Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30. Day 334. The LONG way round

In my defense, I was operating on Queensland time. Breakfast on the table at 6.30am SHARP, we were told. No problem I thought right up until the knock on my door warning me that the plates were on the table. Shit. Fortunately I had applied my age old trick of going to bed dressed in shorts and a T shirt so I only had to stagger to the table. At least it meant I was able to conserve every last second of sleep which is what a girl needs after agreeing to the "endurance" option adding 8 kilometers to an already challenging 12.5 kilometres of hills on the Great Ocean Walk. The guides had done their level best to talk us out of it, telling us all the horror stories but we were not to be deterred. Milanesia Gate to Moonlight Head it was. It nearly killed me but it was oh so rewarding. Only when we finished did we find that only about 20 per cent of walkers actually take the extended option and what's more we are the only group to all sign up. Well that sucks. But we saw echidnas and kangaroos and awesome views. I should have known that a walk that includes a landmark called heartbreak hill is going to be a killer. It lives up to its name.
For the record, the day's statistics equalled 32,472 steps and covered 22.11 kilometres which my legs will tell you were all up hill. Temperature 28 degrees AKA stinking hot for walking. Number of flies swallowed 2.

November 29. Day 333. The Great Escape

Ready boots. Start walking. Day one of the long awaited Great Ocean Road Walk. This is always an exciting time when you get to meet your hiking buddies and the guides because they, as much as or perhaps more than the terrain and scenery, is what makes an expedition such as this work and sets the tone. At least with my walking buddy Alison in tow I know I will have someone I get on with even if all the others turn out to be $%^^)*^. About two minutes after reaching the mini bus that was to ferry us over the next four days we realized we were in luck. Only four walkers. All women. The tour that finished today had 10. The one that starts as we leave has 12. This means a lot of personalized attention. Private rooms  instead of twin share and a foot spa for every walker at day’s end. Add gourmet meals, fine wine and scenery to die for, yep this will be okay. Only negative is the flies LOTS of flies. Note to self. Aerogard tomorrow.
Day's vital statistics: Castle Cove to Johanna Beach. 10.5 kilomtres. 20,000 steps. Temperature maximum 20 degress

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November 28. Day 332. City Slicker

The history book shows that the reason  Australia's capital is in Canberra is because the founding fathers could not convince the Sydney and Melbourne factions to agree on where to locate.  in the end the only way to proceed was a compromise position locating the capital between the two.  Perhaps it was a decision that resulted in the best of both worlds. Perhaps it was a compromise that but expediency over possibility. In any event, as a person who lives in none of the cities had my vote counted I would have gone with the harbour city. Indeed I have never understood the Melbourne thing. I have tired of Melbournites moving to Queensland and then doing nothing but whinge about our weather. The assertions about how "nice" Melbourne weather is was certainly not borne out by anything I had experienced on visits. Always cold. Always grey. Always packed with people whose black clothes seemed to match their mood. And then I visited Melbourne in the lead-up to Christmas one year. The streets were alive. The weather was stunning and the twilight long. Finally I got it (not enough to relocate you understand but enough to get what they were one about). So I was happy to return to Melbourne again in the Christmas season. Sure I was only in the city for a night before a walking holiday but a lovely reminder of what the souther capital has to offer.

November 27. Day 331. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Many moons ago, my darling son negotiated me a most awesome deal at a garage sale. He bartered down the price of a Christmas tree dress from $10 to $5. You have to understand that this was a one off, a tinsel and present festooned piece of costuming that had to be seen to be believed. It comes out every Christmas and is now near dead but I can not possibly throw it out until I am sure I have had my $5 worth. I never wear it before December. That would be cheating or so I thought until I arrived at South Bank this evening. Clearly I didn’t get the memo that said  the wildest piece of costuming wither Christmas or super hero encouraged. That dress would have been embraced and here I was wearing shorts and a T Shirt. Shame. It really is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

November 26. Day 330. And not before time


Under the better late than never theory, the walking boots were on and at 6am I was at the base of Mount Cooth-tha ready to walk. Nothing like a hiking holiday in four days to bring with it a sense of great urgency. I could say that the level of preparedness has grown with each day but not without crossing my fingers behind my back and telling a big fat fib. To make matters worse I now have blisters on my feet not from the hiking boots but from a dumb-arse decision to take a long walk yesterday in New dress sandals. Still the weather Gods were at least a little kind. It was a little cooler and less humid today so while the blisters may have been wet, at least the body wasn’t dripping with sweat. That at least is something to be grateful for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

November 25. Day 329. Easily distracted


It doesn't take a lot to distract me. Shiny objects, food, the possibility of sleep - pretty much anything really. And, as this morning proved, being time poor is no protection from distraction. As a journalist, a respect for deadlines should rule but even knowing a live radio segmant was looming I still managed to find myself stopping for a chat on my way to the ABC studios. It wasn't my fault. If Alex hadn't decided to paint a traffic signal box before 6.30 in the morning, I wouldn't have found myself distracted by her. And I wouldn't have had to stop for a chat. And then I wouldn't have gone from running late to running REALLY late to running to the studios. I made it with seconds to spare. And then I headed for home only to be distracted by a noisy miner eating its breakfast and by Alex who was still painting her traffic signal box ...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

November 24. Day 328. Well groomed

Remember when grooming was a good thing? Back in the day grooming was a sign of good breeding, fine personal care and a desire to present the best possible version of yourself to the world. Now grooming is a world often associated with the seedier side of life. The newspapers are full of stories about children being "groomed" for sex by predators.  But I prefer grooming as it used to be. We pay a great deal for good grooming. It does, after all, pay to look your best. It has to be said Rumple makes the groomers earn their keep. Just a couple of hours before his scheduled salon appointment, Rumple was rolling in the dirt on the paths up Mount Cooth-tha.  And after that he decided to have a dip in the local waterholes to turn the dirt to mud. But as always the salon worked wonders and he came home looking like a new man. He was well groomed, indeed.

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23. Day 327. The early bird

Clearly I was never girl guide. Such creatures have the whole "be prepared" thing drilled into them. A girl guide would not wait until less than a week before starting a hiking holiday to start serious training. The goodie two shoes, girl guide would have been like the early bird and been up at the crack of dawn and training. But I wasn't. I was sleeping in. I left it until the last minute. And then I was forced to get serious. Yesterday I was at the base of Mount Cooth-tha at 6am ready to climb. Not bad. But it was already hot so today was earlier so early that the fur friend and faithful walking companion looked at me and went back to bed. The early hour and lack of canine companion had one very clear advantage - the cockatoos were still about and not afraid. They were happily posing for the camera or at least prepared to ignore my presence and continue with searching for breakfast. After all, every well prepared bird knows you have to be early to get the worm.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November 22. Day 326. Need a lift?

 As a much younger man, my baby brother Michael had an oft-used saying: "Need a lift? Go shove a jack up your arse". I am sure he is now far too mature to say such things. Whether he is too mature to think such things is much less certain. In any event, as a confirmed dog lover I am almost certain that the advice would not apply to canines. Besides, his dog is quite capable of walking all by himself and most unlikely to need a lift. The dogs of my household are far less independent. Rumple and Winkle (or Wrinkle as has become their couple name) are rather fond of "the carry". At 10 weeks old Winkle has a valid excuse. Her little legs can't carry her too far and as her first puppy class today revealed she's not too fond of the lead. Not to worry. While she was downstairs at puppy preschool objecting on principle to a lead, I was upstairs at the pet shop buying a puppy pouch. A walk this evening showed that being carried on her daddy's chest was much more to her liking. Rumple also loved the puppy pouch as a small pooch and truth be told he hasn't grown out of the carry stage. This morning he ran all the way up and down Mount Cooth-tha but this evening he decided if Winkle was going to be carried so was he. My left shoulder is well accustomed to the weight of a dog perched parrot like on a walk. He can walk. He chooses not too. It is easy to see who is top dog around here

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 21. Day 325. The heat is on

Instead of a definition involving words, the dictionary should have a picture of my 88-year-old neighbour Margaret next to the word stubborn. They could use the same image for frustrating. It was bloody hot today. Too bloody hot and as is the case in weather conditions such as these we are advised to check on elderly neighbours and relatives. And so I did. Her house was a furnace as would be expected with no air conditioning, no fans, no insulation and no cross ventilation. Things are not helped by the fact that at 4pm all windows are closed to keep the bugs/intruders out. That just manages to trap the heat in. Not for the first time, I volunteered to buy her a fan or fans. Not for the first time she refused point blank. She was more than happy with the breezes, she said. This would be okay if
1) there was any breeze
2) the breeze was cooling and not akin to a fan-forced oven
3) she didn't close all the windows long before the afternoon sea breeze really kicks in
I will buy fans anyway. She will probably refuse to either plug them in or turn them on. They will most likely be returned like the microwave and the panic alarm bracelet before them.
I guess you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Sighs. I may be a good neighbour but unfortunately not a miracle worker.

Friday, November 20, 2015

November 20. Day 324. You've got a friend in me

Remember Toy Story (if you haven't seen it, shame on you)? Remember how threatened, jealous and generally pissed off Woody was when Buzz arrived on the scene. He'd been top dog in the Andy's room and heart and then this usurper arrived. But by the end they'd become besties. Cue "You've Got a Friend in Me".  Well the Woody in our place, the most delightful Rumple, seems to have come to terms with Winkle the new toy in town. Sure, she continues to taunt him and drive him slightly crazy but in their quieter moments they are getting on like a house on fire. They are destined to be besties.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

November 19. Day 323. School's out for ever

The war cry
A pat on the back from class teacher Marcus Brown
The official parade of honour through the school grounds and out the gate
It seriously pisses me off about school awards nights - the same old predictable categories, academic, sporting and service. This narrow description of education misses true grit performance and as such I feel like tonight I was robbed. Because if there had been an award for the most tears shed by a parent of a graduating student I would have had it in the bag. After the second of two graduating ceremonies, I hugged my boy on the school oval and for five minutes neither of us let go and we sobbed. I'm sure an onlooker or two probably muttered to him or herself "For God's sake it's Year 12 and not the Nobel Peace Prize". No it isn't a Nobel prize, it's more than that. For reasons it's not worth going into right now the high school years have not treated us well. There were many, many days when it felt like thinking of a senior certificate was like dreaming the impossible dream. But like the song says "I get knocked down, and I get up  again" and that's how it went. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year. Some reading this may think "why wouldn't you just change schools?" To them I say, I know for sure and certain that the school journey may have been a very rocky road but without the dedication, the compassion and the unflinching support of the staff at St Laurence's,  the road would have been a highway to hell.  The school was NOT part of the problem. The school was most definitely part of the solution. When he fell, there was always a teacher at the school to give him a hand back up. Always. And those same men and women were there today to share in the celebration of a job well done. So yes, watching the graduation brought a lump to my throat and when we had that hug on the oval and Oliver said "we did it, Mum" that's when we both lost it and the tears flowed. Officially it's a piece of paper, a Senior Certificate but it represents so much more than that. And I will never forget the support team who helped make it happen. Some people say when it comes to education you get what you pay for. Perhaps. But I know the returns we received were far, far greater than what I handed over in school fees in six years. To all those who invested time, effort and love, I say thank-you from the bottom of my heart. We will never forget.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 18. Day 322. Fly, little one. Fly

 Proud protective parents standing guard. It's what we do. It's what the birds at South Bank were doing this morning. What I didn't take a photo of was the ibis which was standing at the corner opposite the papa bird. It could have been waiting for its chance to attack. I doubt it. It looked like it was part of the protection team. The village raising the child. Today my "baby" boy attended a final high school retreat where they reflected on graduating and on their school journey. They also received personal letters from their teachers. Those letters made me cry. It made me cry that teachers would take time at this crazy busy period of the school year to write to their students. But what really made me cry was that each letter showed that the teachers knew my son, knew what made him tick and were happy to express their bitter sweet thoughts at letting him and the rest of his flock fly off into the world. It has been a long and often difficult road to this point but having the village help raise the child made it not only possible but all the more rewarding. I can't thank them enough.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 17. Day 321. Joy. Oh Joy

Woo hoo. Last high school assessment EVER started at 1.45pm today. By just after 2pm it was done. You have no idea just how exciting that is (you probably do if you have a teen who has been there/ done that). I have this vague memory of that post school exam feeling - this relief, excitement and exhaustion tinged with blind terror at the future. But there's time for that. For today is a time for celebration and jumping in the pool fully dressed in the school uniform.

Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16. Day 320. Fire!

At best you would have to describe it as an uncanny coincidence. At worst, deeply suspicious. Call it what you will but I seem to have developed a knack of turning up to fires before the fire engines arrive with the "proper" camera around my neck. Today was number three after the Musgrave Park tent embassy fire and the smouldering wreck next to the Greek Club. If I didn't know better - and I most certainly do - it would sound like pyromaniac tendencies. Today's fire was just a few doors up from my Mum's place. As I approached the house, I saw a long line of cars stopped outside like she was having a party and forgot to invite me. Then I saw the flames. I pulled over, grabbed the camera and the dog and joined the other residents taking in the excitement for the afternoon.  Two things struck me. Despite the fact that there was almost certainly fuel involved, no-one seemed terribly concerned about keeping their distance. And then there was the boot. As they doused the flames the firefighters opened the car doors and then the boot removing a pram. It just makes you realise there are far worse things than your parked car catching fire. Now, note to self. If you must keep finding fires and insist on getting up close and personal to take photos, how about you remember the asthma puffer? The fire fighters have breathing apparatus. The photographer does not. Remember that.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15. Day 319. Snail's pace

It has been a slow crawl to the finish line. With a noon Monday deadline, marking should have been done and dusted but that hasn't been the way it has played out. If slow and steady really does win the race, this is officially a gold medal performance. While getting the marking millstone from around the neck would seem like an incentive to race like a hare, my reaction is more tortoise. Much more. So instead of knocking off the last of it this morning, I was down beside the pool with a young visitor who was fascinated by two tiny snails. I admit her curiosity and fascination with the snails was considerably more inviting than the prospect of yet more papers. She reminded me of mini me, who also loved every little slug and snail. This little one would have had at least one snail in her pocket to take home if her mum hadn't put her foot down (fortunately not on a snail). I would happily have gifted her an assignment ....

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 14. Day 318. On the ball

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             It used to be that the pool was the big drawcard around our place that would magnetically attract the relatives. But over recent months most of my family have moved into homes with pools of their own. We do, however, still have a (not-so) secret attraction also beginning with P.  The new puppy Winkle is just crying out for a cuddle and is drawing the relatives to our front door. I am sure that most would agree she has to be seen to be believed. The thing is that puppy or no puppy, pool or no pool there is one low tech item in the garden that also has an almost irresistible pulling power. When you see a basketball hoop and a ball it's almost impossible not to take a shot. It's just the way it is even when there's a puppy to cuddle.

Friday, November 13, 2015

November 13. Day 317. Patience is a virtue

If I was to say that Rumple was put out by the appearance in the house of a new pup it would be an understatement. But there is no way I could overstate just how patient he has been with the pint-sized invader in the days since. She has taken to trying to chew his ear off not in the metaphoric sense of talking at him until his ear is worn off from overuse but in the literal sense. He puts up with it. She tries to suckle on him. He puts up with it. She chases him and jumps on him and steals food from his bowl and he just lets her. Rumple could get away. Winkle can not jump on the furniture or escape through the doggy door and a couple of times today he has taken refuge on the bed but most of the time he just puts up with her and her crazy version of puppy love. If he was going to snap today would have been the day. She didn't let up all day. She threw everything at him she even managed to commit the ultimate indignation. He had snuck into the bathroom while I showered and walked off with a pair of dirty knickers which in Rumple terms is about as good a prize as it gets. She took them from him. Even then, with such extreme provocation, he didn't snap. The fact that he didn't tells me they will be the very best of buddies. I hope so. He's done everything he can to make the relationship work.