Wednesday, 27 April 2011


After visiting Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra we were looking forward to seeing what Melbourne had to offer and how it compared to the other “big cities” of Oz.  We were staying with Helen in Upper Beaconsfield and she kindly dropped us off at the train station and we duly caught our train into Melbourne - an hours journey - seeing the sites you only ever see from a train …. the graffiti, scrap yards, rubbish dumps etc etc. 
When we got to Melbourne we wandered about like headless chooks (or chickens to you pommies!!!) for a while finally finding ourselves at the harbour.  It was a fairly nice day and we enjoyed looking at the boats and the very odd ‘cow in a tree’ sculpture which apparently is a reminder of floods and how cows have actually got stuck up trees.
Cow up the Tree!!

We decided that it was just too much like hard work to try walking around the city, so we hopped on a tram which took us around (free of charge) and gave a commentary of where we were and what we might see in the area.  We got off the tram when about the heard “Captain Cook’s Cottage” and managed to make our way to the cottage which had been transported in 1934 brick by brick from Great Ayton (not far from our home in Redcar) to Melbourne.  A quaint little cottage with hedges and roses and typical of the Yorkshire cottages we still see today - although obviously this one was a very un-modernised version having being restored to it’s original mid-18th century appearance.  

After the tour around the cottage (which took about 5 minutes!) we jumped back on the tram to finish our circuit of the city, had a look around some shops, and did a fair bit of ‘people watching’ while we enjoyed a cuppa and muffin.  Seemed to us that Melbourne was full of young people who were there to socialise - the street cafes were ‘chockablock’, the streets were full of people just walking and talking - and to be honest - we’d had enough - so we caught the train back to the quietness of the countryside!  A sign of getting old?  Or just a realisation that shopping is not so much fun when you know that you really don’t need anything, have no room to put it, would have to pay excess luggage to get it back to UK and actually really don’t need anything extra anyway! 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


This may not be my normal sort of blog episode - but I want to write about Helen.

Our memories of her and a little bit about her life as she told us.  She’s a really remarkable woman who I just know my writings will not do justice to.  I hope it’s not too boring for you! 

We met Helen at Tathra back in mid March when she literally bounded around to our caravan door and introduced herself.  We invited her in and had a cuppa together … she was in a little van next to ours, she was by herself, had towed the van the 560 kms to Tathra (on the east coast) from her home in Upper Beaconsfield in Victoria and, over the years, had travelled far and wide.  She owns and works her farm by herself, her husband having died several years ago.  Nothing unusual in that you may think - except Helen is 72 years of age and at the age of 40 she was told she wouldn’t live to see her 45th birthday.  She has treated herself with herbs, natural remedies and colour therapy and the doctors really can’t explain how she‘s still alive! 

We spent a fair bit of time with Helen at Tathra then accidentally bumped into her again further on south at Malacoota when we saw her in a hotel having a meal.  We joined her and then walked her back to her van at the end of the evening.  She made us laugh when she couldn’t quite remember which site she was on and plodded through a huge muddy puddle - laughing her socks off as she went!  She had more life in her than Geoff and I put together!  When we said goodbye she gave us her address and phone number and said we were welcome to stay on her farm if ever we got stuck for somewhere to stay.  We promised we would be in touch. 

After our time at Phillip Island we had a few days before we were due to meet up with my cousin Geoff and Janelle in Healesville.  Helen’s place was just about an hour away from there, so we gave her a call and arranged to visit.  When we drove up the dirt track to her farm Geoff was awestruck!  The views and the whole aspect of the farm was totally amazing.  “I’m gonna love it here” is all he kept saying!
Helen has been through two devastating bush fires - the first one back in 1980 something, when she was the last one to leave the area alive, completely destroyed her home and the majority of her belongings.  She was able to rescue just a few of her family heirlooms.  Many of her neighbours were killed in the fires, there being 179 in total in the region who died.  When she returned to her completely burnt home - now just a pile of ashes, and devastated farm, she arranged for an old railway Guards Van to be delivered - that’s where she lived for 3 years while her house was re-built. She only had enough money to buy the stone and pay the stone mason - she did all the labouring herself.  She didn’t have any running water or electricity during that time.

Our van down by the Guards Carriage
In addition to the cottage being built, she had a 10,000 gallon concrete tank buried out front…..THE BUNKER!.  They’re not going to get me again she laugh’s… fitted out with all the furniture basics, and a stock of tinned food…running water… tv and radio… bless her …. (was that a bottle of brandy there?)…….


Helen's shed on Narbathon property

Recovering trees after bush fire
Two years ago another of her properties at Narbathon 60km’s north was burnt to the ground during bush fires, which were supposedly started by a local fireman would you credit!!.   Helen took us up to the property which is still in a sorry state.  But the trees, with the black, burnt trunks are starting to show signs of life again.  She has built a shed on the land and has started clearing the bush (with  local help) to make room for the new home she plans to build there.  Helen just loves the trees and the Australian bush and gets so excited to see the progress, and her beloved property coming back to life, albeit very very slowly.  
New Life
It’s impossible to imagine the feelings of total fear and helplessness as you see a fire raging towards you at 60kms per hour.  Where to go?  How to get out?  What can I take with me?  Will I survive?  … How do you ever get over that - I don’t know.

On top of all that,  two years ago her daughter died aged 45 under very sad and suspect circumstances - the police didn’t want to know, and recorded the death as suicide.  While we were there Helen was able to start going through some of her daughter’s belongings - something she hadn’t been able to do up to that point.  It’s a start. 
Helen has an absolutely wicked sense of humour - she certainly made a match for Geoff.  After our time in Healesville we returned to Helen’s farm for the Easter period.  We were able to help her out in small ways, and Geoff was able to sharpen tools, get her tractor working again, cut grass, fix gates, make a rake thing which could be attached to the back of her ride on lawn mower to collect the sticks and fallen stringy bark, and lots of other little jobs.  She was over the moon.  She loved the company, although she describes herself as a bit of a hermit, I think she enjoyed sharing and reminiscing about her life and family.    She took us to meet her sister and see their fantastic underground house (no bushfires will get them!) and rescued wallabies they care for. 

She reckons we were sent by God to help her.  I reckon She’s been an inspiration to us - she allowed us to be a part of her life for a short time, and shared with us in such a lovely open way that we will never ever forget our time with Helen.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Two Out of Three Aint Bad

Phillip Island
Phillip Island
Now - most of you will know of the three great loves in my life (not including my family of course!)  So during our 6 days on Phillip Island in Victoria I came face to face with two of the three - both on the same day … a day made in heaven - the ‘bestest’ day of my life - fandabbydosey - can we do it again - I don’t want this day to end - … etc etc

If you’ve read previous blogs you’ll have heard my gripe about the cost of chocolate in Australia - and it doesn’t even taste like proper chocolate!  Honestly it’s got a different taste - not as creamy and yummy - which is probably a good thing coz of my diabetes.  (Think they put something in it so it doesn’t melt in the heat they’re supposed to have here!)  However, on Phillip Island there’s this Chocolate Factory called Pannys … Willy Wonka has nothing on this factory!   (A few more doses of insulin and I’ll be fine!)  This chocolate is proper chocolate.  Absolutely gorgeous.  Yummy. Deeeeelicioussssssssss!   I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking!
Michelangelo's 'David' - made of solid chocolate

Mosaic of Dame Edna Everage - made from individual chocolates
Train set - yes completely made of chocolate
A ton .... full ton ... of solid chocolate ... yummy!!!
Happy Happy Happy .... got a free sample!
Chocolate Penguins!
My chocolate - made by me .. Geoff says that's why we don't have cats!
The same evening we went to the Penguin Parade … we’d been warned it would be cold so I had on a pair of leggings followed by tracky trousers, 3 tee-shirts and a sweatshirt, and the scarf I knitted the other week!  Geoff was well wrapped up too - but we were still cold!  Anyway - there must have been about 200 people sitting on these concrete steps on the beach from about 5.30 pm waiting for the sun to set when the fairy penguins (or little penguins as they are also known) would come out of the sea and make their way to their homes for the night.  You heard them before you actually saw them - making a right racket they were for such tiny animals.  They waddled across the beach in little groups - very very carefully, looking out for danger.  Any sudden noise, or bird flying overhead they would stop and wait, dead still, until they were sure they were not in any danger.  It was a bit difficult to see them with it being so dark and them being so tiny and black - or actually more like a bluey colour, but you could make them out waddling up out of the sea and across the beach like little old men - they just needed miniature zimmer frames to help them along!!  We then walked along the board walks and watched the penguins slowly making their way to their little homes along their own little paths through the bushes etc.  The fairy penguins are only about 13 inches tall, and some of them walk 2 kms once they're out of the sea to get to their burrow.  Tough little fellas they are!  
The penguin houses
The whole area is a big conservation area and the penguins are very well protected - hence no photography was allowed so I’m afraid there’s no actual pictures of the Penguin Parade - sorry.  There is one of a penguin in his little house which we were able to snap a couple of days previously when we’d gone for a walk and were fortunate enough to spot him.  
You can just make out the penguin inside his little house
In the shop!
I know you’re all now wondering what my third love is …. unfortunately Cliff Richard wasn’t holidaying on Phillip Island this week …. (Can I hear the groans and moans now??!!)

Friday, 1 April 2011

Cabin Fever

So - we’ve spent 7 months in a caravan - and not once have I said “I’m bored” … there’s always been something to do, somewhere to go, someone to talk to either in person or friends and family back home on face book, telephone or Skype.  I’ve had the odd days when I’ve really missed the lads, family, Church - and yes - even work to some extent - I suppose the feeling of being useful and needed.  But I’ve never, in the whole seven months, felt that I want to do something so badly - but not known what it is that I want to do, or have the ‘get up and go’ to get up and do it!

Tonight though - well - I know what Cabin Fever is.  And I checked Dictionary.Com to make sure it was what I thought it was - and it is!  (noun … a state characterized by anxiety, restlessness, and boredom, arising from a prolonged stay in a remote or confined place - dictionary dot com)

We're staying in Lakes Entrance which is beautiful, and today we’ve had a lovely day out - visiting a couple of local towns, (well local as in within 50km radius - that’s about as local as things get in Oz!) having a wander around some shops at Bairdsdale, lunch with a black swan and some very noisy and greedy gulls at Metung…. visited a beautiful Homestead where I could quite happily live for the rest of my life (providing all my family and friends move over here too of course!), with views over the Lakes.  Absolutely beautiful!

Since we came back to the caravan I’ve brought the washing in from the line, folded and put away (no ironing - if it’s creased - put it to the bottom of the pile and hope the creases flatten out by the time you come to wear it again!); done a little bit of beading - but the light went so ended out squinting and couldn’t bead any more; played Monopoly Millionaires and Bejewelled on face book (not very well so gave that up as a bad job); chatted to Mark (Oz), Helen (UK) and Sheree (Oz) on face book - not all at once - so that took a while - isn’t modern technology wonderful - chatting to Helen in UK from Australia - (morning there, evening here); text Donna to see if baby making any signs of putting in an appearance yet (he/she isn't ... must be a boy as he's late and obviously far too comfortable where he is!) and phoned Dad; caught up on the couple of blogs I’m following - Sarah’s… she’s so talented - makes my blogs seem very mundane, and Nigel & Amanda’s … what a fantastic time they seem to be having in America; cooked tea - not very exciting - scrambled eggs on toast tonight; washed up and put away (not that there was much to wash up from scrambled eggs on toast mind!) and made endless cups of coffee for Geoff and hot water for me. 

It’s too dark to do my cross stitch or beading, I’m not in the mood for reading my book, I finished knitting my scarf yesterday …. yes, I’ve been knitting - I haven’t knit anything since before Carl was born 24 years ago!  Admittedly it’s only a scarf but I’m actually quite proud of my scarf - I wanted it to be chilly today so I could wear it - but the sun’s been shining.  I did have to ask in a craft shop for a reminder on how to cast off after a dream the other night that my scarf was about 43ft long ‘cause I couldn’t cast off and Elaine wouldn’t tell me how!  Geoff suggested a walk - but my foot’s been playing up and I can’t walk very far without being in pain so didn’t want to do that either.  A drink over at the Bowls Club - nahhhh… can‘t be bothered. 

So what’s left to do?   I refuse to go to bed before 8pm - not long to go now - but actually I’m really not that tired.  I bought a dart board and some darts the other day from the Op Shop (or charity shop) but it’s probably not very wise to play darts in the van - Geoff’s job for tomorrow is to fix somewhere safe for me to play. 

Hmmm - just thought - we haven’t been fishing today - maybe I’m getting withdrawal symptoms?????   Have I mentioned lately that I’m catching all the fish - oh and a couple of swimming crabs last night!