Thursday, 19 October 2017

Alive 18,993 days - give or take a day or two

2014, I spent my birthday in the exotic surrounds of bustling Kathmandu (including a rather morbid couple of hours watching bodies being burnt at Pashupatinath Temple  - one of the most sacred Hindu temples of Nepal on both banks of the Bagmati River).

For 2015 (and the BIG FIVE O NO), we were in Jaipur, India and visited the stunning Amber (Amer) Fort and had a fabulous dinner in the evening.

Last year was spent, in the not quiet as glamorous Bendigo, but had a great long weekend doing the Blues Tram and visiting several attractions.

And so this year my 52 birthday slipped quietly by without actually going anywhere!  Not strictly correct.  Aitana arrived on the 7th, so lots on. Visited the long awaited Leisurefest the 8th and happily pottered around poking and opening everything in the 100's of caravans on display.  From slide out pantries, swivelling loos, full size showers to every mod con you could imagine.  Caravans have come a long way! I just can't wait to pack up and drive off into the sunset in one.  Makes the $8,000 practice vans we're looking at seem rather unglamorous, but gotta start somewhere. 

Party pies, pizza, bubbles and cake with family rounded off the night. I saw nothing wrong with my improvised birthday candle.

The 9th dawned grey and drizzly (similar to me - grey and grizzly).  How have I possibly had 52 of these??  But a tick off the list awaited.  Ride Puffin Billy.

A bit of history.  The line between Belgrave and Gembrook, opened on 18 December 1900 and operated over 18.2 miles (29km) between Upper Ferntree Gully and Gembrook until 1953. In 1953, a landslide blocked the track and, because of operating losses, the line was closed. But who doesn't love a good old choo choo train and sure enough, public interest resulted in the formation of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society, whose volunteers along with the assistance of the Citizens' Military Forces, by-passed the landslide and reopened the line to Menzies Creek in 1962, Emerald in 1965, Lakeside in 1975 and finally to Gembrook in October 1998.  Toot Toot, Puffin Billy was off and running again.

So setting off from Belgrave we settled into our first class carriage for a three course lunch through the lush forests, fern gullies and farmlands of the magnificent Dandenong Ranges.  The lunch was excellent  - a pleasant surprise.  Short stop at Lakeside for a stroll around and to watch the thieving kookaburras - I've seen seagulls dive bomb for chips but never kookaburras.  Back on board for the relaxing journey back to Belgrave with dessert and coffee.  Could really have done with a bunk for a little siesta after managing to polish off a glass of bubbles and 3/4 bottle of red.

Birthday done and dusted for another year.

Could happily live in one of these!
That candle.
Ready to board PB

Didn't get to hang my legs over!

Apparently if you do this, it removes a double chin

Monday, 16 October 2017

A child of the 80's trying to relive her youth

I don't really listen to much music these days, much less go and see many of the touring bands, although Adele earlier in the year was fantastic.  So after last night, I was reminiscing about my earlier music tastes.
From listening to my mum and dads albums which were a mix of Spanish and English pop songs, I moved on to ABBA, BCR's, David Essex, KISS and Queen.  Posters of David, Paul and Woody in particular adorned my walls and am I the only one who practice kissed on them?  Hope not, otherwise that statement is a bit embarrassing.
The 1980's hit and I fell in love with the New Romantics.  A bunch of bands that came out of the UK and dressed way too cool for school!  I loved them all, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Classic Nouveaux, Culture Club, Ultravox, Simple Minds, ABC, Visage and yep, even a Flock of Seagulls. Bedroom was re-decorated with my new faves (sorry David, I kept your pic up the longest). By then, I had started working part time at KFC, so all my hard earned money went on albums and magazines- oh and chips.  

But my fave band at that time was Adam and the Ants.  I know he has denied being a New Romantic, but hey, if the ruffled shirt fits.  Adam was just the coolest, sexiest man in leather pants around and he applied eye liner way better than I did.  In my dreams we fell madly in love, got married and had cute kids.  Was it strange that he was 11 years older and I was 15?  Nope.  So really 11 year olds drooling over a 15 year old Justin is reasonable.  It's perfectly clear now who the original Jack Sparrow was (and he's a bit of alright too).

So when I heard that Adam Ant (sans Ants) was touring, I grabbed a couple of tix. Emi wasn't that keen, so Aitana came along with me.  We headed to the Palais theatre last night filled with eager anticipation (mainly from me) and I was rather impressed that Aitana had been listening to a few of his old hits on You Tube.

He started off by playing all the songs off the Kings of the Wild Frontier album which was their second, released in November 1980, first came Dog Eat Dog and moving on to the classic favourite Ant Music.  Then went on to play a few other songs from the other albums including Prince Charming, Ant Rap,  Stand and Deliver and Dirk wears white socks.  It's amazing how all the words come back and most of the audience were singing along to many of the songs. 
The band was pretty good, especially the two drummers with full kits providing that classic Burundi style beat and had the crowd bopping around.

Prince Charming
No white stripe on my nose this time around!
Has he still got that swagger?  Well he was still dressed in tight leather pants, high boots, a pirate hat, the brocade jacket and the scarves.  Some of the moves are still there and it's great to see he's still got plenty of energy for a about-to-turn 63 year old!  Yep, he really is that old.  He's lost the weight he had gained a few years ago and looking healthier than a few recent pictures of him.  So yep, I reckon he's still got that je ne sais quoi or chutzpah.  Or it could just be my failing eyesight. Must go back and drool/take a look at some of those old classic videos. 


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Sometimes you just find a little bit of Spain in the strangest places

It's been nearly 18 months since our last overseas holiday - and I'm having withdrawal symptoms.  The only solution - mini breaks!  Sun shining on the warmest day so far this spring, we set off for Warragul - Emi, Belinda (year-of-yes Dane), Lola and I.

Warragul is around 100 km away, so not too far.  Apparently named after an Aboriginal word meaning "wild dog", population around 15,000.  First stop, delish burgers at Frankie's Café (fair share of those 15,000 seem to be here).  Can't pass up a good burger.  Emi went for a massage, the girls went for a stroll.  Nice little town.

5 minutes out of town, the smaller town of Nilma and Bloomfield Cottages - our home for the night.  Gorgeous spot with our own welcoming party of goats and sheep.  Lola put on a brave front and scared them away.  Chickens.  No I mean there were chickens as well.

On to Brandy Creek Estate in Drouin for our Paella Festival. The place is lovely with views over the vines and valley.  Currently owned by a Sri Lankan family, it retains the original owners Spanish heritage with lots of pictures, paintings and photos - not to mention the Tempranillo vines. A little bit of Spain in the middle of the countryside - ole!

Pretty good value with a mixed entrée platter each of Spanish style tapas, followed by 5 large assorted paellas.  A few unusual ingredients, including one with pork and the crackle piled up in a heap in the middle. Can't go past a bit of crackle.  Another one had quail eggs and beef (cheeks maybe).  The others more "traditional" with chicken and chorizo, seafood and veggies.  Must say very generous with their ingredients and plenty to go around.  Dessert again consisted of a tasting plate - with churros of course.  You get a glass of wine included (tried the sparkling tempranillo) and as we were in the first 10 bookings it was $65 each - normally $78. 

Entertainment was a couple of flamenco dancers and I've forgotten the lovely ladies name - her enthusiasm was infectious and there may have been a bit of merry dancing including a tango.  The knee did not thank me in the morning, but the wine certainly dulled the pain at the time.

Great night, recommended and planning on heading back one Sunday for lunch as the place must be beautiful on a sunny afternoon.

Sunday morning dawned grey and wet, but nice to wake up to a rooster.  The male chicken outside was pretty noisy as well.  B had spotted that the Craft Market happened to be on at Lardner Park - bit of luck, I've never been and the rain stopped.  So stroll around and then settled in for lunch.  Discovered gigantic duck spring rolls - delish.  Assorted food items and homeward bound.  An enjoyable weekend of eating and drinking in the countryside and several of ticks off the list.
Home on the range (Bloomfield Cottage)

 High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

Missed the veggie one!

Pants were up, so no idea about the look on Emi's face

Admiring the art

Pork and Apple paella - that's a new one

A bit of dancing

Sunday, 1 October 2017

30 September - a special day, not just because the Tigers won

It's been nearly six months since we lost our bubba Lucas and today would have been his lucky 13th birthday.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of him and I still miss him dearly.  This morning on the beach with Lola we saw two gorgeous two year old cockers running along, tongues out, ears flapping in the wind and bums wagging their entire bodies.  I burst into tears.  So many memories of Lucas doing just that, the joy clearly written on his face.

I read an interesting article today "The science behind why some people love animals and others couldn’t care less."  Written by John Bradshaw  - a Fellow in Anthrozoology, University of Bristol, it was an interesting read. He suggests that for most owners "pets are not a luxury but an integral and deeply loved part of the family and while some people are into pets, others simply aren’t interested." Why is this the case?  Why indeed.  I've seen the look on peoples faces who can't really understand how you can be so upset about losing "just a dog".  Or the other pearler, "just get another one".  But I've also had strangers who do understand shed tears as they too remember some precious lost furbaby.

I'm glad I'm one of those who love and treat their furry, feathered or scaled pets as important members of the family. Yes they can be exasperating, naughty and expensive at times (as Lola once again rakes her nails down my shin to remind me that she'd there and wants immediate scratching), but they give so much.

So will we get another doggy?  One day.  For now we have our adorable Lola.  She has changed. Apart from (like me) putting on weight (no Lucas to polish off her dinner or scoff all the treats), she's taken on some of his traits.  Like barking.  She never barked - that was Lucas's job.  But now she has become the defender of the home, our protector and doorbell.  Where as once it was Lucas who was my constant shadow, now I find Lola on the bathmat when I'm in the shower.  She's loving the extra attention - especially the kisses and cuddles and we are just enjoying every precious minute we have with her.

Happy Birthday my beautiful bubba.

If there was water about, Lucas would be in it

This pic pretty much sums up their feelings towards one another!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Joy of Sex

Been feeling NQR on and off for a few months now. Blood pressure has crept up, weight gain, ankles swelling, having to get up to pee in the middle of the night (that sucks big time - means a loo in the caravan is no longer looking like a luxury) and getting the runs (Emi would say I often give him the shits).

Several tests and visits to the doc later, heart is great, blood tests all good, cholesterol levels excellent and bowels clear.  It can only mean one thing. Yep, old age and the M word - menopause.  It's not the actual getting old that sucks - after all the alternative is not good.  It's all the crap that goes with it.

So with my 52 birthday fast approaching, I thought I'd make a list (just call me the list queen) of all the fabulous, freaking awesome things that go with being over 50.

3 hours later.......was a bit hard to think of anything, but then I got onto a roll:

1. Leg hair grows so much slower - which is good because it leaves more time to pluck those little black buggers from your chins  - all three of them.

2. The red hair dye takes to the grey hairs much better - instant contrasting.

3. All out of fucks to give.

4. You can get away with being a bit crazy - young people look at you with pity - but see 3 above.

5. I don't really care if my knickers match my bra.  And if either are uncomfortable, they are going straight into the bin.  Same goes for un-comfy shoes.

6. No FOMO anxiety or envy - sure I have my list, but hey.  Staying home on a Saturday night is perfect.

7. No desire to follow fashion whatsoever.  Oh hang on, that was me 30 years ago as well.

8. You can hand your new mobile to a 12 year old and they set it all up for you.

9. You can joke with sexy young men on the tram and they don't think you're flirting with them.

10. Going to Leisurefest to look at caravans on 8 October can be marked in red texta on the calendar as a highlight.

11. I'm more observant and no longer take things for granted.  Bit deep I know, but it's true!

12. YOLO doesn't mean bungy jumping, but it does mean making the most of every day - even doing nothing one day, cos you just can't be fucked.

13. Turning 50 was tough, so after that it's gonna be a breeze - at least until 60 approaches.

14. Goodbye tight skinny jeans, hello elastic waistbands!

15. Nanna naps. Not because you got home at 6am, but because you got up at 6am and need a siesta by the time 3pm rolls around.

15.  50 is the new.....oh forget it who cares.

Look at that - I repeated 15.  See number 3 above. Oh and why was this post titled The Joy of Sex? No reason - just sounded better than the Joy of being Nearly 52.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A Day on the Rails

In all the time we've lived in Melbourne, I had never been on a V/Line train.  So of course it was on the list along with riding the Victorian Goldfields Railway steam train.  Happy days - Scoopon (gotta love a bargain) put out a voucher for the VGR, so it was time to rope in a few participants and plan a day out.

Sunday 20 August dawned cold, but with a bit of sun.  Off I set onto my first train trip of the day - Brighton Beach to Southern Cross.  Scheduled meeting time 9.20am.  The Old Duck was the star when she turned up with a bottle of Bailey's.  Coffee duly fortified (for warmth of course), we boarded our V/Line train to Castlemaine.  Much flashier than the usual metro trains - woo hoo a tick off the list

Old Duck "topping up"
The trip was fun - possibly aided by the Bailey's - that sucker was never leaving the train in anything but our belly's. With Met Boy in charge of logistics and some info from a fellow passenger and train fanatic (who knew they were such a large/weird bunch) we soon pulled into Castlemaine.  And there she sat, puffing and steaming away (no not Carol, she was with us). 

Not enough time to do a quick tour of Castlemaine, (future trip) and it was all aboard the steam train.  Where to sit?  Open area near the dance floor or in a carriage?  Carriage it was.  Sofia (the only one not drinking Bailey's) ensured we were all accounted for and present by doing a roll call as we took off.  Now "took off" might indicate that we pulled out of the station with some speed.  Not quiet.  We rolled out at a very sedate pace, which is good because it gave us plenty of time to wave at all the people who had turned up to see us off.  OK, so maybe they were there to see the "crossing of the steam trains" but I like to believe we had a little posse of well wishers.

Our little party (Carol, Trace, Karen, B, Met Boy, Mon, Chris, Sofia and I), settled back to enjoy the ride, window's open as the scenery sped (slowly) by.  Toot Toot!  B hanging out the window as our official photographer for the day did an awesome job (bit worried about her toppling out - on account of her being a little top heavy) and we were soon pulling into Maldon.  Actually we were around 30 minutes late after a bit of stalling/rolling backwards along the way.  We did try singing "I think I can, I think I can" (The Little Engine that Could) to help urge her along - it helped.

Maldon. What a gorgeous little country town.  Not much time to have a good look around though, as the VGR people kindly gave us a lift to the Kangaroo Pub where we were having lunch.  Can't beat a good pub lunch (parma thanks) - well maybe you can with a good pub lunch followed by some snoozing in front of a fire with a bottle of red. 

Full, it was a quick look around town with a supply stop (OK and ice-cream) and back to the station.  Another lively trip back to Castelmaine.  Sprung pouring the next bottle of Bailey's that the Old Bag had smuggled aboard.  Did you know that there are people along the route that follow in cars?  How weird is that? They have a name - I'm sure Met Boy could fill you in.

By the time we got onto our V/Line train back to Melbourne, it was much quieter as we dozed a bit - that and it was busy so we had to spread out a bit. A Day on the Rails a great success.  Number of trains caught that day = 8.  Number of ticks = 2 - plus visited a new place (Maldon - can't count Castemaine as only really saw the station).

Tempted to go back and do the Murder on the Orient Express or Ales on Rails special trips.  And who knows, if I win the J535 Number Plate raffle, I could become one of those train "enthusiasts". 

Some Victorian Goldfields Railway info:
  • steam trains run Sundays and Wednesdays and some holiday Saturdays.
  • choose from one of 2 return trips from Maldon to Castlemaine OR one return trip from Castlemaine to Maldon.
  • regular event trains run on many Saturdays. See Upcoming Events on their website.

    B and Kaz

    The Olds  - my 1st V/Line trip
    Great pic B!

    No smoking


  • I want to drive a train
    Ticket Master

    Monday, 21 August 2017

    200 words about 'Time'

    For this week's creative writing class, we had to write a piece of no more than 200 words about 'Time' based on a competition that we could enter.  For me, the first thing that came to mind was the moment we lost Lucas.  It was B who suggested the opposite end of his life might also be an idea.

    So I did both and shared it with my class today.  There were tears and shared stories.  Healing.

    Will I submit them to the competition?  No.  Lucas's life was prize enough.

    A bundle of trouble with ears too long for his soft, plump body. Tongue, teeth and tail that refuse to stay still. Three months old, all the energy and mischief of youth.  Playtime, mealtime, sleep time. Simple pleasures – a life and world filled with smells, tastes and sights to discover.   
    How long is forty minutes in puppy years? Enough time to momentarily fret at being left alone in a room much larger than the smaller laundry where he usually slept, surrounded by his toys and a warm bed that comforted him during the night hours.

    Destruction.  Thirty-nine long minutes to explore and discover.  Carpet under paw.  Magazines, books, wedding albums, all worthy of a good chew.  Wooden table legs, corners of a coffee table, so delicious to gnaw on.  Remote controls, candles, photo frames discarded. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – a colourful bowl of wrapped chocolates. No defence against sharp little teeth devouring like a demented piranha.
    Like a child eating too many sweets with a tummy ache and feeling sick.  A corner to vomit in, carpet under paw, no time to waste a life ahead to bring joy.

    Morning came, as it tends to do, following an all-night vigil. The miracle we prayed for didn’t. Our beloved constant companion looked at us with pain and confusion in his golden eyes. We stroked his long velvety ears and told him he was very much loved as he thumped his tail on the ground.
    Struggling to rise, we helped him outside, his back legs useless.

    8.30am came, the call to the vet we did not want to make but knew we must.  The short trip took forever, although it wasn’t long enough – could never be long enough.
    The end was quick as his heart beat slowed and his eyes closed.  Peaceful in slumber. An anguished ‘no’ escaped from a place deep within as tears flowed freely.  NO. One more day, one more hour, one more minute.

    It was over. No more pain except for the crushing pain in our hearts. The grief real as we struggled to leave our devoted, loyal and faithful best friend behind.
    So many wonderful memories, so many days of joy and laughter shared, so many of the best days of our lives and one of the very worst.

    My first Christmas - Ararat 2014

    Tuesday, 15 August 2017

    Queen Victoria Market - Ultimate Foodie Tour

    After doing the Prahran Market Tour a few weeks ago, thought it was about time we did a tour of the Queen Victoria Market. Off we went last Saturday for their 11am Ultimate Foodie Tour.  Not having had breakfast, we did arrive at the meeting spot eating (the usual hotdog from the bratwurst shop for Emi and borek for me), much to the surprise of our guide who assured us there would be plenty of tastings.  Emi was sceptical and lets face it there was no way he was going to pay a visit to the QVM and NOT eat a hotdog.  Some things are sacred.

    Gorgeous QVM 
    The French Shop sells French stuff
    Right, so breakfast out of the way and shopping bag in hand, we were on our way.  The tour provides a bit of history on the market and lasts for just under 90-minutes.  We wandered around the various heritage listed market food halls and yep, there were plenty of tastings thrown in. 

    Started with a slippery freshly shucked oyster, moved onto Tribal Tastes for some dried bits (didn't do anything for me), then several stops to sample cheeses, cured meats, antipasto and pasta.  Highlights for me was the pasta from the Traditional Pasta Shop and the goodies from The French Shop.  Obviously the marketing teams for these shops (and the Polish Shop next door), stuck to the KISS principal when coming up with a name.  Which is good.  Less confusion and you (sort of) know what you're getting.

    And this place sells assorted goodies
    The other must have at the QVM is of course a hot jam doughnut from the American Doughnut Kitchen van.   They've been operating here since 1950, and they serve 1000's of people every week with a recipe that has remained unchanged since they started.  I love these sugary little beauties and probably being limited to just 1 was a good thing.  Or not.  Anyway, the line was long and we got a shortcut to the window - woo hoo. 
    And the Polish Deli sells Polish stuff

    Final stop was for some mulled wine and a fruit platter at ReWine. A very civilised was to end the tour.  

    The tours are $69 each and depart at 9am and 11am on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  You get a shopping bag (not as nice as the Prahran Market ones) and a $5 voucher.  Worth it?  It was interesting enough, but I would have like a bit more info on the history of the market, so probably not. Ever on the lookout for a bargain, I got our vouchers through a deal that Red Balloon had that was only $49 for 2 people - so for that price, definitely a bargain for all the goodies we got to taste.

    I have since found out that they do a free 10 minute welcome tour for newbies.

    We love the QVM.  Spent many days here - especially when we first arrived in Melbourne.  One of my fave stories is of Emi going off shopping with our not-so-trusty purple wire shopping trolley.  Didn't have a car in the early days so the number 8 tram was his chosen mode of transport on the day.  Shopping complete, he arrived at our stop on Toorak Road, and hopped off, carefully carrying the trolley filled with goodies down the step placing it down on the road only to have it burst apart.  Sorry I missed the sight of him trying to chase after escaping oranges and stopping cars so they wouldn't squash his chorizo (a Spaniard would go a long way to stop his chorizo from getting damaged). After retrieving all the renegade items, he had to push the thing home holding it all together.  Several bruised tomatoes, no missing sausages, 1 trolley for repair.  It did last several years after that incident, but has since gone to trolley heaven.

    I loved that purple trolley.

    Sunday, 6 August 2017

    Lola and the mystery of the black truffle

    That's me - on Bella the Bus
    Lola here.  After my last guest post (which was pretty pawfect if you ask me), I've been given another go - with talk of a regular spot!  So today was the day of our Gourmet Pawprints Truffle Hunt.  No idea what a truffle is (the fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus),  but hey, it sounds tasty - I'm in.

    Up early for a Sunday and off to Port Melbourne - B met us there.  Had a bit of a sniff and greet on the beach, some good butt action going on, and then we got on a great big bus!  I had my own seat and blanket and even a seatbelt.  So once we'd stored our overhead luggage and settled in for some liver cookies, we were off.  This bus thing is OK, I got a huge window to look out of.

    After a bit, we stopped and had a bit of stretch of paws and some wees.  We were in Ballan and it was chilly and a bit wet. Had morning tea back on the bus - mum wouldn't give me any of her hedgehog, but the liver treats were tasty.

    Next stop, Black Cat Truffles!  Boy oh boy, I love cats of all colours, specially when they run away and I can chase them.  But it was a trick, I could smell other doggy's who lived there, I could smell  chickens that taste great roasted and I could smell this funky pungent, earthy smell that was really strong, but no cats anywhere.   Sniffed around a bit, just to make sure I hadn't missed any black cats that may have been hiding and then we went into this big room where that earthy smell was super strong.  Even stronger than the delicious odour of wet pooch - OMG we smell great wet don't we?
    Tricked - no real black (or white) cats anywhere!
    The two legs chatted and drank bubbles and then - they left us!  Yep, off they went with a lab named Narla and we had to stay behind.  Wasn't so bad I guess, we sniffed around and me and a couple of my new BFFs thought about hatching a plan to get the delightful, ripe smelling cheese left on the counter.  But we were caught out.

    What a smell when the two legs all came back!  Don't know where they had been, but by the looks of them they'd been rolling around in the mud and digging!  So not fair that we didn't get to go.  They even had roo poo on the bottom of their shoes and that smelled super tasty.  More of that wine tasting (give me water anytime) and then we went outside and played a fun game called find the food.  Off we went - it was actually pretty easy (our noses are so superior to yours - no wonder you don't stick them in other peoples crotches when you meet them) and we each got this delicious thing filled with treats and even some truffle!  So that's what they taste like - delicious.  I want some sprinkled on roast chicken, serviced with a side of cheese and liver.

    Little red riding hood holding what looks like a poo
    Fresh truffles - yep they look like poo
    Back on the bus and time for a massage (ooh that felt good - this cold weather plays havoc with my old bones) and a snooze whilst the two legs went to the Farmers Arms in Creswick for a truffle themed lunch.  Mum and B had been drinking bubbles (again) - I could smell it on them.  They made my mouth water talking about the delicious bread (steady on, bread is not delicious) with truffle butter, roasted garlic and charcuteria (more like it), beef short ribs with truffle mash (now we're talking), truffle pasta and dessert.  I kind of lost interest - because what did they bring me?  Nothing, nada, not even a bone to chew on.

    A final wee before we snoozed on the way back to Port Melbourne.  Said goodbye to all our new friends, especially the lovely Sharon and Kerry and B of course.  Then we did some walking near the beach until dad came to pick us up.

    I'm pooped.  These little legs aren't as young as they used to be.  Was a fun day though, I wanna go again. 

    Love and Licks Lola xxx
    Us ready to go find food
    This is Caesar - he looked funny
    Me with my "find"
    Mum and me in the Truffiere
    Gourmet Pawprints do a fantastic job arranging the day

    Friday, 4 August 2017

    Warrnambool Whale Weekend - a washout

    So why is that we often get sick on holidays?  Now that just sucks.  Last weekend wasn't really a "holiday", but rather a "mini-break." 4 days down in Warrnambool to go whale watching for our 13th anniversary.  Because that's our thing and as flying anywhere was off the agenda this year, local it was to be.  

    It had been a busy week, but felt well enough.  Interesting that we're at our most productive the day before we are due to go on holidays.  Set off just before 9am - yay road trip!

    Didn't expect to pull over in Colac with Emi clutching his side after a particularly violent coughing fit and certainly didn't expect for that coughing fit to lead us to the Colac Medical Centre.  Pain jab, x-ray, what to do?  We continued onwards to Warrnambool - surely an early night was all that was needed?  Would appear not as the pain returned with a vengeance and we paid a visit to the local hospital.  Lovely place - as far as hospitals go.  Nice doctors, friendly nurses and staff, they got him in quick, poked , prodded, tested and jabbed.  At least the nasties were ruled out.  Not kidney stones, gall bladder or broken ribs.

    Loaded up on pain meds and home to bed.  But first came the fever.  One of those bone chilling colds that you just can't get warm from.  That was Emi and bed is where he more or less stayed the whole next day and night as well.  Except for the regular trips to the loo - you see this particular bug gave you the runs as well.  Nasty - diarrhoea and a cough do not go. 

    By Saturday afternoon, I'd developed the cough. By Sunday lunchtime, we decided to pack up and head home a day early.  The highlight - we did drop by the whale nursery at Logan Beach and there they were.  The majestic Southern Right whales. Almost every year between June and September, females return to these waters to calve. There were at least 3 small groups and some well within a hundred metres of the shore. So glad we stopped - they are so beautiful and so close.

    Made it home and the chills had got to me as well.  Freezing, but with a fever and yep, by Monday, the runs had come along.  Nice.  Going to sit on the loo when you feel a coughing fit coming on - priceless. 

    Not quite the way we had envisaged spending our anniversary - giving each other the shits. 

    No hard facts, but it seems that it's common for people to fall ill at the beginning of a break.  Apparently high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can be the culprit. Stress leads to higher cortisol levels in the body, reducing the strength of your immune system and leading to illness.

    Or maybe we get so busy in the days leading up to holidays that we run ourselves down and don't notice we're a bit off colour?  Then you relax and wham!  Same theory behind Friday Night-is.  You know, you end up doing nothing and going to bed earlier on a Friday night than during the week.

    Solution = permanent holiday.  And keep your stress levels down.  Now I'm off to bed to sleep the last lingering remnants of this bug off. 

    Tuesday, 1 August 2017

    A visit to the Manchester Unity Building

    My quest to find things to do/see/taste/explore and add to the list, saw B (the Year of Yes going strong) and I being local tourists enjoying brunch and a tour of the Manchester Unity Building (unity, not united and nothing to do with football) on Sunday 23rd July. Yes, that beautiful gothic looking building on the corner of Collins and Swanston Street.

    Yep, dessert for brunch and it was delish
    Having arrived early, I wandered down Collins Street, which at 9.30am is very quiet on a winters Sunday morning and looked around.  I mean really looked.  So many amazing buildings - maybe not on the grand scale of some European capitals, but really stunning.  And the best thing? Unlike in Europe, you can actually look up and around without too much danger of stepping in dog poo.  All right here on our door step. How lucky are we?

    The tour starts in a very civilised manner - with bubbles and brunch at the 1932 Café & Restaurant. The brunch even included dessert - because is it never not OK to finish a meal with dessert? Food was pretty good and the bubbles, well they went down so well, we had to order another round. 


    On to the tour. The MUB was built in 1932 and it was the new headquarters of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), a non-profit friendly society whose noble motto was ‘Friendship, Love and Truth’. Melbourne architect Marcus Barlow was entrusted with the design  and had drawn his inspiration from the 1927 Chicago Tribune Building in the United States.
    Those Oddfellows were just that - odd
    The most amazing thing is that this building only took 8 months to complete.  After the sub-basement, basement and ground floor were ready, the remaining eleven floors and the rooftop were constructed at the rate of one floor per week.  That's a record that to this date still stands - try getting that past the unions today!

    This Gothic style building, was Melbourne’s tallest when completed ( 64 metres, including the tower). The Melbourne Age described it as a ‘Wonder Building’, with ‘every modern convenience for tenants and their clients’. It was built at a total cost of almost £600,000 for land and buildings.
    1st floor teeth pulling

    The first escalators in Melbourne were installed in the MUB, with 60,000 people riding the magical stairway on opening day.  The beautiful lifts were also a thing of wonder with people asking the lift attendants to slow them down as they were getting dizzy being whizzed up into the sky.
    Sadly, although it was a popular and important building it was neglected and in 1996 the building was strata-titled allowing individuals and small businesses to buy spaces.  So it's re-birth commenced.
    In 2002 a small dental practice moved in .  Smile Solutions (SS) MD Dr Kia Pajouhesh fell in love with the building and became chairman of the Owners Corporation committee and has had a lot to do with the restoration, refurbishments and upgrades of the buildings common areas and exterior. SS now own 5 levels, the tower, plus 2 of the arcade shops.  No wonder visiting the dentist is so expensive - but at least they have poured money into this beauty.
    The Tower and the open rooftop area

    Our tour guide was the lovely Chloe who gave us plenty of info as we walked around ooing and aahing at the details.  The rooftop terrace used to be a café and would have been amazing.  Still has great views and has the door to the magical tower.  Thinking of getting some dental work done just so I can actually go in.

    They even tracked down and restored the original chairs

    Level 11 contains SS office areas, all restored.  But nice to see a few pics of peoples kids and dogs around the desks. The boardroom table measuring almost 6m x by 1.8m at its widest and weighs some 330kg.  The glass top was produced overseas and delivered  through the ceiling as it was too big to fit through any doorways or windows. It has survived all of the building’s refurbishments - too big to move.  Loved the boots that were found in the wall that now occupy a corner of the boardroom.  Apparently it was a common custom on completion to bury workers boots and this pair were found during renovation in the wall.
    All up, a fabulous and fascinating tour and we can thoroughly recommend it.  Tours run every 2nd Sunday and you can book in for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea tours.  TICK.
    These boots were made for working