Posts Tagged ‘Sydney’

smallglowYesterday we awoke to find Sydney bathed in a seriously eerie orange glow. Gale force winds had blown this dusty soup in from the west of our state. The day before, despite little water, this dirt had been trying really hard to grow our vegetables, so this colourful gift from mother nature pleased neither us nor our farmers. It was estimated that about 4000 tons of top-soil sprinkled down on Sydney alone and caused much mayhem as it did so. Planes and ferries were all cancelled, air-conditioners blocked up and many asthma sufferers rang 000 (our emergency number) to report severe breathing troubles. Even indoors you could smell and taste the dust and today the big clean up begins. Yes everything is covered in a red haze.

I took these photos in our street at about 7.00am and they show precisely what it was like yesterday morning. The last dust storm like this to hit Sydney, was back in 1939. As I pulled open Rodent Boy’s curtains and let the weird orange glow wash over his room, he leapt to his window, and noticeably struggled to make sense of this once in a lifetime event. In response to the inevitable “What the..?” I teased him it was ‘the revenge of the Rangas!’ Rangas is an Australian colloquialism for red-headed people, short for Orangutans. For a second he believed me.


If you’d like to see more pics taken by other people in Sydney click here


Read Full Post »

cif2aSixteen year old Princess has travelled to France via London on a French exchange visit. She will be there until the end of January. Following are extractions from emails sent and received between us.

So you must be having a good time… given that we haven’t heard from you?

sorry, i havnt had access to a computer for a few days. sailing was good, pretty cold but much fun. the science camp was very dull though. i think it would have been dull even if it had been in english. i think astronomical talks in french would be a good thing to prescribe to insomniacs. the free time was fun though, and i really got to know people better. I’m hopefully going horse riding this afternoon, if it doesnt rain that is. im confused about when you want to skype. you need to say the day and time it is for me. i cant do tonight because we have a party at school for the spanish exchange students who go home tomorrow, so maybe at the weekend? miss you.

Grandma and her dog have arrived safely for their Christmas visit and they tell me that your bed is very comfortable. Although we don’t have a fish pond for her to fall into, we’re all watching her like hawks when she so much as even scratches her nose. I think we might be giving her a complex though, as she doesn’t really move around very much. Muppet dog has accepted the invasion of his turf, by her little dog. This small Shih-Tzu (which I think translated means ‘Lion Dog’) is living up to his name and confidently struts around the place like he owns it. Muppet just follows him around subserviently like some sort of canine man-servant occasionally performing acts of personal hygiene upon him. It’s an excellent demonstration from the little fellow, of the dog equivalent of ‘small man’ syndrome if you ask me.

who said she could sleep in my room?

Well all our Christmas shopping is done. The usual bun fight for parking at the mall was once again the worst bit. Thank heavens for air-conditioning in our cars as I’m sure this reduces the incidence of ‘car park rage’. Interestingly, we seem to have bought more online this year, which appears to be a current trend in consumerism. I’m taking Grandma to watch Sydney FC play Perth on Sunday. She’s never been to a football match in her life so about time she did I think. You can’t die having never chanted obscenities on the terraces can you? Mum’s a bit worried about her actually making it to the terraces to begin with, what with getting through the crowd an’ all; but we’ll take it slowly and stay well away from the ponds in Centennial Park. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s also going to wear one of my supporter shirts!

I hear you are off to Avignon for Christmas. I hope we can get to Skype you on the big day (for us or for you, whichever timezone is preferable). Mum would like that. It’s Rodent Boy’s last day at school today and he announced at breakfast that he wants to burn his uniform tonight. I tried to explain that this is not something you do when just moving to a new school aged nine, but more something Year 12s do when leaving school for good. He can’t burn it anyway, as we have a total fire-ban in place today. Anyway, I explained to him that it would be much more appropriate, not to mention more environmental, to recycle it to someone else. Sleep tight my Princess.

Read Full Post »

clWhich do you think is harder? Up a ladder decorating your house with Christmas cheer in freezing Northern Hemisphere temperatures, or doing the same thing in the roasting summer heat of Sydney? Yes, we have that mad tradition here too and I’d like to suggest that Sydney is definitely the harder of the two. Despite sunblock protection, I am currently nursing skin that is thankful to at last be out of today’s unrelenting UV rays, all endured in the name of entertainment.

It’s now about 7.15pm and of course still as light as it was earlier this afternoon, so I can’t yet see the fruits of my labours. I should imagine you’re now thinking ‘So why on earth would you do such a thing in Summer?’. Good point. It doesn’t actually get dark enough here until around 8.15pm, so why indeed would anyone want to make all that effort for just a couple of hours exposure time?

This was totally my view until the mad barrister moved in a few doors up. Nice bloke, but I do struggle to see how anyone would let this inept Rumpole of the Bailey type character defend them in court. I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my case should I ever misdemeanor, but there you go.

santreeAnyhow, I digress your honour, he was the one who started it all. The first year it was just a few icicle lights and some flashing stars. But before we knew it, it had grown into the full-on Santa’s grotto complete with six nodding reindeer, a large nativity scene and the slightly weird and very conflicting, visually tacky, larger than life, blow-up Santa in red underpants sitting under a palm tree on his roof. Well in 33°C/91°F (as it was today) Santa wouldn’t be in the conventional full red suit would he? Palm trees though? Now they’re not native to Australia, or perhaps that’s getting a bit too anal. I never could watch cartoons.

So anyway, the year after he moved in and started all this, his next door neighbour and the guy three doors down also bought a few lights. The following year a few more joined in and before we knew it, I was the only ‘Scrooge’ in the street with his electricity bill still under control. I was sure I could hear the tut-tutting of people as they walked past, ‘Look at that miserable bastard all in darkness…’. Yeah right, and how many lights do you have on your house exactly? About as many as I do, I’ll wager.

Last year though, I succumbed to the pressure and bought a few rope lights, so at least we weren’t the only house in darkness. This year, I can only think I’ve gone completely bonkers. The children simply cannot believe this metamorphosis of light. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if it existed, I’d be clearly in-line for the 2008 top prize. It’s simply the best in the street I reckon. Well that’s me I guess… if a job’s worth doing… I’ve now got lights to rival New York, all of course done with as much style as possible (given the medium we’re working with). Now I should point out that I’m not talking ‘Premiere League’ here, more Championship standard, to use an English football analogy. If, like some of the neighbours though, you buy several random items and position them randomly in the garden, you’ll inevitably end up with a random ‘Conference league’ sort of result, (to continue the analogy), but that’s just not me.

Sadly though, our street is now ‘known’ and features on the ‘must see’ Christmas lights tour of our area. People walking and driving past continuously between 7.30pm and 11.00pm I can deal with, but last night we had an ice-cream van parked outside our house for the whole time which got quite annoying after a while.

Reading this in the Northern Hemisphere (as most of my lovely loyal readers are) I would imagine that this might seem really quite odd to you. But I can assure you that the ice-cream man did a roaring trade helped along by a temperature still around 28°C/82°F at at 9.30pm.

So Mr bloody Rumpole of the bloody Bailey you have a lot to answer for, starting all this. And guess what? He moved out last month and his house, which admittedly still sits empty, is eerily and ironically in total darkness while the rest of the street positively buzzes with enough LEDs to be surely visible from outer space.

Read Full Post »

Working Mum will be pleased… I actually remembered to get the washing in this afternoon before the refreshing Spring shower came tumbling down. Taking the dry clean linen straight upstairs, I then made the bed. This tiresome chore took me much longer today as I insisted on carefully scrutinising every spec of dust I came across. A friend of ours is in hospital at the moment having simply put her clean sheets on the bed and jumped in. The following morning she awoke to find her eye as big as a tennis ball… oh alright… a golf ball. Anyway, to cut a long story short, a tick had set up residence in her eye. It was touch and go whether she’d lose her sight, but it looks like she’ll be okay.

A timely reminder (like I needed one) that with the return of the warm sunny weather, our little nasties are back too. Spring has well and truly sprung here, and suddenly the trees are all wonderfully green again. Congregating in bunches of optimism, the tender new leaves remind me of groups of school children in neatly pressed uniforms on their first day. [Is that poetic or just weird? Probably the latter… Anyhow…]

Through the Winter in Sydney, you barely see an insect, but as the weather warms up and the days get longer, back they come in their squillions. Spiders, ants, flies, cockroaches, wasps, ticks, fleas and of course mosquitoes, all hell bent on invading my personal space and limiting our enjoyment of the outdoor life we’re famous for.

Sydney is a wonderful city but even after twenty years, I am still coming to grips with sharing it with such annoying and toxic neighbours, (and I’m not referring to Greg and Sue over the back). Growing up in England, the nastiest thing you might encounter when racing through your back garden or the countryside, was stinging nettles or a grumpy badger. Here though, you might run into all kinds of venomous flora and fauna, not least some very unfriendly snakes. While these are not that common in suburbia, I did pull a drowned juvenile brown snake out of our swimming pool last year.

Much more likely however is to see a Funnel Web or a Redback spider in your garden, a White Tail spider in your mailbox, or a Huntsman spider in your kitchen. While the latter two arachnids will make you ill, they aren’t overly dangerous but the first two can be lethal. To keep it in perspective though, while many people have been bitten then treated with antivenom, there have only been twenty six recorded deaths in Australia in the last hundred years from Funnel Webs and no-one has died from Red Back bite in over fifty years. We’ve learned to live with them I guess, for example, we never leave our shoes outside overnight. Trivia fact #276 Although one of the top three most toxic spiders in the world to us, the venom of the Sydney Funnel Web is totally harmless to cats and dogs. Strange but true.

Read Full Post »

‘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!

Read Full Post »

Oh dear, I seem to be in everybody’s bad books today.

I’m in trouble with Working Mum because I’ve let the pool go green. The early taste of summer is predicted to stay for the weekend and WM was really looking forward to having her first swim of the season.

Princess is unhappy because I haven’t re-formatted the video camera’s hard-drive (something it needed to be able to work). Apparently, I’d been told that she absolutely had to have it fixed to use at school this afternoon and as Home IT manager, ‘technology maintenance’ is allegedly my responsibility.

Soldier Boy isn’t happy because I forgot to collect his contact lenses yesterday, which meant he had to go to school in his glasses looking like a nerd (or so he describes the minor inconvenience).

Rodent Boy is annoyed with me simply because I woke him up and made him go to school.

Even Rodent’s school told me off earlier today, this is the second time in a week they’ve needed to call me to advise he was missing his lunchbox. What’s the matter with these people? In my day if you forgot your lunchbox you just ate worms from the playing field. I got him there on time didn’t I? Okay, he was wearing yesterday’s crumpled trousers, dirty shirt and minus his tie (which I couldn’t find) but at least he wasn’t late.

So I decided I needed to do what every self-respecting househusband does in situations like this… I went shopping.

This decision however caused the one living thing that was still my friend, Muppet Dog, to immediately switch camps and hate me as well. Looking out the lounge window as I drove off, he gave me that ‘confused angry dog’ look. You know, the one that seems to say, ‘Why would he go off to the dog-park and leave me here? It doesn’t make sense. What a bastard!’.

Well all’s well that ends well, as they say. Who ‘they’ are I don’t actually know, but they’re very clever and know a lot stuff about everything. Anyway, after a small amount of retail therapy I felt much better, and I have since bought chlorine for the pool, which should now be hygienically clear by tomorrow. I re-formatted the video camera and dropped it off to Princess just in time. Rodent got his lunch. I picked up the contact lenses so Soldier Boy can be nerd-free again and then took the dog for a run in the park.

Now to enjoy the rest of my birthday!

Read Full Post »