Saturday, June 28, 2014

Severe weather warning

They said a nasty cold front with rain and strong winds would come through today ... and by golly it has. The snowfields a couple of hundred kilometres to the south have had blizzards - which is good for them and the skiers I suppose - but it feels like winter here.  The front wasn't supposed to come through until lunchtime so we went out for a walk this morning - but close to home, just in case. We were going to do the "diplomatic canberra" walk around the embassies; and got about ten minutes in when it started  with horizontal freezing rain. Here are the boys are the start of the walk - looking pretty dubious about the weather. "I'm cold. It's going to rain. We should go home." "Nonsense! We'll have a lovely brisk walk. There's a patch of blue sky over there! Isn't this FUN?"

We will have to do the walk properly at some point, because it is quite interesting looking at the embassies. They were encouraged to build in their national architectural style - or some ghastly 70s pastiche thereof - so it's the Chinese embassy above. The Kiwis, unsurprisingly, did their own thing and put corrugated iron cows on the lawn.

So we did exactly eight minutes of the walk before sprinting back to the car, and now we are all tucked in for a cosy afternoon at home. The rain is drip dripping down, the heaters are all on and the cat wants to go outside, for thirty seconds, then inside, for two minutes, then outside, for thirty seconds ... I have been doing some sewing and the boys are on the Wii.

This photo was last night - a boy and his cat. I think the sofa scene could be re-enacted tonight ... that window is bare because the blind was broken and had to go into the shop and we haven't quite put it back up yet. Perhaps today.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back home

I  came home from Indonesia on the weekend ... eventually ... a bit delayed but I got back to Canberra eventually and it is FREEZING! The temperature today and yesterday hasn't got above 8 degrees and there is a cold biting wind that drops the perceived temperature down below zero ... which is cold. I went for a swim this morning - they have toddler classes in it and it is always beautifully warm. I sort of dropped to the bottom and sat there for a while, thawing out.

I quilted this one this afternoon - it's a charity quilt and I didn't make it (or pin it! Yay!). I will do more of these once I figure out how to drop them off and pick them up. It's good practice and they go to people who appreciate them, apparently. Although when I did the quilting bee one lady saw me peering doubtfully at my own handwork and reassured me that lots of the quilt receipients are legally blind. Good-oh.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I'm just here for the week so heading home tonight on the red-eye - leaves at midnight, gets in at 9.30 tomorrow morning, aaaargh, then a two hour wait for the plane to Canberra - but I really do like being in Jakarta. The people we work with are just lovely, and there is an unbelievable energy to the city. It feels like anything is possible.

On the down side, it is really crowded, the traffic is a nightmare, and there is a lot of poverty, but I have a soft spot for the city. It might be because the local hobbies are shopping and eating! How can you say no to that.

This is the view from my hotel room - one way and the other. Tall buildings, hot sky, and smog.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Swimming for exercise

I've taken up swimming again - many many years after I last gave it up. At a couple of stages in my life I swam heaps; at uni and then again when we lived in Port Moresby. I was working in the PNG public service (hours 8.00 - 4.06) and my husband was at the embassy (hours 9.00 - godknowswhen) so I would spend the hours between 4.06 and godknowswhen going slowly up and down the 25 metre pool at one of the compounds. It was lovely actually - tropical twilight and I worked my way up from 20 lengths to 100 (which took about an hour! Fast I am not....)

Anyway I hadn't swum for exercise since then - like most things, it's a pain with children - and the cancer surgery meant I couldn't lift my arm above the horizontal for two years. It's something to do with the lymph nodes and they said it would resolve in a couple of years ... I was horrified at the time but it did! And now I finally have my mobility back, so I thought I would like to take up ocean swimming down at our peaceful little beach. But before I do that I really should make sure I have some swimming capability, so the past few weeks I've been slowly going up and down our local pool.

I don't think it's very good exercise. Because I have such a high proportion of body fat, I float easily, which means I can propel myself through the water without much effort. And for me swimming has always been more contemplative than sprinting, and I have a relaxed stroke. Back at uni when I was doing a lot of swimming I read an article in Cosmopolitan or Dolly or some other equally authoritative source that said if you always breathe on the same side you will get overdeveloped muscles on one side and NEVER get a boyfriend. That seemed logical to me at the time, so I moved to breathing every third stroke on alternate sides. It took a few lengths of choking down water before I got the hang of it but it was worth it. Now I have a stroke that lets me trudge along very slowly for quite some time...

Anyway, I am currently in Jakarta for work and spent an hour after our meetings today in the hotel pool, swimming up and down and up and down. The photo above is the actual pool - although I didn't take the photo, just stole it from some other site. Much nicer in an outdoor pool in the tropics than the slightly grubby and very warm pool in Canberra, and that's before you add in the piles of fluffy towels AND the fact that the minute you drop your clothes and jump in they put iced water and juice beside your chair for when you get out AND when I was resting afterwards I couldn't get comfortable and I looked up and there was someone with two folded towels to put behind my head AND when I left they said "thank you for using our pool today".  I think my local pool needs to lift its game...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A baby quilt

I had a few five inch squares left over from the "Circles of Concern" quilt so I made them into a quick little baby quilt - I took the very pink ones out to be gender-neutral, but there were still heaps of the yellow and green. I really can't count very well.

Quilted in my favourite kind of square meander, very easy and not too dense for something that is meant to be snuggly.

It has been a quiet and wintry week here - the only excitement was when our drains backed up Wednesday dinner time AGAIN ten days after the plumber reckoned they were fine... we got them back out and the guy cleared some more blockages all the way to the fence but the main problem was actually off our property so he had to call up the water company. Amazingly, they turned up within five minutes, spent twenty minutes shouting with torches and machinery and cleared it all out! And apparently we can get reimbursed for the cost of the plumber! (I have yet to investigate that one, sounds slightly optimistic but I will give it a go). And it was cold when the laundry flooded, so as the dinner burned I was paddling about with a mop in one hand and the phone in the other ... in toilet water ... as the outside temperature went below zero ... boy was I cranky.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A long weekend

It was the Queen's Birthday long weekend here last weekend so we headed off down the beach. We hadn't been there at all in May so this was our first winter trip - the end of April was really still the end of summer, or possibly early autumn. But this was definitely winter; first thing was to try and sort out the gas heater which we'd never used before. Once we figured it out (turning the gas on was a good start) it was very efficient and the little house is just cosy and lovely. Perfect for winter getaways although we all agreed we need to be more organised with things to do. We are too used to just relying on surfing and swimming for entertainment.

The weather was beautiful and warm in the sun, but we didn't swim. Paddling, but no actual immersion. Lots of long walks - I went all the way round the headland at high tide which was interesting. Some bits were a scramble ... it all looks very different when the rocks are covered.

Sunday we went for a drive, had lunch out and explored some of the beaches a bit further south. This is number one son, on a rock. Drawn to water like a magnet...

And this is him not getting wet. No, no not at all, don't be silly mum, I'm fine.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

4 June 1994

Twenty years ago today I left New Zealand and arrived in Canberra. I emigrated I suppose, but who thinks of anything being permanent when you're 23? It was just the next thing to do, and seemed like a good idea. Why not? So I left my family and friends to live in a city that I had never even visited, in a country that I had been to exactly twice, for holidays. And, apart from the three-year posting in Papua New Guinea, we have been here ever since. And Canberra is a wonderful place to live, and Australians aren't at all the loud, brainless culture vacuums we thought they were back in NZ. Or if they are, then I'm one too now.

Anyway I went back in the photo albums to see if there were any photos of my arrival in Australia - there aren't - just one of me and some random friends at the airport before I left (my little sister was there too, I think she was taking the photo).

I look a bit shellshocked, but in my defence it had been a pretty busy week. My then-boy-friend-now-husband had gone back to Canberra a few weeks ago and I'd stayed on to say goodbye to everyone and get some ceremonies out of the way. First there was this one - mmm, nice wig Lynley ... I have never done that again. Even then I knew I wasn't destined for a great (or any) barrister career.

Then another ceremony - this is with my grandma (my dad's mum) and my little sister. Grandma would have been just short of her 80th birthday then and travelled the best part of 1000km to be at our graduations ... I probably didn't appreciate it enough at the time. My sister had moved to Wellington to do her honours year so we finished and graduated together, which was nice.

And the next night a farewell dinner out with my mates - we went to the Sultan Turkish Restaurant because I'd worked there as a waitress a couple of years previously and the food was excellent, as long as you didn't take any crap from the Kurdish kitchenhands. Mind you, they didn't speak much English, so most of my memories of them are how they used to take all the wine left from the tables (including half-empty glasses, red, white or anything) and pour it into a big jug, and then at the end of the night they'd sit around and drink it. "Would you like drink girls?" Ah no, thank you, Mr Kitchenhand, I'll be taking off my embroidered Turkish apron and leaving now.

So, by the time I got to the airport on Saturday June 4th 1994, I was a bit weary. However it was my first experience of a business class flight, and I was determined to relish it. As an officially recognised de facto spouse on an official end of posting trip "home" to Australia, I got to sit at the pointy end of the plane. On the other hand, as a 23 year old student, I was determined to get the government's money worth out of the food, wine and snacks ... which I did with the kind of commitment and devotion that has marked my subsequent public service career. So, when I arrived in Canberra in the early evening, and saw my officially recognised de facto spouse for the first time in WEEKS, I burst into tears and hysterically sobbed all over the airport while he thought I was regretting the biggest mistake of my life ALREADY and I hadn't even picked up my bag yet.

But I calmed down, and we went back to the apartment, and then - because it was only 8 pm local time despite me having left Wellington about twelve hours ago - we went out for dinner with ALL of my husband's friends to celebrate a birthday. The birthday boy was 29 then, so he must be 49 today! And of course all the friends were keenly interested in the foreigner that had been dragged back from an overseas posting, and by the time we got there they were all there, about thirty of them, although it seemed like a million, and I was cold and tired and drunk all tied up in one super attractive bundle. And I was wearing a mustard coloured pinafore I'd made myself over a pink tshirt and woolly tights and doc martens ... it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Twenty years ago and I can remember that moment as if it was yesterday! Fortunately I had the sense to stay very very quiet and only spoke one word replies when asked a direct question. They probably thought I was shy, or a bit backward, but it's better than the complete lunatic I could so easily have shown myself to be. They found that out later...

Monday, June 2, 2014

A much better mood

It's still raining (and cold!) but the plumber came yesterday afternoon and cleared the drains - he says it is just tree roots and as long as we get them cleared every so often it should all be fine. Not that there's anything we could do about it if it wasn't, given that the blockages are under the house slab, we'd have to knock the house down to put new pipes in. So that was panic over, and we mopped out the laundry which made me feel MUCH better (with boiling water and bleach! not mucking about). And then the boys and I sat and watched Frozen on DVD (such catchy tunes) and I did the binding on the large modern quilt.

Isn't it pretty? Just what I felt like making, something cheerful and bright. It's not quite as restrained and minimal and modern as perhaps it could be, but I can't not put in a million fabrics whenever I get the chance. And I completely failed the maths on the border - it was meant to be that green dot all the way around but I totally stuffed up the calculations and there wasn't enough. So cornerstones there are! I could have gone back out to Spotlight to buy some more, but it's twenty minutes each way, plus time in their godawful queues and who really cares that much?

The quilting on the middle bits is boring old meandering and variants, but I did sunrays on the borders which I quite like. I marked the inner and outer circles (but not the width of the rays, they are a bit random) and it's turned out well. Another quilting design to add to the repertoire.

I called this quilt "Circles of Concern" because we had training at work on Tuesday, where they talked about those concepts - circles of influence and circles of concern from "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. And they are excellent and useful concepts, that I found interesting ... when I first heard about them.... in the 1990s.... there may have been some quilt design doodling during the workshop.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A bit grumpy

It's a cold and rainy Sunday here - not that I normally mind a rainy day, it makes a change - but we have a blockage and can't flush any of the toilets, and the internet is insanely slow for some reason, and I was woken up too early (by the plumber ringing, so shouldn't really complain) and overall everything is making me grumpy. So there.

I did have a lovely day yesterday though - a working bee for Quilts for Others which is something I have never done before; they usually have them on Tuesdays when I work. It was very pleasant to sit and do some free motion quilting for a few hours. A treat to work on quilts that other people had not only pieced, but backed and pinned, which is my way least favourite step. There were about a dozen of us and it was all very friendly and nice. I hope they have some more Saturday bees ...