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Archive for the ‘Getting away’ Category

ppPrincess is now safely back home, although perhaps predictably the journey was not totally without incident. Upon arrival at Heathrow, London, she was unable to locate her passport. She knew she had used it coming into the UK from France four days earlier, but somehow in between then and this panic stricken moment, it had vanished. Just part of life’s rich tapestry I guess… Still, we are all very proud of her for making this trip alone to the other side of the world for seven weeks aged just sixteen. Everyone who spent time with her has commented on what a delightful, confident young woman she has become. It’s only a pity she managed to lose her brand-new laptop on the way in, and her passport on the way out. The laptop we got back mercifully, following me coughing up the £100 recovery ransom demanded by the courier company, and who knows, maybe the passport will also turn up one day. In the meantime though I’ve had to cancel it as required by law and pay the $100 lost passport ransom demanded by the Australian Government.

Quite how she’s managed to travel without one though is still very perplexing. She not only travelled out of the UK, but also gained entry into Australia using nothing more than beautiful eyelashes and her NSW Learner Driving Licence!

Needless to say, she had a fantastic time and plans to return to France in her gap year before university. But today it’s back to school for her final year and major HSC exams. She’s actually looking forward to this for some strange reason.

Rodent Boy also started back today. Now attending the same school as his brother, he wrestled me from a lovely dream at 6am this morning, fully dressed in his crisp new uniform, demanding breakfast. As you can probably tell, he is very excited and simply cannot wait to get there. Long may all this enthusiasm last I say!

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The last few procrastinating swallows finally left Sydney last month where they have spent a playful Winter teasing Muppet Dog every morning in the park. Like miniature aerobatic aircraft they would twist and turn with amazing agility flying tantalisingly close to Muppet’s head. Being a dog, he needed little encouragement in this request to play and would lumber into action on yet another pointless chase he could never win. The migratory flight down to Tasmania is a distance of 1050 kilometers (750 miles) and once there, I presume they then spend the Summer annoying Tasmanian dogs in much the same way.

No hold-ups for once and a smooth flight on a virtually brand new Boeing 737-800 meant Friday’s journey down to Tasmania was a lot quicker, and certainly much less effort, than the swallows would have endured. It wasn’t all wonderful though, for a start I had the reclining women from Hell in front of me and a neurotic elderly American lady on a ‘see everything and nothing’ tour of Australia sitting to my left. After getting up and down about hundred times, she then swallowed a cocktail of 20 assorted prescription drugs. At last she finally settled in her seat and put her black raincoat hood on her head backwards. She looked like some weird urban Ninja bag-lady. Apart from people thinking she was with me, I didn’t mind how mad she looked, as long as she kept still for the rest of the one hour forty minute flight. At one point, so lacking in movement had she become, I remember thinking perhaps she’s overdosed and died. Dismissing the thought quickly I reasoned that even if she was now a corpse, nothing could be done until we touched down, and so went back to my book. As I had booked my flights a while ago, I was able to take advantage of one of those loss-leading advertising fares. Unbelievable value at only $32 plus $44 taxes, so $76 ($53US/£30) in total each way. I know I shouldn’t have, but I did feel a little bit superior knowing that this was certainly a lot less than ‘Sleeping Grasshopper’ next to me would have paid, or indeed most people of the flight for that matter.

I was travelling to Tasmania to catch up with my sister and her family (and to temporarily escape the doom and gloom of the global financial meltdown). Sixteen years ago my sister amazed us all with a rather remarkable event, that of the birth of her third child. What was notable about this particular birth was that this baby also shared the same birthday with both her older siblings, then two and five years old. I may have contributed to my sister’s post-natal depression when I alerted her that in sixteen years time on Saturday 11 October 2008 she would have a 16th, an 18th and a 21st birthday party to organise, all on the same day! That day has now come and gone and the party, though a frightening concept back then, went off without a hitch and I can confirm it was a totally befitting celebration of such a maternally mathematical accomplishment.

This kind of thing seems to run in my family actually. One of my brother’s children has the same birthday as him, and all three of his children are the same ages and gender as ours. The three lots of corresponding cousins were all born within no more than two weeks of each other. I have no idea how this could occur. We certainly didn’t discuss our plans with them nor they with us. In fact, we were trying for three years to have Princess and another two years for Soldier Boy. Despite no medical reason to stop us from conceiving, it simply wouldn’t happen. When, out of the blue it finally did, the pregnancies then progressed quite normally with large healthy babies popping out the conventional way some 42 weeks later.

Tasmania is a very interesting place with a lot of history, for example, the first Australian telephone call was made in Tasmania (1874). It has the oldest pub in Australia (1825) and the oldest bridge which was built by convicts (1823) and is still in use today. Hobart is the second driest capital city in Australia after Adelaide, but unlike all the others, it has an abundance of drinking water. Tasmania produces just 0.2 per cent of the total Australian wine crush but over 10 per cent of the premium and ultra-premium wine market. Atlantic salmon, ocean trout, tuna, crabs, crayfish, abalone, scallops and oysters all thrive in the crystal waters around it’s shores. It has the cleanest air in the world and its rainwater is so pure that it’s considered one of Australia’s sporting secret weapons and is always sent to our athletes at the Olympics. Tasmania has the lowest crime rate in Australia and is closer to the equator than Rome, Chicago or the Azores. The 1930’s Hollywood actor Errol Flynn was born there, as was Crown Princess Mary of Denmark née Mary Elizabeth Donaldson of Hobart.

So why is the population so small, with visitors outnumbering residents every year? Why doesn’t everyone from the mainland want to move there? Well, as idyllic as it sounds on paper, it’s also unbelievably parochial and can, at times, feel like a giant aged care facility. Obesity and Education continue to be a challenge and of course it’s really quite isolated even by Australian standards.

But hey, I love to visit the place and while I could never live there like my sister does, I always enjoy the wonderful hospitality offered in abundance by the majority of Tasmanians each time I’m down there. They are extremely proud of their state and the fantastic wine and sensational fresh produce they produce. While Australia is a huge diverse place to visit, ‘Tassie’ as it’s known locally, should certainly be included on your itinerary when visiting Australia. You will eat and drink like a King and the scenery is stunning. Just make sure you go in Summer and have no desire to rave all night.

The author was not a guest of the Tasmanian Tourist Commission

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‘Come here you!’ said Working Mum seductively grabbing at my belt and pulling me down towards her on the bed. It’s amazing how she loses all her inhibitions when we are away without the children. Not that I’m complaining or anything…

The birthday itself got better, but no thanks to the pathetic total of two and a half birthday cards. The first was the usual one from my elderly mother – yet another dirt bike flying through the air. I’m not sure if she thinks that’s what ‘boys’ like, or whether that’s all her corner store sells, but she’s been giving me variations on this theme since I was five. It’s a shame I haven’t saved them, as collectively they might have made an interesting collage of motorbike development.

WM’s card was very English in humour and made me laugh out loud. It simply said.

It’s your birthday
and quite honestly,
you’ve never looked
better. Well, obviously
you looked better
a few years ago but
what can you do?

And thirdly there was the usual hurried hand-drawn affair signed by all the children. ‘It means so much more Daddy, because we made it.’ Hmmm!

Along with some great birthday presents from WM, such as a new stainless steel container for holding all our cooking utensils, there was also an exciting ‘all expenses paid’ two nights away in a posh hotel in the city. Alright there was the little compromise of her having to attend a conference all day yesterday, but it was still a nice thought to take me along. Two of our children are away at the moment so it only meant finding someone to take on Rodent Boy and Muppet Dog which proved easy because it’s school holidays here in Sydney.

Princess has gone to Nouméa in New Caledonia on a ‘school excursion’ where she is supposed to be only speaking French for the whole week. Well that’s the plan anyway. ‘Un autre Coca-Cola s’il vous plaît’. I don’t know if she realises how lucky she is. When I was at school, if we went six miles up the road to London Zoo we felt lucky, and it felt like we’d been to the Moon and back.

Soldier Boy is away somewhere deep in the forest on Army Cadet maneuvers. I don’t think they give him a gun, at least I hope they don’t. I think the emphasis is more on fitness, survival, singing monosyllabic songs as they jog and annoying the hell out of the Australian wildlife.

So unencumbered, it was off to the city for our ‘part-time’ romantic rendezvous. The accommodation was indeed luxurious, but clearly the least romantic hotel room I’d ever seen. It was dominated by a large passion killing businessman’s wooden desk and matching leather chair. I immediately assumed they’d run out of rooms, given us the manager’s office and just put a bed in it.

Seeing my dejection resourceful WM soon initiated ways of using the desk which are far too intimate to discuss here, but needless to say, none of which involved any kind stationery. It occurred to me during one of these saucy sessions, that this desk probably gets utilized a lot in this way. I have to say, by the time we checked out, I’d really come full-circle on the room and it’s desk. I’d definitely stay there again!

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