the rambles of a family of five in Australia

Leave a comment

Beach Daze

One of the loveliest opportunities we’ve had in moving back to Aus has been a greater access to the beach, even in winter. This is because in MK we were almost as far from the coast as it is possible to be in the United Kingdom, whereas here we are about an hour away from some gorgeous Sydney beaches. H’s parents live reasonably close to the coast as well and the kids have enjoyed our jaunts out for sand, surf and fish and chips with Grandpa and Grandma very much.

Suze playing on the beach at Hawks Nest. It might be mid-winter but the sun was shining and we had a lovely time.

At Clovelly in October, having one of those unscheduled but thoroughly delightful days out. We really should do it more often.
E at Clovelly, having been given the previously unheard of permission to go down to the waters edge on his own to collect wet sand. Can you see the sense of responsibility on those little shoulders?

Clovelly Beach from the cliff path.
At Hawks Nest with Gma and Gpa – E was dreaming about fish and chips for tea, methinks.

Just hanging out with Aunty Lolly.
Clovelly Beach from the car.

Not sure if this was the first dip of the season in our pool, but I know it was unscheduled because we didn’t have S’s swimmers…Not that she minds, of course!
Running along the beach beside Daddy.
Little Miss Curly Top

At Boomerang Beach, on holidays, with the baby beginning to disappear into a little girl.



Paris pictures

So, here are some photos of our time in Paris. Clearly it had a civilising and beautifying effect on all of us…!

One of the first things we did while ill, when we were convinced we were HILARIOUS – probably from lack of food, sleep and heightened nausea – was to pose in E’s new Bob the Builder goggles.

Here are our headshots. (Just count yourselves lucky the goggles didn’t come with overalls and workboots, or we might be all trying to wear those too.)

I can’t believe I’m in Paris and they’re making me wear these.
See, I TOLD you I was Bob the Builder.

I laughed myself SICK when R and the kids were doing it, but now it just feels silly.
If I go along with this, maybe she’ll take the kids out somewhere so I can sleep?

A view of the Canal St. Martin, right on our doorstep.

We spent A WEEK staring at this and were still no closer to working out what it was. Still, we kind of liked it!

A view of the mantel mirror in the living room.

The hall – scene of much scooting and shuffling.

Having a chat – plotting their next move.

Look! That’s Paris! Right outside our window!

Quite inspiring to have this on the wall opposite your bed. Quite disappointing when you don’t really go anywhere!

Check out the bags under our eyes!

Our first walk outside. IN THE SUNSHINE! This was our closest park.

Is it my imagination or does Suze look too big for this?! 

On the most ill-fated excursion we’ve ever undertaken, just before it all went seriously pear-shaped.

Notre-Dame, I promise we’ll be back.

Watching the world splash by in the rain.


a pre-christmas trip to koln (cologne), germany

The best little reindeer in the universe

In December, while H’s Mum was visiting, she and H had a fabulous opportunity. R had offered to look after E so that H and M could visit family in Köln, Germany.

Hot-smoked fish – yummo!

They had 5 days and 4 nights to soak up the sights, catch up with family and revel in some (very) rare mother-daughter time. The plan was to hit as many of the seven Christmas markets as possible during their stay, see the Dom (Cathedral) and spend some time talking, eating and laughing with M’s Uncle and Aunt.

Gingerbread hearts

We arrived in Koln at just after 8:30pm on the Thursday evening – an hour late due to delays out of Heathrow. Although a little nervous about the language barrier (we each had the same three words of German!) we made our way successfully from the airport to the central train station. After some difficulties locating our branch line we made it onto the platform with our bags and thence to Ehrenfeld where we were staying.

The first flight of stairs to our apartment

Our apartment was light, bright and clean. It was also sparsely furnished – which was perfect for all our needs and wants – except in the sleeping department.

 The beds were quite short, the quilts were slightly smaller than the Australian single bed size – so you had to stay curled up in order to be covered – and the single European-size pillow was made of marshmallow. As soon as your head touched the seemingly fluffy pillow contours it would hit the bed as the other side of the pillow inflated to epic proportions. Did we mention the mattresses were about 3cm thick? It sounds a bit grim, but we were on a holiday high and prepared to accept less-than-ideal sleeping conditions on our little jaunt.

Breakfast & coffee heaven

The next morning we were greeted an hour earlier than we had planned for by M’s Uncle and taken on the main street to be introduced to the delights of the Mezernich Bäckerie – a family-run chain of bakeries in Koln that was utterly delightful each morning.

Christmas decorations that dreams are made of…

Onward to Neumarkt station, above which was Engelmarkt (Angel Market) where we bought Christmas decorations, drank gluhwein and ate potato cakes. Heavenly!

Did you know that hot roast chestnuts will stain leather gloves? We didn’t either!

Uncle then took us on a whirlwind tour of the city – he and it were full of buzzing energy that was very exciting – having lunch at a buffet, eating hot roast chestnuts, exploring the Dom, glimpsing the Weinachtmarkt am Kolner Dom (Koln Cathedral Christmas Markets) and entering the Heimat der Heinzel (Home of the Gnomes) in Aldstadt (the Old City) which had its own special charm. Each of the booths was decorated with a variety of carved wooden gnomes grinning and working in various industrious poses.

Light display above the outdoor icerink at Heimat der Heinzel

Uncle left us there to go for his weekly swim (!) while we stuffed ourselves with waffles with kirsch cherries and nutella and explored yet more markets.

M having the first forkful of cherry bliss
A very inadequate rendering of the Dom on my little digital camera

The biggest, most elaborate gingerbread house we’ve ever seen

The following days were stuffed with fabulous food from Mezernich; Aunty C’s amazing lunch that stretched over 4 hours (with a break for a walk to the park to visit Uncle’s bird family!); a traditional Koln meat feast; and many returns to Engelmarkt which we decided was our favourite.

OK, so we disagree about what it was called, but we do agree that it was bigger than our heads.

Uncle with his lovely birds… ! They saw him (and his netto bag) from afar and came running. You’d swear they understood every word!

Breakfast on our last morning: hot Christmas frankfurt in a bun, with mustard and hot Kinderpunsch (fruit juice). Almost the best thing we ate for the whole of our time in Koln!

Monday rolled around far too quickly and we found ourselves at the airport preparing to settle into the lounge before our flight. Owing to a couple of language glitches it took H too long to realise that our flight had been cancelled (eek!) due to bad weather, and that we were being paged to go to the check-in desk. After much frantic scurrying from one official to another, we were loaded into a taxi-van with 4 other passengers and taken to Dusseldorf to try to get a connecting flight to London. This gave us a never-to-be-forgotten trip on the autobahn at speeds of up to 180kph. (And we weren’t even the fastest on the motorway!)

The most exciting thing at Dusseldorf airport!

After reaching Dusseldorf we had to wait another 7 hours to get a flight to Heathrow, getting to experience the wild rumour-mongering of disgruntled passengers; the joys of meal vouchers and having a plane snatched from under our noses by mechanics who couldn’t get the door to close (no joke!) However, we finally landed in London at 11pm and were home in bed by 1am-ish.

Going to Germany was a fabulous experience. Neither of us thought we’d ever get the chance to sit and talk with family in their home, be shown around their city and experience part of their lives. It was an enriching time of blessing and we were loved and spoilt thoroughly during our stay. We didn’t struggle with the language and communicating as much as we had feared. Although neither of us really managed to speak German well our understanding of what others were saying and what we were reading on signs improved enormously and helped us feel involved in things. We loved Koln and would return any time, and recommend it as a fabulous city to walk around (even at -8C!)

Our favourite public artwork in the world!

Our ‘let’s spread out all our goodies and gloat’ table

1 Comment

snapshots from sydney

Bathers Pavilion at Balmoral

Family & friends have been amazingly generous with their time to us – both in organising our accommodation and catering for our needs prior to our arrival, and in inviting us to share in their lives while we’re in Aus.

We’ve had raucous family dinners gathered over Thai takeaway; cultured breakfast picnics at Balmoral; homely meals with extended family; barbecues in the middle of torrential rain showers; candlelit conviviality soaked in wine, and coffees & lunches in various parks and shopping centres as the mood has taken us.

E, torn between the lure of friends and the lure of Dad…

E has been showered with summer clothes and toys to occupy him while here and has taken to them with joy and delight. He has LOVED spending time with various small (and not-so-small) male relatives and being initiated into the mysteries of toys far above his age range. He has taken to wearing a pair of ‘sunnies’ whenever he is outside, and particularly fancies himself in them when driving in the car.

E, R and cousins

 He struggled quite a bit with the weather in the first few days after our arrival, and was quick to ask us to ‘turn heater off’. Sadly, that wasn’t possible, but his solution has been to upend cups of water over himself when really suffering from the heat – which is fine with us as long as no one hands him a cup of juice.

E and R enjoying the beach view

He loved going to Balmoral – begged to be allowed onto the sand – and even though it was a cool day he ran into the water, plonked himself down just where the waves were breaking and shouted joyfully ‘me swimming, me swimming.’ It was less joyful when we pulled him out 30 minutes later, blue and shivering, and tried to carry him up the beach as he kicked and shouted ‘more water! more swimming!’

E and cousin on the beach

He has demonstrated a significant prejudice against grass – he doesn’t like the feel of it on his bare skin – so is wearing socks and shoes everywhere. He has even succumbed to the English practice of socks with sandals, such is the delicacy of his little white feet without protection from the sun and from chafing in his shoes. Rob thinks he derives his princess-ish-ness from Hailey…she is inclined to agree!

E and R meet Billy at Balmoral – a famous local personality

1 Comment

northern road trip (part 2)

View of Keswick High Street
The lovely flowers – H was very taken with the red stems.

The real purpose of our Northern Road Trip was for R to oversee the bookshop component of the Keswick Convention 2010. The convention runs annually for three weeks each summer here and is a chance for Christians of all ages and stages to come away for one week or three, hear some great teaching and spend time together. However, we weren’t there to attend Convention – just to make sure R’s side of things was organised.

R & E reading up on all the things there were to do

This meant that H & E had quite a lot of free time to explore in the mornings, before meeting up with R in the afternoons for trips further afield. The first morning after our arrival was wet, wet, wet.

The Greta river, from the park, as E & H negotiated the walk into town

There’s a reason the Lake District has so many lakes, and that reason is the rain. It was fantastic. One of the things we find it difficult to get used to, living here, is the abundance of rain. It is a real blessing to have it fall so freely, and we are becoming accustomed to the English way of getting on with planned activities outdoors, regardless of showers or torrential rain-dumps. The rain was quite heavy, so attired in what we believed to be good wet-weather gear, H & E set forth to walk into Keswick and explore the town. Our first stop on reaching the town centre was one of the many Hiking and Camping Clothing stores with which the town abounds, to purchase a waterproof jacket with hood for H, and wellies for E (with pirates on them.) Thus arrayed, with the raincover on the pram, we were finally prepared for the weather!

Can you spot the pirate on E’s wellies?
E’s favourite piece of equipment at the park

We discovered three excellent parks within 5 minutes’ walk of our hotel, and E discovered that a mac is a real deterrent to sliding down a slide…whereas it was no deterrent when stealing another little boy’s football…sigh.

E engaged in non-theft-related park activities…

E, H and R discovered that the transformed train platform/conservatory was an excellent place to eat egg sandwiches and watch hapless cyclists in the wet. We tried Kendal Mint Cake and visited Cars of the Stars Motor Museum (which was an interesting but not essential part of our trip.)

It was definitely more impressive, size-wise, in the flesh.

No more words necessary, I think.

We bought second-hand books from street vendors in the market place and spent lots of time just wandering – awed by the mountains that rose up around the town and were alternately wreathed in grey cloud or dazzled by brief interludes of sunshine.

Ahh, the mountains.

We walked across croquet lawns and wiped egg sandwich off window panes. We tried black pudding and bread fried in lard (accidentally, and only the once) and E decided once and for all that grapefruit is just not his thing.

We discovered that we all have a thing for drystone walls

In the afternoons we drove through the fells (a local word for mountains) on narrow, steep winding tracks surrounded by slopes littered with fallen boulders and gazed down into gorgeous lakes -or glimpsed them afar off, glittering like mirrors – with familiar names: Windermere, Buttermere, Coniston Water, Derwent Water, Grasmere, Rydal Water, Thirlmere and Ullswater.

This isn’t a lake, but it is pretty.

All the drives we took were impossibly scenic – even on the grey days we were there and it is a testament to the beauty of the landscape that we have such lovely memories.

The path where H temporarily misplaced the only key to our hotel room.

We drove past Dove Cottage (William Wordsworth’s house in Grasmere) but E’s schedule prevented us from doing more than sighing hopelessly and quoting a few lines of I wandered lonely as a cloud (as you can imagine R of course knew all the words.)

View of Derwent Water

We would definitely return to Cumbria and the Lake District and would highly recommend it to anyone as a great place to visit.

In the great “Boat trip vs Afternoon tea’ debate, guess which activity won out?


northern road trip (part 1)

Our first view of York

Some weeks ago we packed the car full-to-bursting and set off on a road trip. First stop: York, 154 miles (247 kilometres) from home and some three hours in the car. Perhaps, like us when we arrived in the UK, you look at the distance and think – it couldn’t possibly take that long, surely? You’d be reckoning without the awesome inertia power of the motorway roadwork speed limit – 40mph for miles and miles, often without any work being visibly attempted. That said, we are getting used to allowing much more time for journeys than is commonly needed in Aus, and once you accept it, life becomes bearable again.

A view of the city wall from the road
We were travelling to (and via) York so that R could do a little work; H could browse a few bookshops and bag some bargains and E … well, he was just along for the ride. We have learned to take many and varied snacks, books and toys for amusement and occupation during car rides, and to pray that nap time will fall neatly into a car journey. In the case of our trip to York E was wide awake and chatty the entire time and very ready to get out and explore on foot to shake out the wriggles.
One of the York city gates. Note: The word ‘gate’ in York actually means ‘road’ and the word ‘bar’ actually means ‘gate’. So this is called a ‘bar’.

So while R worked, H and E took to the streets with the pram and wandered the length and breadth of the walled city of York. We walked through the Shambles – a tiny cobbled lane with overhanging first and second storeys that blocked out the sunlight. The street had a deep cobbled ditch running straight down the middle – obviously the mediaeval plumbing alternative.
A view looking down into the Shambles

We bought some sandwiches from a Polish deli for E’s lunch and set off to the gardens of Yorkminster beside the cathedral – an absolutely magnificent building which we would’ve explored had not a high-ranking military/government funeral been taking place within. One of the results of this were the policemen with a very excitable sniffer dog (off its leash) combing the cathedral’s surrounds. E had already been entertaining quite a few park-lunchers with his antics so combined with a bounding dog intent on scarfing his lunch to check it for drugs and/or explosives we were quite the focus.

Lunching in York Minster
Afterward we did some window-shopping and meandered around the city – marvelling at the architecture and community feel, before meeting up with R for a proper lunch and some more exploring.
After an abortive attempt to leave York (due to computer issues at work we had to turn back for) we finally drove out of the city around 3pm. Like many old cities in the UK, traffic is quite a problem in the narrow streets and winding lanes. The solution is often a ring road around the city – the only difficulty being actually getting onto it in the first place. Having to get onto it twice in two hours was frustrating, but the upside is we have quite a good sense of how York is laid out.

We thought York was wonderful and are plotting our return, maybe even for a weekend, in order to really get to grips with the history of the city and to finally get inside the cathedral!

Two views of York Cathedral: somewhere we are keen to return.

Next stop: Keswick-on-Derwentwater, Cumbria (150 miles from York and another three-ish hours in the car.) Our first problem on this leg of the trip turned out to be our SatNav, whom we have christened Sylvia. She was determined to take us an extra 70 miles out of our way – virtually across the Scottish border – before putting us on the right road. Our desire to thwart her planning was complicated by the fact that we hadn’t bothered to bring a UK-wide map with us to plot an alternate route. In the end, armed with only our sense of direction to guide us, we turned Sylvia onto ‘silent’ mode and forged a much shorter and more scenic path through the Yorkshire dales and fells of the Lake District along the ‘A’ roads.

A fabulous view with the added bonus of E’s favourite road sign, usually greeted by much pointing and yelling
“Tractor! Tractor!”

Blessedly, E fell asleep for much of the journey and we were free to marvel at the lofty heights and valley views as we snaked our way along the Dales’ roads.

Our arrival in Keswick coincided with steady drizzle, so it was a relief to get into our (very lovely) room, freshen up, and go straight down to dinner in the dining room. We stayed in a phenomenally scenic and historic old hotel that used to be the Station Hotel.

Our lovely hotel. You can’t see it clearly in the picture, but it is built of local green slate and was a thing of utter beauty.

 In fact, the train platform (no longer in use) has now been glassed in and is now in use as part of the conservatory. More on that later. Commensurate with the rest of the hotel was the dining room: silver service; starched white linen and hushed tones complemented everyone: the couples on romantic weekends away and travellers on expensive package tours. Everyone, that is, except we three. E did very well but small boys and silver service are not a natural combination so mealtimes were delicious but very quick! The staff were amazing with E and most of the other guests accepted E with good grace – the kindlier ones coming over and chatting to him. H’s favourite of all the other guests would come up at each meal and say “Now then young man, you’re breathing fresh air into the room, it’s good to see you!” We were thankful to God for these people who went out of their way to encourage us and put us at ease in what could’ve turned into a tense situation. The guests who were not thrilled to be dining with E after that first meal would wait until we’d made our meal reservations and then choose another time slot. So, in the end, everyone was happy…

Our wing of the hotel – actually used to be the entrance to the station. Still with the post-box – so handy for those late-night postcards!

Stay tuned for more on Keswick in the next part of our Northern Road Trip.