Firewirks over Sydney Opera House

Firewirks over Sydney Opera House

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Boxing Day Test

After a perfect Christmas Day, what do 4 sports lovers do on Boxing Day in Melbourne?? Yep, the legendary Boxing Day test match at the MCG. We were bubbling with excitement as we joined the throngs of people flooding towards the ground.

We all wore Wednesday shirts for the crack. It gets you noticed and we met several other Wednesday fans in the ground. 2 people actually came over to have their photos taken with us!


The ground is huge. Holds over 100,000. Probably because the Aussies had already beaten us back in Perth, it was not full, just the 88,000 people there!! Which made it all the more remarkable that I bumped into 2 blokes I know! Well, they both spotted the Wednesday shirt then realised it was me. One was a manager from the Council which was amusing.

God was it hot though?! As we walked in I thought to myself "I hope we're not sitting in the shade back here". 1 hour later when the sun had crept over us to stay, burning and cloudless, I was dreaming about shade. It was relentless. Hats and sunscreen essential. All you could do was sit as still as possible and drink plenty of the watery, over-priced beer.

The cricket itself was pretty dull. Saw some wickets but then it settled into nothingness. I can't blame the players, how they could run in that oven I do not know. The Barmy Army was hilarious though, magnificent singing and support.

The Aussies are rubbish at singing to the frustration of some. They only have "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oy Oy Oy". Snooze...

It must be our national football training. I particularly enjoyed (and joined in with) the traditional word perfect rendition of Jerusalem in the second over of the day. The boys missed it as they had joined the supposedly faster queue for folk with no bags....haaa ha ha! Also good was the national anthem with all the "our"s changed to "your"s. As in "God save YOUR gracious Queen" etc etc.  Got a few bites....

What a great day and a bucket list item ticked off.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

A Melbourne Christmas

Here we are on our first afternoon in Melbourne - Ackland Street, St Kilda to be exact- famous for it's lively pubs, bars and restaurants and.....cake shops!!

We were staying in an AirBNB house just round the corner which was perfect. Beautifully decorated, well provisioned with a pretty terrace garden with BBQ for Christmas  Day lunch. So much nicer than a hotel over Christmas.

Handy for the tram too.

And the beach.

St Kilda is a brilliant, quirky place with loads of pubs and restaurants of every conceivable type of cuisine.

On Christmas Eve night I had booked a fancy  meal in a beachfront restaurant a few miles down the coast called The Cerberus on Half Moon Bay. It is run by my old hairdresser from Sheffield and her husband. It was nice to briefly catch up with her and the food was just heavenly!

I'm no foodie reviewer like Seren and can't really remember what we had but the snapper was gorgeous and nothing was left!

Christmas Day was bright but rather breezy. The only hint of Christmas was the santa hats being worn by the bikini'd and board-shorted backpackers.  Those and a T-shirt which read "It's the most wonderful time for a beer" which tickled me.

We had a lovely stroll along the boardwalk, all the time marvelling at the fact of a warm Christmas.

And a paddle too.

The iconic Banksia tree. I love these and have brought a polished cone home with me as a keepsake.

The view over the bay towards the CBD which we had yet to explore.

Another Christmas novelty - the boys cooking Christmas lunch. Obviously Carolyn and I prepared all the salads and did all the marinading etc etc but hey, give him their glory. I didn't fancy standing behind a hot grill in that sunshine!

Those prawns were pure delicious.

It was the perfect Christmas Day - exactly as we'd imagined it. And that doesn't happen often does it? A scrummy meal, lying out in the sun listening to music and drinking wine.

And finishing the evening off with a cutthroat few games of dominoes and cards. No telly! It was very liberating.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Scores on the doors and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

I knew last week had not been a great "first week" so it was tough to make myself step on those scales this morning but I want to keep this going so I had no choice. The result is a solitary lb off - 17.8.6. I'll take it. On the basis that I need to make future weeks count.

Also, given the stress we've had looking after poochlet, if I hadn't being trying last week, I have no doubt that I would have gained so a lb off is not bad.

Now the stress is off for now I must knuckle down and get running as well as severely cut back on the booze.

Food wasn't too bad. I kept thinking I'd have some contraband item but somehow managing not to when push came to shove.

I'm in the office today and meetings over lunchtime so no walking possible. Which means I will make time for an evening run when I get home.  Not far but 25 mins or so of sweating.

Below are pictures of our day at The Olgas. After watching the sun rise over Uluru, we headed to Kata Tjuta and hiked through the Canyon of the Winds. The sun hadn't made it through the canyon when we started and the huge walls loomed ahead of us.

Eventually it became sunny and warmed up a bit. We enjoyed the birds and flowers and spotted a group of kangaroos but too far away for a decent photo.

It was a stunning walk and I only wish we had time to spend longer there. Most of Kata Tjuta is "closed" due to being so sacred to aborigine men but there are 2 permitted sites. I would have loved to see the other one.

Then onto the viewing area. Photos do not do justice to the enormity of the range and the strangeness of it, sitting in thousands of miles of nothingness a few miles from Uluru.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

The wonderful Uluru

I've been to Ayers Rock before in 1988 when I worked at Curtin Springs while travelling round Australia on my gap year. The owner and his dad, Ashley and Peter Severin brought us out on the back road from their station and showed us the old motel which Peter had helped build back in the 1950s.

Ironically, our coach driver on this trip told us more about the family than we learned in the 2 months we worked there! How they moved to the station and then had to endure 9 years of drought (which explains why Peter worked construction for a spell). How they lived under a thatched bower for years before they could afford to build their house and roadhouse bar. I was so excited to be back and see everything again.

It did not disappoint. When we were here in the 1980s, the attitude to the aborigines who live in this most harsh environment was pretty horrific. Disrespectful, downright racist and dismissive. It was like the people who had lived there for 40,000 years had nothing to do with the place.

The aboriginal tribes refused to share their histories and knowledge of the land and terrible breaches of human rights occurred daily.

As an 18 year old who had been raised in post-colonial West Africa, I was shocked but not enough to object or even address the issue critically in my own mind. Jenny and I discussed it but just figured it was what it was. I've often felt a little guilty, uneasy about my attitude back then, how easily I was led. (Although I would not say I personally did anything wrong or was anything other than respectful to the indiginous people I dealt with most days.)

Now though I was pleased to see that attitudes have undergone a sea change in the last 10/15 years. Our various guides told us the histories, shared aboriginal beliefs and stories and knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area. The 4 tribes of the Red Centre (their names are impossibly long and difficult to spell so I will spare you) now own the land and sacred sites are by and large respected. Climbing of the rock will not happen by next year and fewer and fewer people do it anyway. I climbed it back in 1988 but think this way is better.

Truthfully, while some of the information you're given could seem a tad earnest or politically correct, on the whole hearing it made the whole experience immeasurably richer than when I was there last. Then, we were visiting and climbing a socking great rock in the middle of nowhere. Now we were looking through a window into a different world; a 40,000 year old world where nothing we know makes any difference to life.  Amazing.

And it is a socking great rock. It takes your breath away up close. The colours and shapes, ridges and waterholes. Beautiful.

After a few hours hiking round part of the base, we headed over to the sunset viewing area and scarfed down wine and nibbles watching the sun go down over the rock.

Then up at crack of dawn (coaches left at 4.45am) to see the sunrise again.

There was a bit of hanging round watching things become slightly less grey, but eventually that light creeps over the horizon and the rock lights up. Despite hundreds of people, the desert swallows you up and it felt pretty private and very special.

So, if you get the chance, go to Uluru but also take the extra day and go to Kings Canyon too. We couldn't or we would have been arriving in Melbourne on Christmas Eve afternoon but I would have liked to have gone there.