Saturday, February 27, 2010

The best day

Our "best day" started early yesterday with a performance of "Walk the Fence" at the Canberra Theatre Centre's intimate little Courtyard Studio. We sat on the "grass" of "Hill Park" and marvelled at the amazingly agile Rachel character with the anger management problem and the roller blading, stilt walking characters played by her co-star.

Ella was captivated by the performance and gave a running commentary on all the action. Luckily there weren't too many quiet moments in Walk the Fence so her commentary didn't have to be incorporated into the script.

We finished off the morning with a baby cino and a post performance debrief at Ella's favourite coffee shop (the one that never forgets to include the marshmallow with its baby cinos).

And then it was only a short wait to welcome Cath and Davey to Canberra, fresh from their week's break in Sydney, for a long, afternoon family feast and celebration full of excitement, movement, music, great seafood and some of the best wines in Jeremy's cellar.

It started quietly enough with Davey unearthing some of his mint condition Star Wars comics (still in their plastic covers) from his hoard of treasures stored in the garage. This greatly impressed the boys.

As did his boyish charm and antics with assorted pieces of tropical fruit.

Davey and Cath are looking very relaxed at the end of their second week in Australia. Cath definitely looks more can tell by the subtle things, like wearing no shoes, the denim shorts looking more worn and lived in, and the sunburn on various exposed bits (luckily not too many), and even a passable G'day!
We were excited to hear she had enjoyed our favourite Eastern Sydney beaches last week and some favourite shopping haunts.

Davey increased his most popular uncle status by playing throw around and jumping games with the three kids ALL afternoon. This photo captures a brief moment in the "through the uncle tunnel" game.

The food was amazing: ocean trout cooked perfectly over the coals (despite Maxie's initial misgivings), Coffin Bay oysters, prawns in a Pernod sauce, all matched beautifully to Josh and Jody's salmon and Asian inspired appetizers and Jeremy's beautiful Australian wines.

But the Ottolenghi chocolate fudge cake was an absolute knock out dessert. The kids were in heaven..........

Rob had spent some time during the week writing a song for the kids, set to the wonderful old Hollies song Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress. With only about 10 minutes rehearsal Davey amazed everyone with his extraordinary performance of Rob's new family song about crusaders wearing black capes (Angie), Ollie Skywalker and Cinderella Ella.

The kids just think this is all entirely normal.

The only troublesome aspect of the celebration was Ollie's increasing awareness of the pain in his arm. C&J had it checked this morning. He has a green stick fracture and will need to be plastered up for a while, probably caused by a painful contact at school late last week.

Davey and Cath head for Melbourne for their last week in Australia. Such a short visit, but we have loved our time with them, getting to know Cath a little better and helping to introduce her to Australia.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sydney Cath & Davey

London Cath and Davey arrived back in Sydney after a quiet start to their Australian adventure at Sandy Beach and Coffs Harbour (last week). All the Canberra based family joined them this weekend for two days of getting back in touch, introducing Cath to some of the sights of Sydney and time for all the thirtysomethings to enjoy the ACDC Concert at Homebush on Saturday night while the fiftysomethings were on hand to babysit.

First stop on Saturday morning was Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly. I thought I was very clever to capture 4 Australian icons in this photo (Ollie, his Uncle Davey, the Bridge and the Opera House).

Ollie and Angie found Davey's capacity to relate ALL the Star Wars movie plotlines absolutely mesmerising. They kept begging him to "tell us again", until he'd exhausted all the known scripts and had to start making up his own versions.

The ferry was crowded with tourist day trippers from the International cruise ship berthed at Circular Quay but the (mainly older) crowd had thinned out by the time we'd walked the Corso to Manly Beach, which looked beautiful on this perfect Sydney summer day.

We enjoyed a superb lunch at a Bistro along the esplanade, and family talk time while Rob and I supervised the kids at an amazing toy shop we found up a side road from the beach.
This photo is of Jody and Cath walking back to the ferry down the Manly Corso...proving that summer fashion style is very similar whether you're from London or Canberra.
On the very same walk Ella spied these shoes (the pink ones) on display in "Hype". She scooted into the shop and sat down on the floor in front of them and just gazed at them for a few minutes, until other styles and colours caught her attention. We think two and a half years is very young to be displaying a shoe fetish.

But it didn't stop her joining in with the boys in their light sabre games - their current fetish.

Ferry rides are a great opportunity to catch up with some reading.

....and for Ollie to start researching his next morning talk topic.

The girls were getting excited by now about their big night out at the ACDC Concert, especially Jody and Claire who don't get out much at night these days.

At this stage we were just trying to keep the kids as docile and bored as possible so they wouldn't have any meltdowns when their Mummies and Daddies left.

No matter that the young things had a HUGE night out LOVING the Concert, the Japanese food and all the other delights of their time together, we still had to get up early this morning, check out of the hotel by 10.00am and get across the Harbour again in time for lunch at Athol Hall off Bradley's Head Road just a few inlets around from Taronga Zoo, in Mosman.
Lunch extended over three hours, in this tranquil setting in busy buzzy Sydney; beautiful food, beautiful views, so much happiness and contentment from family having time together again.

Everyone loves spending time with Cath. We are so amazed that she has to work while she is here...but that work involves shopping...for clothes.....!!!...but not today.

Of course the huge expanse of grass (and shade and trees) around Athol Hall was a source of delight for the kids. At one point Ella just had to practise her new "panky face" which she's just learnt to do when she feels cranky about any real or imagined slight.

It disappears just as quickly though especially when her favourite cousins do something "punny".

When we selected Athol Hall for our special Davey & Cath Sunday in Sydney lunch we didn't realize that Cath has a thing for kookaburras. We had a treefull of them just a metre or two from our table providing a non stop backdrop of cute poses, lazy bird sounds and greedy feeding of any crumbs thrown to them.

We ended a wonderful afternoon with a Ring A Ring A Rosie, which Ella never wanted to end.

Which is what we all felt about our time together with Davey & Cath in Sydney.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

100mls (at least)

Over 100mls of rain fell in our garden over the last two days, much more exciting in our view than celebrating Valentine's Day, or even Chinese New Year this weekend. Rob has spent a lot of time gazing at the deluge from every vantage point of the house, decks and garden (including lots of trips to his new rain guage). I tried to capture the rain pouring down into the Prunus tree garden.

Even this amount of rain was not quite as wonderful as celebrating the second anniversary of Prime Minister Rudd's Apology to the Stolen Generations (13 February 2008). As my own tiny act of reconciliation I took myself out to a local Canberra school on Friday and recorded the celebratory opening of their Indigenous garden, complete with beautifully painted Story Poles depicting dreaming stories of the Canberra region. Bright sunny day, lots of beautiful Aboriginal kids, great art, singing and dancing - all very photogenic.

And then there is the time we are lucky enough to spend with Ella. This week she enjoyed an extended period of play with me in the garden being Cinderella "hanging out the washing". I was the Prince (as usual) and was very relieved that I had to hang out my own washing. There was no way that Cinderella was hanging out any man's washing when he was perfectly capable of doing it himself. Cinderella is very much into affirmative action these days.

But this doesn't stop her getting right into the glass slipper part of the story. I know how much she must regret that the only silver shoes for dress ups at our house have flat heels! I don't ever remember her Daddy enjoying this type of imaginative play when he was two!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It's called week one

I am so used to the first week of February being such a HUGE week (week one of the new school year) that it makes me feel a bit on edge being this unstressed.

I went back to work at my lovely two day a week job two weeks ago, with very little fanfare, and our parliamentarians returned to their first "sitting week" in Canberra for 2010 this week. It's an election year so I'm trying to wean Rob off the daily commentary as it just causes his blood pressure to rise. It doesn't stop us having a good giggle though from time to time. Barnaby (Joyce) Rubble and loopy Lord Monckton (from the UK) provided good fodder this week!

It was a huge first week at school for Ollie. He had to give his first "morning talk" on day four and apparently blitzed all the Kindies (and their teacher) with his encyclopaedic knowledge about killer Queensland cane toads. His presentation was so amazing he had to repeat it for the year 5/6s, who were suitably impressed. Morning talk time in Kindergarten is usually a time for broadcasting family secret business rather than for analysing, with great maturity, the exact nature of an environmental disaster!

I scored two outings to Mecca Bah this week. The first was on Thursday night to meet up with some wonderful women and welcome Leigh back from Lombok (for a short visit). Half of our group is no longer teaching now so a bit removed from the rigours of week one and the morale destroying publication of the league tables to mark the start of the school year. The schoolies still had a lovely time though, and it was great to have Leigh back again, before she heads off to Sydney (Coogee, actually) for the next two weeks.

My next outing to Mecca Bah was on Friday night, for coffee and Middle Eastern desserts with our birthday friends, after our movie date to see "Up in the Air" at Greater Union, Manuka. I found it an unusual American film - kind of gritty, grainy and quirky and with an unresolved ending - I guess it was as close as you'd get to "art house" coming out of that big star, studio controlled film industry!