Monday, 15th October (my birthday eve!)

It was a very dark and dismal day from a number of perspectives – not least because our wonderful holiday is drawing to a close. Nevertheless we had committed to meet up with David Halliday for a last walk around Long Reef and despite the inclement weather we headed off down the hill to meet him.

David walks his dog (Bella, fondly known as Bella the Otter for her love of water). It was not long after we met up that it started to rain. And rain. And rain.

It was a very different scene to those we had experienced before on this route…

The sea churned below us. We were soaked. Despite the rain we descended to the beach for Bella to have her swim, undeterred by the elements.

The seaweed was wonderful!

Having completed the walk we adjourned to a local cafe for a drink and poached egg breakfast. We really enjoyed the opportunity to spend more quality time with David.

Back up the hill it was time to pack. This turned up into a whole day affair! (Our luggage has expanded considerably!

Everything tucked away we had supper with the girls and Justine. All was going swimmingly until, having adjourned to prepare for school tomorrow, Mickey cut her finger and we hastily said goodbye before she was hurried off to hospital….

We could not believe it! Happily, although we had adjourned to bed in readiness for our early start, we received news that no stitches were needed. What a relief!

And so our third trip to Australia drew to rather dramatic end. What a trip it has been. What amazing things we have seen, experiences we have had and people we have met. We return home so much richer in experience, with so many wonderful memories and determined to return.

Sunday, 14th October

With apologies for the delayed post!

It was as a quiet start to the day.  By 9.00 am nothing stirred in Wightman Towers.  It was probably a fairly typical day after the day before or in Justine’s case, the day after the week before. However, by mid morning we were all assembled for the final brunch for this visit and our final planning meeting to establish how we were going to spend our day.


After a bit of debate, it was agreed that we would all go to Lavender Bay, a harbourside suburb on the north shore of Sydney.  Lavender Bay is named after the Boatswain from the prison hulk ‘Phoenix’, which was moored there for many years.

We took two buses and started our perambulation of the area at the Kirribilli Market. This was a real melange of stalls selling everything from jewellery to drums made into coffee tables, from vintage clothing to fancy fondants.  I think we all survived the experience without a purchase beyond some rehydration, something of a requirement all round……  Moving on, we walked towards the water. The houses were incredible, many of them quite old (in Australian terms!).  As we neared the harbour we found we were getting a very different view of the bridge and the city as we glanced it, initially through the buildings, and eventually when a wide vista emerged.

We continued to wonder along the waterside.  We passed old moorings and buildings left over from English colonialism.

We passed the end of the bridge and watched the fishermen.  Eventually the bridge was behind us


and we arrived at Luna Park, Sydney’s world famous amusement park built in the 1930’s   Since it was built, Luna Park has a bit of a chequeredhistory and been subject to several redevelopments, but in 2004 it reopened under new ownership and has been operating ever since.   Walking through the rather startling entrance, we bade farewell to the Wightmans who returned home to chores and school preparation and meandered on past the rather old fashioned stalls and slide shows

One of the things that I was keen to see was Wendy’s Secret Garden and soon after we passed out of the amusement park area we came across it as we mounted the steep steps to move away from the waterside.

The Secret Garden is a green oasis of lush foliage, native plants, fig trees and beautiful flowers.  We were lucky enough to see some of the flowers in bloom and everything looking very rich and flourishing.  Created by Wendy Whiteley, initially in memory of her ex husband artist Brett Whiteley who died in 1992 and whose ashes are buried in the garden, the garden has been maintained and beautified by her and volunteers since then.  Sadly their daughter’s ashes are also there now, but it is not a place of sadness, but more of a place to enjoy and take in the views.


It was eventually time to turn for home. Our time in Australia fast coming to an end.

For our ‘last supper’ with the family we were all off to the local Indian restaurant. It is becoming something of a tradition for our ‘last night’, which we are bringing forward 24 hours as we are being collected at 3.00 am on Tuesday morning…..

The restaurant is just around the corner, so we did not have far to go.  We had a jolly night of chat and reminiscence.  It has been an amazing trip and choosing the top 5 moments is nigh on impossible.


…and so to bed for our penultimate sleep.  Tony is out tomorrow night, so we said our goodbyes to him – he has been such a wonderful host and definitely one of our favourites!

Saturday, 13th October

After what seems like months of planning and anticipation, the day of my Australian ‘gathering’ dawned. Despite poor weather nearly all week it was dry and although a bit cloudy, clement enough for us to take Helen for the Saturday constitutional around Long Reef.

Smartly at 7.40, the boxers and the walkers skidded down the hill. The ground was too waterlogged for the cricket fraternity, but some golfers were out. The tide being out we were able to get right out to the spit.

Back at the house, there was rather a poor attendance at breakfast with only Tony and I taking the opportunity to sit out in the sun and eat our eggs.

Eventually we were there. After a tense hour sitting on the runway, Justine had arrived (she was exhausted poor soul, but looked as stunning as ever!) and Helen and I had a last view of the ocean before setting off.

It was then a bus into town and a bit of fancy footwork to reach what used to be called Darling Harbour and now is known by its Aboriginal name of Barangaroo, where Cirrus, the restaurant, is situated.

It was then not long before everyone arrived – Sarah, Wendy, Peter and Helen from the Silk Road trip, Aileen and Mick from our Ocean Pacific trip last year, Justine and Tony, now more family than friends and David and Lesley, two friends of Justine and Tony’s who we have become friendly with by association. A merry dozen, seen to get more merry as time progressed. The meal was amazing and served as sharing plates. It was beautifully served.

I provide the menu and foodie pictures for those interested readers……

After some initial angst from Keith and I as to whether everyone was going to get enough to eat, we soon settled down to a delicious meal, with much laughter up and down the table. Everyone seemed to be getting on. The wines were great and a good time was had by all. There were lovely cards and presents and then the girls arrived with the cake. It was scrummy lemon drizzle with lots of candles (😳).

To date I cannot track down a photograph……..

Late into the afternoon people started to depart. (One of my favourite photos of the event! Even if I do like a dwarf!)

So sad to say our goodbyes to so many lovely friends, not knowing when we may return but I am convinced return we will. We have that last quarter to cover…….

A hard core then adjourned to a bar. I have to admitted to being a little ‘squiffy’ at the end of all this.

Friday, 12th October

It was a quiet day. A sort of calm before the storm of birthday activity.

I have still not settled on an outfit for my French birthday gathering, so I decided to leave Keith at Wightman Towers and launch into the Australian shopping scene on my own. I did buy another dress but Mr Gregory is still not convinced…… back to the drawing board…… one could say brinkmanship of the first order. 😳

I returned to Collaroy in time to welcome Mickey home. I was so pleased to learn that the young cadets had been moved from their tents on their camping week as they had been flooded. Apparently the whole experience had not been as bad as anticipated, often the way in my experience, which was good. We left her to some ‘me’ time and we both headed into town to collect Helen who was flying in from Alice Springs for my party. She is staying with us at the Wightman’s for the night. We took the opportunity to make some final purchases before meeting up at the bus station. It is always a delight to see Helen. We certainly haven’t seen enough of her this visit, but hope to get a sighting in Europe next year.

It was the rush hour, so the bus was busy, but we were soon home and had the bubbles opened. Tony joined us for dinner which was Mickey’s favourite to celebrate her home coming. Justine is to fly in from Singapore tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10th October

It was a really dark, wid and woolly day. Keith and I were going to the theatre to see The Accidental Death of an Anarchist at one of the small theatres at the Opera House. Unfortunately this outing had coincided with a busy day at the office for Tony, so the plan was to take Coco with us to the City and then she would spend the afternoon with him in the office.

It was a tortuous trip into town. A combination of the weather and the traffic made the already long journey even longer. The bus was slow and steamy and the roof started to leak!

Just as we got off the bus the heavens opened even further and we were caught in an absolute deluge. Poor Coco had chosen probably the least good umbrella that she could find, with the result that by the time we got to the Opera House bar where we were to hand over our charge, she looked nearly drowned. We were running late, but poor Tony was even later and we made the play with just a few minutes to spare.

It was very funny and very clever. The writer is a favourite of Keith’s but this version of this particular farce had the added dimension of an all female cast. It was excellent but I was really glad it was not an audience participation affair as we had the middle seats in the front row!!

The play was on at an odd time. It started at 1.00 pm so it was finished by 4.00.

We returned to Collaroy and before long it was time to set out again. We were having dinner with my old friend Paul, who sadly will not be able to join the ‘gathering’ on Saturday.

It was not raining when we left,but by the time we got back to the City it had started again. Paul has just bought an apartment out at Central, so it was a train and a walk.

We arrived at his very upmarket absolutely dripping, but he was very gracious (ignoring the deluge of water that arrived with us) and showed around his new establishment and new dog and pointed out the penthouse outside area which I am sure will provide a wonderful outside room when not covered in cloud.

We went put to dinner at a really good Vietnamese restaurant called Mekong located at the end of a road known as Spice Alley.

Here hungry diners chose their food from an array of Asian food booths from which delicious smells and colourful dishes were being dispensed.

The Mekong served really good food. Regrettably Paul’s partner was tied up for the evening with a senior politician of some sort, but he managed to join us just as we were leaving, so we were able to say ‘hello’ before we disappeared into the night to make our return journey to the northern beaches. As was late we caught a bus to the bottom of the hill and considering too late to ask Tony to come and get us, clambered (in my case rather slowly) up the hill.

Tuesday, 9th October

It was to be a Coco day. There had been quite a debate to try to identify an activity that would be energetic enough to meet Coco’s needs and also be within our gift of ability! We plumped for 10 pin bowling. As it had rained the day before, the birthday party Coco had been to had also abandoned to bowling, thus providing her with a day’s practice. We were doomed to fail – and so it proved.

We set out from the house and walked down the hill to catch a bus to Dee Why (another suburb of Sydney) where we were reliably informed by our young charge that the bowling alley could be found. On the way we watched someone being rescued by a helicopter in the bay below us. We were a long way away but, from where we were, it looked as if the person being rescued fell off the winch a couple of times before he managed to get into the air. All very hazardous!

Leaving this drama behind, we headed to our bus. Unfortunately when we arrived at the bowling alley, we found we had a bit of a wait for a free ‘lane’. Please note my familiarity with bowling parlance, despite not having been for at least 20 years!!

Undeterred, we set off to head to Coco’s favourite Burrito establishment, handily not far away. This was near Dee Why Beach (I cant help but feel that ‘Dee Why’ is a bit unlikely as a name…). We passed a very energetic Bush Turkey on the way

He was still being energetic on the way back!

The sun was out so we strolled along the promenade, watching a grandmother chase two totally naked three’ish year olds who thought it great fun that they could not be caught! It was hilarious, but Coco thought it a little unbecoming!

Our next sighting was a film crew making a film in the swimming pool immediately adjacent to the sea. It was all very interesting, but not evident what the film was about. We dallied for as long as we could and inspected the canteen van and green room, but by now Coco was keen for her burrito, so the moment could not be deferred any longer. The Burrito Cafe it was. In fairness we had a good lunch and Coco ate a huge burrito, so all was good.

Back at the bowling alley, after a short wait, we started our game(s). Unfortunately lane 17’s workings weren’t up to the task and we had several holdups, before being moved to another lane. Rather inevitably, Coco won three out of the four games! However, we had all had a good day.

It was home to make fish and chips for supper. We are still trying to make an inroad into Tony’s fish mountain!

Monday, 8th October

I got up to give Mickey a hug and wish her luck. Coco was off to a friend’s birthday celebration. We were out to supper with Sarah and Wendy (whose house has been sold. – not sure if I have reported this !). So we made a shepherds pie to use the left over meat for Tony and Coco’s supper, and Keith and I set off to the City where we wanted to investigate the Sydney Museum.

We walked down the hill to catch the fast bus and headed to the Museum. Crossing the business quarter to find it.

Once found, it proved to be excellent.

There was a lot of information about the first fleet that sailed into the harbour from England. There were a number of ships carrying all sorts of people, including convicts, equipment and supplies. The trip was a hazardous one and not all the vessels were totally seaworthy. One had to be towed down the Thames it was in such a parlous condition. Nevertheless the ships all arrived although some of the people did not make it. The route shown on a map current at the time….

The land they invaded and which was to become Sydney was inhabited by an aboriginal people who had been there 40,000 years. Within fifteen months of the arrival of the settlers it is thought that their numbers had been decimated by small pox.

Apparently, the area that became Sydney was previously a ‘gallery’ of aboriginal art. Of course the settlers had no comprehension of this. There was an exhibition regarding the aboriginal area

We watched three films on the building of Sydney, it’s origins in the ‘Rocks’ area (mostly demolished now to May way for office blocks) and its current layout and streets, referred to as ‘concrete canyons’. I can see the similarity and where they are coming from! It has taken 200 years to get from settlement to metropolis.

Sydney itself is almost an island and bridges were necessary to enable people to commute in and out. Prior to the building of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, the only way to get to the northern beaches was by ferry from the quay. The Bridge has a total span of 1,260 ft. and it took 1,000 men six years to build it. In August 1930 the two sides met up in the middle and in 1932 the Bridge was declared open. It carries trains, traffic and pedestrians.

Having brushed up on our City knowledge, we visited an exhibition focussing on what was referred to as the Bohemian area of the City and the artists who inhabited it in the ’60’s. The artists paradise was in an area we have not explored called Lavender Bay. There were some interesting exhibits of the work of Peter Kingston who we have come across before. However one of the prime movers was Brett Whiteley who, although he travelled the world, had his base in Lavender Bay. His wife, Wendy Whiteley (also described as an artist) still lives there and has created a ‘ Secret Garden’ out of the tumbling, rocky ground in front of her home in memory of Brett and their daughter who tragically died very young. They were all definitely of the ’60’s era! Sex and drugs and rock and roll……..

leaving the museum behind, we made time for a bit of retail therapy and then headed home to prepare for supper with the girls. Sadly we have not been able to see so much of them this trip, so there was definitely a need for an evening together to catch up with their news and hear all about their house move.  We met at the greatly refurbished Collaroy pub at the bottom of the hill.  Tony kindly gave us a lift down en route to collect the party girl. The Collaroy has an amazing view of the beach from its upstairs bar

We had a really good a really good evening and I was really touched by my birthday gift from them, a beautiful coffee table book of Australian photographs called Walking in the Light by Ken Duncan



Sunday, 7th October

Justine was long gone by the time we got up. She is to spend the next week in Hong Kong working. She also had the added issue of an hour less in bed as the clocks here went forward an hour last night – they are just coming into Spring as we head into Winter – but it is all very confusing……

We had our brunch breakfast inside as it was already raining.

We had planned a walk, but by this time pouring rain put something of a dampener (!) on that, the second thought was the cinema. Having headed off all sort of unsuitable films (it is me that does not do horror!), in the event we did not get out. Poor Mickey is – very reluctantly – off to a cadet camp for the week tomorrow and there was a lot of prep to be done. The weather forecast is wet all week. A wet week, not much fun, a wet week camping, misery!

Tony was in the ‘supporting cast role, so we took responsibility for dinner and we watched a film in the evening.

Saturday, 6th October

It was very overcast but, leaving Keith to carry on sleeping, I joined the boxing party on the trip down to Long Reef in a borrowed, very robust, if a bit crisp, raincoat. It proved to be a useful precaution!

There was no sign of cricketers, but the golfing fraternity were in evidence and a few dog walkers, but really only the die hards. I had probably got a third of the way round before the ominous black cloud burst over my head. The sea was very impressive and the surfers were having a great time. However, my rather crackly raincoat did its job and I stayed reasonably dry. Thank goodness for the shorter haircut. It does not really spoil.

We collected the meat ration and went home for the usual Saturday brunch which had to be eaten indoors due to the weather. Later the boys went off to do the supermarkets shopping and us girls took off to the Mall for a bit of shopping and overhauling. Interesting and educational!

The afternoon saw us at a 2 year olds birthday party – surprisingly in the brilliant sunshine. The day had really turned around. The young birthday girl had already learnt the problems of house to party shoes………

Found on the drive……

We then took the girls home and Justine, Tony, Keith and I took off for a new brewery that needed exploring. It was good. Another paddle of beer was tasted (I sampled their bubbles!). Tony took it very seriously……..

We were just settling down and minding our own business, when a bride and umpteen bridesmaids arrived in a VW van. All very exciting and colourful.

These Australians are fascinating creatures!

It was then back home for a takeaway curry………

Friday, 5th October

It was still very overcast and rainy, so we took ourselves off to the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery in the old Doctors house looking over the lake, for a bit of culture. They had an exhibition called a Celebration of Steel – an important commodity to the nearby Newcastle. It was really interesting and there were some amazing pieces.

Keith even managed to get himself included in a marketing photograph!

The grounds of the gallery also contained some interesting installations.

We had a lovely chat over coffee and then went back to the house to say goodbye to Nelson and collect our bags. It was then time for lunch back at Toronto and then on to catch our train and leave Peter in peace. It is such a privilege to spend time with him. He will be joining us in Sydney for the gathering next week.

We told Peter to just drop us off at the station where, rather unusually it seemed, there were a number of police cars parked. Thinking nothing of it, we hopped on the train that pulled in just a few minutes later only to be told to get off it again another few stops down the line – due to a fatality at Fassifern!!! Where we had got on the train.

As I said to Keith when we were standing on a very cold and windy station – however bad it was for us, the fatality had a worse day…….

We eventually got back into the City and up to our Collaroy eyrie. It was hot showers all round to warm us up and then catch up with the family. The rain looks to have set in. Good for the farmers. Not so good for holiday makers.