Friday, December 3, 2010

Not living next to the school

Well, I think it has been a successful year. Not living next to the school this year has meant that I have been much better able to separate my work and home life. I didn't go to school on the weekend even once! :-)

(Quite a change from when we were in Mackay, living 10m from the staffroom over the back fence…)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Year 12 Graduations

Well it was a busy week for me.

Monday evening was awards night—at the same place (Garden City Church, now known as Hillsong) as my own school awards nights were held so many years ago.

Tuesday evening was the year 12 formal dinner at Sirromet. My trepidation about their catering (triggered in part by a phone call from them on Monday querying what I actually could eat) turned out to be entirely unnecessary: they fed me very well. I had a yummy pasta and asparagus main, and a berry sorbet for dessert. (A pleasant change from the usual fruit salad.)

But the night wasn't really about my food, of course. The year 12s looked fabulous, and it was good to be there to see them having fun at the end of their schooling years. Not too many speeches, just excitement and joy and a good time with music and dancing.

And then on Thursday evening was the year 12 graduation dinner for my former students in Mackay. So I flew there on Thursday afternoon for that, staying the night with friends (thanks Phil & Janine!) and flying back on Friday. It was so worthwhile. Such fun to walk in as the year 12s were standing up for a group photo, and get excited shouts and waves as they saw me. (Some of them knew I was coming, but most didn't.) So interesting to hear their stories from the last year and their plans for the next. So good to see them looking so fine and to be able to celebrate with them.

And again, my meal was delicious: a lovely curry, spicy but not too hot, and white cake for dessert. Turns out this particular meal was in fact cooked by one of my past students! Julie, thank you again for a fabulous meal, one of the best I've had at a formal function.

Then back to Brisbane on Friday. After school was the year 12 valedictory service: a few speeches, presentations, a tearful procession, and then afternoon tea.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Rather worn out after our trip to Rottnest Island, we returned to the Golden Tandoori for dinner, then caught a train back to our hotel at Bayswater.

And then on Tuesday 28th, after so many nights spent there but travelling in and out each day, we finally had a day to spend looking around Perth itself.

First off we went to the Perth mint, via a train ride and then a short walk through the Royal Perth Hospital and the church on Victoria Square. We were amazed by the way pedestrians were invited to use the hospital as a thoroughfare over a couple of busy city streets; we couldn't imagine a hospital in Queensland being so welcoming to the general riff-raff off the streets. The catholic church was beautiful, if a bit of an eclectic mix of architectural styles.

At the mint we read about some history of coinage in Australia. They have an interesting machine that weighs you, but instead of kilograms it tells you what your weight in gold would be worth—at current prices, quite a bit!

Next stop, the new Bell Tower at the Barrack St Jetty. The bells ringing out the hours from there can be heard in the city, but for a small fee you can climb the tower and see them being struck! The view from the top of the tower is quite good. They also have a set of eighteen bells and an active bell-ringing community. We were fortunate enough to be there on a day when the bell-ringers were due to play, so we got to watch! It reminded us of our time in Portishead, where the bells in the Anglican church were used for practice once a week, and then every evening in the lead-up to a competition.

After a picnic lunch on the grass outside the Bell Tower, we caught a bus to Kings Park, which is up on the hill to the west of the city. Walking through the park took us to the Botanic Gardens, where they had wildflowers on display en masse.

We walked through the gardens to the Glass Bridge, part of an elevated walkway. The Botanic Gardens are at the top of a steep cliff down to the Swan River, so the view is quite spectacular.

By now we were rather footsore, but we really wanted to get out to Fremantle as well, so we walked wearily back up the hill and then tried to find Cliff Street which has a stairway called (of course) Jacob's Ladder. The bus stop we wanted was at the bottom of the hill.

At Jacob's Ladder we were amazed to find a veritable army of health fanatics running up and down the stairs. Now you have to realise that the forty-three metre climb (just under 300 steps) is so steep that the stairway actually zig-zags sideways. These crazy people were running up and down the hill. Again. And again. And again. Mad, I tell you.

Anyhow, eventually we managed to get down, and then caught a bus into town. From there we caught a train out to Fremantle.

By now it was quite late. But a short walk from the station along Market Street took us into the business centre where we found quite a number of restaurants. We chose an Italian place called Portorosa, and were delighted with the food!
After dinner, a short stroll around the block, and then back to the station.

We caught a train back to Perth and then our hotel at Bayswater. The stretch between the showgrounds and the city was rather packed, as it was getting near closing time for the show. We had wondered (before we left Brisbane) why we'd had so much trouble booking a hotel in Perth for this last three-night stay. When we found out that the Perth show had just started, it suddenly made more sense.

And then finally on Wednesday morning we took a taxi to the airport for our flight to Adelaide, where we spent the afternoon with old friends Jason and Debbie, and then all four of us flew to Brisbane that night, arriving shortly before midnight. Quite a coincidence there: On discovering that it would be cheapest to fly back home to Brisbane via Adelaide, we thought to ourselves, who do we know who lives in Adelaide? Calling Jason and Debbie, we discovered that they were due to fly to Brisbane that very night—on the same flight! More delightful serendipity. God is good.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Portorosa, Fremantle

Footsore from a day of walking around Perth and weary at the end of our Western Australia holiday, we were looking for a nice place to rest our feet and have dinner while sampling the ambience of Fremantle. We found it at an Italian restaurant on Market Street called Portorosa.

It's tucked in amongst several other restaurants, including another Italian place right beside it. We sat outside to enjoy the cool of the evening after the rather warm day.

They assured us that their pizza dough contained no milk products, so Laetitia ordered a pizza and I a calzone. We were simply amazed when they were brought out: They were absolutely huge! And delicious. A fabulous end to our day.

Definitely very highly recommended!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rottnest Island

Monday 27 September was a public holiday in Western Australia. so rather than try to go shopping in Perth, we organised a day trip to Rottnest Island. The ferry took about an hour to get to Fremantle due to speed restrictions on the river, then only another twenty minutes or so to get to the island.

Perth CBD from the ferry

Rottnest Island
First up when we got there, we took a coach tour clockwise around the island. Leaving the harbour on the eastern side, the driver gave us a fascinating commentary about the history of the island, and stopped at a few scenic places for photographs. The first stop where we got out to have a look was Parker Point. Notice the coral reef—apparently the Leeuwin current arriving here at the island is warm enough for tropical coral to grow!

A friendly quokka checks out the tourists

Sorry about the quality of some of the photos that follow, they were taken through the tinted coach windows.

Passing some more scenic coral beaches and a lighthouse, we came to the south-west point of the island. The strong currents colliding here are reputed to cause trouble with shipping (and there are certainly plenty of shipwrecks).

Then around back to the harbour via the northern coastline. Along the way the driver pointed out a few osprey nests.

Then it was time for lunch. We decided to walk down to Garden Lake, a salt lake near the main township. Apparently there was a friendly quokka family there. Sure enough, not long after sitting down to eat, a handful came to investigate. Very curious creatures, but easily startled. A small marsupial related to kangaroos and wallabies, the Dutch explorer William de Vlamingh named the island after them because he thought they were a kind of giant rat.

After lunch we went for a couple of short walks, including out to another lighthouse north of the harbour.

These Melaleuca (tea trees) native to the island are called "broccoli trees".

Finally it was time to catch the ferry back to Perth.