Monday, September 29, 2008
Where Dad's Favourite Cheese Was Discovered
Dad isn't into fancy cheeses with fancy names. His favourite is ordinary old cheddar. On their big trip last year the Oldies visited the place where this cheese was first made. It is called Cheddar Gorge and is in Somerset in England. The village is inside the biggest gorge in the UK. There are lots of caves in the gorge walls and you can go into some of them if you have time. The oldest complete human skeleton in the UK, over 9,000 years old, was found in one of the caves. Some caves have been used as houses, barns and cheese factories since prehistoric times. The locals say that "modern" cheddar cheese was invented way back in the 12th century when a milkmaid forgot a bucket of milk in one of the caves and when she found it months later the greeblies in the cave and the cool air had turned the milk into cheese. Cheddar Gorge is a very pretty place so visit it if you are in the UK, try real cheddar cheese and sample the other Somerset specialty, an innocent-tasting vicious cider called Scrumpy (the Oldies found out about that one the hard way).
One of the places that we stop at sometimes when we are heading down to the coast is the cheese factory at Bega. You can go on a tour of this factory and see just how milk from Mum's favourite animals is turned into all sorts of cheeses. I learned three things about cheese making. Almost everything is done at the Bega factory by robots. You can end up with all sorts of different cheese depending on how you mix it and what extras you put into it. And no matter what you put into it or how you mix it, it smells. Some cheeses even smell after they are made. The factory has a shop and cafe attached. Inside the cafe is a pair of plastic cows, like the ones that I found at the Gold Coast. Just as well that they were too big to fit into our car or Mum would have taken them home. Of course you have to have a milkshake if you are at a factory like this. They even do special ones for small bears.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
So Where's the Farm
This is a farm. No kidding. It might not look like a farm, but this is the sort of farm where they grow pearls. It is in the middle of the bay at Savusavu in Fiji. The bay is the flooded crater of an old volcano so the water is a bit warmer than the ocean outside and pearls grow quicker here. The only part of the farm that is above water is the wharf and the shed where the oysters are injected with the seed that will make the pearl and where they are checked and harvested later. Most of the farm is a series of long ropes with bags of oysters attached. The ropes are tied to anchor posts and are stretched out across acres of the bay, just below the tide line. Boats aren't allowed to go across the farm because their keels and propellors get tangled in the ropes and that upsets the oysters, the farmers and the boat crew. Our Captain Cook see-through boat was OK because it doesn't go very far below the water and we could drive over the farm and see everything through the glass bottom.
Bart, Birthday Bear
Guess what? September 22nd is my birthday. I didn't know when it was for sure but Mum, Trent and my Grandad all have birthdays on the 22nd of something and it was probably September when Mum helped me escape from the Teddy Bear Shop, so we have decided that September 22nd is my official birthday. This year I turned 6, not bad for a small and active bear. To celebrate, the Oldies took me out to something called high tea at the Hyatt. Turns out that high tea is where you can eat all the savoury and sweet nibbles that you can hold. Because it was my birthday the nice lady running things gave us all a glass of bubbly to start with. I am not all that keen on bubbly because the bubbles get up my nose and make me sneeze. But I am keen on the little Bart-sized cakes, cookies and tarts. And I even learned how to pour tea properly without getting tea leaves in the cup. Presents? Of course there were presents, mostly tools for me to use when I help the Oldies with their beads and models. I think I like birthdays.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
A Tale of Two Towers, part 2
This is the big tower, 20 metres high. It is at a spot called Red Point at the southern entrance to Twofold Bay. William Boyd built it in 1847 to be a lighthouse guiding his ships into his harbour at Boydtown. Like all of Boyd's projects it was expensive, he shipped sandstone blocks from Sydney rather than using local stone. The government would not give him permission to operate a private lighthouse, so it has never shown a light. He used it as a lookout tower for his whaling boats. The lookout would fire a gun when they spotted whales in the bay. After Boyd left for California the tower was used by other whalers until whaling stopped in the 1930s. Today the tower is in a national park and has been partially restored. There are spectacular views of the bay and the ocean coast from lookouts near the tower. At the right time of year you can see lots of whales which now visit the bay for a rest on their long swims between Antarctica and the tropics. You can see some strange things through the old door and windows if you click on the picture to make it larger.
A Tale of Two Towers, part 1
While we were at Eden last weekend we visited a place called Boydtown, on the same bay as Eden but about a half-hour drive away. Eden and Boydtown are on a big double bay called Twofold Bay. Sometimes the sea gets very rough on the Eden side, but it is usually calm near Boydtown which is why there was a town here in the mid-1800s. The town was built by a London stockbroker called William Boyd. He dabbled in just about everything in the Australian colony. He had a bank, a shipping line, a whaling station, and big million-acre farms. He went bankrupt in 1849 and headed off to the California gold rush. There is not much left of the old town now, just a building called the Seahorse Inn which was Boyd's headquarters. It has been renovated recently and we had lunch there and found this cute little tower near the front entrance. Just the right size for a small bear to climb on, although there was a worrying mark like a bullet hole near one of the windows. It turns out that this tower is a small copy of a much bigger tower way out in the scrub near the entrance to the bay, so on to part 2 of this posting.....
Footy With Unka Mark
Last night we went over to Unka Mark and Aunty Vicki's for dinner. It was semi-final night for the Aussie Rules footy season and Unka Mark's team, St KFC was playing a team of Hawks. (Dad notes: For those overseas readers not familiar with Australian Football and the teams involved, St KFC is Bart's interpretation of St Kilda Football Club and the Hawks are the Hawthorn team). Unka Mark and his home mascots invited me to watch the game with them, and fitted me into a St KFC beanie. The game was a disaster. St KFC started fine and then went from good to totally useless. The Hawks totally thrashed them. I guess that the worst thing that can happen for a team of any sort is to have me barracking for them, they always lose, just remember what happened to the cricket match we went to last year when the dreaded P**ms thrashed the mighty and up-to-then unbeaten Aussie team. Anyhow, I learned a lot about the rules of AFL by listening to Unka Mark' comments about the referees and I met a couple of new friends, the St KFC team bear clone (whose name I forget) and Cyclops, the one-eyed St KFC supporter. They wandered off after the game muttering things about next season. Unka Mark, Dad and I went out onto the balcony and played "toss the bear"until Mum stopped us.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I like playing at the beach, provided it it crab-free. I like the way that sand can be wet and hard or dry and slithery. The slithery stuff is fun because no matter how hard you try to walk up a slope of it, you end up sliding backwards. Down on the beach at Eden I found this sand cliff, almost a metre high, which is really high for a small bear. The game was to climb to the top without sliding back down or getting buried in a sand slide. Mum gets a bit cranky if I get dirty or sandy. The trick is to use the grass roots to haul yourself up the vertical cliff. Once you are high enough to be in the tangle of exposed roots it is easy to make it to the top. The first stretch is the hard one. You can see how much I had to stretch to get onto those first root. Isn't climbing fun?
Well Above the Waves
Last weekend we went down to Eden on the south coast of NSW for what the Oldies call a "lost weekend". I don't understand why they call it that because we were never lost at all. The Oldies found a great place to stay. it is called "Eagle Heights" and the cabin we had was right on the cliff edge. We could see ocean all the way round half the horizon. Dad took his binoculars and we spent some time looking for whales but didn't see any. Later on in the year would be better, when the whales are swimming back to Antarctica and stopping in the bay here for a rest. We did see lots of boats and people trying to catch fish. The balcony had this nice wide rail all around it and Scruff and I wanted to walk along it but we weren't allowed to go there by ourselves. I don't think Dad was worried about the 30 metre fall to the bottom of the cliff, although Mum would go ballistic if we got wet. What worried them was that one of them would have to climb down and retrieve us. What we all really liked was drifting off to sleep with the sound of the waves breaking on the rocks of the cliff.
Friday, September 12, 2008
A Baby Coconut Palm
Look what Scruffy and I found the morning we visited Nanoyakoto island. It is a coconut palm just beginning to grow. You can see the coconut half-buried in the sand and the tree sprouting from the end of the nut. Coconuts are some of the biggest seeds in the world and they are built for travelling. They can float across big oceans and start growing whenever they are washed up on dry land, so you find coconut palms growing all around the tropical areas of the world. Did you know that every part of a coconut tree is used by island people? You can eat the coconuts and part of the tree, drink the "milk" from the inside of fresh nuts (I don't like it, it's yucky), the husk of the nut makes fine ropes, the wood from the tree trunk is used for building and the leaves can be made into baskets and hats and all sorts of things. Scruff and I hope that this little tree gets to grow tall and have lots of nuts, but Dad thinks it mightn't be allowed to because it is growing in the corner of some steps. I would move the steps if it was up to me.
They Built Them Big
No doubt about the ancient Egyptian Pharoahs, they sure built things big and they built them to last. Just look at the size of these stone pillars in the temple at Karnak, near Luxor. The temple has suffered a lot of damage in its 3500 years, mostly by people pinching stone for buildings, but it is still one of the most impressive places on Earth. It is actually the largest temple complex ever built. These pillars, are in what is called the Hypostyle Hall. The roof has disappeared long ago. The pillars are covered in heiroglyphs. Some of the markings are hard to read now, but the ones that Ramses II had carved are still OK; he made sure that his stuff was cut deeper than anyone else's, and sometimes even had his ones cut over the top of older ones. Mum was in raptures at Karnak. She took hundreds of photos that we are still reading the heiroglyphs on. Dad had to keep reminding her to breathe and drink lots of water. If you ever get the chance to visit Egypt make sure that you get to see the temples at Luxor, and remember to take your small bear with you.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Bart wishes all those great Dad's out there a Happy Father's Day.
We took Dad out to lunch. I made him wear this badge all day, it says "the World's Most Fantastic Dad". He gets a bit embarrassed about wearing things like that, although he is always ready to dress up in crazy gear when he and Mum are going out to Astronomical Society dinners. Now I guess that I have to worry about what he will make me wear on Small Bear's Day.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Got Him at Last
They finally caught up with Dad and put him under lock and key. Just kidding. This is a set of "stocks" in the grounds of Warwick castle in England. Back in the bad old days they used to put people that the authorities didn't like in these things. They even had smaller ones for kids (actually, I know a few kids that need to be put in stocks for a day or two). The stocks were usually in the castle courtyard or near the side of a road where everybody could see who was in trouble and throw things at them. This set is only used by tourists today. The top bar is left unlocked so that visitors can have their photo taken in them. I am glad that they let Dad go.
Fancy Waking Up to This??
There's nothing quite like waking up to find that you are anchored near a small island that could have come straight out of a story book. This is Manava Cay in Fiji. So small that you can walk around it in 10 minutes. There is a small hut on the cay that is used by the owners when they go to the island on fishing trips. Captain Cook passengers are the only "outsiders" allowed on the cay. This is where Scruffy and I perfected our crab hunting technique, and nearly escaped Mum's eagle eye long enough to go swimming. There is only one problem with small islands like this, the food runs out very quickly if you are a small bear and are not allowed to get wet. Bears are pretty good at catching fish of course, but how can you catch fish using the wild bear methods without getting wet?
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Ready to Roll 'Em
This is one tough little vehicle. It is an aircraft tug used at the Richmond RAAF base to move aircraft around. The aircraft based at Richmond are big - Hercules and C-17 - so the tractor has to be really powerful. I saw this one in action when we went to an airshow there a couple of years ago. The guys let me climb on the tractor but they wouldn't let me have a go at driving it. They say that when I grow big enough for my feet to reach the pedals they will give me a go. I guess that rules out small bears as anything but passengers. A pity, because I would like to push big aeroplanes around. Maybe I can get Dad to make a model tractor and I can use it to shuffle the models in his shelves.
What a Bridge!
The Oldies get really excited about great engineering. On their big trip last year they managed to see lots of the classic structures in the UK, where modern engineering started. This is the world's first major steel bridge, the Forth Rail Bridge near Edinburgh in Scotland. The Oldies had dinner at a great little pub/resseturaunt (I still can't spell restaurant) that is between this bridge and the road bridge, also a spectacular one. Mum was really hyped up and spent most of dinner time counting trains. Forth Bridge was built in the 1880s to carry two tracks of the British North Railway across the Firth of Forth. The bridge is over 2.5 km long and has towers 140m high. The railway is 46m above the high tide level. A real engineering marvel. When the oldies were there the bridge was having some major maintenance done. The big white structures on the towers are supports to make sure that things don't fall apart while the bolts and rivets on the towers are being inspected and replaced if necessary. Trains keep running across the bridge all the time, even when it is being worked on. I think it is a really pretty bridge, I like red.