Getting our five farthings’ worth

6 January 2019

Bugsy had a great eleven hour sleep, waking just after 07:15, which was perfect as we needed to be out by 09:00 for our cruise today. We had booked ourselves onto the ferry “cruise tram lunch” experience, which left from Elizabeth Quay and took us over to Fremantle for a tram ride, then back to Perth.

Before we left, we discovered a small puddle of water in the cupboard underneath the hob, which is next to the sink.  We have no idea how it got there, or how long it had been there, but it had caused the shelf to swell and split quite badly.  Once it was soaked up with a tea towel, we left for the day, with the intention of checking on it again later.

The parking was said to be quite bad around Elizabeth Quay, and involved a ten minute or so walk wherever you parked, and as it was the same price (if not slightly more) than the cost of an Uber, we decided to take the easy Uber option, which dropped us right in front of Captain Cook Cruises at Barrack Street Jetty.  We were a few minutes early for the trip, which gave us enough time to collect our hard copy tickets and have a wander around, before joining the queue.  Queuing.  A concept quite alien to a hideous woman who literally just decided to walk in front of us, as we were all standing still, waiting patiently.  I hate to say it, but she was Irish again.  The two men she was with had the decency to reject her demand of “Come here, just get up here!” preferring to stay in the line where they had been before. I thought she may realise what she’d done, and wait for her two men to catch up, but no, when we got to the front of the queue, she just called them all forward, and they reluctantly had to join her.  We ended up on a table next to them on the top deck, which was just too much for me, so Ian kindly found us a much better place one floor down, where we were joined by Laura and Leanna.  Leanna lives here (Irish – visited thirteen years ago and never left!) and Laura is an actuary in Bristol. Cornelia instantly took a shine to Laura and was telling her all about the vast numbers of jellyfish she could see in the water while the boat was docked.  Cornelia was quite right – there were thousands of them filling the water. Definitely not a good spot for a swim!

Thankfully, swimming wasn’t on our itinerary today, and we cruised quite pleasantly along Swan River to Fremantle.  The narrative accompanying the journey and supplied by our skipper was brilliant.  He pointed out all the important landmarks, as well as indulging us with the details behind some of the most incredible houses that overlook the water, including the most expensive residence in Australia (AUD 54 million) and an enormous house that was being built for an Italian, which looked like three houses, but is in fact just one! The most eye-catching house we saw (I call it a house – really, I mean villa, or residence, or mansion!) was one that looked as if it belonged in Tuscany and seemed almost carved into the stone.  It had eleven separate units, one for each of the owner’s ten daughters, and one for him, and included a 350m² boat house.  Nice.

We left Laura and Leanna in peace to enjoy their return journey to Elizabeth Quay, while we found our tram, driven by Geoff, who was hilarious.  He’s obviously been doing this job for years, but he sounded completely natural and unrehearsed as he navigated his way around the various historic landmarks in Fremantle, including the impressive war memorial and prison.  Fremantle is a funky little place, full of beautiful old buildings, but updated with cool cafes and creative art.  There was one art installation that hadn’t ended up quite the way it was intended: yellow stripes on the sides of the buildings which, when viewed from the end of the street, was meant to look like a spiral all the way down.  But it was left up too long, and it is now damaging the buildings as it is removed.  Whoops…! Geoff’s good humour and general bonhomie really elevated the hour long tour, and we were all disappointed when we were finally returned to the jetty, to catch our return ferry.

On board, we were shown to our table for lunch.  Well, sort of.  They couldn’t find our table, and we were left wandering around a bit by ourselves, until Ian found our name card on a nearby table, which had been turned around by our table companions who were, I have to say, probably the least friendly people we have met on our entire world adventure.  Each of us said “Hello!” to them, and they looked at us, then completely ignored us, as if they hadn’t even seen us sit down right in front of them. So, that made for an awkward lunch! (I should mention that neither was hard of hearing or unable to speak, as they talked to each other quite ably.)  We felt that the only appropriate thing was for us to have as much fun as possible!

The buffet meal was pretty good.  Salads and meats, then butter chicken & rice, or tomato and olive pasta, followed by carrot cake or chocolate mud cake and a variety of fruits, and inevitably we ate far more than we should have!

The Perth skyline is lovely, and as we approached, Ian & I stood outside at the front of the ferry, admiring the view.  (Cornelia was still stuffing her face with mud pie, so we left her for a couple of minutes, although we could see her all the time, in case you were wondering…!) Once we had docked, we decided to have a quick look at the Bell Tower that Ian had been admiring this morning.

It was the most fascinating place and I’m SO glad we went in!  The newly-built Bell Tower houses twelve of the bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields church back home which date back from before the 14th century.  Not only did we learn loads about the history of time and bells, which was genuinely really interesting, I booked us on the “bell tour” which included the three of us being able to ring those famous bells ourselves!  It was magnificent and special in a way I simply cannot describe. Surely a unique experience! And the bells that were rung by us could be heard all around Perth.  (Lucky people of Perth!!) Just wow.

After the excitement of our newly-acquired bell-ringing skills, it was back down to earth with a bump and a request for a chocolate nice cream.  We were delivered back home by our favourite Uber driver so far, funnily enough called Martin, and then we walked down to the seafront.  While Ian went off for his walk, Cornelia ate her ice cream, and then played in the Whale Playground for an hour or so.  She made some new friends immediately once again – she literally spies a girl, or a group of kids, and goes up to them and joins in with whatever it is they are doing, with no embarrassment or concern whatsoever.  It’s such a brilliant trait.

I had a genuine moment of panic during my stint as parent-in-charge-of-not-losing-the-child.  I lost the child.  I had just wished a friend a Happy Birthday (and I promise I hadn’t just been playing on my ‘phone the whole time!) when I looked up to make sure Cornelia hadn’t fallen off the rope she’d been climbing, when I couldn’t see her.  I looked carefully around, knowing that she’d played hide & seek a few times already, but still couldn’t see her.  This was when my heart stopped.  Actually, no.  My heart stopped when I asked her new friend, Harper, with whom she’d been playing the whole time, if she’d seen where Cornelia had gone.  Her response was: “No.  She went out of the park up the hill with some new friends, and then they all went off with her.”

My blood ran cold, as I legged it out of the playground and up the grassy hill, wondering at what point I needed to enlist some urgent help.  Just as I was about to yell that I needed some assistance, I spotted her.  Doing bloody roly polys down the hill, with a group of children.  Bloody hell.

I summoned her over and as soon as she saw my grave face, she knew exactly what I was going to say, so she lay on the ground and burst into tears, because she “didn’t like my face”.  I told her as calmly as I could exactly what had happened, and why my face looked so serious, adding that she needed to stop the tears and work out what she should have done.  Immediately, she said that she should have told me that she was leaving the playground, and agreed that just forgetting was not okay, given the potential for something bad to happen.

We went back to the playground, and the next time she wanted to leave, she asked me. Ian was back by now (and I had confessed all to him already) so she was allowed to go, with Ian keeping an eye on that grassy hill to make sure she never went out of sight again.  She found Harper again, and ended up playing some more with her in the sandy playground, until it was time for us to leave. I said she could say goodbye to her other friends, and she replied that she didn’t mind saying it to some of them, but she wasn’t going to say goodbye to the little boy in the red t-shirt as he’d been rude to her.  She said that she’d ignored him and walked away, just as I’d told her to do previously, and I went from being a still-slightly-upset-about-the-whole-losing-a-child mummy to a very proud mummy.

Our now-familiar route home took only a few minutes, and once back we checked our leaky cupboard, to find another puddle had formed. We dried it up again, and I promised to contact Gabi, our host, to let her know.  The rest of the evening passed by pretty quickly.  Busgy had reheated pasta bolognese from last night, and I had a shower with her, before putting her to bed.  She was sound asleep by 20:15. Really, this is a much better time for her.

Neither Ian nor I were particularly hungry after our huge lunch on the ferry earlier, so he had a chicken salad, and I ate the leftover bolognese sauce, not bothering to boil any pasta to accompany it. The rest of my evening was spent updating the blog, until I realised how tired I was and went to bed.  Each one seems to take me about an hour to write, and the same amount of time to upload the photos.  I am cursing myself for not managing to write them up daily, as it would be so much easier for me in the long run!

Scarborough, Perth

5 January 2019

Cornelia called out for us just after 07:00, and I went in for a cuddle with her before she then came to join us in bed for a while.  We had breakfast together, then Bugsy watched a Paw Patrol DVD she’d found in a cupboard, while I put on a load of laundry.  Although were up and ready to start the day by 09:00, thanks to yet another time difference, by the time we’d hung the washing, showered, and sorted ourselves out, it was 11:00 before we left the apartment!  We are keen not to waste any more mornings, so this evening we are sitting down to plan our time a bit better, as it seems as if there is loads to do in Perth.

The Paw Patrol DVD turned out to be a dodgy pirate copy that stopped working after about twenty minutes, so Cornelia was allowed a bit of TV while we did our morning chores.  To her great joy, Paw Patrol was also showing on Nick Jr, so she was glued to that for FAR too long!  The Paw Patrol theme continued as she stuck a Paw Patrol plaster on to Ian’s heel where his sandals had rubbed.  Ah, I love it when the simple things bring such happiness!

TV switched off and beach bag packed, we walked the short distance to the waterfront, posting Karen’s birthday card on the way and popping into Cole’s to see if we could find a new bucket and spade for Bugsy. Sigh… the return of the consumer-child. She wanted a large pink bucket, a red spade and a separate set of beach toys. When I suggested that we may be able to get a better-fitting set (as opposed to lots of pieces that didn’t fit together properly) all hell broke loose. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite THAT bad, but instead of listening to reason, as she would normally, she burst into tears with cries of “I want, I want!” which always ends up with her getting nothing. She refused to listen to me, so I left her on the floor of the shop crying until she came over to apologise. She had decided that she really wanted the pink bucket and red spade but wanted different beach toys. So, once again, I explained that she could have what we had offered or we could go and look for a better, complete set. But that we weren’t splitting the two up – her choice. She gulped a few times, then said she’d like to look for a better set, and asked that if we couldn’t find one, could she please have the pink bucket etc. At last, we had a sentence that didn’t include a “I want” and did include a “please”!

We left the shopping centre, with Cornelia still mumbling and occasionally making the point that she was still crying a bit, but she cheered up immediately upon spying the Whale Playground- a brand new kids’ area. There were no obvious beachfront shops that sold buckets and spades, so Ian went to buy the original bundle, while Cornelia made herself at home in the playground.  She had a wonderful time, following a little girl with pink hair around the Whale Playground – wherever Pinkie went, so did Cornelia! I wasn’t sure how welcome this adulation was, but when I saw Pinkie waiting for Cornelia at the top of the slide and showing her new ways of going down, I knew all was well! When Ian came back with her new beach toys, she came over to get them and her and Pinkie settled down in the sand to play. I went over to the girl to find out her name – she’s called Indie and is turning 7 on Thursday. Her little sister, Scarlett, joined them and they played together for the next fifteen minutes and I chatted to their mum, until Ian returned from his recce for lunch spots.

Without any real objection, Cornelia collected her new sand toys together, said goodbye to her friends (with mutually optimistic wishes that they would see each other again) and we crossed the road to a cafe which had some seating available.  To my surprise, it turned out to be a kebab shop, but as Ian and Cornelia had both decided what they wanted to eat, I didn’t mind staying.  Ian went in to order, and after about twenty minutes, he was called in to collect our food.  He had a lamb kebab, Bugsy had chicken nuggets and chips, and I had a chicken salad with a Greek salad.  It was all “fine”, but I was happy to leave and head to the beach for the afternoon.

It was VERY windy down on the beach, but stunningly beautiful.  I must confess to being quite lazy all afternoon, and asking Ian to keep Cornelia occupied while I lay in the sun and people-watched for a couple of hours.  He turned her into the Little Mermaid and held her hand while she jumped some waves, and we did our best not to let any sand get carried away by the wind into the faces of our neighbours.  Ah, our beach neighbours – now, they were funny.  Very Irish, in a stereotypical not entirely pleasant way.  Our favourite phrases from the afternoon included a “Ach, there’s plenty of room for you!” to a woman who asked if they could maybe not set up immediately next to her (they were literally two feet away from her towel), and a cry of “Ask your feckin’ mammie, not me!” relating to some issue one of the kids had.  They were loud and sweary and not the most considerate of families, but at least Ian and I had some mild entertainment from it.

Cornelia started making sounds about whether or not she could have an ice cream (following this morning’s episode, I have now started referring to them as “nice creams”, instead…) and actually, it was a good way to get us all off the beach and homeward-bound.  We shook off the sand and crossed the road once more, this time venturing into the Rockery ice cream shop, where we joined a queue of people waiting patiently.  I was behind a dad and his two kids, and was just about to be served when a German/Aussie family barged past and placed their orders for five ice creams, complete with “mixers”.  (In this shop, you can order your base flavour ice cream then a mixer (such as M&Ms, or gummi bears) which is then mashed into your ice cream before being scooped into a cone or a cup.) I didn’t even have time to react, although the stunned father in front of me couldn’t quite believe it either.  As I have some German in me, I acknowledge the cultural differences in forming a queue, but I really had to bite my tongue!  Just as the server called “Who’s next,please?” I had to barge aside a second German/Aussie family and shout “Yes, that would be ME!” before Cornelia asked politely for her double chocolate ice cream in a cup with a spoon, please…

She ate it on a bench in the shade with Daddy, while I nipped to Cole’s for a couple of things I’d forgotten for our bolognese tonight, then we all walked home together.  It is just a few minutes away and we really do have the perfect location.

I made supper for Bugsy before heading out for my evening run.  I had a head wind on the way out, and a tail wind on the way back, which I suppose is just how you want it, but the head wind was really strong!  On my return, I stopped to take a few photos – it was such a beautiful run and I didn’t want to forget it.

Cornelia was still eating her tea when I got back, but polished it all off eventually.  She was meant to go and brush her teeth, but insisted on playing a “win the towels” game, where she scooped up a towel and gave it to me, and won a bedtime story when she had completed three in a row.  She would’ve delayed bedtime for even longer, if I hadn’t reminded her of her 20:00 deadline for stories and bed.  With this reminder, she whizzed off to brush her teeth and settled down into bed.  I’d had a shower while she ate, so gave her a cuddle while Daddy read her stories, and she was asleep by 20:15.  Yippee!  We then ate our supper, before booking a cruise for tomorrow, and getting an early night.

Darwin was a pleasant surprise!

4 January 2019

With no worrying wee incidents, we all slept through peacefully until 08:00, and were at breakfast by 09:00. Again, our hostess in the breakfast room was so friendly! She adored Cornelia, who was busy telling her all about our next flight, and she was thoroughly charmed by our happy little girlie!

Although we had requested a late check out, in the end we asked to store our luggage in the hotel (which was free and in a locked room), so we could spend some more time exploring Darwin.  We have ended up really enjoying ourselves here, which comes as a complete surprise to us!  Having prepared ourselves for very wet, hot and humid weather, in a fairly dull city, our expectations were way off, and we have completely changed our minds about the city.  It has a sense of history about it but is quite modern and attractive, largely due to its complete rebuild following Cyclone Tracy.  The hot weather (and we were lucky to avoid the rains which would normally have arrived by this time of year) was bearable, especially near the sea where a breeze was blowing over us.

We walked down to the Waterfront again, this time via the Sky Tower.  Ian suggested I might want to stop off in the souvenir shop (the heat must’ve got to him) and buy an Australian Christmas decoration that was on display (yep, definitely the heat…!).  Anyway, it was a dangerous offer!  I ended up with an assortment of stickers and badges (for Bugsy’s scrapbook and rucksack) as well as a fridge magnet (or two) and the decoration that Ian had seen.  A not-at-all-tacky bag of goodies!

When I caught up with them at the Waterfront (on the same bench as yesterday), Cornelia was desperate to get into the water, so she changed into her swimsuit (which I’d been carried), and ran straight up to the other little girl who was already in the water, and asked if she could play with her.  (She said “Yes!”.  Hurrah!)  I suggested to Ian that he might like to go for a walk along the Wharf, which was meant to be spectacular, but he said he wanted to look around the shops (gasp!!) for a(nother) new t-shirt.  Yes, by now I was SURE the heat had broken him.

Apart from one minor incident when it appeared that Cornelia had snapped her new friend’s spade (I managed to fix it, so all was okay), the two of them played happily together, and separately for about an hour, until it was time for us to head off.  Cornelia was completely sandy, but we were on an afternoon flight, so there would be plenty of time to get her properly cleaned when we arrived at our AirBnB in Perth.  I dragged her under the shower by the Waterfront to get the worst of it off, and then we Ubered to the hotel, collected our bags and took another Uber to the airport.

We had an easy check in with a friendly member of Qantas staff, David, who told me that all of his family had buggered off to London for Christmas and New Year, leaving him by himself.  I asked if he’d worked on Christmas Day – he had!  I reassured him that they’d all be completely freezing in London, so not to worry!!

Once we were through security, we found a cafe near the shops and Ian went to order milkshakes for all of us, before going to look at books. He returned empty handed, but mentioned that he’d nearly bought The Children Act.  So off I went and bought that, as well as the Bill Clinton/James Patterson novel “The President is Missing”.  I should mention the milkshakes in more detail.  Mine was the most unhealthy thing I’ve drunk on this whole world adventure!  A shot of espresso, milk, ice cream, chocolate, cream and honeycomb pieces.  I will also confess – I couldn’t finish it.  But at least that was my lunch sorted!

Cornelia’s reaction to her milkshake was predictable, as she turned momentarily into a vile child who’s eaten too much sugar.  Or in this case, who’s drunk too much sugar.  Thankfully, the mood didn’t last long, and soon she was singing her sugary way all the way down to the gate, where David checked us through again.

We had a nice enough flight, with a light meal (salmon & rice salad for me, beef & mushroom stew for Ian) but there was no entertainment on board.  Thankfully, Cornelia’s Kindle had some battery remaining on it, and she watched that until it ran out of charge, before doing some handwriting practice and stickers, while I read my book.  Uh oh, I was already completely absorbed by the book, and was mildly irritated when we landed and I had to pack it away!!

The luggage took ages to arrive on the carousel, and in fact, Ian went off to collect our hire car while we were waiting, and I had only just made it out of the terminal when I spotted him on his way back.  Then, I didn’t sense-check our Google Maps directions and ended up at a different 41 Scarborough Beach Road (maybe 441 Scarborough Beach Road??!!!), when Cornelia suddenly announced that she needed a poo. By the time we arrived at our correct apartment, she thought she might have done one in her pants, but a quick check revealed that all was well.  Thank goodness!  That wouldn’t have been on the top of my list of ways to start our trip to Perth!

While Ian and Cornelia familiarised themselves with the apartment (i.e. found the kettle), I went to the nearby Coles for some supper, milk and breakfast stuff.  The supermarket is just near the beach, and the seafront looks amazing.  I can’t wait to see it properly tomorrow.

By the time I got back, Ian was getting cross with Cornelia because she’d asked to wash her hands before she got in the shower, and he’d said no.  I have no idea why he’d said no, and that’s always a difficult one to try and resolve!  She was getting upset, he was getting cross – and if she’d just been allowed to spend ten seconds washing her hands, none of this would’ve happened!  Like I’ve said before, with a four year old, you really need to pick your battles…!

While they showered, I prepared a chicken salad for me and Ian.  Cornelia had already eaten her tea, so she had a bedtime story, then went straight to sleep just after 20:00.  After we’d eaten, I sat on sofa with a beer and read the rest of my book.  The entire thing in one day.  It’s been far too long since a good book and I had a date!  Ian had gone to bed long before I did, and I knew I’d be tired in the morning, but I find it so hard to stop reading when I’m committed!

There is indeed a place called Tropical Fruit World

2 January 2019

Although Ian and I were both awake reasonably early, Cornelia, V and Belle slept on, and so we did our best to pack up our suitcases without disturbing them. Cornelia woke up next, followed a few minutes later by our guests. There followed a complicated bag-packing exercise, doing our best to consolidate everything we’d collected over the last few weeks into three cases and three hand luggages. Of course, V needed to pack up too, and we were doing our best to get ourselves sorted in time for the 10:00 checkout time and the 10:30 breakfast cut off.

Ian went off to find a luggage trolley and I watched in dismay as the clock ticked on past 10:00. He returned about twenty minutes later, empty-handed. There were no trollies available and a queue for the few that were in existence. He had enquired at reception only to be told that “lots of our return guests bring their own!”… He was NOT impressed and frankly, neither was I!

Val had already loaded up her car while I kept an eye on Cornelia and Belle, and Emma was eager for V and Belle to join her for breakfast, so they left to meet up with her. Ian said he’d ferry the bags to our car by hand, and suggested that Cornelia and I go for breakfast too, before the 10:30 deadline. (It was 10:20 by now.) I didn’t really want to leave Ian to do it all, but we couldn’t leave Cornelia alone in the room, and in any event, then none of us would be in time for food! Reluctantly, I took Cornelia off while Ian began his workout of the day!

We made it to the restaurant with a few minutes to spare, and the staff seemed much friendlier today, bar the same grumpy older woman who was keeping her beady eye on the clock. I grabbed pancakes for Cornelia and bacon & eggs for Ian, with a bowl of WeetBix, coffee and an OJ. I had scrambled eggs and toast again and had taken a big table, assuming that V etc would be joining us, but she messaged me to say that they were at a different cafe, so Bugsy and I had a very enjoyable and fun breakfast together, waiting for Ian. In the meantime, Laura (our friends from Utrecht that we had met in Christchurch and again in Brisbane) had messaged to ask if we had a plan for today. I suggested Tropical Fruit World (my never-ending quest for Cornelia to try different foods!) and we arranged to meet there at 12:00. But poor old Ian. By the time he arrived, it was nearly 11:00, and he had cold eggs and cold coffee. ☹️ Amazingly, we weren’t the last family in the place – another one had arrived moments after us (I spoke to the mum and they’d only woken at 10:15!!) and were still eating when we left.

Cornelia wanted to go the park, and we did of course want to say goodbye to V and Belle, so arranged to meet them there briefly. Fido reappeared and we played fetch for a bit, before Cornelia asked to be herself again and went off to play. V, Emma and the kids joined us for a bit, before it was time to say our final farewells. Cornelia didn’t cry this time when saying goodbye to Belle, as V promised she’d come to visit us in the next five years! We had a quick photo shoot, said goodbye to Emma and Harry, then walked back to the car park with V and Belle to pass on all the fridge stuff we weren’t taking with us, as well as return the gin she’d given me for Christmas. We simply don’t have the space for it, unfortunately, but V promised she’d send plenty of photos of her enjoying it on our behalf!!

With shouts of love and good wishes, we headed off for Tropical Fruit World (another “World” for Bugsy to add to her list, she pointed out).

We were all very happy to see each other, especially Cornelia and Sofie who greeted each other with hugs before dashing off to the park. We enticed them inside with the promise of an ice cream while the grown ups had coffees, and this gave us a chance to look at the layout of the place and work out what we should do. It was deliberately confusing as they were operating on Queensland time, despite being in New South Wales, so although our tractor tour was booked for 14:00 (NSW/real time), it was marked down as 13:00. Totally pointless, so far as I can tell!

Anyway, we killed time by discussing potential final holiday destinations for us, while the girls played together in the park, getting covered in sand again – their absolute favourite medium of dirt/mess. At least they didn’t shampoo their hair today! We ordered lunch, which was itself a bit unnecessarily painful. We paid separately but asked them to prepare the order together, which they agreed to do, then didn’t. Ian and Howard both had the quiche but the accompanying salad didn’t arrive. Once Howard made enquiries, the waitress came over, dropped the bowl of salad onto the table and walked off! Howard then had to go up and ask where the dressing was (it was supposed to be dressed with papaya dressing) and when THAT arrived, it turned out to be honey and mustard. He was not best pleased! My green papaya and chicken salad was interesting and tasty, and I think I had the best deal. (This almost never happens!!)

Anyway, then it was tractor time, and we all boarded the trailer and bounced around the amazing plantation, with our driver pointing out the hundreds of varieties of fruit, some of which we’d never heard of before). We stopped off to pick our own bananas and crack macadamia nuts, before continuing on to a little farm, where the girls fed the sheep, goat, emu and kangaroos. There was a joey that had tumbled back into its mum’s pouch and was totally adorable with his ear and legs dangling out!

From there, we had a boat ride to another play park and fed the ducks along the way. Howard and Ian helped the girls on the zip wire while Laura and I sat in the shade chatting, until we were invited back onto the tractor and returned to the starting place. We had thought the tour was one and a half hours, but it was nearly two and a half. We had been booked onto the fruit tasting experience at 14:20 (their time), but it was now nearly 15:00 (or 16:00 real time 🙄) as it happened, we just joined the final tasting of the day at 15:20 and once the (slightly unenthusiastic) speaker had run through the fruits on display and introduced each one to us, we were able to test all of them, together with various jars of produce made on site. We had pineapple, mango, papaya, Davidson’s plum, dragonfruit, white sapote, Mamey sapote, chocolate pudding fruit (black sapote) and avocado. It was exciting to try some new tastes – the sour plum, the slightly bland dragonfruit, and the interesting chocolate pudding fruit (which becomes more tasty when combined with dairy, apparently). I also really enjoyed the white sapote – fruits I haven’t come across before.

Cornelia liked the pineapple and papaya, but none of the others, although she tried most of them. However she and Sofie discovered a love of the farm honey and were scooping plenty out onto sticks and guzzling it down. I tried (and loved) the pineapple honey, but we didn’t have any room for any purchases, so I had to walk away empty-handed. Well, almost. I did squeeze in a fridge magnet and a sticker for Cornelia’s scrapbook before we left. Sofie also shares a vivid imagination and is a horse called “Spirit”, so she and Cornelia galloped back to the car park beautifully!

During the course of our discussions, it transpired that the three of them head home to Utrecht on the night of 26th January from Singapore. Exactly the same time and place as us! This made saying goodbye again much easier, and we agreed to have supper together at the airport that day. Hurrah! (Double hurrah as we discussed having some champagne to mark the end of both sets of travels.)  We also briefly introduced the idea of having the last five days together, perhaps in a nice villa in Thailand.  It’s quite a big thing to do, having only recently met the family, but they are all such good company that we’d be up for it, if they are!  We shall see what happens!

Cornelia became a bit upset when I asked her to offer her Paw Patrol bucket and spade to Sofie (via Howard), and then she cried a lot when she saw me hand it over. I explained very quickly that we couldn’t take it with us, and that it was to give to her friend, or we would just leave it in the hire car where it would probably be thrown away. The tears stopped immediately and she wound down her window to shout her final farewells.

It was about an hour and a half to the airport, during which Cornelia cried out “Look, Mummy, I’m old enough to do this!” and showed me how she had wrapped her thumb under her index finger – something she’d apparently been unable to do until today! Love her! Once we’d dropped off the car, we traipsed off to check in and the bag drop off area. We were about half an hour too early to do this, and as there wasn’t a kids’ play area, we found a cafe where Cornelia had a cheese and ham toastie for tea, followed by a white chocolate and macadamia shortbread cookie, which she didn’t like. Lucky Daddy!

We were able to print boarding passes and luggage tags with no problem and bag-dropped them quickly. We were bit worried that our hand baggage was over the limit, but as we’d escaped having it weighed on any other flight, thought we’d take our chances. Hmm, today was NOT our lucky day! We were charged $60 for our overweight bag. Whoops. Still, there was nothing we could do about it, and we knew that there was a strong chance we would have to pay it. At least we were able to keep our bags with us, and not have them checked into the hold. The slight frustration was that the charge was for one of the hand bags to be checked into the hold, but then they said we could keep it with us anyway. 🤔 Anyway, our fault, so we can’t complain!

Cornelia spent some time watching Paw Patrol on her Kindle, before deciding she was tired and falling asleep very quickly on my lap. Bloody hell! She hasn’t fallen asleep that quickly for ages! Typical!  And there she stayed for the next two and a half hours, until the flight landed just after midnight, about half an hour ahead of schedule.  I had prepared myself for the difficult task of waking her, and explained in her ear everything that I was going to do.  Get my rucksack on.  Turn her over.  Pick her up.  Carry her out.  And it worked.  Apart from a few tears, she buried her head into my neck and wrapped herself obligingly around me.  It was a long walk all the way to the baggage carousel and then we endured a painful delay of over half an hour waiting for the luggage to be put on the carousel for collection.  Argh! But Cornelia kept it together and was content curled up on one of our hand luggage bags while we waited.

There was a short queue for the taxis (no Uber was available) and we had a perfectly pleasant ride to our hotel – the Argus Hotel – in Darwin.  It was difficult to see what Darwin was like as it was so dark, but it made a nice change to be travelling from an airport on empty roads! I asked our driver if he had any kids (he didn’t) and if he had any suggestions as to where we should go with Cornelia tomorrow, bearing in mind we only had one full day here. He recommended the wave pool, so we thought we would check it out tomorrow morning.

Our hotel room was lovely.  There was a separate bedroom with a large bed for Cornelia, then our large bed was in the front room, which had a kitchenette too.  Cornelia wanted to go straight to bed, and I cuddled her until she fell asleep, before creeping off to bed myself, just after 02:00 Darwin time.

 

Day One. 2019.

1 January 2019

I am ashamed to say that I started the day with a bit of a hangover! Nothing too serious, and nothing that wasn’t quickly resolved with a paracetamol, but it wasn’t quite how I’d pictured my morning! Everyone in our apartment had slept solidly, and we didn’t get up until after 09:00.  We rang Lizzie for a chat – it was 2019 where we were and still 2018 back home!  Then we showered and dressed just in time for the 10:30 deadline for breakfast.  V and Belle were staying in our room to help use up our granola, yoghurt and WeetBix, but as we had our breakfast included in the room rate, we decided to head over to Peppers, the sister hotel around the corner, where breakfast was served.

Hmmm, we weren’t terribly impressed with the rude staff!  We arrived at 10:25, and the woman who “greeted” us said we were too late.  When we pointed out the time, she said “Fine, but we clear away the food at EXACTLY 10:30!”.  We found a table and whizzed around quickly, gathering as much food as we could before it was snatched away from beneath us.  As it happens, the scrambled eggs were delicious, and we took our time enjoying it.  The restaurant wasn’t closing – it was just clearing away the breakfast buffet – so we weren’t in any rush.

After breakfast, we went back up to the apartment where V and Belle had finished their food.  Emma was meeting up with a bloke she’d been seeing, so V, Chelsy and I set off for the beach again, with our three enthusiastic beach-loving girlies.  We set up the beach tent and we all played in the shallow waves together, while Ian went off for his walk for an hour or so.  Cornelia and I joined V and Belle who were sitting on the shoreline, hoping to catch a pipi.  Astonishingly, within about a minute of joining them, I was raking the sand and felt something nudge against my hand as the wave drew back to sea.  It was a pipi!!!  We were all VERY excited! We put him carefully into a bucket which we filled with a bit of sand and plenty of water… and then we waited.  Soon, the little clam poked his body out of his shell, shuffled around a bit, then turned upright and burrowed down into the sand to hide himself!  It was amazing to watch, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before!  It was completely mesmerising, and we just stayed on the sand, with the waves washing over us, watching him repeatedly bury himself and shuffle around.

We then took our bucket up to Chelsy and Miela who were up at the tent, digging holes.  We spent the rest of our morning enjoying watching the kids play so beautifully together, and relaxing in the New Year sunshine.  Miela is just such a super little girl – so happy, kind and well-mannered and she is incredibly articulate, just as Cornelia was when she turned three. She is a real joy to be around. What a perfect way to spend the morning!

With the promise after an ice cream after lunch, we herded the gang back to our apartment and enjoyed a lunch of last night’s leftovers.  Chelsy and I were keen to get out for a run together, and as she needed to leave by about 17:00, we set off around 15:30.  It was blazing hot, and I’m embarrassed to say that my lack of rehydration since yesterday made me overheat very quickly.  I normally love running in the heat, but after about 3 miles, I had to stop to soak my head in water under one of the many taps along the boardwalk.  Another mile later, and I could feel one of my funny hearty things was about to happen, so I said to Chelsy that I just need to wait for the feeling to pass, which took about five minutes.  I was very frustrated that I’d had to stop, but a combination of having drunk no water that day (just two cups of tea) and the heat nearly beat me.  We stopped another couple of times during the last two miles just to take a drink from the taps and for me to soak my head, but despite the challenge of a difficult run, I was over the moon that we’d run just over six miles on New Year’s Day, and I’d made a new friend. Chelsy is lovely, and all credit to her that she has such a fantastic daughter.  We shared lots of stories on our way around and I loved chatting to her.

At the pool area, we found V in the water with the three girls, and Ian observing from the side!  They were having a super time, jumping on V and pretending to be mermaids. We cooled off a bit in the shade, then waded into the water up to our shorts to help with the supervision!  They were in the water for nearly an hour, before Chelsy had to take Miela and herself off for a shower, and get ready to leave.  She used our apartment, as she’d already packed up her stuff from Emma’s room (and Emma was still out), and after one final play together, they left for home.  She only lives about half an hour away – how fantastic to have this place so close!

Emma messaged V to say that she was going to the pub with Harry to watch a live band, although she wasn’t sure how long they would be there, as Harry had been vomiting during the night. Poor boy – we’d taken his temperature last night to check that he wasn’t burning up, and although I’d offered a sachet of Calpol (the miracle medicine to mummies back home!) Harry hadn’t taken it, as he didn’t like the taste. Anyway, off to the pub they went, while we fed Cornelia and Belle and got them in the bath to rinse off the excitement of the day.

They were both so exhausted that we managed to get them both to sleep really quickly.  Belle went to her blow up mattress, which I think made it much easier for them both to settle. I took turns stroking each of them, but hurrah, they didn’t take long to drop off at all. Ian went down to the fish ‘n’ chips place, and came back an hour or so later, fully loaded with grilled snapper and chips for me & V, and battered fish and chips for himself.  We spent a wonderful evening together, reminiscing about the “bad good old days” and talking about how our lives have changed so much since having our beautiful girls.  But last night’s celebrations bringing in the new year together soon overwhelmed us, and we headed to bed at a very respectable 23:00.  This time, I was straight to sleep!

 

It’s been a wonderful year!

31 December 2018

I had such peculiar dreams last night! Ian and I were late for a flight and were racing for a shuttle train to Gatwick when he raced onto the train, leaving me with all the luggage. I tried to grab it all and get on to the train but the doors closed and off it went. I managed to get on the next one, but decided there was no way we’d catch our flight now (it was 10:40 which, for some reason, was particularly relevant) and went to a pub (so me!!!) instead where I stored the cases behind the bar and ordered a beer. Then Ian rang and asked where I was – he was collecting our tickets and the plane was being held for us. I was, by now, with my sister, who recruited her ex-boyfriend (who was sporting some very dubious clothing, which included grey sweatpants and a sweatband) to help me with my things. I raced to the train station where three Arabic nuns, two of whom were blind, were struggling to get aboard. I offered to help, and once we were on the train, one of the nuns took off her gown to reveal a My Little Pony sweatshirt, and she started yelling at everyone for not knowing the meaning of her surname which was Watkins. And then I woke up! Maybe the cockroach spray we used last night tampered with my brain!!!

Thankfully, it hadn’t messed with Cornelia who was enjoying an epic sleep as we packed up, glad to be leaving the dirty house, and in fact she didn’t wake up until 09:00!  She lingered over breakfast until we booted her off the breakfast table, washed those final dishes, checked on the dead cockroach (in the wardrobe – phew!) and drove the very short distance to the beautiful Mantra @ Salt hotel.

Although we were very early to be checking in (it was only just after 10:30), our apartment was available – and what a contrast to our previous accommodation!  We had a one-bedroomed suite with an ocean view and a large balcony.  The only downside was that it was a long walk to “Wing 6” from the basement car park, with all of our bags.  We were lucky enough to get a trolley, but even pushing that all the way gave Ian a bit of a sweat on!

Cornelia retrieved her Lego immediately and started playing with it – today she made Elsa an underwater jet pack that could do all sorts of things!  We had no plans, although Val’s friend, Emma, was also staying at the hotel with her son, Harry.  Val and Belle were arriving later, and originally I had thought they would be here at around 12:00 and we would go for lunch, but a check of later messages revealed that it would be after 14:30, so we went ahead and ate sandwiches out on the balcony.

I then went to the supermarket to buy supplies for the evening.  We were hosting Val and her two friends, Emma and Chelsy, in our apartment, together with their kids, as we could hopefully get the children to sleep in our bedroom, so that we could continue our celebrations on the balcony.  I messaged Laura (Sydney Laura!) for Phil’s amazing potato salad recipe, and set about preparing that, while we waited for V and Belle to arrive, as they were staying in our apartment on the sofa bed.

As soon as they were here, we raced down to the beach together, which was just a couple of hundred metres away.  Cornelia and Belle were so happy to see each other again, although Cornelia’s love of V did occasionally annoy Belle!  Cornelia just loves everyone so much, and is completely aware that it may cause some jealously.  Despite the occasional “No, that’s MY mummy!” they had a wonderful time together.  Emma and Harry eventually joined us there too, and although Emma was concerned about Harry’s ongoing cough, the kids were soon in the water, jumping the waves, chasing each other around and having the best time in glorious sunshine.  Once they were out of the water, the fun continued in the sand, making lots of different recipes and building sandcastles to crush.  Ian, bless him, had nipped back to the apartment for beer, and the four of us sat in the late afternoon sunshine watching the kids and drinking our cold beers.

Before we left, V and I decided we absolutely needed to have a “last day of the year” swim, so ran down to the water and dived in for five minutes, playing in the waves and enjoying the time together.  It made us both appreciate how our friendship has endured and how special it was that we could spend these few days together.

It was 18:00 when we finally left the beach, ready to start our evening celebrations.  Belle and Cornelia bathed together, while V and I had (separate!) showers.  Weirdly, the girls decided to “play dead” lying face down in the bath for as long as they could, before jumping up and letting us know that they were, thankfully, still both alive.  Cornelia, it turns out, has her mother’s ability for holding her breath for a nervously long time!

Once scrubbed and sparkly clean, they dressed in their party outfits and eventually Harry and Miela (Chelsy’s daughter) joined them together with Emma and Chelsy who had also now arrived.  The kids watched some TV while we poured gins etc, and finished the food preparations.  Poor Harry’s cough was not getting any better, and although I offered a sachet of Calpol to bring down his slight temperature, he didn’t like the taste of it, so he ended up not having anything other than the Nurofen Emma had given him earlier, which we hoped would work its magic.

We managed to feed the children first, and then they were happy watching a bit more TV while we ate and drank and chatted.  The fireworks show was at 21:00, just after darkness had fallen, and we had a prime spot for it.  They were being set off on the beach, and we were just three apartments from the sea front, so could see everything really well.  There were lots of people down on the grassy communal hotel area (who had had picnics there) but our apartment really was perfect for our own private celebrations:  we had the loos on hand, the TV for the kids, food and snacks were available without being crawled over by bugs, and we had immediate access to the ice for the gin!  The children all sat with their hands over their ears, but were completely fascinated by the display, which was really excellent.

Once the show had finished, it was time to try and get the excited gang to sleep.  Miela went to sleep first, crashing immediately on the blow up mattress in our bedroom that V had brought with her.  Emma managed to get Harry to sleep on the sofa in the main living area.  But those two naughty girls…. Belle and Cornelia were TERRIBLE!!!  They were in the huge double bed in our bedroom, but Cornelia kept getting cross because Belle wanted to be close to her (in a total role reversal from earlier today, when Cornelia wanted to be near Belle, who was having none of it!), then Belle was upset.  Then Cornelia wouldn’t settle.  Belle went to the loo several times, and came out for V a few times, and Cornelia was not being a very nice friend, yelling at her if she rolled too close. After several attempts at settling them, I went in and lay between them, stroking them both until FINALLY at 23:30, they were fast asleep.  Success at last!

We remained on the balcony talking utter nonsense.  I was glad I’d set an alarm at 23:59, as I suspect we would’ve missed the countdown, and then at 00:00, we all cheered, clinked our glasses and welcomed in the New Year together with hugs and kisses, and another brief fireworks display.  Once those celebrations were over, we started talking about our New Year resolutions.  I think, as I have become older, I have tended to avoid making resolutions that involve giving up something, choosing instead to start doing something.  2018 has been such an epic year of discovery, that 2019 will be hard to beat, but I have a few things on my list!

It was nearly 02:00 by the time we decided to call it a night.  Emma and Chelsy (who was staying in Emma’s room) managed to pick up their children and escape our apartment without really disturbing them at all, and they remained fast asleep on their mummies’ shoulders. We opened up the sofa bed, and V lifted Belle onto it, and within fifteen minutes or so, we were all in our respective beds with sleeping children.  Yahoo!

Happy 2019 everyone!

Much to do in Darwin

3 January 2019

Ah, our poor little Cornelia cried out at 07:15…. “Mummy, I’ve wet the bed! And it’s not just a little bit!”  I rushed in to swoop her off to the loo, then went back in to inspect the damage.  Sure enough, there was quite a bit of wee on the sheet and on the mattress protector underneath.  That was all a bit of a surprise and I was annoyed with myself for not putting a disposable absorbent sheet underneath, as I had done for so much of the trip.  I had become complacent and confident that accidents wouldn’t happen.  D’oh!  Funnily enough (and annoyingly so), as she’d drunk so much water when brushing her teeth last night, I did think about getting her up to go to the loo, but as it was so late and I wanted to go to bed myself, I just didn’t worry too much about it.  Double d’oh!

Anyway, we put towels in between the layers to soak up the wee, and cleaned it with some fresh water.  It was at the side of the bed, so at least she wouldn’t be lying in it that night.  She clambered into bed with us and went back to sleep and we all stayed asleep until 09:00!  We obviously needed it after such a late night.

We headed down to breakfast once we’d showered, and by contrast to the Mantra@Salt in Kingscliff, the hostess couldn’t have been kinder or more friendly.  Cornelia had Nutella on toast, and a slice of raisin toast, refusing any butter on the latter. Weirdo.  I had my predictable granola, yoghurt and honey – it wasn’t the best, but it would keep me going until later.

Storms were predicted later today, so I had booked us in to watch Mary Poppins Returns at the cinema in nearby Casuarina.  We Ubered our way over there at midday, and bought a box of popcorn to keep us company! This was only Cornelia’s second trip to a proper cinema (the first being to see Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience a year or so ago.  She’d initially been overwhelmed by the loud surround sound, so I made sure to let her know that it would be the same again, before the movie started. She loved it!  She loved the trailers (although at one point, she did yell out “When are they just going to start the actual movie, Mummy?!” and sat through the whole actual movie, shovelling popcorn into her mouth, and dancing with delight at the various songs.  We all thought it was brilliant and a real success – to follow the original must have seemed an impossible task, but it was thoroughly enjoyable.  I will confess that the first ten minutes had me worried.  The acting was stilted and OTT, but Emily Blunt was excellent and had us all convinced quickly enough!

At the end when we were leaving, Cornelia burst into tears.  When I asked her what the matter was she said, in between great gulping sobs, “I have to say goodbye to my Gang. I’ve held on to them for too long. It’s time to let them go.”  Oh my goodness!  I could feel my own eyes filling up with tears as I reassured her that she absolutely 100% did NOT have to say goodbye to her Gang members.  Obviously, some of the sentiment in the film had rubbed off a little too sincerely on her!

For lunch, we walked down a flight of stairs from the cinema into the food court of the shopping centre.  There were plenty of choices, but Cornelia just wanted a toastie, and Ian was happy with that too, so I ordered while Ian was in charge of child-supervising at the indoor play area.

That playground was full of tiny ninja kids, who clambered up the ropes and over the top of the tunnel slide like Mowgli climbing a tree.  It was absolutely incredible to watch!  Needless to say, although Cornelia tried to match them, she was totally overwhelmed by it, and had a bit of a confidence meltdown halfway up the cargo net, claiming that she couldn’t do it.  Whilst Ian managed to point out where to put her feet and hands to get to the top, she decided she’d had enough, and as their toasties had arrived, she had a bit of a break to try and work it all out in her head.  (I wasn’t hungry, so just had the discarded crusts from Cornelia’s!)

It was time well spent.  She went back determined to find her way up, and once she’d made it, there was no stopping her!  Up and down the slide, round and up the cargo net and repeat, with her little group of ninja friends. The only thing she couldn’t do was clamber up over the outside of the tunnel slide, but that was fine by me, as it wasn’t designed for climbing like that anyway…!

 

And then, all of a sudden, she lost her nerve again.  I’m not quite sure what happened, but she was crying and refusing to come down the slide, saying that there were too many kids climbing up on the inside.  A bigger girl helped her down the slide, and she ran out of the park crying to me. It turns out she’d been having so much fun, she’d done a bit of a wee in her pants.  Blimey, twice in one day! Anyway, I told her it was absolutely not a problem, and that I always had a spare change of clothes for her, so off we went to the parents’ room to change.

This was all rather well-timed, as we were able to Uber back to our hotel without having to cajole her out of the playground!  Once we’d dropped off a few bits and pieces in our room, we walked down to the Waterfront, which was about a kilometre away.  Or nearly two kilometres away, if you go the wrong way first.  Whoops.  That was my bad.  And it was very hot and humid, so my mistake was not well-received by the husband!

Cornelia’s observation of this uninspiring road… The wall looks like a pyramid from Ancient Egypt!  And LOOK, a storm drain!

 

Darwin Waterfront was terrific and virtually empty!  There is a wave park (which we didn’t go in, as it was $5 entry and closed fairly soon), and a decent playpark, as well as a safe swimming area, under Lifeguard patrol.  Our first stop was to Trampoline for an ice cream (double chocolate), and we joined an older guy at a bench in the shade to eat it.  Cornelia was then straight in the playpark, and made some new friends immediately, while Ian and I watched from the bench, accompanied by our companion, Jeff.  He was an interesting guy.  He was local (ish) to Darwin, in his 70s, and had been here during the destructive cyclone in 1974.  Despite the hideous damage, some good came out of it – he met the lady who later was to become his wife as a result.  He was good company, although guilty of being of the older generation that believes all he reads, particularly as it turns out, about Donald Trump, Muslims and how one is good and one is bad.  I did my best to persuade him to be a little more open-minded about other religions, and that being Muslim is not something to be feared.  It’s the bloody terrorists, whatever their religion or background, that are the problem. Ian is far more tactful, nodding and adding that Donald Trump certainly knows his audience.  Something that is lost every time he says it, by those Trump supporters who would blindly follow him wherever he goes!

Anyway, enough of that!  It was time to get Cornelia off for some supper, so we thanked Jeff for his company and took him up on his recommendation of the Irish pub just opposite the park.  I was in luck, as Lobster Mornay was on the menu.  Yum yum.  I washed that down with a glass of average rosé, while Ian was delighted to have a pint of Guinness to go with his Guinness and Steak pie. All Bugsy cared about was that they had a colouring sheet and some pencils for her to borrow, and she was in heaven.

As it was getting a bit late, we decided to take yet another Uber back to the hotel, where we asked if we could extend our check out by an hour, which would give us enough time to go back to the park, so Cornelia could go in the water for a bit, before we left Darwin for Perth.  The latest we could get was 11:00, and this was better than nothing, so we gratefully took it.  Cornelia had a quick bath and a cuddle in bed, before she fell to sleep.  Ian and I weren’t far behind her, glad to be in bed on the right side of midnight!