Australia Day Long Weekend

It began on Friday 26th January – Elwyn’s 30th birthday. Tristan, Blaine, Alythea and Tom arrived for breakfast, filling the house with chatter and burbles including Tom’s increasingly coherent vocabulary. As well as Rob and I enjoying these unexpected gatherings, this house, which has seen our children grow up, seems more fulfilled too.

Rob and I gave Tom some breakfast while Tristan and Blaine walked around to the shops to buy theirs. Now that Alythea has finally settled into sleeping most nights so that the rest of them can sleep too, the whole family is much calmer and busy planning their year’s travels. This will include Tristan and Blaine having a long weekend in Melbourne…guess who will be taking care of Tom and Alythea? I’m thinking we might have to call for reinforcements…

Tristan and Tom gathered the wood they wanted from the back yard with help from Rob, Blaine and I chatted while Alythea had her sleep.

By mid morning I’d packed for Rob’s and my weekend sailing trip and we farewelled Tristan and his family before setting off for Fremantle Sailing Club. It was hot on the boat, so good to get moving on the water.

Rockingham was windy, but a hot eastlerly. We called Elwyn for her birthday. She sounded a bit lonely, but was going to Cambridge that day to look at some technology for her work, then having a birthday-cum-Australia-Day party with friends and fellow Aussies at a steak-house. So it was shaping up to be a good day. The snow had melted, although it was still dark.

After drinks on a friends boat we had sailing friends Kim and Annette over to Dusky Dolphin for a cold dinner (it was too hot to coock anything!). We watched the fireworks over Fremantle and Perth – very pretty – but they were nothing compared with “God’s” fireworks – lightening developing in the north and moving our way! We fired up the laptop and checked the radar web site – the lightening was moving southwest and would miss us, and the forecast was for nasty squalls around the lightening…Just in case we put out more anchor chain and set the anchor buddy (a heavy block of lead that weighs down the anchor chain). Kim and Annette went back to their boat to do the same. Fitful sleep with the wind and heat…

Saturday was still windy by cooler to start with. We took the dinghy ashore and met family friend Challis. She’s known the children for most of their lives, and has babysat them quite a bit. So we had lots to chat about over a slow breakfast. Back to the dinghy and waves were breaking on the shore by now with the increasing wind. A wet start to the trip back turned worse as waves broke over the dinghy. By the time we reached Dusky Dolphin we were soaked, much to the amusement of a fellow sailor!

Dry clothes on, fresh water to wash out the saltwater taste, and we left that bouncy anchorage for Woodman Point. This was hot but flat, so some boat tidying could be done – hang out the dripping clothes, have some lunch and a quiet read, then watch the other yachts arrive late in the day. The last was our cruising leader, Rob Hills. His propellor was not working properly, so he sailed in and anchored under sail in the dusk. We were most impressed, as we had taken an hour to anchor in broad daylight – actually that was 4 or 5 goes at anchoring till we found a spot where the anchor would hold!

The evening was cooler so we enjoyed a barbecue while watching an amazing sunset out to the west, around a huge thunder cloud. Just in case a thunderstorm came our way Rob went forward to set the anchor buddy while I stayed at the wheel. This time he somehow caught his finger in the chain as it paid out, the heavy weight pulling it. “Wendy bring some bandaids!” he called back, holding a ahnkie to his hand. I jumped below, grabbed the first aid bag then rushed forward, my mouth dry as I thought of what injury I might find. Rob held out a finger, dripping red. I dried it then wrapped a bandaid around it, tight. “I’ll do the rest,” I told him. So Rob instructed me how to tie off the anchor buddy and make it ship shape.

He managed to cook the meat on the barbecue but I did the dishes.

After all that it was a quiet evening – the thunder storms went elsewhere. It even looked as if we might get some sleep until a party started up ashore about 11pm. The music was deafening! It finished at 2am, by which time I had suggested we might up anchor and sail back to the club just to get some peace.

So quiet start on Sunday, our 36th wedding anniversary, then morning tea on Frank and Lucinda’s boat. Now that they are both retired they are really enjoying the time together – nice to see. Cold lunch to try to beat the heat. It had been at least this hot on our wedding day, when Rob wore a tuxedo and I a crystal nylon wedding dress. At least we could just wear shorts and tee shorts today!

Motored the boat back to the club, did minimal cleanup (Rob being very careful not to further damage his very sore finger) then off home to the airconditioning. It had been great to catch up with friends and live under the sky, but we were both suffering from heat sickness so glad to be in the cool.

Sailing north to the tropics does not appeal…our forthcoming sailing trip in Scotland does!

PS Elwyn sent us an award-winnable photo from England…

– Fireworks,  Lightning, Sunset, a Comet, and the greatest of Aussie icons, the Beach all in one image.

In addition to the obvious features in the photo, look between the two displays of lighting up the sky to see the third – McNaught’s Comet. The photo was taken just north of Hillary’s Marina, which you can see the harbour wall on the left with fireworks being launched.

The Comet McNaught

Tonight Rob and I finally saw the Comet McNaught!

Last Wednesday Rob suggested we go out for dinner at a cafe at Cottesloe Beach. “What a wonderful idea,” I replied.

We enjoyed a meal together, watching the sun dip towards the horizon and making a simmering pathway across the sea towards us. Rob said we needed to be outside by sunset as he had arranged a surprise…what could that be?

At sunset we were standing on the deck, along with growing numbers of other people, gazing towards the horizon. It was a magic sunset, the colours reflected in the clouds streaming from the western sky. Once the colour had gone and Rob still seemed to be waiting, I asked if it was time to go. Then he asked me if I had noticed all the other people there. Well, sort of, but I had thought they were just enjoying the sunset as I was. Then he asked if I had seen anything in the paper that morning that would give me a clue about this “surprise”. I often don’t see the paper so “No…”

“The Comet McNaught is in the southwest sky at sunset. It won’t be this close for another 42 million years!” he explained. So we stayed for a while, but the clouds on the horizon must have been blocking our view. We went home…

Two nights later, we were babysitting Tom and Alythea while Tristan and Blaine had some much-needed time to themselves, and Christopher called after we had finally put the 2 little people to bed. “The Comet’s really clear in the southwest sky!” Rob was doing the dishes so suggested I go and see where I could see it from then come back and tell him so he could go and have a look. So I raced around the corner but there were too many buildings; I raced over the nearby Rosalie Oval but there were too many trees (not a common sentiment for me). I raced home, sad that I could not find it for Rob to enjoy. As soon as I came in the door Rob was a little terse – within 10 seconds of me leaving both children had woken. He had had to make up a bottle to try to give Alythea, and had to calm Tom down as well. Of course once I got back all was quiet. So no comet that night. I went to bed thinking that it just was not to be.

During the next day I thought that we could climb the DNA tower in Kings park that evening, as we wouldn’t be babysitting. We HAD to be able to see it from there! So after dinner we duly drove up the hill and parked, along with lots of other people. As we climbed towards the top of the tower we heard “Hi Mum and Dad!” from…Jeanette! She and Christopher were watching a Shakespeare play over the road and had come to see the comet again during the interval. We kept on going up and from the top of the tower we gazed at the western sky, the sunlight still a golden glow although the sun was long set. Against a backdrop of the dusk sky above was…

* The Comet McNaught – a bright star with the long tail drifting upwards into the twilight, and created by the solar winds because the comet was heading towards the sun.

* The new moon, a goldy-silvery crescent in the mauve of the sky.

* The planet Venus, a brilliant star just above the moon.

Pure, absolute joy!!!

The Gathering Cometh

Yesterday, as Rob and I sat in our “eyrie” upstairs looking out over the trees that inhabit our back garden, we heard a flock of rainbow bee-eaters. We both love the bell-like sound they make, especially as a group.

So they have begun to gather into small flocks around the metro area. That means that the young are becoming strong enough for their migration north to Asia.

By mid February they will have gone, to be back in October, but before they go we look forward to listenings and sightings of the flocks as they coalesce into the huge migrating groups we have become used to.

Elwyn Homing

Since Elwyn returned to England in early September, the pile of things that are to be sent over to her new home has been growing. As well as her favourite cricket bats (yes that is batS) and some nice clothes which she left out for me to pack, I’ve added her favourite ornaments, some pictures from her Nepal trek, her Avon Descent number, and other momentos which seemed right for her new home.

Because there was such a pile Rob helped me take it all to the Pack and Send office in Leederville one Thursday in late November. The manager there was also a cricketer and so could appreciate how precious her cricket bats were. He promised to pack them really, really well. So Rob and I unloaded all the things from the crate in which they had travelled there, and left him to sort and pack everything. The promised arrival time in England was 3-4 weeks…

Six weeks later, Rob and I were watching TV one evening (actually the DVD of the Volvo Ocean Race which Elly had sent Rob for his birthday), when the phone rang about 10pm – it was Elwyn. Her big package had just arrived and she was unpacking her cricket bats! And her nice clothes! And some of her favourite ornaments!

Her happy, chirpy voice was reward enough for the effort it had taken to get them all to her home in London:-)

Coming Home?

Today Rob and I returned from our 2-week sailing trip. We had been as far as Hamelin Bay, just north of Cape Leeuwin. This might not seem far by car, but it takes a long time to sail there, AND to brave the Southern Ocean. It was very kind to us, and we had a good motor sail down to Hamelin Bay from Busselton.  As this was the farthest south we have yet sailed we were very focussed, and it seemed further away than it really was. Or perhaps home seemed further away from where we were than it really was. Whatever the reason, as we pulled up in our drive this afternoon, having cleaned and packed up Dusky Dolphin in her pen, we felt that we had travelled much further than we actually had, and for much longer than we actually had.

Perhaps now we are at home with the sea…