The Crown

I won’t pay for Netflix but won’t say no to one of my sons paying for it. And quite glad I was to when The Dreamer took up a subscription.  

I thought I’d give the much lauded series, The Crown, a go. I didn’t think I’d like it. Possibly too hagiographic. Or sensationalised. 

But no, it’s dramatic, touching, funny, romantic, frustrating in turns. And it gives a insight into the politics and religious values in the 50s. 


Fantastic settings and props; brilliant acting; sharp scripts. 

Oh! And the clothes. And jewellery. 


Worth spending two afternoons on the lounge. 

Any viewing suggestions? And not Nordic noir. 

Tambourine Mountain

Shush. We’re in hiding, tucked up in Tambourine Mountain. OK, we were tucked up. Our Easter hibernation den. 

On Friday we didn’t venture out. Hung around my mother’s place, talking, reading, blogging, drinking, eating, snoozing. 

On Saturday we snuck out for supplies. What are all these people doing on our mountain? Quick, back to our hidey hole. 

Lorikeets feeding in my mother’s backyard


On Sunday, my cousin and aunt took me to the Botanic Gardens. I haven’t been here for over 16 years. What a difference! The gardens are extensive and beautiful, with interesting and whimsical details. There’s a little section, The Sooty Owl grotto, to entertain kids with lots of hidden owls. 

A working waterwheel. Who’s that looking out the window?

Can you see now? It’s Sooty Owl.

Oh great! Pester power. To build a home for snakes and spiders in your yard!


By the time we left, the car park and surrounding road was full of people stopping in for lunch. Lucky we came relatively early. On most days there are not many people here. 

We then braved the shopping road, Gallery Walk. It’s aimed at tourists with knickknacks, soaps, candles, crafts, wine etc. Amongst the shops is one of my favourite dress shops. I can always find a bright Gold Coasty dress, something different from Sydney stock. And this time the shop did not disappoint. I got two dresses for the price of one – a super Easter special – and a necklace. 

On Monday I took Mr S to the Botanic Gardens. Look who greeted us. We were there early and the birds were in full voice. Though this fellow was quietly watching and hunting. 

Rare to see one right at eye level. Actually I just love everything about rainforests.


Mr S is not a gardener and not normally impressed with gardens. These gardens impressed him!!! 

The wall of green of the rainforest at the boundary of the gardens is so tall. Without ongoing mowing and pruning, the rainforest would reclaim the gardens and lawn. 

Wall of the rainforest. Look at the gums that tower over the other plants.


We then did a short bush walk through the rainforest. You can’t come to Tambourine Mountain and not do a rainforest walk. Listen to this whip bird from our walk! And get a feel for the rainforest. The jungle! Palms and trees and vines! Magic!


A few more shots from the rainforest. So lush!

Fungi working their magic on fallen trees.

You’re looking at a fallen tree, being overtaken by other plants.

Love the buttress roots.

And I love how the white ghost gums stand out. And tower above the canopy, so straight


In the afternoon we visited my aunt at her home. Mr S has teased/bullied her into baking a cake. She makes the most divine cakes and this one was perfect. She hand whips her cream. I don’t know if this is what makes it so silky but it has a different consistency and sheen. My cousin, who had visited her mother, had to go home early as her cows had escaped – best excuse ever. My cousin’s daughter’s anticipated visit did not eventuate as she is still cleaning up after the recent floods. Her town just south of the border went under. Here’s some photos of the flood at her house. 

Flood waters lapping at my second cousin’s verandah.

So you understand the enormity of the floods, my second cousin lives in a Queenslander. For overseas readers, that’s a house on stilts with the residence upstairs, so designed to allow air flow underneath and aid with natural cooling. The flood waters in the Ohio above are actually lapping at her top storey. Here’s her house when the floods just began. Now you can see why everything is so green and the waterfall at Armidale was gushing!

By Tuesday, the worst of the traffic was gone and Mr S and I snuck off the mountain, heading home the Pacific Highway route, one thermos filled with boiling water and one with milk for our cuppa rest break. Would we find a nice spot? 

New England adventure cont.

We don’t have many deciduous trees in Australia. We’re not used to seeing evergreens, especially on mass. So the yellows and reds of deciduous trees are not only beautiful, they’re unexpected. 

With the cold climate of the New England area and the early settlers’ wealth and longing for England, it is no wonder that they planted non-native trees. 

It is slightly early for the trees to be changing but the yellow on the golden poplars was striking. This was our first autumn trip though New England; the autumnal colour was an unplanned bonus.

We saw some beautiful views. Didn’t capture them but luckily for the Internet I found some pics. This was the entrance to a farm from the highway. 


Look at the start of the change to red on the vine of the little church. (It is my photo this time.) I googled it and there some strikingly red shots. We might have to go back one mid autumn!

 

We stopped at Inverell to buy milk for our tea. (Mr S had previously filled out thermos with boiling water at the guesthouse so we could stop for our obligatory cup of tea in a park.) Being the day before Good Friday, the supermarket was busy. Now supermarkets are not the best place to spend time (unless you’re overseas and want to try different foods), especially the day before Good Friday, but we really had to escape and quickly. This was not our sort of place; full of not our sort of people. Interesting buildings, though. 

We drove around town to find a park, we stopped at Jubilee Park. We always stop at parks with tables and benches. And the bench here is exactly why I pack a table cloth. God knows what the stuff was. Quick, hide the gunk! I realised this was not the park I wanted to stop at. There’s one further on the highway with extensive gardens. Oh well, next time!

Jubilee Park rotunda


The town ducks were not interested in my bread scraps, flying away when I tossed some to them. Maybe they were wild migrating ducks?

Ducks on the creek bed

Ducks flying away from me


Or maybe the ducks were just wary of sneaky cats?


The showground was surrounded by a hug fence. Ag shows would have been truely impressive in a time of little other entertainment. Probably still pull a big crowd for different horse shows. Hey, who doesn’t love still the woodchoppers? I captured them at the Sydney Royal Easter Show the week before. 

Woodchopping contest at Easter Show


As we crossed the boarder into Queensland, the Easter traffic picked up. But still nothing compared to the poor buggers just leaving Sydney. 

View from our car on New England Highway in Qld


The steep road up to the top of Tambourine Mountain took us to our Easter hibernation. The holiday makers, among which we don’t count ourselves, can scurry about. We’ll be taking it slow and doing little. 
How to end a road trip? With mum’s home-made, slow-cooked, hearty lentil soup.  

New England stopover

We like having two nights stopover on our road trips so we can explore the place. Not for us arriving at night and taking off first thing next morning. 

Armidale is over the midway point on the more interesting route, the New England Highway. As a university town, the town itself has the buzz of youth. The town and surrounding area has a mix of beauty and things of historical interest. 

We stayed at Peterson’s winery. We’ve stayed here before and loved it – imagining being in our country estate as part of the squatocracy. While pricey, Peterson’s House is lovely. One night’s stay is not enough as you don’t get to make the most of the house and grounds. Those who only stay one night don’t get to play squatter and sit on the verandah and in the gardens.

Originally built by own of the first local settlers, one of the Dangars, it is now owned by a family who have several vineyards. 

As we arrived on dusk on the first night, the fireplaces in the main hall were already lit. Fireplaces? Yes, as one fireplace is not enough, the squatter had two in his main hall and one in all the other rooms. We enjoyed a few drinks to slough off the dust of the road trip in front of the fire. 


Then we repaired to the dining room for a two course dinner. Of course there was another blazing fire in the dining room. 

Mr S had an antipasto platter for entree. The mix of pâtés were especially divine. We seem to have a rule that we don’t order the same thing so we can try a greater variety of food. I had a tomato, basil and creamy feta salad. It was light and the cheese was beautiful. Mr S was happy with his choice. So was I as I ate quite a bit of it too. 

For mains I had pork and mash and Mr S had salmon steak. One of the good things about eating out with Mr S is there is never any wastage. I had to give most of the pork to him to finish off as the servings were very plentiful. Despite the deserts sounding divine, we simply couldn’t fit any in. So we returned to the main hall to talk and relax in front of the fire. 

Being on the outskirts of Armidale there’s very little light pollution. The night sky is rich with stars. But we didn’t actually sleep well. The room was too hot for us, or the blanket too heavy for a heated room. So in the morning we turned off the underfloor heating in the bathroom (though it is a lovely invention – to step onto warm tiles, what a luxury!) and turned off the room heating. 

We started our day with a full cooked breakfast, hearty fare for our planned day of adventuring. 

We were going to follow a tourist route. I’ve never done one before. I’ve often seen the signs in our travels and wondered about them and if anyone actually does them. 

We didn’t stop at the war memorial as we have stopped here before. The symbolism and the story behind the memorial is very interesting. Glad we stopped last time. 

First stop for us on Tourist route 19 was Dangars Gorge and Dangars Falls which is along Dangars Falls Road which runs off Dangarsleigh Road. All in the area called Dangarsleigh. Yes, the Dangars gave name to a lot here. 

We’ve been to the falls before; it is worth a return visit. The drive in is exciting. You drive through private property and the unsealed road is unfenced as you pass through sheep and cattle farms. We spotted a large brown bird of prey, a brown falcon, sitting on a fence post. 

The highlands are deceptive. You don’t notice you have gorges and steep cliffs around you. Much of the farmland looks like rolling hills. Dangars Gorge is awe-inspiring. Photos do not do justice to the depth and majesty of the gorge. 

The quiet water before the falls



We went on a two hour walk around the gorge, to McDirty’s Lookout which looks out over the eastern side of the highlands, not as impressive as the gorge itself, but then nothing can match it. The heavy recent rains meant that the waterfall was pounding. The fence is to keep out wild dogs to protect the cattle and sheep. Mr S is just haming it up. There’s no lock. 

We meandered through more farmland to our next stop, a massive shearing shed. That may not sound interesting to many but this is sheep country. The wealth was made “on the back of the sheep” with wool being shipped “home” to England. The wealth and the centrality of wool is evident in the amazing octagonal shearing shed. It’s massive and of an interesting design. Imagine the interest when it was first built in 1872. Most shearing sheds are utilitarian rectangles of slab construction. 


Just over the 1938 bridge, the Dangers has built a little piece of England. An avenue of oaks leads to another homestead which is hidden from view by trees. I imagine it is comparable to the guesthouse which was built by the same family. The little church is actually sad. Dangar built it as a memorial to his grandson who died in WWI. 


Last stop was Uralla. We visited the museum in the old mill. 

This has a varied collection. A series of paintings tells the tale of Captain Thunderbolt, the famous local bushranger. He’s not Ned Kelly but his tale is very interesting. The collection has items related to the loss of locals from the world wars, Chinese migrants from the gold rush, agricultural settlement and the life of the battlers. In one section, the information blurb has been done by by a wit who’s evidently had great fun writing up the explanations. It’s an excellent regional museum. 

The main street of Uralla is worth a stroll to look at the facades. Mr S had visit the lolly shop to buy Edinburgh Rock. He loves it! But I ended up eating most of it!!!

We returned to our guesthouse in the afternoon to meander around the lawn and admire the trees; enjoy a drink on the verandah; and watch the changing light. 


That night we went into town for an Indian dinner. It was okay. Nothing to write home about but not horrendous. Of course, we had to spend a hour in front of the fire back in the hall at the guest house before bed.  

A deep sleep, another hearty breakfast and we were off for the next part of our road trip. 

Yes Armidale is a perfect place to break a road trip between Sydney and south-east Queensland.  

Easter Adventuring – driving north

We normally stay at home over Easter; the traffic, the crowds. 

Traffic escaping Sydney over the long weekend is mad and we don’t want to be stuck in it. After all we have enough breaks to be luckily enough to travel at other weekends. 

A friend posted this on her FB – leaving Sydney on the Thursday before Good Friday

Still, we planned a trip so we would avoid the traffic of Easter. Indeed this was our first Easter trip away in over 15 years as Easter fell in the middle weekend of our two week break so we couldn’t avoid being away at Easter if we were going to be anywhere but home for any length of time. 

The main purpose of our trip was to visit my mother who lives in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. We could fly up and it would “save” time. But saved for what? Chores at home?

It takes about 10 hours of non-stop driving to get to my mother’s place. We actually prefer to drive and break the trip with an overnight stay somewhere, exploring different regions and towns, and stopping for lunch along the way. 

Mr S is a man of habits. If he had his way, we would stop at the same lunch stop every trip. Once he has a place burned in his mind as being “our stop”, it is nigh on impossible getting him to change. Yet, conversely, when we exploring new places, he loves it. 

Our drive north was via the inland road, the New England Highway. It’s our tradition to stop for a lunch of tea and egg, mayo and lettuce rolls with something sweet for dessert. Mr S makes a thermos of tea and I pack the food, a tablecloth and my fine bone china mug. If I’m going to drink tea, it will be from something nice!

As highways are upgraded and towns by-passed, it becomes harder to get Mr S to stop at nice places. He just wants to keep driving and limit tea stops to roadside rest stops. It is not nice siting on the side of the highway with traffic roaring past and with very little to look at. These stops are utilitarian, rather than part of a sightseeing trip. 

Luckily the New England Highway is still mainly single lane and still goes through towns and villages, offering much to see and interesting places to stop. 

We stopped at Muswellbrook, on the Upper Hunter, in a well-maintained park next to the old railway station. It wasn’t actually very quiet as several long coal trains rumbled by. But in between it was peaceful. And it had various things to look at – a tree with aboriginal markings, gardens, a mural on reconciliation, war memorial, the old train station, playground equipment with families playing on them, information on various old trees in the area. Definitely worthy of a stop and a nice place to have a cuppa. 

Mr S in front of the tree with aboriginal markings and the mural in the background. The observant may notice Mr S wears a cap adorned with my favourite anti-hero.

It’s always sad to see so many family names repeated on war memorials in country towns. So many family lost multiple family members.

The war memorial at one end of the park. The blue sky hides the fact that it was a little cool, perfect tea drinking weather.


Satiated, we had a slow drive by of some of the interesting building of Muswellbrook. 

Another of our road trip traditions is to listen to BBC radio plays. We have the complete three series of Dad’s Army, various Agatha Christie adaptations and other plays. We have audio books too but much prefer full cast radio plays.  It really makes the road trip so enjoyable. 

As we set off late, we arrived at the historic guesthouse in Armidale in the New England Highlands where we were booked in for two night just as dusk was deepening.  

So are you a road tripper? Do you have traditions? 

If you make the trip between Sydney and the Gold Coast, do you have any favourite rest stops to recommend? Share away. New England or Pacific Highways? Which is your pick?

Oma Kardashian

I shared the photos sent from my father’s side of my family with my only cousin and aunt from my mother’s side of the family. 

My mother’s mother was in several shots. 

We have built up a wealth of mythology about our Oma (German for nanna). She definitely was a classic. A unique woman, she had an illegitimate child (possibly half Jewish) before the war and then married and had my uncle (now deceased) and my mother. My mother has written here how Oma made their experiences seem like an adventure and made sure they did not go without. 

Oma moved to Australia as a divorced woman in her 50s without any English. She gained employment. She learnt English and ended up able to do crosswords in German and English. She was fiercely independent. 

Now, with the photos we’ve discovered a new trait. And given her a new nickname. A nickname that couldn’t come in time. There are now so many Omas in our family. My mother. My aunt. My cousin. My sister. All Omas now. 

The nickname came as a result of the poses she pulled in the photos with the English family. 

Here she is. Classic Kardashian pout, in her colour coordinated outfit. She wouldn’t let the Pommie family outshine her. 


And not for her to be hidden in the back row. She would out front in a statement pose. 


Then my aunt and mother shared the story of my sister’s christening. At that time in Australia women still had to wear a hat to church. So Oma went out and bought a hat. Of course it had to be a hat bigger than anyone else’s. Of course she had to outshine the English. A tall, white hat. A look-at-me hat. 


Oma Kardashian. Gone over 25 years ago. Still making us laugh. 

Who’s that?

A cousin who lives overseas recently sent me some photos that she had unearthed from her mother’s (my father’s sister) collection. 

Some people in the photos were instantly recognisable. That must be dad. That must be dad and his siblings. That must be nan when she was young. Look at her gloves – what the groover she was. 

That must be dad’s family at the seaside in Wales. I mean who visits the beach (we don’t do seasides) in Australia dressed up like that? And rides donkeys?


But who is that? And that? And this little round thing?


My father died when I was a teen. He left us years earlier. I don’t have much to do with his side of the family for multiple reasons. Even if I did, there are not many people who would know who the people in the photos are. My aunt is 80 and has Alzheimer’s. There’s only one other sibling still alive. She is significantly younger and may not know the people either. 

Then I helped my mother with a couple of entries on her blog. We uploaded some photos. Again of people I didn’t know. 

All this got me thinking. What is the point of family photos?

Are they just for those who take them, and their immediate family, to recollect or celebrate events in their lives? To act as decorations around the house?

Are they records for family history? 

Are they for future historical and cultural references?

Should we keep old photos? Should we bother keeping all our own photos? What now that we take thousands on our phones? Should we treat photos as ephemeral?

Is it better to have one photo with a record of who is in it and where it was taken and other contextual information than thousands of unknown people and places?

Now that I know who some of the people are in my mother’s photos, the photos mean more to me. But will my offspring care?