Monday, 28 July 2014


This thing about Scottish weather - I just have to disagree.  What could be better than this?

Saturday, 26 July 2014

High in the blue above

Today I took Tilly for our first walk round the block since I got home.  The early morning haar was in, wetting every blade of grass, leaf and cobweb.  I could hear the water dripping off the trees and visibility was hopeless.
Aren't plants amazing?  The roadside verge below has recovered from its repeated blitzing during June.  When I left for Australia there was just a strip of chewed up wayside plants and grasses.  
By mid-morning the haar had been burnt away by the hot sunshine.  It has been the East Fortune Air Show today.  The airfield is about three fields away and rather than cough up £20 a ticket we took ourselves to a good vantage point, looking across the valley to watch one of the highlights of the day.  Bang on 1.15 pm the Red Arrows tore across the skies from the Edinburgh direction and then proceeded to zoom and scream around for the best part of 15 or 20 minutes. They were breathtaking.  
 And then they were gone!
Later in the afternoon the air was torn apart by the display given by the RAF's Typhoon combat aircraft.  I shut all the animals in the house because, when the plane came overhead last year, the noise it made was so loud and unexpected that I thought the end of the world had come.  Even Mr Gaucho, who is profoundly deaf, heard it.  This year's display was awesome.  The aircraft swooped and climbed high in the sky, its burners visible as it screamed away from us.  We stood in the garden and watched it through the trees and then as it soared high above.  It was quite terrifying and breathtaking all at once.  It's been a thrilling day!

Homeward bound

I flew home from Australia earlier this week.  I left my beloved family behind, standing and waving at the International Departures gate, by that bleak place where you go through into the no-man's-land of air travel.  It was so hard to say goodbye, and to see that eager little face of my youngest grand daughter, with her hand held up to wave farewell.  I don't think she really understood that I was going, but I did.  The only consolation was that we will back in a few months time for Christmas and our son's wedding to his lovely lady.

The two flights were painless, the long hours whiled away reading, dosing fitfully, watching a couple of films and eating airline food.  The second flight was during the hours of daylight and zooming along at about 32,000 feet I looked out of the window and realised we were flying over Iraq. Hmmm.  A curious arrangement below, I am not sure what is going on here!
 The course of the River Tigris was clear to see as it snaked its way through the country.
 These are mountain ranges as we crossed over Turkey.
And finally, on the opening day of the Commonwealth Games, I reached Glasgow Queen Street station, where a very small reception committee was waiting to meet a distinguished athlete.  I heard later he wasn't coming.   I hope someone told her.  She was wearing tartan tights and looked a bit homemade, so maybe she was a spoof.  Hard to say.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

20 July 2014

It's my birthday today.  I've never had a winter birthday before, which just goes to show that life is full of new experiences!

We drove up to Daylesford for lunch.  It's a lovely little town just over an hour outside Melbourne, and a popular destination for people who like food!  We had a happy day wandering through the town, meeting a couple of friends for lunch, and then back to Melbourne for a birthday Skype with my family at home!

During the Skype session my birthday cake appeared and my little Melbourne princess helped me to blow out the candles.  The wee girl decorated the Mississippi mud cake and I have to say I am extremely proud of her efforts and think we should all have the opportunity to admire her creativity!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Just a few more days

I will be leaving my lovely boy and his girls on Tuesday, so just a handful of days left to have a scoot round to some favourite haunts before I fly home. 

When I left the house on Thursday morning the sun was shining, but by the time I was standing on the station platform, two minutes later, I could see a big black wedge of rain cloud heading my way.  By the time I reached Armadale station and was walking down High Street on my way towards the legendary Chapel Street, big fat drops of rain were being blown around me.  It wasn't long before the weather became quite impossible and I ducked into a cafe for a peculiar mug of hot soup (grey dishwater and khaki kale) and a piece of sourdough bread.  Well, you get what you pay for, and in Melbourne $5 doesn't buy you much!  Anyway, it was warm in there, and the soup was hot, so it was money and time well spent while the rainstorm blew over.  After that I continued my walk in sunshine until I reached Chapel Street.  I had a wander round The Bazaar, which is a series of bric-a-brac shops, and there I saw something I haven't seen in, ooooh, about forty five years - a little tiny aluminium teapot like the one my grandmother used several times a day!
And there was this strange guy hanging around in there too.  If he is looking for a companion I know just the girl in Mornington!  (See post Two Weeks In, 5 July 2014)
There is the most extraordinary example of Victorian architecture on Chapel Street.  Goodness knows what the building was in its heyday.  It's looking very down-at-heel now, peeling and cavernous, but still beautiful and mysterious.  
Yesterday I went back to the Queen Victoria Market.  It was closed when I tried to visit three or fours week ago, but everything was up and running yesterday and I had a good mooch round all the deli shops in the covered market, 
and then the fruit and vegetable stalls which are housed under a huge expanse of canvas outside.  
Masterchef's (UK) John Torode recently did a television series on the food of his homeland and when in Melbourne he tucked into a doughnut from this original 1950s van!  He said "Now that's what I'm talking about".  I agree, good doughnut, but really excellent jam! 
From the Queen Vic market I walked back down Queen Street to catch the tram on Bourke Street, down to South Melbourne Market.  
Here's how Bourke Street looked a very long time ago.  Some of the trams still look familiar though!
I had a happy time wandering along the thoroughfares of South Melbourne Market.  It's a great place, and then I walked along Coventry Street because I couldn't possibly visit that part of the city without going into the Coventry Bookstore again.  It's my favourite bookshop on the planet.  It's only small but has a wonderful range of books, and great music in the background too.  On Thursday they were playing a Peggy Lee CD.  There's one now winging it's way to me at home, via the magic of Amazon!  When I hear it at home it will remind me of that lovely bookshop.
Today, and another Saturday morning breakfast time.  Little Tommy Tucker's was jumping, as usual.  The baristas are busy making coffee, doing what Melbourne is now so famous for, and the guy with the milk flagon is probably the most polite and helpful waiter in the whole wide world.  
Before I leave on Tuesday I have a plan to walk along to Little Tommy Tucker's and treat myself to a big bowl of creamy porridge (with toasted oats, brown sugar and a compote of rhubarb and apple) which will look like this.  That will keep me going until I get home on Wednesday afternoon!
At lunchtime today we visited the Oasis Bakery.  It is the most amazing place!  See below!
As well as hundreds of Middle Eastern spices and ingredients there was a cafe and takeaway selling all sorts of delicious things.  We had lamb wraps for lunch and they were yummy! 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Melbourne Museum

On Wednesday I threw off cares about the cold and wet weather, to brave a day in the blustery city, with a visit to the museum principally in mind!

Sitting on the wall of the train station waiting room was a rather wonderful moth.  That was a good start to my day.
This is a bay fig tree growing in the parkland near the Melbourne Museum.  I think it is the most magnificent tree I have ever seen!  It's enormous.  Goodness knows how many people it would take to hug its girth!
Inside the museum I went straight to see the butterflies again.  I remember them from our last visit.  Their iridescence is breathtaking and I am so glad it appears to have translated well into a photograph or two.
I have included a photo of this bivalve fossil because it is 390 million years old!!  It was found by a local miner on Mount Matlock in Victoria.
The photos below show extracts from The Federation Tapestry, a series of ten panels designed and made by the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, to mark the centenary of Australia's birth as a nation.  The themes of the pieces illustrate the Australian story of dispossession, settlement, adaptation, the land, celebration, hope and home.  The panels are colourful, clever and fun.
The next three photographs show part of an exhibition of Keeping Places - things to hold, carry, collect and keep items. 
This a coolamon, dating from 1890, used for thousands of years by Aboriginal women throughout Australia, for holding a baby.  
These are sails which fly above canoes used by Pacific Islanders,
and this is a bark cloth, or tapa, made in the 1880s, by pounding together bark strips from the paper mulberry plant.
There was a big area of exhibition space devoted to the indigenous peoples of Australia, giving them an arena to express their feelings about their position in the past, the present and the future in Australia.  It is poignant stuff.  I particularly liked this quote, because it relates to all of us.