The last hurrah

Two days ago we dropped our dog, Mr Tilly, off at our daughters in Perth where he’ll stay for the next two months. Being retired, Tills is usually with us almost 24/7. He sits beside us on the sofa at night, and he sleeps between us on our bed. When one of us is out of the house he sits on the bed where he can watch out for the return of the car and with it, the absent member of his pack. He’s very loyal, and great company, but he does get anxious when his pack isn’t all together. It broke our heart to leave him, but I believe he’s settling in now. My daughter has two small older dogs, so they’ll be good company for him, and all three dogs are welcome on the sofa in the evening, and sleep on the main bed at night.

We’ve loved our caravanning life, but Mr Tilly has struggled with it. He came into our home when he was only seven weeks old and has been caravanning with us ever since. We did all our homework before we got him and knew our road trips wouldn’t be as free as they’d always been. We realised National Parks would no longer be an option, but there were still plenty of other options available. The one thing we didn’t factor in was that perhaps he wouldn’t love it. He’s now almost five years old though, and it’s clear he’s not faking it – caravanning turns him into one very anxious little dog, so much so that he’s often physically ill when we’re away. It’s become clear he’s not going to get used to these travelling escapades no matter how much time we give him, and his stress effects our enjoyment. We haven’t been enjoying our caravanning trips as much as we ought to be.

Of course, leaving him with our daughter is always an option, however, we prefer longer trips of two plus months than short 2 – 3 week breaks away, and we don’t think it’s fair to either our daughter, or to Mr Tilly to leave him for months at a time. So we’ve made the decision to make this our last caravan trip, our last hurrah!

There are a few more reasons for our decision though. There’s the cost of the fuel, the increasing cost of caravan park fees, and last but not least, the crowds now on the road. With so many people now on the roads there is no room for spontaneity any more. Without advance bookings it’s almost impossible to get a spot anywhere without bookings made months in advance. In 2014 when we took to the road full time the only times you had to book long advance was during school holidays. Out of school holidays we’d turn up at caravan parks and were usually offered a choice of sites. It’s just not like it used to be.

On top of that, our move into our retirement lifestyle village has totally changed our lives. Our lives at home are so busy now, bowls, golf, bridge, walks, dinners – so much so that long trips away are no longer as tempting. So, whilst we’re laying the blame at Mr Tilly’s feet, there’s really much more to it than that. The truth is we don’t enjoy being away from our home for long periods of time any more. There’s just to much going on all the time on the home front.

We’ve left Mr Tilly behind this time and are going to make the most of this, our last hurrah. On the itinerary for this trip is hiking in Kalbarri national park, a walk on the Kalbarri skywalk, and dinner at the famous Finlay’s Fish restaurant. Then we’re heading on to Coral Bay for four nights. Coral Bay has always been a favourite place of ours, but with dogs not allowed on the main beach there, we’ve been by-passing it for the past five years. It’s fitting that it should be included in our last hurrah.

Between Coral Bay and Broome we’ll include a few days at Pt Samson, and will stay a few nights at Eighty Mile Beach, the most strategic stopping point on the home stretch into Broome. The owner at Eighty Mile Beach apparently tried to seperate two vicious dogs several years ago and was mauled badly in the process. Dogs have been banned there ever since. Then we have four lovely weeks in Broome, and our son and daughter-in-law are coming down from Darwin to meet us there. We’re looking forward to being able to do justice to sharing time with them including dining out at the local eateries and pubs. Hopefully this last hurrah will get us that illusive photo we’ve been trying to capture of a bat as it flies across the face of the full moon. Goodness knows there’s lots of opportunities for the photo, but snapping it at just the right moment is the trick yet to be mastered.

Come early September we’ll return home with a couple of nights at Karijini National Park on the way. Then we’ll be advertising our little van and a new era of shorter overseas holidays will begin. In the meantime, watch this space. I’m sure I’m going to have some lovely photos to share with you, hopefully even that one that has so far alluded us of a bat silhouetted against a full moon.

A perfect Family Day

Both Paul and I have our birthdays in May. On my birthday we received a birthday phone call from our grandson and his partner, Shirley asking us to open the email they had just sent to us so as they could explain it’s meaning to us. Inside, they’d put together a book of their favourite places to eat in Perth. It must have taken them hours, each place listed, came with photos and comments of which dish they’d recommend. They even included a map showing the location of each of the eateries. They asked us to take a look through, and choose a place for them to take us to when next we were next up in Perth.

We opted to try something we’d never tried before – Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Soup Dumplings). However, we also mentioned we’d be interested to try some of the unusual ingredients sometimes available at the more authentic type of Asian dishes.

We made a date for Wednesday 22nd June, and headed up to Perth arriving mid morning. Tim and Shirley live close to China Town near the Northbridge eating strip, and around a half hour drive from our daughter’s place where would be staying for the night, so we expected we’d be meeting them somewhere near where would be going for lunch. The first of the most pleasant surprises came when they insisted on picking us up. We headed to Juicy Bao Bao for a lunch of Shanghai Soup Dumplings. Thank goodness we had them to order for us – we were given an Ipad on which to place our order, so you had to know what the food was. We went up to select our dipping sauces. Two lots of different boiled soup dumplings arrived, one lot of fried dumplings, and big bowl of brisket soup complete with Chinese greens and long noodles. Surprise number two, some of the food was delivered by a robot – we’d never experienced that before.

Crispy dumplings, and Shanghai soup dumplings

The food was fabulous. There’s a bit of a knack to eating the soup dumplings. They have a little patty of meat inside plus a small amount of soup. The trick is to pick up a dumpling with your chopsticks without piercing the skin and place it on your Chinese soup spoon. Then you lift it towards your mouth and gently pierce the dumpling to drink out the soup before eating the dumpling. I can’t say I mastered it that well, but I enjoyed trying. And the flavours – wow! It was all so delicious, I only wish I’d photographed the big bowl of brisket soup too.

Surprise number three – we were taken back to their place to play games for the afternoon, before heading out again for dinner. That was totally unexpected, but when Shirley had told me to get my ’stomach ready’, she really meant it. In the afternoon they showed us how to play Mah-Jong, a game I’ve been curious about for a while. I’m sure I’ll play that again. Then Grandson number two, who lives next door, came over to say hi, so we all chatted for a while. What a pleasurable afternoon. Then it was time to head out for dinner again.

A place that apparently does a very good Chinese hot pot was chosen. The first choice of place was closed, so we headed to Shirley and Tim’s second choice, which I think was Kung Fu Kitchen, from the list. Again, I was pleased they were with us, I wouldn’t have had a clue on how or what to order. Four hot pots were chosen, a very hot one, a mushroom one, a tomato one, and a sour, spicy one. We selected the fillings between us including some of the unusual things i’ve never eaten before, scallops, fish balls, lamb, puffy tofu, tongue, braised intestines, and greens.

My favourite was the mushroom soup, and we all loved the tongue. The intestines were good too, everything was good, but I wasn’t game to try the really hot soup. We washed it all down with Feral Hog Hop beer. If you’ve never tried a Chinese hotpot, the bowls of soup are placed over an element on the table. When it comes to a simmer you place the items of selected food into the soups to gently cook, or heat through. It’s very social, and a first for us. It won’t be the last, we loved it.

We still weren’t done. Next on the gourmet trail was coffee and cake at Cafe Guilty Pleasure. With a gorgeous old English style decor, sideboards and kitchenettes, full of dainty china cups and saucers, and walls hung with pretty tapestries, the place was lovely. Paul chose a strawberry torte, I chose a Matcha (green tea) torte, Shirley had a sweet potato torte, and I can’t remember the one Tim selected. They were all light, and delicious. We were full to the brim when they drove us back to where we staying for the night. I was still full the next morning.

I have to say, it’s probably the best and most surprising birthday gift I’ve ever had. The effort they put into presenting the choices for us to select from, then the chauffeur service, three eateries in one day, and mah-jong in the afternoon. That’s a day for the memory book, what a pleasure!

On the home front

It’s been a while since I documented any changes to our home, and there have been a few. I love to be able to look back at photos to see how my garden and house evolve over time, and this blog seems to be the best place in which to record those changes. I love the way a blog serves as a bit of diary for such things….. So, if you’re interested in this aspect of my blog please make yourself a cuppa and get comfy while I show you around. If, however, you prefer to follow along only with my travel posts, then please feel free to by-pass this post…..

Continue reading

Tribute to Bob

6 May 1952 – 4 April 2022

We first met Bob in the early 80s. We had moved into our first house in a short street, Mundaree Place, where several children of similar ages to our own two children lived.The kids formed friendships and as they got to know each other, so too did the parents. Within a short time we had formed friendships with Marina and Terry, and Bob and Di, friendships that it seems, were destined to last for the rest of our lives.

With young families and new mortgages, money was short. Our entertainment was neighbourhood based – dinners, cards, and other silly games. One of my earliest memories of the six of us was one of those silly games played along the lines of musical chairs, but with a difference. A box of clothing was put into the centre of the room, panty hose, hats, knickers, bras, scarves, anything at all…. The music played, and each couple danced around the room but weren’t allowed to dance close together. When the music stopped a mad scramble took place as couples scrambled to reach each other so as to be able to drop to the floor together. The last couple to drop was required to reach into the box and don whatever item of clothing they extracted (over their street clothes of course). The following photo is the earliest one I have of Bob. He and Terry fell over in their scramble to reach their wives. That sort of madness and laughter has continued on for nearly forty years.

In the early days, before email and facebook came along to become the spoiler alert for any good jokes. the jokes flowed freely at any of gatherings. No prizes for guessing who was the best joke teller of our little group – yes, our friend Bob. If the joke itself wasn’t funny, Bob’s delivery of it would have us laughing till the tears rolled. As I write this, vivid pictures come to mind of Bob delivering one of his jokes along with uniquely Bob expressions and words, many of which you won’t find in any dictionary.

He’d never missed an opportunity to make us laugh.

My favourite martian (a lettuce crisper with a pencil on top)
Harry high-pants

Special birthday’s were often celebrated with themed birthday partys. Marina celebrated one of her milestone birthdays with an Arabian theme. Bob entered in his shiek’s costume with Dianne firmly tethered to him with a chain and leg cuff.

One of those uniquely Bob expressions comes to mind as I look at the following two photos from that night. Paul remembers well the times when we all together and Bob would quietly say to him, “When you think about it” and then would follow up with some unbelievably insulting thing to say about us, their beloved wives. Said for shock value, it usually hit the mark, and the two of them would laugh outrageously. Of course we would insist on knowing what the joke was, and Bob, being Bob, would tell us, and the two of them would be, ‘in trouble again’. Paul and I can’t hear any sentence starting with, ”when you think about it”, without Bob coming to mind, and we smile.

Some more memories from themed nights:

Our best holidays have been spent with Bob and Di.

living dangerously out on a ledge on Frenchman’s peak when on holiday at Esperance
The days catch (possibly at Moore River, or maybe Albany – we’ve had so many wonderful holidays with Bob and Di that i’ve forgotten which photos go with which holiday.
Cooking on Cable Beach for finger food Friday.

Bob was diagnosed with lung cancer and lung desease a couple of years ago. He hasn’t smoked for many, many years, but having worked in the building industry, he was sometimes exposed to asbestos, which probably contributed significantly to the desease. The cancer, initially was successfully treated. The lung desease was incurable. Last year as Paul and I were on way into Broome, Bob phoned. The cancer had returned and had spread throughout his body, his other lung, lymph nodes, brain, and liver. This time the diagnosis was terminal.

He fought as much as he could. Radiation and chemo was tried, without success. He made it till Christmas, and then struggled on through sessions of radiation and chemo trying to reach his 70th birthday. Finally the news came – all treatment avenues had been exhausted, and all that could be offered was palliative care to keep him comfortable to the end.

We visited him late in Februry this year. He had become very unsteady on his feet and was able to only walk short distances and with the aid of a walking frame. The walking frame doubled as a wheelchair for when walking became too difficult. This was to be the last time the sextet from Mundaree Place would all be together.

Bob wasn’t one to sit and ’wait for God’ though. He went on to create memories right up until the end. Shortly after that visit he and Di took their two grown children and their families away for a short holiday on a houseboat on the Mandurah canals. He came back from that holiday, spent a few days recouperating, then, in between Silver Chain visits scheduled one last holiday with Paul and I.

We spent four precious days with Bob and Di in an hotel in Albany.

We suspected when we dropped them home after that precious holiday that it would be the last time we would see Bob. We were right. He passed away, at home surrounded by his beloved Di, son Danny, daughter Lana, and son-in-law Ryan. He was one month and two days short of his 70th birthday.

In a few hours time we will leave for the funeral of our very, dear friend Bob Rogers. Afterwards, we will spend an hour or two with friends, and Bob’s family remembering the many, good times and the many, many laughs we had with Bob at their centre. Bob may no longer be with us, but the laughter and memories we shared with him will live on with us for the rest of our lives. We’re going to miss you dear Bob!

Bob Rogers, 6/05/52 – 4/4/22

Bremer Bay

The winds dropped slightly for our last four days in Esperance allowing us to spend a bit of time enjoying the beaches. The waters of the Southern Ocean though are freezing so it’s not easy to get into the water, but with the help of a boogie board I did manage 15 minutes or so. Not sure why, but trying to catch a ride on the waves on a board seems to distract the mind from the freezing cold, and is the only way I can manage to get in above my knees.

Continue reading

Road trip to Esperance

5th February 2022, the day before our planned departure for our Esperance trip, and the weather forecast for the following day wasn’t favourable. The forecast promised catastrophic fire conditions, with temperatures around the mid 40s accompanied by high winds. We were to be travelling in convoy with friends. We decided on a wait and see approach, they decided to set off as planned in the early morning. We hoped the conditions would become more favourable later in the day.

Continue reading

A Silk Purse out of Sow’s Ear

My mum used to say regularly that, ”you can’t make a silk purse out of sow’s ear”, meaning you needed quality items to make a quality product. However on a daily basis she made a lie of that statement. Within her meagre budget she indeed could, ’make a silk purse out of sow’s ear’, figuratively speaking. She made colourful, woollen, patchwork quilts for our beds out of scraps of fabric which my brother brought home from the coat factory at which he worked. She unravelled old woollen jumpers and used the wool to knit us new jumpers to keep us warm in Christchurch’s cold winter months, and, when the cupboard was virtually bare and her purse empty, she would still manage to put some nourishing, tasty meals on our table. She could conjure up something absolutely amazing out of virtually nothing.

Continue reading