Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Kalbarri November 2009

Hi Folks,

We just got back from our first camping trip to Kalbarri, and we loved it.

Kalbarri is 7 hours north of Perth through the most dull landscape known to man, look a bush gets a boring game after about 3 seconds, there was the odd tree to break up the monotony.

Between us and Kalbarri is Dongara, Geraldton and Northampton (really), that's three towns in 7 hours plus a few roadhouses which at up to 38C on the inland route are hot, very expensive hell holes occupied by dull bored people and flies lots of flies.

Kalbarri made all that monotony worth while, the town is in the aptly named Kalbarri National Park which is a massive area of um er bushes slashed through the middle by the Murchison river.
The Murchison has cut it's way deep into the red soil making for some dramatic gorges and unspoiled stunning scenery.

We camped at the Tudor Caravan park which had a new large pool and was nice and close to the centre of the town.

Where the Muchison heads out to the Indian Ocean it passes through a reef which makes it a challenge for ocean going boats, alongside the reef but still on the river bank is Chinamans beach which has shallow calm clear water and beautiful white sands great for the kids to dig holes in the sand, swim and be happy.

The coastal beaches are dotted with reefs which are protected as they contain tropical fish not usually seen as far south as Kalbarri, these reefs have massive pools of warm water to explore and spot the tropical fish that are trapped by the tide.

We hired a Tinny (Aluminium boat with outboard) and headed up stream past the fishing boats and through a very shallow area sticking close to the marker boys to get to the wide area known as Castle Rock. Once we were into deeper we parked up on the bank (I know that's not a very nautical term but it describes it nicely) and had a picnic and a cast about for a fish, my first cast resulted in a small Tailor (Known as a chopper Tailor) which boded well for our day out.

After lunch we headed further upstream in what would probably be best described as wilderness, there was just us and the sea eagles. Next we dropped anchor mid river and put some river prawns on our hooks while Ally read her book (not impressed with fishing).

The river was alive with fish our bait was ripped off the hooks at every cast, the main culprit for this was a fish called Tarwhine (Yellow finned Bream) which are about 4" long and have a good set of razor sharp teeth, we managed to catch some of these then Jacques reel started spinning backwards at a fast rate of knots and after a short fight he landed his first Black Bream which have even larger teeth and look a bit like a Bass, Joe and I also caught some fish with Jacques seeming to have the touch.

After 3 hours on the water we motored back to the boat hire site happy fishermen (and Ally).

All in all we had a great time relaxing, swimming and fishing.

After 9 nights we headed the 7 hours home happy campers.



Friday, 31 July 2009

New Kitchen

Hi all, Long time no speak.
Life in Oz goes well for us all.

Our house is 28 years old which is old by Perth standards, the trade off with an older house is living in an established suburb with lots of tall trees, parks and larger block sizes.
The downside is property maintenance.

The "New Kitchen" in our house when we moved in turned out to be new doors on the original tailor made Jarrah framed cupboards. We had planned to change the kitchen anyway but the more we looked at it the more I wanted to put a sledgehammer through it.

The main winner in the initial stages was Bunnings (Read B&Q if you are in the UK), we had many a trip to collect base units and grout and all things necessary to make the old new.

Like all of our grand plans they seem to add up to much more than we can afford, the style of our house has the kitchen as a centre piece so if we were going to do it we needed to do it well.

Ally was dead against having a traditional compressed wood Formica faced top and after a trip to the home exhibition in Perth and seeing lots of beautiful stone tops we were stuck on the expensive route.

Lots more looking and pricing and comparing until we decided on "THE" top from a top line supplier and stonemason. The supplier turned out to be pretty useless but after 6 months of bad service I sent 3 page dossier of mistakes to the MD of the company telling him to get lost and that we would pay no more than the 50% we had paid. We didn't get a reply either way but we saved enough to move the project on.

After some work to the surrounding walls the tiles were put up and the floor was patched up, fortunately I found some spare floor tiles in the shed to help cover the area that was taken up by the odd size old base units.

Next was the big bit where I was to make all the door and panel components, lots of work went into the garage (now known as the workshop) where all the new kitchen shiny bits would come from.

After a bit of research I decided on a sawmill that would allow me to select each length of timber rather than being given what they've got, the timber in question is Tasmanian oak.

Tassie oak is not a real oak as in an English oak but is a cost effective hardwood that is pretty evenly grained and can be nicely figured.

After cutting, planing, jointing, joining, sanding and finishing with 3 coats of varnish about 40+ Metres of 6" boards along with 2 x 8' x 4' sheets of veneered board we have a finished (almost some minor trim to be done).

I am happy with the results, I learned a hell of a lot from Del Armstrong about kitchen design and function and my woodworking skills have hopefully moved on a bit over the last few years.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The deep south (Perth)

G'day Folks,

How is it going up over or whatever the opposite of down under is?

I have now passed my probation period with the RAC, yep 3 months already, we are judged on lots of different parameters and given a scorecard each month which breaks down our performance and rates us against each other, we have about 106 patrols and I ranked 29th in my first month, most of the other new recruits were around the 100 mark so I am now on full contract which means they have to have a reason to kick my sorry butt out.

Also on the Job front Adrian Brown was right as he usually is and I am bored with fixing cars and looking for something more rewarding, the patrol job has given us a good start though and has helped in many ways especially with finding my way around our new city, I have applied for a H&S rep position hoping that I can get the RAC to pay for a College course for me and help me move on in my career.

Life down under is cruising along and we are looking forward to some sun, after enduring a full English winter before we set off and arriving here at the start of what they call winter we are due some rays to warm our bones.

Winter here is not bad in the sense of an English winter, man they get really animated if they have to scrape the ice off windscreen once in their entire lives!!! The rain does come down with a vengeance when it comes but it doesn't linger for days at a time like it does in Blighty.

Last week we had a hint of spring (which started 1st of September) with a very windy but warm 25C. Fortunately it was a rest day so I jumped on my mountain bike with good intention of a nice ride, I rolled down the hill as usual and rode into the reserve around Lake Joondalup, for a change I headed south to explore the pathways around the lake beyond Ocean reef road, I had the wind behind me acting as a sail and was flying along with the standard cyclists silly grin.
The path was good, undulating through the trees the wind making the ups easier and the downs really fast, knocking up into top gear with my legs a blur SH*&%!!! what the hell is that, now I am doing 25 - 30 MPH spinning in my biggest gear on a 6 foot wide path and in the middle of it is a bl**dy 3 foot snake, FU$$&^*%!!!!! Welcome to Australia!!!

It is amazing how quickly the brain assimilates information, 3 foot long heading to my right, brown and green in colour, ground to the left sloping away with long grass (More snakes) ground to the right sloping up shorter grass...... Right it is then, a quick swerve and a pint of adrenaline is pumped into the system to obviate the shock. WOW that was exciting!

When I managed to stop I turned back to have a look but he was gone, probably thinking (I have been in hibernation for six months and the whole world has changed so much, what the bl**dy hell was that, gee that was dangerous that thing nearly ran me over, if there are more about I will have to find somewhere safer to live).

So on the back of needing to know what might bite us and the kids being on school holidays we decided it would be good to have a trip to Perth zoo and see the local flora and fauna with a nice layer of glass between us and the bighty things.

Perth zoo is located in south Perth which is just across the swan river from the city, we live 23kms north of the city so we bought a family ticket at Edgewater station and took the train south.
The transport system has been well thought out for the northern suburbs as the train runs down the middle of the motorway (Mitchell Freeway) which is a bit weird at first when driving as the trains do about 110kmh and cars are restricted to 100kmh so the sneaky buggers overtake on the blind side.

A day family ticket is $8.40 (less than 4 quid) which is cheap as chips, the trains are clean efficient and punctual, 20 minutes or so later we alighted at Perth station had a wander through to the underground food court and had lunch, after which we walked for about 10 minutes down to the Barrack Street Jetty which has a strange spire that houses 12 bells (from St Martin in the Fields) that were gifted to the people of Western Australia as part of national bicentennial celebrations.

At the Jetty we jumped on the ferry which was free as our 8 dollar ticket covers all travel options for the day (Try that in London), 7 minutes later and we are in south Perth, it is a wonderful view point from the Mends street jetty looking back at the panorama view of the city which takes in in clockwise rotation the narrows bridge, kings park, the new exhibition centre, the tall offices of the CBD (Central business district), east Perth, the WACA (WA Cricket association), the Burswood hotel and entertainment complex and finally the Perth hills, as I said it is quite a view.

Heading along Mends street, across the road and across Windsor park (Not as big as the real one) we finally get to the zoo, $50 for a family ticket and we are in, we all enjoyed the 3 hours we had there, they had all the things you would expect at the zoo with the bonus of lots of strange Australian beasts, most of which seem to be some form of rat/mouse!

The wombat was quite stunning in it's size, it has teeth like a rabbit and lives in a warren like a rabbit and it eats grass like a rabbit but you would have to pop a few funny pills to think it looks like a rabbit as it is flippin huge, believe me when I tell you you would know if there was a Wombat warren in your garden as your shed would be leaning over at a serious angle.

The primates display is rather spectacular and Jane Goodall who is a pommie expert on such matters just visited the zoo and gave it top of the world rankings for its primate care.

I wont bother listing all the animals we saw (Thank god you say, you can hop onto the zoo website and see for yourself, lazy bones) the last area we saw was probably the most interesting as it had the small killer bighty things in it, now to tie the story up I was looking to see what had frightened the life out of me the other day at the lake, the two main snakes at the lake are Dugites and Tiger snakes, neither are nice with the Dugite winning on venom but the tiger close behind with it's aggression and determination to bite anything that pees it off, I am still unconvinced that the snake I saw was either unless they come in a variety of colours to match their habitat?

After a good look around the zoo we had a quick pint in the Windsor hotel which is a spectacular old building (My excuse) then a trip back across the river to the city, a good Chinese meal in Northbridge which is the entertainment area of Perth (The rest shuts at 5:30pm) then back on the train home for a rest and an early night after a long day out.

So if you are still awake I hope I have given you an insight into what is going on down under.



Tuesday, 9 September 2008

School Time! (Sit up properly at the back there)

G,day Folks,

I wont bother with the excuses, everyone is busy so you understand it is hard to find the time to Blog.

As we live in the upside down part of the planet our seasons are also upside down and so is the school calender. The kids get December and January off for school holidays and the school sports day is in September before it gets too hot instead of in June as it is in England where it is raining all the time (for a change).

Sports day is a big occasion over here, the school is split into four factions who each have a different coloured special shirt for sports, this means that the kids are represented in all years in even numbers which is cool as they get to know other kids from different years.

On the big day and it is that because it goes on for the whole day, the activities are set up around the oval and the different years rotate around from one area to another after completing the particular activity. (If that is confusing you stand in a field full of kids and try and work out what the hell is going on).

Each team activity is given points for position so the factions (Blue, Green, Red & Yellow) compete for superiority on the day, all of the activities are team games and the kids have a ball.

The parents are allowed to wander around following their kids or sit on the edge of the oval and have a picnic, cameras are not banned and everyone has a good time, the parents mingle and chat and enjoy themselves too so a good day is had by all.

On the school subject assemblies are a whole new animal to us, they also take ages and awards are given out to just about anyone of the kids that can keep awake throughout proceedings.

They sing the Aussie anthem and listen to speeches from the Head, Deputy head, chaplain, and anyone else that likes the sound of their own voice, also and more interestingly the kids from chosen classes put on a play or display for every ones enjoyment, the week before last Joe's class were performing rap songs for our delectation, one was so "fantastic" that I had to leave the area very quickly as I almost p*ssed myself laughing, damn it was bad, I am having a fit of laughter just recalling the moment, you know when something is really funny when you keep smirking long after the moment is gone...

Jacques class had their chance to excel last week where they put on a show about "Mini Beasts", this is Jac's favourite subject because he loves bugs just like a 6 year old should.

Jac was a Redback for the show (see picture). Ally made his costume for him and painted his face, they sang songs, told jokes and put on a good show for all, afterwards the parents are given tea, coffee and cake. (I think the coffee is just so that anyone suffering from the drowsy after effects can safely drive home).

Back last year Jac fell off his bike and needed plastic surgery on his lip, as you would expect it kind of put him off cycling for a bit, after some coaxing though we got him back on the bike and he did that well that we had to upgrade his bike for one with gears.

He has really progressed very quickly and will soon be chasing Joe who is very quick on two wheels. Last week we all rode down the hill to Lake Joondalup and round to the other side of the lake (Wanneroo) where there is a new play park with loads of slides and a climbing wall etc.
Jac did well again so on Saturday we rode to Mark and Lou's so that Jac could show off his new bike (picture to come) to Luke and Lewis. The trip to Connolly had us again rolling down to the lake then taking a left (instead of the right to Wanneroo), instead of taking the shared footpath / cycle path we took a slightly rougher track that contours the edge of the lake and does not have the ups and downs of the other path, after that we rode through the Neil Hawkings park (which is full of Parrots, Cockies and stinking pigeons and the occasional Kangaroo) beyond the park we rode along the excellent cycle paths to Connolly arriving after about an hour (I use this route regularly and it takes 20 minutes maximum but I don't stop for crossings or cars etc).
This example I guess shows that with good weather family time can be spent more outside than in, as the spring progresses we find ourselves spending more time out of the house together which was part of our dream life down under.

Take it easy,


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Life upside down

G'day all,

Most important stuff first, Good luck to Bart, Amir, Amber and Romaan in Canada, I hope you all have as much luck as we have in our new life and more.
The picture shows a view of the back of our property from the right hand rear corner looking to the left, as you can see the pool is down some steps, past the palm tree in the middle of the picture is another set of steps which take us up to a grassy area where the kids have the trampoline.

Sorry that I haven't posted since we moved into our house but life has been very hectic, all of the stuff that took up our time in the UK has been turned around so that we have been doing it in reverse such as starting work, moving in, unpacking etc.

Where to start, I guess it's with our house, you would have all had an email giving our new address, we finally moved in on the 4th of July! Yep Independence day and so it was for us too, the shipping turned up on the 5th and I started working shift on the 6th.

Most of our shipment was fine and gladly received, in fact we had forgotten what we had and small surprises were happening all over the house as we opened boxes upon boxes.

I was most interested in sorting out my tools as I would be needing them the next day where Allison was being more practical and sorting out kettles and bedding and stuff you cant fix cars with.

After two weeks we had a trip to the tip and got rid of the last of the cardboard boxes and rearranged stuff until we were happy with our lot, the house is much bigger than our old place which is handy as we had so much stuff in the container and we have stuff we have accrued from here as well plus the furniture we have purchased since.

It's hard to know what subjects people are interested in reading about so I will just ramble on at random and maybe hit the right spot a few times.

What is it like living in Perth you ask (well you would have, I guess), it's bloody good mate, it is so not too different but enough to make it interesting, I travel around as you would imagine in my job and see the good and the bad of Perth from the city on the river Swan south of Edgewater north to about 8 miles north of where we live where civilisation as we know it ends, most of it is a very nice place to be with only a few areas which are dodgy and not nice in any way, unfortunately when I am working I have to visit the good and the bad and the contrast is almost as diverse as the mother country they make the same mistakes as well and put all of the less well off in the same place and they drag each other into the mire.

On the upside whenever I see the Ocean I realise how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place, Mulalloo beach is just 4kms from here and about 7 minutes in the car, on a sunny day it is too beautiful to describe, you really have to stand there to take it in.

Is the cost of living rising in Oz too? Yes sir, Western Aus is a very remote place so we are at the mercy of supply and demand more than most, if crops fail here we have to import, if that means it comes from the Eastern states we pay a premium, if it comes from abroad we even pay more.

Petrol is running at at around $1.40 - $1.50 per litre so it is still much cheaper than blighty but it is expensive compared to recent local prices.

Getting back to the house, it was in a pretty bad state, the previous owners were not very clean to say the least but we have both worked hard and it is now a good place to be, we have a lounge for ourselves and for the Friday night WII bowling competition and the kids have their own lounge with two sofas a TV and their PlayStation so life is good on that score.

Our swimming pool will come into play when the weather warms up some more, the pool itself was in a state of disarray like the rest of the place, we took a water sample to the local pool shop and ended up $150 out of pocket for chemicals plus 100kg of salt!
That was just the start of pool time, we had to learn how to clean the pool out, where the leaves went when they were sucked up by the long hose and what a chlorinater did, how the filter worked and what the hell back flushing was and whether it was legal!
At the bottom of the pool on a long hose was a "Creepy Crawly" but it was dead, the CC is a thing that wanders around the bottom of the pool sucking up all the leaves and blow ins when the pump is running, alas ours was knackered like the rest of the place so another trip to the pool shop saw us $266 bucks out of pocket but know I have a machine to get the leaves out life is sweet and the money is well spent.

Joe and Jacques, they love it here but like us miss the people we know and love from back home, the weather has been poor for about 4 weeks and finally broke when Mark and Lou returned from the UK, on Saturday we took 5 kids to the beach and they all rode their bikes along the beach cycle path, Jac had me running along side him and he did really well, Joe has his confidence back in spades and is racing around like a demon on his bike. We walked (Ran) for about 30 minutes north from Ocean Reef marina along the coast path then back to the car, it is this kind of minor everyday event that makes being close to the coast so special, I have always had an affinity with water (Pisces) and just feel at home and alive near the Ocean.

School is going well on the kids front, Ally has helped out in the canteen and we have been able to join them for lunch and watch them on a lapathon around the oval.

I know some will be saying wind it up Thorpey and other will want to know more but it is 1:22 am, I finished work at midnight and I am running out of Ideas, if there are any subjects you want me to write about then just ask!!! To easy!!


Saturday, 28 June 2008

RAC Members are Happier


The RAC WA motto is "RAC Members are happier", well they were!

Thursday we became owners of our first Aussie home, (email me for the address if you don't have it) and on Friday I took possession of my RAC roadside assistance Ford Falcon Ute.

We move into the house next Friday which is my last day of training, the container and all of our worldly goods arrives on Thursday so I have Saturday only to find and sort out all of my tools before I go solo Sunday afternoon and try to keep all of those happy members smiling!!!!!!

It will be good to set down roots and maybe get a minute or to of time to relax, the house sale has gone through very easily, the agents and the settlement people have not seen a transaction go so quickly and smoothly.

The house is a two minute walk to school and there is a semi private secondary school just past the primary so if we can get the boys into that school the car can stay in the drive on school days.

I am looking forward to using the pool but not looking forward to looking after it, hopefully Mark is going to give me some maintenance lessons before he goes off on his UK trip.

It's winter here and everyone is moaning about the cold weather??? I spend most of my working days wearing a short sleeve shirt, next winter I will probably be acclimatised and be moaning with the Aussies!



Monday, 23 June 2008

Perth's a good place to be


Sorry it's been a while since I last posted, life at the moment is like it was when we left the UK but in reverse.

I am busy training to be an RAC patrolman as you know, on top of that we are going through the final stages of purchasing our first Aussie home so while I am at work Ally is running around sorting out all of the paperwork with the realty agent and the settlement agent.

The system is a bit strange because you agree to buy the house subject to any conditions you feel like applying then you sign up a settlement agent who does searches to find out if a highway is going to be built through our new lounge..... Yep *rse about face would be the best description.

We have just completed the final inspection on our new house, we found a few things wrong but they were minor and we want to move in so what's the point in the inspection as we are paying a lot of money to delay the delivery of our container and the cost of fitting a few light bulbs or switches is a damn sight less than the cost of storage so we just sign the paperwork and fix the problems later.

We are looking forward to moving in, it will not be until a week after we own the house for various reasons plus we will get our stuff from our container the day we move in so it will be all go on the 4Th of July, yep again it's Independence day all round!!!!!!!!!!!

I am off on the Saturday when we move in so will have to frantically sort out my tools so that I am ready for my first solo day of patrol on Sunday late shift, now that is timing.

Away from the hassles of life we have been getting about our new country, on Saturday we went to Kings park with Mark Lou and all the boys, for those that do not know, Kings park is a massive park which overlooks the Swan river and the City of Perth from on high, it is meticulously maintained with loads of different parking and picnic areas, it is just beautiful in all of it's aspects with space for everyone. At KP we had a picnic next to a quaint duck pond on immaculately manicured lawns, after that we walked along the new raised boardwalk which allows spectacular views to the city and the Swan river (see picture).

On Sunday we went for a drive to see if any of the furniture stores were open, the biggest shock for us Poms is that everywhere shuts early, that is 5.30pm every night except late night opening Thursday, Sunday everything is closed except for the local stores (IGA's) and a few independent stores. Bunnings (B&Q) is open all hours but that is about it, Friday and Saturday night even the offies close at 8pm....

Anyway back to the plot, after our furniture viewing we drove to the John Forrest National Park for a walk, the park is about 25 minutes drive and is in the Perth hills, we drove around the parks roads slowly enjoying the view, at one point there is a small car park with an amazing view of Perth CBD (Central Business District) in the distance, we then drove on to a large parking area and walked a Kilometer to Hovea falls which was a surprise because we did not expect much and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the falls surrounded by massive granite boulders all fringed with glowing eucalyptus trees. (Mental note, take the camera next time).

So in a short time we have achieved a lot, we got all of the migrant paperwork out of the way, we purchased a car, the kids settled into school, we purchased a house and I got a job, it might not sound like a lot but some people take months or even a year to get to this stage.

Things seem normal and comfortable and after all of the unknown it's a nice place to be, the kids love it, Ally is happy and I get to eat lunch at the beach if I am that way during my working day which I hope I never get tired of it.