Saturday, December 27, 2014

A visit to the Bellarine Pt 1

We spent a couple of lovely days last weekend on the Bellarine staying with Sister, Bone Doctor and Little Jo. The weather was quite pleasant. We were sitting under the grape vine covered pergola. Actually, above the grapevine is perspex, so while sitting at the table, the grapevine was expirating its moisture which turned into water droplets that collected on the perspex roof and then fell down on to the table and us.

It was Bone Doctor's work Christmas bash, so we looked after Little Jo while she and Sister attended a rather large country property with a pool, a tennis court and room for a pony. They were too late for entrée and after the main course, Sister asked if there was a bed she could lie on as she had a headache and she slept for two hours and missed pudding and desserts.

We had decided to take Little Jo for a twenty minute drive to Victoria's largest regional city, Geelong. We wanted to see the ever so expensive Christmas tree and have a bite to eat. We thought Little Jo would enjoy La Porchetta and we had a nice meal, except I forgot to ask for anchovies to be left off my pizza, which spoiled it somewhat. The staff were just so nice and the service excellent. Little Jo con #1. She managed to extract one dollar at a time for us to play one of those games where a claw comes down under your guidance to pick up a fluffy toy. The seventh dollar went in and she managed to pick up a cheap toy worth less than $7.

At this time of the year in Victoria the sun does not set until 9pm, so we were in no rush to get to the Geelong waterfront. We slowly ambled along. There are some lovely old Victorian buildings.

The almost obliterated Dimmeys sign. The closure of its discount stores is quite lamented.

Once a tram ran along this Moorabool Street. Like most large Australian towns, it had trams until the late 1950s. Somewhere nearby, maybe within this building was the tram depot.

King Edward VI Sailor's Rest. After lots of activity on the ship, I suppose sailors do need a rest.

We approach the waterfront.

We heard so many figures about the cost of the Christmas tree floating in Geelong's Corio Bay. The highest figure was $5 million. It seems the real price was $1 million and if it is used for another couple of years, it was a cheap price to pay for the numbers of people who were around to see it.

Little Jo con #2. "I've never been on a trampoline while being suspended by ropes. It's only $12." She lied as we subsequently discovered she had been on one once before. It was pretty good value though. From one of the parents plonked around the trampoline, we heard, 'Isn't that Little Jo?'. It was the parents of a child Little Jo used to attend kindergarten with. R had met the father before when he once picked up Little Jo. He could not remember but the bloke remembered R too. They were pleasant to chat to, so we learnt later, ex hippies from northern New South Wales. He had his turn on the trampoline. Quite a hot guy really. People were gathering.

Little Jo con #3. Andrew and R. I just want to look at the carousel please. Look! It is so cheap for a ride, only $4.

It is a very old carousel. Many of the horses are original and it used to be powered by this steam engine, and note the chimney, so it must be started up at times.

The Hygeia arrived, named after a paddle steamer operating on Port Phillip Bay.

A very old musical instrument.

Nearly dark.

Little Jo con #4, can I have a light sabre please?

Once properly dark, every so often the lighting went into overboard and synced to the tune of Christmas carols.

The colours were endless.

Little Jo was tired. We left, slowly.

Little Jo had to stop for a quick stage performance with her light sabre.

Bye bye Christmas tree.

We took a different path back to the car, past the main entrance to Deakin University.

Near the car was Geelong Town Hall, with an illumination display.

Birds were flying all over the building. The projectionist had cancelled his gig with the Rolling Stones at Hanging Rock to work on the lighting for the town hall, a more ongoing job. Then the Rolling Stones cancelled their gig at Hanging Rock because Mick had a sore throat. Call me cynical, but I think the advance sales were not high enough.

Not exactly on the way back to Sister's but we really wanted to see this house in Aberdeen Street. Many Australian houses are so decorated. The couple who lived there were elderly and she was giving out chocolates to children. Little Jo con #5 "Haven't you already had a chocolate my dear", the woman asked. Indeed she had and was back for a second.


Oh, formatting has gone wrong. Not sure how this will display. Little Jo was asleep by 10.30 after a quick story was read to her by R. About 11 Sister and Bone Doctor returned. Bone Doctor and myself stayed up until 12.30 chatting over a glass or three of Scotch. Ah yes, if you are wondering about how I went with the internet, Bone Doctor only has a small allowance, so I upgraded my phone data allowance from 250mb to 1gb. After the reset on the 25th, I switched back to 250mb, so I will pay pro rata for a few days. I'm allowed to do this once per month. This works well for me when away from wifi.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day Trial

Normally when travelling at Christmas to my brother's in the swamps of Langwarrin in the past we would use the Monash Freeway and then the Western Port Highway, or Nepean Highway, Wells Road and Frankston Freeway. The latter route often ended up with us sitting in stationary traffic at the freeway's end and we did learn a route from the North Frankston exit to avoid most of the stationary traffic.

But bless the State Governments. Firstly East Link opened to take us directly to the Frankston Freeway from the Monash Freeway and then bless them even more, we were given Peninsular Link, with brother's house just five minutes from an exit. The last couple of trips we have taken to his place took barely 45 minutes, cutting perhaps 20 minutes off the really old time.

So no problem getting there this Christmas.......we thought. Not to be. Build a freeway and the cars will come. Before Thompson Road the traffic on East Link slowed to a crawl and the crawl continued all the way to the Frankston Cranbourne Road exit. "Shoulda caught the train", I remarked to R. It is quite a plausible option and certainly less stressful, but would have taken longer, even when picked by someone from Frankston Station. I think our travel time was almost doubled. I need a cunning road plan if heading that way next Christmas.

Anyway, we had a lovely Christmas Day, but have I ever mentioned in the past that our population is already too high and growing too quickly?

Hello Sailor

A few years ago I discovered the live yacht tracker on the website of Sydney to Hobart yacht race. I decided to choose a yacht to offer mental support to. I did not want one of those big flash monsters that skim across the water, but something a little quirky. From memory it was a yacht built in the 20th century and from Tasmania. It was proper wooden boat. I had some fun following its very slow progress down Australia's east coast, across Bass Strait, down Tasmania's east coast and up the Derwent River to Hobart. If it did not come last, it was certainly among the last to cross to the finish line at Hobart's Constitution Dock.

I had some spare time today, so I chose a yacht to follow this year and it is Katharsis II, a Polish entrant in the world famous race.

What do you think of her? She looks older to me than her 6 years of age. I don't think they will be dining like this while they are sailing the most dangerous yacht race in the world. Yes, lives have been lost in the past.

Gratuitous photo of handsome crew member. Of course for me to be at all interested in a sport, a nice looking bloke must be a participant. I think his name is Kuba or Kuby.

This is a brief interview with the crew here. They are enjoying Australia's warm weather, but it can be very cold when racing into a southerly wind.

Ten Years On

Bert was the manager at a gay resort known as Turtle Cove, half way between Cairns and Port Douglas. R and I stayed there in the nineties and had a great time. Bert was a good manager and looked after his staff well. From Turtle Cove he moved on to manage a resort on a Thai island, I forget which one, and was there when the Boxing Day tsunami hit ten years ago. I believe, as at 2012, he is back managing Turtle Cove.

I may have published his personal account before, but it would be many years ago. Bert is Dutch born and English is not his first language, so  there may be a few odd sentences but have a read of his gripping experience on the day.

Bert's story:

Waves from Hell

It is about 8 am on Boxing Day 2004 and I am in the resort restaurant
checking the breakfast staff. The staff asked me if I heard that
muffled bang just before, but I did not and no one thought any more
of it. A guest who came later for breakfast said that his bed shook a
bit at that time. But the weather was brilliant with clear skies and
the sea right besides us was like a lake.

At 10.15 am. I attended the annual meeting of members who own houses
on our property and our Company takes care of. The chairman opened
the meeting and just finished the attendance record at 10.30 am, when
we heard this enormous rumble. It sounded like a 747 jumbo jet at
full throttle taking of on the beach about 50 meters away. The sound
was so loud that all of us jumped up and ran for the beach expecting
a plane crash. All we saw was water rushing away from the beach and
sucking sand with and just a swell was to be seen. But on the far
horizon we saw a white line about a centimeter high and it was clear
that it was a never ending wave breaking. Only then did we realize
what was about to come our way. Most of us started running along the
beach to get the many guests, children and staff spectators of the
beach and to the little hill on the other side of the resort.
Although we knew that it was going to be big, we never thought it to
be a "Tsunami". Guest and staff were slow to move, after all with the
spectacle at the horizon coming to us at a fast rate and getting
bigger and bigger, who would want to miss that scene. Our screaming
and shouting made some impact and only when it got close, they
started to run.

A few of us were on the north side of our peninsular and ran for the
hill on that side, but by then two of us realized that we were to
late and would never make it in time. I took shelter behind a massive
casuarina tree and another guest took the smaller tree besides me.

Next, an enormous wave rolled over the dunes and split on either side
of me. The tree grunted like if it was going to snap and when I
looked to the right of me the guest was gone, I did not have time to
count my lucky stars, because the sand was being washed from under my
feet and slowly I sagged down the sand.

The next wave was a few seconds later and as I looked up, it split
way above me at least 10 meters. I did not have to worry about the
tree snapping, as I was taken like tissue paper in the wind. I had
the presence of mind to take as much air as my lungs would hold and
disappeared under water. I was tossed, turned and rolled under water
and had no idea what was up or down, but could feel that I was going
at a massive speed. My lungs were about to bursts and I knew that
time was running out for me. I opened my eyes briefly to see where
the light and surface would be and without thinking I put my hand
together and stretched my arms, using my hands like a rudder pointed
up. I shot up and briefly got my head out of the water, enough time
to suck in fresh air and again down I went.

I have still no idea how many times I went up and down, but finally I
stayed up. When I looked around me I was close to the little Island
about 700 meters away from us in the bay. The sea around me was like
a carpet of debris and realized that being hit by any of  if could
injure me badly, but still grabbed what ever was floating as to at
least give me time to get my breath back.

Right besides me was a long tail boat on its side and yet no matter
how hard I tried, the debris in between us prevented me from getting
even close to it. However the boat's seat cushion came close enough
to grab and I pushed it under my chest, to help me to float. The
little Island was very close and I tried desperately to swim for it,
but at an instant I was dragged away from it and swirled in a big
circle towards the land beside our peninsula.

Next I was dragged back to our beach and was happy to see the hill
coming towards me at a fast rate, but realized that water that goes
up must go down again. Before I knew what happened I was taken like a
speed boat back to the point where I had left our Island in the first
place and shot over the 200 meters peninsula in to the "Andaman

I desperately grabbed for palm leaves and tree branches, but they
ripped straight through my hands with the force of the speed. All the
debris from the bay joined me and as far as I could see our resort
floating around me. I heard some cries for help in the distance and
could see two of my staff members.

As my cushion life saver (so far) kept me afloat. I tried to swim to
them to help them, but the massive amount of debris prevented me from
doing so and I was steadily dragged towards the horizon where we had
seen the first wave come from. I then realized that obviously the sea
was settling down again.

The big problem now was to get myself back to shore, blocked by the
carpet of anything that floats. Considering that the whole resort was
build out of wood, thatch and natural materials it took me for ever
to claw my way back through the debris and to shore. I dragged my
self on the beach and checked for injuries, being totally amazed that
I only had a few scratches and a sore left leg that must have been
hit by something.

How I could have gone at high speed under water one way and on my
return above water without being smashed into the many trees and
debris will remain a puzzle to me for ever. My watch was still
happily ticking away and checking the time, could not believe that I
would have struggling for live for about 3.5 hours.

When I got over the dunes there were a few member houses still
standing, others half demolished or gone and looking back to the main
resort, there was nothing but emptiness, some bend over palm trees
and concrete slabs.

The only building left on the grounds was the two story reception
building in a big pile. But not a single person to be seen anywhere
and thus feared the very worst.  I walked straight away to the bay
side to see if there was any one there and found no one. Walking
along the beach was like being ship wrecked on a deserted Island.

And then I saw two house owners coming from the hill where I was
supposed to be in the first place.

They told me that most of our 170 guests and staff were on the hill
behind the resort and that we had some badly and many with small
injuries. Most were not willing to come down the hills in fear of an
aftershock, some came down and collected whatever food and liquid
scattered around and buried in the sand, to take up the hill as we
felt that we would be there for while.

All communication devices were gone and calling the outside world was
not possible. After making a quick survey of the damage and finding
only one body jammed under the rubble we went up the hill to prepare
for maybe the longest night we could imagine. There I found the
Journalist for South East Asia of the "Australian" newspaper who had
a house and was staying with us for Xmas. She had a mobile that
worked, as she managed to get up the hill in time. She was contacted
by Barry (Ex Australian Army Officer) who takes care of my business
in Bangkok, to let us know that he already had contacted the
Australian Embassy and his Thai army contacts. As it was now late
afternoon, rescue would come early next morning.

We spend the night on the hill trying to sleep care for the wounded
and reflect on the past day. We now knew that 13 people were not
accounted for and missing. The first helicopter circled over us at
about 6.20 am and shortly after, three more arrived and landed on the
beach, all wounded and families were taken off. We found one more
body and by early afternoon all of us were evacuated by boat, leaving
behind the devastation of a nature resort that once was.

Most of the guest and staff who did not miss anyone traveled onwards
to go to there respective homes or onward destinations. We went to
the main temple in the close by village of Kuraburi, which was set up
as the main rescue and command centre. Whole communities spend their
time there as there was no where for them to go after their villages
were wiped of the face of the earth. Thais are an amazing people, as
within one day cloth and other house hold articles came in from all
over the local area from people who could least afford it.

I spend the next 5 days from early morning to late evening viewing
every corpse that came in from our Island to identify and process the
deceased guest and staff from our resort. It seemed to be a never
ending process and it became more difficult as days went on, because
of the further de-composing of bodies. I could and would not describe
the state and smell of the corpses after 5 days in the water, where
the only possible identification could be done by jewelry or other
identifiable items with the corpses. We have found 12 of our people
and only one baby is still missing, most likely never to be found

Now I am back in Bangkok having lost absolutely everything on the
Island besides my life, but when I think and see what others went
through, I count my lucky stars once more. The owner of the resort is
at present at a loss of what to do next and I may go back next week
to access and consult him on the next step to be taken.

Bert Gerbrands

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Trams

I don't recall Melbourne ever decorating a tram for Christmas.

This tram in Milan is decorated but I think somewhat spoilt by the commercialism. Apparently the tram is only decorated if a sponsor can be found. It looks like a giant can of you know what. Time .27

Not so commercial in Budapest. I have showed you the Budapest Christmas tram before, but here it is briefly, travelling along the banks of The Danube on the famous Route 2 on the Pest side of the river. I was a bit excited to remember the very tram stop and seeing the White Bridge and then after the tram departs, the Chain Bridge, Fisherman's Bastion and Buda Castle. Time 1.12 There is a longer and better look at the Budapest tram here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Little Jo, 1. Andrew, 0.

Photos to come from our two nights away on the Bellarine at Sister's. Little Jo, R and myself were playing a game at the basket ball hoop. She had a thin stick with a small ball on the end and was standing under the hoop trying to knock the basketball out as it began to descend through the hoop. If she failed, it fell on her head. She was not in the best of moods, but a big poo later at a cafe saw her return to a more cheerful state.

The game concluded and she mounted the trampoline for a bounce. I stuck the thin stick through two opposing holes on the basket ball hoop pole. "Andrew, can you take the stick out please." "Why Little Jo? It is Christmas and it looks like a cross". "Andrew, you are so dumb. A cross is for Jesus at Easter. Take it out please".

She is a lippy lass and bites at nearly every remark. Sister wasn't as bad when she was young. Sister and Bone Doctor said they are seeing Mother's traits coming through with Little Jo. They bypassed Sister, who is always busy, outgoing and very social, nothing like Mother.

At the age of two, Mother, Sister and Little Jo looked identical, all with long curly blonde hair. Yet after plying Bone Doctor with a Scotch or two, she said Little Jo also looks like her half brother and sisters too, Little Jo's biological father's children.

I feel awful saying it, but I just don't hit it off or get along very well with Little Jo. If there is a tech issue with a device, she will ask me, but mostly I am just in the background, the silly old uncle. In a weak moment, I mentioned this to R, and he quite rightly said, I have put in the hard yards and you haven't. This is true up to a point, but I am always in the background doing things for her, just not the direct contact. Anyway, she can be quite short with R too, in spite of hundreds of hours of care he has given her. Even R said after we returned from the Bellarine, she is terribly spoilt and really suffers from the single child syndrome. Ha, just like Mother.

No one will see our Christmas decorations this year. I can't remember the last time someone actually visited us. Ok, not so long. We took Little Jo to see the Myer Christmas window and while I am at work, R will look after Little Jo on Sunday while Sister and Bone Doctor go to the cricket.

I must be feeling a little maudlin. I will pour myself a large gin and tonic and as gin is a depressive, make the situation complete.

Therapy by writing is complete. I am my Mother's son.

Two plus two equals five

Mother finally seems to have money under some sort of control. Her power company forced her into a pay back plan for the money she owed them when for nine months she did not receive a bill. She pays $50 a fortnight which pays back the money owed and pays for her current usage. The payback was supposed to finish this month but I suspect her usage has been higher than anticipated. She is quite content to pay $50 and it means she does not go short of heating or cooling.

She has now gone onto a phone plan, $50 per month to cover her phone rental and calls. Although her friend only lives a twenty minute drive away, it is timed call and not a fixed price local call. They talk rubbish on the phone for hours.

Still for her $50 notes are just bits of paper that come and go and she will never be responsible with money, but she has improved. Maybe if she ever had to work to earn money, she may have a different attitude, but at the age of 80, the lady's not for turning.

She really has done quite well since Step Father died on Boxing Day six years ago. I knew she would. Underneath her woe is me persona, she is quite strong and very sharp. But she is very lonely for day to day company. No amount of saying she should get out and socialise more works. It is the day to day chatter about the person across the road, the cats, something heard on the news, a special at the supermarket that she really misses. I can understand that.

I had to check which year Step Father died and it was interesting to read back what I wrote at the time. Little Jo was only eighteen months old.

Later edit: Mother was either going to call an ambulance or get us to take her to the emergency department at Casey Hospital. After a few barbed and highly charged comments over the phone I agreed we would take her and I would sacrifice a precious day of a week off work. I was pretty cross with her and after we arrived home, R was too. Tests were done at the hospital and as we knew, there is nothing wrong with her in any life threatening sense. The staff at Casey Hospital were terrific. Bone Doctor says doctors have a Latin term when they see a case of lonely and depressed old person at home alone and not coping.  Funnily, today there was a BBC story Tackle Loneliness to Curb Accident and Emergency Pressures. Even the far more tolerant R became cross and snappy with her. "Last night you said you were so unwell you did not care if you were in hospital for Christmas. Today you are pleading that you don't have to stay overnight in hospital". I should have gone with my instincts and let her call an ambulance, but R insisted we take her. So we left home at 10.00am and did get back until 07.45pm. I hope R has learned a lesson. Plans for the day were gone. Next time, she can call an ambulance and one of us may pick her up from hospital, or just leave her there for them to deal with.

Today is Christmas Eve and I bid you all the best seasonal wishes. I am not religious but Christmas is a very special family time, so enjoy time with your loved ones, especially those who may not be around for too many more years.  Sorry about your boredom Hels, but tomorrow will be our wonderful family day and not a word of religion will be spoken or thought about.

Our Christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Art Trams

I hope they were paid for the efforts. Melbourne has a long history of art trams, dating back to the 1970s but it has always been sporadic. It was revived this year and here are the works. I really like the one with the female artist standing with her arms outstretched, but I don't disagree with the winner of the people's choice who is standing with his art work wearing ridiculous jeans. Get fashionable lad, tight and revealing is the way to go.

Artist Callum Croker with his award winning tram work.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bad music association

A Melbourne man allegedly murdered his two daughters, but before he did so, he dressed them in pretty party frocks and they performed a rendition of Let it Go from Frozen for him. After reading that in the media, I just cannot bear to hear Let it Go.

If you have children of a certain age, or mix with children of a certain age, you will know the music track from Frozen. Little Jo does a fine performance of Frozen but it has been thoroughly spoilt for me. I cannot bear to listen, even the John Gray of Wales rendition when accidentally captured.

R watches a show presented by the quite brilliant Amanda Keller. I can't think of the name of the show. I see it at times, bits of it and it can be amusing light hearted entertainment. I heard R talking on the phone to Mother and they were agreement that there was a very sad segment on the show. After the call ended R told me about a segment on the show where the audience was asked what they wanted for Christmas and there must have been a dollar limit or something, and generally they received what they wanted, except for the little boy who wanted his dad back for Christmas. There was no chance of that, as his father had died. Now I tear up very easily at anything like that, but R burst into sobbing mess.  He quickly recovered and then pondered, 'what was that all about'?

You don't know Let it Go from Frozen? Here it is. Oops, wrong one. This is not suitable for general public consumption.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Selections

River and a loose collection of blog folk use Sunday to post a collection of photos. My contribution this week is a random collection.

R's brand new unworn shirt has a hole in it. I guess something happened in the washing machine, which is my department. Never happened before.

The street trees have been adorned with Christmas bows. I've seen a few odd bows on trees but not a whole street done.

Next to our favoured Altona car wash is a Salvation Army store. For some reason that puzzles me, people treat it like an area to dump rubbish.I picked up a girl's umbrella, a pretty pink. It couldn't be opened. The mechanism was broken. It may have cost $5 to buy new. Crazy!

There is more than one reason to cross the West Gate Bridge to wash the car. Lunch at Altona Beach Village. Note the cricket bat in the cafe window to commemorate the passing of cricketer Phillip Hughes.

The more vertical the car windscreen is, the less large it needs to be.

Across the road a visitor to this apartment was doing something with a broom. Too far away to see exactly what.

Triffids will be ready to attack by Christmas Day.

Ho hum, another Christmas, the same old tree in the foyer. Great that we have one though.

The building's library. The books in the box are yet to be sorted to the correct shelves. It works on an honesty system and seems successful.

A Frankston carpark and a murder of ravens, assuming murder is the collective noun for ravens as well as crows. There must have been about two dozen of them but they are hard to see against the black plastic bags and some are out of shot. Very irresponsible to leave the lid open.

A little amusement to wrap up. Whitley Bay was R's local beach when he was but a lad. The family used to take the train from Newcastle and sit on the beach, play in and out of the water and eat ham sandwiches, while his father propped up the bar of the local beachside hotel.

We are away at Sister and Bone Doctor's for a couple days on the Bellarine Peninsular. Internet options will be public wi-fi, blow out my measly 250mb phone data allowance or con Bone Doctor's home wi-fi password from her.