Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunny afternoon ride for Audrey

Sunday was a strange day in many ways. It would have been Amy and my ten year wedding anniversary and I'm sure we'd have enjoyed a nice meal or reminisce about the lovely day we had in Newbury by the river Kennet all those years ago.

It would have been easy to be melancholy and for that sadness to spread over the kids. It's always a balance trying to keep Amy as part of our lives, yet not let the deep deep sense of grief at her death dominate our days.

Fortunately we were distracted both by a walk to an ancient snow gum and also by a trail ride which Audrey was booked on on Sunday afternoon.

Audrey rode one of her favourite horses - Sonia (an appaloosa). She told me Sonia likes people but doesn't tend to like other horses much (apparently she kicks!). Sonia's one of a large number of horses they have at the riding school.

Eli and I threw a ball around while she disappeared into the countryside. It was a nice end to a busy and somewhat strange weekend.

Our beautiful children (with Eli looking more like his Mum than ever)

Audrey on Sonia

Pryor's Notable Snow Gum!

In the middle of Glenloch Interchange (one of Canberra's busiest road junctions) remains a large grassed area which contains an ancient snow gum which was remarked as 'notable' in botanist's Pryor's description of the area.

The tree is at least 200 years old and Andy, the kids and I joined a small party of walkers led by Friends of Black Mountain to go and see it.

I'd first read about it in Tim the Yowie Man's article in the Canberra Times and it had sparked curiosity in me that an ancient snow gum could exist in an area which I drive by most days.

The excitement to the walk came in the first few steps where we had to descend into a culvert by the side of the road - it's about sixty metres long and you have to dodge water and spiders webs.

At the other end of the tunnel it was only a short walk to the tree and our two enthusiastic guides led us there (ducking under barbed wire) and we saw the ancient gnarly tree we'd come in search of.

The tree was excellent from a distance - it's large branches stretching to the ground, but also up close where the kids could clamber inside the trunk and describe what they thought the patterns on the bark looked like.

We were led around the area, observing the local fauna and then returned (this time through a slightly smaller tunnel) back to the car park.

It was a lovely and interesting walk and we were grateful for the sunny autumn morning. I'm sure we'll be back (if only for the chance for the kids to clamber through the storm drain!)

Me and the kids inside the trunk

Eli walking through the culvert
Who doesn't like a good tunnel!

Read the original article which inspired me here Tim the Yowie Man

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Eli's 8th birthday

Eli on his birthday (who no idea how hard it was to make a spherical cake!)
Eli had a football party with his mates (having already had a lot of football/soccer over the school holidays). We held it at the local sports hall where he plays five-a-side.

It was a lot of fun and enjoyed having his mates to play with. He got a load of pokemon toys as well as scoring a few goals so went home pretty happy. I was chuffed with my cake :)

Thursday, April 20, 2017


I'm now friends with a small group of widow/widowers in Canberra and one of the ladies in it whose partner had died suddenly a couple of years ago was remarking how similar her little boy was to his Dad and it sparked a conversation not only about nature v nurture, but also about how hard it is to keep the memory of the children's parent alive when they're no longer there.
The casual things about someone's past that would come up in conversation don't happen anymore and so valuable things are lost about what your parent was like, what their beliefs were or what they stood for.
I obviously knew Amy really well, but I lack many of the details of her growing up, her school life and things she did when she was young. To a larger degree I think the responsibility of providing this information to the kids rests with people who knew Amy when she was younger. A couple of friends have helped fill in the details a bit, but I often feel that A&E are being short changed a fair bit compared to their friends around them who spend time with their remaining family.
I learned things about my own Dad at his funeral that I didn't know and I guess that's the irony that you never realise that you have such a short time to 'download' all this information before someone is gone.
A little while ago I found this file on the drive of our laptop. It's obviously incomplete, but still lovely to read it as I can 'hear' Amy saying the words. I don't know why she didn't finish it, but her health declined rapidly from 2013 and so she probably lost energy to focus on it. There are stories in it which she recounts that I can't complete, but the love she had for our kids is so so clear. We all miss her so much.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Egg Hunt at Rodney's Nursery

We've always been advocates of Rodney's Easter Egg Hunt. We've tried a few hunts around Canberra (of which there are several) but the fact that Rodney's is pretty well organised (you have to register in advance) and well stocked (even late-comers get loads of chocolate) make it the egg hunt of choice for me, A&E.

We got there early to get good spots and both the kids went home with bags full of eggs. It was the first time that the garden had put the eggs around their produce (usually it's off in a side garden) and I could understand the commercial decision involved but alas the sun melted a fair number of eggs.

Still, once again I reckon it was a great morning and I'm sure we'll have another few Easter mornings spent there.

Tanbella Orchard

Tanbella Orchard is the only pick-your-own orchard in Canberra. It's strangely situated opposite the (now international) airport - but not under a flight path so probably doesn't get much gunk dropped on it from above.

The orchard grows over 50 types of apple - some you recognise from the supermarket shelves - some like 'Bonza' are less identifiable. They hand you a map on the way in in order to find them (though not all are in fruit at the same time). They even have a couple of pear trees which are labelled as 'unkown' (someone somewhere must be able to categorise them!) but whose lack of provenance only serves to add to the excitement!

It was a lovely Easter Sunday so we headed there - the apple trees are all well trained and/or trellised and none of them too high - so perfect for A&E. You're also invited to taste whatever you like (I guess they figure people can't gorge themselves on apples in the same way you can with strawberries) and as a result it allows you to try apples and judge for yourself whether they suit your palette.

Eli went for Golden Delicious - a type of apple I often avoid in the supermarket as they're typically pulpy and tasteless. Tanbella's though were much crispier and sweeter than ones I'd tasted before. Audrey like me preferred a more tangy/tarty and 'heavier' fruit.

The kids got hooked on picking and trying different styles and as a result our two (nearly full) buckets cost me $25 - something which I'd have baulked at spending on apples in a single supermarket trip. They were begging to stay when I called a halt to their harvest!

In truth though the apples will keep well in the fridge and those we ate that day (we ate a lot both during and after our visit) were eaten with such satisfaction in the knowledge that they were both freshly picked and came without little fiddly stickers or wax coating that the outlay was more than worth it.

The orchard also has a lovely dog (Bowie) who we'd met before - akin to the pop icon the dog has mismatching eyes.

I think the place shuts up in May (when we'll start to be hit with Canberra's cold weather), but we'll be back again next season. I've always thought the orchard as one of Canberra's most underrated and unheralded attractions.

buckets at the ready

Another one for the bucket

checking the map - where to go next!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easter Liturgy

Eli took part in the school's Easter liturgy. He was a disciple (albeit unnamed) while one of Audrey's friends took the (perhaps unpopular?) role of Judas. They enacted the play around the school and it was split into two parts, half of it in the morning and with the crux of it happening at lunch time.

I didn't have chance to return to watch the second bit, so I'll always be wondering whether they actually crucified the girl they had playing Jesus.

Eli looking disciple-angelic

End of term tennis and pizza

Before Amy died I used to play tennis once a week and really enjoyed it. Since then I've had a bit of a hiatus as working and looking after the kids doesn't really afford me any spare time (plus being exhausted all the time doesn't exactly help). I've always loved the sport and in January signed up again to play with the same couple of coaches who I used to play with previously.

The class size has grown a fair bit since 2014 and the classes relocated to Old Parliament House (which are lovely courts). It's tricky juggling the kids after school but they seem content to sit and watch while I play, though I'm not sure how they're going to go with the nights getting colder as there's not really anywhere they can wait inside. Guess I'll find out before too long.

Monday was our last session and we finished off the term with pizza and a natter. They're a good bunch and the kids were happy to join in and share some of the pizza on offer.