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The Family Bandwagon
Monday, 28 December 2009
Luckily we'd prepared: in Glasgow we bought dinner for on the train, and upgraded our "cattle class" seats to first-class for the princely sum of £15 a pop. So we sat in relative comfort in the (actually too-warm) cabin, snug and safe from the ice and snow outside, and eventually we rolled into Euston Station.
It's been a fun couple of days. We arrived in Irvine (on the Scottish coast, with views of the Isle of Arran) late Thursday night, and Andy and his dad "Rab" (Robert) met us at the station. A short but treacherous walk along icy streets - Dee took a tumble just metres from the door - and we were in the Melrose apartment.
Robert and Dorothy, Andy's parents, looked after us like we were family - delicious food, silly conversations (the "craic") and plenty of the ol' Christmas cheer. We had scallops, Christmas roast, "square sausage" & IRN BRU and even found time for a traditional British curry at an old Scottish pub somewhere in town. We got presents! "A selection for the wains," said Rabbie, handing us each a Cadbury's selection box. "The wains always get a selection box." (I have no idea if that's how you spell it!)
We had a couple of walks while we were there - down to the frozen beach front, past a pub that is older than white settlers in Australia, and into a shopping plaza nearby - but mostly stayed inside (too cold!). We watched a lot of football! (Soccer to us antipodeans.) They really are the nicest people, and of course we invited them to come visit us in Australia...
This weekend is Christmas #3 - now the pressies for Dayna and Bruce have arrived!
There are a couple more photos on Flickr, and I finally got 'round to uploading some of Dee's birthday celebrations, too! Finally, here's a funny IRN BRU ad (it's a Scottish softdrink).
We've just been for a walk along the beach in Cromer. It's a seaside town in Norfolk (East English coast). As you can see in the picture, we had to wrap up warmly before we went out - it's less than 10 degrees out. :-)
I'm staying with Bruce's family for the week. There's Bruce's folks - John & Gwen, his Grandad & Bruce and I. We're staying in a listed building (built in 1800s) which was super cold when we arrived but has warmed up after leaving the heating on all night. It's a strange house with three stories - kitchen & a family room on ground floor; two bathrooms, a lounge & a bedroom on first floor; and three bedrooms on second floor. I'll keep fit running up and down the stairs. :-)
We're just about to go and have lunch. *big hugz* thinking of everyone.
Saturday, 26 December 2009
Hope everyone is having a good day, we miss you and can't wait to see you soon.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
I've just finished my 14th day working at IOP headquarters. well, 13th and a half. today was super-quiet - most people have been on holiday this week. Unfortunately I only have enough leave to cover the compulsory days between Christmas and New Year, so I had to work Christmas Eve.
I guess this is part of why it doesn't feel like the festive season for me. We have a tree up at home but none of us will be there for Christmas, so there are only a couple of sad little presents underneath. We were going to have a family celebration last Sunday but Royal Mail was slow so we didn't do pressies, just had a Sunday roast. Tasty, but not Christmassy!
I'm currently eating lunch at the train station, waiting to head to Wolverhampton for Christmas with Bruce & his fam. It's my first English Christmas so I'm hoping it snows! I made mini puds & yummy slice last night - without copha cos I couldn't find the english equivalent. So the slice didn't cut very well but it should still be tasty. ;-)
I hope everyone has a great day tomorrow. Thinking of everyone!
Lots of love n hugz,
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Happy birthday to you...
Happy birthday toooo yoooooooooouuuuuuuu...
Happy biiiiiiiirthdaaaaaay deeear Liissaaaaaaaaaa...
Happy biirthdaay toooo yooooooooooooooooouuu!
Friday, 18 December 2009
After dodging illness for the year at kinder, last night the gastro wog hit me so I kept my distance. Hopefully it will be gone by tomorrow. Tonight is a BBQ for our Christmas work function so I'm not happy to be feeling queasy.
Also had a visit from Janet and Kevin. Uncle Ray is deteriorating so they were called up yesterday.
On a happier note, the Probus dinner on Monday went well as did the Rotary one on Wednesday.
Santa visited two more kinder groups on Tuesday and Wednesday. He did a great job despite the heat 38 on Wednesday.
Today Dad went for the ultrasound. He still has pain but will now have to wait for diagnosis and treatment options.
Congratulations to Carolynn and Jared who both received awards from school.
Sweet 16. Oooh. ;-)
*big hugz* from an almost snowy London (we've had a few flakes, but nothing much so far)
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Saturday, 14 November 2009
I hope you all like it.
Just for you Mum I've got a tee on RedBubble (with zero markup, the cheapest I can make it). I've changed the design a bit to make it more tee friendly. You can see it here http://www.redbubble.com/people/damienmason/t-shirts/4124819-1-family
I'll also separate out all the different people so you can grab yourself or reorder or remix them.. My plan is to do it now but it'll depend on how Ossie goes, I've just put him to bed for a nap :)
So what do you think of the new header?
Edit: Okay, here are the files.
If you want to remix the header, grab these ones. They're all transparent PNGs with a background the exact size as the header bg and everything placed as it is in the header.. so you should be able to stack the pngs in layers in a photoshop file and then work with each person independently.
Me and Oscar
I've also put together massive (1000x1500) transparent pngs for each person, in case you just wanted yourself (for avatars etc) which are here
Me and Oscar
And finally I thought if you wanted to do a calendar rather than using the long horizontal version you might like the more compact tee version, so I've made a big (2880x2100) white background jpg of that for you. It doesn't have the text the tee has.
Hopefully that's enough to keep you all going for a while :)
Monday, 9 November 2009
and gives me a manly, straggly beard
So we had the beer festival in Norwich (Norfolk) the other weekend: a massive, Hogwart's-like hallway under a vaunted, cathedral ceiling filled with barrels and barrels of delicious beers. Traditional ales, lagers, stouts, ciders; there was something for everyone (well, everyone who likes beer I guess), and all paid for with little paper tokens we bought when we arrived.
With too many different types to possibly try all of, I tended to base my decisions on the name of the brewery and/or the beer itself. So after a Red Dragon ale I had a Jack The Ripper, a Hobgoblin, a Pirate, a Neverwinter Nights (confession: I'm making them up). We stayed in a local hotel, had breakfast downstairs and headed back to London with Chris and Tina.
We also saw an amateur production of Jack The Ripper (The Musical) -- yes, the same one I was in so many years ago (ours was better :-D). It was in a tiny little theatre built under London Bridge (literally under -- in a gloomy tomb, very appropriate for the show and probably more spooky than the acting).
Yesterday we visited "Befnal Green", our old 'hood in the East End. Took the bus into Liverpool Street, walked through Spitalfields (Jack The Ripper again!) and up Brick Lane; street markets and food stalls and crowds of too-cool hipsters scared us into the straightest bar with the campest name: The Birdcage. We sat with a bunch of old rummies and watched Arsenal play Wolverton ... then finished our drinks (I had a Fosters!! Tee hee!) and ran away to watch some fireworks.
The number of people were intense! After 30 minutes of the fireworks we thought we could beat the crowds, and so ran away to the nearest bus-stop. Unfortunately, no bus came and eventually we were walking along with the herd looking for another way home. Turned out to be another bus stop, then a late night taxi back here -- our planned early night after a few nice fireworks turned into a gruelling trek across the urban jungle towards the safety of our temporary nest!
The punchline: we got home, ordered some dinner from a local curry house (yes, lazy, but nothing in the 'fridge because we've been so darn busy) and then settled in with a tasty glass of Australian red. Waited for food, waited some more, waited, waited, waited. Eventually we got through to the curry-house who informed us that a power-cut had shutdown their kitchen, so it was no dinner for us. We searched through the cupboards, and ended up with popcorn for dinner...
How rock and roll is that!!? :-D
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Just returned from a weekend in Shepparton to celebrate Josie's 40th. She had organised well and had some games(naming TV series from the 70's and 80's and a song and artist from 1969 to 2009) as well as a jukebox and disco lights. Cleaned most up as the evening progressed then went back to finalise this morning. Later went to Cheap as Chips for a little shopping with Denise and Mum. All of Josi
Very warm here again with 32 and 34 (at least) and hotter in Shep. The next week promises more of the same so the air con is getting well used.
All of Josie's children gave up their beds for the visitors. ( and Robbie ended up out on the couch)
News from Berrigan via Val Loomes- Grace Harvie passed away last Wednesday.
We were sorry we missed Charles's christening. Waiting for Lisa to tell us how that went, but she's at a Tupperware party.
Laundry to do and Foxie wants some tea. Hope all is good for all of you.
Monday, 26 October 2009
I think I already mentioned Manchester (in an email?) -- we took the bus on Friday night, arrived quite late and were very happy to see Dayna & Bruce (thanks for picking us up! I'm not sure we could've handled another 20-30 minutes on a bus, even a Magic Bus.) It was really good to see Dayna, and we spent the weekend talking, playing Wii, drinking Dayna's impressive collection of donated alcoholic beverages (as Vicky has left for kiwi-land). We even did some tourism/shopping around Manchester central, with the mandatory "duck into shops and pubs to escape the rain" manouever. Then it was back on the bus on Sunday to get here! All in all a fun weekend away.
Another weekend was spent away in Dorking, south of London. Only an hour or so on the train, but out of the city and surrounded by greenery: fields and glens and forests and hills. We stayed with Martin and Helen (of "Jack The Ripper: The Musical" fame -- Martin is originally from Castlemaine) and had a lovely dinner in a pub/restaurant in the middle of nowhere (Helen drove) with delicious food and an awesome, relaxing atmosphere. Seriously! Good! Food! The kind of place you have dessert, even though you can't really fit it in. The next day we hit a farmer's market, before returning to the big smoke on the train.
Hmm, all these relaxing weekends, we should be completely chilled out, right?
The weekend of my birthday Dee cooked a lovely roast lamb for us & 9 guests. We stuffed ourselves silly, I got presents (yay!) and played Xbox. Tim Churchward, who I went to Uni with (and who is known as "the nicest man in the world") even visited with his wife -- they are travelling, and stayed with Martin and Helen for a few days. Great to see them!
Chris and Tina (housemates) were away for my actual birthday, so when they returned they took us out to dinner at the O2 Arena to a Brazilian barbeque house. Dear Goddess, so much fresh and tender barbeque meat: you grab a plate, load up on the bare-minimum amount of salad required to keep away the scurvy, then wait with hungry eyes as the waiters bring freshly cooked skewers of lamb, beef, chicken, fish and other poor, delicious animals straight to your table, slicing off as much or as little as you request before putting the skewers back onto the barbeque to continue cooking. I ate. And ate. And ate. For days I couldn't eat red meat! I even tried chicken hearts! (Chewy, tastes more like beef than chicken, and more than a little freaky.)
Afterwards we took a ferry back along the Thames to London Bridge, then had a traditional ale in a real pewter tankard at The Cooperage. We spoke to the manager about some of the paraphenalia hanging on the walls -- apparently in ye olden dayes of cobblestones and muck it was easier to drag barrels of wine and beer on gigantic wooden "cask sleds" dotted with flint than to risk breaking the wooden spokes of cartwheels.
On the work-front this week we moved into a new office, a proper "City" office. I'm even wearing a suit again (although not a tie)! Right in the heart of the square-mile, our office is newly appointed, clean, bright and airy and has a coffee machine. Yes, small things like that are all that is required to make me happy. The week earlier we said goodbye to a young man who may or may not have joined the secret-service -- we'd become good friends, and I'm hoping he stays in touch, even if he can't talk about what he's working on :-).
Right now we're sitting in our local "indy" cinema, Shortwave, having a glass of wine and trying to decide whether we want to see the Mexican film they're showing this weekend. It's free, as they're meant to be showing Coco Before Chanel, but I spent last night in a sci-fi film festival so I'm not sure how long I can stay awake, even with a nap from about 8am until 1:30 (I got home at 7am, and only slept a little bit in the cinema).
T'was fun though: I met Martin at Victoria station on Saturday night, then we headed to Troy's place for a Halloween party. We were amongst the first to arrive. We didn't dress up, as we were off to the film festival later, but I put in some scary looking contact lenses and we both donned wigs that Troy had from the last dress up party. Soon enough more people arrived: Frankenstein, Death, witches, zombies and even Jack Pumpkinhead and his lovely Lady (what was her name?). Troy cooked nibbles, and Martin and I filled up before heading to meet Allen (from RBS) at the film-festival at midnight.
It might sound daft, going to a party before an all-night film fest, but I think it was a stroke of genius: at about 5:30am Martin and I headed back to Victoria Station and he jumped on the express to Gatwick, where he was catching a flight to Australia at 9am!! With that kind of schedule he was bound to fall asleep on the 'plane, wake up in Dubai, then fall asleep again when he got to Melbourne at about 11pm -- time zone adjustment sorted! Or, at least, that's how the thinking went. We'll wait 'til he gets back to report on how successful the plan was...
I'll upload some photos and link to them here in the coming week: Manchester, and full photostream.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Buildings and vehicles looked like toys as we drifted over the city. We even managed to spot our house. Since balloons are governed by the wind we floated over farms and bushland, spotting lots of kangaroos, until we reached Kamarooka where we landed in a farmers paddock. As the day was becoming windy, the landing was bounce, bounce then drag as the basket tipped over on it's side. We'd all been instructed on landing procedures so had no problems. We then helped pack up the balloon and basket back into the trailer and were driven back to Bendigo for a late breakfast at the Boardwalk cafe. Glenn and Dee will be pleased to hear Dad chose Eggs Benedict and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had Eggs florentine (with salmon). Also juice and coffee. Sue made sure we also had water to prevent dehydration. We were presented with certificates and a wine glass each. We'll test them with a sparkling bronze cabernet savignon we bought on our trip to Adelaide.
We both had a wonderful morning. Thank you all. I'll try for photos.
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Post again tomorrow afternoon to let you all know how it went.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
I know you had a fab day with cake and fizzy drink (but no fairy-bread.. awwww). Hope the rest of the year is as good as today has been.
Haaaaappy birrrthdaaaay to yooooooou...
Haaaaappy birrrthdaaaay toooo yoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuu...
Haappy biiiiiiiirthdaaaaaaay deeeeear Glennnnnjiiiiiii...
Haappy biirthdaaay toooo yooooooooooooooooouuu!
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Hope you have a fun-filled day with lots of smiles.
Haaaaappy birrrthdaaaay to yooooou...
Haaaaappy birrrthdaay toooo yoooooooooouuuuuuuu...
Happy biiiiiiiirthdaaaaaay deeear Daaaaaad...
Happy biirthdaay toooo yooooooooooooooooouuu!
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Happy birthday toooo yoooooooooouuuuuuuu...
Happy biiiiiiiirthdaaaaaay deeear Damiennnnnnn...
Happy biirthdaay toooo yooooooooooooooooouuu!
Hope you have a fantastic day, a lovely week and a terrific year.
Monday, 28 September 2009
Saturday we all went to the larger shopping centre where Dad bought me a rose gold necklace for my birthday. I've been looking but not found what I wanted before. Also I bought a pair of homyped black boots, ready for next winter.( Nana gave me birthday money so now I've spent it.)
Today we left about 9am SA time, stopped at a local shopping centre where I bought a glass dragon then headed for home. Mostly fine and sunny. We had two stops for lunch and a cuppa and arrived home about 5.30 Vic time. Foxie is glad we've turned the heater back on. I'm sure he missed the heater more than us.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
More photos, as promised -- press play, then rollover the slide-show for the "full-screen" icon, kick back and enjoy. :-D
Actually, that's exactly what we did in Greece -- a whole lot of relaxing by the pool, a little bit of exploring in an air-conditioned car, and a fair amount of searching for decent Greek food (strangely hard to find).
The trips themselves were somewhere between average and downright horrible: late/early flights, lots of waiting, the stupidest aeroplane seat-configuration I've ever seen (so close together that you couldn't really bring your knees together!), and general chaos on the part of the officials from both Kerkyra and the holiday company, Olympic.
(Our 3am bus, 6am flight happened as predicted. What was not predicted was the hundreds of fellow passengers suffering the same situation -- hundreds of Brits with hangovers, or sunburn, or missing luggage; girls with "flip-flops" and sarongs flirting with boys in cargo-shorts and ridiculous sunglasses; families and individuals with ridiculously large, heavy luggage (what could they possibly be bringing back?!); officials with less idea about what was happening than the human cattle they were responsible for. I remember saying to Dee, "The only way to make this airport more miserable is for some of the fluorescent lights to start flickering." Then a thought struck me: "Or to fill the place up knee-high with stagnant water. That might do it.")
But once we were there -- brilliant! Brilliant despite the crummy accomodation, despite the dodgy bar-tender with his penchant for late nights, loud music and funny cigarettes, despite the narrow, dangerous roads and crazy scooter-riders. Eventually, under the brilliant sunlight, all these things took on a certain romance, a gleam -- they became as much a part of the whole experience as the smell of the ocean, the gentle buzzing of bees and wasps, the sound of our fellow holiday-makers splashing in the pool. Okay, the airport didn't, but the rest ... walking into supermarkets and buying groceries without a word of english is just, just, awesome!
So yes, we explored the entire island by car while we were there -- hiring it from a boy who couldn't have been more than 10 (his uncle came to do the paperwork, but it was the boy's sale, have no doubt). He tried to convince us to get an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) instead: a roll-cage, four chunky tyres and a 250cc engine, no windshield or floor, bucket seats ... Of course we stuck with the little (air-conditioned) Hyundai, thank you very much.
Corfu Town is the main metropolis, and we spent a day walking through markets along tiny streets, dodging scooters and keeping out of the midday sun. It's really crazy how weathered the buildings are -- I kept expecting to hear a crash and turn to find our way back blocked by rubble! We also found beaches, both pebble and sand (hot, hot sand!!), everything from "British" beaches (a whole lot of pale bodies and east-end accents) to secluded ones used by locals and those in the know.
I think the pictures say it all really.
Friday, 4 September 2009
Sunday, 30 August 2009
We have just gotten back from Oscar's first ever trip to the pool! It's been a bit cold and rainy this weekend, but the pools were indoor and heated, so it was quite warm when we got there.
Initially we took him into the baby pool. I'm sure mum and dad can guess his first reaction - he kicked around like he was in the bath :) However after a bit of that I think he realised he was somewhere different, and spent the remainder of the time studying everything he could with a detached expression of mild curiosity.
The pool we went to has these weird mushroom things which rain water down, and he rather enjoyed that. It also has a sea creature which sprays water from it's head and he really tried to grab that water, even though it just made it spray into his face :D
After a bit of a play in both the baby and the kids pool (he was a bit weirded out by floating I think) we changed him, wrapped him up and he instantly fell asleep. He's still asleep now that we're home :)
We didn't take any photos at the actual pool, but there are a few shots of his cute little outfit on flickr and facebook, so check them out :) He looks very tall in that first one..
Friday, 28 August 2009
One slight problem with our flight tomorrow morning, of course -- we don't have a room tonight! Standard practise for this particular "package holiday", apparently: we checked out today, and a bus comes to take us to the airport at 3am tonight/tomorrow morning. Package holidays from Britain are not all they're cracked up to be, that's for sure. No wonder the Brits are always complaining...
We flew in a week ago, and we're bussed from the airport to our "resort" -- and the word "resort" has to be in inverted-commas for the simple reason that it was the most basic room and facilities any of us (Dee, brother Chris and I) have ever seen. Including the complete dive we stayed at in Amsterdam! Two narrow beds for Dee and I and a camp stretcher for Chris; empty cupboards without handles; an electric hot-plate which electrocuted me twice; undrinkable tap-water (so they say -- we've been boiling it and it tastes fine); a smelly toilet (you don't flush the toilet paper here, but rather drop it in a bin... good practise for China, where they do the same thing).
But on the positive side: a balcony with an awesome view across the ocean to the Greek mainland; a bright blue pool for early morning dips (and you need 'em, it's 36 today); friendly (enough) bar staff selling cheap Mythos, Ouzo (more about that later) and chilled local wine. So, despite our dismay at finding neither drinkable water nor anywhere to buy some we arrived at 3am on the first night (again, the package holiday standard) we were all feeling positive when we woke late the next morning.
And overall it's been quite a positive stay! We hired a car from the very start, so have been able to explore the island -- from Canal d'Amour in the north to the seedy little nightclub town of Kavos in the south -- and find some really good beaches (Issos -- seems to be the locals hangout). We drove one day into Corfu Town, the main metropolis, and almost drove off Mount Pantocratos one day too, but mostly we've just been relaxing. We're all kind of keen to get home now, however -- the heat gets to you in the end, and we're all brown enough (even after putting on sunscreen twice a day!).
But yes, photos and maybe a little more detail when I have longer on the Internet!
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Saturday, 8 August 2009
I wandered down to the Tower Of London from work one lunch-time last week, planning to mingle with the tourists and pretend/imagine I was one of them. Instead, I stumbled upon a demonstration of archaic weaponry! (Hopefully you can see the video above?)
Last night we had a nice, grown-up wine-tasting session at Vinopolis, a massive wine centre near Borough Market. We started with a "How To" session, where the most patronising (matronising?) woman I've ever seen outside of a kindergarten children's show taught us the basics of wine-tasting (hint: don't just knock it back in a single gulp, then belch loudly and ask for another). *Slurp-slurp-slurp* "Can you hear the noise I'm making, children? Can YOU make a slurping noise too? Big slurps for Madame Winey, that's riiight."
When M. Winey had finished our lessons we were let out to play with the other kids. We walked from table to table, exchanging tokens for tiny glasses of champagne, chardonnay, pinot noir, then onto reds: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, rioja. The tables were arranged by theme -- usually location, but there was a "premium" table all by itself -- and our tokens gave us 3 champagne tastes, 5 wines, 2 premium wines. To round out the reds, and because 9:30pm was approaching, I swapped two of my tokens for a tiny glass of madeira -- a bit like port, and delicious! Sweet and honeyed, with hints of burnt timber... or so I deluded myself!
It's not the amount of wine (as each glass was a mouthful at most) but the fact that you're sucking air through your teeth and coating your tongue with the stuff. So we were all feeling pretty "mellow" by the time we walked into the Bombay Sapphire Bar for a complimentary gin cocktail (I had a delicious one made with pear-juice ... but I like gin. Dee had a different one and didn't like it!)
So after all that you might think we were done for the night. You'd be right, but we still had two free tastings of rum to get through! Actually, that's not quite right -- we had two rums each ... but as you might imagine, some people (*cough*Tina*cough*) didn't actually want their rum, so it was more for meeeee!
(I think the major enjoyment I get from drinking rum is pretending I'm a pirate. Considering all the wine, gin and champagne I'd already consumed, it was just lucky for everyone that I didn't actually start singing a sea-shanty and hopping around on a wooden leg. "Yo-ho-ho an' a bottle o' rum!")
Anyway, I've just uploaded the pictures from this, and the weapons demonstration, to the ever-entertaining Life In London photoset!
Thursday, 6 August 2009
It took us a very long time (7 hr flight to Dubai, 3 hr stop-over, 8 hr flight to Korea) and we were all tired by the time we got here. Fortunately, we were met by two lovely Korean lads with a sign (as you can see) - they even pushed our luggage trolley for us. It was hot and humid, so we waited inside until the bus arrived to take us to the hotel.
There were some hassles with check-in - we'd been put into twin rooms so Lea was sharing with a spanish woman we'd not met. Unfortunately, we'd been put into smoking rooms, so they STANK!! peeeewwwwwww!! We asked to change rooms - Becs and I were moved straight away, but because Lea was sharing with someone, they said she needed to ask her "room-mate". No one had her number, we'd not met her and it was all becoming a bit much for us to deal with - especially after no sleep for 24hrs, so I asked if we could get a triple room. After much to-ing and fro-ing between the hotel and the organisers, they put an extra bed in with Becs and I and we're all sharing. Gareth is still sharing with a spanish man who doesn't speak english, but he said it's all fine. :-)
I've got more to tell about the Korea Science Festival, but I'll leave that until next time - hopefully I'll be able to get online again while I'm here. I'll just say that I'm keeping busy - not much time for sight-seeing yet, but we're going on a tour tonight. :-)
Hope everyone is well.
Monday, 3 August 2009
Sunday, 2 August 2009
Friday, 31 July 2009
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Thursday, 23 July 2009
It's hard to believe it takes so long! I mean, they certainly took my money quick enough -- that was taken out of my account before the first biometrics interview. Worse, the application form warns that it can take up to 90 days, and that if you need your passport back before then they will cancel the processing altogether. Luckily for me, I was entitled to stay (and work) for as long as they had it, but with our next holiday coming up I was really quite worried I wouldn't be able to leave the country -- after Wales, we realise it will actually be cheaper to fly and stay in Europe than to drive around Britain. Which is of course ridiculous in and of itself, but what can you do?
I'm still not home-and-hosed yet, as the biometric ID card (which replaces a rubber-stamp in my passport and must be carried along with the passport) is being delivered separately, but at least I can leave and re-enter the country now.
We're "last minuting" our next holiday, as Dee's brother will be with us and we want something cheap and fun -- suggestions? So far I'd like to see Morocco or Greece, Dee is talking about Ireland (although I've already been there!) and Chris (her brother) will take whatever he gets *grin*. Especially since he's doing a 'round-the-world trip in Business Class thanks to about a billion frequent-flyer points.
This has me reinvigorated about a big trip next year, too -- Budapest, Poland, Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Thursday, 2 July 2009
(I'm reading this out to Oscar as i type to keep him entertained, and he's just staring. Creepy!)
The trip to Bendigo is part of my brithday present from Damien. The other part is this laptop! It was a really nice surprise when Damien gave it to me. I was a bit confused at first because I thought that the "happy birthday cheryl" message on the screen was the present :) Oscar spends most of his awake time in the loungeroom, and now that he is moving around much more it's so good to be able to watch him and check out facebook at the same time ;) It has also been handy to do things like look up information for our trip etc and Damien has also put some shows and movies on there.
Apart from all of that Oscar has been doing well recently. He did a bit of a commando crawl the other night and tends to move around a fair bit when he's on the floor. He has also been sleeping much better this past week. We thought it might have been because of his immunisations, but he's stilll sleeping well so we'll see.
(PS Oscar was staring because he was tired. I put him to bed and he slept for an hour and a half!)
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Sunday, 21 June 2009
The town we are staying in, Llannefydd, is too small for even a general store. Apart from a handful of houses, there is the Hawk And Buckle Inn (where we are staying), a church and a primary school -- such a cute wee school it is too! Strangely enough, the Inn gets busy of an evening! I think everyone in town drops in at some point during the night, although the combination of enormous amounts of good food, a bar that has Australian wine (especially after we spoke to Stuart, the owner's son and wine-buff) and the peace and quiet means we've been toddling off to bed any time from 9pm ... and never later than 10:30!
Our room is nice: cosy, comfortable, tastefully decorated and with a large double-jacuzzi. The owners are lovely, quirky and friendly, and the chef seems gruff but creates delicious meals: sausages, potato and leek soup, chicken with Welsh cheese and bacon, lamb burgers with just a hint of mint. Good, honest food -- and today we might have a Sunday roast! Breakfast has been similarly delicious-and-epic. On our first morning here we opted for the Full Welsh breakfast which included sausages, eggs, tomato, mushrooms ... I even suspended any analytical-thought long enough to try black-pudding (it's yummy, just don't think about what goes into it -- kind of like haggis in that way then!).
The GPS has had inestimable value, although we suspect it has a dark sense of humour with some of the roads it's taken us down -- tiny winding lanes which look more like someone's drive-way than a main thoroughfare but go on for miles at a time. With "navi"'s help we visited the castle at Conwy (Conway) on the bay, explored the local streets and sat on the shore for a spell. It's incredible just how much effort went into building an enormous stone citadel that once housed lords and ladies, only for it to become a giant birdhouse for pidgeons and gulls...
After Conwy we drove to Caernarfon (seems to be pronounced "Carnarvon" -- like the Aussie one!). Caernarfon would be beautiful -- the centre of town is entirely within the castle walls -- but inexplicably it is more "bogan" than touristy, complete with dodgy little shops filled with the cheapest of plastic tat, pubs that a sailor would be wary of entering and pregnant teens arguing loudly and in Welsh in the street. I'm exaggerating a little there, but it's still hard to understand why such a place is not filled with tiny cottage cafes and tearooms, hand-stitched red dragons, tea-towels, tiny wrapped soaps and the friendly bustle of tourists, loud Americans, timid English-folk.
Today we're staying "home" -- Dee gets a rest from driving, I can upload the photos (see the Cymru set on Flickr) and we can both read, write, draw, play chess, argue, plan, laugh, doze. I think we're both recharging nicely, so are feeling much more positive about the rest of the year and living (and working) in London for just a little while longer. Chris (Dee's brother) is visiting shortly, so we'll be off to Istanbul and who-knows-where (last-minute travel plans are great!), and in the meantime we can hopefully find some fun things on weekends and public holidays. Before too long we'll be winging our way (er, railing our way?) back home to see you all!
Friday, 19 June 2009
Seriously tho', we've wanted a GPS thingy for a while, and when I couldn't get a USB one for noodle we decided to hire one from the car-hire place ... but they didn't have any! Apparently they go missing, who'da thunk?! The car-hire man was kind enough to point us towards a Curry's Electrical outside the congestion zone (who wants to pay just to drive through London?) so we got ourselves there (just barely) and geared-up. (Actually, we didn't end up buying the ol' sat-nav from Curry's, as the staff were by all appearances apathetic morons to a man. We went next door to Halfords. It still took longer to part with our hard-earned cash than we liked, but at least they actually had stuff in stock.)
Anyway, I'm using this as a test -- can we post from the road with mobile Internet? Can we keep in touch with people when we have no fixed address? Can we connect with you guys from a hut in Thailand, a caravan-park in Western Australia?
Let's see if it actually posts, eh?
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Dad has been driving and walking so much improvement. On Friday we went into town and he drove. We visited the Marketplace, then decided to get our printer cartridges refilled at Cartridge World. They can't be done because they have a chip that so far can't be reset. Since by then we were inGolden Square, Dad suggested a visit to Lansell Plaza. We had a coffee and two donuts as a rest stop after we'd bought some fruit and veges , NQR goodies and checked out Sams. We called to see Nana on the way home. She was very pleased to see Dad so mobile since just last Tuesday he wasn't well enough to go to Probus and he didn't make it to the funeral on Wednesday. Today we walked down the street inEaglehawk, where we met Nana and then came back here for coffee. After looking at the labels, he also bought a ticket for tonight's Lotto draw. Uncle Ron called in on Wednesday and suggested a product he uses called Alpha Lifeline. he and Mary returned on Thursday with the tin that should last a month.Dad has had two doses of that now. It's supposed to be good for digestive health.It contains colostrum. If it works we'll be getting more and may try the capsule version since Dad isn't fond of the taste. It tasted fine to me.
Glad to hear Dayna has drawn an update for the header. I look forward to seeing it.
Do any of you want to play Wordscraper on Facebook? I play with Lisa, Damien and Val at the moment.
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Yesterday we took Oscar to the miniature farm barn for a friend's 2-years-old birthday party. We dressed Os in some cold weather gear and he met a lot of animals for the very first time. The first part of the party was a bit of a tour and feed then it was pony ride time. All of the kids were too scared! Apart from Oscar, who sat on one for a little while. They were really cute ponies (I know what I want for my birthday!) and if they could have held my weight I would have been up there in no time as well! ;) Some of the little girls ended up putting hair clips into the pony's mane and leading it around the yard. Next was farm equipment time. I think Os enjoyed the tractor ride the most :) Then all of the kids went inside for some morning tea and cake. Oscar had his milk and then sat next to his little friend while he played with a serviette. It was a very cute party and it tired the little guy out. He fell asleep on the way home, so instead of trying to get him into the house without waking him we drove to the local shopping centre and Damien and I took turns going in to get lunch and eating in the car while Oscar slept (sneaky! :) We took heaps of photos, of course :)
Today we've had a quieter day. We went to the shopping centre for lunch and spent the rest of the day at home. Not sure what we'll do tomorrow. Probably enjoy the public holiday indoors with the heater on :)
Saturday, 6 June 2009
We arrived in Nantes at around lunch time on Tuesday and spent the afternoon wandering around the city - just to see what was where and to get our bearings a little. Wednesday we decided to head to Le Machine de l'Ile - The Island of Machines. It's on l'Ile de Nantes and has only been open since 2007. It's a workshop/gallery working towards a major interactive attraction - a carousel/merry-go-round with three levels and lots of creatures that visitors can interact with and 'run'.
We saw eight of the creatures. They're a strange combination of Leonardo Da Vinci's mechanical creations and Jules Verne's imagination - my favourite is the squid, but I think Bruce's favourite is the crab (because he got to control it for a bit). The combination of wood and metal looks really cool and there's so much articulation in the moving bits via pulleys and levers - what a good use of physics!
Thursday we headed over to the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne (The Castle of the Dukes of Britanny). We'd walked to it on Tuesday, but decided to use the Bicloo rental bicycles (pay £1 for the day and the first half-hour of each rental is free). There are docking stations all around the city centre, so it's easy to keep your trips under half-an-hour. The Castle was amazing - it's only recently been restored. The Nantes History Museum is housed in the Castle, so we spent the day discovering the history of the Mermaid city (with strong ties to the land and to its port). We also wandered through the special exhibition - I found some hammocks. Dad, I'll join your pirate ship if I get to sleep in a hammock! ;-)
Friday we headed away from town and went to the Planetarium. The show went for about an hour and the graphics were fantastic. It started as a simple night-sky - what stars you can see at night. They then took us on a journey to each of the planets. It was a very entertaining show and it would have been even better if I understood French.
After lunch (and watching some French guys play boules in the park) we headed to the Musee Jules Verne. It was cool to learn more about him and to see some of his old manuscripts and sketches. Although one of my favourite bits were the moon-related toys from all over the world. Wish I knew where to get the TinTin game! It looked fun.
The food while we were away was pretty tasty. The only problem was that there weren't a great many vege options. In fact, I think I had more cheese in this week than I have had since the start of the year! Crepes were my favourite, especially the ones made from black corn with potatoes gratin as filling. Yummo.
We headed back to England on Saturday morning and found the lovely weather was there too. We had a BBQ for lunch because the sunshine was so good. In fact, the good weather lasted until a couple of days ago (I got saturated walking to the bus from work yesterday). So it's back to grey Manchester weather but at least I had a week of fun and frivolity in France (photos here).
*big hugz* to all.
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Anyhoo, it was his birthday last weekend so we headed out of our precious safety-zone ("the city") to a suburb. Turns out they've got sun, people, cafes, greenery! So we arrived at the beer garden and met some of Ken's friends, then I supped a wee dram of uisge whilst Dee enjoyed the red wine. We chatted, ate little nibbly things (calamari, salmon fish-fingers, lamb koftas) and generally enjoyed the sun -- although as the afternoon wore on it threatened rain.
After lunch (and a delicious chocolate cake courtesy of Glenda -- thanks!) we all decided to walk off the meal in Hampstead Green, a nearby park -- although it's bigger than any park I've seen in Aus, just like Hyde Park in London central. We wandered across field and dell and came across a fair! Ferris-wheels, skill games, spinny-aroundy and upside-downy rides! Dee, Ken and I all tried the archery. None of us won a prize, but Dee did have the dubious achievement of almost hitting a "carny" (i.e. fair worker) with an arrow! Remember kids: wine and bow & arrows don't mix. (I kid, I kid, we wouldn't want to get rolling drunk on a school/work day/night -- really, the carny almost got himself shot by ducking out in front of us to retrieve some arrows from the targets. I mean, come on! He was asking for one in the behind!)
It was weird being in the middle of a green space and looking back towards the "urban jungle". It was also getting muggy -- the rain was on its way but taking its sweet time about it. We got to the edge of the park, grabbed some drinks from the supermarket and had an impromptu picnic in a field, while around us people threw frisbees and kicked soccer balls. Decided we'd come back another weekend and play tennis and/or lawn bowls! How sophisticated!
When the rain started, we bid adieu to Ken and company, boarded a bus and headed back home. As always, more photos here. (And I'm not if you need to be on Facebook, but Glenda put some photos up too.)
Friday, 29 May 2009
Dayna looking forward to hearing about your holiday in France.
Glenn and D, thank you for the photos you left on our computer. We had a voucher for 25 prints in May and we haven't taken any since the last batch of developing. I used some of yours and some of Dayna's. I'll pick them up when I get to town next.
Thinking of you all.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
It was fairly cold and windy for the first part of the day - but that didn't stop us enjoying watching the elephants! They were so funny! Initially they were messing about in a little pool. It had a small waterpipe and they were stepping on it to make the water spray everywhere (clever things). Next thing, two of the elephants ran into the pool by the waterfall. One moment they were there, the next they disappeared - they didn't teleport somewhere, it was just the pool was a LOT deeper than it looked! It was fantastic to watch them playing.
We didn't follow any particular plan - we just wandered around the zoo, watched random animals and took lots of photos. Well, I took photos until my batteries went flat. :-( My photoset is here. And since Vicki's batteries didn't go flat, her photoset is here. Sometimes it's sad to see animals in cages but it's obvious that Chester Zoo looks after the welfare of the animals - they have inside and outside spaces, there are toys to play with (even HUGE toys for the elephants) and at least some of the habitats are designed for the animals. It's been ages since I'd been to the zoo - think I might not wait so long until the next visit (probably to another zoo). :-)
We're going to the zoo zoo zoo
You can come too too too...