is the arboreal version, in Sydney's lovely Botanical Gardens
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Oh, all right then

Here you are, more
delights in homespun

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Wednesday 23 April 2008

No worries?

Australia, albeit the tiny percentage I saw of it, despite covering many miles and seeing a huge variety of marvellous things, is wonderful, absolutely and overwhelmingly wonderful. I almost got through my trip without complaining about anything at all, but alas, British Airways and Lloyds TSB scuppered that unique achievement before it could be realised. So I shall share my complaints with you (again - complaints, like jokes told by your gran, always have to be told more than once), and Let Them Go, in that therapeutic, counselly, write everything down and burn what you have written sort of way. Or maybe I'll let them go after I write some fierce yet compelling letters of complaint, possibly in green ink, always an ominous colour indicating that the writer is expressing extreme outrage or is an unravelled fanatic.

British Airways: Firstly, they kept my luggage from me. For a long time. Then there was no number to call and speak to/shout at a real person about what might be happening. And the calls to me were invariably made to the number we weren't at. Then someone did think to ring me direct, told me some awful fibs, or were simply trying to be kind, and promised that my luggage would be delivered to me wherever I was when it did arrive. Then it wasn't, by miles. 653 miles, to be precise. And the plane from London had been freezing cold, the food was vile, and the seats didn't fit someone who is 5' 1" and who didn't enjoy having her head pushed downwards for 12 hours at a stretch. Headpush, not headrest. Graham down the road, who works for BA, advises me to write an angry letter. No problem. It's forming in my mind already, in green letters, with stab holes in the paper.

Lloyds TSB: The trusty debit card, fully primed with far too much spending money filched from my dwindling assets (sorry, son and heir), didn't work in many of the places where you might need money, like banks and shoe shops. I have successfully used this card in antiquated, desolately-decorated banks in India and in dusty little side street cash machines in Turkey, but somehow, it didn't work at all, ever, in cashpoints in three major cities in Australia, or, for that matter, over the counter in some of the banks, even with my passport and a motley collection of other forms of proof of identity. And then sometimes, just to keep me alert, it did work - with a surcharge - in a bank or a shop (
thank you, National Trust membership card and Sainsbury's Bank card (expired) with my £11 that has sat in there for years because I can't remember my pin number), enabling me to pay back the small fortune I was borrowing from Tricia, which I know was her life savings too. The nice chap in the bank this morning tells me it should have worked everywhere, which is just what I had believed in the first place. Wrong, Mr Lloydstsb! Somehow I can't bring myself to blame Australia....its banks looked so modern, so un-Turkish....

Of course, it's also quite possible that something British was to blame for the awful cold, wet, windy weather in Sydney, and the surly slow service from the bored teenager in the coffee place in the Telstra Tower. Everything else was undoubtedly Australian, and therefore wonderful. Or wonderful and therefore Australian. That's my entirely
rational, balanced and unbiased opinion, anyway. Now let's get the complaint-writing paper, the sharp nibs and the green ink out....


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Well, you have to, don't you

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Public transport

Melbourne's free tram, just before it fills to bursting with students and enormously fat men with scratty little ponytails and vile vile vile armpits.
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Sulphur-crested cockatoo

Attitude? What attitude?
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We wuz robbed!

Rain. Lots of it. And lots of apologies from the Australians for their disappointing weather. Quite right too.

5th May: Tricia tells me that during my visit, Sydney had 14 days of continuous rain, unknown for 77 years. And Canberra had its coldest autumn for 55 years. How thoughtful to supply British weather just for me.
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Hanging out in Sydney

They come to suck our blood....sorry, nectar....
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Bounce bounce!

Last wondrous sight en route to airport: some of about 50 kangaroos streaming up and down the hills, looking like they were doing it just for fun. They were going at such a pace, and I didn't have my specs on, that I could only point and click and hope that I caught some of them on camera.
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What's this then?

Damned if we knew, but it was about 7 inches long, and working its way round a chair leg. Answers on a postcard please.
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Deep thinker up a gum tree

Cute? Or sinister (look at those eyes...)?

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Home, Eat, Sleep

Jet......lag......very tired.....

Saturday 19 April 2008

Looking a right clip

This great Geordie expression accurately sums up my holiday look, and, to some degree, Sydney as seen through my eyes. None of my clothes were right for the weather, which was cold, windy and wet, with the result that I (and Tricia too, for that matter) were fetchingly clad in light summer tops, in multiple layers (not great for the fuller figure) for warmth, bare feet in sandals, for comfort, as we tramped miles of wet pavements, and raincoats for pulling the whole image together. Hair straighteners were entirely redundant, so the Wurzel Gummidge look was complete. Basically, we looked like many other people in Sydney; apart from some obviously office-based workers, most people seemed to have a somewhat haphazard approach to dressing themselves for the weather, and we fitted right in.

All the tourist sights were seen,
both from land and on a cruise of the harbour, pitching and tossing in the rain and wind, and oddly enough, we had a good time and were impressed with it all. I resisted throwing up, although it would have been easy to yield to the waves and the stench of diesel and drains that seem go together and cling to boats, and I took many, many photographs to inflict on the unwary when I get home.

Saturday 12 April 2008

From Mishish to Auntie

A 3-hour drive in hot sunshine from Canberra to Harrington Park today, with a brief stop for lunch at Goulburn, home of the Giant Merino. A few of you have seen and been dismayed by a picture of it already, an enormous cement ram towering over a rather nondescript town, looking like it should be converted into a climbing wall or a bungee jump for beginners. Goulburn, however, has a good coffee and cake stop at The Bakery, and of course we had to obey the unwritten rule of a cake a day.

We reached Tricia's family, to be greeted by three excited little girls, welcomed by their lovely parents, and the long-awaited presents were handed out. Grandma Tricia is much-loved, and I find that I am now included in the general joy and riotous fun; sadly, I am no longer called Mrs (Mishish) by the youngest but have been elevated to Auntie. Still, it's nice to be an auntie to this jolly lot.

Off to the Blue Mountains tomorrow. I am promised bell birds; I haven't a clue what they will look or sound like, but I'm filled with anticipation.

Friday 11 April 2008

Not Thelma or Louise, sadly

Home again. What a difference eight days make. Canberra has so many trees, and is now full of early autumn colour and very beautiful. A welcome contrast to the busy big-city traffic-choked experience of Melbourne, although our 8 days there were wonderful.

What a great city, Melbourne, despite the awful traffic fumes. Coffee-lovers/cake-devotees/shoe-shoppers of the world, Melbourne is for you. It certainly was for us, 7 pairs of new shoes (between us! Not all mine!) later. Not to mention all the cake. By the end of our stay and many rides on the free city circle tram to visit parks, galleries and museums, we understood the grid system of streets pretty well and were adept at not being flattened by trams; we must have looked confident, as we were often asked for directions, and were able to respond with impressive accuracy. This is not a skill I possess at home, I must say, where,
with considerable vigour and imagination, I can seriously misdirect the gullible.

We decided against car hire and driving the Great Ocean Road, and booked a series of coach tours instead. Good move, as the drive would have entailed one of us taking great care on the twisty winding road, unable to look to left or right and cursing continuously, while the other spent time immersed in the guide book, looking up recommended spots to view and take photographs of this astonishing stretch of coastline, and muttering about feeling carsick. Instead, we sat high above the road and could eat Tim Tams while seeing for miles between our scheduled beauty spot stops. I am planning a series of Tim Tam Explosion tutorials when I get home; I'm amazed that this national craze has not reached Britain, and feel it my duty to spread the word.

We went to the Dandenongs, as awe-inspiring as their name, although it translates rather tamely as Tall & Lofty (ie trees). We visited Phillip Island and saw Little Penguins (yes, that's their name, and they really are little, like small, fat,
navy blue and white skittles) emerging from the sea at nightfall, huddling nervously till large enough groups were formed to make them feel safe enough to cross the beach to their burrows in the sand dunes. They have a ferocious range of predators, so are right to feel nervous, but apparently tolerate hundreds of excitable humans watching them and following them along the boardwalk, providing a soundtrack which seems mostly to be in Mandarin. Loud Mandarin.

The sky was inky black, the stars entirely unfamiliar and just as breathtaking as the age-old ritual of the penguins' homecoming; I found that by standing still and looking up at them, I was suddenly joined by dozens of other people following my gaze. Power to influence crowds, wowee!

We then had the obligatory shopping experience before getting on the coach for a long drive back to the city. During my stay so far, I could, if I wished, have accumulated a lorryload of brightly coloured koala/kangaroo/penguin-themed souvenirs and given them to all my friends. Sadly, I am more self-disciplined in this regard than with shoes, so you can breathe a sigh of relief: you have been spared. All except Charlotte.

Enough of the travelogue for now; well, maybe a list of Lovely Sights to date:

  • Koalas (not bears, Annie! marsupials)
  • Kangaroos & wallabies galore
  • Echidna (one, back view only; fat-bottomed)
  • Platypus - in its platypusary at Healesville Sanctuary
  • Emus and parrots/cockatoos/crimson rosellas by the dozen
  • Wombat - one, snoozing, but impressive
  • Dingos
  • Gum trees/towering mountain ash
  • Cake stalls
  • Shoe shops

My suitcase, last spotted on March 27th, was delivered to Canberra Airport on April 5th, and reunited with me tonight. At last, a different set of clothes, and my slippers! And very very welcome emails from loved ones; thank you. This is a washing and repacking stopover only.
To Tricia's family in their Sydney suburb tomorrow, Blue Mountains on Sunday, Sydney proper on Tuesday. Will the thrills ever cease? Will we become able to resist the fabulous Australian cakes? Watch this spot.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Triumph of hope over experience

Yes, flying again, in a couple of hours. Am holding onto my luggage this time - nothing goes out of my sight in an airport ever again. Off to Melbourne, which had destructive storms yesterday, leaving cool rainy Canberra behind for a while. Rain in Canberra is A Good Thing. Weather forecast is hopeful though.

I'll be back ! Mwahahahaha.........(lots of echo....)

Vote for Bare Knuckle Fighting

A visit to Old Parliament House today, and a guided tour. Australian politics seems to have been a rumbustious high-risk affair, with some Prime Ministers remaining in power for no more than 5 minutes or so. Lunch with a friend of Tricia's, who passed on handy tips for our forthcoming trip on the Great Ocean Road, then, with the sky clouding over and a lively wind, on to the highly aromatic Botanic Gardens situated on Black Mountain. How many kinds of eucalyptus are there? Answers on a postcard please.* We had to watch out for the highly venomous Eastern Brown snake, but had to make do with brightly coloured parrots, much jollier, but not so exciting. Some unseen bird has a loud sheep-like cry: "Ma! MA!" but you could tell that Ma wasn't listening. My camera battery died; the charger is in my unreturned luggage. The luggage that I waved goodbye to on March 27th. The luggage that British Airways has kidnapped but can't be bothered to issue a ransom note for.

Home again to find, infuriatingly, only the first few words of a message
on the answering machine from the airport luggage service (Menzies Aviation, if you want to start a campaign on my behalf); no clues as to whether it was failing to convey good news or bad about my case. Despite my having made sure my mobile number was to be used, there has been no attempt on their part to use it, preferring to ring the empty house. I can only assume, despairingly, that they will continue with this great avoidance technique during our 8 days' absence from tomorrow. And as there is only a recorded message to ring in order to shout abuse in purple-faced rage, I have resorted to ringing British Airways' main Sydney number, and guess what? It is perpetually engaged. Tricia thinks they have the phone off the hook, and I would suggest that maybe that is their safest course of action. Whingeing Pom? Not half.

* Between 600 and 700. That's heaps! And koalas only eat 4 different varieties. That's pernicketiness!

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Hey, Skippy!

Weather warning today: high winds this afternoon (weather in Canberra doesn't usually mean rain). But forecasts here seem to be just as unreliable as in the UK; it has been the most perfect day; cold enough to see your breath first thing in the morning, warming quickly to hot but not burning sun, cloudless sky, gentle breezes. Heaven.

Today's activities included a brisk morning walk round the local lake (large pond, really), looking nosily and critically at the lakeside houses, a visit to the National Museum of Australia, where it was difficult not to be immensely saddened by the history of the indigenous people, but where I was treated to a splendid example of Australian laid-back obligingness (is that a word?). There is an exhibition of very ancient and precious Aboriginal artefacts which is too fragile to remain in continuous light, so is only shown for 15 minutes at the start of each hour. We arrived early, and the "host" (member of Museum staff) opened the room especially for us; we had the entire exhibition to ourselves, and it was remarkable indeed. After lunch in the sun, we had a lovely walk around (part of)
Lake Burley Griffin, then decided that we had had enough culture for today, and pootled off to have our poor tired feet treated to a pedicure and painted toenails. We sat in shiatsu massage chairs which vibrated, pinched and thumped our backs in the most alarming way while surly girls with very limited English improved our lumpy European feet for us. Exercise, culture and grooming - a great combination, apart from being beaten up by your chair.

On the way home in rush hour - which means more than ten cars on the road at any one time - we stopped for half an hour on the even quieter road where we had seen kangaroos in the dusk the other night, and waited. I waited patiently. Herself waited very impatiently indeed, as it seems to have become a point of national honour, as she sees it, for me to have a proper encounter with kangaroos. And eventually, there they were, by a pool, about ten of them. Herself was actually heard to call "Skippy!" and make that little noise you use for cats. We looked at them, they looked at us, striking delightful poses. We took photos, and they decided enough was enough, and bounced away. National honour was upheld; tourist with very clean feet and pink lacquered toenails was delighted.

My sister has pointed out that I haven't actually said if I'm enjoying myself or not. It's beyond enjoyment; I am seriously thinking about becoming an illegal immigrant. Skippy, my heart is yours.
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