Sunday, June 29, 2014

Update on Amy

It is with a very heavy heart that I write this post.  My liver has been playing up the last couple of months and has now got critical.  I have one more chance at a treatment option which may/may not work - to be honest, the oncologist doesn't even know if there will be time to see if the chemo will work.  I pray that it will and that it may give me a bit more time with my beautiful family.  So, I am in the hospital at the moment with a plan to commence the new chemo tomorrow provided I am well enough ( a bit of a raised temp which I hope will be brought under control).

I was due to finish up at work in 2 weeks - I had so many plans, so many things to still do and now I don't know that I will have the time.  Will I be here for Audrey's 7th birthday, for Christmas, for Eli's first year at Kinder?  I always knew that the time would come but I always thought I had more time.  I always thought I will be one of those ladies that live with  cancer for 20 years.  Now, nothing is certain.  Nothing except the love  I have for my family.  I wish they didn't have to go through this.  I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nelligen Dads and Lads (plus Audrey) weekend

Nelligen is a small town just before the south coast – a two and a half hour drive from Canberra. Eli, Audrey and I headed there as part of another ‘Dads and lads’ (plus Audrey) trip – this time staying in cabins rather than braving the chilly evenings in a tent. Admittedly one of the dads did camp (the camp site had ‘safari tents’ with wooden floors) but I’m not sure whether he thought it was such a good idea after having to cuddle up with his son for two nights in order to keep warm.

Our cabin was pretty well equipped and with the gas heater on we were kept warm at nights (another Dad suggested leaving a gas fire on all night was not so wise, but we risked it!)

The days however were beautiful. On Friday evening we munched on (enormous) marshmallows cooked (to perfection) on a raging camp fire, and spent Saturday fishing and enjoying the sunshine.

The fishing was largely unsuccessful, although I guess it depends on how you measure success. Yes we didn’t catch anything but in terms of fun and enjoyment we had plenty. The kids disappeared(!) to hunt crabs allowing us five Dads cast our lines into the shallow water (the park was on an inlet which when the tide was out meant the water was about 12 inches deep!). We used a variety of bait from squid to sausage all with the same result. The kids however caught half a dozen crabs which scuttled around in a water filled jug before being released back into the river.

An hour or so on the excellently equipped playground/jumping pillow then Saturday night was more campfire and marshmallows (with beer/wine for the Dads) while the kids ran wild and generally got wet and grubby. Audrey went barefoot for much of the day and with her hair unbrushed she gradually became ‘ferel’!

On Sunday we raced the (excellent) pedal cars around the site before heading home (Magic Faraway Tree on the CD/stereo for the whole journey!)

It was a really fun weekend. An added plus was the World Cup on the tele (the three of us watched Nigeria v Bosnia Herzegovina on Sunday morning).

Great company and a really enjoyable weekend.

A large soapy bath and an early night welcomed us we returned back to Canberra (as well as Amy, obviously!)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Audrey on a pedal car

Audrey driving a pedal car at Nelligen Holiday Park.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I was 5 minutes late (6.20am!) – for my latest appointment with fellow humans in my continuing #humanbrochure adventures. A trip to 'Skyscape' an art installation at the National Gallery of Australia - not (as it sounds) a trip to watch a 70's sci-fi movie starring Dennis Quaid.

A frantic jog/run from the bus stop across the Parliamentary Triangle.
I crossed the damp expansive lawns and saw Old Parliament House bathed in the dark and wondered what on earth I was doing here at this time in the morning...

Breathlessly I reached the main entrance of the National Gallery (our agreed meeting spot) and found nobody there.

In deciding to come here I’d given up the chance of watching the second half of the England v Uruguay game on the tele.

In World Cups gone by this would have been sacrilege, but I’d become increasing disenfranchised with the England team. (Wolves recent promotion from League 1 meaning much more to me), so this morning I’d given art a go...over sport. The fact that Saurez had headed Uruguay into a 1-0 lead just before half time made leaving the warm solace of our house easier too.
Fortunately it only took a couple of minutes to find the group. I was ushered down into a grassy pyramid surrounded by an infinity pool and into the Skyspace where I found a group of 15 of us humans sat bathed in the half light of the dawn.

It was an AMAZING place, and somewhere I had no idea existed in Canberra until now.

That said I must admit I wasn’t convinced by Skyspace at first.

Above us a circle of the sky (probably 6 feet in diameter) revealed the sky. Our guide explained the significance of the place – the domed floor – the ‘moonstone’ an attractive piece of marble and the heated seats (very welcome at this time in the morning).
The 'piece' was designed by American James Turrel - he's got works like this across the world with this one being one of the largest and most 'complex' - it was funded by the money made from the National Art Gallery's extremely succesful 'Masterpieces of Paris' exhibition.

No, this isn't a beginners guide to Powerpoint, but the sky in skyscape

We sat and watched the sky, leaning backwards against the cold wall.

I couldn’t help thinking that man can’t really enhance nature. Would the view of the sky have been better from the top of Black Mountain – I’d have seen more of the stars that way rather than having my view restricted by tons of stone and plaster (albeit a FABULOUS plastering job). 

A cloud drifted by, followed by hushed excitement from us onlookers. A solitary star gradually disappearing as the light increased.
The walls of the sky space changed colours – a rainbow of calming hues, pinks, yellows. Initially I actually found it distracting rather than relaxing. A couple of times the colours ‘jumped’ and left me almost disorientated – is it light or dark in here?

Eventually though I got into the rhythm of the piece. We stayed observing the sky for 20 minutes or more the colour tones of the wall and sky rising and falling. It would have been easy to look at it for 10 seconds and dismiss it as frivolous, but actually there WAS something about it - I just had to give it time. Perhaps England's struggles in Brazil were still too heavily in my mind to start with!

As the sun rose and the black circle gradually turned to blue it became apparent that we had witnessed something – the birth of a new day through an art work.

Afterwards we were treated to a delicious breakfast of croissants, crepes and bircher museli (with dark chocolate) – all beautifully packaged in a cute cardboard box with wooden cutlery (of course). The lovely people at the National Gallery of Australia also treated me to a welcome hot chocolate.
I guess what makes modern art intriguing is the inability to pigeon hole it. I worry sometimes that it’s easy to get sucked into the 'Emperor’s new clothes' of it all and pretend you can see a depth in something that doesn’t really exist.  People get too scared to say something is crap when it clearly is.

Let’s face it both Tracey Emin’s bed and Hirst’s shark in formaldehyde are a load of rubbish really aren’t they? That said I saw an upturned orange Toyota at Belconnen Art Centre last week and thought it was the best piece of art I’d seen since the Birth of Venus in Florence – so what do I know!
In the case of Skyscape though it is worth the journey. The combination of colours, the peace and tranquillity of the water and the beauty of the birth of a day all unite to make it a really calming and lifting experience.

Is watching the sun rise through the top of a dome as the walls change colour as good as watching the sun rise over the Brindabella Mountains and illuminating a dew drop captured in a spider’s web? I’m not sure – perhaps both of them have their place.

If you want to know more about Skyspace click here

(delicious) Breakfast in a box

hearing more about the exhibit

Monday, June 16, 2014

Not an accident, but art

An upturned car appeared over the road from my work. When I worked in Birmingham (UK) it wouldn't have been an uncommon experience(!) but in Canberra it drew attention!

It was actually part of  "Unruly Orchestrations" a really great exhibition at Belconnen Arts Centre. I was nosing at the car when CEO Daniel Ballantyne came out and invited me into the gallery.

Sadly you can't see the car anymore - it was deemed to dangerous to leave unattended at night, but it's great to see things like this spring up in Canberra.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day out at Questacon

"Is it still night time?" asked Eli sleepily as I lifted his warm body out of the snug confines of his bed. Audrey was already dressed (she woke up at 5am) and was putting her new pink rain coat on.

We were off to Questacon for a 7am adventure with the #humanbrochure team. We had (all three of us) excitedly looked forward to the visit as we were going to be going on a tethered balloon flight at 7.20am, although the rain falling steadily outside suggested it was unlikely that we'd actually be getting airborne.

Eli (once he'd come to his senses) dressed quickly - nothing like the struggle of a normal morning where the appeal and distraction of lego or plastic dinosaurs far outweighs the prospect of going to school. We headed into Canberra's early morning - the beautiful beautiful sunrises of the last two weeks had given way to constant drizzle.

Adelaide Avenue dark and covered in puddles.

Must fix those winscreen wipers so that they don't smear the window quite so badly.

The Magic Faraway Tree CD playing on the car stereo.

We arrived 5 minutes before opening - a brochure of other humans (thanks Alexandra) met me - sheltering from the hazy rain under Questacons large fixed umbrellas (Canbrellas?)

Doors opened at 7am prompt. The balloon flights had well and truly been dashed - we learned later about the Hinderberg disaster so perhaps it wasn't SUCH a bad thing..

Everyone scampered in out of the rain and happily grabbed our goodie bags - immaculately organised by surname and containing hats, dried icecream and the most amazing liquid timers (they go up instead of down like sand egg-timers)

Questacon had laid on a stack of activities for us - amongst them a fairy who entertained the kids with whizzy snake balloons, to the make up doctor (Dr Scar) who made many of us humans look more like zombies. As well as this Dr Yuri demonstrated plastic bottle rockets - some of which went really high. After lots of fun the kids tucked into croissants and hot chocolate for a well earned brekkie.

Although Audrey and Eli had been disappointed by the balloon flight being cancelled the gap in our schedule was filled appropriately by a balloon talk in Questacons excellent auditorium. The 'pilot' taught us the difference between balloons three h's (hot air, helium, hydrogen - see I did learn something!) and we saw a hydrogen balloon explode - wow - I can see why the Hinderberg blew up!

Things started to wind down about 8.45am and I started thinking of getting our coats out of the lockers until a friendly lady (everyone in Questacon was amazingly friendly) came and told us to hang around as we had free entry for the day.

Our hands were stamped as evidence of our humanship - I thought we'd have an hour or so looking round......FOUR hours later we were still there.

I won't describe every one of Questacon's many many galleries - suffice to say we twisted, spun, jumped and button-pressed our way around most of them. I know that if we were to go back again and again we could spend just as long and see entirely different things each time.

It's great seeing science presented in the way that Questacon does.

I remember my science lessons at school as really stodgy boring lessons - something to be endured not enjoyed. Not as baffling as French or German lessons, but not fun either -  biology (we drew a stamen of a flower for about two terms), physics (something about convex/concave mirrors) and chemistry (lots of damn litmus paper - although the Bunsen burners were always good for singeing girls hair).

Questacon is more of a science playground - "learn and have fun" seems like a cliched pie in the sky but I think they really manage it here.

Finally finally I managed to drag the kids away - I think we were there for a touch under seven hours. My feet hurt, but the kids were really happy. Our new Questacon caps which had a plastic windmill on top span happily in the breeze as we left - the rainy morning had given way to a bright sunny day.

"Dad," said Eli as we got into the car - "Can we come again tomorrow?"

Smiles despite the rain

twirly hats and twirly paper aeroplanes

this is what happens when hydrogen catches on fire

Learning about balloons

Audrey tries out a heat reactive wall

ouch my head hurts! (thanks for the picture Michelle) - thanks for the make-up Dr. Scar

Thanks for the portrait shot Elias

The excellent Robo Q

Recollections IV machine - it was fantastic!

Audrey in a really funky corridor!

Audrey making magic clouds!

Eli playing with gravity balls
Robo Q will get his revenge one day...

This robot could REALLY play air-hockey (although I did manage a 1-1 draw)

Eli on the speaker
Happy Day at Questacon (despite the head wound)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Old Grey Whistle Test (selfie)

In the UK there used to be a late night music programme called the 'Old Grey Whistle Test' it was a seminal music show, in many ways ahead of its time, in many ways actually fairly tedious. Usually (unless you knew someone good was going to be on) it signalled that it was time to go to bed.

We went to Questacon today (Canberra's science centre) and there was a cool machine there (called Recollections IV) where I tried to re-create the famous opening credits. It was tricky doing it as a selfie!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Money, Money, Money....

My continuing 101 Humans, #Humanbrochure adventures took us last night to the Royal Australian Mint. 

I’d been a few times before as a tourist (it’s only down the road from where we live and it's free!) but NEVER as a VIP Human, nor out of hours. This trip was particularly good as Audrey and Eli were allowed to accompany me, giving Amy a well earned (albeit brief) rest.

The Mint laid on an interesting trip – we listened to a spooky ghost story about William Henshall a forger sent in chains from England to Australia who, in 1813, became an instrumental figure in producing Australia’s first currency – the Holey Dollar – a Spanish coin with the centre punched out thereby creating two coins – a dollar and a dump. 

The story was told by a hooded figure who relished his dramatic role and faultlessly told his story in the gloom of the display area - at the weekend I suspect he wears his black and purple clothes at the local goth hangout.

That chap out of Sisters of Mercy tells the story of Australia's first currency
Next we ventured on to see the Mint’s three robots – all with their own character ranging from the huge ‘Titan’ to two smaller ones. The robots work silently throughout the night - I’ve often cycled past the Mint on my ride home without realising that inside the buildings, robots are labouring away

It did strike me that there's something slightly dangerous about putting all of your country's coin production into the hands of Robots - I know where giving power to robots ends up - just watch the Terminator if you're unsure....

Afterwards we headed down the (fantastic) coin covered stairs before listening to another ghost story about a now dead Mint worker who walks through the vaults whistling a happy tune. The story was this time told by Ross MacDiarmid - the CEO of the Mint, who introduced himself as the maintenance man before telling us his actual role. 
Ross MacDiarmid tells us his own horror story - the Coalition's plan to privatise the Mint
He also filled us in with other interesting facts – the 5c coin costs 6c to produce(!!!) and the 50c is the largest coin in circulation in the world. 

McDiarmid also outlined the Mint’s plan to expand its service to the Pacific Islands thereby alleviating  the gradual reduction of Australian coins as people move to the use of credit cards. Conversely though demand is boosted as Australian sofas get increasingly larger and more loose change falls down them. 

He told us that in some parts of the world (he cited Singapore) where physical money continued to be popular because of it anonymous nature.

The kids finished the night by pressing their own ‘C’ Canberra dollar coin. They were super excited about it and loved that the large model of the Mint now included wooden blocks so you could add to the structure and build walls/towers.
Eli shows off his freshly minted dollar
I suspect the Mint probably suffers in terms of visitor numbers when compared to other more high profile Canberra attractions like the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery and Questacon (although I do think it gets its share of school trips) but I’d recommend it as a place to go when visiting Canberra. 

It’s amazing that the whole of Australia’s coins were at some point produced right here in Canberra – McDiarmid said that the Mint also plays a vital role in conjunction with the banks in co-ordinating coins moving around the country. 

It was lovely as usual to meet the other Humans. I'm going to miss meeting up (and being treated like VIPs!)

Thanks for another great night out!

A bolt stuck to a 20c coin - and you thought getting paper jammed in a photocopier was a pain...

Cashed up