Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I’ve blogged before about the importance of our dogs, Spike and Ned, to Carol and me. They are an integral part of our lives, so when we decided to go away for Easter, it had to be somewhere that they could come as well.

We found Eagle Point Cottages on the net (http://www.gippslandlakesaccommodation.com/), about three and a quarter hours drive from Melbourne in East Gippsland. Well it would normally be that, if the freeway wasn’t closed at Morwell. Add an hour. Thanks VicRoads.

DSC_0276We discussed the usual concerns when we’ve thought about going to East Gippsland in the past. It’s just a bit too far. Ned doesn’t travel well. Everyone says the mosquitoes are shocking. We put all that aside and booked anyway and are so glad we did, for two reasons. We had a fantastic time and also made one of those life-defining decisions while we were there.

There are two cottages comprising Eagle Point Cottages, set on an extremely large area of mowed lawns and native trees, surrounded by farmland. The eagle and pelicans flying overhead at different stages were stunning and there was a plethora of native birds as well, given all the trees. There were no concerns about letting the boys off the leads to run around, given the size of the property and the distance from the road. However they also had their fenced-in back yard.

The cottage was described as a studio, which I guess means the bed isn’t in a separate bedroom. It had everything we needed, was clean and extremely comfortable. Phil, the owner, dropped over briefly to make sure everything was OK on our first morning, but beyond that, we were left completely to ourselves. I really like that.

For those of you who don’t know and haven’t bothered to look at a map since you started reading this, Eagle Point is about seven or eight minutes drive from Paynesville, described as the Victorian Riviera. If Paynesville isn’t ringing any bells, it’s about 20 minutes from Bairnsdale. If you’re still looking blankly, look at a map.

“Oh give me a spell” was my reaction when I first heard the Victorian Riviera bit. “What wanker real estate agent came up with that?”. But damn it, it’s pretty close to the mark, albeit nowhere near as pretentious as the French Riviera or more locally, Sorrento, to which we found ourselves making a comparison.


We (and Spike and Ned) absolutely loved the place. It was certainly the most relaxing break either of us could remember having for a very long time. There was lots of running, swimming and walking for the boys and plenty of things to see for uDSC_0279s. The Gippsland Lakes area is absolutely magnificent – I continued to curse myself for leaving it so long to go down there. I used to say that Rutherglen and surrounds was the best part of Victoria. Wrong!

We also found more than enough time to curl up with a couple of good books, which usually coincided with two exhausted boys being sound asleep on their beds.

So what of the reasons for not going? It probably is a bit too far, but was no doubt worth the pain once we got there. The mosquitoes are a pain in the arse, but nothing that Aerogard can’t fix. And we learnt that Ned goes a bit stir crazy coming down off the valium. While we’re on that subject, why do four valium tablets cost $20 at the vet? That might be the subject of another blog post.

So if you’ve bothered to read this far, you’ve probably only done so because you want to find out what was the life-defining decision. Wow! How sad are you that my life-defining decisions are so important to you! 😉

So here it is. Carol and I have decided that, when the time comes for us to finally retire, it will be to either Paynesville or Raymond Island. Probably Paynesville – I don’t fancy being completely dependent on a car ferry when there’s a bushfire screaming across the island. Although, at least it’s not operated by VicRoads.

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M & C–You Rock!

I’m back on the Gold Coast, this time for my brother’s funeral. How ironic it seems that the Gold Coast is supposed to be a place for enjoyment and all I seem to do is come here for sad occasions.

Because of the heat and humidity, and Queensland’s continuing backward attitude with respect to daylight saving, I am sitting here at some stupid hour of the morning, trying to think of something about which to blog. And I have the perfect thing!

I saw two teenage boys say farewell to their father yesterday and I just wanted to say how massively proud I was of Mitchell and Connor. They have grown significantly in terms of life experience over the past couple of months and they have handled it like people who have been around way longer than they have. Just remember what you both said guys – Never Give Up.

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Dad Harley Park is an insignificant swimming lagoon on the Southport Broadwater. It was named after Ern Harley I believe, a former mayor of the Gold Coast. Hardly merits a blog post really.

I’ve spent a bit of time at Harley Park this week. Certainly not by choice. I’ve come to the Gold Coast to send my father on his way, after he passed away last week.

So why Harley Park? It’s not really the epicentre of my Gold Coast upbringing, but it is a fairly significant part of it. When you live on the Gold Coast, you spend a lot of time in, or on, the water. And we spent a lot of time at Harley Park. It’s protected from the rest of the Broadwater by a man-made sandbank, but it provides a significant length of water that is deep enough to allow serious swimmers to do laps as though they are in an Olympic Pool. As small kids, we went there as an option to the open ocean beaches.

In the last 10 years or so, Dad loved to swim at Harley Park. He would go there regularly and as a result, he was in great condition for a bloke in his seventies.

I don’t swim. My brother Ian does, so I relied on him to do the commemorative laps of Harley Park for both us. Yeah, that’s right, I don’t swim. But I was supposed to be able to swim 50 metres (probably yards actually) back as a 12 year old, so I could attend the scout jamboree at Leppington. Without doing the research, I’m guessing it was around 1970. For weeks before, Dad would take me down to the Olympic Pool, not all that far from Harley Park, to teach me to swim. How frustrating it must have been for him, such a keen swimmer, to see his oldest son not managing to get it right.

And how shattering it must have been for him to sign off on the form to confirm that I could swim the distance, even though I couldn’t. How embarrassing it must have been for him as a scout leader going to that same jamboree.

He lied! He broke the rules! As I reflected on my Dad’s lifetime, looking out over the Broadwater at Harley Park, that was the only time I could remember when he didn’t do the right thing. He never wavered. He was as straight as a die. Things had to be done properly. And he called a spade a spade. That probably explains a few things for people who know me well. I would certainly like to think I’m my father’s son in that regard.

So what of Harley Park now? It’s largely the same. The kiosk where we used to get an ice cream afterwards is still there. The Grand Hotel’s still there, albeit now just another soulless Gold Coast high rise, like so many others. High rises! Ah yes, high rises. Dad was one of the first town planners on the Gold Coast. We moved from Sydney to the Gold Coast in 1965 for him to take up the position. The Gold Coast was mainly sand and water.

Despite the pressure from the white shoe brigade, the Gold Coast property developers, Dad strongly opposed the building of high rises on the Surfers Paradise beachfront. Why? He argued that they would cast a shadow over the beach in the afternoon, spoiling the experience of those going to the coast for surf, sun and sand. He lost, but he was right! Go for a stroll along Surfers Paradise beach of an afternoon now, and see what I mean.

But hang on, I was back at Harley Park, wasn’t I? It certainly gave both Ian and me the opportunity to peacefully reflect on our father’s life. Well we could do that on Friday at least, not Sunday. The bogans on the jet skis and driving the jet boats on the Broadwater took care of any peaceful reflection. Of course there was no such noise from the Volunteer Marine Rescue boat that glided up to the Harley Park jetty, transporting the paramedic and patient from somewhere on the Broadwater to the waiting ambulance. Dad was incredibly proud of the many years he spent volunteering as a radio operator for Volunteer Marine Rescue. Indeed, the last time I saw him, when he was contemplating his poor health and what might happen, he left me with very clear instructions that he wanted his ashes cast into the water at the Gold Coast Sea Wall, where Volunteer Marine Rescue is located. Volunteering! Radio operation! Sound familiar? Yep, my father’s son.

Back to Harley Park. Ian and I reflected on all the times we spent with Dad, pumping yabbies. Indeed that yabby pump, from probably 35 years ago is still in the cupboard at Dad’s unit. But what’s on that sign at Harley Park? No yabby pumping! Yep, things have changed. But they’ve changed for the better in some ways as well. 30 pelicans quietly paddle around the swimming lagoon, thankfully not being harassed by the myriad of kids at Harley Park today. I don’t remember them being there when I was a kid.

I love pelicans – they’re one of my three favourite animals. What a joy it is to see so many of them in the lagoon and gracefully gliding overhead as I’m reflecting on my father’s life. And how ironic it is that Gold Coast Council, for whom my Dad gave so many dedicated years, has apparently tried to get rid of them.

I’m not sure if we’ll get back to Harley Park again. Perhaps briefly tomorrow when it will be quiet again. Perhaps to uncover some more happy memories of Dad and growing up on the Gold Coast.

Farewell Dad. I love you.

William Phillip Daniel

(28 Feb 1931 – 24 Nov 2010)

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As I’ve said before, I don’t do restaurant reviews. I leave those to people who are much better at it than me. But I am prepared to go into print when I find a place that is good. Having said that, Babble On Babylon (83 Brighton Road, Elwood) isn’t good. It’s bloody magnificent.

Being Mothers Day, the family headed over there for lunch today. Our visit was based on a recommendation from a colleague, Mairead (http://filluponbread.blogspot.com/).

The cuisine is West Indian, the closest thing to genuine West Indian cuisine you will find in Melbourne, so I’ve read somewhere. We had a mixture of dishes, starting with dips and bread. These ranged from the full Jamaican breakfast, to a cajun omelette with crab meat, to spicy lamb and chicken dishes. Everyone commented on how spicy the food was, yet it did not detract from some great flavours.

The desserts were fantastic, the coffee good and the service was great – extremely friendly and relaxed. And consistent with my belief that life’s too short to drink shit beer, they were serving Mountain Goat Hightail ale (http://goatbeer.com.au/).

Babble On Babylon would certainly be the best restaurant experience I’ve had in a very long time – strongly recommended.

Babble on Babylon on Urbanspoon

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Farewell Wolfie

I spoke to my brother Ian tonight. He, Josie and the boys returned last weekend from a month-long holiday in Europe. They had a ball. Unfortunately, the joy of that trip was tarnished yesterday when they had to make the decision to have Wolfie put down.

Wolfie was a beautiful collie. He had a wonderful 14 year life. What a lottery it is for pets. It is pure fate whether they will be mistreated like so many are, or whether they will come into a family where they are embraced as an integral part of the family. Wolfie was certainly the latter. Ian was saying tonight that he and Josie hadn’t realised what a reference point he was for them – whenever they looked into the backyard, Wolfie was the point of reference.

Carol and I have two dogs – Ned, who we think is a cross between a labrador and a cocker spaniel, and Spike, who is a labrador / rottweiler cross. Spike was the first and is no doubt the apple of both Carol’s and my eyes. Our vets tell us he has one of the most beautiful natures of any dog they’ve seen. It’s so frustrating when people see the rottweiler in him and head the other direction when we’re out walking. You can see the big boy in my profile picture on Facebook.

Ian’s news got me thinking about how much I value true friendship and loyalty, qualities that Spike demonstrates every day. Loss of friendship has been the event that has thrust me into the greatest depths of depression in the past. Still does.

I did a quick search of the web to try and find out the source of the reference to a dog being man’s best friend. I didn’t find it, but I must admit, I didn’t try too hard, because as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care who said it. It’s just so damn true. Dictionary.com nailed it – “A dog is more faithful than most other animals — and more faithful than many people.”

I know that, when Spike’s and Ned’s times come, Carol and I will be absolutely distraught. As Ian, Josie and the boys clearly are at the moment.

Farewell Wolfie! You were a legend!

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Today was Gina & Alex’s 26th birthday. They, Carol, Tom, Diem, Olly and I headed off to a great Italian restaurant, Mamma Vittoria’s (http://www.mammavittoria.com.au), for lunch.

It was a great time – here’s the pick of the photos. The photo of the five of us is the first I can remember of us all together for a long time.

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Imperial Kingdom – Yum Cha

We had one of those happy occasions today where we got the whole family together for lunch – had a great time.

Where did we go? Yum cha at the Imperial Kingdom, 546 Waverley Road (cnr Blackburn Road), Glen Waverley. Googling “imperial kingdom glen waverley” seems to do the trick if you need more details.

There was, as usual, an incredible range of offerings and it was all absolutely fantastic. We got there at 11:30am – it was already starting to fill up by then, so reservations are definitely recommended. It’s definitely the spot for weekend yum cha. Highly recommended.

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We’ve had a couple of free tickets to the Werribee Open Range Zoo stuck on the fridge for a while. When we looked at them the other day, we realised they expired in a week or so, so decided to go and check it out today. I’d been to Werribee Zoo a couple of times before, the last time being six years ago. Carol had never been before. It turned out the tickets were worth more than $50, so we were pleased we didn’t let them expire.

I don’t know why, but for some reason, Carol and I just love going to a zoo – the last one was the Calgary Zoo in Canada this time last year.

For those that haven’t been to Werribee Zoo, there are three walking tours and also a bus tour, the latter being a fully enclosed bus that takes you through a series of exhibits in an hour. There’s probably not a lot of point describing it in finite detail as that’s all here à
http://www.zoo.org.au/, along with the details for Melbourne’s other two zoos.

Suffice to say, we had a great day, certainly much better than we expected. The zoo’s definitely improved in six years – the lion and hippo exhibits are excellent. Disappointments? The usual expensive crap food one seems to get at these sorts of attractions and no elephants. The latter are coming soon apparently. I won’t hold my breath for the former to get any better.

Here’s the pick of my photos taken on a fairly challenging day as far as the light was concerned. Camera is a Nikon D40X with a Nikor 18-135 zoom.

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With Gina & Alex now having moved from home, and Tom being a bit lacking in the reliability department, heading away for a break now presents a bit of a challenge. Why? Because of a big black labrador / rottweiller cross called Spike, and a golden cocker spaniel / beagle / terrier / whatever else called Ned. Anyone that knows Carol and me will know how they are a very big parts of our lives.

So when we decided to have a weekend off, we went and bought Life Be In It’s Holidaying With Dogs (http://www.holidayingwithdogs.com.au/) and found a place called Red Paws Of Lorne (http://www.redpaws.com.au/). Anyone in Victoria will know of course that Lorne is a short way along the Great Ocean Road, out the other side of Geelong. We knew Red Paws must have been popular – we booked in January and this was the first weekend available.

So mid-Friday afternoon (yep, I couldn’t stand the idea of actually having to work five days, so I took the day off), we headed off to Lorne. It’s about 160 kilometres from home, the traffic was crap and we needed to make a short stop (that turned into a longer than expected stop) in Altona, so it ended up that we weren’t there until 5:30pm. But we all survived the trip pretty well, other than Ned thinking he should have all the back of the car and trying to rip Spike’s ear off at one stage.

So Red Paws is a studio apartment downstairs from where Daryl & Val, the owners, live. It’s about half way up the hill behind the Lorne camping ground. Lesson number one – don’t rent a studio appartment when you have two big dogs with you. Lesson number two – don’t rent at a property that isn’t fenced if your dogs like to race around all over the place. Other than those couple of issues, which of course relate to our lack of experience taking dogs away, Red Paws was great and Daryl & Val were terrific. The wireless internet was a big plus too.

So did we have fun? See for yourself.


I got a chance to be vaguely artistic with the camera as well.




Unfortunately the weather turned to crap on Saturday night, so we decided to head back reasonably early Sunday. So as I type this on Sunday afternoon, two dogs are both sound asleep, but look thoroughly satisfied. And Carol and I survived. And yep, I have to concede we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as well, despite being very concerned that we wouldn’t.

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