[Koala on KI] [Lucy and Astronaut Pam Melroy] [Sunset on KI] [Clara and Astronaut Pam Melroy] [Sandy inside Red River Gum]

Australian Journal - October-November 2003

September 28 - October 6, 2003 - Illness and Odds and Ends: Unfortunately, Lucy also came down with the sickness that knocked down Clara and Sandy. However, the girls were well enough when Lyn (our great destination agent from two years ago who is helping us find a new house) stopped by on Monday afternoon, and said she just drove by a koala on a brush fence a few blocks away. The girls grabbed their cameras, piled into Lyn's car, and off they went! Some of their pictures are here, here and here.

We've added a few more pictures from our trip to the US this year; they are on the separate US trip page. Here is Lucy checking out the snow on Auntie Brenda and Uncle Jim's deck in Columbia, NH; here is Clara and her miniature snowman; here's a typical Columbia sunset.

This has been a quiet school holiday week, as Sandy and Clara are still recovering from the bug that hit them. With our upcoming move, Sandy did have several "removalists" (Aussie for moving company) come to do estimates and also took the girls for haircuts. For Tim, it was an especially busy week at work with many people here from Seattle for meetings, plus it has been the leadup to the whisky convention in Canberra that Tim has been helping to plan for the past year and a half. Given the sickness in the family, and work obligations, Tim wasn't sure he could go to Canberra at all. Early in the week was one of the local kickoff events, an evening tasting with Jim Murray, a whisky writer from Scotland whom Tim esteems above most if not all others. So, he decided to go to that at least. As Friday approached, the girls seemed somewhat better and more self-sufficient, so Tim bought a last-minute plane ticket, and flew to Canberra very early Saturday morning, coming back not quite so early on Sunday morning. Most of the events were on Saturday, so this way he got to hit the highlights, but still have some time at home over the three day weekend. He had a great (if exhausting) time, and he'll post more description of the events and pictures at a later date on the official MWSoA website which he maintains for the society.

Sunday was a day of recovery and working around the house, followed by a trip up to Cleland Wildlife Park on Monday morning. (Monday is Labour Day in Australia, so it is a public holiday.) Cleland has expanded since the last time we visited a year and a half ago, with new areas for wombats, Tasmanian devils and echidnas. We had a good time, and the girls filled up their cameras with pictures. Here are a couple of those pictures; a Tasmanian Devil by Lucy, and a mother Grey Kangaroo with Joey sticking its head out by Clara. More of their pictures will make it onto the website eventually.

October 7-November 8, 2003 - Moving! It's been a while between updates due to our move and other events. Although this move has been much easier than our initial move when we had no idea what we were getting into, it has soaked up most of our time over the last several weeks. We located a new house, and the good news is that the new house will be much closer to school (walking distance for Sandy and the girls) and will also cut 10-20 minutes each way off Tim's commute - so we are looking forward to spending less time on the road, and more at home! Unfortunately, Sandy and Clara (and to a lesser extent Lucy) remained sick for another couple weeks. Two more trips to the doctors, and finally some antibiotics, but it was a rather subdued school holiday for the girls, and they (especially Clara) began to feel quite housebound by the end.

As is usual around here, it is never just one thing. While we located a house, and the health of Clara and Sandy has improved, Tim had to make yet another trip to the States, this time for just a week - just long enough to almost overcome the east-bound jetlag, and then turn around and come back to move house! The worst part was that he had to miss the Solar Boat competition. Clara and her team (Katerina and Allanah) did well, competing in 5 heats, with finishes ranging from 2nd to 5th. Notice the variations in design in the picture - most adopted a form of catamaran, some with styrofoam pontoons like Clara's, some with pop bottles! Clara and her team didn't make it into the Grand Finals, but their boat ran well, and stayed right-side-up, unlike some other competitors. They're already thinking about next time, in Year 6, when they get to take part again! Then, if we stayed here long enough, they could compete in the semi-annual Darwin to Adelaide solar car challenge, which also occurred this past week. Contestants set off in their solar-powered cars from Darwin, and run all day every day. This even used to take a week or more, but the last few years have seen many breakthroughs in technology, and this past year it took just 31 hours for the Dutch car Nuna to make the 3000+ km trip - an average speed of nearly 100 km/hr! Pretty soon, the solar cars are going to have to worry about getting speeding tickets once they hit the South Australian border, where the speed limit shifts from "unlimited" in the Northern Territory to a paltry 110 km/hr. The last finisher this year was a German competitor, known as the "Suitcase Man" because of the design of his collapsible solar car. He has competed in every challenge since 1987, but has never successfully finished the race - until this year. He rolled in six days after the first car, but just completing the challenge was quite a victory for him.

Sandy has been kept busy organizing all the odds and ends associated with a move, then last Wednesday, we started packing and moving in earnest. Tim got the computers moved ahead of the Australian "removalists" (Australian for movers), so we remained online, although incommunicado as far as the journal was concerned. On Thursday, the moving team showed up, and, over the course of a long day, managed to get everything packed. Thursday we spend out last night on Trevorten Avenue, amidst stacks of boxes. Friday dawned cloudy and rainy, but the two trucks and moving team showed up at 7:30, and began loading up. They were done by about lunchtime, and made it to the new house by early afternoon. We expected a late night, but the team finished up by dinner time, and we went out for dinner, came home, and collapsed into our beds, once again surrounded by boxes. The ringer was that it was now Lucy's turn to get sick, and she was up in the night with a lot of congestion and a croup-like cough. Saturday, we dove into the stacks of boxes, and by evening, thought we had maybe emptied half or more of the boxes - but even though we could move around in some rooms, others were still completely full. Tim finally located the cables for the electronics late Saturday, so we celebrated by watching part of the Lion King, then once again off to an early bed. Sunday, we continued unpacking, with a trip to the old house to make sure we'd moved everything. We're still not done unpacking, never mind getting everything organized, but we're feeling pretty good about the move. The girls have been enjoying the bigger house (here's a picture of the front ), and especially the bigger yard. Most of the yard is taken up by a tennis court (and bike riding arena), and Clara has been using it to both teach Lucy tennis, and to help her adapt to her bike without training wheels.

While the girls returned to school, Sandy spent Monday and Tuesday cleaning at the old house. On Wednesday she was able to stay "at home" at the new house to continue unpacking. Unfortunately, Tim has now taken the opportunity to become sick, which, combined with his long days preparing for the reviews over the next two weeks at work, has slowed things down at organizing the new house. However, the weekend finally came, but no stop to the activities. Saturday morning was Lucy's AMEB piano exam which she passed with flying colors. Then Lucy's new bed arrived (her queen-sized bed was too big for her new room because there is so much built-in furniture in the room.) We put Lucy's old bed in the spare bedroom for guests (hint, hint for anyone who might be thinking of coming to visit!!), and got her a new small "Australian single" bed - just as with King size beds, Australian single beds have slightly different dimensions than American twins, so both Clara's and Lucy's beds will have to stay here when we leave, due to difficulty in getting Aussie-size sheets in the US. Similarly, Tim brought some new American king sheets back from the US for our bed on his last trip.) Then, in the afternoon, Lucy went off to a birthday party for Stella (oddly enough, at a ceramics place just a few blocks from our old house), while Clara went off to Rebecca's house for play and dinner. Meanwhile, Tim and Sandy kept plowing through boxes - and the end is finally in sight!

On other topics, over the last few weeks, two of Australia's living icons have died. First was Slim Dusty, Australia's most famous country singer (his most well-known song was "A Pub With no Beer".) Then this past week, R. M. Williams died. He was the rancher / cowboy who invented the R.M. Williams style of riding boots with elastic sides. Along with Akubra hats and Drizabone oil-skin coats, R. M. Williams boots completed the clothing for the bush. The original R.M. Williams factory / store is just a few blocks north of where we now live.

We've added a couple more pictures to the Flinders pages as well, plus a picture of a new quilt by Sandy to the Quilting pages. Hopefully, we'll get back to a routine of more regular updates now that this major upheaval is mostly in the past!

November 9-21, 2003 - Settling In This past week saw Lucy's first piano recital. Wilderness puts on a series of small recitals, with 7-8 girls performing on various instruments, to get them used to performing in public. They are scheduled for this time of the year, since many of the girls have (like Lucy) taken their AMEB exams, or are about to, so their musical selections are well polished. Lucy did a very good job (even if we do say so!) in line with her performance at her exam.

Friday was also supposed to be the annual Sports Day, when the girls get to spend the morning competing in various sporting (e.g., track and field) activities, to win points for their houses. Unfortunately, the weather turned warm (36 degrees C / 97 degrees F and above), and Sports Day was postponed until Tuesday. Sunday, we were invited to the house of our across-the-street neighbor George, along with our next door neighbors Tony and Pauline. We had a very nice time, and the girls enjoyed playing with Cora, George's very friendly German Shepard. George is retired, but is very busy, taking classes at Uni, and making regular trips up to the Kimberly (in far northwestern Australia - about 3000 kilometers from here across the heart of the outback) in his 4x4. He finds all sorts of interesting stuff - fossils, calcified critters, artifacts, etc. - the girls (and Tim and Sandy) could have easily spent days just exploring his house and garage! Tony and Pauline have a grown daughter who just moved to Texas, of all places.

Monday night, the girls anxiously watched the 7 pm News to catch the weather - if the forecast was 34 or higher, Sports Day would be canceled for this year. The forecast turned out to be 33 - but very sultry. In fact, Monday and Tuesday were two of the most humid days we've had in a very long time. The girls took plenty of water to drink and snacks of grapes, watermelon, and crackers, along with sunscreen and their hats, but even so the sports really took a lot of energy out of them. In one of Clara's races, she tripped but then kept on going. She later told Sandy, "Even though I tripped, I still didn't come last!" Amaryllis House won the Sports Day championship for the first time ever, so Clara's and Lucy's friends Allanah and Jessica (who are Amaryllis girls) were quite excited. The girls had a good time in spite of the weather, came home for showers and then spent the afternoon inside enjoying the air conditioning! The weather has been generally unsettled, and we've had a lot of wind as well - so much so, that one evening Tim and Sandy heard a loud crashing in the front hall. We dashed in to see what had happened, and found that a large translucent plastic panel from the skylight high above the stairs had fallen in!

We've continued the unpacking and reorganizing, and Sandy is starting to feel that she is getting on top of things again. However, it is a busy time of year, with the year-end functions for both girls piling up. The girls are in final rehearsals for next week's Christmas concerts, and this Thursday was "New Girls Day." This is the day when the girls from elsewhere who will be joining the school at the start of Term 1 next year get to come and spend the day with the girls already at Wilderness. Year 5 is traditionally a year when many girls start at new schools, and there will be 13 new girls in Clara's class next year! Fortunately, there will be two separate Year 5 classes, so Clara will only have about 17 girls in her class. There are no new girls (yet) for Lucy's Year 2 class next year. With the weather moderating once again, Sandy and the girls walked to school on Friday - it's so nice to be close enough for this! Our new neighborhood is generally "leafy" (the Australian term for green and with trees), as was our old neighborhood. However, the types of trees are somewhat different, with more Frangipani trees and fewer Jacarandas (although we do have a small Jacaranda in our front yard.) The bird song is much the same, although we have yet to hear any kookaburras or rosellas around our new house. Friday was also an excursion for Lucy's class to see a production of the ballet, Peter Pan, at the Royal Festival Theater.

This past six weeks have seen a lot of excitement in Australia, since the Rugby World Cup has been underway here, with matches taking place across Australia in different venues. The excitement has reach a fever pitch, since the Wallabies (the Australian national team) have reached the finals. They play England in the Grand Final tomorrow (Saturday) night. They beat New Zealand (the All Blacks) and England beat the French to make it.

Something we forgot to mention from a few weeks back occurred while Tim was in the States. The girls had gone to bed, and Sandy had just sat down for a moment in the family room, when something long and wiggly went scurrying rapidly across the carpet. Sandy caught up with it, and managed to get it into an old peanut butter jar, and identified it as a centipede. And not a small American centipede, but a real Australian centipede, as listed in our usual reference, Venomous Creatures of Australia by Sutherland and Sutherland. This critter was nearly 5 inches long, with fangs big enough to see with the naked eye. Venomous Creatures assures us that only one death has ever been attributed to centipedes, although victims "may be uncomfortable for days." It goes on to suggest that "centipedes should be treated with respect." Unfortunately, we didn't get a picture of it before Sandy disposed of it.

November 22-28, 2003 - Christmas Approaching We've added a few more pictures; here is one of Clara's room; here and here are Lucy's room. And here is a picture of Clara practicing with her new violin, which she has named "Vivi" (after Vivaldi.)

The Rugby World Cup is now over, and as one Aussie friend of Tim's put it Monday morning - "The Poms are still hung over, and the rest of us are still licking our wounds!" The Wallabies were the defending champions, but the Brits have been widely acknowledged as the best team in Rugby over the last couple of years, so the outcome was not surprising. The weather was rainy, which was expected to favor the Brits - but the Wallabies rose to the challenge, and tied the game in the last minutes of regulation play on a kick by their star. While they lost in the last few seconds of the extra time period by a single kick, in an ending that Hollywood could not have scripted better, they made the Brits earn it.

We added a few more pictures to the Wilpena/Flinders pages. They are from Sacred Canyon, Bunyeroo Scenic Drive (here, here and here), Bunyeroo Gorge, Brachina Gorge, one of the state flower of South Australian, the Sturt Desert Pea and a couple (here and here) of the ruins of the old Wilson Stationmaster's Residence.

Tim has been reading science fiction to Clara of late (currently they are going through a Starfleet Academy book, featuring Cadet [later Captain of Star Ship Voyager] Katherine Janeway), and has been digging out more books on space topics. One he recently found (inspired by watching the movie "The Dish" which we previously mentioned) is Tracking Apollo to the Moon by Hamish Lindsay. Lindsay is an Aussie who worked in various tracking stations in Australia during the 1960s, and was well-placed to talk the about the tracking systems used throughout the world, and the teams who manned them. The subject is a bit obscure, but there's a lot of great pictures, and mainstream discussion of each mission and the personalities involved. Highly recommended (although we do recommend watching "The Dish" first, so the liberties with reality taken in the movie are more easily ignored!)

The girls have been busy rehearsing for their Friday night Christmas concerts, and working out final details of their costumes. Tim decided to take Thursday and Friday off to make up for the hours he'd been working the previous few weeks (and also to vicariously celebrate Thanksgiving!) Since he did, he was able to go on an excursion (field trip) with Clara's class to the South Australia museum on Thursday, where the Year 4 class spent some time researching various aspects of Aboriginal life through the collection of artifacts and interactive displays.

The big day for the Christmas concert finally came. It continued warm-hot and sultry, and the current hall at Wilderness lacks air conditioning (although they did retrofit a few window-style units into it this year in a vain attempt to keep it cool.) Hopefully, the new hall / gym will be completed by next Christmas, with more room, better seating and staging, and air conditioning. But the hall was packed with family and friends, and the first of the two concerts started off at 6 pm, with the girls from Early Learning (formerly Kindergarten) through Year 2 performing a variety of numbers. The Year 1 girls took the stage, and Lucy was the narrator for the first part of the song / skit "Six White Boomers." Six White Boomers was written around 1960 as a counterpoint to the usual northern hemisphere Christmas songs which assume snow and winter temperatures well below 40 degrees F, rather than over 40 degrees C! Just for references, here are the words:

Six White Boomers
Lyrics by Rolf Harris

Early on one Christmas Day, a Joey Kangaroo
Was far from home and lost in a great big zoo
Mummy, where's my mummy, they've taken her away

...sound of reindeer approaching...

We'll help you find your mummy son, hop on the sleigh

Up beside the bag of toys, little Joey hopped
But they hadn't gone far when Santa stopped
Unharnessed all the reindeer and Joey wondered why
Then he heard a far off booming in the sky

Six white boomers, snow white boomers
Racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun
Six white boomers, snow white boomers
On his Australian run

Pretty soon old Santa began to feel the heat
Took his fur-lined boots off to cool his feet
Into one popped Joey, feeling quite OK
While those old man kangaroos kept pulling on the sleigh

Joey said to Santa, Santa, what about the toys
Aren't you giving some to these girls and boys
They've all got their presents son, we were here last night
This trip is an extra trip, Joey's special flight

Soon the sleigh was flashing past, right over Marble Bar
Slow down there, cried Santa, it can't be far
Come up on my lap son, and have a look around
There she is, that's mummy, bounding up and down

Well that's the bestest Christmas treat that Joey ever had
Curled up in mother's pouch all snug and glad
The last they saw was Santa headed northward from the sun
The only year the boomers worked a double run

Lucy did a fine job of narrating, unfortunately we didn't get too many still pictures (hopefully the video will turn out ok) - here's a collage of a few pictures of Clara and Lucy performing. You might notice that they look a wee bit tired. Both girls may be getting a cold again, and the long day and heat really took it out of them. Lucy and the rest of the Year 1 girls also performed in a Nativity play, and then all the girls sang in one final song. Then the concert was over (although it was really just an intermission for many families, who had girls in both concerts.) After a break, it was time for the second half of the evening, featuring Years 3 through 6. This was Clara's turn, and she was kept running for an hour and a quarter, as she was in the band, the string orchestra, the choir, and also the string ensemble which played during set changes. By 8:30 we were all dripping from the heat, but it had been another memorable Christmas concert with the girls' young voices filling us with the Christmas spirit. Afterwards we decided to head to North Adelaide (only 5 minutes away) for ice cream, before returning home and crashing.

Saturday morning, we woke up and started the day more leisurely, but managed to at least get the Christmas tree up (if not decorated), and got Clara off to Shana's birthday party at Waterworld, a swimming/water slide park.

In other news, two major events have occurred over the past week. In politics, Simon Crean, leader of the ailing Labour Party, has stepped down. Recall that he took over from Kim Beazley after Beazley lost the last election, then managed to stave off another challenge to his leadership by Beazley a few months ago - now, as the newspapers put it, he is succumbing to "death by a thousand cuts" - too many problems have been mounting against him, and Labour is in too much trouble. There will be a caucus in the next few days to see who takes over - the popular choice at the moment is Kim Beazley, but whether the party chooses him remains to be seen.

In the sports world, one of Australia's all-time great cricketers, Steve Waugh, has announced his retirement after this summer's Test series with India. He will have played in more Test matches than any other Australian, and has led Australian cricket to a new level of domination during his captaincy (World Cup in 1999, and a streak of 16 consecutive Test wins). The current Australian Test team is aging (Waugh is 38, several others are in their early to mid 30s), and there has been growing suggestion that Australian needs to bring new blood into the current team, and allow some younger players get some playing time, in order to ensure that when the veterans and current stars, such as Waugh, do hang up their boots, that there will still be a worthy team for Australia to field.

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