27 January 2009

Australia Day '09

26 January 2009

11 months & 1 day since we arrived in Australia. A year ago to the day our Australian work visas were approved.

And Australia Day! The day Australians don their Aussie flags like super hero capes, Aussie flag bikinis, thongs (slip slops), t-shirts, hats, shorts, dresses, tattoos, face paint. Green & gold lamingtons, wigs, blankets & beach umbrellas. Thong throwing competitions, ferry races, Australian of the Year Awards, Citizenship Ceremonies, barbies, beer, picnics, beach treasure hunts, fireworks. The day when Australians celebrate being Australian.

The annual ferry race in the harbour

One of Scott's tattoos for the day

And mine - I had one of these on each arm

Us with our Aussie paraphernalia!

Scott & I went off to Newport Beach for brekkie - bacon & egg rolls - and coffee. We watched the Citizenship Ceremony with big lumps in our throats! In a few years that'll be us! I think there were about 13000 new citizens sworn in on Australia day throughout the country. Each council put on their own ceremony.

Waiting for our coffee

The beach is behind those Norfolk Pines - that's where the thong throwing competition & treasure hunt took place.

The white roofed tent in the background is where the ceremonies took place.

The Certificate of Australian Citizenship

Then it was off to the thong throwing competition. This is for adults & children alike. You pay your $2 for 3 throws and away you go. The furthest throw on the day was reported on the news as being something insane like 65m! Whoever threw that must've had a tail wind & a bloody heavy thong!!!

A kid in his green & gold about to have a go

The flag on our balcony

We headed home and just mooched around most of the day. The weather was cooler than the past few days - in the mid 20s instead of the mid 30s/early 40s! But by the afternoon it had started drizzling. So not really an ideal day for the beach. Instead we just had a barbie on the balcony with big fat lamb chops and a couple of cold beers.

Our celebrations were a little subdued though. We were anxiously awaiting news from my folks....

And I've saved the absolute BESTEST news for last..... My dad called us at about 10pm in the evening with his results from his CT scan.....

So the chemo is doing what it's supposed to do and he'll continue with another round of treatments before his next CT scan. And it's thanks to positive attitudes all around, Mom's healthy cooking and Dad's fighting spirit!!! Woooohooooo!!!!!!

So on that positive note.... until next time!


17 January 2009

In Loving Memory of Buddy

It was either 1988 or '89, but it could've been as early as 1987. My dad and brother were down at our holiday house at Pringle Bay. Sometimes I used to stay behind with my mom for the weekend. We'd watch videos. Eat crisps and a bowl of cheese cut into blocks. I'd leave the olives to my mom - I didn't find a taste until 10 years later.

Dad & Doug had taken the dog with them - our beautiful long-haired Alsation named Apollo. Apollo was getting in years and my mom had it in her head to get another smaller dog as a companion to Apollo. Dad was totally apposed to the idea! He wasn't going to have a lapdog in the house - sitting on couches, laps or jumping up on beds! Not a chance in hell!

So my mom and I were reading the Weekend Argus while lying on the lounge floor in the afternoon sun. Mom was checking out the classified ads and came across people in Thornton (a suburb next to Pinelands where we stayed) who had little Maltese puppies for sale. We decided to go and check it out......

We arrived at this really grotty house in Thornton - the people looked even grottier!!! We walked through the dark, dingy house to their back yard which was smelly and full of dog poo - and dogs. Flea bitten, very sorry looking puppies - but cute non-the-less. We wanted to rescue all of them but had to just choose one. I was wearing a pair of denim dungarees with a big pocket at the front - big as far as pockets go anyway. This little dirty-white ball of fluff fitted right in that pocket and that's how he got to his new home. We bathed him and got rid of most of the fleas. The details are all a little hazey - it was a long time ago. I just remember that he was just too cute for words! He was a bit younger than the required 6 weeks cos his eye's were barely open yet.

Well, dad, Doug & Apollo arrived home on the Sunday..... and Apollo met his new Buddy.....

How cute is that little ball of fluff??? This was their actual first meeting.

Dad was horrified!!! Now we were going to have this stupid little yappy lapdog in the house!!! I have to tell you that it took all of a few hours before Buddy melted my dad's heart too! He was the one who got Buddy up on the couch AND up on their bed!! And Apollo did get that new lease on life as mom had hoped. Him and Buddy used to go tearing around the house chasing each other. They had a blast together until Apollo passed on a few years later.

1993 - The night of Doug's Matric Dance. Mom holding the big white fluf-ball Buddy.

This is a Welsh Dragon plush toy.

One of dad's distant cousins came to visit from Wales and brought one for my folks as a gift. Buddy took an instant liking to it and this was his first toy. We called it his "drabbon" - baby talk for dragon. Every toy after that was called a "drabbon". Whether it was tennis ball or his favourite, a squishy ball with a bell in it - they were all a "drabbon". If you'd ask him where his drabbon was, he'd start searching the house for his current favourite toy and come back to you wagging his tail. Clever boy!

199? - This is Buddy's new companion after Apollo died - Othello. Now Othello was a few sandwiches short of a picnic...... yes, he's actually sitting with his bum on the side of the pool and his paws on the top step..... Hrmm...... But Buddy and Othello used to have great fun running around the pool while we were swimming. There's Buddy (after a haircut) in the shade taking a break. We used to pick Buddy up and dangle him over the water, ready for him to have a swim - he used to start doing doggy paddle about a foot above the water!

There's Buddy doing a photo shoot with a shaggy dog. Ooops! That's Doug! LOL! That was one of Buddy's long hair periods - it must've been shortly before his annual summer hair cut. And what an absolute pilava that used to be! Show Buddy a pair of scissors and he'd run and hide - he HATED getting a haircut. That could be because he wriggled about and ended up getting nicked with the sheers or scissors.

This was a Mother's Day in the early 2000's. We had a wonderful spread - fancy cheeses, olives, cold meats, spreads, orange juice and champagne. As you can see, Buddy wasn't about to be left out of the celebrations!

Which brings to mind a Christmas morning when Buddy was still a puppy.... We used to do our big dinner on Xmas eve and then open our pressies at midnight. Someone had received a big box of Quality Street. The table you see in the picture above used to be in the centre of the lounge. The box of chocolates was left on this table overnight. Well, we awoke on Christmas morning to find chocolate papers strewn all over the lounge floor..... and a very satisfied Buddy wagging his tail! Buddy's love of chocolate was born. He had such a sweet tooth - anytime there were biscuits with tea, chocolate or rusks, Buddy would be sitting at your feet, wagging his tail and giving you such a longing stare, you just had to share.

Mom, Dad, Buddy & Chris (the first grandchild). Buddy was very interested in this other little person in the house!

Buddy in a series of posing shots!

Now this is a beautiful shot! He really was such a happy dog.

A group shot: Scott, cousin Shane, Granny, a wriggling Buddy & Dad, Mom & I

As I'm writing this, all sorts of memories about this charismatic little dog have come flooding back to me. If you pointed your finger at him (and he could see your finger through his shaggy fringe!), he'd growl at you. If Buddy was sitting on either Mom or Dad's lap and any of us touched them, Buddy would go nuts barking at us. Boy was he protective. AND jealous! If any of the other animals got a tidbit, you could be sure Buddy would be there trying to muscle in on the action. Same thing with attention - Buddy was top dog in the Wells house. Oh, and if you so much as mentioned the word "bath", Buds would head for the nearest hiding place! He'd look so miserable all wet and once he was let free after a towel dry, he'd run around frantically rubbing himself against the couches or rolling on the carpet. You'd swear that he'd been washed in pepper!!! :-) The vacuum was also something alien to be barked at.

Buddy passed away on 7 January 2009. Buddy was a amazing member of the Wells family for 20 years and he is remembered with great fondness. We all miss him - he was a real "buddy" to all of us.

Hope there's lots of chocolate in heaven, Buds!

02 January 2009

NYE 08

Happy New Year to you all!!!

Scott & I started thinking about what we were going to do for NYE way back in August. I started doing a little research on the 'net and of all the available options, we came up 2 that we really liked. To spend the evening on Fort Denison - an island in the middle of the harbour - or to find a NYE cruise onboard one of the hundreds of boats available. Fort Denison was difficult to find info on for NYE so I started looking for boats..... This is what I found.....

The James Craig is a 1874 Barque with 21 sails which is part of the Sydney Heritage Fleet. She's 230 feet long from flying jib boom to mizzen boom and has been lovingly restored. She's sailed around Cape Horn 23 times - so this one's not just for show!!!

Scott took the 31st off and I left work at midday. We decided to the drive through to St Leonards and park the car in the company office car park and then catch a train from there to the city. From central station we took a light rail (a cross between a tram and a bus) to Darling Harbour. There we hung out at a little Italian restaurant, had a cocktail & a light late lunch and watched all the crowds coming in and finding a good vantage point. One of the fireworks barges was situated in the centre of Darling Harbour, so it was a popular spot! The vibe in the city was electric! There was a huge stage on one end of Darling Harbour - floated on a pontoon - where they were doing soundchecks for the live music. And thousands and thousands of happy, excited people.

We were due to board the James Craig at 6.30pm at Wharf 7 - just a short walk from Darling Harbour.

1: The light rail station
2: The Italian restaurant

(click on the picture to enlarge)

Scott with a little kick starter....

The James Craig

Scott on the quayside

Absolutely no caption needed!!!

Sydney's big casino in the background - Star City

The Volendam - a small cruise ship

Waiting to board

Onboard with a glass of bubbly

As soon as a camera came out, someone standing close by would offer to take a photo of both/all people in the group. It was great & immediately got people talking to each other.

There was a band on the middle deck of the ship - just a 3 piece but they were great & the girl had a fabulous voice - I think they were called Venus.

We even had a wedding party on board - what a fabulous wedding reception!!!

This is The Blue Room - the same boat we were on for Scott's company Xmas party.

Looking to the city centre from Wharf 7

Because our grand old lady is rather big and heavy, she's not quite as nippy in the water most motorised boats. She has on board engines but she doesn't have the quick steering that could get us out of trouble if need be. So we had the Fern Bay tug at our side the whole evening. Every now and then she'd just give us a nudge to keep us facing facing the right way while we were at anchor.

One of the waiters who kept our glasses constantly topped up with lovely pink bubbly

Another of the waiters and you'll also notice a table to the left with some tapas. We didn't want for anything on this cruise!

The last of the suns rays hitting the mast & rigging

A fireboat in the distance showing off

And there's the bridge in the distance

The sun sinking over McMohan's Point

Our Captain's First Mate

Going.... going....

One of the 6 fireworks barges which were dotted around the harbour.

The 5000kg of pyrotechnics cost $5million and consisted of 11,000 shells, 10,000 shooting comets & 100,000 individual effects shot off from 6 barges, the tops of 9 city buildings & the Harbour Bridge. They used 60km of cable and the whole lot was controlled by two laptops. Absolutely incredible!

Just a few of the 1,5 million people who lined Sydney Harbour for the show. That's more than London, Paris & New York!!!

Martie getting a top up - not the first & certainly not the last!

Harbour Bridge through the rigging

The Aboriginal flag flown between the masts of a yacht

Click on this one to enlarge. Taken from under the bridge looking across at Luna Park - there are thousands of people across there.

The setting sun was reflecting on this building's windows making them look like mirrors

People massed at the foot of the Opera House with the Lord Mayor's Party going on inside.

The rigging/scaffolding of the Bridges lit centerpiece (see further on). They've been busy erecting this for the past 6 or so weeks.

More people at the Rocks

That's not the sun - it's a building reflecting the sun! I thought it was pretty cool!

X marks the spot where we dropped anchor for sundowners and to wait for the 9pm family fireworks. (click on the picture to enlarge)

These are some great people we met on the night - The Three E's (Emily, Eva, Elly) and Martie.
With the Harbour Bridge in the background...

And the Opera House in the background...

Location..... location.....


This is a superyacht! It's the La Masquerade. The 180 foot $94 million luxury yacht is owned by English industrialist Sir Robert Ogden. This beauty costs between $3 million & $6 million a year to run!!! It's got a massive marble bathroom with a jacuzzi, two on board chefs and all the cabinetry is finished with gilt gold leaf (okay, that's a little excessive!). Talk about luxury!

Sunset over the city. I liked the reflections on the water..... There was plenty more to come!

Thousands more people..... Some of these people had been camping out since the day before for these prime spots. Now this is why we opted to do our NYE in style!

Taking the helm...

Scott & Martie

The crescent moon & the first star appear

The 9pm Family Fireworks begin....

And the lights are lit!!!

Harbour Of Light Parade
Following the 9pm Family Fireworks, the fantastic Harbour of Light Parade begins. 55 vessels will make their way around a 15km ciruit on Sydney Harbour. Ships will feature illuminated emblems representing the 2008 Sydney New Year's Eve theme - 'Creation' glittering on either their hulls or masts. The Parade will be led by the James Craig and will include Tall Ships, Sydney's Heritage Fleet, commercial charters and Sydney Ferries.
(taken from City of Sydney's website)

This is what the James Craig looked like last year - this year our lights were yellow.

DH: Darling Harbour W7: Wharf 7 HB: Harbour Bridge OP: Opera House X: Where we dropped anchor before & after the Harbour of Light Parade. The red line shows the route of the Harbour of Light Parade (Click on the image to enlarge)

And the harbour is lit up - not only the bridge but the 54 other boats who are lining up to follow us around the harbour

The gang with one of our waiters

Past the Opera House

Oh, and dinner was served below decks - yummy buffet. We had a quick bite and then scooched back up on deck

Da Booieees!

This was a REAL hit!!! Scott bought this little LED mouthpiece - think of a gumguard with a lights behind the teeth. The bride especially loved this & Scott had to give up his toy for a while so the bride could go & freak her new husband out! You can see more of Scott in action on the dancefloor in the video below

She went downhill after this.......

Mini ice creams for desert

And then it was 2009.......



This is a video we made on the night

I wish I could describe to you how massive the sound is from the roar of 1,5 million people cheering when the fireworks was over. This was truly an experience of a lifetime!!!

Just a few of the pics which didn't come out as intended..... but look stunning all the same!

Happy New Year to all our family and friends. Thank you all for your love and support - especially over this past roller coaster of a year. I'll just leave you with a message I received from Geoff & Pearl which I think was so lovely. Scott and I both wish the same for all of you....

We wish you enough....
We wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

We wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
We wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
We wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
We wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
We wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
We wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

Mands & Scott