Friday, 22 June 2007

Possum paradise and next stop on the knitting trip around the world ...

Before we arrive at our new destination I have to share these photos of one of our resident possums. We are having the three big Fleas and partners and assorted little fleas over on Saturday to go through the various bits of furniture, books, junk etc we are not taking with us in the move. As Grandpa Flea was going around the house "making an inventory" (isn't that like a man , I was just going to make a list! ) we moved outside to the area referred to as "under the house" - it's actually an open carport under the house. On a raised concrete area to one side, various tools etc are stored and also the junk we didn't want in the house while we were "open for inspection". There, just cuddled up in a ball on the cold concrete floor, in amongst the various bits and pieces, was a fat furry bundle of possum.
It woke up and had a bit of a scratch,
decided we were only nuisance value, not a threat, and then went back to sleep again.
Today our magic flying shawl is landing in Scottsdale, Arizona where Rachel lives. Aaahh, I remember it well! It was the spring of '85 and I had a fifteen year old boy who thought all females were the devil's spawn, and a thirteen year old, rebellious girl in tow on our first ever overseas trip. We had just come from the Grand Canyon where the 15 year old had bought a book on walking in the Canyon. His favourite part was the page where it warned against taking menstruating women with you, as bears have a very keen sense of smell and are liable to give chase and eat everyone for breakfast. This fitted perfectly with his (then) views about women and if he read the page aloud once, I swear he read it out a hundred times. This did a lot to ease tensions between the siblings (ha ha) not to mention with their long-suffering mother!

Grandpa Flea had flown off to Houston or somewhere on business and left us to our own devices with a rented car. We stayed in a motel/hotel in Scottsdale. This was spring, remember, early May, and the temperature was about 50 Celsius - it was HOT. It was even too hot to swim in the pool! We were all very nervous about being in the US and even more so without the biggest male of the family to protect us (we're not stupid - we'd heard about the range of various violent crimes, race riots and serial killers that lurked around every corner).

The first day we were there I had to visit the doctor as my ears had started to give me terrible pain on the flight from Australia and then on the internal flight to Phoenix. And I mean PAIN. So we spent most of the first day in the emergency department of some hospital, where I was tagged around the wrist and put in a bed with the sides pulled up while the kids loitered forlornly in the corner. Eventually a doctor came and explained to me that I had a pressure build up in the middle ear, and he would have to bore little holes in my eardrums!!! - if I didn't have this procedure, my eardrums would burst and it would probably leave me partially deaf. Now, I'm a coward and I don't mind admitting it. There was no way I was going to have holes bored in my eardrums by some strange man in some strange hospital in some strange city while I was responsible for two kids and had no Grandpa Flea there to hold everything together. To be honest, there was no way I was having it done - period. So after much "discussion" and dire warnings, I was sent on my way with some antibiotics, but not until after I had signed a waiver acknowledging that I had been WARNED and if anything happened to me, it would be ALL MY FAULT. Oh, I also had to pay for the consultation, the drugs and TEN MINUTES OF HEALTH EDUCATION.

I had desperately wanted to drive out to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park, but it was so hot that I was too anxious to go - I was worried that if we broke down and managed to escape the resident and transient murderers, that we'd die of heat exhaustion. Instead we lingered in the hotel room all the next day and eventually went for a walk downtown in the late afternoon. I bought myself a necklace in one off the shops and we bought a few trinkets for the rebellious one's friends back home.

Later, we set out to drive to some restaurant on the top of a hill with a beautiful view. It's main claim to fame seemed to be that if you wore a tie there, they cut it off and pinned it to the ceiling with the hundreds of others snipped from hapless customers. We drove around for what seemed like hours - hopelessly lost and me getting increasingly anxious. In the end we stopped at a some sort of chain restaurant, where we had one of the most memorable experiences of our trip (I'm like Roxie - easily amused!). We were trying to order our food and drinks from a waitress who spoke with some sort of broad Arizonian accent. We had trouble understanding her, and she didn't understand us at all! but there was goodwill on both sides. We were trying to establish if the orange drink on the menu was a fizzy drink or a cordial type drink, or fresh juice (my kids were fussy!). After several attempts, the answer was " Well, ah cain't say yais 'n ah cain't say no, 'cahs ah don't rahtly know what y'all tokking abaht". We still laugh about it. So much for English being a universal language.

Scottsdale (as it was then) reminds me a bit of Noosa - it seemed to be a tourist destination for the seriously trendy and well-to-do. Is it still like that, Rachel? It was very charming but I'd only ever visit there again in the dead of winter. With a bit of luck it would only get to 40deg.Celsius!

Back on the magic shawl and home to Australia. Next post we'll visit Janette, Kate and Miss Fee.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

A Knitting Trip continued .... with a small detour ...

My whirlwind virtual trip around the world was interrupted by a birthday party for the littlest Flea who turned 5 on Sunday. The house was a great happy chaotic mess of the birthday girl, two little cousins and assorted Mama, Daddy, aunts, uncles and the FleaPas. We had pink balloons, pink icing, pink presents, and a swimming pool cake with blue and red water and the two little cousins and the littlest Flea swimming in it! Oh -do you know how many people it takes to light the candles on a birthday cake? - three - one Grandpa to hold the match and one Daddy and a birthday girl to supervise! Look at the concentration on those faces.
My apologies to Roxie - I forgot to take a photo of the cupcakes with pink icing and smarties (M & Ms) decoration.

Now back to the knitting trip around the world - Maud, Miss Fee,and Rachel have all left a comment about where they come from. This is exciting (to me!). I'm falling behind in my responses, so:

Dianne admits to two knitting homes - California, USA and Exeter, Australia. I've been to California but without knowing the general location, can't say if I've been near Dianne's knitting lair, there. Exeter is in the Southern Highlands of NSW, about an hour and a half to two hours drive from my home. I have been to Robertson and Bundanoon in the same area, but can't recall Exeter, although I must have passed through there. It is a beautiful part of NSW with proper winters, unlike my part of Sydney. Robertson is the home of the "Big Potato" - Australians have a fascination for "big things" - we have "big things" all around the country - the big merino, the big banana (the first big thing in Australia, I think), the big oyster, the big prawn, the big bottle! and so on. Robertson is a potato growing area and so I guess someone had the bright idea of having a "big Thing" to attract the tourists - unfortunately, the big potato looks like a giant dog dropping (my apologies to the good people of Robertson if I've offended you - but someone had to tell you ...)

Next, Kathy of Indianapolis - I have never been to Indianapolis - the closest I've gone is Chicago about 15 years ago. I fell in love with The Field Museum - Grandpa Flea and I spent hours there and still didn't get off the ground floor! It's a bit like Questacon in Canberra, but a thousand times better. My favourite exhibit was the very large clear perspex incubator containing hundreds of hen eggs. As you watched, an egg would start to hatch and it was absolutely mesmerising to watch the little chick struggle to break out of the shell. Nothing like the sped-up sequences you see on TV! I also loved the The Art Institute of Chicago although when I just did a search of its website, I couldn't find the paintings that I remembered. Perhaps they are on loan or maybe even sold.

Willow hails from Los Angeles but is about to move north west to Camarillo. I have changed planes in Los Angeles - I even had a shower at the airport - but have never actually looked around there. The closest I have been is Las Vegas, which is not close at all. I found Camarillo on the map, but again Las Vegas would be the closest I have been. When we went to Las Vegas, it was the first time we had been overseas and we had three weeks travelling around - everywhere. We saw a lot of airports! and learnt from that experience.

Gemma lives in Bankstown, a south western suburb of Sydney. It's an area that I used to know quite well, as Grandpa Flea was living in a boarding house in the nearby suburb of Punchbowl when I met him. But that was many, many years ago and I probably wouldn't recognise it now. My eldest daughter was working there some years ago in the Environmental Protection Agency, but her department then moved into the Sydney CBD. Grandpa Flea's sister used to live at Padstow which is also in the same general area so over the years I've circled around Bankstown.

We now have to do a lightning speed hop over to Finland, where Maud lives in a place called Espoo. Check out Maud's posts on her Venezia sweater - it is a work of art. I can see on Google Earth that Espoo is inland and west of Helsinki but still on the south coast. I now know that it is the second largest city in Finland with about 250,000 people, and is part of the Greater Helsinki City area. And it has a Marimekko shop! I have been to Finland - to Helsinki airport! where I changed planes on my way from somewhere to somewhere - I can't recall now. The airport has some lovely examples of Finnish design in the shops but sadly that is the only part of Finland that I have seen to date. However, for many years - thirty or more, I have worn a Finnish designed silver heart around my neck. We used to have a shop at Eastwood a couple of suburbs away that only sold items from Finland. I fell in love with this particular heart and had to have it. It is looking a bit battered now from years of wearing - I've dropped it a few times on a concrete surface which has left a few marks and when my grandchildren were teething, they used to "gum" it when I was holding them. When we visited Stockholm we stayed in a funny little hotel/bed and breakfast place which was owned by a Finnish family. The owner's brother greeted us like long lost friends and gave us a discount as he had emigrated to Australia and was visiting his brother on holidays! He lives in Granville, the suburb that Lara is moving to. So I do have Finnish connections!!

More next post when I visit Rachel from Scottsdale and Israel and Miss Fee.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

A knitting trip around the world ...

Thank you Lara, Carson, Roxie, Gemma, Willow, Kathy, Dianne and Emma for stepping up to the challenge! Your names are in the hat!

I had to refer to the atlas for Roxie - talk about the geographically ignorant! I always thought Oregon was somewhere in the middle of the US - about where Dakota turns out to be! And I'm the person who says that Americans are usually very ignorant about the world outside the US (no offence meant, but y'all ask us Aussies some pretty strange questions!) So now that I KNOW where Oregon is, I can say that the closest I have ever been to Orgon was on a shuttle bus en route from Vancouver BC (now I know there is another Vancouver in Oregon!) which passed through Seattle on the way to Bellingham (oh! I'll never forget the horror of it all- so near,and yet so far from the wonderful yarn shops of Seattle!). And because of the interesting "hub" arrangements of the US domestic airlines, I have flown over Mt St Helens en route to Vancouver from Australia via Los Angeles and Houston! What a flight that was - it felt like we'd left Sydney about 3 weeks before instead of thirty something hours! So I really know very little about Oregon.

Now, Emma from Merdrignac in Brittany in France - Bonjour! (that's about the extent of my French!) I found Merdrignac on Google Earth and on Google. I may have passed through there in a minibus tour we did in 2000 with a company called Back Roads Touring as we went to Normandy and Brittany before heading back towads the south-east but I think the closest I have been to Merdrignac is St Malo - I have fond memories of St Malo, as I had my hair cut there! I spent an hour or so in the hairdressers, practising my schoolgirl French while half the salon practised their English. It was good fun. The other people in the group went off looking at historical things, but I'm sure my memories are stronger. I was amazed (and probably very naive) at the regional cultural variations in France. The group leader come bus driver was an Englishman, who lived in France most of the time - he spoke fluent French and made sure we were introduced to all the regional specialties in food and drink. He was an outstanding guide. I think his background as a school teacher helped.

Carson comes from the inner western suburbs of Sydney, an area that I got to know when my youngest daughter lived at Stanmore. What a great place to live - close to the city, buses around every corner, coffee shops around every other corner, beautiful old homes, many semi-detached, but a lot of old "mansions" from the 1800s, interesting shopping (I love All Buttons Great and Small at Newtown) and despite the high density of the housing, an amazing variety of wild-life to be seen. I'm really sorry that we didn't move in towards the city when our daughter was living there, but "old dogs" are hard to shift! And sadly, now that my "old dog" has retired and is involved with lots of locally based things, it would not be a good move.

Now I know the area where Lara hails from. It is not that far from where I live, and I have an amazing knitterly friend called Pia who lives there. She is absolutely delightful and a beautiful knitter to boot. Denistone East is a good place to live - there are buses and trains to the city, good local shopping and and it's closer to the city than Beecroft. But, Lara says, she is considering a move to Granville. Granville is not that far from Harris Park where I lived when I was first married, but the area has changed greatly since then with an influx of people from middle eastern cultures. So, I must take a trip to Granville soon and wander around to feel and see the changes.

Having asked everyone else to nominate where they live, it's only fair that I should 'fess up too. I currently live in Beecroft, a leafy suburb in the north-west of Sydney, but later this year we are moving to Epping, two suburbs closer to the city. Epping is much more densely populated than Beecroft, with many more blocks of home units and some medium rise office buildings.

The shopping centre in Beecroft has a variety of small boutiquey type shops and is a nice place to meet friends for coffee or lunch and a wander around, window shopping. Epping's shopping centre is much more spread out - the railway line and a main road divide the shopping area into two parts and there aren't the same number of small boutiques. However, Epping has many restaurants, two opportunity shops (thrift shops to those who don't speak the Queen's English!), a branch of the local library, a public swimming pool, and a railway/bus interchange that allows you to travel to many places by public transport quite easily. Where we will be living also has nice long, flat streets for walking as opposed to the mountain we have to climb in Beecroft - perhaps I'll lose some kilos!

We won't have the wildlife that we have here and we'll miss that, nor the privacy which will be hard to lose. I love having all the blinds right up and hate sleeping in a room with the windows covered. We can do that here without any worries about casual passers by looking in, but in Epping we'll have a street frontage. Our children think we'll have a lot of trouble adjusting to living so close to other people. I think we'll have trouble adjusting to living in a much smaller space! I'm cleaning out cupboards, sorting and throwing (and packing!) but hate parting with things like the hundreds of knitting patterns I've downloaded from the internet and will never, in my wildest dreams, get knitted. Despite this, I think it is a good move for us, and a timely one. Grandpa Flea turns 68 this year and I'll be 63. I've seen too many people leave the decision to move until someone else has to make it for them. And much as I love and respect my children, I'd rather choose, myself, where I'll live!

This is turning into a really interesting project - I'm learning so much - I was just looking for some Beecroft photos on the internet and discovered that:
"On the main northern train line from Sydney’s Central Station, Beecroft is a natural bushland village. Within a few kilometres of such attractions as Koala Park, where you can get nose-to-nose with Australia's cutest marsupial, and Cumberland State Forest, the only metropolitan forest in the southern hemisphere, Beecroft is less than 25 minutes by car from Sydney along the M2 motorway.

The main north rail-line which passes through the suburb offers links to the city, Hornsby, Parramatta and neighbouring suburbs.

The small but compellingly quaint shopping precinct of Beecroft is only minutes from the major commercial centres of Epping, Castle Hill and the Macquarie shopping complex.

Beecroft and neighbouring Cheltenham are rarities in the metropolis that is Sydney. They are just a 20 to 30 minutes drive on the M2 from the heart of Sydney, yet they retain the charm and tranquillity of bushy, elegant country villages." ( Now, when we moved here 40 years ago, the shopping centre could have been called "quaint" but I wouldn't use that term these days! And the "elegance" of the "village" as some of the locals like to call it, is fast being knocked down by people who are building fence to fence Mc Mansions. True, there are some absolutely beautiful old homes in Beecroft (not ours!!) but the trend to knock old places down (and all the old trees in the garden) is very disheartening.

I also found on that: "Beecroft residents tend to vote conservatively, and for fiscally conservative political parties, while often being socially liberal in their political views. Its leafy, tree-lined steets are reminiscent of a village in the home counties. Some of Sydney's most historically important houses are found in Beecroft, many of which are distinctively Australian, including several Federation houses on one of Sydney's oldest and most expensive residential streets, Malton Road." What a surprise! I will never forget the day the Governor General sacked Gough Whitlam (a reformist Labor Prime Minister in 1972) - I was on canteen duty at the primary school with all the "socially liberal" mothers of the area - they all cheered when the news came through. I ended up having to go home early as I was so upset by their joy!

More tomorrow.