Wednesday, January 28, 2009
The Cooktown Light
This little lighthouse is on Grassy Hill, a high hill near the entrance to Cooktown harbour. It usually looks dirty like this because it gets coated by red dust from the road. It has been marking the entrance to Cooktown since 1885. It is a bit different to most lighthouses because it has a timber frame and corrugated iron walls. The Barrier Reef is close to shore here and there are lots of reefs close in to the shore. My hero, Captain Cook, hit one way back in 1770. He had to beach his boat, the "Endeavour" on the bank of the river and that's how Cooktown and the Endeavour River got their names. There is a rock monument near the lighthouse that commemorates Cook's trips up Grassy Hill to try and see a way through the reefs. Half-way up the hill there is a statue of a kangaroo, at the spot where kangaroos first got their European name. The story is that Cook saw this strange critter and asked the local aboriginals what it was. They said "kangaroo". Cook didn't know that that meant "What did you say?" in the local language so he called the critter kangaroo. No wonder kangaroos get stroppy sometimes.
Australia Day Yobbos
In Aussie slang a "yobbo" is an uncouth, uncultured, uneducated, undisciplined, noisy person, usually with a great love of most sorts of alcoholic beverages. They can be really nice people, despite being yobbos. This picture shows two perfect examples. Honestly, these Oldies of mine worry me at times. They seem to go crazy when they are going out to some things, particularly parties. This time we were off to Australia Day lunch with a group of cobbers (that's Australian for "friends"). The Oldies upheld the position of the yobbo in that group; I guess somebody had to. At least they didn't make me go yobbo. You can see how far Mum went to look as Aussie as possible. She has these great little holes in her ears where she can hook pretty things like these tiny maps of Australia. Maybe holes like that could be fun but, you guessed it, she won't let me poke holes in my ears.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Flying Like a Fox
Yesterday (Monday Jan 26 in Australia) was Australia Day, so we had a long weekend and lots of time for fun. One of the fun things was a visit to Unka Mark and Aunty Vicki. It's always fun to visit them because Unka Mark and Dad find different ways to make rides for me. There is a long, steep driveway up past Unka Mark's to his neighbour's and the corners of their balconies are high off the ground. This makes them great for anchor points for things. I have been sent up in a bundle of weather balloons, rode high in a kite, and parachuted from there. This time Dad took across a strong fishing line and a pair of Bart-sized wings with sliders attached. Unka Mark tied one end of the line to the high corner of his neighbour's balcony and the other end to an apple tree near the road end of the driveway. Then they hooked me onto the line at the balcony end and watched me fly at high speed down the line. They called this setup a "Flying Fox". That's a bit confusing because I am pretty sure foxes can't fly. Anyhow, that doesn't matter because I'm a small bear not a fox. They even found ways of making me loop and roll as I slid down the line. Great fun, except when Dad got too busy taking pictures to catch me before I hit the tree. After a while it got so exhausting that I had to give up and cool off. Lots of strawberry daquaris helped. Now, if I can find some small pulleys I could go a lot faster. Somewhere in Dad's "useful junk" in the garage maybe...
Monday, January 19, 2009
A Hero in the Family
In Newcastle there is a special part of my family history. The big building on the hill is Christ Church Cathedral, and tucked away in a corner of it is a special memorial display to a real soldier hero who came from Newcastle. He was Captain Clarence Smith Jeffries, my Great-great-grandma's cousin, and he won the Victoria Cross during the Battle of Passchendaele on the 12th of October 1917, a fortnight before his 23rd birthday. On that day he led his company in an attack on several German pillboxes (machine gun posts). When his force was pinned down he took a small group of fourteen soldiers, made his way around behind the enemy positions and captured four of the machine guns and thirty-five prisoners. Later in the day he was killed trying to neutralize another pillbox. He is buried in Tyne Cot war cemetry, near where he fell. His VC is part of the display in the Cathedral, one of the few VC's not kept in the Australian War Memorial. There is a special commemorative chair there as well, but Dad won't let me sit in it when we visit. I hate the stupidity and waste that is war, but I also feel proud that this small bear has one of the bravest of soldiers in his family tree.
By the way, that thing that looks like a flying saucer on a pole is a lookout tower where you can climb up and see what is happening in the harbour. Well worth doing if you don't mind lots of stairs.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Nobbys at Newcastle
I love lighthouses. They are always in the most interesting spots, on headlands or clifftops. The best ones are the ones where you can see them best from harbour ferries or cruise boats. Newcastle has a beaut, called Nobbys. It is on what was once a rocky island (Nobbys Head) just off the south side of the mouth of the Hunter river. A lighthouse was built here way back in 1818 because Newcastle was, and still is, a very important coal port. The island has changed since then. Lots of it have been blasted away to make the harbour better and it has been joined to the mainland by a causeway. You can walk right up to the lighthouse and there are great views from there. The causeway has let sand pile up on the seaward side and created a good surfing beach. Actually, the lighthouse is a bit hard to see from a distance. The most obvious buildings on Nobbys Head are the Signal Station and Port Control. The lighthouse is the smaller building with the pointy roof, to the left of the tower in the picture. The second picture shows the mouth of the river,and there is something in it that makes it obvious why Mum won't let me go on small boats by myself. I took this picture from a ferry and Mum had a tight grip on me at the time, even though we hadn't left the wharf yet.
The Marriage of Mandy
Last weekend we went up to Newcastle for a very special event, the wedding of my cousin Amanda and her special guy, Keith. Both of them are nearly finished their engineering degrees, so they should have an interesting life together. Mandy is the younger daughter of Dad's sister, Aunty Margie. The wedding was in a church, the Baptist one, right in the centre of Newcastle. We usually have a hard time finding our way around Newcastle, but we managed to find the church OK. I had a hard time keeping still during the service but I could wriggle around and make some noise during the singing; Dad's croaky, off-key singing hides any noise I make. After the ceremony we had afternoon tea in a park across the road. The oldies went off to the reception later that evening but the meanies left me behind.
You may remember reading about the wedding of Amanda's big sister, Heather, in one of my posts last year (check it out in the March 2008 archive).