Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Zoo

While the girls were in Sydney for the Australia Day weekend, enjoying the beach and shopping for "wants not needs" with some saved up Christmas money we stole the boys for an afternoon to take a look at Canberra's National Zoo and Aquarium.

Despite my best efforts we never made it to the White Lion encounter and so I appreciated the good humour and interest the boys showed in the Fairy Penguins encounter instead.  The Fairy Penguin keeper was a mine of information about these cute little characters who eat an astonishing amount of fish (in big gulps!) each day

 Seeing this tree kangaroo (and joey in the pouch) was a first for me.....

 ..and a relief to see a healthy Tasmanian Devil without the facial tumours that are decimating the wild population.

 There were plenty of our old favourites wandering the grounds......

 ...along with the requisite exotics........

 The boys enjoyed this up close encounter with the giraffe and his afternoon snack - about a metre away from where we were standing. We got a great view of the giraffe's 45cm tongue in action.

And it is always a thrill to see a koala up close as they're hard to see during the day in the wild.

Our National Zoo and Aquarium is small in scale with a strong conservation message and a small but special collection of endangered animals from around the world, presented in sympathetic landscape environments.  On this scale it's hard to see how it can make a profit; so I guess we're lucky that its owner has made his money elsewhere and is passionately committed to what he's doing.

Seeing it all with the boys was a treat and the White Lion encounter will happen next time (when A is 8!)

Monday, January 20, 2014


We made a few changes to our annual January trek to the mountains this year. We based ourselves at Christiana Lodge in groovy Thredbo Village instead of the quiet and more rustic environs of Charlotte Pass; and this year the usual crew was joined by Fiona and James and young W.

We started our long weekend on Saturday with a hearty lunch (in very hot conditions) at Wild Brumby Schnapps Distillery halfway between Jindabyne and Thredbo on the Alpine Way, which meant it was very late in the day when we could find the energy to start our first bush walking trek.

We took it very easy, only tackling the relaxed and easy 4klm Riverside - Golf Course Walk for our first adventure.

I took our first group picture on the edge of one of the greens of the highest golf course in Australia.

Despite all the celebratory drinks associated with our first night together at Christiana Lodge we were all happy to get going on Sunday morning - ready to tackle the 15klm Mt Kosciuszko walk, approaching it from the Thredbo River side for the first time (for me anyway).

The chairlift ride at the start, taking us to 1930m altitude was a huge thrill.

This track is the most popular approach to the mountain summit, used by thousands of walkers every summer. We found it relatively easy going but probably not quite as interesting as the walk from the Charlotte Pass side.

About an hour or so into the walk we came upon Lake Cootapatamba, one of a string of  glacial lakes dotting this alpine landscape (and some isolated patches of hard crusted remnant snow on the sides of the mountains).

Another three quarters of an hour or so, and a bit of a steady climb, and we'd reached the summit, the highest point in Australia (over 2110m);  and time for lunch (and an ongoing battle with the enormous Mt Kosciuszko flies).

The return trek was pretty easy walking on the steel mesh track, with touches of drama caused by a (very close) brown snake sighting (by Maxie) and the proximity of hundreds of what Rod later identified as ravens (not crows) swooping the sky and colonising the granite boulder outcrops along the walking path.

Despite the relaxed walking we felt tired and steamy by the time we were back at Eagles Nest Restaurant at the top of the chairlift above Thredbo Village. I asked Rob to order me a small refreshing beer. This is what he came back with (see below)!!  He enjoyed drinking all of his and half of mine (which is probably what he had in mind when he made the order).

By the time we descended the mountain the Thredbo Blues Festival afternoon program was in full swing - adding a pretty magical musical dimension to our chair lift experience (must be something to do with the natural acoustics of the valley setting).

James and Fiona cooked a wonderful dinner that night. We loved their added refinements of the tablecloth and candles (we'll insist on that tradition continuing at all future weekends in the mountains).

On Monday we tackled the 14klm Thredbo Valley Trail Walk. This walk heads eastward down the Thredbo Valley across three magnificent suspension bridges to the old Rangers Station on the Alpine Way. It's possible to get lovely views of the picturesque Thredbo River along this walk but you really only get close to it when crossing the bridges.

We all got very excited on the walk back when Fiona spotted a black snake on the track in front of her. A few of us watched it disappear fairly quickly under a bush beside the track but none of us wanted to get close enough to check whether it had a red belly or not (we suspect it was a red belly black snake).

The Thredbo Valley Trail is set to be completed in 2015 and will eventually take hikers and bikers all the way to Lake Crackenback 15klm away - that's a 30klm return walk - a cracker of a walk.

The long walks made us feel pretty righteous about idling the late afternoons away, drinking G&Ts (with lime and pomegranate seeds), eating too much cheese followed by wonderful meals and fine wine and playing many rounds of 500 and debating the rules of Scrabble, in lovely company. There is no better fun!!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Aunty Ivy

We learnt that our Aunty Ivy passed away in Brisbane last Friday 10 January. We hadn't seen much of Aunty Ivy (my Dad's younger sister) in the last twenty five years or so but she was a big part of my childhood and young adult life and we are sad that she has now gone. 

She was our last remaining link to our Dad’s family: his father Stanley (born in 1873 in Salford, Lancashire) his mother Lizzie (nee Shepherd) (born in 1891 in Jericho, Queensland), and Dad's siblings, Roy and Ivy.

The pic below is of my Dad (Stanley, born in Longreach in 1915) and his younger sister (our Aunty) Ivy. This would have been in the early twenties I think.

By the time the picture below was taken Uncle Roy was part of the family. My Dad is the handsome one in the middle.

 My Aunty Ivy started teaching at age 16. She may have been teaching, in a little country school Queensland by the time the pic below was taken.

I always admired her gentle manner and love of learning and I'm sure she is one of the reasons why I've had such a positive attitude to teaching as a profession throughout my life.

 Aunty Ivy was a bridesmaid at Mum and dad's wartime wedding in 1941. Couples were encouraged to wear their street clothes at weddings in those difficult times but that didn't stop Mum and Ivy going to town with those hats!

Aunty Ivy was married herself four years later in 1945. She and Alex moved into a house in Brisbane just over the road from ours and proceeded to have three boys in roughly the same timeframe as Mum and Dad had us three girls. I saw her and my cousins Robert, Hugh, and David almost every day for the first sixteen years of my life.  She always showed great interest in "us girls".

She led a long and full, loving and hope-filled, dignified life. Her boys and her extended family will miss her greatly.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sydney long weekend - Monday & Tuesday

Sydney weather continued to be perfect in every way throughout our 5 day stay. We saw Jane off at Sydney airport around noon on Monday and picked up our friends David, Irene and Rhys from their airport hotel soon after. They had a long afternoon and night to kill before their early morning flight to a fortnight of skiing in Niseko Japan.

We hung out in Coogee together for the afternoon/evening - the boys swam, we went walking along the spectacular headland, tried the beers at the old beachfront Palace Hotel.........

and enjoyed a happy and delicious meal together at Barzura's - seated at one of the best tables in the house - looking straight out at Coogee beach!

Tuesday seemed very quiet - just Rob and me again. A good opportunity to catch up with the Yoko Ono survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art just near Circular Quay.

The exhibition spans five decades of her work from the early 1960's to the present. Participation by viewers has always been a big feature of Yoko Ono's work - where the viewer is actively involved in creating meaning. I loved seeing so many young people interacting with the ideas and getting right into the exhibition, including these chess players, playing with all white chess pieces (it's a trust thing you see!).
 ..and this "My mommy is beautiful" wall - where viewers are invited to pin or tape private messages to their mothers.

 We liked this one....

At this table viewers were invited to reconstruct broken plates, cups and bowls into new forms with string, blue tac, tape and found objects.

And I particularly liked this installation of suspended army helmets containing "pieces of sky". Viewers were invited to take one piece away with them "in the hope that one day in the future, they will return with their pieces to build a beautiful new sky together".

 Rob's favourite work was this one - We're All Water - 118 bottles of water - all lined up...in the words of the song..we're all water in different containers....we're container minders.  I found her choice of  "containers" most interesting (yes, Robert Hughes was there, next to Rene Magritte!)

Thinking about conceptual art always makes me hungry, and we both had the same choice for lunch - back to the wonderful Danjee in Albion Place where K and Joel had taken us for the first time only a fortnight before.

If Joel and K are seeing this they will probably see straight away that we made one ordering error - yes we inadvertently ordered two types of  Bi-Bim-Bab (one with raw fish and one with chicken) thus reducing our variety of dishes somewhat - but hey we love this food anyway!  We will take every opportunity we can to get more familiar with Korean food and this great new Sydney restaurant.

Monday night we were invited by our new neighbours to enjoy drinks on their balcony, giving me my first opportunity for a panorama shot down Coogee Bay Road - love Sydney!

Sydney long weekend - Saturday

Just back from a fabulous few days in Sydney: a city of blue skies and mild Summer temperatures - unlike Canberra this week which is baking in 40oC heat.

Saturday morning we were able to catch up with the Sydney ZACS at the beautiful Victoria Park Pool where the kids have their weekly lessons.  We hadn't seen A for a few months and we thought he'd changed a lot - looking a lot more like his sister now than his Grand-dad Colin.

Then a quick lunch together at the nearby Gardener's Lodge Cafe in Camperdown. Z entertained Rob while I helped A unwrap his toy car.

Then we were off to Lilyfield to pick up my friend Jane in readiness for the weekend's big event - our friend Tania's 50th birthday party.

Jane, Tania and I taught Visual Art together for a number of very happy and fulfilling years at Canberra High School in the late eighties. In the pic below that's me on the left (complete with eighties perm), Jane in the middle and Tania on the right, in May 1989. We're at the opening of Tania's sculpture exhibition in Penrith Sydney.

....and that is 10 year old Josh on the left in the pic below (he was there at the opening too).


Now look at Tania, back living in Sydney for good, with two beautiful daughters, and turning 50!

Morgan and Aine gave a very funny (and loving) tribute to their creative, fun loving and clever mother which was a highlight of the night.

It was a very stylish party, beautifully catered by Bruno of Food Adventura and plenty of champagne and good wines from Allan's stash. I promised I'd take a picture of the cake for Ella.

And this is how a creative, funloving and clever 50 year old woman cuts her birthday cake - Tania kamikazeed it actually!

And this is Jane, Tania and me, nearly 25 years on, and all "blonde" now, dancing like there's no tomorrow!