Kota Bharu (Part 2)

Admin is a fact of life, even in exotic locations. We took a couple of days out, messing about with the phone, booking flights and accommodation for later on, processing a pile of paperwork and discarding most of it. This post completes our stay in Kota Bharu but the next one may be delayed: we have limited wifi, restricted 4G, dodgy electric supply and who knows what other resources may be lacking? But that’s in the future, here is the recent past.

The State Museum’s new exhibit is now open. It’s a time tunnel comparing Kota Bharu old and new, then and now. Unusually for a museum exhibit, this one had more photographs than actual items to look at.

Billion Shopping Mall, then and now

One thing I did like was the old, well-used typewriter, with a very wide carriage.

Very old typewriter

This painting adorned one wall but there was no descriptive label.

An old Malay karaoke, I’m guessing

A couple of men were walking around the museum with a handful of labels but they’d either forgotten the sticky tape, or they really didn’t know which label belonged to which item. I could have told them, obviously, but not while keeping a straight face.

The ploughing equipment was all made from wood. The plough itself, also wood, is pulled by a buffalo.

Ploughing implements

Believe it or not, this small cave is a mock-up of the real Gua Cha, the site of a 10,000 year old settlement. We didn’t know if we were allowed in, but as I approached, the lights came on, and we were totally awed by the 10,000 year old technology.

Gua Cha

We’d missed out on seeing a local, wayang, shadow puppet show, so it was interesting to see examples of the puppets here.

Wayang shadow puppets

Very simple design, you don’t need much detail if you’re just projecting shadows onto the screen.

We walked to a local market and stopped for a coffee in Muhiba Restoran and Kafe. The temperature was 34° but it felt like 41° according to the weather app. I think we’d have guessed a higher number, just comparing it to what we experienced at Uluru.

The market was huge. We liked the fabrics that were on display, all very colourful.

Beautiful designs

We weren’t so keen on the food stalls. The fruit and veg was a bit smelly, the fish stalls a bit stinky. We turned a corner and walked into a wall of stench. We saw the meat being hacked and cut up and I’ve never seen so much blood. We reversed PDQ trying not to let our abject disgust show on our now even more pasty white faces. We didn’t need to walk in and witness an abattoir. Definitely a lowlight of our travels.

But the hanging cloth was pretty, hiding a grubby little alleyway.

Hanging cloths

We walked back to the hotel, still expressing disbelief at each other: how can people even eat meat? How can people bear to work in that sort of place? And a hundred and one other variations on “yuck, that was horrible”.

Very grateful that we didn’t have nightmares.

I woke up early but feeling lethargic and yet itchy for exercise. We had breakfast just in time, before they closed up shop at 10.30. The Kelentan River isn’t that far away and I decided to go for a quick walk in that direction. The temperature was lower than yesterday, and it was overcast, so, slightly less uncomfortable.

Crossing the roads is a fine art. You learn to select the narrower ones, with only two lanes instead of four. One-way streets should be easy, but motorcyclists use the footpaths willy-nilly, so they’re not bothered about going the wrong way up a one-way street either. You still have to look in both directions before crossing your fingers, closing your eyes and running across.

The trouble is, when you open your eyes again, you see this sort of rubbish. Literally.

Rubbish

Plastic drinks bottles are all over the place. It’s very sad to see but as Stephen said the other day, the Malays and the Chinese just don’t care about nature or the environment.

Sorry to say, Kota Bharu isn’t as interesting a town to wander around as some others, at least, not the area close to our hotel. The other day when we drove across the bridge, the river looked like melted milk chocolate. Today, it was more the colour of Caramac, and I can say now that it tasted of neither.

Kelantan River

I looked around and spotted a BBC. No, I am not referring to the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation. There was a big black cloud over there so I took the hint, and began traipsing back to the hotel.

Royal Pier Clock Tower

Some of the street art is fabulous. Here is a depiction of the local martial art, silat, some top spinners and a dragon being trained.

Street art

There’s not a lot of greenery here in Kota Bharu. The small patch of grass I did find to walk on was, let’s say, scratchy. It was like walking on upturned wire brushes. Thank goodness at least I had my sandals on. But I did smile at the attempt to replicate the Batman logo on this decorative arch.

Not really Batman
Clock Tower on Clock Tower Roundabout
Our hotel from beyond the football field

On my return to the hotel, I went to the gym. No, that’s not a typo. I used the hotel’s gym, aiming to complete my 10,000 steps on the treadmill. 2 km, 23 minutes later, mission accomplished. My heart rate increased of course, but never to the point of discomfort: that sense of breathlessness that sometimes occurs at the slightest hint of exercise. I felt I could have carried on all day, but walking on a treadmill is a bit boring, to be honest.

From the treadmill, I could see what we think are the only other two white people in residence right now. He was wearing a one-piece swinsuit, she was wearing a very teeny bikini. Even I know it’s not appropriate in this particular place to flash that much flesh.

The shower was very welcome and I feel much better now, thanks. It’s still warm, even with the AC on in the room, but hopefully the sense of lethargy and weariness has been hit on the head, for now.

We’ve realised that another thing that makes it hard to wander round this town is seeing the poverty. The Grab cab fares are ridiculously low by our standards, and restaurant prices are too. I’ve been tipping, but I’m not sure that’s common here in Malaysia. I hope I’m not giving off vibes, flaunting my wealth: but the alternative is to not tip when I’m expected to, then I’m a stingy westerner.

In the afternoon, we went to the Community Centre for some local entertainment. Our friend Roselan was the MC. In the audience was a young German couple and that’s about it. But the entertainment was very good.

The drumming was fun and they even let Liesel have a go. She’s got rhythm, that girl.

Big drums, big sound

When I first heard the oboe, I thought the player must have a bag of wind, similar to bagpipes, but it seems he was circular breathing, like didgeridoo players do. There was never a pause in the flow of music.

Oboeplayerneverpauses

The local, Kelantanese martial art, silat, is similar to tai chi. During the display, the two players move slowly and with purpose, but as time went on and the music became faster and more insistent, they engaged in combat. It made us jump back when they moved in our direction.

Silat display

A long, long time ago, Sarah and I acquired a board game and I’d forgotten its name. The wooden board had several holes in it, a large one at each end and a series of six or seven smaller ones along each of the long sides. We had small sea-shells as playing pieces. Unfortunately, the instructions weren’t explicit enough, and we could never make up a good game. So how exciting to, finally, be able to play the game called congkak here in Malaysia. I think our (long gone) game was called Sungka, from the Philippines.

A couple of young muslim women showed us how to play, then invited the German girl to take over and later on, I started playing. We used marbles rather than sea-shells but at last, I think I know what I’m doing!

Congkak game

Top spinning is something I thought I’d find easy. Not these tops. They’re wooden, the rope is wound tight, looped round your wrist and you fling the top, it spins for a long time. Hah.

Someone good at spinning tops

Once a top is spinning in the correct area, a second player tries to knock it over with his own top. Hence the name, Striking Tops. I had several attempts but never succeeded in spinning a top, but it was good fun trying.

Someone no good at spinning tops

More fun than the other activity I was invited to join. Dancing. I can’t dance. I can pick up a rhythm, tap my foot, drum on a table, but I can not dance. The video is embarrassing. Everyone else is totally out of step with me.

Mick can’t dance, either

It was a fun afternoon. We looked at the artists painting lovely flowers, but we resisted the temptation to buy.

We managed to see and speak to Martha on this, her third birthday. The theme this year is Unicorns. She is fascinated by them and we can’t wait to see her in real life, dressed up as a unicorn, cuddling a toy unicorn, having riding lessons on a real unicorn.

We made one more trip to the Aeon shopping mall, to buy some supplies for next week. I would have picked eight discs, but we don’t have a record player and the island we’re going to isn’t a desert island. We dined in Vivo. Next, we’ll eat out of petri dishes, in Vitro.

Breakfast at the hotel has been good. I’ve avoided some items because I don’t know what they are. There’s a rice dish, nasi kerabu, which is a gorgeous colour blue. But I didn’t know if it was blueberries (OK) or squid ink (not OK) giving it that colour. So we looked it up.

Nasi kerabu is a Malay rice dish, a type of nasi ulam, in which blue-coloured rice is eaten with dried fish or fried chicken, crackers, pickles and other salads. The blue color of the rice comes from the petals of …. whaaaattt? Who knew such a plant existed. And how lucky that it was found in the first place.

Sky High in KL

We’re staying in a complex here in Kuala Lumpur that includes a Creativity Hub. It could be a shopping mall but good for them, there are several ‘shops’ where people display their artistic wares and crafts instead. In the foyer, we found a diorama, a detailed model of somewhere south of Melaka, I think.

Model Malaysia

The sky is a lovely shade of blue which adds to the authenticity.

KL Forest Eco Park gave us an opportunity to walk about outside for a bit. I lost count of the number of stairs. Come to think of it, I even lost count of the number of flights of stairs we had to climb in order to reach the canopy walk itself.

Boat lily (I think)

High up in the canopy, the heat was just as intense, despite the shade, but the noise from the city was slightly dampened. I can’t work out why it seems so loud in this city, more motorbikes, yes, but traffic is traffic.

Canopy walk and one of its towers
Typical cityscape seen from the canopy

After climbing all those stairs, it was a delight to discover that we didn’t have to backtrack and climb down. And neither did we we have to climb down at the other end. We exited the eco park at just the right place, very close to the Kuala Lumpur Tower.

KL Tower seen from the canopy

What a shame we won’t be here on April 21st. Every year, there’s a running race up KL Tower’s 2058 stairs. I’d be up for that. I conquered BT Tower’s 1000 steps a couple of years ago, no problem. (In the end, there were only 870, sorry but thanks if you sponsored me: we were all short-changed!)

A challenge that we’ll miss

We bought tickets for the highest possible observation deck, the Sky Deck. In a world first, Liesel got a senior ticket. By mistake, I hasten to add.

As an aside, usually in restaurants, the waiters take a moment to understand that we both want to order the same item. I don’t know if we have funny accents, or their English is nearly as bad as ours, or if it’s really unusual in Malaysia for two people in a party of two to both order the same thing. Lots of questioning, checking, double takes. We get what we ordered, but the ordering process is unnecessarily troublesome. Here, at KL Tower, surpringly, “one adult and one senior” was interpreted as “two seniors”. Much to Liesel’s chagrin and my delight!

There are four lifts in KL Tower, one of which was out of order, so we waited a while before being transported up 300 metres to the Sky Deck. In a lift with 21 other people. After the 54 seconds ascent, it was a relief to be able to breathe again.

The view over the city was good, just a bit hazy so hard to see the hills in the distance.

Petronas Twin Towers

I was surprised to see that the Petronas Twin Towers appeared to be just a little taller than the KL Tower itself.

Our tickets also included a Sky Box. I don’t know why they thought we needed a device to receive digital television broadcasts from the Astra satellite at 28.2°E, but that was just a misunderstanding. Here, the Sky Box is a glass box that overhangs the observation deck. You can walk on it, sit on it and have your photo taken on it. Nope. Palms are sweaty enough already, thanks very much.

Eeeek Sky Box

Another surprise as we walked around the Sky Deck, edging past not one but two Sky Boxes, was spotting another pair of Petronas Towers. Who knew?

Petronas Towers

Palms sweaty enough already, did I say? Imagine staying at Platinum, going for a swim, and getting out of the wrong side of the pool.

The palm-sweatingly placed Platinum pool

Back down on planet Earth, we found our way to St Mary’s Cathedral. It started off as a cute little wooden church, and it is still expanding. It’s not big nor highly decorated but we were entertained by the organist for a while, in the cool. I recognised the tune he was playing, but couldn’t quite remember who wrote it. Bach? Maybe. Definitely not Vengaboys, thanks, Shazam! The pipe organ was built for the church in 1895 by Henry Willis who also made the organ for St Paul’s Cathedral in London and the original Grand Organ of the Royal Albert Hall.

St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral

It was a short walk to Dataran Merdeka, Independence Square. We didn’t see it at its best, due to building works. But next to the square is an early example of Moghul architecture in Malaysia. Known as Sultan Abdul Samad Building, it now houses a couple of government ministries. But just along the road is the National Textile Museum and this was our next respite from the heat outside.

The magnificent Sultan Abdul Samad Building
Nicely decorated lampposts

We would love to be able to go for a long walk around the city, but we are, let’s be honest, wimps, and the heat is just too much. Added to which, every time you survive crossing the road is a bonus, just ridiculously stressful. But we enjoy museums, and this one especially is right up Liesel’s street.

Examples of Batik

We discovered how batik is done: there are many more stages than we thought. Not something you can easily knock up at home.

There was some lovely jewellery here too. Here’s a preview of Liesel’s birthday present.

Ear studs

Round gold earrings with a central star design and studded with roughly-cut colourless stones. They were worn by Malay and Nyonya women in Melaka during the 1940s.

Not convinced by the Malaysian remake of Doctor Who

The Grab app to grab a cab works really well and the drivers are all very skilled at negotiating the traffic, the motorbikes, the jay-walking visitors, ahem. But there’s a competition to see who can have the most impaired view through the windscreen.

Are we there yet? How would I know, I can’t see a thing!

Stickers plus religious artefacts plus mobile phone plus everyday dirt all add to the adventure.

The National Museum of Malaysia repeats a lot of the history we’ve seen elsewhere. I feel so proud that the British came along to save the locals from the clutches of Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch invaders. Independence Day in 1965 is still a cause for great celebration. Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

Grand entrance to the National Museum

What a lot of stairs to climb up to enter the museum. You think that’s bad enough? Wait until you see the stairs you have to walk up to access the disabled toilet!

Grand entrance to the disabled toilets

Pengkalan Kempas is near Port Dickson and is the source of these monoliths: carved granite, known as “sword” and “rudder”, found near the grave of a sheik who died in 1467.

Two carved granite monoliths

There were more royal seals here, and to pretend they’re older than they really are, the dates are given using the Islamic calendar. This is the seal of Sultan Omar Ibni Sultan Ahmed, 1286 AH.

Seal of authenticity

1286 AH is 1869 AD, more or less.

Kris handle from Bali

The 100-year old Balinese Kris is a dagger, a weapon, but the workmanship of the handle is stunning. The hilt is in the form of a squatting Hindu deity with a decorative copper ring at the base.

The ceramic plate has a colourful geometric design, definitely Islamic influence here.

Just like our Sunday best dinner service at home

Would I like a new pair of slippers for Christmas? Yes, if they’re as cute as these ones.

Comfy slippers

There’s a lot of history here in Malaysia, and as we discussed, Liesel and me, we’re so disappointed that none of this was taught us at school. Certainly my history lessons mainly involved the lives of the kings and queens of England. The East India Company was mentioned but only as a Great, British enterprise to be proud of. We were totally oblivious to other cultures, overseas, at that time.

So when we’re reading descriptions of the items on display, and reading stories, there are always references to people and places that are meaningless to us. The overall impression we have though, is that Chinese, Indians, Malays, all the various peoples in the region traded with each other, and all got along pretty well. Some people converted to Islam, some didn’t, there was no big falling out. Until the Europeans came along, maybe just to trade at first, but then to take over, to invade, to conquer.

It’s interesting to see how successfully Malaysia is managing, in its multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual ways. I’m sure there is an element of racism in some places, but it’s not as overt as it is in little England right now. Here’s funny thing: you have to read it.

Ancestral Origins of the Rulers of Melaka

So, Bat came from a cow’s vomit? I thought that was just Nigel Farage!

It’s time for Conundrum of the Day. The universal sign for a restaurant or a café seems to be an icon depicting a knife and fork.

Signs of the times

But in Malaysia, in a restaurant, you’re usually given a spoon and fork to eat with. I use the spoon as if it were a knife, to cut and to push the food. We sometimes do get a knife and fork, but rarely. And there was that one time when I was given a fork and fork by mistake. Strangely, we’ve never been offered chopsticks, not even in Chinese places. Explain that!

The Mid Valley Megamall is as big and as bad as it sounds. It’s a short distance from the museum but the cab took ages to fight its way through the traffic.

While inside the mall, we missed the rainstorm. But we did walk up and down, miles and miles of shops, even though we had no intention of buying anything. Nice to see a ToysЯUs and a Mothercare, even though supposedly, both have gone out of business.

I did look in the bookshop for a Slitherlink Puzzle book, to no avail. Meanwhile, Liesel was walking around the furniture shoppe testing out the chairs (quite right too).

Every now and then, we detected the slight stench of durian, not very strong, but we were surprised they were allowed to sell such things in a mega mall. Liesel wondered why I was taking so many photos inside a shopping arcade. Well, this portrait was specially requested, even though M&S Foodhall didn’t have anything we required.

Liesel and Marks & Spencer

But the other pictures can provide plenty of fuel the next time your favourite radio presenter asks you to build a person out of shops’ names.

The Body Parts Shoppes

Yes, I did make one of them up!

And then, very nearly a disaster. I received a message from the service provider telling me that I’d nearly used up all my allocation of data! Not only that, my phone was down to less than 20% charge. There was a very real possibility that I might not be able to Grab a cab to get home. Luckily, I squeezed out enough bandwidth and energy, and we didn’t have to walk all the way back to our residence.

But we did walk home from the vegetarian restaurant where we had a nice meal, apart from the mushrooms that were made from leather so not totally vegetarian at all.

There must be something strange in the food here. If you’re not bovvered by other people’s dreams, you are permitted to leave the room here and now.

I was thinking about riding my bike to school. I remembered doing so before (I never did in real life) avoiding the main road, the A3100, but riding a road parallel to it. (There isn’t one IRL.) But as I was about to set off, I realised that I would never get up Holloway Hill in Godalming on the old 3-speed postman’s bike. (Holloway Hill is long and steep and they’ve now installed handrails on the steepest part, IRL.) This was on a Thursday and I knew that Friday would be my last day of school so I parked the postman’s bike by the house over the road (from my childhood home) and caught the bus to school as usual.

The sense of relief on waking up almost brought tears to my eyes. No school, no postman’s bike, phew.

To Port Dickson

We’d originally booked a bus to take us most of the way to Port Dickson but when, a couple of days ago, our cab driver Masri offered to drive us instead, we accepted his offer. At a much cheaper price than Grab would have charged. And easier for us too: door to door.

Venus looking down on Melaka just before sunrise

So we said farewell to Silverscape Tower B with its stinky lobby and its lifts that wouldn’t take us higher than our own floor, so no rooftop views for us.

Goodbye to the redcaps, the security personnel who act as concierge and who saluted us every time we went in or out.

But good riddence to the banks of switches on most of the walls in our apartment.

What a lot of switches for one small apartment

One of the arrays has switches for lights in the bedroom and for the bathroom suite, for the fan, for the aircon. And after four days, we still relied on trial and error.

On the 90-minute drive, Masri told us about places that we’d missed out on, but, as usual, we added them to a notional list for when we return.

We saw a turkey by the side of the road. Or, as they’re known here, a Dutch chicken. We passed by a Petronas processing plant and at least one army camp. For much of the way, we drove close to the coastline.

View of Malucca Straits from the taxi

There were many large cargo ships out in the straits and even cruise ships come into Melaka from time to time.

More Malay to confuse Mick: hora means day. Jam means hour.

We were dropped off at Avillion Admiral Cove and we thought, what a posh place. Well, it was the wrong place. We had to Grab a cab to take us to our real desination, Avillion Port Dickson. As Liesel said, even when you try to take out the adventure by changing plans, you just find yourself in a different one.

Yes, we’re in a hotel for this special weekend. Our room is above the sea, although the tide was out when we arrived.

First sightig of the beach (the tide was out)

We went for a walk around the hotel complex: oh alright, the resort. Liesel suggested we might not have to leave it at all.

Petting zoo, some tortoise on tortoise action

The petting zoo has rabbits, tortoises, doves, chickens, peacocks, peahens and of course, the birds at least can get out if they want to.

There’s a nice big pool for adults only where we spent a lot of time later in the day, swimming, reading and napping, swimming, reading and napping.

Piles of towels on tiles

At 0700 and 1800 daily, we can go and see butterflies at the Butterfly Patch. But at 1800 today, I was resting my eyes, by the pool.

We found out why the birds don’t fly too far away: there was a Chinese lady feeding them bread. The peacocks were choosing white bread over the tasty-looking grain that was also available.

I went for a quick walk on the beach and found a million little crabs. They all ran for their holes and so instead of counting crabs, I counted the holes. And there were exactly one million.

View of our room from the sea (the tide was still out)

The wooden decking that we walk on to reach our room is loose in places. Someone needs to come along with a bag of nails and secure the planks. But I hope they don’t do all that banging before we’ve left.

We’re on stilts

And of course the tide did come in later.

The sea, the sea (the tide was now high)

Let’s hope the white noise of the waves crashing on the stilts and the smell of the ozone gives us a good night’s sleep. Certianly the bed is comfotable enough – and big enough for about ten people. If they’re good friends.

In the evening, after watching a very quick sunset, we both had cocktails, gin fizzes before heading for our room.

Just a quick post today because tomorrow is a very special day.

I never would have predicted that Port Dickson, Malaysia, would be the location for my 26th birthday tomorrow. OK, I’ll admit it: it’s my 2⁶th birthday, that’s 64 in English. But I’m very glad to be here with Liesel.

Mick’s final sunset as a 63-year old, looking towards Sumatra

Melbourne to Manly

A year ago in London, Liesel visited a physiotherapist by the name of Emma. Emma’s partner is also a trained PT, and he is Australian. Under some peculiar, twisted distortion and interpretation of Theresa May’s “hostile environment for illegal immigrants”, his work visa was revoked, and he was forced to move back to Australia. And naturally, Emma went back with him. So Britain has lost two fully trained physiotherapists for no good reason.

They are now living and working in Melbourne. Liesel tracked Emma down and made an appointment to visit her

Saturday sunrise

So, the three of us took a tram to South Melbourne. While Liesel was being poked and prodded, Jyoti and I had a quick walk, to get some steps in and, yes, of course, we had a coffee at one of Melbourne’s famed coffee shops.

Top End Barbering

I always like a good pun when it comes to a shop name and hairdressers and barbers are particularly good at it.

Every now and then, we come across a shop named after a David Bowie song or album. Well, here, we not only had the album, the neighbouring shop was named after one of the songs on that album, albeit abbreviated so as not to offend your nan. Queen Bitch. No, not your nan, that’s the name of the Bowie song.

Hunky Dory

We caught the tram back to the iconic Flinders Street Station. We didn’t go into the pub over the road that my Dad had told me about: he’d been there after the war, in the late 1940s!

Flinders Street Station

We crossed the road to Federation Square, to spend time indoors again.I had been here once before, when the geometrically and architecturally interesting buildings had first opened, in 2002.

Federation Square

I visited Australia in November 2002 specifically to see the Total Eclipse of the Sun. It was a trip that Sarah and I hoped to make together but she died eighteen months earlier. I was in two minds about whether or not to make the trip on my own, but now, I am immensely glad and grateful that so many people encouraged me to go for it. I had a good time, but it was emotional too. A Total Eclipse, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road and on through South Australia to Kings Canyon, Uluru, Alice Aprings, Ghan to Adelaide. A great trip, but the detailed blog remains to be written! And now, back to the present…

“The Clock” is a 24-hour long video comprised of thousands of clips from films and TV programmes. As it proceeds, the shots of clocks in the various clips accurately reflect the time now, in the real world. The joins were seamless, and although there was no single storyline to follow, it was a very interesting 90 minutes that we spent watching it (minus a short nap, each). Where else would you see Ricky Gervais and Joan Crawford together? Snippets from films not seen for years, decades even. Christian Marclay is responsible for this colossal labour of love, but surely he must have employed many researchers? Yes, we thought about returning later in the day to see a different segment, but that will have to wait until next time.

ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is based here too. Yesterday, Chris had suggested visiting this collection of film and TV related exhibits, and the zoetrope in particular.

Zoetrope

As it spins, a strobe light gives the illusion that the individual models are moving up and down.

One display celebrated Australian film and TV. The selection was OK but I was disappointed that The Paul Hogan Show was not represented. My flat mates and I used to watch that on late night TV with a tube of Fosters, and it was the funniest show evah!

I did enjoy watching an 18-year old Kylie Minogue with sister Dannii perfoming Sisters are Doing it for Themselves!

The whole place was very reminiscent of the old MOMI, Museum of the Moving Image, in London, but this was much more interactive.

The piano from the 1993 film, “The Piano” was here, but I wasn’t allowed to play it. I’m not sure Michael Nyman would have been allowed to touch it, to be fair.

The piano from The Piano

Replicas were made for the film. A light one, to carry up the hill. And a heavy steel one to film sinking in the sea.

There is an Aussie TV fantasy drama that I now want to watch: Cleverman. They employed Weta Studios to design the special effects, and the aboriginal mythology underlying the story looks fascinating.

Hairy man from Cleverman

And now for the next edition of a favourite irregular item: Toilet Talk.

Saving water

I saw this sign in the toilets and I thought, if I pee twice, I could save eight litres of water. Also, if I’m walking out in the woods and need to go behind a bush, when Liesel rolls her eyes I can just tell her that I am saving 4 litres of water! All this on the day that Network Rail have decided to abolish the six shilling charge for using the public toilets at Waterloo Station. Six shillings, 30p, Liesel will confirm I’ve been whingeing about this charge for years.

Bollards! It’s a shame that these large blocks of concrete are required to protect buildings in our cities, but I do like the fact that someone solved the Rubik’s Cube here.

Big cubes of concrete

We visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre because it was time once again to shake our heads in disbelief and despair, weep for the past and feel absolute shame at what our British ancestors are responsible for. Australia is the only commonwealth country still without a treaty with its original people. Small pox, massacres, kidnappings, stealing their land, oh it’s a horrible story.

Diprotodon

This chap cheered us up. Diprotodon was the largest marsupial ever to live, about the size of a rhinoceros and is thought to have died out about 45,000 years ago. So chances are, it did live alongside humans for a period. Two metres tall, three metres long, but what a cute, cheeky face.

The other day we found a Chocolaterie and Ice Creamerie. Today we passed by a Fish and Chipperie. But our destination on Lygon Street was Milk the Cow Licenced Fromagerie. It was just along the road from Reading’s Bookerie, where I’d met Barry Humphries, as mentioned before.

Milk the Cow is a combined cheeserie and winerie and actually, my Cider Flight was fab, delicious even.

Four cheeses, four crackers, four ciders for Mick

Four slices of different cheese each accompanied by a specially selected cider. With crackers and bread. Very nicerie, very tasterie.

We passed many, many other restauranteries on the walk home, some with very long queues of people. Our ice creams were just the right size: one scoop was enough, a second would have melted far too quickly.

The worst thing about Melbourne? It’s a great city, it feels a bit like London in places, with its nooks and crannies and alleyways and arcades. But, we have walked through more clouds of cigarette smoke here in the last couple of days than we have during the previous several weeks. There are non-smoking areas, but there are probably more smokers per capita here than in any other city we’ve visited.

Now it’s time to say farewell to Victoria – the place to be. Goodbye to Victoria – the education state. And cheerio to Victoria – the only state named after a Kinks song. Two of those three slogans appear on car registration number plates, or regos.

In the morning, before the Sun came up, we were greeted by the Moon and Venus.

Sunday sunrise with Moon and Venus

Several shots were taken of which, this, the first, is probably the best. An easy distraction from the task of packing. The only extra item I had to squeeze into my pack was the apologetic bottle of wine from a couple of nights ago.

At about 11pm, we heard a very loud, humungous crash. We checked on Jyoti, she hadn’t fallen through or out of bed and everything else seemed to be OK in our little apartment.

When we left the building in the morning though, we had to limbo dance under the Police Crimescene tape around the entrance and the neighbouring passage. We could see no evidence of a car crash or any crime. We’ve found nothing in the news so can only be grateful we weren’t delayed for interrogation.

We took a tram, then a Skybus to the airport. The flight to Sydney was uneventful apart from the disappointment of not being offered any tea or a snack. Don’t sit in row 22!

It was a joy to be collected by Helen again and although it was warm here, it wasn’t as hot as Melbourne had been. And Manly looks magnificent as it always does when the Sun’s out.

Most of the afternoon was taken up with watching some fighting on TV. Adam’s a big fan of UFC. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, is better/worse/bloodier than boxing, takes place in an octagonal ring, usually over five 5-minute rounds of jabs, kicks, holds, bars, parries, jumps, punches, with elbows, knees, feet, fists all involved. I don’t think this will ever become my favourite sport.

Despite discouragement, I went for a walk in Manly, keeping to the shady side of the street. I watched people playing and/or sunbathing on the beaches.

Manly Beach

Helen walked down the road and we met at Fish Bowl where we collected bowls of rice plus veg plus sauce for our dinner. At the grand old age of 31, I still take twice as long to finish a rice-based meal as everyone else. Ridiculous.

We watched “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the new film, on TV, which we found very enjoyable. I was especially pleased to see Kenny Everett portrayed, back at “Capital Radio when it was good” which I am trying to get everyone to adopt as its official name. And of course now, we just want to hear all those old Queen albums in full again, especially A Night at the Opera.

Monday in Manly was mainly medical matters, refilling prescriptions (me), typhoid and hepatitis A jabs (both), dental check-up and clean (both). My plans for a massage made the cutting-room floor: no need to stir up typhoid and hep A juices unnecessarily.

So here I am once again, in Manly Library, typing away in the corner, this time sitting next to (inter alia) books by Keith Waterhouse, who I used to enjoy reading, gulp, decades ago.

Keith Waterhouse books

Meanwhile, Helen and Liesel have gone to a shopping mall to do some shopping. I missed out there. (Didn’t really.)

The results are in, they have been independently verified and certified and all the judges agree. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (pts 1-7) was the final track we heard in the car. Partway through the Ss, nowhere near the Zs. We’ll pick up this alphabetical trawl through our music on another occasion. Meanwhile, Liesel and I have decided we do need a much wider range of music, by a larger selection of artistes. We need to find a way to balance out the discrepancy in volume between loud and soft songs. And we need a random shuffle that is truly random, that doesn’t discriminate against certain people or certain tracks or even some whole albums.

Oops sorry, I usually warn uninterested viewers that this “Music News” is about to appear. But I didn’t this time. If only there were some way to go back in time and fix it.

Ballarat and Melbourne

The sky was clear enough overnight to see the southern stars and the Milky Way again. At least until the Moon rose over the sea.

The Moon is made of cheese

There are much better, clearer, higher definition photos of the Monn available, but this isn’t too bad with a phone camera.

And in the morning, Venus greeted us before the Sun came up. People were already swimming in the sea at dawn, and I envied them as I crawled back into bed. Or vice versa.

Venus and sunrise begins
Hello Sunny Jim
Hello early swimmers

The wind had died down so we were able to break our fast on the balcony.

Selfie of the day, in the bathroom

And after packing, we drove to the car park where we’d spent some time yesterday and enjoyed a long, long walk along the beach.

The temperature was perfect, the wind was mildly refreshing, the sand was soft, a cushioned insole under bare feet.

Jyoti and Liesel on the beach at Port Fairy

There were plenty of gulls, but we were surprised at the lack of oystercatchers. Maybe this beach has the wrong kind of shellfish. Jyoti watched a snail extract a clam from its shell, before a wave took them both away. There was one solitary, but dead, starfish too.

A pretty shell on a dainty hand

Then we stopped by a coffee and pie shop in Port Fairy for a coffee and a pie before our long, long drive to Ballarat. This would be our longest driving day in Victoria. And it was long. We saw signs warning us of the presence of koalas and kangaroos but we didn’t see any. We watched the temperature creep up from 25° to 34° as we progressed eastwards. The land was flat, the roads were straight, some tree-lined, we passed lots of fields with brown grass, hay bales, bulls, cows, horses, sheep. When we saw a small hillock in the distance, we called it a mountain. This wasn’t the most enjoyable drive for sightseeing. Liesel commented on the dearth of Highway Patrol Cops here in Australia. Well, within a minute, we saw one on the other side of the road having a word with somebody.

We stopped in Smythesdale, definitely equine country: we saw at least three shops selling horse feed. I had a big bottle of cold coffee, J&L enjoyed an ice cream. The town remembers its early settlers too, German and Chinese.

Nieder-Weisel community
Chinese immigrants

Of course, the drive was made more bearable by the music. The highlight was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Burl Ives. Thankfully, Santa Claus is Coming to Town failed to appear: we had two versions of Santa Cruz by Erin McKeown instead.

Our b&b in Ballarat is on the second floor: we had to climb 36 stairs to get there. The view isn’t as good as the one in Port Fairy of course, but it’s a nice big place. It’s still warm and we are very grateful for the fans.

We went for a quick walk after supper, down to Lake Wendouree to enjoy the cooler end of the day and to see the sunset. Ballarat is known as a mining town and sure enough, as we were crossing one road, we saw a car driver having a go: finger right up the schnozz to the third knuckle.

The first surprise by the side of the lake was an oak tree. When Liesel sat down on the bench underneath, I warned her about the acorns falling, but she said she was more concerned about birds, before moving to another bench.

This lake was the venue for the rowing events in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

The 2km rowing race start

You can swim along this course in March, but we’ll be somewhere else. Otherwise… we might come and cheer on the participants.

We watched the Sun set behind trees and we watched a photographer with a proper camera taking pictures of the sunset too. In the end, she wasn’t happy with her results so she’s planning to return tomorrow, probably further round the lake.

Good night Sunny Jim
Sun eclipsed by a photographer

Ballarat was another one-night stand so there wasn’t a lot of time to see its history. But we did visit Lydiard St, famous for the Victorian architecture (Victorian as in from the era of Queen Victoria, not just because we’re in the state of Victoria; obviously everything here is Victorian in that sense, it goes without saying, so I won’t say it). This cinema complex exemplifies how forward-looking people from the era of Queen Victoria were, even to the point of coining the word ‘Multiplex’.

The Regent Multiplex
Building at its best

By chance, we found the Eureka Stockade, another place where honest working men had to fight for their rights. We didn’t visit the museum, but the Eureka Circle sculpture outside was very well designed and executed and a plaque told the story.

Eureka Circle
Eureka slaughter
Eureka oath

As well as this historic event being marked, we were quite lucky regarding wildlife too.

Spur-winged plover
Ibises
Wooden horse and a man cleaning up afterwards
Seahorse squirting water from its nose

Liesel was driving us to Melbourne today, not convinced we were going the quickest way. I checked and the option to avoid motorways was still turned on from a few days ago. Oops. Dropping the car off was easy and we caught the Skybus into the city centre.

Melbourne, seen through a dirty Skybus window

We bought Myki cards to make use of public transport easier and then caught a train to our new place. Above the railway station sits an alien blowing cold air into the concourse. It was 34° outside.

You – will – be – air – con – ditioned

Ballarat: 36 stairs. Melbourne: we’re on the 27th floor, our highest Airbnb ever! Thank goodness there’s a lift. A Schindler’s lift and yes, of course I made the usual gag. The building, we think, is Chinese owned. Certainly our host is Chinese and so are many of the other guests that we’ve seen. We later learned that the Chinese community is the largest in Melbourne right now. We knew that Melbourne was the largest Greek city apart from Athens, but the Chinese thing was a surprise.

The view from an apartment this high is brilliant. We can see the park in one direction, the sea in another and some hills over there.

A view of the Parliament Building from the 27th floor
Mr Poetry

This chap made me laugh on our walk to Vegie Bar for our evening meal. I’d googled Veggie Bar by mistake and the nearest one of those is in Tel Aviv. Of course, here, they spell it with only one G. But the food was good, just too much of it and none of us finished our meals.

We walked back through the park, past the Exhibition Hall and Melbourne Museum.

Galahs in the park

From our luxury suite, we couldn’t determine which way the Sun was setting. So, when it comes up again tomorrow morning, it could shine its light on any one of us. But almost certainly, we won’t even hear the loud birds from this height.

What we did hear quite late was a knock at the door. Earlier in the day, we noticed the rubbish bin hadn’t been emptied by the previous occupants. Liesel sent a message to Jess, our host, but in the end, we used the shute just along the corridor. Now, here was Jess, with an apology and a bottle of wine.

Jyoti witnessed the sunrise, Liesel and I slept through it. We had to pull the blinds down overnight. Many of the high-rise buildings have lights at the top, and one in particular stood out: shining its bright white light right onto my pillow. That said, a city at night has a beauty of its own, not better nor worse than what nature provides, but very different and inspiring in its own way.

Melbourne at night

We all went out for coffee with Chris, a friend of a friend of JyJyoti. He’s lived in Victoria for many years and was kind enough to act as a tour guide for a couple of hours. I hadn’t been to Melbourne since 2002 and as you’d expect, some of the sights were familar but a lot has changed here.

The Leviathan and Harry Potter

We couldn’t understand why the Harry Potter play was being advertised everywhere, when tickets are sold out already.

The tram system is fantastic: rides are free within a certain area. And there’s a nice mix of old ones, albeit covered in adverts, and new ones with those concertina-like joins between the cars. Like the bendy buses, they should but don’t play a tune when they turn a corner.

One of Melbourne’s famous trams

Last time I was here, I met Barry Humphries at a book signing. What a top bloke. He signed his own name and Dame Edna Everage’s. So what a joy it was to see that a (very) small part of Melbourne has now been named in her honour.

Dame Edna has a Place in all our hearts, darling

Chris took us through an old arcade that was very reminiscent of London’s Leadenhall Market, with its ornate ceiling and decorative floor.

Block Arcade
Lots of Mick’s feet spoiling the floor
Mick, Jyoti, Liesel, Chris

We walked by Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and over the River Yarra.

St Paul’s Cathedral

We’d enjoyed some relief from the soaring temperature in the arcade and we were delighted to visit the NGV. Even watching the water fall down the glass walls had a cooling effect, never mind the air conditioning inside the National Gallery of Victoria.

We had a laugh at the many pictures of Weimaranas dressed up or posing in ridiculous positions. ‘Being Human’ is a collection of mainly Polaroids by William Wegman taken over a period of several years. Actually, some of the photos made us (well, me) wince a bit. I’m sure no dogs were embarrassed in the production of this exhibition.

Eustace Tilley
Dogs being human

Chris had to leave us at this point for work, but we were quite happy to spend more time in the Gallery. Not just to avoid the heat, a scorchio 35°C, 95°F.

What’s got four legs and flies? Regular visitors will know the answer. I’m pretty sure this one was never alive, though.

This horse is a lampshade

After lunch, we bought timed tickets to see MC Hammer, no, not him, it was M C Escher, 160 of his works in a display designed by the Japanese company nendo. “Escher X nendo: Between Two Worlds” is utterly magnificent and fascinating. This is the sort of mathematics that should be shown to young children when they first start school, not times tables.

Parrot, or maybe cockatoo?

Halfway round, I realised that many of my doodles (when on the phone, for instance) are inferior versions of some of Escher’s drawings.

Some of Mick’s doodles (nearly)

He has always been one of my favourite artists, because of the mathematics behind the art and the incredibly clever way he makes tesselations work. We’re glad we didn’t come across any snakes in the Aussie bush, but these ones are very cute, the picture very complex and very clever.

Snakes, by M C Escher

The design of the show often used the simple motif of a house. There was even a large 3D reproduction of houses that you could walk through to see even more works.

Walking through a work of art, magical
Houses

M C Escher made woodcuts and the amount of chiselling, gouging, scraping, cutting to achieve that amount of detail is phenomenal. Especially when he tries to get to infinity and beyond.

Circle limit IV (Heaven and Hell)
Very fine detail at the edge

And when you zoom in to the edge, you can see a shadow effect too. On a woodcut. Amazing. Yes, I took far too many photos and yes, I would have loved to buy the 2-inch thick book that accompanies the exhibition but… we’re not buying more stuff!

“If only you knew how entrancing, how stirringly beautiful the images in my head are, the ones I am unable to express.” M C Escher.

The trams were all packed so we walked back to our place, making use of cooler arcades and shade where possible.

Jyoti went out for a meal with Chris while Liesel and I went out for a different meal, to Trunk, located at an old synagogue. We had to go as its name literally has my name in it.

A short-lived synagogue
Margarita and Margherita together at last

While we were inside, it rained! Only for five minutes, but a little precipitation cooled the city down by half a degree.

We’ve stayed in some nice, interesting places over the last few months, but this one is probably the most urban, modern and industrial-looking. And as far as we know, the only student accommodation we’ve inhabited!

Two Walks, Two Dips in the Sea

I didn’t make it, but Jyoti was up early today to watch the sunrise. She joined in with all the activities on offer, as well as a few of her own invention. Balancing on one foot without falling over is a skill we should all adopt.

The main event today was the walk up to North Head. The three of us set off hoping to reach the end and to arrive at the Quarantine Station before it became too hot.

On the path down to Collins Beach, we saw warnings about 1080 poison and ‘soft jaw traps’ being present in an effort to eradicate foxes. Not very nice for the foxes, but who are the vermin who brought them to Australia in the first place?

There were just a couple of people on the beach as we walked by and up the hill again, past the Australian Institute of Police Management and on to the Barracks Project.

Possibly the only bandicoot we’ll see

We walked on through the moving War Memorial area to Fairfax Lookout which looks towards South Head over the entrance to Sydney Harbour from the Tasman Sea.

Jyoti and Liesel walking towards Sydney

In the distance, you can see Sydney’s skyline, including Sydney Tower where we were to venture later on. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

I’m glad I’m no longer a postman and really glad I’m not nine feet tall. As a postie, one of the hazards of the job was walking face-first into spiders’ webs, carefully wrought overnight, across paths to people’s front doors. Here, in the heathland, the spiders make their webs higher than our heads, but it’s still a bit worrying walking underneath, you never know whether one of those gigantic arachnids might drop down your neck.

Just one of many big spiders just hanging around

Jyoti was heard to say something along the lines of “I won’t be going for a walk in the woods”, because of the spiders.

We were on the lookout for lizards too, but no luck there.

North Head view
Sydney viewed from North Head

After lunch, accompanied by a turkey, we walked down to the Quarantine Station. Jyoti and I went for a walk along the beach and on hearing the siren call, I ripped off my clothes and plunged into the briney sea to cool off. We looked at the shells on the beach, the barnacles and the limpets on the tidal rocks. Realising the tide was coming in, I recovered my clothing from the secluded rock and we went back to rejoin Liesel.

Oh to be in quarantine

The Q Station itself is very interesting, and as the poem shows, humour didn’t totally desert people struck down by horrendous diseases.

While waiting for the ferry, we had a drink in the café where I was horrified to see that they serve alcohol to mynas.

Myna on the mooch

We enjoyed the Fast Ferry ride to Circular Quay but I was horrified to see the slow ferry fart a large cloud of black smoke.

The Famous Manly Ferry

SailGP launched over two days here in Sydney Harbour. Six international teams, including GB and Australia compete in identical supercharged F50 catamarans. They can exceed 50 knots. While the race is on, we mortals on workaday ferries have to slow down to 6 knots. Which is great when you’re not in a hurry and want to get some photos! Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t really know what was going on so photos of the racing boats will have to wait until later. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

Our new boat

We gawped at The Explorer of the Seas, docked in Circular Quay with its 3000+ passengers and scientists on board. Even though it was only one stop, we caught a train to be closer to Sydney Tower.

Model inside Sydney Tower

I last visited this building in 1986, with Sarah and 2-year old Jenny, when it was known as Centrepoint. Then, we were amazed that we could see the airport in the distance. From the viewing deck today, though, I couldn’t see the airport either because the Sun was too bright or because Sydney has literally grown, mainly upwards, in 33 years.

View from Sydney Tower
View of and from Sydney Tower

I won’t be trying Betty’s Burgers any time soon, I’d be worried about the ingredients, and not just the meat.

Betty’s Burgers and … what?

In the evening, we met up with Helen and Adam at Mex and Co, a restaurant that we’d been to before, overlooking Manly Beach.

The following day’s long walk was from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach, along the east coast, in the full glare of the Sun.

Coogee Beach
Bali Memorial at Coogee Beach

This fascinating, intricate sculpture is a memorial to the 88 Australians killed in the Bali bombing of 2002.

Clovelly Beach’s clear water

There are several beaches along this walk, all gorgeous, all tempting, the water was clear, but we held off until we reached Bronte Beach. Here, there’s a small ‘pool’ separated from the main thrust of the sea by well-placed rocks.

Bronte Beach

Jyoti and I jumped in for a quick, refreshing dip. What I hadn’t anticipated though was that the water was so shallow, my knees would graze the rocks below. We walked to the next refreshment opportunity where, to remove the taste of sea water, I indulged in a chocolate milkshake.

We walked through Waverley Cemetery and mourned the loss of so many people at such a young age. Most of the graves are over 100 years old but the most recent is from only a couple of years ago.

Occasionally, the path approaches a cliff edge and one of us was brave/daft enough to venture that little bit closer to the edge.

Jyoti living life on the edge

And finally, round the corner, we saw Bondi Beach in the distance.

Bondi Beach, a welcome sight

Adam had recommended a place to eat. I had no ID so I wasn’t allowed in. L&J had theirs, they got in and had a lovely salad. I’m not looking for sympathy, but in the first place I went to, the staff looked up and continued to chat with each other. The next one thought the idea of takeaway coffee was infra dig. But I did eventually find coffee and a biscuit.

We’d travelled by ferry and bus to Coogee and we returned by bus and ferry.

In the harbour, the SailGP races were taking place and again, the ferries had to slow right down.

China and GB catamarans
Australia and France cats

Helen is Manly’s top hairdresser and she offered to give me a much-needed trim. As usual, it was the perfect haircut and I am very happy with my hair. My offer to return the favour was declined.

The Australian mangoes were described by Jyoti as being aphrodisiac while Liesel suggested that they should ideally be eaten in the bath, naked. (It’s a long story.)

This was our final evening in Manly, for the time being, and as the weather was so good, we had a barbecue down by Manly Cove beach. Helen prepared all the food and Adam barbecued the meat, corn on the cob and veggie sausages, thereby gaining credit for all the work, as is the way with bbqs.

Adam looking for his head under the barbie
Helen, Jyoti, Adam, Mick, Liesel

We enjoyed watching the Sun set, the sky change colour and as it got darker, we visitors were surprised to see bats flying back to the tree we were under, that being their roost for the night.

Sunset, what a stunner
Looking up at the bat tree
Gotta be quick to catch a bat!

While sitting there, leaves and twigs fell from the tree and Liesel especially was pleased that (a) they all missed her and (b) it wasn’t bird deposit, something she has a magnetic attraction for.

Wide Sky for Anna

Back at the flat, we were treated to Amarula, a cream liqueur from South Africa made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African marula tree. It was very tasty, very more-ish.

A perfect end to our week in Manly, thank you for your hospitality, Helen and Adam. And congrats again, Adam, on your exciting new job! Cheers!!

One night here, while unable to drift off to sleep, I calculated that on October 30 last year, I was exactly twice as old as Helen. I need to check my mental arithmetic of course, but while that’s an exciting revelation, I felt sad that I hadn’t realised at the time!

Koala Park

It rained overnight, dusty rain, the wind had brought dust in from the desert. There was a slight orange haze in the distance, but it didn’t cause us any problems.

L&J (Liesel and Jyoti) (I thought it was about time I used an abbreviation to avoid having to type both their names over and over, thus, saving time, effort and power, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of this blog, doing my bit) had pedicures and other beautifying treatments while I walked down to the library to write.

By the Manly Cove beach, there was a man feeding birds. He wanted to feed the cockatoos, but the pigeons outnumbered and out-bullied them. The man fought back with a stick. Waving it and throwing it at the pigeons. In the end, he threw his arms in the air. When they came down again he walked off.

Cockatoos v pigeons
Chicken (my birding correspondent will correct me, I’m sure)

Thank goodness the days of totally quiet libraries have gone, otherwise my keyboard would have been deemed the most offensive item. But there were children in one corner singing songs, and in another, someone was reading stories to a separate group of children.

A propos of nothing at all, some nominative determinism in Manly

Sitting next to me was a very smelly man. Not BO, but his coat had absorbed the smoke of a million cigarettes. He popped out a couple of times for a puff and during these intervals I tried to make head or tail of the notes he was reading. He’s a budding musician, and one day, all these (non-musical) notes will be turned into wonderful music. One day. I won’t hold my breath. And I won’t breach his copyright but his doodles, cartoons, random words, phone numbers, games of hangman and other miscellany might well become a beautiful symphony. Equally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to become a horrible, noisy cacophony.

I walked around Manly for a short time and sat down with a coffee and biscuit to listen to a real musician. This lady had a good voice, not very strong, perhaps, for busking, but I enjoyed her rendition of songs from many eras.

Pleasant busking at lunchtime

When I met up with L&J later back at the flat, I admired their new eyelashes and painted toenails, and I hope I didn’t miss anything.

Sunset over Manly Cove

I was up at 3am as is often the case (biological requirements) and I woke up again at 5.50. Perfect. I got up, got dressed, got myself out of the house and walked down to Manly Beach. I walked all the way along to Queenscliff hoping to see the glorious sunrise.

Well, there was 100% cloud cover at the time, but as the Sun rose, the clouds parted and small patches of blue appeared. I had fun with my camera, trying to capture the perfect shot of the Sun rising out of the Tasman Sea.

Sunrise over Manly Beach

What was impressive though was the large number of mostly fit and mostly fit, young people up and out so early, each participating in their activity of choice. I did feel sorry for those who had to go to work later on. Boozers, losers and jucuzzi users, the human race was well represented here.

Some were on the beach playing volleyball, though not fully undressed as is the customary outfit. There were yoga classes, tai chi, some folks exercising with “towels and sticks”, weighlifters and the ubiquitous muscle man doing his thing while looking around to see who was watching. A few, more mature, men were power-walking, just look at me baby, swinging these arms, swinging these arms.

Sticks and towels may break my…

There were surfers, cyclists, cyclists carrying their sufboards, dog-walkers, skate-boarders, skate-boarders being towed by their dogs.

Surfers

In the pool at the Queenscliff end of the beach, swimming lessons were taking place. One learner kept apologising for running out of breath. I feel your pain, brother.

The best job probably belongs to the tractor-driver, cleaning the beach.

Tractor cleaning the beach

There were other people taking photos of the sunrise too, some with phones (eg, me) but a couple had the whole kit, big camera, zoom lens, tripod. Amongst the more esoteric activities were pushing over a tree and sleeping in a children’s playground.

Tree pusher
Sleeping in a playground

Back at the flat, some cockatoos were making a noise on the neighbour’s balcony.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo

It was still early in the day and the main activity after 9.00 was attempting to buy tickets for Elton John in concert, in Sydney, in a year’s time. His three-year Farewell Yellowbrick Road tour is very popular. We both sat there watching the wheels go round and round, but eventually, Helen was successful in her quest. I looked at the prices for shows in the UK. We’ll see…

Helen took the three of us to Koala Park where we had a great time making friends with the animals. The park suffered substantial damage recently in strong winds, but no animals nor humans were injured.

Koala

The koalas are very cute, very soft, very sleepy. I didn’t ask the guide whether it was true that all koalas suffer from chlamydia. I do know that we washed our hands quite frequently.

Cassowary

The kangaroos weren’t interested in the food we’d purchased especially for them. But the goats enjoyed it and one of the caged cockatoos was quite happy to receive some free feed too.

While it was interesting to see a wombat, he wasn’t very photogenic, lying on his back with his wedding tackle on full display.

I made friends with a kookaburra, his laugh was fantastic, we all laughed along. Guess what my new ringtone is?

Kookaburra sits in the old aviary

Here I am feeding an emu.

Mick and emu

I feel that I am now on good terms again with the emu race. When I first visited Australia in 1986, I was chased around by Gonzo the emu who thought I had food in my camera bag. (At least, I think that’s what he thought. In the photo, the overall shape of me with a camera bag on my back is very similar to that of a sexy female emu…)

There were some reptiles too, wallabies, a café and the whole place isn’t too big, we came away without feeling that we’d missed out on something.

In the evening, Adam joined us for a picnic down on the grass by the beach. It was very pleasant, bread, cheese, dips, chips and a wonderful sunset.

Helen, Jyoti, Liesel and Mick