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.

Thursday, 4th October

We woke up to more rain, but Keith did the morning dog walk with Peter. After breakfast we took off for a look around the area. It was Redhead Point near Swansea where we saw whales in the grey water. Keith had the binoculars and said he could see several. I could just make out the occasional spouting, but somehow a whale sighting is always exciting.

We had hoped to go for a walk but it was too inclement, so we took off for Newcastle where the ships we had seen waiting in the ‘roads’ off Swansea, were waiting to berth and be filled up with coal. Newcastle is the main coal port of Australia and is reckoned to be the largest port exporting coal in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of the coal goes to China.

We had lunch looking over the entrance to the port.

As it was still raining hard, we adjourned to the house and had the indulgence of an afternoon snooze – a real excitement on this action packed trip.

Much revived we decided to have a television supper and settled down to a Julia Roberts evening courtesy of Netflix. The Pelican Brief followed by the ever lovable Notting Hill.

Wednesday 3rd October

As the there was to be a bit of ‘hot bedding’ taking place at Wightman Towers while we are away – other friends were making a flying visit! – a bit of tidying and bed changing had to be done before we left. We definitely had to hide the red dust covered rucksacks from public view……..!

We set out at about 8.30 to get to the Central Station to go to Fennel Bay to meet up with Peter, our friend from the Silk Road. We are now getting very slick at getting around the City stations. It was a pretty dull day. The first day we have donned our wet weather gear in earnest.

The journey out to Fassifern, his nearest station, took about two and a half hours. It was slow going again, with lots of stops at leafy stations. We passed the Hawkesbury River – looking very different in the rain to when we cruised up it in the sunshine on our last visit.

Peter was there to meet us and we took off for the riverside cafe n Toronto ( the names of these places are hysterical!) where we had eaten before on the edge of Lake Macquarie. It was lovely to be there again with him.

As usual, once the chat started, it did not stop! After lunch, we took advantage of a break in the weather to take a walk in woodland on the lake edge.

You cannot do a walk with Peter without learning something! We saw all sorts of things including possum claw marks on a tree, stringy bark trees that Aboriginals used to make string (funnily enough)

The bulge of a white ant mound on a tree

Apparently small birds make nests in the ant mounds – and the ants do no more than block that bit off to ant life and ignore them! Fascinating.

It was then time to go home to meet Nelson………

The smiling Labrador.

A jolly evening was had by all!

Tuesday, 3rd October

We decided to pop into the city to check out Cirrus, the chosen venue for my Australian birthday gathering. It was another sunny day, although the weather looked set to change later in the week.

After a bit of shopping, we set out for the Barangeroo area of the city, a sort of side arm the harbour, but still on the water, where the Cirrus restaurant is situated. We had a look around and talked to one of the chaps there and then adjourned somewhere a little less ‘up market’ for a light lunch.

We then headed back to the Opera House to meet up with Yael for the last time before she heads off to Asia.

We then toddled off home to Collaroy Plateau. Tomorrow we head to Newcastle to spend a couple of days with our friend Peter.

Monday, 1st October

Monday dawned bright and sunny again and the boat trip looked on the cards. By the time we got up, Justine and Tony had run the Long Reef circuit and the prep had been done. Sometimes one can feel really lazy here in the face of the commitment to exercise! At 10.00 we were near to the off. Tony had some last minute boat prep to do as the boat had not been near the water for over year.

The plan was for Justine and me to take ‘Priscilla’, her pink jeep, and the boys would take the girls and the boat to the water for boat launching. We followed them to the boat ramp to ensure all well.

On the thumbs up, we departed to drive to the final cruise destination too set up camp for the barbecue at Clareville Beach Reserve. Sadly – despite the initial optimism – word came through that there was a problem and our excited sailors were not going to be able to take to the water. As tables are very sought after on sunny long weekends, I was sent on ahead to stand guard at a table. This was not such an arduous responsibility, especially when I was joined by a sulphur crested cockatoo, who decided to keep me company while I waited for the others to arrive.

There was a lot of barbecuing activity taking place a day very soon Keith and Tony had arrived to take up their station.

Initially there were two chaps using the second barbecue. Upon enquiry, we found they were from Faversham and one had only been living here for three months. It is a small world.

Despite the sunshine, there was a fairly brisk breeze, but when the sun came through the trees it was lovely. Yummy food over, we set off for a walk along the beach to view the amazing houses that skirted the sand and choose the one we would have if the opportunity arose. It was then time to set off to find ice-cream.

Unfortunately the requested ‘gelato’ was not available and we had to make do with a very lacklustre offering. However we found another beach to wander before returning home to family film time.