Friday, 25 February 2011

Australia Week 4-3/4

Much to report during the last 10 days or so.

Let's start with Murphy who thankfully seems to have recovered well from those hot hot days last week.  She has a new neighbour, some kind of mastiff-cross whom I have named "She-who-needs-to-take-a-chill-pill".

"She-who-needs-to-take-a-chill-pill" and Murphy's neighbour on her other side "Boo-from-Revelstoke" (only people familiar with the Royal Canadian Air Farce and Mike-from-Canmore will get this reference), spent the day barking madly at one another across her kennel; each one setting the other off time and again.  Poor geriatric Murphy looked at me with a martyred expression as if to say "those younguns have been doing that for days now, can you please make them stop!"  She's ready to come home and I am more than ready to welcome her.

Eight more days...

Next, we happily received our sea shipment which finally cleared inspection and quarantine.  I remember clearly C2 commenting as we were preparing to leave Geneva:

"We have next to nothing to ship...what do we have?  A couple of beds, a dining room set and some living room furniture".  I laughed at his righteous certainty.

 Remember that six years ago, we left a 3000 square foot house in Calgary for a 2000 square foot house in Geneva and have now taken occupancy of a roughly 1500 square foot house in Melbourne.  You do the math.  Day 3 post-shipment and our house still look like a hurricane hit it.   Hope to make more progress this weekend before C2 leaves for a 3 week sojourn to Western Australia.

One interesting tidbit to setting up the new don't get grossed out people.  In Geneva, we never had our lovely carpets professionally cleaned as the average cost was in excess of 300 CHF per item.  My succession of crappy vacuums also left much to be desired.  So imagine 5 years of dogs and cats, less than stellar though frequent vacuuuming, and 8 weeks stored in an airtight container.  Suffice it to say that the perfume of wet dog and musty dust isn't entirely masked by mandarine-cranberry candles.

On the J front, things are much improved.   Nascent friendships are budding and the school appears to have taken my complaints seriously and have addressed the bullying issue thus far to my satisfaction.  I am increasingly impressed with the school; with their celebration of multiculturalism and multilinguism as well as their progressive pedagogy.

With respect to our social life, last Sunday, we drove to Portsea, a tiny seaside town sandwiched between the calm and passive "front" bay beaches of Port Philip Bay, and the wild rip-filled 25 foot wave crashing "back" or open sea beaches.  We spent the day with Kellie and her family.  Jack and I ran up giant sand dunes at the back beach and got knocked off our feet by a powerful incoming wave while standing watching them.  Much fun was had.  I think I have found a kindred champagne drinker to boot!

This evening, we had drinks with our charming neighbours, Michael and Ann, native Melbournites who welcomed us into their home for a lovely couple of hours of gin and tonics, and conversation.

All in all, a pretty good report I'd say.  Stay tuned...

Friday, 18 February 2011

End of Week 3

It's Friday night and we've just finished dinner.  A roast chicken bought from the free-range organic chicken vendor on our high street and roquette salad.  Outside at dusk, to the scent of mandarin-cranberry candles on the dinner table, we chased possums through the trees with flashlights, then threw our heads back to witness a lengthy flight of fruit bats or flying foxes soaring overhead.  Flying foxes are an impressive species.  According to Wikipedia, "On average, P. vampyrus is the largest species, with a wingspan of up to 6 feet (1.83 meters) but a weight of only 1.5 kg (3.3 lb.).

J had a rough week at school, his second full week morphed from his first week marred by bullying from the same boy he had initially befriended during his first few days of friend seeking.  To his credit, he recognized and acknowledged our initial trepidation of that child and sought out the boy's mother to complain of his treatment.  It didn't stop the bullying and by the middle of this week, I had to formally complain to his teachers.  Not a great way to start a new school and there were many tearful days this week.

However, today, seemed a turning point.  Today, he marched into school without tears triumphantly grasping his first birthday party invitation; always a measure of a child's acceptance amongst his peers.  I exchanged dinner invitations with the first family who extended immediate kindness to us in the school yard, a French-Australian couple by the name of Marco and Marie-Pierre whose 6-year old daughter Amely is in the same CEP/CE1 class as J.  

It was another very hot day today, hitting 35c in the parking lot of the quarantine kennel.  Murphy was not dealing well with the heat.  I found her subdued and a little gurgly today.  That is concerning since the facility is dealing with an outbreak of kennel cough.  I took her to a grooming room for a good brushing and she was clearly desperate for a walk.  Poor girl, she is confined to her kennel and away from the exercise yards due to the kennel cough issue.  I left her this afternoon unusually passive and not her usual self.  Not a great way to spend 4 days apart, sigh.  Still, one of the principal attendants, checked on her twice today owing to my concern and promised to check on her regularly over the weekend.  Hopefully, it is just a heat thing, and a forecasted cooler weekend should help.  At 12 years old and confined to a kennel, I fret over her physical and mental health. Thunderstorms are also predicted which she hates, and I abhor the idea of her enduring them alone.

16 days and counting...

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Today was a day where I thanked my lucky stars, celebrated every bit of good karma, wished hard on a wish bone, and felt gratitude way deep into my soul.

Last Friday morning, J had a rough start at school being transferred three times into different classes.  He was stoic but tearful.  I fretted all day that his initial nervous excitement would be dampened but he emerged at 3:30 smiling and happy.  He has shown nothing but gumption, positive energy, and optimism through all of the last several weeks.  He finds beauty in everything he sees, is eager, brave, funny, profound, insightful, and I have learned much from him this week.

I worried all that day about Murphy's long journey through the day, night, and international date line.  From Geneva to Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and finally to Melbourne.  Surely, some critical document would go missing, a file misplaced, a flight delayed or missed.  But thankfully that night both C2, from Perth, and my Murphy flew into Melbourne on the tail of the immense Cyclone Yasi; they landed late but safely.   At last, we were all in the same city again, though separated by quarantine for 30 days.  I feel like I exhaled for the first time in months.

Quarantine has very strict visitation rules and today was the earliest I was allowed to visit.  I mustered all my backbone (no left-side driving was going to get in my way today!), and drove to the far side of Port Philip Bay to the rather dodgy area of Spotswood.  I was there at 10:20 for the 11:00 opening.  They took pity on me and let me visit my girl right away (sshh don't tell anyone, or that I convinced them to let me spend extra hours with her during the week).  She was so happy to see me, she didn't stop crying and whining for several minutes.  Then she happily let me throw her kong for her to chase before taking me into a little protected area to show me her bed.  The whole experience was somewhat reminiscent of a Prison Break episode, but truth be told, Murphy appears much better than I expected.  I am dancing from one foot to the next in anticipation of her emancipation so that we can celebrate with a long walk on the beach.

Finally today I was grateful that I drove from Spotswood to downtown, without so much as blinking (though not so grateful for the $20/hour parking charge), to meet a friend of Sher's (from my Geneva Writers Group) for lunch at the Oriental Cafe.  She was funny and effusive and welcoming.  A lot like our initial impressions of Melbourne.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Australian Welcoming Committee and Part of My Heart Gets on a Plane Today

We are well into our second full week down under and things continue to move slooowly but surely ahead.  C2 has been been travelling for about a week now but J and I have been managing.  We took the tram from our high street up to Glenferrie Road about a kilometre away to wander it's busy high street.  Another day, we took the tram all the way downtown and spent a couple of hours at the magnificent Melbourne Aquarium and then wandered a bit around downtown before stopping for coffee in one of Melbourne's famous laneways, Degreves St., for a coffee and lemon tart.  Don't call a tart a pie or you'll get something of the savoury variety.  Pie is savoury, tart is sweet.

We've also visited the beach a couple of times, and today spent the day with Kellie, the sister of Sheila's great friend Gina, at the Prahan market, a wonderful fruit and veg destination and a Melbourne landmark.  Then she made me drive around our end of town, practicing right turns and pointing out furniture and appliance stores.

It has been HOT!!! to put an emphasis on it.  Hovering around 40+ degrees for the last several days.  We've largely been immune to it at the beach or in the car, or at the mall (getting hair cuts and school shoes) but upon returning to Kel's today, my car thermostat was stuck solidly at 40c.  J insisted on going to the park in front of her house,  I limped over beside his quivering little body and posited myself on a bench while J played like it was no big deal.  At precisely 2:34pm, however, I perked up to feel a cool breeze pass over me, and a very very brisk wind.  And just like that, the temperature plummeted to a civilized 26c.  Melbourne is apparently like that.

I had been warned about the spiders and snakes in Australia.  We know to be particularly watchful for the redback spider, and in general to give all of them a wide berth.  Poor J exited his bath this morning, reached for his towel, dropped it and hollered for me.  This is the fellow we trapped and carefully tossed from our balcony watching him gracefully spin his web down to the ground.  To provide some idea of size, Spidezilla was the full size of my hand.  J made sure he was dressed properly for Spidezilla's forced removal from the bathroom.

All good thoughts, wishes, prayers or whatever positive energy you can muster would be appreciated over the course of the next 48 hours.  Murphy gets on a plane today from Geneva bound for Melbourne via Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur.  I am resigned to live with what will be but a big part of my heart is getting on that plane today.  Watch this space.