Monday, June 23, 2008

Companionship .......

Couldn't resist this photo when we went in to shift Ben from one bed to another

Monday, June 09, 2008

The old Birthday blues ......

No, not me. I had an excellent birthday weekend. Great dinner at the Allansford Pub bistro, 18 of us there. Unfortunately, the usual suspects amongst us (they know who they are) got in while we were otherwise occupied and pulled off a neat trick. We were expecting something of course, but they went beyond the normal boundaries and involved the livestock, or should I say, the fowls.

Poor white duck is no longer white. As you will see from the photo, at least crazy chook wasn't subjected to their indignities. But, not all is lost. For some reason the spray bottle was left at the scene, so we have ready made ammunition for our own foray into retribution when the opportunity arises - after we get the bottle checked for fingerprints, that is.

Then, on Sunday, joined in a poker game at Gav & Mary's. Talked Chrissie into going and bugger me dead, she won the first tourney - at her first ever attempt at face-to-face. I came third in the second one, so she ended up with a nice win and I had a small loss. But, I think I may have created a monster.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Grampians in May .......

We decided to go away on the weekend of 10/11 May - last chance with Company car and petrol. Even so, didn't venture too far - just to the Grampians. Before I get into the trip story, I have deliberately placed a photo of the Silverband Falls right at the start - take a look at it to the left. Now, what is missing in this photo? If you can't figure it out, I will tell all at the end of the narrative.

We stayed at the Halls Gap Best Western Colonial Motor Inn. I MUST start the story with something about this Motel. We ordered a couple of Best Western vouchers to cover the accommodation costs, but they didn't arrive in time. When we got to the Motel, Kimberley was incredibly understanding and helpful. She volunteered to charge us just at the rate they would receive back from Best Western, then, when the vouchers arrive and we send them on, she will credit the accommodation charges back on our Visa. Absolutely no obligation for them to do this - just a case of GREAT service. Add to this the fact that the room was very nice and the food at their Darcy's Restaurant was worth the trip in itself. To the Colonial Motor Inn and Kimberley, 11 out of 10 on your scorecard.

The Grampians, like most of the State, is very drought stricken, so the various waterfalls were certainly not at their best. All in all, we probably walked about 10 kms on the Saturday, mostly not too arduous. Splitters Falls, at Wonderland, was probably the most difficult. We didn't do the Pinnacle or Grand Canyon. From there we went on to Boroka Lookout where the mist tended to spoil the view a bit. We did notice the novel decking here, where they obviously went to great expense and trouble to save one tree when the lookout was built. I guess, if I can paraphrase the Monty Python song - "Every tree is sacred", they obvioulsy felt that the Grampians were short on trees.

From the lookout, we took a back way round to the Lake Whartook wall. The water level here (as with all the lakes in the area) is well down on the last time we visited. From there a short stint to MacKenzie's and Broken Falls. The guy working at the Kiosk here was very helpful with advice on various places we might find interesting. On his advice we proceeded to Zumstiens where we took the 6 km round trip to Fish Falls. A nice easy grade walk (the most difficult bit was avoiding all the animal poop scattered along the track). Got up close with a kangaroo on the walk back - one of the few we saw on the entire trip.

Sunday morning we saw the Silver Band Falls and then took the Glenelg River Road (all unsealed) west, to come out on the Henty Hwy. north of Cavendish. Into Hamilton for lunch and then home.

Okay, have you worked out what was missing at Silver Band Falls. Here is a closer picture. What would one normally find at the bottom of every waterfall? A pond or pool where the water collects before continuing onwards as a creek or stream. Well, this just doesn't happen with these falls. The water disappears immediately into the bed rock at the base and then proceeds underground for a way. We reckon it's some sort of magic trick, but it does give a very unusual finish to the falls.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A new chapter set to begin ........

I have resigned my job at British American Tobacco, effective on 15 May 2008. So, a new beginning, hopefully full of new challenges awaits me.

I have been unhappy in the job for some time. The constant travelling and being away from home so much (I think I have missed almost every family anniversary, birthday, event, etc. over the past two years) have been taking their toll. As a result, the quality of my work has also suffered, which was an added burden because I do like to maintain a certain standard in everything I do. So, it is time to move on. I will have a short break and will then be back with, hopefully, new part or full time work - but definately localised around Warrnambool.

I have had a great time at Rothmans/BATA and they have been very good employers over the past 14 years, so I have no negative feelings or comments to make.

Roll on the future ................

Brave Chloe .....

It isn't all that long ago that you couldn't even get Chloe to go into the aviary, what with all those wild "animals" in there.

With Ben's encouragement, however, she has started venturing in there to check out the nest, look for any chook eggs, feed the birds and repair perches, etc.

Now she even lets our friendly cockatiel, Jake, alight upon her. Jake has a fascination with hair and any adornments that one may be wearing on one's head. Chloe has beautiful, long, curly hair which Jake has obviously taken a liking to. Hope he doesn't mess it up too much as it can be quite a job combing and brushing her hair so that is does her justice.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Port MacDonnell, Caves and Lakes .....

Just spent a weekend in the Mt. Gambier area. Stayed at the Port MacDonnell Foreshore Tourist Park, in their on-site flat. A bit old, but spacious and comfortable - only downside was the cleanliness (or lack of it) in the unit. Stove (oven & grill), toilet and washing trough were all putrid - not even up to one star standard. Left for there after work and Ben & Chloe had finished their school days (Chloe's at kinder now) - an easy trip so we could stay that night and get a good start to our touristy things on Saturday.

Started Saturday with a nice walk along the beach (after we all slept in) and then on to the playground at the Brown Lake centre, which made a really good contrast in colour to the Blue Lake. From there it was on to the Umpherstone Cave or sink-hole (which we returned to after dark - much more interesting). We then visited the tourist info centre for some ideas. After Macca's for lunch we checked out the Cave Gardens. From there to the Tantanoola Cave for Ben & Chloe's first caving experience, which we were a bit nervous about, but they really loved it. We had planned tea at the South Eastern Hotel, so headed back to the unit to have a quick break before returning to the Mount.

Checked out the Mini Blue Lake on the way back to Port MacDonnell. Some kids (one named Ben) were diving in there (from about 15 metres height). Really spectacular and frankly, a bit scary, but they seemed to handle it well.

A short rest and then into the Hotel for tea. I had $70 worth of vouchers I had won at poker on some previous visits so this went a long way towards paying for the night. After tea, we went back to the Umpherstone sink hole, expecting, hopefully, to see a possum or two. Well, this was the highlight. Possums everywhere, and really tame. Everyone except Chloe (too nervous) got up-close and personal, being able to pat and feed them. This experience rounded of a great Saturday.

Sunday, we headed home, with a few stops on the way. First was the Princess Margaret Rose Cave. This was much deeper, narrower and bigger than Tantanoola but everyone ventured forth without any problems. From there we had a wander at the mouth of the Glenelg River at Nelson. Ben had a run-in with a tiger snake but handled it exceptionally well. Did everything right. Warned the rest of us, didn't panic, kept his eyes on it and stayed fairly still until it went off into the undergrowth. Aido would have been really proud of him. We had lunch in Portland after getting up close to the Gas Rig moored in the harbour and the whale skeleton in the info centre. Interesting to see a quote in there from John Brabyn Mills, a direct line ancestor of Ben & Chloe. John and brother Charles were pioneers around Portland and Port Fairy.

Plain sailing then back home. A very interesting and successful trip.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Robbie's gone to Rio ... not de Janeiro ...

The old Magna was getting a bit old, worn & tired - bit like me actually, so we decided it had to go (but not me, thankfully). Shopped around a bit, priced a few used cars that might have been suitable. Looking for something that would drive as easily as the Magna but a bit smaller (AKA easier to park), friendlier and economical. Thanks to Nicole Kelson at Clinton Balch's Warrnambool Nissan and KIA who expertly steered us into the new car section, we have ended up with a metallic red KIA Rio LE Hatchback. Their trade-in offer was pretty poor, but got that increased and they agreed to fit Cruise Control for cost at the first service - so the deal was done, signed, sealed and delivered.

Picked up the new wheels on Friday, 1st February. Robbie is fair whizzing around the place, terrorising all and sundry, especially in all those tight parking spaces she used to avoid. I was pleasantly surprised by its get-up and go and how quiet it is at speed (100kph or so). The fuel guage has hardly moved since we got it, in spite of Lorelle having a good test drive (and then refusing to give it back!). Ben and Chloe love it, although Ben is disappointed that he can't sit in the front due to the passenger air-bag. It'll be a while before Robbie goes into town "the back way" - via gravel roads, as she won't be wanting to dirty her little treasure.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Christmas feast, even for Stanley .....

Even snakes have to eat, so it was a special Christmas rat for Stanley. We didn't gift wrap it as we figured he might have problems unwrapping it - what, with no arms or hands, could prove to be a little difficult.

I had hoped to get a picture of him a little bit earlier in his feasting, but he was a bit quick. Once that rat started goind down the gullet, things happen pretty quickly. Do snakes have a throat? If so, where does it start and where does it end? Who knows? It may look as though he's got a long, thin tongue, but that's just the tail end of the meal. He went and had a nice sleep soon after.
The way 'stupid cat' (Maisie) has been acting lately, the next picture just might be of a fluffy, grey tail disappearing down the serpant's throat.

And a happy New Year was had by all ......

New Year's eve was a stinking, hot day - up around the 40 celcius mark. So we thought we would get a little wading pool so that Ben & Chloe could have a bit of a cooling romp in the back yard when they and Lorelle dropped in for the usual New Year's eve get together. Picked up a cheapie at K-Mart (it was even an extra 20% off for some reason). As you will see by the pictures, it didn't take much to set it up. What you might call "The Dehydrated Pool" - simply add water. It's actually the same as the one Adrian & Matt "sank" into the back yard for the ducks.

Along with a backyard 'shower' contraption, the pool was a real hit. Kids love water, and it doesn't even have to be hot weather. They were in and out of the pool all afternoon and into the evening. It must have been very refreshing as Chloe decided that she'd round things off with a good dancing exhibition and Ben added his bit with the air guitar - all to the accompaniement of some of Robbie's CD's - REM, Rod Stewart, Bon Jovi, etc. You get the picture and now probably sympathise with me over her choice of music.

Chloe even gathered together all her friends around the display pond so that they could watch on. Only visitor during the evening was the ever reliable Albert who joined us and saw in the New Year. It was really nice just sitting out the back, especially once things started to cool down in the evening. Only problem was the occasional mosquito - they really get stuck into poor Chloe. She ended the evening with a number of prominant red welts on her face, arms and legs. Amazingly, in one of the pool photos, we actually snapped one about to land on her cheek. Check the photo and you will see the little bugger about to set down on her right cheek.
After Lorelle and the grandies left, Albert, Robbie & I retired to the lounge and took in a bit of TV until midnight rolled around. The usual greetings for the new year, and I won the 'pinch and a punch' but as expected Robbie says this doesn't count for January. She certainly has problems with accepting defeat.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christmas is for kids .......

We had a slightly different lead up to the big day this year. Adrian was going to be in Western Australia over Christmas, so we had the family get together a bit earlier than usual. Followed our normal patterns, though. All the pressies placed under the tree, and then the family gathering and present opening ritual.

Everyone seemed pretty happy with what was on offer - this year we all decided to scale down a bit to save money, at least as far as the adults were concerned. Chloe was most impressed with her doll's house/bookshelf - although I doubt it will be a tidyness 'magic bullet' (a bit too much too expect from Miss Drop-it-anywhere). Ben was absolutely wrapped (no pun intended) in a new bike (DON'T LET AIDO RIDE YOUR BIKE, BEN!) from mum and a microscope kit from Grandma & GP.

Santa still came through on Christmas morning so they picked up a few more things. Chloe very impressed with her special make-up model. They then went on to spend the day with Dad and the rest of the Watts' clan for their family celebrations.

Duck down, fish gone ......

The holiday break has not been kind to our menagerie.

First of all, one of the ducks died. Robbie found it in the pond one morning. Sign of what appeared to be a superficial wound, but nothing to suggest it died a violent death or anything like that. The amazing thing is that since then, and even though I have emptied and refilled the pond, the surviving duck will not go in it - they used to love the pond. Go figure!

We have also had some sort of fungal disease spread through the aquarium. All fish, except for the walking fish died within a couple of days. The walking fish, which I have affectionately called "B Double", still survives apparently in quite a healthy state. I have treated the water a couple of times so we have added just a few, cheap fish - to test the waters, so to speak. Have also added a heater, as we may as well go tropical, which provides for a greater and more interesting variety of fish.

Why "B Double"? I hear you ask. No, not because of its size, but B-Doubles have lots of axles - think about it and the penny may drop; if not, drop me a comment.