Wednesday, April 27, 2011


A Wall of Remembrance

Monday was ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli in 1915. It is a special and solemn day in Australia, when we remember all of our servicemen and women who have been killed in the wars. It is a national holiday but rather than ducking off to the beach most of us do something to remember our fallen friends and family. Members of our families (that's Dad's and Mum's) have been soldiers, sailors, airmen and civil auxiliaries in most of the wars that Australia has been involved in. In fact one of Mum's relatives gained the highest award for valour, the Victoria Cross, in WWI; you can read about him in an earlier post, just search Jeffries VC. Mum, Dad and I normally go to the Australian War Memorial for a while and just focus on remembering our relatives. Possibly the saddest places are the long walls covered with the names of the fallen. We will remember them. It has become a Canberra tradition that you place a poppy or a sprig of rosemary in the wall near the name of the one you are remembering. As you can see from this section of one of the walls, lots of other people do the same as us. War is a terrible thing but it is very important to remember the history, otherwise we might make the same horrible mistakes again.



I Caught Him!

Yes, I actually caught the Easter Bunny, or at least an Easter Bunny. I set out a big glass bowl with a sign that said "Leave Eggs Here" and hid to see what would happen. Of course I went to sleep, but one of the advantages of using a big glass bowl is that they tinkle when things are dropped into them and that wakes a sleeping bear up. Sure enough, there was this small bunny trying to lift eggs almost as big as himself up higher than he was. Being a helpful small bear, I offered to help him and got talking to him. It seems that the Easter Bunny is not the world's best employer and leaves a lot of the work up to small helpers like this one. They are not well-payed, it seems like child slavery to me, so I offered to let him stay and live with us. Fortunately, Mum likes him too so he has joined the ever-growing band of small critters at our house. The only problem is, what will happen next Easter? Will Big Bunny send another apprentice around to our house, or will he come himself?


Sunday, April 24, 2011


Happy Easter !!!!

Wishing all my readers a happy Easter.
For small kids and critters Easter is a happy time because chocolate eggs mysteriously appear overnight. Legend has it that they are delivered by a rabbit. I find that kind of strange, but as long as the delivery is made it is OK by me, no matter what the delivery guy is. This morning I found a big chocolate egg and a choccy bunny waiting for me. I used to wonder where these strange Easter bunnies and chickens disappeared to, but that was before I found out that they were actually chocolate. OK, I have a large egg, now what to do with it? I could just eat it, but I want to do something special with it, so right now I am sitting in front of the TV watching my favourite chef lady, hoping she has an easy recipe for Easter egg omelette.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


A Cockatoo Crane

This crane is on Cockatoo Island in Sydney harbour. Cockatoo Island was picked as a convict prison in 1839 and a lot of the buildings and the dockyard that the convicts built have been preserved and are on the World Heritage List. From 1847 onward the docks were busy repairing Royal Navy ships, and shipbuilding started there in 1870. In 1913 it became the dockyard for the Royal Australian Navy. It was at its busiest during World War 2, repairing damaged Allied ships, building new warships up to destroyer size, and refitting merchant ships for troop and supply carriers. The first "Queen Mary" was converted to a troopship here. Cockatoo Island was the major shipyard in Australia until 1992, when the dockyards closed, most of the machinery was sold and lots of the workshops and wharves were demolished. Today, the island is managed by the Sydney Harbour Trust. You can visit it by ferry and spend many fascinating hours examining the remaining docks, workshops and machinery. Lots of the machinery is slowly rusting away, but some, like this small crane, has been restored. If Scruffy and I could have figured out how to get it running we would have had a great time using it to pick up some of the big chunks of machines that are scattered around the island. If you have any interest in industrial history then make sure that you visit Cockatoo Island when you are in Sydney.

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We Looked Down On Ships Like That

The size of the "Queen Mary 2" is most obvious when it is near some other big things. For example, when we were entering the port of Adelaide there was a cruise ship moored there. She was the "Amadea", built in 1991 and operated by the German-based Phoenix Reisen company. Amadea is fairly big, 193 m long and carrying 624 passengers and 292 crew; compare that with the QM2, 345 m long, 2,260 passengers and 1,253 crew. Amadea was on a cruise around the world and so was the QM2, in Sydney we met up with the Queen Elizabeth, also on a world cruise. When ships like these meet at a port, huge crowds come out to see them. At Adelaide the traffic was so heavy that it took us 25 minutes to travel the 3 km from where we met up with friends back to the ship just before sailing time. If you are on a cruise always allow an extra hour to get back to the ship, it is embarrassing if you are left behind.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011


Bears On The Battery

I've shown you photos of Fort Denison in previous postings, but here's one from the inside. On our last visit to Sydney we went across to the fort for lunch and a look around. It is an amazing place. The convict labourers did a really good job when they built it. You can just wander around most of the fort, but if you want to see inside the round tower you have to have a guide. That's because the stairs are narrow and steep and if you try really hard you could even get lost in there. I would like to try that. Anyhow, up on top of the lower buildings is a series of gun mountings and some of them even have guns still mounted on them. These two are part of the Battery that guarded the inner harbour. Scruffy and I had them lined up to blow any invading pirate ships out of the water, but no pirates tried to invade the Opera House while we were there. Lucky for them. There is still a gun working there; every day at 1 pm it is fired as a time signal for ships to set their clocks by. We weren't expecting it and it scared the heck out of Scruff and me. We thought pirates had sneaked up behind us.

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What's In Here?

You can see these strange -looking things sticking up through the decks of most old ships. I always wondered what they are, and on the "James Craig" I had a chance to find out. We were allowed onto the ship an hour before it sailed, so there was plenty of time for me to have a good look at things before we headed out into the rough seas outside Sydney Heads. After we hit the rough stuff it was every bear for himself and all I could do was hang on tight and try to keep clear of sea-sick passengers. Anyhow, it turns out that these things are ventilators. They pipe air down to the lower decks. In the days before air-conditioning, they were the only way that sailors below-decks could get fresh air. I found other uses for this one. If you can find a way to get to the opening and lean way over, you can drop things on the heads of people on the deck below. And they work really well as sound amplifiers, so a small bear can growl into one and it sounds like a giant roarasourasus to unsuspecting passengers underneath. It's great fun, until Mum sees what you are up to.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011


My New Telescope

A week ago a big box arrived on a truck. Inside it was a new telescope for Mum. As luck would have it, Mum had to go out for the day just after the telescope was delivered. That meant that I had to do the unpacking and assembly, with just a little bit of help from Dad. It took a while, but wasn't very difficult. All that I needed were a screwdriver, a spanner, and something to lift the heavy bits (Dad). It all went together perfectly and when Mum returned her new Celestron C6SE was ready for her. This is a great little 'scope. It is small enough to fit into the car with our usual amount of luggage, so we can take it with us on road trips. It is smart as well. All you have to do is tell it where it is and what time it is, then point it at 3 stars and from then on it knows where everything is and will automatically find the thing you want to look at. That saves a lot of time and means we can look at really faint things that we can't even see without the 'scope. The only problem is that the Oldies are very busy with public astronomy events at Mt Stromlo Observatory and we haven't had time to really use our new toy. We have a few free nights now, but guess what? It is raining and the forecast says that it will for days. Sometimes you just can't win. By the way, isn't it funny the way that I seem to change colour depending on the angle and distance of the camera flash? Maybe I'm a photo-chameleon.


Saturday, April 09, 2011


Avalon Hawk

I am sitting near an access panel on a BAe Hawk 127 LIF at the Avalon airshow. This is a great little jet. It is a special variant of the Hawk trainer, specially modified to be close to the Hornet fighter in its handling properties. Its cockpit instruments and layout are also close to the Hornet's. This means that RAAF fighter pilots can be trained on a cheaper aircraft before they graduate to the Hornet. LIF stands for Lead-in Fighter. I love Hawks, they are fast and noisy. Best of all, the pilots seem to like small bears. I was able to look all over this one and even see the electronics inside the hatches, nobody else at the Avalon airshow was able to go where I did.

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Caer Bears

"Caer" is the old Welsh word for castle. It is part of the name of lots of places in Wales, like Caernafon and Caerphilly. This little castle is part of the play equipment for kids on the "Queen Mary 2", and since us bears had taken it over for a while we named it Caerbear. OK, if you want to be pedantic Milkshake is a small cow, but when she travels with us she is an honourary bear. Actually, the castle is just the right size for small bears, small kids would not be able to fit in as well. We manned (or beared) the battlements and kept a lookout for pirates - none in sight. We spent lots of time sliding down the slippery-dip. Scruffy really liked that but got a bit annoyed at the way Milky would try to jump on him from the castle window as he slid past. There is a large section of the open rear deck of the QM2 that is fenced off for the use of kids. On our trip there weren't many kids, but us small critters sure enjoyed using it.

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Monday, April 04, 2011


Spectacular Sculpture

This is one of the best sculptures that I have ever seen. It is in the Grand Lobby of the Queen Mary 2 and shows the ship bursting out of a sunburst in mid-Atlantic. It is huge; 7m high and 6.5m wide. The colour of the sculpture changes with changing light during the day. Mum took many photos of it and it is a different colour in all of them. The artwork is made from brass sheet and it is 3D. It took the artist nearly 2 years to make. Because the bow of the ship sticks out from the background it appears to change direction as you walk around the lobby. There are loads of artworks on the QM2, around $3,000,000 worth. Some of them are great, like all the paintings of past and present Cunard ships, and some of them (IMHO) are not very good at all. I will show you more of them in due course.

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Don't Believe It

You shouldn't believe everything that you read. I mean, just look at this sign. It is on the top deck of the "Queen Mary 2" and whenever Scruffy, Milkshake and I were sitting on this ladder so that we could watch people playing deck sports we were treated like dangerous nasties. Of course anybody should know that small critters like us don't bite. We might throw things, but we don't bite. Actually, the sign refers to animals that are on the other side of the wall. QM2 has a kennel there for pampered pets that are travelling with their owners. These pets get the royal treatment; fresh bikkies, special bedding, toys, even their own monogrammed coat. I have to report that they get treated better than the Oldies treated us, except that we didn't have to stay locked up for most of the time.

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