Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A first time for everything

I find it reassuring that even now, well past my three score years and ten I can still be delighted and surprised in an ordinary supermarket carpark.  

My daughter, Leone and I were returning to my car and couldn't help but notice a car parked extremely close to mine and young girl having difficulty helping an elderly lady out of the passenger seat of that car.  The gap was small and the elderly lady not very flexible or mobile.  The girl somehow, with lots of laughter, managed to get her passenger out of the car and through the gap before noticing us.  Her passenger didn't linger but made her way slowly into the supermarket.  The girl was laughing but embarrassed and very apologetic about parking over the lines defining the parking spaces and being so close to my car. She said another motorist had been watching her attempts to park and shaking his head and that she'd got really flustered.  

She then handed her car keys to Leone and asked her could she "fix" it for her.   Leone hesitated, then laughed and agreed.  The thought crossed her mind that the whole thing could be part of a scam, was she putting herself in danger or leaving me in danger.   Isn't it sad that we now think that way?  I have to admit the thought didn't cross my mind, that I trust my instincts with people and this lass was simply a lovely girl who'd been talked into taking her grandmother to the shops.  She was naïve to hand her car keys to a stranger but I find it refreshing that there are still teens out there who think older people are more likely than not to be helpful. 

I hope she got herself and her passenger home safely - and that she has a few more driving lessons before going into another carpark.  

Friday, June 21, 2019

The arrival

A friend commented a couple of days ago that winter really arrives here on 20 June.  It actually came a day early with the first frost of year coming on Wednesday.  I must admit I didn't see it as I felt a chill in the air when I stuck my nose out from under my blankets and stayed in bed until I felt confident the sun was chasing it away.  Such are the luxuries of my life!  Yesterday was cold and windy but I ventured out to my exercise class - and there were only five of us turn up.

Today looks a lot more winterish, the sky so grey it's almost white and my world has been consumed by mist.  When I lived in the little house down on the flats the outlook would have been totally dismal but I find looking out at the world quite different up here on the hill.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Remember when

A friend who I partied with in my teens, has reminded me of the fun we had at 'Kinkabool' in Surfers Paradise on Queensland's Gold Coast.  Happy memories of surfing, basking in the sun, before we knew it wasn't good for our skin, when we thought it showed we were healthy and active.  We were.  A lot of that activity may have happened after the sun went down at places like Kinkabool.  
The Surfers Paradise FB page has a Throwback Thursday and featured Kinkabool.  Built 1959-60,   the 11 storey "high-rise" was the Gold Coast's first high-rise and one of Queensland's earliest!
Situated one block to the south of Cavill Avenue, 'Kinkabool' is now heritage listed and one of the few buildings remaining that represents what was the heart of burgeoning modern Surfers Paradise in the 1950s.

That's a bit harsh, I thought.  A building that was new in my youth is heritage listed!!  Harsh or not I'm glad they are retaining it, even if just as a quaint reminder of how things were 'in the olden days'.  In the days when Surfers was just about the surf and fun, before the glitz and glamour arrived.  Before the apartment buildings started reaching for the sky and the main focus of the places is no longer the sea.  Before they started building high rises right on the beach front with their shadows falling on the beach
I'm reining myself in before I get carried away.  I have no right to express an opinion about Surfers Paradise, I haven't been there since the 70s.    And on that occasion I stood in the middle of a street and looked upwards and saw just a small patch of sky - and cried.  I felt like I was in a concrete jungle and although I was quite close to the beach I couldn't hear the waves above the sound of the traffic.  It's a wonder I wasn't run over.  Probably got my timing right with traffic lights.  I know I just repeated over and over "They've ruined it."  Luckily I was with one of my brothers and most of them thought I was nuts years before that happened.   
Surfers Paradise today.  I can't bring myself to find a photo away from the beach.
photo courtesy of Facebook Visit Surfers Paradise page

Monday, June 17, 2019

The new build

Just look at that Taranaki mud!  Seems a shame to build a house on such rich, good soil - it's sure to produce a good garden.

We tip-toed around the muddiest bits, as I only had one pair of shoes with me, to check out progress on my daughter's new home.  It's quickly taking shape.  I guess progress doesn't seem quite so fast when you are on the spot.  

The cloud lifted from over Mt Taranaki just a little while we were there.  And these were the only photos I got of the mountain this visit.  Flying home yesterday I was a little jealous of the girl in the window seat beside me as she took photos of the mountain clearly visible in all his glory.  My blogging friends who have been around for a while might remember when I shared the legend of Taranaki here.  That explains why I call the mountain a 'he'.

I love being away, visiting Taranaki (or elsewhere) but it's always good to be home again.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Fence toppers

My housekeeping turned up a post in Drafts from a couple of years ago. I took these at the Maritime Museum in Dargaville.  I'll go back next time I'm in Dargaville and see if they are still there or if they were part of a specific exhibition.  My brother, Peter, used to mow lawns for neighbours back in the days of these push blade mowers. I guess you'd call them vintage mowers now.  Bet he wishes he'd come up with this idea!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Babysitting a child with an ear infection who knows how to entertain himself.  With the ear infection he's a little off colour and not up to Games with Granny, although sick or not he still beats me at card games.  And the whole family beat me at Scrabble last night.  Luckily they're a small family, only three of them, so I don't feel utterly brainless.  Fourth is only just out of the medals.

So here I am in Taranaki, in New Plymouth this time, my only duties keeping the fire stoked and checking on the child occasionally.  The perfect day for some housekeeping.  I decided I'd do some blog housekeeping and went through the list of blogs I've followed for the past ten years.  So many of my favourite bloggers are no longer active.  Most who have stopped just abruptly disappeared.  Here one day, gone the next.  So like life.  

Just outside the kitchen/dining room window where my daughter and her family are living while their new house is being built, is a gully with lots of beautiful big, trees which are attractive to several different birds.  It's hard to imagine such a quaint and quiet street with a stunning bush outlook so close to the city.  Practically in the CBD.  Of course, it's been here a long time.

Earlier today, there were so many birds flitting past that when I caught a flash out of the corner of my eye, I thought the floaters had returned. I had them a while ago.  Apparantly, a lot of people have them and learn to ignore them but I found them very disconcerting and had my eyes checked out by a specialist.  All good.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Just like the pictures

I've never thought about visiting Canberra, the capital of Australia.  Never thought I'd visit or had any inclination to do so, except in a vague sort of way when I thought how nice it would be to catch up with an old friend and boss who now lives there.  Then along comes a surprise and find myself headed there for a brief holiday to visit a long lost relative.

I flew into Sydney and caught a bus to Canberra, just a three hour drive inland. I don't know why I thought there would be something to look at.  I was wrong, it was very boring.   But worth it.  Canberra in late May was crisp and cold at night but the days, oh, the days were glorious (even on the one day when the wind was bitterly cold) with brilliant clear blue skies.  

Being shown around by a local was a real bonus.  There's no way I would have seen or done half as much if left to my own devices.  I didn't even know Australia has a National Carillon.  It's an impressive piece of architecture, 50 metres high on Aspen Island, in Lake Burley Griffin.

Despite the cold wind I enjoyed our stroll around the little island, thinking of my granddaughter, Georgia and how she would have loved those willows.

Looking across the lake at the High Court of Australia offers a much more attractive view of the building than you see from up close.  I've read of it described as a 'brutalist' building and I had no clue what that meant until I saw it.  

Further around the lake in a quiet corner we visited the Beijing Garden.  Imagine my pride that my relative played an integral part in their establishment.   They are beautifully planned with curved paths that lead to stunning statues and amazing views - under that famous Canberra blue sky.  It was a good day to visit, few people and very peaceful, a place for contemplation.  The Beijing Municipal Government made a gift of the garden to the City of Canberra.  Workers from China were brought out to do the construction.  It is a formal garden designed in the Imperial Chinese Garden Style of the Qing Dynasty, 1644-1912.  (I got that from a plaque.)

In the background and to the left of the galloping horse above, you can see the flagpole on the top of the new Parliament House.  It's 81 metres tall and quite a landmark.

Parliament House

 Around the back of Parliament House

I liked the back view of Government House, too.  It's the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia and is set in 54 hectares of parkland.  

Another highlight of my visit was the time spent in the National Art Gallery.  As luck would have it, I was there on the very last day of the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of masterpieces from the Tate in London.  Such a thrill to see Ophelia!  It wasn't near as large as I thought it would be but really, incredibly beautiful.

Painting of woman with pale skin and auburn hair lying in water surrounded by flowers, apparently dead.Photo taken from the gallery website.

That gallery is a great place for time to pass very quickly.   So many lovely paintings.  And, of course, some that were just beyond my understanding.  Like so many Australians I failed to appreciate the Jackson Pollock masterpiece which cost the Australian taxpayer $1.3 million back in 1973.  Ah well.

And this art work I found a little too confronting -

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Somewhere new

Once, when I was 15 or 16 I went to the Bunya Mountains.  Can't remember anything about the place so it was like seeing it for the first time when I visited last month.  I'd come close in the past few years as it isn't far from both Kingaroy and Nanango, where I visited in 2014.

It's only a two and a half to three hour drive from Brisbane yet a whole different world.  It's pristine, peaceful and spectacular.  The rainforest is as lush as it is in the far north and area is home to the world's largest forest of bunya pines.  

Bunya pine (and no my photo is not crooked, that how it grew.)

Three of my sisters and one brother (and partners) and I had a weekend getaway there in a huge house surrounded by trees on the edge of the National Park.  Because of the elevation it is generally at least 5 - 7 degrees Celsius cooler than Brisbane.  On the Saturday afternoon we enjoyed gathering around a roaring fire before setting out on foot for the little restaurant (and whisky bar) about 200 metres down the hill.  We took a bit longer to walk back up the hill on our way home!  And yes, it was very chilly but well worth it.  We'd had a lovely meal. 

We'd seen a few wallabies near the house Saturday evening but it was the birds that lured us out into the cold the next morning.  There was a bird seed trough running along the front deck and those birds knew where to come!  It was delightful being so close to them.  There were bird feeding sessions mid morning and mid afternoon down near the restaurant where the birds flocked by the dozen but I much preferred our private visits.

King Parrot

 The red and blue parakeets seemed to prefer to feed from the ground

Some were a little shy and thought they'd hide in the trees until we went away.

The glossey blue black bowerbird (the male, the female is very nondescript) wouldn't go too far from cover. 

Can't wait to return.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Catch up

I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted.

For a long time the inclination to post left me.  Then, when I felt like it again, I couldn't remember how to!  I'm not joking.  My memory has become a very fickle thing.  I could find the blog but it was the logging in part that had gone.  Just quietly, I became quite uptight about it.  The blogging part, that is.  I seem to be living quite happily with most of my forgetfulness.  I write things down more and don't worry too much if what I've written doesn't make much sense a few days later.  It takes me twice as long as it used to do anything on the computer as I'm always double checking (and frequently forgetting).

I moved house before Christmas, not far, just 200 metres from my little house to the big old kauri villa on the hill.  Crazy, I know.  But it was a reasonable thing to do, made sense, at the time.  And I like living on a hill.  With a lovely view.

I see and hear things I never saw or heard when living down on the flat.  The outlook is quite different.  My older daughter has moved in with me recently and I haven't managed to drive her nuts just yet.  I do enjoy her company (and she's a good cook) but I have to be careful not to let her do everything around the house.  I don't need to be any lazier than I already am.  She's starting a new job this week as a technical writer.  Did you know that is one of the fastest growing occupations in NZ?

Luckily, I'm familiar enough with my own systems to still manage the Lodge, the school camp which is used for many other activities.  So I still get to go into the forest on a regular basis, the bush is still my happy place.

My camera is on it's last legs, I think.  It can sometimes be as fickle as my memory when it comes to turning on and off.  And it chooses itself about what it displays when it needs to be charged.  Whereas once I went nowhere without it, I now forget it as often as not but always remember my phone so most of my pics come from there nowadays.    I even often forgot to take it with me when I was on holidays recently in Australia.  I'll share a little about the trip next.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Brisbane surrounds

One of the best things about my recent road trip in Queensland was the amount of time I allowed myself to spend with my siblings.  Instead of snatching a day here and a day there I had more time to enjoy with them.  And they shared some of their favourite local places with me.   Clare took me to the Mt Tamborine, inland from the Gold Coast to the south of Brisbane, a place I haven't visited in over 20 years.  One of my favourite bloggers, Lee, lives in the area.  

It took us so long to get there, we could have been travelling to a much more distant place.  I had no idea where we were half the time and Clare had similar moments.  Really, Brisbane City Council (or whoever is responsible for road signs), you must do better.  We were directed in circles a couple of times.  However, we can't blame all our driving in circles on the signs.  Once we reached the village we managed to do plenty of it all by ourselves while looking for the lookouts.  We both knew they were somewhere, the question was where?  So we got to see many side streets.  And the only one we found was looking away from the Gold Coast, not down over it as we were hoping.  And someone had lit a number of small fires (we couldn't figure out why).

We enjoyed a stroll up and down the village street, popping into the many interesting shops and had a lovely lunch at a very nice cafe.  There are speciality shops like the German Cuckoo Clock nest, Chocolate Kingdom, Fudge Heaven, dress boutiques and craft shops.  Many of the little shops were owner operated and more delightful people you could never hope to meet.  They were friendly and welcoming and only too happy to share their knowledge about their treasures but without any pressure to buy.  The village of the happy shop-keepers!

I indulged in a pretty pair of ear-rings at what I thought was a great price from The Glass Studio.  I suspect they will turn out to be one of those impulse purchases that I won't get a lot of use out of as they are brighter and shinier than my usual style.  Never mind, my spirit will lift every time I look at them!

It's not often I forget to take photos.  I blame Clare, she's such good company and fun to be with, I totally forgot.

My brother Denis and his partner re-introduced me to Redcliffe, in the north of the city.  As youngsters, we thought of it as far away, but in reality, it's only about 12 km from where we grew up at Nudgee, on the other side of Moreton Bay.

The weather was threatening to change but held off while we were there.  That's the Glasshouse Mountains you can see in the distance.

You know how every place has its own claim to fame?  I remember when I visited Canada in 2002 and was amused to learn that Ladysmith, a small town on Vancouver Island had as its claim to fame that it was Pamela Anderson's birthplace.  Once upon a time Redcliffe proudly claimed to be the site of the first European settlement in Queensland, a noble claim.  Now, everyone seems to have forgotten about that and have been carried away with its connection to the BeeGees.  The powers that be have developed a walkway named the Bee Bees Way, a multi-media celebration of the pop group.  I wonder if Cribb Island, had it not been flattened to make way for an extension to the Brisbane Airport would have made a lot of its connection as well.  That's where the Gibb family moved to after Redcliffe.  

When my girlfriend and I went for a bike ride when we were youngsters we nearly always went to the beach, either Nudgee Beach or Cribb Island, Cribby as we all knew it.  You could walk from one to the other at low tide.  I got off the track, I know.  Whenever I think of Cribby I tend to dwell on the fact that all those who called it home have no place to go back to.  Sad. 

Thanks, Den and Di for a lovely day out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Home to Brisbane

I've been thinking about home.  Not so much the place as the concept.  I know people who never return to the place they spent their childhood, don't think of that place as 'home'.  I think I've been fortunate to have two places that I think of as home.  Well, three really, when I add in my current home.  I have the valley up the creek from Laidley where I was born, the home of my ancestors, where my siblings and I spent all our school holidays after the family moved to Brisbane.  I think of this as the place of my 'belonging'.  

Because of its distinctive landmarks, it doesn't appear to have changed over the years.

My other home is Nudgee, just 13 km north of Brisbane CBD but when I grew up, it was an outer suburb.  My parents lived there for many, many years and now lay at rest in the local cemetery.  I called in to have a little chat with Mum and Dad when I arrived in Brisbane on my road trip in June.  These days a highway which bypasses Brisbane to provide access between the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast runs alongside Nudgee.  The word Nudgee is believed to be derived from the aboriginal word meaning 'home of wild ducks'.   There is a still a waterhole, but it has been manicured and tidied, nothing like the place of my childhood.

Step away from the old Nudgee and Brisbane is vastly different from the place I grew up.  My youngest sister, Janet asked when I was staying with her if there was somewhere I'd like to go for a drive, any old haunts I'd like to revisit.  My plans were already in place for a visit to Laidley, so I immediately replied I'd like to see the city again.  I'm not a city lover, can't even remember when was the last time I visited inner Brisbane.  Janet lives so close, the view of what she called the Tower of Power from her deck had whetted my appetite to see the changes.

The Tower of Power, 1 William Street, completed in 2016, is filled entirely with Queensland Government public servants.  It is the tallest in the city.  I thought it looks better from the distance than it did up close.

I was much more delighted to see so many of the old buildings I remember as being old when I was young have been well preserved.

Treasury Building, where my brother Denis worked for years.

I do so wish I could remember the name of this lovely old building.  My sister, Esme, worked there when she first left school.   

 Dwarfed but not diminished

In some streets it's all skyscrapers.  Yet turn a corner and the traffic seems to disappear and you are in a suburban-like tree lined street.

The memories flooded in when I saw the McWhirters building, in my day a department store, now a shopping centre and apartment building. When I was a child, on the very rare occasion any of us was sick enough to be allowed to stay home from school, we'd make a remarkable recovery if it was on the day the McWhirters man called on Mum with his catalogues.  Anything new that came into our home was bought through one of those catalogues and delivered by the McWhirters man.  I guess there were a number of them over the years but they are all the one man in my memory.  A smiling man who made a fuss of me and gave me a little gift.  Although I can't remember what the gift was it was enough to entice me to McWhirters for my first purchase (and many more) after I started work.  I'm sure, had I encountered the same man on my "grownup" visit, I would not have made such an outrageous purchase.

After the CBD we ventured down to the riverside at New Farm/Teneriffe.  (I don't know where one ends and the other starts or perhaps they are the same.) 

There the old wool stores of my memory have been restored to their former glory (if ever a wool store could claim such), the whole area has been transformed into some of the city's most sought-after real estate.  I think of it as gentrification.  It's an upmarket place with the shiny and new sitting comfortably beside the contrasting old and solid.  It portrays itself as having "first-class dining, trendy bars and well-loved cafes".  Janet and I enjoyed a stroll along the riverside walkway.

Most of my photos that day were taken on my phone, either through the windscreen or out the car window.  Very rarely did traffic allow my sister to slow down to allow me time for a decent shot.  This one is even worse than most but it has to be included because for the summer of my fifteenth year I spent most Saturdays and quite a few school day mornings here swimming training.  The swimming pool my school used had salt water that was flushed in and out with the tides and this was where I swam after school.  Then I attended an interschool swimming sports at the Valley Pool (below) and discovered I was slower in the chlorine treated pool.  That was devastating and humiliating to me.  I've never been a morning person but I often got up in time to catch the first train of the day (shortly after 5 am) into town, walk the half mile to the pool, do my laps then walk back to the railway station and catch the train to school.  I was a self-taught swimmer and had never heard of a swimming coach let alone met one.  And I was never as good a swimmer as I wanted to be.

The Valley Pool served another more important part in my life.  One of those Saturdays I got talking to a fabulously handsome young man and we came to be friends.  He married one of my closest friends and they are happily married to this day.  Our children are friends.  I had caught up with them a couple of days earlier.  I got them to sit apart so I could get a photo of the scrub turkey helping itself to leftovers on the table behind us.  

Below is another city view, this time from the corner of the street where my brother, Denis lives.