Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200403 Australia-NSW Vic England

MONDAY 1 MARCH 2004 – We spend a busy morning catching up on the washing and Internet.  Early evening we drive down Victoria Road to Thy Thy Vietnamese restaurant.  As before the meal is excellent and cheap.  Bernie escorts us towards the airport where we meet Mum who is flying in from England.  Her Singapore airlines flight lands at 8.15pm but it’s another hour before she clears customs.  Netty had warned me that she was not very well but on first sight I think she has emerged from her long journey in great shape and even remembered to declare her bar of chocolate to the quarantine inspectors.  However once we get back to Bev & Norm’s we discover that she has more chocolate and a jar of Ovaltine that didn’t get a mention.



TUESDAY 2 MARCH – When I go into the annexe to greet Mum I find her dressed in her nightgown with a thermal vest on top and socks on.  Unfortunately we had an unusually cold night and the windows had been left open.  Mum was very cold but didn’t want to disturb us.  Rather than put the fan heater on she has put on extra clothes and piled towels on the bed.  We make sure that won’t happen again by closing the windows, adding more bedding and insisting she uses the fan heater.  Whilst unpacking Mum realises that she has left her special flight socks on the plane.  We contact the airline and as I hang up the phone Mum comes in waving the socks that she has found in her handbag.  I can see we are going to have a good dose of entertainment each day if Mum carries on like this!  Mum enjoys shopping so I take her to Drysdale for a look around.  In anticipation of the changeable Melbourne weather we visit the op shop (short for opportunity but we know them as charity shops).  Mum really splashes out and buying an underskirt, tracksuit top and bottoms, pair of cotton trousers, a long cardigan and 2 pieces of sheet music all for $13.70 (£6).  Fit in a coffee stop and grocery shopping before returning for lunch.  It’s now getting pretty hot with blue sky everywhere.  The afternoon is spent with reading, chatting and Mum taking a siesta.  On Tuesday nights Bev normally takes her Mum Joan out to the bowling club.  Mum & I join her for a girl’s night out and we have a go on the pokies (gaming machines) before enjoying the $11 (£4.70) evening meal with the price including a drink. 



WEDNESDAY 3 MARCH – Steve & Norm set out for an early morning fishing trip.  Mum has soon dropped into Aussie time and gets up around 7.30am for breakfast.  Very high temperatures are forecast today so I plan accordingly.  Mum & I head to Geelong calling in at another Op Shop en route to buy Mum a couple of cotton shift dresses to complete her Aussie wardrobe.  Having parked at Eastern Beach we begin with a walk around the Botanical Gardens.  This earns us a coffee and cake at the Beach House café overlooking the swimming pool.  A few clouds are gathering and this helps to keep the temperature down enough for us to enjoy the walk along to Cunningham’s Pier.  After a lunch stop we hit the shops.  We’re both quite weary when we get back to the van at 4pm.  Call in to a farm supplier to look at the aviaries.  Each pen holds 1000 chickens and there are individual pens for each age group from birth to 22 days when they are ready to lay eggs and sold.  We see lots of different varieties including some that look like big fluffy white balls.  Arrive back in time for us to enjoy a fish supper.  Steve & Norm had a good morning out and caught about 12 fish.  Despite being quite tired Mum is already looking and feeling much better and making a start on her tan.



THURSDAY 4 MARCH – Another very hot day with temperatures of 37C forecast.  Mum and Steve join Bev & Norm for an early visit to the beach with Steve & Norm taking to the water on boogie boards.  Manage to get Mum an appointment at an air- conditioned hairdressers in Drysdale in the afternoon. 



FRIDAY 5 MARCH – Fortunately a cool change has come and we set off along the coast.  In Torquay we stop to admire the annalistic sundial featuring Australian animals.  We join the Great Ocean road pausing in Anglesea for a cup of tea and a visit to the art gallery.  In Lorne we visit the shops before taking lunch on the sea front.  A stretch limo pulls up with an Asian family who have brought lots of Indian food for their picnic.  Steve starts to drool as the smell of curry wafts over.  We have a good laugh as they look like the Kumars complete with an elderly lady doubled over.  Turn inland to meet Norm & Bev at their bush block.  They have already set up camp with their caravan down by the dam.  We put Billy under the shed for Mum to sleep in and we are camping in the back of Norm’s estate car.  Having introduced Mum to the dunny and other camp features we set out for a walk around the 60-acre block.  In the far corner we can see smoke.  As we get closer we realise it is coming from a property opposite but the sound of voices reassures us.  Mum’s lucky to spot a mob of kangaroos in the adjoining block.  By the time we get back to camp the smoke is filtering through the forest and we hear the sound of sirens.  Norm & Steve drive off to investigate.  They return after quite some time and report that it was a proper fire possibly started by an electrical fault.  Three fire engines turned out and the fire had just begin to leap across the road before they put it out.  It’s frightening to think that it had the potential to wipe out Bev & Norms side as well.  After “happy hour” we gather round to enjoy a roast pork dinner cooked in the campfire whilst listening to the varied birdcalls. 



SATURDAY 6 MARCHMum’s enjoyed her camping out bush experience but the campfire smoke has got on her chest and unfortunately her cough has returned.  Ballarat is our next port of call.  I take Mum into the recreated gold town of Sovereign Hill $29 (£13) and she enjoys the gold panning, wandering round the streets (and shops) and taking in the street theatre.  We round it off with a visit to the gold museum.  Whilst we’ve been doing the tourist thing Steve has been out shopping and also secured Mum a caravan at Eureka stockade Caravan Park.  $35 (£15) for an on site caravan with us staying in Billy alongside.  After a warm afternoon we get a cooler drizzly evening.



SUNDAY 7 MARCH – It’s a cool morning with a cold wind as we walk around the city of Ballarat to look at the magnificent buildings from the gold rush days.  At Lake Wendouree there’s a new memorial to Australian prisoners of war.  The Begonia show is on and we catch the free tram to the entrance.  Admission is $12 (£5.20).  None of us are over keen to do it so we return to the van through the botanical gardens.  In Daylesford we park by the lake and Mum & I walk down to the springs.  We take a glass and sample from a few of the different fountains.  Most are slightly sparkling but not too strong with sulphur.  Mum likes browsing around shops so for the next 3 hours I walk up and down the main street of Daylesford with her checking out almost every shop.  Nearby Hepburn Springs is another spa resort with more springs down in the valley by the stream.  It’s bank holiday weekend in Victoria so we take the first accommodation offered in Castlemaine, an on site cabin with en-suite for $58 (£23) at Carracourt Caravan Park.  Mum likes it even better than the caravan because she has her own toilet, television, heater and extra bedding. 



MONDAY 8 MARCH – The old Market Hall in Castlemaine has been restored and houses the tourist office and other displays about the mining.  After visiting it we continue to Bendigo.  The cool change has definitely passed and it’s a hot day.  In Bendigo we take an on site cabin at Central City Caravan Park for $69 (£30).  There are lots of lovely buildings in the city, built from money gained during the gold rush.  We visit the art museum before stopping for lunch.  Many Chinese remained here after the gold rush and there is a special museum and gardens dedicated to them $7 (£3).  We have a chance to view the longest (over 100m) and the oldest Chinese dragons in existence.  It’s very hot by the time we leave so we just stroll to the tourist office, which again has some good displays, and finish off in the bowels of the adjoining building with more historic displays.  By the time we get back to the caravan park we are all ready to hit the swimming pool.  Mum even has a paddle and dangles her legs over the side.  Mum’s getting her monies worth in the cabin; she was cold this morning and needed the heater on but is now hot and uses the air conditioner. 



TUESDAY 9 MARCH – Head to the Historic river port of Echuca.  Crossing the Murray River takes us into the adjoining NEW SOUTH WALES twin town of Moama where we take a cabin $51 (£22) at Cottonwood Holiday Park.  The riverside site has a lovely swimming pool and is nice and quiet.  Steve drops us back in Echuca for a wander round the modern shopping area then down along the historic waterfront.  We have booked an evening river cruise on the M.S. Mary Anne and the mini bus picks us up at the campsite.  $45 for a 2-hour cruise and 2-course dinner with on board entertainment.  Cruising past the port we see lots of old paddle steamers and get a good view of the 3-storey wharf built to cater for the vast difference in river levels.  The boat cruises a short way upstream then turns to venture downstream whilst we are served our meal.  It’s dark as we return and the sky is full of stars.  Even more spectacular is the almost full moon that is just rising and looks enormous.



WEDNESDAY 10 MARCH – I take Mum back to Echuca for a wander round the tourist shops in the old town.  Return for lunch before I make full use of the swimming pool to swim 1km.  Mum & I walk down to the riverbank where there is a nice sandy beach.  We both paddle and watch a canoe; paddle steamer and motorboat go past. 



THURSDAY 11 MARCH – Our first stop is in Shepperton where we visit the Armona fruit factory.  Not only do they sell Armona tinned fruit cheap but lots of other products as well.  Unfortunately with only 8 days of our trip left we can’t stock up.  Moo-ving art is the name given to displays of cows throughout the town.  Fibreglass life-size figures have been hand painted and we really enjoy walking round looking at them.  In Murchison there are a few more cows down by the river and we have our picnic amongst them.  We are surprised find Nagambie very busy until we learn that they are holding the National rowing championships all week.  Consequently accommodation is scarce but do manage to secure the last room at the motel for Mum $60 (£26).  Spend the afternoon by the lake watching some of the races and taking in the general scenery. 



FRIDAY 12 MARCH – Stock up on info at the Seymour tourist office where they have an old wooden lock up in the grounds.  Near Broadford the lavender gardens are well past their December best but the 360-degree views make the trip worthwhile.  We get even better views from Murchison Hill looking down the Valley of 1000 Hills.  At Kinglake West national park we do the short Lyrebird walk and are very lucky to see one by the path.  After eating lunch at Kinglake main national park we do another short walk but other than Mum hearing lots of birds and admiring the stringy bark gum trees there is nothing inspiring.  A quick glimpse at the nearby bottle house then off to Melbourne.  We soon arrive at Bernie’s place in Kew and he makes us most welcome and gives up his own bedroom to Mum.



SATURDAY 13 MARCH – Bernie drops Mum & I in the city and we visit the Royal Victoria markets.  One hall holds fruit and vegetable stalls and the other is a mixture of clothing, shoes, tourist souvenirs and other bits and pieces.  Mum makes many purchases before we emerge at 1am.  Walk down to Melbourne Central shopping centre for lunch then a look at the shot tower, an old listed building that has been incorporated into the design of the new shopping mall.  Take the free city circle tram down to Federation Square where we spend lots of time in the art gallery.  We’re both pretty weary when we catch the tram back to Kew arriving after 4pm.



SUNDAY 14 MARCH – We pile into Bernie’s car and head off into the Dandenong Ranges.  Our journey takes us through Fern Tree Gully. Mum enjoys looking at the art and craft shops in Sassafras and we also get to toast a marshmallow in a log fire.  We make other scenic stops before lunch at Olinda Falls.  It’s a short walk to the falls but a bit of a climb on the return.  We visited William Ricketts sanctuary 4 years ago and enjoyed it so much we wanted to show Mum around.  Sculptures are formed with clay attached to natural rocks showing how nature merges with life.  Call in to visit Bernie’s brother Michael then his Mum and Dad, Ben & Josie before returning. 



MONDAY 15 MARCH – Bernie drives us on another day out to explore the Mornington peninsula.  At Mum’s request we detour to a town full of antique shops but unfortunately many including the giant warehouse are closed on Mondays.  We get superb views from the top of Arthur’s Seat and do the circuit walk with lots of lookouts.  Mum & Steve go down in the chairlift $8 (£3.50) one way but we beat them to the bottom.  In Rye they have a sand sculpturing exhibition and we peak at the huge displays with a Disney theme.  Picnic on Sorrento beach where the shallow water is lovely and warm.  Check out London Bridge rock formation and the back beaches before returning.



TUESDAY 16 MARCH – Return to Bev & Norms arriving at lunchtime.  Mum has a hair appointment in Leopold in the afternoon then goes out in the evening with Bev & her Mum Joan. 



WEDNESDAY 17 MARCH – Mum & Bev go off on a shopping spree, Norm & Steve go fishing and I get left behind to work on Billy and our packing.  What a martyr I hear you say – not at all as Steve put his time in cleaning up Billy before taking leave of absence.  In the evening we have been invited to John & Beth’s for a meal.  Mum enjoys looking around the gardens before we eat.  John & Beth are big travellers and with photos to accompany his tales the evening passes all to quickly.



THURSDAY 18 MARCH – Mum’s not well; she’s got a bad head and hasn’t slept much.  By 11am we head off to Point Impossible naturist beach leaving Mum behind to relax.  It’s a bit cloudy but by the time we arrive the sun comes out and we enjoy lunch, almost 4 hours sunbathing, beach walking and even boogie boarding in the sea, me included.  By the time we get back Mum is feeling much better.  We enjoy our last supper of the fish caught yesterday.



FRIDAY 19 MARCH – It’s a beautiful morning and none of us are keen to leave.  We spend most of the time outside including a last lunch on the terrace.  Billy is put into hibernation in Norm’s garage then we set off to the airport.  Our 1720 Singapore airlines flight to Singapore leaves on schedule and we say goodbye to a sunny Australia.  We watch lots of movies on the flight and arrive about 7 hours later in Singapore for a 2-hour stop before boarding our onward flight to Manchester.



SATURDAY 20 MARCH – 24 hours after boarding the plane in Melbourne we land in cold rainy Manchester ENGLAND.  The temperature is 10C but we are cheered up when we see David and Donna waiting for us.  They present me with flowers, chocolates and a card in anticipation of Mothers Day tomorrow.  Just after 8am Netty arrives to take us back to Market Drayton.  Drop Mum at home and collect our mail before going round to Netty’s.  Having ploughed through the mail, had a nice soak in the bath and lunch we are feeling ready for action.  Netty drives us over to Jan & Dave Goughs to collect Charlie.  Unfortunately Dave didn’t get around to building the carport where Charlie was going to be stored so he has been left outside the whole time.  When we get inside there is a distinct smell of damp and we soon see why.  Rain has settled on the roof and seeped through in a number of spots, also driving rain has penetrated through the windows and the roof air conditioning unit.  Once again we are going to have our work cut out.  Stop off in Newport at Pete & Carol’s where the Evo’s pop down to join us.  By the time we get back to Mum’s at 6.30pm we’re shattered and really don’t feel like sorting Charlie out so accept Mum’s offer to sleep in the spare room and park the van on the drive.  We all fall asleep early but I’m away from just after midnight onwards. 



SUNDAY 21 MARCH – I get up when I hear Mum pottering around at 4am.  We’ve a pile of mail to deal with so I get stuck into it.  Spend a few hours working on Charlie before heading round to Netty’s for dinner.  Fit in another couple of hours on the van before it gets dark.  Manage to stay awake until 9.30pm



MONDAY 22 MARCH – Awake at 1.30am and up at 2.30am.  Mum wants to sell some shares and asked me to sort the paperwork.  It takes until 11am for Steve and I to plough our way through paperwork.  Mum has saved almost everything she ever received and we just about fill a black bin bag with rubbish before finding the share certificates we need.  It’s been hard work as some companies have changed names many times; others have even gone back to their original name.  Mum & Netty do the best thing and head off to Shrewsbury shopping at 9am.  At Leegomery we park outside Kevin & Sandra’s.  San is off work sick so we wait in the house until Netty picks us up.  Considering it’s only 4 weeks since Alan died she’s doing pretty well.  She can laugh and joke a bit but now and then a tear comes to her eye.  She’s sold her house and once Lauren and Mac have sold their flat they are joining together to buy a 4-bedroom house at Randley.  Lauren cooks us a meal after which she takes us up to show us her flat then drops us off at Kevin’s. 



TUESDAY 23 MARCH – Arrive at Westcroft motorhomes just before they open.  They inspect the roof and confirm that the rubber sheeting needs replacing along with the hardwood panels underneath. The estimate is £1600 + VAT and they can’t fit us in until the end of May so double bad news.  Catch up with David to pick up the ticket £28 that he has bought to go to the Liverpool match with Steve on 4th April.  Just after we leave the motorway at Halifax the overdrive warning light starts flashing.  The handbook says it indicates a gearbox malfunction and we need to get it checked as soon as possible otherwise damage may occur.  In Halifax we go back to Specialist coatings where Dave looked at a different roof problem a couple of years ago.  He agrees we should have a new roof and will get back to us with a price.  He’s a motorhome owner and when we mention the gearbox problem he says the warning light itself may have accidentally been tripped.  He suggests we disconnect the batteries for a few minutes to see if it resets itself.  This works so fingers crossed that’s the end of that problem.  Park in Haworth before walking up to meet Daniel from school.  Security has been tightened up and I have to go to the office from where the teacher brings Daniel to me.  His excitement at seeing me doesn’t last long as he wants to rush out and play with his mates and in fact runs straight past Steve.  Five minutes later he comes bounding back, spots Steve and runs into his arms.  We return to the van to wait for Claire to arrive with Natasha.  Nat is extremely excited about seeing us and makes a lot of noise.  She’s changed the most, looks taller, her hair is longer and she is much more animated and talks non-stop.  We all go down to their house for tea.  Daniel goes out for ½ hour for his piano lesson.  For 6 years old he is doing really well and plays tunes using both hands and sings along to them.  We enjoy a soak in the bath then fall asleep on the sofa and have to drag ourselves out in the cold to walk home to bed.  Again temperatures near freezing are expected overnight so we leave he central heating on low and tuck ourselves up under the duvet with an extra blanket, 2 hot water bottles and track suits on. 



WEDNESDAY 24 MARCH – Steve has an appointment to have his hearing checked at the hospital so we park up near Airedale for his 9am appointment.  He returns to tell me that his hearing is exactly the same as it was when first tested 9 years ago.  The doctor says that any hearing aid would help clarify the high notes but distort everything else and cannot be recommended.  Park up in Keighley to wait for Claire and Natasha to join us for lunch.  We leave Steve in the van to do a girls shopping outing in the afternoon.  I buy myself an up to date outfit, beige canvas skirt, pink top, cream chunky cardigan and pink shoes.  Natasha thinks the pink shoes are great but as her favourite toy is Barbie it’s not surprising – still not everyone has a Barbie doll for a Grandma!  Not sure what to buy Steve to make him look like Ken though.  It’s bitterly cold and at one stage hailstones pelt us.  Park up on Sandra’s drive.  Our first visitor is Sandra’s Mum Marjorie who is dropping a cake off for Adie.  Sandra joins us for our evening meal before we go into the house to relax.  We’re very glad to be on electric with a small heater plugged in, as it’s very cold.



THURSDAY 25 MARCH – It’s a cold miserable drizzly morning.  Steve goes out to do a few things whilst I crack on with the washing.  Neil Wilson (our old GP) calls in to invite us over for a meal next week then stays to chat for over an hour.  By afternoon I’m feeling quite poorly with a lot of sinus pain in my head and difficulty breathing.  When Steve goes out bowling at 7.00pm I tuck myself up with a hot water bottle and sleep fitfully for 12 hours.



FRIDAY 26 MARCH – A little bit warmer and slightly less rain!  I’m feeling less tired but the tablets I take for my head make me drowsy so I can’t win.  Manage to get the water marked curtains washed, dried and fixed back up but can’t seem to summon the energy to do much more.  Claire drops the kids off at 6pm and we spend the rest of the evening entertaining them.  Natasha is really funny and insists on calling the hot water bottle the hot water melon!  Daniel studiously builds a car and enjoys playing cards.  We’re both happy to go to bed when the kids settle down at 8.30pm.



SATURDAY 27 MARCH – Natasha wakes just after 6am and I make a mistake in acknowledging her.  By 6.30am we’re all up and packing the beds away.  The kids are no trouble but with Steve & I both feeling unwell we’re glad when Daz collects them at 9am.  We drive to Baildon moor and park up for and hour or two to catch up on our sleep.  Arrive at Mom & Dad’s just before dinnertime.  Sian has been staying overnight and shortly after we arrive Lisa & Mick and Lauren & Netty arrive to collect her.  It’s Lisa’s 35th birthday on Monday so in the evening we all meet up at the Balti House in Baildon for a meal.



SUNDAY 28 MARCH – Clocks go forward by 1 hour so at least it will be a bit lighter at night.  Spend a lot of time putting old photos onto a disc so that Mom can watch them on the DVD player. 



MONDAY 29 MARCH – I phone Bradford Royal Infirmary to find out how much longer it will be before I have my sinus operation.  I’ve been on the waiting list since last July so feel optimistic that it shouldn’t be long.  Consequently I’m not at all happy to learn that I have been deleted from the list completely because I went away for 6 months during the winter and I only did that after I phoned them last August and found out the waiting list was about 1 year.  I even phoned from Australia to get an update and told them the date we were due back and that I was prepared to come back early if need be.  I speak to 3 different people but the best offer is that they will put me back on the waiting list a bit higher than the bottom but to expect 6 – 9 months wait.  No wonder they have shortened the waiting list from 12 months if they just delete people like that!  Return to Sandra’s drive where we take advantage of the absence of rain and marginally warmer temperatures to clean the outside of Charlie.  Ray & Margaret pick us up in the evening to go round to Richard & Sharon’s.  Along with Rod & Nancy we are having a meal there to celebrate Sharon’s birthday.  Despite the fact that Sharon is still suffering from last night’s hangover we all have a good time.



TUESDAY 30 MARCH – I’ve still not had any longer than a 6-hour stretch of sleep since getting back.  Think that’s about as long as it takes for my sinuses to fill up completely and disturb me.  We’re both too weary to do much more cleaning up so just linger until it’s time to visit Parkwood Street.  Our new tenant is keen to stay on beyond her initial 6-month contract and the place looks OK.  The only problem is that when we left it in the hands of the agent there were new curtains in the lounge (expensive velour lined ones) but by the time the tenant moved in the curtains and rail were missing.  We changed the locks so the previous tenant couldn’t get in so it’s a bit of a mystery.  Park up in Haworth and I walk up to school to collect Daniel.  Claire arrives later with Natasha and Daz but rushes out almost immediately.  This week she is doing a show in Halifax and it’s the first night tonight.  We stay in the house with Daz and the kids.



WEDNESDAY 31 MARCH – It’s a cold and misty morning up on t’moors.  I pick up Daniel & Natasha and walk them up to school.  Daniel goes in first then it’s round to another part of the building to drop Natasha off.  First we have to unlock a gate to enter the playground.  At 9am the classroom door opens and we all pile in. Each child has their own clothes peg where they hand their coats then change their outdoor shoes for pumps.  After that they queue up at a desk to select their named photo from a box then put it on a board to show that they have arrived.  The next step is optional and involves Natasha taking me around the classroom to show me her work.  Having been taken and introduced to her teacher I am finally allowed to leave.  Claire is having a lie in after the show but gets disturbed by a phone call so we join her at home at 10.30am.  Back up to school at 11.30am to collect Natasha.  Steve, Claire and I all go into the classroom but once Natasha spies me she charges through the other parents, past Steve and Claire and jumps into my arms screaming out “Grandma”, bless her.  She later complains to Claire that she only wanted me to go and collect her and didn’t want Claire or Steve to be there!  Steve stays at home whilst we go off on our girlie shop.  It’s a sunny afternoon and pleasantly warm when we get back so I volunteer to walk back up to collect Daniel from school.  Claire and the kids go off to the dentist and we relocate to Wilsden to visit Road & Nancy.  Michelle is at home and we chat to them all about the impending visit to Australia.  After a lovely meal we enjoy doing a quiz that Rod set for Nancy’s 50th birthday.  He has recorded theme tunes to lots of TV programmes and we enjoy the challenge of trying to guess the names of the programmes. 



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