A quick trip to Aussie.

Tuesday 26 March 2019 – Brisbane, Australia.

It is almost six weeks after the fact and I am sitting in an Air B n B in Settle, North Yorkshire drinking a glass of cheap Australian shiraz, snarfling down chocolate and pondering catching up on a couple of incomplete blog posts; or just staring blankly at Twitter. As always, it has been a busy couple of months; though at least I have got the keys to my flat now, so there has been some good news! More on that in the next post.

in mid-March I made a last minute trip to Australia (with a side visit to NZ) to see my son, Dom. He needed to spend some proper time with his dad, time I did not had on the last couple of trips back to New Zealand. Time well spent.

I flew Cathay Pacific as it was the best value I could get for the flights and times I wanted to make. I have flown with them before, more than once, and they have been pretty good. They were not bad, but I don’t think I will fly with them again, the entertainment was awful. There was one film I wanted to watch, about three I tolerated and no TV shows I had not seen or wanted to see. Not a heck of a lot for 50 or so hours of flight time, thankfully I had books and music, and the ability to zone out for short periods.

I arrived in Brisbane early morning, picked up a rental car, then Domenic, and we headed up to Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. I had rented a fairly basic beach side apartment for us for three nights. It was pretty perfect, Caloundra is not a bad spot, in fact given my hatred of Queensland it as an amazing spot. The beach is glorious, the apartment was over the road from it, there was decent coffee by the beach and some pretty good beers to be had a ten minute walk away. Things must be looking up.

We did not do a lot for the first couple of days, hung out, watched TV; I got to watch some NRL rugby league for the first time in years, which I very much enjoyed. We spent a bit of time on the beach and in the sea. The water was amazing, so warm compared to my last sea swim when I was scouting flats in St Leonards-on-Sea last summer.

I just loved the beach, golden sand, warm and soft under foot, clear warm water and small but not bad surf. I swam more times in those three days than I have in the last three years.

In an effort to keep cost down, and us out of pubs, we shopped in the local supermarket and ate in for the first two nights, only walking up to a bar near the beach in the later afternoon for one pint.

It is all pretty casual here, this is a beach town with a surfer mentality. Not used to wearing flip flop / jandal / thongs for prolonged periods I got a bit of sand / jandal rash and could not wear them for long periods without pain and bleeding. Walking barefoot on the sea front was not a problem. I liked this. I miss walking barefoot. I was the whitest person for hundreds of miles I suspect.

For our last full day we took a drive a short way inland, into the coastal hills, and the tourist road from Meleny to Mapleton. Our first stop allowed us a view over the Glasshouse Mountains.

These 13 small hills were formed million of years ago by volcanic activity. The cool thing is that these hills were not pushed out of the earth, erosion over million years left these very hard rock hills behind.

We spent half the day cruising around the area visiting a few scenic places. My favourite was the almost dry waterfall at Mapleton Falls. We took a bush walk among the trees and I really liked these massive palm trees. The name of them has long been forgotten unfortunately.

We also discovered this very unafraid lizard down by Lake Baroon.

We arrived back in Caloundra in the evening and went for a walk before heading to the pub for dinner, our one night out.

The following day we drove back to Brisbane, stopping to do some shopping on the way. The following day I flew to Auckland for a couple of days to see mum and the family and then back to London and work.

It was really cool I got to spend some time hanging out with Dom, we mostly had a good time together, talked about a lot of things and I left feeling happier about how things were going in his complicated world. We both really enjoyed the days hanging out by the beach, chilling, swimming, eating with no pressure to do or achieve anything. If only life could be like that all the time. 

This post was finished a further two weeks later! I am not good at this blogging malarky anymore 🙂

Brisvegas.

Sunday 13 January 2019 – Brisbane, Australia.

I am going to strike while things are hot. Having just written my first post in over three months I am going to start and will aim to finish, this, a second.

When I was in New Zealand in May I committed to mum that we would come over for Christmas. Come October when I finally got around to booking tickets the intention and desire for Christmas was still there. I knew it was going to be expensive to fly either side of Christmas, but wow. It was a lot, a very large lot. Made infinitely more expensive and complex by our desire to go to Brisbane, then Auckland, finishing in Singapore. Our original thinking had also included a week in Japan, but we soon gave up on that idea. With added work restrictions on timing and duration I ended up having to call mum and tell her we could not afford to be there for Christmas, but would come over in early January. Which is what we did.

Fast forward to Friday 11 January, and we were finally off. British Airways to Hong Kong, then two hours later Qantas to Brisbane, Australia. Arriving at 6:00am on Sunday. We completely lost Saturday somewhere.

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We had 29 hours in Brisbane. A very quick trip, here to spend a little time with my son Dom and my granddaughter Cadence. Unfortunately things had conspired against us and Dom and his partner had to finish moving house this weekend. They were moving from south of the city to Murgon, a town three hours north. I wasn’t willing to make that drive after 27 hours of flying and little sleep, and then repeat the drive back to the hotel a little later.

It was convenient in the end, we met Dom in a park as they were passing through town, and I only had a short drive to make to get there. It was great to see Dom, his partner, Tabithe and their daughter Cadence again. Cadence was very shy this time, and was not very interactive, and very unhappy with me taking photos. She is two years old now, and more self aware. The move has been a bit disruptive for her, but she did enjoy the late Christmas present we brought over with us.

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After an hour or so with them in a quite warm park El and I drove back to the hotel and had an afternoon nap. We needed it. It was late afternoon when we arose. I had booked us in a hotel that was close to the Brisbane River, on the northern, city side. The South Bank is quite a popular tourist destination, similar to London’s version, there are numerous eating places and things to do, alongside a relaxing river side walk.

The sun sets really early in Brisbane, and with no daylight saving to extend the day, getting out for a walk early was important, I had a bit of a plan in mind and wanted to get the first part done in daylight. We walked through the botanical gardens (a recurring theme for the holiday), though just along the riverside path. Thankfully it was a bit cooler on the riverside and in the late afternoon. Crossing over on the Goodwill Bridge we stopped at the first restaurant we came across that had a free outside table. Even though we had been eating pretty much non-stop since we left London, I was still hungry!

After eating my bodyweight for the second or third time in the last two days and supping a couple of very nice Australian wines we set off into the early evening dark for a walk along the river.

It is a very busy place, and there were a lot of walkers, riders and electric scooter users wizzing their way along the path. Even the beach and pool was still busy.

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The most bizarre thing on the South Bank is this Nepalese Peace Pagoda. It was assembled in 1988 for the World Expo after having all its component pieces made in Nepal. It is quite lovely.

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Crossing back over the river we walked back through the downtown area, past all the closed shops and surprisingly closed restaurants. It was a Sunday night I guess, and we certainly did not need any more food. Back at the hotel we stopped for a glass of wine in the river side bistro, before heading off for more sleep. Day one of our holiday was complete.

Monday morning we were up early, I think I woke up about 3:30 am. Lying in bed until a reasonable time to get up. Yesterday we had found quite a nice cafe up the road so went there for breakfast. 

Our flight to Auckland was at 13:00, but we headed to the airport at hotel check out time, got checked in early and waited for a third flight in three days. On our way to Auckland.

Queensland, a brief foray

Saturday 05 May 2018, Brisbane and Gold Coast, Australia.

I have strong feelings about south east Queensland, and they are not overly positive ones. I go there to see my oldest son, and middle child, Dom; and his daughter Cadence, my second grandchild. If they were not there it is not a place I would visit; even though the beaches are stunning. Anyway, Dom, Cadence and the rest of his family are there so here I am visiting. This was a tough trip, a complicated trip, though ultimately a good and joyful trip, circumstance made it what it was. It is not my story so I am not going to detail it here, but maybe with Dom’s permission, one day I will.

My flight left Sydney at 1:00pm Wednesday, it is a surprisingly long journey of 1 ½ hours to Brisbane. Flying over those lovely Manly and North Sydney beaches and up the coast makes it mostly enjoyable.

Like in NZ I have a rental car. There is slightly more public transport on this strip of coast, but it does not go where I need it to go, this is a car country. I used to be entirely confident (perhaps overly so) driver, but this trip I have not enjoyed driving at all. I particularly hated this Kia rental car, and for the first time I found driving to be quite stressful and unpleasant. Made worse by not being able to sync my phone with the car sound system.

On the first night I stayed in an apartment/hotel thing, with a view of the hospital. Keeping up the tradition on this trip of great views from hotel rooms.

My room was pretty good though and I enjoyed my one night stay, being close to the hospital and far from anywhere else I just stayed in my room. TV, beer and photo-editing, I didn’t need a lot else. Though the hotel restaurant ‘The Stuffed Badger’ was excellent, good enough to mention here. Nice food, good beer and wine and great staff, if you are ever near Brisbane Hospital I recommend it. However, the coolest thing about the hotel was the car lift to the underground car park, I have never used one before, it was a bit exciting. Even with this piece of shit Kia.

The following day I drove down to the Gold Coast, I have two nights in a hotel near Broadbeach beach, not too far from where Domenic and Cadence, my granddaughter live. I decided to stay somewhere nicer than the motel I stayed in last time I was here. I spent a couple of hours with Domenic in the afternoon before checking in to my room.

The sun sets early here, it is autumn and it is dark by 6pm. I took an evening walk along the beach to the main restaurant/bar strip. This area is totally different to how I remember it, though it has been a very long time since I was last here. I am guessing that on this strip five years is considered a long time. I had a bit of a play with some out of focus blurry shots, trying to capture a mood, or an impression rather than something crisp and clean. I wanted the colours to tell more of the story.

Though further up the beach, at the next life saving tower it was just too well lit for any imagination to be allowed.

As you could imagine the coast is very touristy, the focus is families, and groups, hen and stag parties, corporate ‘dos’; not for solo travellers wanting some space and alone time. I struggled to find a bar or a cafe where I could eat a meal, take a drink and sit in a quiet corner on my own, read a book or write. I found somewhere with a booth that was barely good enough. After one pint I ate and left, buying a bottle of wine to take back to my room. Though the experience of not finding a space drained me so much that writing or photo editing was not doable, so I slumped in front of a TV series I downloaded off the BBC before I left London. You didn’t think I was going to try Aussie TV did you?

Friday, I didn’t have a lot to do so went for a walk around before finding a different cafe on the same strip for breakfast, which was pretty good.

You certainly cannot argue that the beach here, and for miles, both north and south, is not magnificent.

Though the construction right behind the beach is frightening.

I had a quiet, ‘me’ day, I met a friend from when I lived in London in 80’s for lunch at a nearby mall, but did pretty much sod all else for the rest of the day and evening. I finished last night’s wine in my room after a listless and un-enjoyed meal in the same seat in the same place I ate in last night.

After checking out on Saturday I visited Dom and Cadence for a couple of hours. It was really nice to hang out with them again, even for a short time. It was Dom’s birthday yesterday; the main visit for my trip. It was  great to see you son 🙂

Though I am not convinced this place is really safe.

On the way back to Brisbane Airport I caught up with my Deana, my ex-wife and the mother of my children. We took a walk along the banks of the Brisbane River, which was nice. The last time I was here was the early noughties, soon after a massive flood that had devastated the recreational area along the side of the river. Like everything in south eastern Queensland, it had all changed in the intervening years.

I hit the airport early, too early to check in; but I was worn, the two week ‘holiday’ was busy, and tiring and the jet lag and too much food and drink was catching up. I just wanted to be home.

I will be back in again in December, with El , with a bit of holiday thrown in too. Japan maybe…

Baby Cadence – grandchild no 2.

Monday 21 November 2016 – Beenleigh, Queensland, Australia.

My eldest son, Dom, has lived in Australia for a couple or so years and his partner has recently given birth to their first child, and my second grand child and first granddaughter. Yay Smile Cadence was born on 10 October and was quite small at 5lbs, she is now five weeks old and has just hit 7lbs; the birth weight of my three children. Like her father Cadence was born with a cleft lip, though unlike her father she also has a hole in her soft palate. She and her parents are going to have to face a few rounds of surgery, and I very much feel for them. Though if the surgeons are as good as those that Dom had 25 years ago, in the not too distant future you would never know there was anything wrong.

Cadence’s birth was the reason for this trip, I did not visit Dom in Australia when El and I went to New Zealand earlier this year, so I promised to come over when the baby was born. Same as I did when my first grandchild, Mason, was born in New Zealand two and half years ago.

Much as I love Dom, Queensland, especially around the South East, is not really my sort of place; it is not a place I  rush to, and when I do go I do not stay for long, so this was a quick trip. I arrived at 1:00am on Saturday and left again late afternoon on Monday. My sister had a conference in Sydney on Monday so came out for the weekend from New Zealand to see Cadence as well. She arrived on Saturday morning so I picked her up from Brisbane Airport at the same time as I collected my rental car and we drove straight down to Beenleigh, on the southern outskirts of Brisbane.

We arrived just after lunch and I got to have my first cuddle with my new baby. She is very alert and gave me a few (probably windy) smiles. She is lovely and I was quite happy Smile

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On Sunday morning Dom and I dropped my sister back at the airport and then we drove into Brisbane to look at the building site he is working on. He is an apprentice plumber and was very enthused and engaged in showing me the work they are doing on a newly finished block of flats, and a new site next door. I learnt a lot about plumbing; and am very proud of him 🙂

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After lunch Dom, his partner, one of her other children and myself went up to the Daisy Hill Koala Sanctuary for a walk around and to look at the koalas. Unusually they were awake; they are fabulous looking creatures.

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There was also a very domestic looking kookaburra as well, I am assuming it was a live one !

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After a quick feed we went for a walk in the trees, though it was really hot and quite draining. Not good for Cadence to be outside too long !

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Dom had the day off on Monday, Cadence was having her first round of immunisation shots in the morning, so I went round there early so I could see; she was very upset by it all; and I do not blame her one little bit!

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Though she did settle down soon after. She is a very placid and calm baby; well she was when I was there…

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My quick trip was then over, I left at lunch time and drove back to the airport to return the rental car and catch my flight to New Zealand. Stupidly, very stupidly, I tried to carry a load of stuff from the front seat of the car to the boot; my cell phone slipped from my grasp and smashed on the ground. Shattered screen and dead…. I was very annoyed with myself! I had been planning on buying a new phone next year; once I was back in paid work. I really didn’t need this right now. So I ended up buying a very expensive phone in duty free in Brisbane airport. More expense I didn’t really want. I know I could have gotten a far cheaper model than I did, but I knew I would not be happy with it in the end. At least this new phone has a really good camera….

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This photo of a photo of Dom from the same age shows that Cadence’s cleft lip is quite similar to his, though a mirror image.

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Both beautiful babies.