Saturday, February 27, 2010

North by Northeast

The northeast corner of Tasmania is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The Bay of Fires is an absolutely spectacular place. The water is a turquoise shade of blue I have never seen, and its beaches are of fine white sand.

But what sets it apart are the large rocks along the shore which are covered in a bright orange lichen. It has a reputation for being spectacular, and, as LK said, it did not disappoint.

We visited different sections of the Bay on two days, and it is unbelievable to me that in nearly every instance we were the only people on the beach. Imagine having this little piece of heaven all to yourself. Fantastic.

On Friday I read up about other places to visit in the northeast and decided we could pop over to Mt Columba Falls, have lunch in Pyengara and still have a nice afternoon at the Bay of Fires. I had failed to realize that the Falls came at the end of some steep, winding roads and it would take longer than the tourist sites had said it would. Let's just say that a certain LK said, "These falls better be worth it," after we'd been driving the twisting road for what seemed too long.

Luckily, they were. You get to the base of the falls with a 10-minute downhill walk through drop-dead beautiful rainforest. It was full of eucalyptus, sassafras and man ferns. Jaki laughed at that last term, but it is the local name for the dicksonia antarcticae, the tree fern.

The falls were pretty, but we've seen a picture of them taken in the winter when more than 50,000 gallons of water go over the edge each minute. Sounds like a great reason for a mid-year return some time.

You can see some pix of them and the Bay of Fires here.

The ride back to Hobart went along much of the east coast of the state, but it was a drizzly, overcast day and not ideal for sightseeing. However, we did discover a great bakehouse along the way so not all was lost.

We got back to Hobart in time for a quick trip to Salamanca Markets (OK, LK and Jaki to the stalls; Robert and me to the Irish pub). And now we are getting ready to launch cocktail hour on our last night in Tasmania.

The trip has confirmed one thing for me. LK and I are going to love it here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sweet(water) Basil

We are in the stunningly beautiful northeast corner of Tasmania. So why is there a picture of John Cleese as Basil Fawlty here instead of the postcard-perfect shot of the Bay of Fires?

Welcome to the Sweetwater Villas.

About a decade ago, Cleese did a series of training videos aimed at making people better managers. Unfortunately the guy who runs this place must have rented Fawlty Towers by mistake and not realized that Basil Fawlty was the epitome of everything a manager could do wrong.

Let me give you an example. When we checked in yesterday, our greeting was a look. Not a hello, not a g'day. Nope, Basil jr left it up to us to say hello and welcome ourselves to his establishment.

When we completed the registration form, Basil jr pointed to a question I had missed. "Are you a smoker? Yes or No". Well, I told him I am not a smoker but there is a smoker in or party. "Well they can't smoke in the room," he snapped. "They'll have to go out on the balcony."

Which makes this place exactly like every other place we have been in, only none of them pissed us off when they asked that smokers sit outside. Basil jr also managed to fit in a few other Don't Do This and That's before we left to go to the room.

Inside, the spirit of Basil lived as well. Perhaps there is no friendlier room in a self-contained unit than the kitchen. So Basil jr used it to leave little notes for us. "Washing Up is not housekeeping's responsibility. It is yours!" was the friendly message above the sink.

And in the container with sachets of instant coffee, tea and sugar. Here Basil managed to start out nicely. "Tea, coffee and sugar are complimentary" his note began. But he quickly returned to form by adding, "If you run out, you supply your own or purchase from the office at 50 cents per sachet."

Actually, since I am mocking him, I have to tell you that the note actually said 50 cents per satchel, but we all know how rude it is to make fun of vocabulary mistakes. The poor man probably has a small dictionary.

LK wanted to check out the laundry room this morning as we headed out to do some sightseeing. She was checking to see how much the machines cost (of course, this is the first place this entire trip that is not providing them for free!) and there was Basil jr, doing the hotel laundry.

He pointed to the sign that said the laundry was closed to guests from 8am to 1pm. "The laundry is closed to guests until 1pm," he said to LK. She showed unusually strong willpower - for her - to only snarl at him that she could see that but was only checking to see how much it cost. She didn't even bother to ask him why a hotel would set rules that meant the staff had priority over the guests. But that was probably because she already knew the answer.

When we came back from a walk along the beach today, Robert and Jaki showed how much Basil had gotten under their skin by reminding us that we were forbidden to go into the rooms with sand on our feet. Damn, I had noticed the rule about fishermen having to clean their catch at water's edge and completely ignored the sandy foot edict.

I feel a fair share of guilt about this. When LK booked places, we ended up in charming cottages with lovely views and hands-off owners. When I booked, I got us into Sweetwater Villas, which are on muddy, not sweet, water and give villa a new definition - namely, square cinder-block rooms. And Basil jr.

I think after this, LK will be happy to be the one who arranges our accommodation in the future. She might even offer to do the same for Basil jr. Out front of the units is a sign saying Sweetwater Villas is for sale because the managers want to retire. Won't he be surprised when he has leisure time and discovers not every hotel is run like Fawlty Towers.


PS Lots to say and show about this fantastic place, but need hours to upload the pics so Bay of Fires in the next post.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dress Code

I know I have written about it before, but I need to write another post about my uniform. Since I retired, I have pretty much lived in t-shirts, shorts and, depending on my mood, either flip-flops or sneakers. When I am in the mood, I accessorize with a baseball cap.

When we flew in from Adelaide the other day, LK said to me that she was a little surprised that I wore a t-shirt and shorts for the plane ride. "I thought you might have put on a golf shirt with a collar," she said.

I explained to her that people simply do not get dressed up to take a plane ride nowadays.

But today my uniform failed to pass muster. We went to the Cascade Brewery to take the tour. But they won't let you in if you don't have long pants. And, to top that off, they won't let people wearing flip-flops or sandals on the premises, either. Something about safety in the workplace, they claimed, but I have my doubts.

Nonetheless, there is one thing of which I am certain. Today I wasn't dressed well enough to get inside a beer factory. Funny enough, in a way I am a little proud of that.

I should add that Robert and Jaki were also on Mr Blackwell's Worst Dressed for the Beer Factory Tour List. Only LK was wearing both long pants and shoes and, of course, she was the only one who didn't care one way or the other if she got to see how beer is made.

Mind you, if it had been a factory showing how diamonds are cut, polished and set, she would have told us to find a way to kill an hour while she went on the tour. But watching boiling pots of malt and barley was never going to entice her.

The good news, though, is that the grounds of Cascade Brewery are still a fantastic place to wander around, even if you can't smell the yeast. By the time I took this picture, we were already in a good mood despite not taking the tour.

The brewery has lovely gardens, and we all strolled around enjoying the bright sunshine of a late summer day in Hobart. OK, we were killing time before we went to sample the beers in the visitor center, but it sounds better to say we were admiring the plants.

They have a little cafe there and picnic tables outside, so we ordered lunch. Well, and another beer, too, and we had a most enjoyable time at a place that had pretty much told us to piss off when we said we were there for the tour.

They even had some cool stuff on display like the old bottles they used when they sold ginger beer and dandelion wine.

And LK was particularly smitten with the picture of Fatty Armstrong they had posted. Fatty worked at Cascade around 1900.

She took a picture of Fatty's picture and couldn't wait to show it to me. I don't know what this means, but deep in my heart I am hoping that something has snapped and LK now gets turned on by guys with three or more chins. Here's hoping.

After the brewery we went out to our house at Kingston Beach. We wanted Robert to see the house and to get his input and thoughts about the renovations we are considering. Robert and Jaki worked hard measuring and diagramming, while LK talked with our 90-year-old tenant to make sure she wasn't upset by a carload of strangers lobbing into her house armed with tape measures and pencils.

I contributed as best I could, which more or less meant staying out of everyone else's way.

After all that, we drove up high above Hobart. The Mt Nelson Signal Station has a drop-dead panoramic view of the area and it is stunning to see. LK took a Flip video so you could get the sense of it, and when we get a connection that works better I will upload it to YouTube. Until then, here's a sample:

Tomorrow we pack the car and head north. First stop, lunch at Launceston. Final destination, the Bay of Fires in time for sunset. Should be great.

The Windy City

"Why would you want to move to Hobart where it's so cold?" many of our friends in Sydney asked.

"The winds will drive you crazy," warned my friend John (who probably isn't my friend anymore since I forgot to call him before we left Sydney).

We laughed at them. And now we are in Hobart where it's cool and the winds are always blowing.

But it's not bad, believe me. When I say cool I mean in the 60s and the winds are really only strong when you are either A) down near the water or B) up high in the mountains, both of which we did yesterday.

I see on the Internet that Sydney had its hottest night in 13 years yesterday. Which prompts me to ask the question, "Why would anyone want to live in such an uncomfortable city? And don't you wish the winds - FROM TASMANIA - would arrive quickly to cool the place down?"

We're doing the tourist thing in our new hometown this week. We cannot get into our house until they find a facility for our elderly tenant, and so we're in a hotel down near the waterfront.

Yesterday we drove the winding road along the waterfront from the city to Kingston Beach to show Robert and Jaki the landscape at our new home. We watched some kids learning surf lifesaving on the beach and then within a few miles we were high in the heavily wooded hills going to Huonville. Stopped to show them Sleeping Beauty Mountain, and just about got blown over.

Back to town for a couple of hours of laziness before walking down to Mure's for a great seafood dinner last night.

Today we will check out the Cascade Brewery tour and inspect our house in Kingston Beach to get Robert's ideas about renovating it once we have possession again.

The sun is shining. The temperature is going up to the 70s. And we're loving it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Leaving Adelaide

Our last day in South Australia was a bit of this and that.

We had a late breakfast in the Dovecote Cottage and I was washing the dishes when the woman who owns the place came over to collect the rest of the money due. "It's nice to see a man doing the washing up," she said. I sniffed and told her I do it all the time." I started to tell her it's become a traditional role for the men in the family, but she had walked away before I could add anything else.

We had a few hours to kill before our flight so I had mapped out a plan to visit two of the top wineries - Peter Lehmann and Penfolds. I think Lehmann makes the very best red wines in the country, and I wanted Robert and Jaki to have a taste. The woman at the cellar door was super friendly and was ready to pour all 40+ wines they had if we wished. It was only 11, so we stuck with just a couple of the top reds.

Up the road to one of the leading wine producers in the country, Penfolds. Penfolds makes a range of wines from low-priced to ultra high-priced, and even at the bargain end of the range you usually get a good drop. Penfolds is also now owned by a beer company, Fosters, which owns dozens of wine brands, including the Beringer label in the US.

It may be the sign of a bloated corporation, or it could be the sign of an employee who just didn't have a clue, but either way our experience at Penfolds was 180 degrees south of that at Peter Lehmann. Jaki and I went to the tasting bar to try the wines. There was another couple getting a taste of something or other from the woman behind the bar, so I took the time to read the tasting list - which showed me quite clearly that Penfolds wasn't about to let anyone taste their better wines as Peter Lehmann does.

Anyhow, I could have read a lot more because the woman pouring the tastings didn't come over to us once. She chatted with the other couple, left the bar to get something to read to them, read it to them, laughed and discussed the wine they were drinking, and once nodded in our direction. I think that was to show that she knew we were there but she didn't care.

After a very patient wait, Jaki and left without once sampling the wine. And the annoying thing is that Fosters makes about 1 billion bucks a year off its wine brands and no one is ever going to care that people who actually support its products were treated shabbily. Make that, who once supported its products. Believe me, there is more than enough great wine in the world that I can ignore Penfolds as easily as their employee ignored me.

Anyhow, that was our last stop and we were on the road to the Adelaide Airport with Honor leading the way and LK overseeing our route. All was well until we were within a mile or so of the airport. That's when I went straight through an intersection when LK had been saying to turn right.

Strangely, neither LK, Jaki or Robert said much. But I could feel the eyes rolling in the back seat. Anyhow, Honor plotted yet another course to make up for my directional deficiencies, we arrived at the airport and caught the plane to Melbourne where we transferred to Hobart.

We're home, Linda said as we landed, which felt a bit odd to hear for the first time. Especially since we won't have a house to move into until our tenant vacates. Nonetheless, we are in our new hometown. More about Hobart next time.

Monday, February 22, 2010


We spent last night in the Barossa Valley. This shot from Bethany cannot quite capture the scale and beauty of the valley that you see when you actually stand there. Of course, it doesn't help that some fat guy is blocking half the picture.

Honor the GPS performed very well getting us here along a scenic route yesterday. LK quibbled with her a bit, but on the whole I have high hopes the two of them will learn to get along for the good of the team - especially since we are exploring Tasmania and New Zealand in the next part of our adventure.

I have been the designated driver this trip and even I must admit I have fallen into a very odd habit of going past wherever we should be and having to backtrack. On Friday I decided we could let Honor and LK both have the day off and I plotted a simple route to a couple of wineries a few miles from the cottage.

We got to the first one easily enough, and it was just a quick jog over to the next. Fifteen minutes later when we got to the ocean, I had to admit I had missed my turn.

Then on Saturday we went back to the Salopian Inn for dinner. We had been there once and driven past it earlier that day, so no need to plot a course. And by golly we arrived easily. Going home was a bit of a different story.

I was more or less on autopilot since we had driven to the cottage many times in the past few days. Sure, it had been in daylight, but how would that be a problem? My passengers obviously were of the same mind, because none of them noticed that the trip back was taking lots longer than the one out.

I suspected I had missed the street when I saw a sign for a Camel Farm, something I was pretty sure I hadn't seen earlier in the trip. So I did the obvious. I kept driving as if nothing was wrong.

When we reached an area that everyone knew we had never seen before, it was time to turn back. It was the longest 10 minutes I have ever driven.

Yesterday we located the Dovecote Cottage in Tanunda, where we are staying. It is on a very quiet back street, with only a few other properties. It was still being cleaned so we drove off in search of lunch, after which we decided to ditch our bags in the cottage and have a wander.

It was Jaki who first pointed out that I had driven past the cottage.

And then we went in search of the Sculpture Garden, a pretty spot up here. Never did find it, but it was only a couple of miles of backtracking to get back to where I knew where we were.

I am coming to the conclusion that after 10 days of homelessness, I am becoming a man without direction.

Hobart tonight.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

McLaren Vale

One thing about the folks here in McLaren Vale, they aren't bashful about recommending things for you to do.

When we checked in Thursday, Jacinta, the owner of the cottage, told us we really should have lunch at the Salopian Inn - which we did. Food was so good we booked to go back on Saturday, our last night here.

And while we were at the restaurant, the manager told us we really should drive down to Sellicks Beach on the Southern Ocean and have a drink at the Victory Hotel.

After lunch, we went into town to get some supplies for the cottage and ended up wandering into a small shop in that specializes in Italian wine. If that sounds like opening a store selling Vermont cheddar in Paris, you'd be just about right. But the woman who owned the shop was fun to talk to, which was good since she talked a lot. An awful lot.

Anyhow, before we left she told us we absolutely had to visit a couple of wineries Friday, and so we set out to visit Scarpantoni's and Alpha Box and Dice. Scarpantoni's was OK, but since we have no home to ship a carton to right now we grabbed just a few bottles to drink during our time here.

Our next stop was Alpha Box and Dice. Well, technically our next stop was several miles away from Alpha Box and Dice since we had given Honor the day off and I got lost. It took LK time to figure out a new route to recover from my mistake, but we eventually made it and once we got to this place it turned out to be a lot of fun.

The tasting room is an old shed that has been decorated by graphic designers and artists with a sense of humor. There's actually more emphasis on decorations than wine until you belly up to the small bar for the tasting. There winemaker Justin Lane has put together some really interesting Italian-variety wines to taste inside this shed overlaid with all the trappings of an out-of-control ad agency.

Much of the cellar door is great fun. That picture on the right is a great example. Apparently Justin has been ragged on because he is making Italian varietals and doesn't have a long family tradition behind his efforts. That photo of an Italian-looking gentleman says simply, "We don't know this man. He contributed nothing to this place." And that is that for his critics.

After Alpha Box & Dice, we went to d'Arenberg's, probably the top winery in the area. We went primarily because our friend David - who really knows his wines - recommended it as the best of the bunch when he was down here a couple of years ago.

Last night Andrew, Jacinta's husband, came by and recommended that we go to the farmers market in Willunga first thing in the morning. Which we did, and then hotfooted it over to Sellick's Beach. It was too early - even for us - to have a drink at the Victory Hotel, so we decided to put our feet in the Southern Ocean. That's me standing in there the top of this post, and these were some beachcombers I saw there.

After walking in the ocean, we went to Samuel's Gorge and Oliver's, two wineries which Andrew had recommended. Both had some really good wine, and at Oliver's the cellar door people - who were incredibly friendly - recommended that we have lunch at the cafe on the grounds.

Which, of course, we did.

So we're back in the cottage for a lazy afternoon before heading back to the Salopian Inn. I am pretty sure the staff will recommend stuff for us to eat. And the ladies at Oliver's have already recommended a grenache we should order.

We've had a great couple of days here, and - as you can probably tell - the only challenge was getting here. Once we arrived, we only had to follow someone else's recommendation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Southern Expressway

Tensions ran high and confrontations were inevitable as old archrivals LK and Honor the GPS vied to give directions to our South Australia accommodation. Our flight from Cairns landed about 11:30, and we plugged Honor into the lighter slot, telling her to find the best route to Black Rabbit Cottage in McLaren Flats.

No problems at first. Honor had us take a left, a right, and soon we were on our way to the cottage. In fact, LK was working with Honor, adding details that I could not see on the screen. I even commended both of them for resolving their earlier difficulties and working together well as a team.

And that, of course, is when disaster struck. "In 50 yards, turn right," Honor said. But when I pulled into the turn lane, there was a barricade across the road with a stop sign and another sign that read "Southern Expressway Closed".

"Don't worry," Honor's newfound partner, LK, said. "Go down the road a ways and Honor will recalculate the route."

Which she did, except that every time Honor had a new route it ended in failure as she told us to enter the Southern Expressway. No matter what entrance ramp we were trying, there were signs telling us the Southern Expressway was closed.

And Honor, who is after all still a rookie, began making rookie mistakes. She started telling us to turn around, to go in circles, to try another entrance ramp. And LK ended the temporary truce, "She's hopeless," she said. "Just go and we will figure it out ourselves." She muted Honor.

In the end it was not all that hard to get to McLaren Vale. We just started following the road signs to McLaren Vale, figuring that if we did that we had a pretty good shot of ending up there. And we did. At which point there was an information center and we pulled over to find out how to get to our cottage.

LK came out armed with a tourist map and directions from the woman at the info center. She was ready to finish this mission. Unfortunately, it was only a few minutes before LK declared, "This map is no good. It doesn't have half the streets on it." OK, the sentence was slightly longer than that, but her mother reads this and I don't want her to know what her daughter was actually saying.

But LK persevered with the directions she had been given. It was only when we were deep in the middle of nowhere and I began humming the theme from Deliverance that she used a word to describe the information center woman that made me glad we didn't have any sailors in the car, since she would have made them blush.

Anyhow, we turned around, tried another road, saw a sign for a winery that we knew was close to the cottage and were unloading the car within 20 minutes. When we were talking to the owner of the cottage, we told her how hard it been to get here because the GPS kept wanting to take us onto the Southern Expressway, but it was closed.

"Oh," she said, "it's crazy. If you had been a little later, you would have been all right because the expressway only goes one way in the morning and then changes directions in the afternoon. But on the weekends, it reverses that so you have to remember what day it is."

That's right. All our direction dramas and frustrations were because this state actually has a one-way expressway which it switches to the other direction later in the day. Actually, it's even a bit more bizarre than that. Listen to how the government describes it:

The Southern Expressway is a reversible expressway from Main South Road to Noarlunga. Traffic travels in only one direction at a time, with changeover occurring twice a day.

Yep, the famous REVERSIBLE EXPRESSWAY, obviously inspired by the ever popular raincoat. And you need to know that when the changeover happens twice a day, they actually shut the sucker down for 90 minutes. So for 3 hours a day, it's not open to any traffic. I guess you could say they are there for you 7 x 21 x 50%.

Oh well, we're here and ready to discover the joys of the McLaren Vale. We already have the names of several vineyards which are MUST-VISITS during our stay. And before we travel again, I will ask Robert to draw upon his extensive management experience and counsel Honor and LK to see if we can get them working together again.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Port Douglas

So what exactly does a homeless person do?

Well, since Sunday we have hung around Port Douglas and have not done much of anything during the day because of the oppressive humidity. This being the tropics, summer is not exactly the best time to visit, but Robert and Jaki are avid divers and you cannot come to Oz for the first time without checking out the Great Barrier Reef.

Which reminds me - it is LK and I who haven't done much during the day. Robert and Jaki have done seven different dives over three days. So as a foursome, we have probably averaged out the proper amount exercise.

At night we have been sitting outside our rooms having a drink or two and watching the biggest mother bats I have ever seen in my life. And when I say watching, I mean looking them straight in the eyes as they swoop down within a couple feet of us.

At first I was worried that we were in a living horror movie and this is what the hotel staff turned into after dark, but these bats - despite wing spans of several feet - appear harmless enough. They seem to find something in the palm trees outside our rooms to be quite tasty so I am guessing they are vegetarians, after all.

LK and I have had several hiccups with our technology, and we are beginning to suspect that severe humidity is a bad environment for mobile phone keypads and laptop PCs. Like me, our devices are sluggish outdoors and work much better in the air conditioning.

Nonetheless, we have been able to keep in touch with the outside world. Probably the most important thing that I've noticed happening is that film director Kevin Smith was ruled Too Fat to Fly by Southwest Airlines. It's not like Kevin was unaware of his girth. In December, as I approached the shapeliness of an overdone Christmas pudding, I wrote a post where I mentioned how funny he was when he was riffing about his weight on Twitter.

But now that Southwest decided he couldn't fly with them because he was too fat, there are stories, columns, blogs and tweets everywhere you turn. Fat people, of course, are taking Kevin's side (or at least as much of his side as they can hold in two hands), and the Righteous Among Us are sniffing about how disgusting it is to have someone's waistline flop over the armrest and into your lap while flying.

Frankly, I am quite surprised by all this. Kevin's a big boy, for sure, but he does fit into the seat, can put down the armrests and buckle the belt. I think the airline screwed up. But then again, I have a bias. On Facebook I am a fan of the Big & Tall Mens Store. And I'm not that tall.

Given all the travel LK and I are planning, the incident does give me pause. Even though I, like Kevin, actually do fit in the seat, it appears that the airlines are introducing secret rules known only to flight attendants. Rules like, "You have complete discretion to kick anyone off the plane who fills more than 85% of the seat on the off chance that they may expand during flight."

I guess I will have to get serious about losing weight. I know that would make my doctor happy. He wants me to try stomach banding. I resist that - partly because I resist any discretionary medical operation and also because my wallet suggests bulimia is just as effective and lots cheaper.

I suppose I could try something radical - like eating less, drinking lots less and exercising more. But somehow that just doesn't sound very healthy. Well, OK, it does, but it sure doesn't seem like much fun.

But it looks like I'd better do something soon or cross Southwest flights off my itinerary.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In the Tower of Song

"When they said repent, I wondered what they meant."

"I've also studied deeply in the philosophies and religion, but cheerfulness kept breaking through."

Leonard Cohen

So here I am in Port Douglas, with LK, Robert and Jaki all cashing in their wide-awake chips before I was ready to snooze. I am just a little too buzzed to get sleepy - although when I do, I think I will fall so hard, they may find me snoring on the kitchen counter with the laptop going crazy because I am drooling on the keyboard.

The simple - no, the complicated - fact is that tonight is the night LK and I celebrate our breakthrough. We are not working, and we don't have bosses. We have shut our house down, and all that goes with that has passed with the last box that moved out of the house.

We are, in fact, free. It is the result I have spent 61 years of my life trying to accomplish.

When I say free I don't mean that freedom is a negative - it is not that we do not have to do this or that, pay attention to this or that, suck up to this or that person. No, I can tell you from my gut tonight that freedom is a positive - I can do what I want, can not do what I don't want, can be with the people I want and can spend my time caring about the people I care about.

Funny thing, this getting old. For maybe thirty or forty years, I've felt like I used to have a great, soaring spirit that got buried, maybe even killed, when I was young. Tonight, I feel like I only put it into the cupboard until I could use it properly and it's time to take it out. Pity it doesn't fit around the waist any more!

Who knows? Maybe it's just a combination of getting through the dramas of clearing out the house. Or maybe listening to the best album since Sgt Peppers - Leonard Cohen's "Live from London." But tonight, with my love and my friends all sleeping and Leonard singing his 70-year-old heart out, I just feel like this is the beginning I have been waiting decades for.

And I thought I would share it with all of you who take the time to look at this blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bye-bye Greenwich

We are officially homeless as of 11:58 this morning. Of course we are also officially debt-free, so I guess it evens out, but by selling our Sydney house before our tenant has vacated the Hobart house we will just have to cope with the burden of No Fixed Address.

We were up early again this morning to do one last lot of chores before the new packer came in at 7 to do what wasn't done yesterday. And all (stinking hot) day the movers have been lugging our stuff to the truck.

They expected to be done by 4. It's 4. They're not done.

Not our worry, but if they start flinging stuff into the truck just to finish the week off, it may be.

Our major job was to sit around and sweat as the temperatures again soared. Not that it was unpleasant, but at one stage I believe my body odor actually offended the moving guys. I know LK wasn't eager for any closeness until I showered.

Davy dropped an email asking how the move was going. LK told him OK. I would have sent him this picture, but either way we are at Shirley's tonight and sleeping in tomorrow.

Bye-bye Greenwich.

On to the next stage of our lives.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

About Last Night

Oh dear. Who would have thought having other people do the heavy work could be so tiring?

With our typically impeccable planning and preparation, we had to set the alarm for 5am in order to get some of the stuff done we meant to do last night before cocktail hour and fatigue set in.

By the time the packers arrived at 8:30, LK had a bit more to do but we were basically done. So we plugged in our brand new wireless broadband cards, sat on the back deck and looked up occasionally when the packers told us something was chipped/broken/damaged and they didn't want any grief about them having caused it. My two great adventures today involved getting in the car (the air conditioned car!) and 1) running out to get kebabs for lunch and 2) going to the tip one more time.

It was nice when we first sat out back, but slowly the day turned unbearably hot sitting under the pergola. But this really was a case of nowhere else to go, so we sweated for the good of the team. Let's just say that by 4 I was really looking forward to making one final drive over to the waste management center. It may not smell good but at least it was cooler than our back porch.

Anyhow, not much more to write about. Thought you might like to see what the place looks like on our last night here. Oh, and you should ignore LK making fun of my poor choice of words:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Dear Don Letter

Dear Don,

This is you writing a letter to yourself. I am writing because I want to make sure you have some solid advice from someone you trust should you ever again consider moving house.

I know how you are - and why wouldn't I? - and in a couple of years, you will start to forget what a severe pain in the butt moving house is and you will begin thinking that it wasn't all that bad when you moved from Sydney to Hobart.

But Don, you need to recall these days. You will say to yourself: We outsourced all the hard work - the packing and cleaning - so how hard could it have been? You will have forgotten all the trips to dump out stuff you no longer need and the half dozen trips to the charity bins to leave clothes that probably looked quite good on you when you had a waistline measurement that was not approaching your height. You will forget lugging crap all over the place for days on end.

Ah, I can hear you thinking, but all that junk came from ten years of living there while we were working. Now we're retired and don't have nearly as much. Don, Don, Don, remember who you're talking to.

And you need to always remember one other thing. The love of your life is a pack rat. She saves things that other people don't. And she buys things that other people wouldn't (I didn't have a blue colander! Sure those are a lot of golf shirts, but you will wear them eventually the way you stain everything! We needed a tool dedicated to cleaning prawns and shrimp, and besides it didn't cost that much!)

No, Don, if you decide to move house, you will be making lots more of those trips to the waste station and the charity bins. You and your friends will again spend a week trying to drink enough wine to keep an entire French city happy at lunch - and all just so you don't have to pay to ship it to the new place.

And on the final night before the packers come, with much of your stuff already chucked out or given away, you will sit soaked in grime and sweat, having your first drink 2 1/2 hours after (AFTER) cocktail hour started, and you will remember writing a blog post about the joys of moving.

And that's when you will read this post again, wondering why you didn't remember writing it before the whole cycle started again. Well, it will be too late to do much about it, so have another drink, take a long shower and sleep well because the packers get here at 7:30 tomorrow.



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Super Monday (Oz Time)

Running out of time to get ready for the move, so I did what comes naturally. I watched the Super Bowl until 1:30. Then with the sun breaking through, Sydney was looking good for the first time in a week so we all jumped into a taxi to Circular Quay for a harbor cruise. When that ended at 6, we walked through the Rocks up to Lord Nelson - a fun pub that makes its own beer. Obviously by the time we got home at 7:15, it was too late to do any preparation for the move since we were well into cocktail hour and a lovely sunset was on display out on the deck.

Oh well, we'll get it done.

And if we don't, we will be spending months wishing we hadn't packed this or that but really none of it is a big deal. We are committed to not getting too worked up about whatever happens during this move.

While sitting on the deck last night, I made a list of the errands to run today and it all looks manageable - really lots of little things rather a couple of major things. And by outsourcing the packing and cleaning, most of our remaining chores are more organizing than hard labor.

So a quick post and on to our last Tuesday here. Packers are in Thursday and they load on Friday.

PS I had saved this great link from the Wall Street Journal about football, figuring I would post about the Super Bowl. Since I am not going to do that now, I still recommend the story. It's another great bit of research that has been conducted.

They have analyzed NFL games on television, and discovered that the 3+ hour shows feature no more than 11 minutes of action when the ball is actually in play (from when it is hiked to when the official blows the play dead). In fact, on TV replays take up half again as much time as live play, and there is six times more time spent on shots of players and coaches just standing around as there is on real action.

And of course, far more time spent is showing commercials than anything else. Really quite interesting to read the story, but it does boggle my mind that this whole game boils down to less than 12 minutes of actually playing football.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who'll Stop the Rain?

Robert and Jaki have arrived just in time to celebrate the Sydney Rainwater Festival - seven days dedicated to wet weather, wind and water. (And since we were doing so well with words beginning with W, we have added in Wine, too, as a special bonus.)

The big wet started about an hour before they landed on Wednesday, and it has continued with only a few breaks of sun since then. At times the rain has been as hard and torrential as any I have ever been in. And at other times, it's been even worse. And if you look at that rain chart from, you can see that the next four weeks look like producing only three sunny days.

The Sydney Rainwater Festival is not held most years. In fact, it seems to coincide primarily with people coming to visit LK and me and see the city for the first time. When my parents came out here in 1990 for their only visit, it rained so much that they were able to save the cost of a harbor cruise and just float around our street in Wahroonga. Since that time, Sydneysiders still refer to two solid weeks of rain as "Red and Norma Weather".

That is until this week. I have a very strong suspicion that Robert and Jaki's names will be mentioned whenever anyone's swimming pool overflows or they start getting mold on the clothes in their closets.

The good news is that thousands have joined in the festivities of the Rainwater Festival. Yesterday, Jaki and Robert went to the Maritime Museum (which they gave a big thumbs up) and decided to walk across the bridge to the Aquarium at the other side of Darling Harbor.

They were doing OK with their little umbrellas until the rain told the wind that it preferred horizontal to vertical. With umbrellas inside out and footing turning treacherous, these two really learned one of the underlying lessons of the Sydney Rainwater Festival - "If it's bucketing down, move to high ground."

To finish off their less-than-perfect day, once they arrived at the Aquarium they discovered that it would be half an hour in line just to get to the ticket window. Which would then give them the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of steaming Japanese tourists once inside. They opted instead to return to our place.

Which was just as well because they needed to get ready for a wonderful dinner party we had - officially known as The Last Supper at Greenwich Road, and technically not an official part of the Rainwater Festival. Shirley, Caroline and Jon joined the four of us. Loved having great conversations with wonderful friends and LK cooked like a woman possessed - steamed edamame for nibblies, barbecued baby octopus for starters, and grilled beef loin and roasted baby potatoes for the main, all followed with vanilla ice cream with scotch whiskey and black pepper (so good despite sounding odd when you first hear it).

I did my best to make sure we didn't waste money shipping too much wine to Hobart. To celebrate our American friends' visit, I decided we would break open some of our favorite Napa cabernets - a 2000 Opus One, 2001 Silver Oak and 2002 Sebastiani. Jaki very graciously joined me in testing them to ensure quality before our guests arrived. And for the Yanks, I took out a 1999 Grant Burge Shadrach so they could have a taste of one of Oz's best.

After those, we had a couple of other bottles after those, which I can't recall right now. I am sure it's the gloom of the clouds overhead and not the Brandy & Benedictine Jaki decided we needed for nightcaps at the end of a great night with friends.

This being Sydney on a Saturday night - and during the Rainwater Festival to boot - Shirley suggested that we start ringing for taxis around 11:30, in the hopes of getting them here before dawn. And in that perverse way that nothing happens as you expect it will, the cabs showed up within minutes, forcing hurried and abrupt good-byes to our friends who didn't even get the chance to settle in for a good old gripe about how the taxis never come on a Saturday night.

Anyhow, it was the perfect way to spend our last Saturday in the house. Today we are all understandably a tad un-energetic. It may be the dinner party, but I suspect it is because the Rainwater Festival has declared that this year's theme song is "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore".

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Visitors

As a writer, nothing beats having devoted readers. Some great fans of this blog have traveled across the Pacific Ocean to visit us before we move on to Hobart. They have brought us gifts of Bubba aprons and Bubba house plaques and patiently stood in line to see the One-Side-Soft-Toast (tm) toaster. They were disappointed - but not surprised - to have missed Streak, and they laughed politely whenever Linda made fun of me.

OK, so it's not some mad fans of the blog but our friends Jaki and Robert who are visiting and I love their gifts. When I look at the wooden plaque for our house, I can even picture Robert as a 9-year-old, patiently learning the craft with his woodburning set.

They have arrived just in time to watch us deal with our final days in the Greenwich home. There is less than a week before the movers start filling cartons with our stuff.

When we picked up Jaki and Robert at the airport yesterday morning, we still had a fair amount of stuff to do in preparation for the move. So we were faced with a classic Don &Linda decision - On the one hand, you've got dozens of little things to tick off your list before the imminent move. But on the other hand, you are seeing good friends from overseas for the first time since last July. What do you do?

The answer, of course, was perfectly simple. We went out to lunch at noon washed down with a couple of beers, then came home and voted to move Cocktail Hour ahead by two hours. I urged everyone to be careful not to stumble over the piles of things left lying arond the house - officially known now as postponed projects.

As darkness settled and we sat around the table on the deck, I brought out some nice old Aussie reds, starting with my absolute favorite - Seppelt's Dorrien Cabernet from 1998. We then compared that to a 96 Penfolds 409 and finished off the taste test with some WA shiraz from the wonderfully named Mongrel Creek. It all went perfectly well with the steak, baked potato and Caesar salad LK dished out.

LK and I are not the hardiest travellers any more. It's rare for us to be able to make it through the day after we fly in from the US without a late morning nap and even then we struggle to stay awake until the sun sets. Jaki and Robert are made of sterner stuff.

We sounded taps at 11, and these folks who had left their California home more than 24 hours earlier finally got to crawl into bed. LK and I did the same.

She and I have actually attacked a few of the projects today. Obviously aware that Linda was busy with her projects, Jaki decided to help her out and took on the role of nagging me. It's the main reason this post is getting done.

I don't really mind the nagging so much. However, I do have few issues to straighten out with her. You see Jaki single-handedly nixed the idea of starting Cocktail Hour early again today, and I want to ensure it's strictly a one-off thing.