the rambles of a family of five in Australia

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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.


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Garden Shenanigans

This mulch pile is one of two that we have been working on distributing round our place for the past 6 months or so. E and S LOVE to play in the trailer while R is either loading or unloading it, and it is a sure fire way to have happy, filthy children.

Picking mandarins from our bumper crop this year. Suze learnt to peel and eat them very quickly, and ended up treating the trees as her own personal snack bar. The only negative was the tendency to go for the ones lying on the ground…

Our winter picnic spot in the front garden.

Four peaches we actually managed to harvest before the cockatoos got to them!
Soil and mulch distribution team gets to work…

Some of our plant dreams have been realised with the addition of this black tulip magnolia.

Suze getting busy with her dirt bucket.

The house from Suze’s perspective.

One of our favourite new plants, ‘Hydrangaea Red Ball’ blooming beautifully in front of R’s bedroom window.

One of our million gardenias – one of the nicest things about the front borders.

The aftermath of putting together our new trampoline on a 40C day…

R and kids enjoy some fun in the blessedly cool shade.

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Rob the Builder (and his merry helpers Scoop and Muck…)

Since moving back to our house in June, we have had numerous projects on the go. Mostly, we are quite disorganised and forgetful when it comes to recording progress. However, here we managed to take a few pictures of some of the tasks Rob has had on his ‘to-do’ list. H feels tired just thinking about all the work Rob has managed to complete this year. 

Rewiring the internet connection…

Building the new side fence.

Not sure if it’s nature or nurture or 50/50, but building things is definitely a shared love.

S, very merry at the prospect of a missing front door. H, gritting her teeth at all the flies!

First bit of the frame goes in…

R and E conducting manly door-related work on the front verandah.

Boy heaven…

Side fence complete, except for…
… a coat of paint.
Last view of the old steel french doors – farewell, we will not mourn your passing.

Old kitchen window out…

Ready for its brand spanking new version. Hurrah!

Front door finished and ready for Christmas! Now to choose a paint colour for the rest of the house… we have a grey theme going if you have any cracking suggestions.


Our house (becoming our home again)

This post is not a design-led post (self evidently, I would’ve thought), it is an attempt to answer questions from our UK friends about where we live now and what it is like.
Mostly the children are absent from the photos, because usually their sleep time was the best time to take pictures! This is also why their bedrooms are not shown (as they were IN them). We haven’t shown bathrooms or the laundry, or the rooms that are undergoing renovation either. However, this is our house, everyday feeling more like home and in it we live and laugh and (try) to get 8-10 hours’ sleep a night.

E in the front garden, enjoying the Australian autumn sunshine.

We so enjoyed the autumn colour this year – even though our senses were all attuned to seeing an English spring.

Mummy and Little Miss, watching the boys at work, sitting on the front verandah.

The White House (although R insists that to him, the paint has a greenish tinge), shining in the sunlight.

There’s an awfully big pile of leaves on the ground, and many more waiting to fall…

You could totally have a Sunday School picnic in our front yard. Maybe we could rent it out?

Our very empty hall.

Bedroom 1: overlooking the front garden. Soon to be a guest bedroom. UK visitors warmly welcome.
Bedroom 2: Behind bedroom 1, opening off the hall. Whose could it be? (Note the pile of books!)

Loungeroom, also opening off the hall. (Mostly a child-free space!)
First view into the kitchen from the hall – a good reminder through the busy days and sometimes wakeful nights, right above the wherewithal for a cuppa.

One of H’s busiest places in our house, but lots of good light and a cracking view mean it’s a pleasure to work here.

Poppies in winter. $3 from a roadside stall.

We might well be incapable of an uncluttered fridge. Roll on the preschool paintings and newsletters.
The sink and the view out to the back yard and beyond.

One day our library will be a haven of peace and tranquillity. At the moment it is the ‘sorting out’ room for our remaining cardboard boxes.

Our dining room. Scene of many meals, frivolity, lessons in table manners, PlayDoh creations and much sorting and folding of washing.

View from the dining room to the family room/play room. How we would’ve loved this combustion stove whilst in Dairy Cottage.
The ‘Book Nook’, watched over by Bertie the Gardener. We inevitably find ourselves here at odd times throughout the day, usually reading something to do with tractors or trains. Mummy is endeavoring to introduce the Muddle-Headed Wombat stories, but finds herself at a bit of a loss with all the explaining that tends to result from all of E’s questions.

The ‘play room’. This space has made playtime fun and well-organised. Everybody can find everything they need quickly and it is very easy to pack away at the end. Hurrah for sunshine and IKEA!

Our family room, from the Book Nook. This is a great space for relaxing and quiet chatting while kids play and chaos reigns. Watching the fire at night is better than television.

How we have loved getting our furniture back. Although swapping from a red theme in England to a blue theme in Aus has taken a bit of adjustment!
Swimming lessons began this week, so that the pool can be a place of enjoyment and not one of terror for E’s parents… It does look lovely in summer though!

The back verandah. Scene of joyous driving and crashing; wood chopping and barbeque-ing; washing and hanging laundry; and playing outside even when it rains. Hurrah for outdoor/indoor space!


Coming home

Our arrival home was much anticipated. We looked forward to: warmer weather; time with family; getting back into our own home; settling the kids into a new and hopefully more permanent routine; not having to get on a plane with two poppets for a VERY long time.

Thankfully, we didn’t seem to be as jet-lagged this time as we have been in the past, and the children coped really well with new surroundings.

We’ve been in the flat now for about 5 weeks, and although it’s not our preferred mode of living in a permanent way, it has been wonderful to be two minutes’s walk from Woolworths, the park, library and public transport. We are also 10-15 minutes from family (Rob’s) and the office.

A very jet-lagged S, at 9am on Saturday after we arrived on Friday night!

Ditto Mr. E.

It is about 45 minutes from the flat to our house – a trip Rob has done twice a day for the last 5 weeks. He has coordinated trades, deliveries and all the work we have needed to have done – as well as doing quite a bit himself. We are nearly there and plan to move in tomorrow – hurrah!

It is about two hours up the freeway to H’s parents’ house and we have stayed a couple of times. It has been a real blessing to have a little bit of country peace and quiet, some great views and even a trip to the beach in late autumn!

Scooting around after Zorro the cat at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

First time ON THE BEACH! Sand is NOT our friend, but we can subdue it with some judicious spade action.

Nanna’s birthday gift had a real workout.

Ocean Beach at Hawks Nest – a cracking afternoon.

E and S with Great-Grandma. We had a very special visit!

Our first visit to H’s parents’ place coincided with a visit from Great-Grandma, and it was a really wonderful opportunity for the children to get to know and reacquaint with their gret-grandparents. Neither R nor H really has much memory of great-grandparents, and it is a unique thing to see four generations of family together!

E and S with Great-Grandma and Grand-Nan – we think it is amazing that they have two great grandmothers to love and to love them.

 Coming home, and preparing to move back to our house, has prompted lots of reflection about the nature of where our ‘home’ actually is. H feels as though her heart is divided in two – one part in Australia, and one part in Northamptonshire. It is especially sad to realise that it is unlikely we’ll ever move back there, and even if we did, it would be very different. Australia is a great place and we love it very much, but even here there are difficulties, stresses and lots of hard work required. House maintenance and improvements demand a lot of sweat and ingenuity. One of the things we are feeling anew is the sense that we are ‘aliens and strangers’ wherever we are. It doesn’t matter whether we are natives or ex-pats, there are always times when we feel a disconnect between reality and what we long for.
We were content with second-hand and charity-shop furniture and toys in the UK, as well as loans from generous friends. Moving back and getting our things out of storage seems to weigh us down a little with the responsibility for all these ‘things’. Beautiful and useful though a lot of them undoubtedly are.
We know more than ever that our stuff cannot make us happy or more secure, and that it is futile for us to try to make a permanent and secure home here. Stocks fail, banks collapse, property prices tumble, people do not live forever on earth.
We are comforted that this is not all there is and that we have an eternal hope:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Cuddles with Grand-Nan!


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.


Suzannah’s first birthday!

On Tuesday, our little Suzy turned 1! We think having your first birthday in Paris, with an afternoon tea of croissants, eclairs et flan aux cerises is probably enough to spoil you for any further celebrations. It is a blessing in disguise then, that Suzy definitely won’t remember it. We have enjoyed getting to know Suzy and experiencing all the love that little girls have to offer. We loved: Her crazy mohawk and are just a little bit sad that her hair is now, to all intents and purposes, pretty conformist. The way she shuffles around on her bottom to get places, and how brilliant her little abdominals are. Her cheeky little face peeping round the corner just before she decides to embark upon an all-out riot of mischief. Her little smiles and throaty chuckles. She doesn’t ‘laugh’ as such but when she’s enjoying herself it is just lovely. We are looking forward to introducing Suzy to all our friends and family in Aus. That is, once we survive our flight and recover from the jet-lag! Bonne anniversaire ma petite Cheri!


Nous arrivons a Paris!

We are in Paris, hurrah!

We caught the Eurostar from St. Pancras International last Thursday and it was quite painless compared to the pfaffing that seems to go along with flying anywhere these days. It helped that S seems to be an accomplished flirt and that all admin duties were being handled by men. Our apartement is in the 10th arrondissement, very close to Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est and within 30 metres of the Canal St. Martin – a lovely place to amble slowly along.

Amble? You ask? Why amble? Well, because although so far this sounds like a lovely family bit of R&R, we have had a vomiting bug since last Monday (yes folks, we’re heading into the second week!) and ambling is about the fastest we feel we can manage. So no, we’ve not really done any sightseeing or taken any photos or anything you might recognise as quintessentially French. We have, however, spent a lot of time in our apartement resting; some time ambling along the waterside; sitting in one or another of the parks in this neighborhood, watching E burn off some of his slowly returning joie de vivre, and shopping for basic food supplies in the local franprix – where the staff kindly assure H that her French is excellent. It’s not, but flattery makes her return, so they are getting something for nothing!

Some blessings:
Le Pain (The bread)
R was astonished that although H had been talking it up for nearly 8 years, she hadn’t exaggerated about how good it was or how unlike every horrible “French stick” you’ve ever choked down in Australia it actually was.

Le cafe
Since being able to be out and about in public, it has been lovely to drop casually into any of the numerous cafes that line the streets near our apartment and have a coffee. Coffee here is uniformly excellent, if pricey. R concedes that if he lived in France he would drink coffee too! Our usual order is: Deux cafes; ou un cafe et une chocolate chaud, un jus d’orange (pour E) et une tartine avec confiture. It’s lovely to have a holiday ritual, and in the absence of sightseeing it is nice to be doing something social as a family.

Les Francais (The French)
Once again we are bemused by how those “arrogant French” rumours get started. We have experienced nothing but charm and courtesy, and H realised yet again how civility seems to be the defining characteristic of French life. One example. As we staggered home on Friday afternoon with the buggy and an unhappily walking E, four venerable Ladies emerged from an inner courtyard and sashayed very slowly – even more slowly than us! – along the footpath. One turned her head slightly, saw us, shooed the others to one side and exhorted us “Allez-y, ma belles!” It might surprise you to learn that we aren’t customarily addressed as “lovely ones” even by those who love us best, so it was a feel-good moment and an example of superb manners on the part of those who have certainly earned the right to keep younger generations waiting.

The weather. Blue skies, short showers, puffy white clouds, sunshine;heavy showers. 

Thank you to all who have prayed for us. Sorry there are no photos here but we thought the update was worth the lack of pretty pictures. And you don’t really want pictures of our trip so far.
Promise. 😉


In honour of E’s third birthday

Our son, E, our firstborn, turned 3 today.

Because we are in temporary accommodation, with all we own boxed and on pallets ready to send to Australia, and a very limited amount of luggage space, we have had to have a minimalist birthday for him. Surprisingly, (or not really) he didn’t seem to notice.

He received three little Thomas the Tank Engine trains which magnetically link together – just the size to play with on a plane tray table! – from Mummy, Daddy and Suze.

He was given a tractor and milk tanker from his best friends on Wakefield. It was clear on opening this that all his past, present and future wishes had been fulfilled!

He received two ecards from his grandparents and Grand-Nan – which he loved, despite (or more probably because of) the fact that they involved interaction which drove us a little batty!

He had lovely cards from various friends, a tiny store-bought cake with Lightning McQueen (Car de Tween!) topped with 3 pre-used candles (from Daddy’s birthday in January); and afternoon tea with Nannie and Sydney. He was even serenaded by his tired and slightly cranky parents with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ just before bedtime.

Sometimes it is so easy to think that everything has to be perfect; that there should be a wide selection of gifts/a big party/perfect moods in all present etc etc etc but the truth is that we love him, he brings joy to us each and every day, he is Suze’s favourite person in the whole world and he himself is a little person who has the child-like ability to enjoy the good things about each day.

Living here in the flat he is out of his comfort zone, longing to go home to Wakefield and yet he still revelled in his gifts and cards, ate every mouthful of food he could get his fork into and went to bed cuddling Shanksie, and his new tractor and milk tanker.

Happy Birthday Son – we love you!


We’re leaving on a jetplane (Eurostar actually)

Our time in England is drawing to a close and we are having to say our goodbyes, store up great memories, note down addresses of all our friends, and pack our lives into two suitcases and one duffel bag – ready for a long flight back to Australia, by way of a week-long jaunt to Paris in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary.

Our move to England was only ever short-term, but we have surprised ourselves by how much we have enjoyed the recreational side of our life here and by the strength of the friends we’ve found. (Okay, maybe just R was surprised, H always knew she would love it!)

We have loved:

Wolverton Evangelical Church
Going on a recommendation from Andrew Davies we attended WEC on our second Sunday in England. We’ve never been anywhere else since. It has been our spiritual home-from-home. A place of good fellowship, spiritual refreshment and encouraging, excellent Bible teaching. H, E and S will particularly miss attending the Ladies Bible Study on Monday mornings and Mums and Tots on Tuesday afternoons. Both were highlights of our week and a great encouragement in the practical and spiritual work of motherhood. E has made good friends in the creche on Sunday mornings and we are sad to think of all those he will miss when we leave.

National Trust
H post-it noted about 75% of the properties in our NT booklet, spent hours on the web researching and plotted ways of ‘going past’ properties on the way to other places. We have been given tours by friends, acted upon recommendations, taken other friends around houses and gardens, and returned to our favourite haunts over and over again. E had his first icecream cone at Waddesdon; we’ve had proper picnics (with rugs and everything); and spent hours marvelling at soaring architecture, glorious gardens and stunning scenery. Of all the things we love to do in our ‘spare’ time, the National Trust would top the list, and we will miss it dreadfully once back in Aus.

Living on Wakefield has been a privilege. Despite the fact that the Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain doesn’t even have a section on Northamptonshire, we have really enjoyed living in this county and exploring all that it has to offer. Wakefield is an amazing place – it has a sense of community unlike anywhere else we’ve lived and has a special place in our hearts. We are not sure if we’ll ever get over having lived here. Particular highlights have included glimpses into farm life – tractors have made an indelible impression on E; watching the seasons change the colours in the fields and woods; getting a sense of the English social and sporting calendar; living somewhere that is intimately connected to land, weather and seasons. We hope that the friends we’ve made will last our lifetime, and maybe that we will be able to host English visitors in Australia one day.

Suzannah’s birth. Having a baby in a country other than Australia was something we were a bit wary of, but it was a generally positive and encouraging experience, with a beautiful baby girl to be thankful for and to love. She has an English birth certificate and has given us an excuse to return ‘x’ years’ hence ”to help her discover the country of her birth”!

A short list of some of the things we will miss:

Mighty Atoms
Ocado online
John Lewis
Costa Coffee
Thinking that 25C is a heatwave
Not worrying about spiders, bugs and cockroaches – because there aren’t any to speak of.
Living in a country that has so many nooks and crannies in which literary characters had their beginnings
Supermarket sandwiches – E’s food life may never be the same without them
Having the washing machine in the kitchen – why do we not do this in Australia??
Thatched cottages
Entire villages built of the same stone
Knowing that Europe is just a short plane flight away
Icicles hanging from the roof
Eating a roast dinner at Christmas and not feeling silly and too hot
Spring flowers
Four distinct seasons
Formal gardens that have matured in scope and planting for 200-500 years
Being able to visit friends 50 metres’ walk away (or less)
Hedges on the side of the road
‘B’ roads

An even shorter list of some of the things we are looking forward to:

Straight roads and highways
Friendly customer service everywhere
Seeing our families and friends and (re)introducing the children
We were going to talk about the weather, but Australia’s summer being what it was, we’ll pass over the weather in silence.
The smell of eucalyptus
The beach
Wide open spaces

England, we have loved you – thank you for having us.
Australia, we have always loved you – we look forward to staying with you soon.