Monday, 31 January 2011

"Love you Queensland"

Milton/Rosalie Jan 2011

Even though most of the water has receded and the Summer sun is blazing there is still a lot of suffering and heartache in many towns and suburbs here in Queensland...and sadly also in other states in Australia.
Water, whether it be river, rain or creek has left behind a trace to remind us of its power.

There are communities that will take months to heal -
 they are only just beginning to count the cost of their losses.

It's still so difficult to comprehend the scale and cost of the disaster...

Many folk are starting to find some kid of normality, but for some...well, their normality is a long way off.
If you know a victim of the floods, keep them in your thoughts, or give them a call.
 Not just this week, or even this month...

The media has more or less packed up and left now, but the clean up and support still needs to go on.

Tales of amazing people and of 'Australian mateship' are constant and everyone is doing their bit to help. Apart from the physical clean up, there are many ways that people are digging deep into their pockets to help. School children are donating gold coins, people from near and far are sending money, donating goods and services and even making some wonderful things for the children who lost their homes. Fundraising activities are happening all over the city and beyond.

Last night, Brisbane Musical Theatre groups came together to raise some money for the flood disaster relief fund. It was an evening of talented local artists giving up their time to do their bit, and what a show they put on!
As well as the live acts we were shown a clip that Harvest Rain Theatre Company have just recorded.
I have mastered the art of linking a video (fingers crossed!) so that you can also share and enjoy - see below.
Click here if you want to know more about how it all came about. (Or if my clip doesn't work!)

The song/anthem  "Love you Queensland" was originally recorded some 30 years ago, and it was somehow vaguely familiar to me. I haven't stopped humming it since last night!

The clip also shows some footage of the swollen Brisbane river and  aftermath of the flood.

Photographs used in the Love you Queensland video clip are courtesy of Bruce Kirkland, Michelle Costello, Ashton Welch, Andrew Bartholomew, Arman Brkett-Saleh, Erik K Veland, Peter Turnbull, Brad Miller, Michelle Kenna, Ross Aitken-Smith, Renee Dillon, Kobie Hafner, Henry Gomez, Tareq Van Oosterom, Robert Cudahy and other anonymous photographers.


Saturday, 29 January 2011

New Zealand. (Northlands road trip)

It's been a week since I returned from my holiday to New Zealand...

I want to go back... to remember that wonderful feeling of not knowing what day of the week it is, waking with the sun and falling asleep to the moon, rediscovering the true meaning of the word relaxation.

Allow me to reminisce and I'll take you with me...

on the road to Matakohe

Our little family packed our suitcases and escaped the relentless Brisbane rain to tour the Northland of New Zealand for a couple of weeks. We had previously done a month tour of both islands and had earmarked the north tip as one area to return to explore further.
Before the camper van pick up we spent our first night in rather a luxurious hotel in the city of Auckland. (Make the most of this space as you will be accompanying me in a rather more cramped fashion soon!)

Next morning after a hurried online catch up with the start of the flooding news from home we picked up our van, turned right, took a left and followed our noses over the bridge to the Northland.

It was exciting...we didn't really know where we were going...what freedom! 

About 45 mins north of Auckland the main highway became more of a winding road, the traffic lights disappeared, vehicles became sparse and the city was a million miles behind us.

the quaint library at Puhoi

"Where are we going?" said a little voice behind me, "North, just north..."

I could write pages on where we visited and the amazing adventure of waking in the morning with only a sense of direction to guide us. If you haven't been to New Zealand it should be, no, make that has to be on your list. The serenity is breathtaking. The unspoilt countryside a reminder of times gone by when life was simple. The Northlands has no airs or graces; doesn't pretend to be something bigger than it is - it's beautiful in its own calm and simple way.

morning catch at Omapera

The people are generous and proud, and we marvelled at the bilingual towns and the recognition that modern New Zealand is very much a shared country between Maori and settlers.

gentle Mangonui

Our 'Lonely Planet' and ''Rough Guide' were faithful companions throughout the trip and ensured that we found the best coffee, (very important!), the museums, the viewpoints etc. Every now and again though you have to follow your nose...

Hokianga harbour area

My birthday celebration was one of the highlights of the trip. Sibs had so much fun decorating the van.
Do you think anyone noticed??

Every holiday has to end and we eventually had to stop 'heading north' and make our way back to Auckland.

Haruru Falls nr Paihia, Bay of Islands

So we are back to routine and lists and definitely having to remember what day it is!

The suitcases are back in the wardrobe, the holiday clothes are washed, the new school year has started and the money box will have to be replenished with pennies dollars so that we can plan our next trip.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Happy Australia Day

I can't let today pass without wishing everyone a Happy Australia Day or as they say around here
...Happy 'Stralia Day.

Australia Day is a public holiday here, and the nation celebrates everything Australian. All the parks are full of families playing cricket or rugby or just kicking a ball around and there has to be a bbq. We stayed at home and invited some friends over for a swim and some lunch.
Let me teach you a new word for sausage - a snag! So the kids had snags in breadrolls. If we were true Aussies we would have put the snags in a piece of bread...but hey, we're still learning.

The other obligatory food for Australia day is...prawns of course! Our little family rarely, if ever eat prawns so it was with some trepidation that I went to get some yesterday. How many different variety of prawns are there! and what's with the "preparing" of them?
I eventually bought some cooked ones, which I thought was the safest best, but then I had to prepare the critters...
I managed about 3 until help arrived in the form of a 'real' Australian, who showed me how to pull the head off and the shell and then take out the yucky part! They did look impressive in the big glass bowl of  ice and I did manage to eat one (smothered in lemon and lime yoghurt sauce!)

phew, hot work!
Husband did a good impression of an Australian male with complete control of the bbq and beer in hand.

We raised a glass of bubbles to our Scottish friends who are now fully fledged Australian citizens and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon chatting, eating and watching the children having a great time in the water.

The sun shone in Brisbane today and I hope that those who have had a really tough few weeks also managed to stop and enjoy a few hours of down time with friends and family on Australia Day

Back to work tomorrow for me after a long summer break...
Happy 'Stralia Day

Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesdays

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Dydd Santes Dwynwen - The day of the Welsh Saint of Lovers

January 25th is a special day in Wales - it is the Welsh equivalent to Valentines Day.
Dydd Santes Dwynwen.

There are a few versions of her story, as many many folk tales from Wales were passed down generations verbally but the gist goes something like this.

Dwynwen lived sometime during the 5th Century on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. She was the prettiest daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog (how's the pronunciation of his name going?)
Depending on what version you read Brycheiniog had anything between 24 and 60 daughters! The legend goes that Dwynwen fell in love with a prince called Maelon, but her father refused to let her marry him.
She was very upset and asked God to help her to forget her prince.
An angel came to her in a dream and turned Maelon into ice. Dwynwen was then granted three wishes and she cleverly wished that Maelon be thawed, that God meet the hopes and dreams of true love and finally that she would never marry.
As these three wishes were granted Dwynwen devoted herself to God for the rest of her life.

Ynys Llanddwyn

The remains of the church that Dwynwen built can be found in Llanddwyn, a small island off the west coast of Anglesey. Many marriage proposals take place here - I wonder who's there tonight?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Back home...and after the floods

anxiously watching the Brisbane sky line
the morning we left
Tuesday, Jan 11th

 We're home from our holiday to New Zealand and what a few weeks it's been...

Floods have ravaged parts of Queensland including our home city of Brisbane and have destroyed homes, businesses and lives. Brisbane city centre was evacuated alongside many riverside suburbs. The mud and debris lingered after the water fell and the clean up will take months. There is an estimated cost of hundreds of millions of dollars - up to $100 million just to get the river city cat transport back together.

This hurts.

If anyone reading this was affected in any way - I am truly sorry...

Brisbane is muddy, smelly and gritty...but Australians are from strong stock!
With pioneer (or convict?) ancestors this city will fight its way back quickly.

Living in a suburb that was thankfully unaffected by the water everyone that I talk to has a story to tell about how they have been volunteering to help with the aftermath. Nana and Papa (who were housitting whilst visiting from England) volunteered and went to an affected suburb to help clear mud; brother and sister in law came down the mountain and did the same; other brother in law travelled an hour and a half from the Sunshine Coast to help. Neighbours and friends who couldn't get to work in the city queued to offer their time or travelled around with trailers to help move things...People are amazing.

So as much as we enjoyed our holiday, there was a regular niggling worry about what was happening back in Brissie. Internet and mobile access in the remote hills of North New Zealand was patchy to say the least! We caught up when we could but mostly got our news fix the old fashioned way...with newspapers.

Thank you to everyone who sent messages, texts, emails, phoned my mum! to check on us. Diolch.

We escaped - in more ways than one!

I will write about our travels next time.

 Queensland Gov flood donations - click here

Monday, 10 January 2011

Escaping the Brisbane rain

I know that I previously said that I would stop complaining about the rain,
so this is not a complaint -
just an observation!

my poor waterlogged and weedy garden...

It's STILL raining...constantly...all day and all night...!
The frogs, ducks, weeds and the mosquitoes are having a ball!
Everyone and everything else is over it!

Some local children were surfing in the park yesterday,
They were having such good fun on their boogie boards in the vast puddles of water and mud....
Later in the day, in the same park there was a family of ducks enjoying a splash around.

The creek near our house is flowing at some speed carrying quite a bit of debris. It's usually a little trickle...

So what am I doing?

Well the grandparents have been briefed with a vast list of housitting instructions, and... 

I'm escaping the deluge of water for the sunnier shores of New Zealand.
I will be celebrating my birthday somewhere warm and quiet overlooking the ocean.

From this...

to this...

Bay of Islands NZ

I just hope that we have a dry house to return to...

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Parrots, Kookaburras and Cicadas

 Yesterday we spent a lovely few hours up the mountain at a family bbq to farewell some British visitors. The gathering of family and friends was joined by some of the locals...of the non-human kind!

This is an Australian King-Parrot, and if Sibs was next to me she would tell me his name. I know it's a male as the female has a green head, but otherwise they all look the same to me! I think this one is Bert?
My Sis in law is a bit of a Dr Doolittle and animals are just drawn to her. She has researched the feeding habits and requirements of the local birds and has calculated just how much she can offer them without disrupting their natural feeding. It's better than Australia Zoo at her house!

Whilst everyone was chatting this rather wet and bedraggled looking Kookaburra arrived to join the party.

He looks quite charming don't you think? Almost as if he's smiling to himself?
Well I think he was...

Just peeking to see what's on the menu...

Quick, one last photo to show my wonderful feathers before I swoop on that rather juicy piece of steak...!

Now that's why he looked to be smiling - he was eyeing up his tea!!

I unfortunately missed the act of stealing the steak, but I heard the commotion. The kookaburra didn't get very far as the piece that he chose was almost his size and he dropped it just before he flew over the side of the deck. Oh well, maybe next time.

The local Kookaburras have a very distinctive call - it's called a laugh. It's a little like "kook-kook-kook-ka-ka-ka". I love to hear them, it's so different to any bird call that I've ever heard before.

Talking of different sounds, you should hear the racket that the cicadas make here! Most evenings you can hear them singing. Quite often if I'm on the phone I have to go indoors as the sound is so loud. Thankfully they tend to only sing during dusk and early evening. Now it's quite tricky to spot a cicada and I've only ever seen a couple. However, when you're up the mountain with Dr Doolittle you never know what will drop by and last night there it was - a beautiful green Bladder Cicada.

Now that I've seen it, I can understand why they are so tricky to spot - aren't those wings great camouflage?

On the way home down the mountain, apart from (once unsuccessfully) avoiding the pot holes caused by all this rain, I also had to avoid the tiny little frogs hopping all over the place.
It reminded me of before we moved here, night driving along the country lanes in North Yorkshire. Except instead of avoiding frogs it was small baby rabbits. Thank goodness we lived out in the sticks where it was quiet, as I spent quite a bit of the journeys swerving all over the place. I can proudly say that I don't recall one mishap.

Happy Sunday
...still raining in Brisbane...

Friday, 7 January 2011

When was the last time we did this?


Last night husband and I had the rare opportunity to go out together...just the two of us.

I can't quite remember the last time that happened - sad isn't it?

We decided on a cinema evening and eventually settled on a showing of 'The King's speech'

I was a little worried that husband would doze off halfway through - partly because he's not really into that kind of a history film, but mostly because it didn't start until 9 pm and he's not known for staying up late (unlike me). I did notice that he had a coffee before we left home and whilst I ordered a glass of wine, he opted for...another coffee!

Anyhow, great film and I would thoroughly recommend it. The plot and storyline isn't particularly riveting, but the acting is superb. Helps that Colin Firth is the lead....oh, and Helena Bonham Carter is very convincing in her role too!

Whilst we were waiting to go into the cinema we got talking about the last time that the two of us went to see a film together.
Believe it or not we concluded that it was 'Little Voice' - (Jane Horrocks, Ewan McGregor, Michael Caine). We saw it in January 1999!!
The film before that was 'Sleepers' - (Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro) and that was 1996!!

I think we need to get out more often!

Have a great weekend everyone,
...still raining in Brisbane...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Queensland floods

Thank you to all family and friends who have sent messages and enquired about our well being during the terrible Queensland floods.

Thankfully we have not experienced any of the devastation that has happened in other parts of the state, and we are safe, well and dry.

from Australian Bureau of Meteorology

The map above shows the conditions as of today and we are located in the bottom right corner of Queensland. There has been an unprecedented amount of rain here, and I believe that it's been the wettest since records began over a hundred years ago. However, Brisbane hasn't experienced flooded towns or anything near the "disaster of almost biblical propositions" as  described by Qld treasurer Andrew Fraser.

It's hard to imagine the sheer scale of the flooding. Over 200,000 people in 22 cities and towns have been affected. Some will loose their homes, their belongings and livelihoods. I had a huge lump in my throat watching the news the other night as an elderly couple in Rockhampton were walking through the remains of the home that they had shared for many many years. How do you recover from that?

I have heard that the scale of the flooding is equal to the size of France and Germany. This little postcard gives you an idea what this actually means...

 So I will stop complaining about the incessant rain here in Brisbane,
and thank my lucky stars that we are flood free.

 I will also spare a thought for all of those who are battling with mother nature, and hope that they receive all the help and support that they can to rebuild their homes and lives.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Come for a walk with me...

A favourite Sunday afternoon walk is to wander through Roma Street Parklands. You may recall that we celebrated Springtime with a walk here a few months ago. (Appreciating Springtime - part 2)

This Sunday, we packed a very simple picnic and headed off to do some exploring. Come with us...

Let's just walk through the tunnel at the top entrance to the parklands and savour the sounds of the birds.

We'll then head over the boardwalk and through the water mist to wonder at all the water dragons that live in this part. They are well camouflaged, so keep looking.

Some of them are pretty tame creatures and pose well for the camera, whilst the little ones will just scamper off looking like some prehistoric little dinosaurs!

Next we'll stop for a moment at the bridge and look at at the gorgeous colours of the waterlilys.
 Aren't they beautiful?

I think we'll choose a nice shady spot under the trees overlooking the lake.
I'll just rest here for a while....I'll just lie here and stare up at the leaves...zzzzz.....

Time to wake up and go for a bit of a walk and exploration.
I could stay here a little while longer whilst you just go ahead and see what's on the island....
I'll be right here...go ahead....

OK, lets walk through the gardens and then have a play in the park.

Phew, it's hot today, it must be well into the 30's. Remember to drink plenty of water.

OK, time's up, let's go home for a swim to cool down.
Tell you what, let's not cook tonight, how about a pizza?
I'll book us a table at Tomato Brothers - 5.45pm sound good?

Hope you enjoyed our walk.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Cheers to 2011

 Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Happy New Year!

We celebrated in style last night...with some hot chocolate, Christmas cake and cookies!

Brisbane weather very kindly decided to be summery yesterday and we enjoyed a rare day of sunshine and dry clear skies. So last night we joined a few hundred people and ventured up the mountain behind our house to get a glimpse of the early firework display in the city. The first 'family friendly' fireworks are at 8.30pm so the children get to 'stay up late' and welcome in the new year. We watched the display and then toasted the new year with a thermos of hot chocolate with melted marshmallows. I swear I have never tasted such good hot chocolate - it even rivaled our trip to the Lindt cafe in Sydney!

Sibs got a bit spooked by the rustling in the grass and the bushes and was imagining all sorts of creepy creatures, so she hopped in to the boot of the car to enjoy her drink.

Talking of creepy creatures, let me share these beauties. I have seen a Blue Tongue lizard on our driveway a few times during the last few months, but I never have the camera with me. A couple of days ago I happened to have the camera in my hand when Sibs shouted that she had seen a snake! On closer inspection the snake had legs...and became a lizard. Unfortunately I didn't capture the blue forked tongue, but here he/she is trying to hide from the lens.

Our other creepy creature that we came across this week was a mole cricket. This is a bit like a cockroach except uglier! It had decided to have a bit of a splash in the pool and was rescued by brave husband. Rescued, meaning thrown out very quickly!

Guess what? The huntsman just won't leave!! The other night in those precious moments when everyone is in bed, the whole house is quiet and I get my five minutes of catching up on the news events of the day I spotted it. It was stealthily venturing from one side of the room to the other - yuck. The cat actually saw it first and tried to protect me of course! She excitedly jumped on the back of the sofa and warned it away...but this huntsman has no fear!

not the best shot, but check out the size?!
When  I pointed the camera at it (from a reasonable distance) I pressed the button and the red eye flash activated and I got to see its two big eyes. I nearly dropped my camera!!

It's a persistent little horror. I'm guessing it's the same visitor as before that's been sucked up the vacuum cleaner, had half a can of fly spray over it, been put in the dustbin, spotted in the garage and now this...
If it's not the same one I want my money back from the pest control man!

So I started by wishing everyone a Happy New Year and I've been waffling on about the Australian creepies...

Back to good wishes -  I wish everyone health, happiness and dreams come true time for 2011

iechyd da, cheers!