Saturday, February 21, 2009


The Bridge to Skye

Here's another picture from the Oldies' big trip. The bridge joins the Isle of Skye to the mainland of Scotland. Before the bridge was built you had to use a ferry to get to the island. Skye must be really pretty because the Oldies haven't stopped talking about it since they got back. Mind you, they were very lucky to have weather like this. Most of the time it is evidently so cloudy and misty that you can't see much. There are some songs about Skye and the escape of Bonny Prince Charlie; you may know them. That happened way back before the bridge was built. Can you see the little lighthouse under the bridge? It marks the entrance to a main shipping channel into the Kyle of Loch Alsh. I just love those Scottish names, they sound as impressive as the scenery.

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Ship to Shore

One of the fun things on a Captain Cook Fiji cruise is the way that we get from the ship to the shore when we are going for a side trip to somewhere interesting. These two little boats take us. The bigger one is a glass-bottomed "see-through" boat that also takes us out over the reefs so we can see corals and fish. The little one takes snorkellers as well. Here they are lining up to come onto the lift at the stern of "Reef Escape". The lift is a fun thing as it lifts the boats right up out of the water so that we can get onto them without having to jump or get wet, then it lowers them back down into the water. I like to sit on the railings at the back and watch this happen. Mum doesn't like me doing it because she thinks I will fall in. It was a calm day when this photo was taken, but sometimes it gets rough enough to make for a really exciting ride. The only excitement this day was that the boats had been painted the day before and some of us stuck to almost-dry paint. Some of the Oldies got really cranky about that but I thought it was funny.

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George and Zoe

Meet my friends George and Zoe. They are platypuses (or platypii if you insist on proper English) and live with friends of the Oldies. The other week they finally decided to marry. Here's a report of the event from their Aunt Karen:
"Being shy creatures, they only invited relatives, who can be seen in the small photo waiting to get stuck into the wedding cake for a feed. Zoe looked superb in a white off-the-shoulder dress designed by a platypus dress-maker in Bombala. Zoe insisted that George dump all 34 of his other girlfriends before she would wed him; a big commitment for George. At present they are honeymooning at Lake Crackenback where Zoe is sunning herself while George is learning to water ski".
That's three weddings in the past year, two of my cousins and these friends. I hope it's not catching.


Thursday, February 12, 2009


Help the Animals

The fires and floods have me horrified. So much destroyed and so many people dead. It's incredibly sad. One thing that seems to get forgotten is that it's not just people and property, there are lots of animals caught in there too. Help comes in from all over for people, but the poor little critters often get forgotten. I guess some critters like snakes and crocs don't mind floods, but everything hates bushfires. Those pictures of my koala relatives being helped by firemen made me determined to do something to help. There is a team called "Help for Wildlife" based near Kinglake, right in one of the worst-hit areas, doing great work rescuing and treating hurt animals and birds. They urgently need all sorts of vetenary supplies. Now small bears don't have much of this sort of thing around the house, so what to do? Step 1, check the medicine cupboard for bandages. Step 2, empty my money box and get the money for more bandages. Step 3, go shopping with Mum and buy small animal sized bandages. Step 4 (most difficult but most productive), find out from Mum how to shame Dad into making a cheque for the group to buy medicines with (cheques are like promises of money that magically turn into money at the other end). Step 5, buy an envelope big enough to hold bandages, cheque and letter. Step 6, get the Oldies to drive me down to the Post Office. Step 7, get the Post Office lady to weigh the envelope and put the stamps on. Then for the final, Step 8, struggle up the side of the postbox to the mail slot and drop the envelope in. This was a real struggle. I had to hold the lid thing down with one foot and use my head pressed against the top of the opening to make sure the lid didn't flip shut, tossing me into the mailbag. After all, I hadn't been stamped and wasn't going anywhere. Then toss the envelope in, hear it go"thunk" into the mail pile, release the lid (avoiding being tossed), and climb back down. If it hadn't been so important I would have let one of the Oldies post the envelope. Anyhow, it is on the the way and by Monday afternoon my bandages will be on burnt koalas and possums and things down in Victoria. I feel really happy about that.
If you can help too, send stuff to Help for Wildlife, PO Box 181, Coldstream, Vic 3770. The poor critters down there will thank you, and so will I.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Guardians of Newcastle

In this photo you can see two things that have guarded Newcastle harbour almost since it began. On the top of the hill is Fort Scratchley. Construction of this fort started with the first guns being installed in 1878, before the walls were built. The only time the guns were used in anger was when a Japanese midget submarine shelled the BHP works on June 8, 1942. The army finally left the fort in 1972. In 1978 it became part of the National Estate and lots of reconstruction has happened since. It is well worth a visit if you are ever in Newcastle.
At the bottom of the hill is the Pilot Station. The yellow boats are the pilot boats which go out to meet ships coming into harbour and transfer a pilot to them. The pilot knows all the tricks of getting into harbour safely. I think I would make a great pilot.

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Carry-bag for Bear

This is the perfect place for me to travel while the Oldies haul me around. They think it is the case for their new camera, but I know better. It is just the right size for me sit comfortably and securely, and it even has a flap that acts as a windscreen. Whoever designed this "camera case" obviously had small bears in mind. After all, the camera has a neck strap so the bag is not all that necessary, is it?

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Colossal Colossi

I thought it was time for another photo from the Oldies big overseas trip, so here's one from Egypt.
These two big statues are called the Colossi of Memnon. They were built by Pharoah Amenhotep III about 4500 years ago to guard the gates of his temple in the ancient capital, Thebes.The statues have been badly damaged by centuries of tourists and erosion, but they are still really impressive and are the best remains of ancient Thebes. You can see the start of an evolution in headgear worn by Mum in Egypt. During the trip she developed a unique blend of Egyptian and Australian style that worked splendidly. She threatened severe consequences if I included this picture, so I wait with interest to see how fast I have to run.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009


This is a Caravan??

Dad says this is a Cessna Turbo-Caravan. It doesn't look like any sort of caravan I've seen before. How would you tow this behind a car? Still, Dad sometimes knows what he's talking about. Whatever it is, this is the seaplane that carries passengers between Sydney harbour and Newcastle harbour several times a day. Actually, it is an amphibian. It has wheels as well as floats and can land on water or land. It came into Newcastle while we were having breakfast at a cafe near the harbour and I went down to see it. I couldn't get any closer than this because Mum goes ballistic if I get too close to the edge of the gangplank. She thinks I might fall in and get wet (and I would if I could get away with it). The big buildings over the other side of the harbour are wheat silos. They have big conveyor belts attached so that they can squirt wheat straight into the holds of ships. There weren't any ships loading while we were there, a pity because I think it would be fun watching it happen.

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Hunting Hobby Shops in Hunter St

Wherever we travel the Oldies find their favourite sorts of shops. No problem for Mum, there are loads of jewellery and craft shops in just about any town on the planet. It is a bit tougher for Dad because he looks for hobby shops. Not just any old hobby shop, but one that is big enough to have the latest, the rarest and the "old classics" aircraft kits in stock. And they have to be 1/72 scale too. As luck would have it, there is just such a hobby shop in Newcastle. It is called Frontline Hobbies and it's in the old part of Newcastle in the main street. Actually, there is not much left in the main street, Hunter St, as Newcastle has had some tough times with a big earthquake and then the main industry (the BHP steelworks) closing down so the old part of Newcastle is a bit like a ghost town. Anyhow, Frontline Hobbies is stacked up with just about any type of modelling stuff you can think of. Dad and I were after aircraft kits. There was just one in the whole place that we haven't either built or have waiting to be built. We grabbed it. Then we saw this boat kit. It is of a lifeboat like the ones that the Oldies saw on their UK trip, so we grabbed that too. I will keep the pressure on Dad to make sure that we build these fairly quickly and will post the results soon.

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