Easter: return to base – Sunday 8th April 2012

Happy Easter!
I write my blog in retrospect. Always writing up the day in longhand; then transcribing it into the blog when I have good wifi and time. So Easter is over and I apologies for my delay in greetings.
Easter has been both a surprise and a worry. Here I am watching Australian villages prepare for Harvest and then, bang, someone tells me it is also Easter and haven’t we booked accommodation yet? Still, it has all worked out well and today we are back in Melbourne with my good friend and his family. It is such a pleasure to be here with them.

Before we get to his house we stop off at Hanging Rock. Do you know the film, “Picnic at Hanging Rock”? It is the story based on a book by the same name of a group of school girls on a picnic, five go for a walk away from their teacher, who brought them but only four return. Atmospheric I believe! You could understand the setting immediately. Being Easter, lots of families we here with picnics. The rocks are remnants of a volcano, forming a hollow cone. They are a great place for climbing if you are a child, and frequently you could hear parents calling, “just follow my voice,” and “Where are you?”. Best of all I hears two fathers talking about their teenagers, “well, they will have their phones on them” said one. “Yes, but there is no reception here!” came the reply.


As soon as we get to my friend’s house, his two year old son seems to remember us and greets us with “Where’s mummy?”. He and dad have only just come in and not had time to ‘find’ her yet! She greets us all and it feels brilliant to be here.

Despite the fact that they urge us to stay, we are only here one night. They offer advice on good places to visit near our stops and feed us well. It is very difficult to move on in some ways. But, we are on a journey that soon will take us home.


Melbourne Art Gallery – Monday 26th December 2011

Melbourne has a great arts centre with two galleries, one for international artists and the other for Australian ones. Today we went to the main gallery. After such dreadful weather the entrance water feature made us feel cold!

There are so many wonderful paintings and sculptures it is hard to know where to start. Picasso’s Green lady, several Constables including a wonderful oil sketch on cardboard of sky. Turner, his light sizzling through the canvas, but I was disappointed to learn he sometimes painted a light scene and then used it as a background to add features to order on. This made me feel slightly cheated by him!


The Pre Raphalites were well represented with several Hughes, including his son’s work, and Bruce-Jones including a stained glass window from a hospital in Salford.
Pisarro’s Boulevard de Montmartre, several Manet which look clinical against the Monet exhibits and lots of Rodin sculptures.
But the exhibition I enjoyed most was inspired by biology, called Dewdrops and Sunshine by Ranjani Sheetar. Look her up on YouTube to see how they had to place hundreds of different length pins into adjoining walls. My photos do not do it justice.


Two nets with beeswax globes such delicacy threaded from floor to ceiling to wall and, its shadows created a gossamer pattern that had incredible depth. The photos I took of this so understate the beauty of it, I will not share them!
Steel, muslin, tamarind paste sculpted together in almost birdlike shapes fly through the air with incredible grace, but are inspired by the unique patterns created by the mucus of a sneeze.


I just loved Ranjani’s work and urge you to seek it out because the 3 dimensional quality of this art is essential to its appreciation I feel.

Also in the gallery on the third floor was an exhibition of Pacific artists, mostly modern but all touching back to their ethnic cultural heritage. Masks, animals, shields of great colour, nearly all using natural materials. A most impressive room and the kind of thing we rarely see in England, more is the pity.



Little Penguins – Thursday 22nd December 2011

The weather in Melbourne is cyclical. The heat builds to great intensity and then the wind changes, the cloud comes up and the temperature plummets. Today is a scotching day.

It’s a good job we wanted to make this particular trip just as the sun goes down!

You CAN pay to see Little Penguins on Philip Island OR you can walk down to St Kilda’s breakwater at sunset and watch them for free.

They are about 30 cm tall and some 200 of them have chosen Melbourne for their all year round residence. It’s the season for chicks at the moment. Hidden between the gigantic concrete boulders they peep out, waiting for the parent to bring supper.

Sometimes they stand on the blocks for ages, presumably not wanting to go back to face the hectic cries of the unfed family. They are incredibly brave, and providing no-one uses flash photography, they don’t seem camera shy.
you can watch them swim in through the harbour, hop up over the beach and negotiate the boulders to navigate their way straight back to their own nest. Despite the 200 people who watched them do this.

If you do this during June or July, there is no-one there much, but in high season yellow jacketed supporters give information about the penguins and check the human behavior.

When it is quite dark they use red lights to illuminate their activities. Apparently penguins cannot see red light so this does not interfere with them at all. I loved listening to them sing and chatter to each other.

Another amazing animal encounter!

Christmas Carols in Melbourne – Sunday 18th December 2011

There are many smart cafe in Melbourne and the alleys and malls offer a wide range.


We sample a few today.
But our main focus is St Paul’s cathedral where there is a carol service called “9 lessons and carols”. We arrive early to listed to the organ music for nearly half an hour. We had popped in earlier in the week and heard them rehearse on the organ. It’s magnificent cadences soar and ring through the massive body of the building. The choir are delightful and sing the original German words of Silent Night, a French carol I have never heard before and Ave Maria by Shubert in addition to our own rendering of traditional carols.
It was really a lovey serviceand the music was serene.

Domestic bliss – 12/17th December 2011

It is very strange once the scenery stops whizzing by, how quickly I become slightly lethargic.

Melbourne itself is a really brilliant city and I can well understand why it is one of the top places to live in. We begin with the free bus tour and tram tours around the city. The information centre in Federation Square is brimming with leaflets to help occupy your time. We pick up loads but I would recommend the little ones which give guided walks around the city. We do the lanes and malls one.

Melbourne has two markets and we visit the nearer one at South Melbourne. Crammed with clothes, fresh veg and loads of meat and fish suppliers it’s a great place to shop.
We are limited to walking everywhere but determine to hire a car soon, so we can go further afield. Walking around Melbourne we alternate between feeling Christmas is a bit of a swizz, because we have no friends and family to buy presents for or to cater for, and feeling Christmas is different but quite exciting over here. We cannot get over the queues waiting to see the David Jones and Myers windows. We loved the ones in Sydney but these do not appeal to us do well.

Some of the decorations around are hilarious, like tying up the TownHall in Ribbons

But for the most part, I work away at my blog, trying vainly to catch up. We play on our computers. Read lots. Go for bike rides, as my friend has two brilliant bikes and walk a lot.

Melbourne -Sunday 11th December 2011

We hardly noticed the lovely parents of my friend leave the house at 7.30 a.m. although we woke about then. We luxuriate in space and comfort, in taking a leisurely breakfast in bed and no itinerary to work out.

We both need ‘me time’. We’ve been inseparable for nearly 6 weeks 24/7 We have been married for 38 years(!) but, of course always working separately. It’s amazing how well we get on.

Our new interest becomes house work! We have not done any for 6 weeks and love stacking the dishwasher, cutting the grass, doing the laundry.

In the afternoon we go to post 12 Christmas cards. I love these with Australian post card scenes and Father Christmas superimposed in cartoon with Australian animals around him.

We work out how to use Apple TV to watch our 2000 photos so far! I pick a lemon from the neighbour’s tree and make the first gin and tonic we’ve had since the beginning of our travels. It’s bliss!


Greyhound journey to Melbourne – Saturday 10th December 2011

Long story short
Greyhound journey was 12 hours overnight.
It’s hard to find a comfy position to sleep.
You are awakened for a ‘break’ just as you go to sleep and have to get off the coach.
You arrive in Melbourne in a dazed state and have to sort out their tram system.
Which is impossible.
My friend had provided excellent clear instruction to navigate to his house.
He has already gone back to England.
His parents have stayed on from New Zealand to greet us.

We are going to stay in this house for one month. The parents go back to New Zeland tomorrow. It’s lovely, but a blooded volcano of a cold sore has erupted on my lip after the long journey.

No photos please!