Welcome if interested!

This is a blog of our year in Sydney. Nick is undertaking an orthopaedic research fellowship as part of his training before becoming a consultant. We have given up many things to do this having sold our house and have left friends and family and jobs that we both enjoyed. However we believe it is likely to become one of the most memorable years of our lives. I am keeping this blog mainly as a personal record of events and memories. Hopefully it will still be available for our children to read in years to come.


Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Alex's Birthday

We decided that rather than have a big party we would have a mini one with a few close friends and then have a family outing at the Aquarium. Alex still does not know lots of kiddies yet. He only started at his preschool last week. http://www.thespotpreschool.com.au/ .

We had a little party with Laura's girls, Amelie the oldest is good friends with Oliver at school and Alex adores Poppy the middle girl. Ed is quite content playing on his own and watching the entertainment around him. I made a rocket cake. Thank goodness for melted chocolate icing as it covers up even the worst cake. Alex loved it. We had a tea party outside played the usual party games including pass the parcel and the Mums had a chance to have a glass of wine. Very civilized.

Unfortunately the day after we all got a bit sick (not from the food!)and on Al's birthday we were all a bit achy and flu like. Did managed to walk around the Aquarium though which had a few good displays. The sharks and gudongs were the highlight. And for the first time in years we had a meal at a restaurant and the boys were so well behaved. We sat at 'Nicks' overlooking Darling Harbour and watched the boats go by.

Onto Alex's preschool. Well Nick and I have discussed at length whether he really needs to go but being that he is going to start at school next year we decided that he needed to make some buddies of his own and get used to spending some time away from me. The debate really came about because of cost. Here it is £50 a day for preschool and two days is the minimum. It is going to be a large cost as we wont get any rebate being on a temporary visa. To be honest he is lucky to get a place as there is a shortage of schools and long waiting lists. We think it is the right thing to do though and despite the tears in the morning he is very happy when I pick him up. The preschool he is at is run by a lovely couple. They are originally from Africa and have a medical background. The guy calls himself 'big Dad' and is so warm to the children. The school has a lovely feel and is very structured. Lots of play but also the usual 'learning time'. He came home the other day telling me about letters he had learnt and stories they had read. I just hope he makes some little friends too. Whenever Ol has a friend back to play Alex always tries to hug them and become a part of what they are doing but usually ends up side lined! It is tough being the little brother. Hey they call Alex the 'lawyer' at preschool. Isn't that funny!! Apparently Steve used to be called the 'see lawyer' as whenever he was told off he would say 'no but you see...!' Well Alex is exactly the same. Anyway check out the school website and let me know what you think.
Here is Al on his first day of school, he insisted he needed a hat and bag just like his big brother. As an aside, Ollie has been so lovely in helping Al get over his anxieties in the morning. I heard hem telling Alex 'don't worry I used to be scared of school too!. Alex gave him a huge hug and kiss on the lips today at drop off. Little moments of brotherly love. Just a shame they are so short and infrequent.

The day we lost Alex!!

Well it was Anzac weekend and a public holiday on Monday. Nick was planning to go into the lab to work but I managed to talk him into a picnic at the Botanical Gardens. We caught the bus to Circular Quay and walked towards the Opera House. The weather was beautiful and the place was heaving with people. Nick needed to get some money and I wanted to have a quick peek in a shop so he took Oliver and Alex hand in hand downstairs to the lower concourse of the Opera house Plaza. I was waiting upstairs when I heard shouting. Nick was calling Alex. He suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs and pushed through crowds to tell me Alex had gone he was by his side and he had just disappeared. Before I even got the chance to say anything Nick ran back down stairs and started shouting again. You can look down onto the lower concourse and there I was completely stuck with the pushchair. Watching Nick run up and down pushing through masses of people with a growing audience. Soon there were security guards involved and police on their radios. I was in tears. Ten minutes later and it felt like half an hour a lady had found him wandering alone near the water. He was totally not fazed. We didn't know whether to hug him or scream at him so we did both. Nick later said he thought someone had taken him because it was seconds between him being there and vanishing. He is such a confident little boy. I am not letting his hand go now though!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay is home to Booderee National Park and also, or so the record books say, home of the whitest sand in the world. The location of the white stuff is Hyams Beach and one Mum told me today that she once complained to the local council that there should be warning signs to state children should wear UV protective eyewear before playing on this beach because of the danger of the reflective properties of the sand. In retrospect I am thinking she was having me on!. Still the sand is whiter than white and the sea azure blue and the bush a dense yellowy green.

We travelled along the scenic drive South from Sydney taking in the coast through the Royal National Park and then past Wollongong to the Shoalhaven region. We stopped in Kiama, home to the famous blow hole. The tidal surges have formed an underground path and chamber with hole. When there are good storm surges and waves the resultant spout apparently can reach 60 metres with a massive thwuump and has swept spectators to their death. Well we waited there or a long, long while and the most this could manage was a mini thud and a micro mini spurt, took a picture though!

We rented a lack lustre apartment with a good deal of resident cockroaches ( I am learning new techniques of killing the critters though) and stayed in Huskisson. The redeeming features of Huskisson are the jetty where Nick and Oliver spent a good deal of time fishing, the fish and chip shop where we purchased our shrimps to slap on the barbie and finally the oldie worldie cinema where Ol and I had the best night eating mountain of popcorn and watching some dragon movie.

We spent almost every day going into the Booderee National Park which is now co run by the Aborigines of Wreck Bay and the National Park Authority. The park houses a pretty fantastic Botanical Garden where we sighted out first two kangaroos, unfortunately in the middle of procreating. Caused a bombardment of questions as you can imagine, the male then followed us us the road, coughing which made Al pretty nervous!. It was all quite confusing for the little guy!.

We also spent a day to the West in Kangaroo Valley. The village is very pretty and the country side lush and green with, again, steep sandstone escarpments. We had a leaflet that gave us a bush walk to do that was supposedly on the level. We walked along a fire trail in deep bush for about an hour and were disappointed when it suddenly came to an end. It was meant to take us to a fabulous view point on the top of one of the sandstone cliffs. Nick decided to push through the bush in front of us and there it was. Two rocky-out crops before the most crazy precipice into bush far below. It was safe for the boys as we kept them far back. This was where we had he most peaceful of picnics. Nick had the binocs and spotted some native birds. I had three boys and spotted dirty nappies, naughty behaviour and the odd ball biter!.

Talking of ball biters.... imagine a red ant with a black tail and mean saw like pincers for mouth parts. You will have the red bull ant in mind. Now on our trek back out of the bush we saw a few of these and then Nick found a hole...he stuck a stick down it and gave it a good old wiggle. Well there we all are. All eyes eagerly peering and jeepers, you have never seen anything like it, at least a couple of thousand ants come after us. These things are an inch and a half long and they didn't look friendly. I am not joking they chased us and Ed and I were the first running. As we left Nick told me that he had read an article in a medical journal that stated you could use these ants to close a wound. Just get them to lock their big jaws either side of the injury and pull the head off when the jaws have closed pulling the two edges of the wound together. Since returning home I have found an excellent short film on these little critters, you should take a look. www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDRFTcNW0go Won't be getting to close to these ones again!!

Whilst in Kangaroo Valley we decided we should see a winery and chose the one closest to us, Yarrawa Valley. I didn't read that visits were by appointment only. We drove a long way and finally reached a narrow track that headed up a steep hill. It was here that we were stopped by another family looking for the same wine estate. We followed them and arrived with our noisy boys and intruded slightly on this other couples tasting session. Nick and I took it in turns to sample a few of the vintages whilst entertaining the boys in the garden. It was all very relaxed and unpretentious and we came away with a few inexpensive bottles. Good memories!.

The week went far too fast and now it is back to school runs and work. Nick has completed his first paper and has a few in the pipeline so fingers crossed for publications. The other fellow ,Anthony, has become a good friend and comes to dinner regularly so I am trying to improve on the old cooking skills. Still I am taking solace from the fact that Australian Masterchef has started and the contestants were wowing the judges last night with lasagne, meatballs and fish fingers, all staple recipes in the Toni Book!.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Port Stephens

At last Nick was given some leave over Easter. We had the long weekend to go and explore and, as the weather forecast wasn't that good, we booked a little cabin rather than camp. The forecast however was wrong and we were blessed with beautiful sunny days.

Port Stephens is three hours North of Sydney, about 250km away. It is a beautiful bay with numerous wonderful beaches and a national park making up the southern headland called Tomaree National Park. Our cabin was very cosy, small living area with kitchenette, a double bedroom and a bunk in an alcove. We took the boys bikes and they cycled around the park safely. Ollie is pretty much confident on his bike now.

If you look at the first map, we stayed on Shoal Bay, just to the West of Tomaree Headland. The beach was fabulous as it had a gently shelfing white sandy beach protected from swell as in the bay. The water was totally clear and teaming with fish. We hired a kayak and Ollie and I were lucky enough to be joined by dolphins, there is a resident pod inhabiting Nelsons Bay.

Here is Shoal Bay and behind you can see the peak that is Tomaree Point. We climbed to the top of this on the second day but had to leave Ed and Alex behind on the last stretch as, step metal staircase at the end. The views were well worth the climb. From May to November you can see humpback whales on their annual migration North.

This is the view of Shoal Bay from Tomaree Point

We spent a lot of time playing on the beautiful beach and swimming. Oliver and Nick also spent many hours on the jetty trying to catch fish, unfortunately with little success. Nick is very happy as he has discovered Oliver is happy to sit for hours staring out to sea and daydreaming so is perfectly suited to fishing. Something I have said we already knew taking into acount the proportion of his day spent sitting on the loo!. Alex, on the other hand, is your worst nightmare, hands everywhere, all over the hooks and bait, charging all over the place, hence the life jacket!.

We ventured over to Stockton Sand Dunes, the biggest moving sand mass in the Southern Hemisphere. Amazing to see as the sand stretched to the horizon. Also the boys enjoyed watching the camels taking tourists for a ride.

All Australians out of the cities seem to own a big 4WD and access is open to these dunes to take your vehicle out and mess around. So there was lots of noise and we didnt stay too long. We are gradually identifying the things that Australians hold close to their hearts and big is definately in here. Macdonalds is massive, tattoos, pie eating and Holden Utes ( imagine a Vauxhall Vectra cut in half with the back end replaced by a covered trailer you won't be too far off). Also they are not afraid of loud. Favourite car colours are bright red, vivid green and sky blue. Ok I have swung off on a tangent as per usual. Back to the weekend...

What I have failed to mention is that for the first time since Edward arrived in our lives he chose this weekend to be a little ill. His illness luckily revealed itself to Nick whilst I was out taking Ol and Al to the park. He stayed behind and fed Ed his supper. When I returned I found a whole load of food over the floor and walls and could hear Nick shouting help in the distance. On arrival at the shower room I found a smiling naked baby in the arms of his equally clothless father both covered in poop. 'What do I do, what do I do??'. 'Looks like you are doing well to me Daddy!!' I said. Edward was placed on a strict no food only fluid diet for the rest of the weekend and, in his usual way, he did not complain and this seemed to do the trick.

We also did a dolphin watching little boat cruise. Fabulous. This is where I took the following pictures. I have never seen dolphins in the wild and it really took my breath away. Oliver was equally impressed.

On our last day, and having seen so many signs warning of koalas on the roads, we decided we would go on a koala bear hunt. We headed to Lemon tree Passage as according to the guides this was where you were most likely to have success.

We entered the reserved and Nick then spent the next two hours looking up into the leafy canopies above us . At the end of the two hours we opted to have our picnic on the most peaceful beach. On our way we bumped into a friendly local who said chances of seeing a koala were pretty much zero as locals had been letting their dogs out overnight and these had pretty much wiped out the koala population. The best time to see koalas is at dusk when they come down from the safety of their trees. This ultimately had been responsible for their demise. Whilst we were listening to this tale we didnt pay attention to big eared Alex who was avidly taking this in. And because the man used the word die and dogs he then spent the rest of the afternoon stopping every passer by to tell them with lots of hand movements and great expression. 'All the koalas have died, they are all gone because of the dogs!!'. He still recounts this story even now if he hears the word koala. Here we are on the beach after the above said hunt.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Killalea Camping

Finally managed another weekend camping at last. The weather was looking good so we headed two hours South of Sydney to Killalea State Park near to Kiama. I had picked up this camp book from the local library and this site came recommended. You have to drive through a milton keynes style development before you get there though. Suddenly though horrifically ugly houses give way to beautiful rolling hills, green fields and bush. The campsite lies alongside two great beaches, locally known as Mystics and The Farm. They are supposedly good surf spots. You can't see the beach or the sea from the campsite though but you can hear the waves. The space at the site was superb and despite being alongside many other people it felt remarkably private. We set up camp and went to find the beach with pushchair in tow. We were directed down a small path from the camp which rapidly became very steep and fell away to steep steps down a rocky face and then steep rocks alone. We were stopped on our arrival on the sand by a Scottish lady who had been watching us and stated we were crazy!. The beach was pretty much empty, unsuprisingly. We had a relaxing afternoon exploring rockpools, catching crabs and fish and sleeping. Well Edward and Nick mastered that art the most effectively. We returned to camp for supper and used one of the fabulous electric BBQ's and had a gourmet meal of meat and salad. Ollie enjoyed the novelty again of wearing a head torch and stayed up with us reading his space book and looking at the stars. There was a great smell of food and woodfires and burning mosquito coils, a mix of music playing too. Nick and I even managed an hour to ourselves with a bottle of wine. The boys slept so well and didnt wake until seven. We had a quick fry up before taking the tent down and heading to the Minnamurra rainforest just inland on the slopes above Jamberoo. The attraction here was the boardwalk and paths accessible to a pushchair for the 5km circuit. Well worth a visit, the waterfall at the end of a steep trek beautiful too. We saw huge figs and gum trees, palms and waterdragons as well as lyrebirds. We now just keep having to push ourselves to get away at weekends everytime the weather looks good as there is so much to see. We are starting to feel we won't manage to fit in all that we wanted to do in the year alone.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Messing Around

Whilst Nick is working very hard and driving all over the city every day I am enjoying the daily school runs and finding new things to do with Alex and Edward. Already our days are very busy. There is a playgroup every day in Coogee and Randwick so on Mondays we go to a church playgroup near the sea. It is incredibly well run by lovely ladies who volunteer. You pay a little bit more per child to go in but all the toys are laid out, there is a baby room and cars and ride on toys, a sand pit, all the coffee you want to drink. The kids can paint or do play dough and Alex loves it. The best bit is at the end when all the ladies get the children singing church songs and dance and clap!. It has been a fantastic way to meet other Mums and everyone is so friendly!! They even sent me a post card after my first visit encouraging me to come on Sundays. Here is Al getting stuck into painting. I have met a french lady Marion, from Quebec, who is over studying with her husband and son for two years and she has started to teach Oliver some french and if Nick and I can find the time we are going to have some lessons too. She has a little son, Romain, who is the same age as Alex. Unfortunately he only likes girls and so he has struggled a bit with Alex who wants to be friendly with everyone.

Oliver has also started tennis and has an incredible teacher called Julie who he is just desperate to impress. He now asks everyday if he can have a tennis lesson. Primarily just so he gets another hour with this lady. She is so full of praise for everything he does. In just a few weeks he has learnt how to catch, something I have been trying to do for years and he can now return a ball forehand and backhand with his racket. Check out the concentration on the little guys face and the tongue hanging out!. I have also started having lessons down on the beach courts. They run a mothers group on Thursdays and have a little creche on site and so for two hours of the week I am childless. It is fabulous. I have never played before and am worse than terrible but am having a great time.

Olivers behaviour has improved so much since he has started school again. Mind you I have found some excellent punishments that keep the naughtiness away. Here he is changing a poopy nappy, an experience no one would wish to repeat, forget the naughty step, this is the way forward girls!
The other thing that Nick and I are trying out is sushi. There is so much fresh fish and Japanese in Sydney that there are sushi bars everywhere. I always thought that Sushi was tiny bits of raw fish on top of rice. ( I quite like this sort) Well Nick went and got ?sushimi? the other night and came back with platters of sliced raw fish for our supper. Well I already had the wok heating up ready to cook the stuff. Ollie, however, embraced the concept and dug in. He loved it. We didnt however emphasise the raw!!. The swordfish was ok but it was just all to big and cold and uncooked for me. I will have to keep trying I guess.

Weekend in Killcare

Nick is working for Professor Warwick Bruce and he invited us up to his holiday home for a weekend.

We were both feeling a bit nervous about how the boys would behave but as it turned out they were brilliant and he seemed quite relaxed. He is however the father of six!.

His holiday house is on the hillside in a village called Killcare in Bouddi National Park just North of Sydney. It has a panoramic view of Putty Beach, the only South facing beach in NSW. Completely stunning, Nick says almost as good as Gulls!. Here are some of the views from the balcony and looking down towards the beach.

We were lucky enough to be sleeping downstairs in a self contained apartment. Also Judy, the Professors PA came with her husband and nine year old son and also another family came with there two boys, seven and three. Ol and Al had a ball, they spent there time on the beach and in the bush chasing a bush turkey. This was a good plan until Oliver returned splatered in blood. I tried to find the source but soon discovered the boys had been squashing big fat mosquitos and it was their blood!. They were both covered in bites, yuk!.

We were well looked after and ate fresh fish, steak, oysters and drank a very special wine...check this out...

We spent both days on Putty Beach, Nick got a mini surf in with mini waves and Oliver and Alex made friends on the beach and both gained confidence swimming in the sea. A very beautiful place.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Around Randwick

Here are a few pictures of the suburb in which we are living. Randwick is a popular place to settle but is also very expensive. Mind you Sydney real estate is now said to be more expensive than anywhere else in the world!. It is fantastic mix of buildings, victorian terraces, art deco blocks of apartments to ultra modern very plush houses. Most people drive four wheel drives here despite being in the city. Parking is a premium and off road parking a luxury. At the top of our road Mears Avenue is Avoca Street which is long and runs south towards Botany Bay. On this and at the topof our road is a shopping centre that contains the most amazing fresh fruit and veg market. We have had the worlds best nectarines,mangos and bananas from there. Around the corner from us is The Spot where four roads meet at a roundabout. On each road centering around the spot are restaurants and street cafes and the Ritz Cinema, the oldest preserved art deco cinema in Sydney. We have now found two trustworthy baby sitters and have managed a couple of nights out here too.

The Prince of Wales Hospital is just at the top of Avoca Street as well, five minutes walk from us. Nick's lab is based there and so far when he is not operating he is spending his time in the lab preparing research data. After we went to dinner last week he took me to the eighth floor of the hospital to see the most amazing view of the city skyline at night!. We did encounter an Xray technician in the lift who, I think, wondered what and earth we were doing. Who says romance is dead!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Rainy Weekends

Can you believe it... the last two weekends Sydney has had more rainfall than it has had in the same period for he last fifteen years. It has poured, crazy rain and thunder storms. I slept with Alex one of the stormy nights as the thunder was so loud it made the house shake. When we awoke in the morning the TV wouldn't work. Nick shook the adapter and it rattled. When he opened it up the inside was toast, crazy!. Luckily the TV survived but we are unplugging our computers now at night.

The storms are frequent here. The weather has been extreme and you can see how it takes its toll on the cities buildings and roads. Nick and Al ventured out for a haircut in one of the heaviest down pours and they returned as drowned rats. The water runs down the hills so fast that it spray up and arcs off the parked cars. The water opened up massive potholes in the major routes through the city and brought down loads of trees, even some houses or so the news headlines said. The hat that followed made the humidity unbearable. On one day I had to take three sucessive showers after walking with the pushchair, drenched in sweat. Really very attractive. The rain has meant that we havent been able to camp. There are however many things to do when it does rain though. On the first weekend we took a trip too the Powerhouse Museum that bases its exhibitions on the industrial era, advent of steam power to space travel and so on. It had a great eighties exhibition with mainly Kylie and Neighbours memorabilia...pretty cool! Unfortunately I lost my pictures of our trip there though. We manage to teach Ollie how to ride his bike with out stabilisers though on one of the gaps in the rain and we have also been doing a lot of cooking ( cake variety mainly!)

Exploring Coogee

Whilst Oliver has been at school Alex, Edward and I have been exploring Coogee and its surrounds. Coogee is in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney and is centered around Coogee Bay Road that leads directly East to the beach. Olivers school is on Coogee Bay Road so we can drop him off or pick him up and walk on to the beach. The beach is lovely, yellow sand, very clean. It has the backdrop of hotels and beach bars, fish and chip shops and a Macdonalds so lots of hub but it also has headland either side through which the coastal path runs. Here you can find wonderful coastal reserve with beautiful plants and birds and amazing insects. Heading South towards Maroubra, where Nick thinks the best city surfing is, is the greatest kids play park. It sits on the headland with a view of the beach and the sea. It is surrounded by park and communal BBQs and picnic benches. Below the headland lie the three coastal pools. The first is by the surf club right on the beach, the best for the boys. The second is the women's only pool but I haven't managed to get down there as there are so many steps and impossible when you are on your own with the boys!. Wylies Baths are at the end and are almost 100 years old. You can just see them here in the bottom left of the picture. This is looking from the coastal path heading South towards Maroubra. The kiddies park is just to the left of this picture too with barbeques in the park for use too!. Here is Al on the swings and Ol and Ed enjoy the park too