Amongst the bronzed and retired

It hasn’t taken long to lose track of the days and to accept what nature presents, nestled under some trees just over the dunes in a caravan park in Woolgoolga. So far we’ve been blessed with crisp nights of 7 degrees and sunny days of 23 and light winds. I have never enjoyed the beach much but on arrival I forced myself out there on the broad sands three times a day, at first purely for tiring out the dogs; worried they’d bark at strangers or from anxiety at the new surroundings and get us booted out. But as this threat receded I found the gentle surf, the salty lake, the casual fishing and retiree camaradarie alluring and unexpected. So this is the Australian surf lifestyle we’re always hearing about, which seems so alien to Melbournians.


According to my father in law, July is peak season when the Mexicans flee north and fill the north coast for 3 or 4 months before doctor’s appointments draw them back. The vans are mostly spotless, annex ropes crisply pegged and lined up, a clean, modern 4WD adjoining. When the weather doesn’t provide, TVs, Smartphones and Oil heaters fill the gap. Dogs are in every second van, poo on the ground non-existant, and blokes mop their own showers at the hint of dirt underfoot. Not saying hello to anyone sitting out front or walking along your row is a big social faux-pas which feels forced and unnatural at first. Clusters of ladies sit in the sun and sew or knit and make small talk or plans for a group lunch in a few days. People invite couples into their annexes for a glass of red at dusk. It’s very agreeable really. And if you want some major shopping excitement? – Head into Coffs for the morning… so far I haven’t bothered. Having a wonderful time and so are the doogies.


3 hours in to our trip and the car needs a scrub.

Fresh update 6 hours driving later. It took me 9 minutes of high pressure spray to get this mostly all off. And that was after I removed a dead bird by hand from the grill.

Posted by ShoZu

Arcanacon 20+ years later

Kim and I were discussing future holidays last week and it looks like a boat trip to Asia from Darwin is looking possible in 2011, so I got an idea into my head that I’d like to visit the U.S to go to a Gaming Convention of sorts in 2010. Not that I’m a huge gamer – Left for Dead makes me physically ill after 20 minutes, and I don’t own a console of any sort. It didn’t take long before a few mates were chuckling about Cosplay possibilities or about crusty old-school board gamers still playing AD&D and reading copies of Dragon (does that magazine even exist anymore?).

Some quick research and an email to the Analog Hole Gaming people pointed me in the direction of Dragoncon, PAX East and Gencon. The Dragoncon event webpage picture gallery is quite scary and I’d be worried about whether I could return to normality after submersing myself amongst all that BO and long hair.

 I wasn’t going to do this alone, so I nudged Ash, who immediately said “It would have to be Blizzcon wouldn’t it?”, and then all became clear. We are preparing our May 2010 ticket buying strategies as I speak. Kim has already got dibs on the free in-game pet – gee she’s quick. Last year the maximum online purchase was 5 tickets so perhaps we could involve a few others too.

Green clouds

We started our last holiday before Easter with a mini-disaster. I left a bag full of electronica behind in the bedroom and only discovered the fact about an hour or two out of Melbourne. Since we had to drive to Sydney that day, I wasn’t going back, but drats – no camera, laptop or phone charger on a 2 week trip. Our phones were only lasting about 2-3 days of charge time anyway, so in Penrith we got two free 5MP cameraphones on our $19 plans and used them instead. I’ll say now that a 5MP cameraphone is NOT a 5MP camera. Not even close.

The images are ok-ish and perfect for blogs. I wanted something I’d have on me all the time for when CRAZY SHIT happened so I could snap it. Strangely enough, staying in nice 3 star accomodation and B&Bs did not produce a lot of the crazy stuff. So there are plenty of boring ones – but today I found a couple worth highlighting – even if taken through smudgy car windows.

Ever heard of green cloud? If you search the net for it, you find that there’s scientific evidence that it is not reflected grass or foliage that causes it, but it’s a weird sunlight reflection angle thing, and it only happens in extreme thunderstorms. Most of the photos on the net are terrible, but this time I got a couple of (low-quality) beauties as we drove home from NSW. Take a look at this little ripper (p.s yeah it absolutely pelted down, but we missed the bulk of it).

Holiday roundup


I haven’t been blogging much lately and I’m not sure why. Not many things have been able to keep my interest, and I’m thankful for the fact that The Age keeps being thrown onto my front path each weekend for keeping me current with the world. But this week is different – I’m going to use my lunchbreaks to write or shop or jog.


I got back to work last week and those three days were just awful. I had a ton of mail banked up, projects had been allocated to me in absentia, and the early mornings just killed me after three weeks off work, staying up till 3am and reverting to the night-person I know I am deep down. For nearly two of those three weeks, we were in Katoomba, Sydney and Bangalow, mostly lounging and shopping. We’re not the most active folks on hols, so it was 30 Rock and Sopranos DVDs, lots of Sudoku, book buying and the eternal quest for a bought coffee (or two) each day. It’s no wonder that after 10 days I had seen the local sites and was happy to return home to the dogs. Unless we plan an active “goal-orientated” trip like our Bay Of Fires walk in 2004, we end up wondering why we couldn’t just be doing this stuff back at home. 


On the second week of our trip, the NSW mid-coast was heavily flooded and the Pacific Highway was blocked at one point, leaving us potentially stranded. I think Bellingen (two hours south) had more than 500mm rain over two days. Lucky we didn’t stay there on this trip. After two solid days of rain in our rented house in Bangalow, and with the forecast of a few more, we bailed 3 days early and drove 18 hours home. I was glad.


We had a few minor projects left for the year, so we haphazardly tried finding some replacement bedroom furniture as ours looks (and is) cheap, but it’s hard to find period wardrobes that don’t look too banged-around or creaky. Giving up on that, we bought a few dozen tubes of plants and put them in the garden so there’s something cheerful going on in spring.


In other news, Fergus has got his regular yeast infection in the ear thing, so we’re putting drops in twice a day, Chloe has become even more neurotically obsessed with the neighbour’s dog, and spends large chunks of time listening at the fence, hidden behind the compost bin. My brother and his wife had a baby daughter Pippa in the early hours of this morning, and we stared raiding Ulduar in WoW this week – boy it’s hard!


I’ll post some holiday pics later.

Beginning again


Just over two weeks ago I returned for a delicious day-long glimpse of Melbourne from an outsider’s viewpoint. I just love how you see things freshly after an absence. And it wasn’t all flattering stuff this time around – the grass was already browning off in October (what a terrible summer it’s going to be), and people seem less polite socially than many places in Europe. Still, it’s wonderful to be home.


I’ve already gone back on some minor promises I made to myself – the Sudoko book has been chucked into a bag, no longer as vital now I have computer access. I’ve only read half a book since returning. I restarted playing World of Warcraft, though not as often, and somewhat shockingly decided not to buy the expansion “Wrath of the Lich King” (terrible name I reckon) that is coming out later this week – well, not for awhile till I’ve freshened up.


The photos from Europe, although terrific, have been burned to DVD and thrown into a drawer – a burst of artistic (?) energy going into the framing and placement of 20 small prints / cards instead. I’ve ridden to work on my bike 4-5 times now. I went into the city with Kim and bought some “zines” which were terribly disappointing. But sadly, it already feels like Europe is a bit of a dream. The wonderful surprise was that it really wasn’t as expensive as I thought to visit. All up I spent less than 10k for the trip, and because 3k of that was pre-paid, the housing loan didn’t skyrocket like I expected. I could do this every year!


I’m planning to blog a lot more now – I needed to write a “first post” to get me started and then it flows better I find. There will be some news on our new chair and my old collecting hobby next, once I can upload a photo or two.

So busy… read Ash`s blog instead!

It`s been busier than we anticipated on the road – taking train trips every few days and only really settling for a day and a half before moving on. We have some regrets in that area already, but the show must go on. Internet access has been harder to come by than we thought, and when we do find it, it`s in tiny grotty little booths that don`t exactly encourage thoughtful writing or any lingering. These foreign keyboards make it slower to make posts also. In summary – most of my travel writing has been in a small diary. Ash is the one who seems to be able to capture pictures and write quick summaries, so for any updates, may I suggest you click here. He has some terrific commentary and pics posted already, and even a YouTube video! The man is a snoring marvel.

In summary, we`ve travelled from Leipzig to Dresden, then to Prague in the past week and late last night arrived in Bern, Switzerland for a few days. Things are so clean and tidy here. There is mass proliferation of wurst and waffels everywhere, and the seamless mixture of French, German, Swiss and even Italian blows our minds, and makes us feel like the language heathens that we are. Tommorrow we plan to go see the Paul Klee museum and Albert Einstein`s house. And then at night maybe a daring train trip to Dudingen to see an instrumental band called Caspian. Already we are making plans for a late night taxi back to Bern if they play too late and we miss the train connections. Then in the morning, it`s a short alpine train journey up to Inverlaken and beyond, into Heidi territory.  So – plenty of stuff to look forward to. We are especially looking forward to a time about 48 hours from now when we will actually be able to sleep in separate beds, when in Bologna, Italy. Luckily, up until now, they have been queen sized and with two single duvets.

A double bed in Antwerp

Arrived in Antwerp at around lunchtime today – and after a slow walk into the main square (after Ash toppled over in the main street with his backpack whilst looking at a Flemish bra display) we checked into a hotel with medieval windows facing directly into a 500 year old church. Our moment of truth arrived when we spotted the double bed awaiting us but we were saved by the two single doonas. Somehow that’s enough to cause sufficient separation.


The town is full to the brim with folks drinking beer or coffee at outdoor tables and smoking incessantly. Indoors amongst the ashtrays and brownish decor, the cycling is on TV and crusty old unshaven fellas sit with their dogs looking at newspapers and wonder what’s for dinner tonight. It’s a completely atmospheric mix of history and culture, and I just love it. No photos for now – I just snuck out after a couple of Trappistenbiers which hit me for six and it’s beyond me. We’ll probably visit Ruben’s house tommorrow and do a little shopping, plus another round of cafes I suspect.

Well, Paris is pretty decent!

Ash and I have been here for four days now and we’ve completely worn out our calves on a diet of Metro steps. Expect to see some extra definition there when we get back. It’s quite a reasonable city to get around and stations seem to be every 400 metres or so. Living in the Gobelins district has been a terrific choice because many of the other areas are busy, crowded and seem to have wall to wall advertising. The biggest shock of all was visting the Montmarte area this morning, because we were beseiged with either shonky bag sellers or artists offering pencil portraits – and I mean a TON of them. And as Ash pointed out, many of them were pretty average at their trade. The guidebooks talk about it being charming, but we couldn’t wait to get out of that area – admitedly, once you were a half kilometre away from Sacre Couer, things improved a lot.


Major impressions at this stage are that people on the whole dress quite stylishly, not in a glitzy showy way, but in an understated classy way. Both men and women alike are gorgeous. All the time. Everyone has been incredibly polite and civil – there’s not a shop or bar that you go into without being greeted. There’s an emphasis on sitting on the streets at small gaudy tables, with both chairs actually facing the street – they acknowledge that people watching is a major attraction and assume you want to face outwards. It takes getting used to but by now I am a convert. Which makes eating a little tricky sometimes as you have to jostle elbows. For prices, $5.50 for a coffee is about the norm, with pizzas around $18 and an entre and main around $40. Then you visit the local supermarket and find a 6-pack of Leffe for $8.



We sadly haven’t progressed a lot further than saying the standard Bonjour, Merci and Au Revoir. It’s not easy to string a sentence together when you can’t remember the bridging words. Cafe au Lait rolls off the tongue easily, but trying to add the “au Fort” and having them understand you has been a challenge, so I’ll have to remember to drop the T next time, or suffer another weak, biscuitish tasting coffee.


All in all, we’ve had a really pleasant time, and despite my prediction of not lasting very long in the Louvre, it was a little tiring, but we ended up in there for nearly 7 hours. We leave for Antwerp in a couple of days.

Booked a ticket to Europe today

Not much else to say. Paris awaits on September 22nd for a 4 week trip. After doing a little research tonight, it seems I’ll be able to smoke a Gauloise cigarette, but only at an outdoors cafe, as smoking in bars was outlawed in 2007 in France. Apparently I’ll have to wait for Spain for the indoors stuff. Thinking about it, I’m sure 1 or 2 smokes will be plenty. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do.