Land-Based Aircraft Carriers

An interesting dynamic comes into play when a project of any magnitude is embarked upon, in my humble opinion and experience.  Almost as interesting as the commission of the project is the planning stage and many a feisty verbal interchange has taken place leading up to commencement of an undertaking of the construction variety in our back yard.  The latest is literally in our back yard.  I refer to the refurbishment, reinvention and enlargement of the existing deck leading from our back door.  The same deck has previously undergone transformation in the form of enlargement but the currently planned iteration is of truly memorable proportions.

It all began when the Director of Operations, General Lee Speaking, hitherto referred to as GLS, suggested some alterations to the proposed extension of said deck.  Himself, modestly referred to henceforth as Hiss, was prognosticating upon the subject of size and scope when interrupted, somewhat in the manner set forth here:

GLS     No, it really needs to be much bigger.  I think it should subsume the paved area in front of the pizza oven.  In fact, I think it should replace the pizza oven.

Hiss     But I spent a lot of time and effort building that pizza oven.

GLS     Don’t be silly.  We hardly use it.  It needs to go.

Hiss     But what about the beautiful tree fern next to it?  Shall we build the deck around it?

GLS     Don’t be silly.  We can live without it.  It needs to go.

Hiss     I like that tree fern.  It was here when we arrived nearly 30 years ago and has grown up with us.

GLS     Don’t be sentimental.  It needs to go.

Hiss     Sigh.

GLS     Actually, I think the deck needs to go right over to the pool.

Hiss     But what about the fence that is there?  It gives us privacy and protection from the wind when we are using the deck.

GLS     Don’t be silly.  We need to open the whole thing up.  You are always going on about the wind.

Hiss     But I’ll need to pour a concrete footing for the new fence because we still need a pool fence.

GLS     Don’t be silly.  Just sit the fence on top of the new deck that is going to extend right over to the pool.

Hiss     Sigh.

GLS     And while you are about it, extend the deck along the back of the pool.

Hiss     Do you know how expensive kwila decking is?

GLS     Well, clad it in plastic then.

Hiss     (You guessed it – sigh.)  Are you sure you don’t just want me to keep building out the back until I get to the next property?  We could paint a big circle with an H in the middle and see who drops in.

GLS     (Silence)  Now you are being silly.

The project continues with occasional interchanges of opinion and fact although sometimes it is a little hard to distinguish opinion from fact.  One such is the ‘proper’ way to lay out the decking, particularly around the border.  I have been advised there is only one way to do it and it better be done in that fashion.  The ‘or else’ is implied.

Suffice to say I’m looking forward to the completion of this one.  It has been quite some time to this point and the framing is not yet complete.  It has been somewhat enervating, not to mention the potential disruption to my ordered routine as a professional cyclist.  I was rather glad of a rainy day today which afforded opportunity to mount the new tele on its fancy bracket that swings out from the wall in the lounge.  Well, that was a real doozy of a discussion leading up to that . . . but that’s another story.

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Cycling Omnibus – Episode Seventy Twelve

It’s been a while since I regaled you with exploits of the biking variety and it seems timely to reprise the subject.  The reality is that the life of a professional cyclist is interesting and challenging, albeit more interesting than challenging, in truth.  However, there are obstacles to overcome periodically.  I’ve previously noted some of these such as packs of marauding wolf-derivatives, groups of women generally speaking and taking up the entirety of the bike track, wobbly old men in lycra who have decided to find out what this cycling craze is all about, headphone-wearing youths who neither notice nor care that others would like to share the path with them – the list goes on.

One of my oft-ridden tracks takes me alongside the motorway, noisy smelly place that it is.  However, it affords opportunity to observe all manner of interesting objects and actions.  The other morning I noticed a truck with the following legend emblazoned on its rear door: “The door to success is marked with the word ‘push’”.  It reminded me of the need to be self-starting, of the virtues of being entrepreneurial, and of a quote I learned as a child.  It was introduced to me as the Quartermaster’s Motto and went thus:  “The Lord helps those who help themselves but the Lord help those I catch helping themselves”.

But back to cycling.  There has been an amusing development in regard to one of our favourite coffee stops.  (I employ the plural personal pronoun, not as a royal person of Victorian times would, but in reference to the fact I am always accompanied when visiting this particular café.)  We usually head to Nelson on a Wednesday for some reason that completely escapes my understanding at this point.  Suffice to say it is a habit there appears no likelihood of being broken anytime soon.  The café in question has a nice river outlook with ample outdoor seating and acceptable coffee.  The service has taken a recent and appreciated rise in attentiveness so all portents of future enjoyment are promising.

Three Wednesdays ago we arrived and took up our usual places ready to sample coffee and engage in convivial conversation.  We had been there about one third of our customary time – a fairly generous portion of time, I have to say – when we were joined at the next table by a couple of young persons and two dogs.  One young person tied up the dogs and entered the establishment to order coffees while the other pulled out the ubiquitous phone and began doing whatever it is they do on phones.  One small dog settled down to wait its owner’s return but the other, a larger and deep throated sample of the Labrador variety, began barking.  The sitter continued doing whatever she was doing on her phone and largely ignored the barrage of barking although she did look up at one stage and say soothingly, “What’s the matter, darling?”  I could have cheerfully supplied the answer to that question.

Her companion returned and promptly sat down with her phone and the two of them sat in the sun surrounded by bewildered patrons and the very loud barking of the dog.  Our conversation was suspended as none of us could hear what others were saying so we rose in unison and headed for the bike stands.  On the way, one of us, being more bold than the others, turned and headed back inside to have a word with the management.  We remaining were not privy to the conversation but subsequent reports suggested it included the sentiment that the owner could choose his customers, either us or the dogs.

As we donned our riding gear and prepared to saddle up we observed the manager approach the two with the dogs and engage in fervent conversation which included, we hoped, an appeal to their better nature and common sense regarding noise nuisance and quiet enjoyment.

But that’s not the end of the story.  The next Wednesday we approached the same café with care ready to abort our landings and head on to the next nearest café in search of good coffee and peaceful surroundings.  We had even agreed on its location in advance.  Our joy was abounding when we observed the absence of noisy canines so we settled down to our usual.  The usual, in the case of one of my companions – who also happens to be the boldest among us and therefore the bearer of the complaint to management – includes a scone.  When he cut open his scone on this particular occasion in order to apply the requisite butter, he was horrified to observe a black hair in the middle of the scone.  Back inside he went carrying his plate and returned a short time later with a new plate and scone.  This one was accompanied by the manager with lots of apologies but was found to be faultless.

Last Wednesday, the most recent of the three in question, we again found ourselves at the same café but this time we had renamed it.  ‘The Hair of the Dog Café’.  It seemed appropriate.

On the subject of dogs and cafes, I have been interested in the signs popping up at eating establishments all over town suggesting dog-friendliness.  Bowls of water can be found at the doors of most cafes these days and there is even a hitching rail outside one while another has dog beds by the outside furniture.  All very good, I hear you nodding, but can enough be too much?  On one recent occasion I decided so.

We had met friends in town for coffee and had agreed to meet at a particular place that happened to be a leader in dog-friendliness.  This was evidenced by the number that were present, upwards of a dozen at one point.  But these were not your quiet domesticated lap dogs.  Throughout our time there we were treated to fights, snarling, yapping and outright barking, not to mention the sniffing of other dogs’ rear ends.  The final straw for me came when the owner’s dog squatted down in the garden beside my chair and deposited its business right there in all its smelly glory.  We got up and left.

I would hate to think anyone interprets my comments as anti-dog as I have enjoyed the company of three granddogs, all charming in the extreme, and have even reconciled to having them sleep inside the house.  However, I am inclined to think that some people do not take into account the sensibilities of sharing space with others.  A little old fashioned consideration and courtesy can go a long way.

I’d Rather Drive A Truck

If it is true that feedback is the breakfast food of champions then one ponderable is to what extent must the potential champion take on board the feedback received.  Or, more to the point, how does the potential champion discern what constitutes feedback worthy of consideration?  The underlying principle is, of course, that taking note of the opinion of others, those in a position to give good advice, can benefit anyone in any particular setting should they choose to act on the advice given.  My opinion is that not all feedback is created equal.

The question of equality was raised in my hearing one morning last week when the matter of teachers voting to strike was before the national media’s consideration.  A spokesperson for the teaching fraternity was asked if teachers should be paid according to merit or seniority and the predictable response reflected the union position that denies superior skills being rewarded financially, apart from being promoted to more senior positions.  A flat scale for all teachers, dependent on their years of service, was the only fair way, said the spokesperson.

I hold a contrary view.  An unfortunate experiment by another government some years ago had some surprising results.  The experiment was colloquially known as ‘bulk funding’ and was universally opposed by the teaching unions.  The unfortunate part was the chaos caused when school boards chose to take the extra funding offered and immediately incurred the vociferous wrath of their unionised teaching staff.  One school not a million miles from here suffered massive disruption with wildcat strikes, a split board, teachers refusing to work with the principal, parents and students confused and angered by the disruption and a very messy environment for some time following the decision to accept the government’s extra funding.  Anyone who had anything to do with that affair will agree it was a taxing time for all concerned.

While the cost to the social fabric of the school, among other things, was huge, there were some surprising outcomes.  The proposed funding formula allowed for extra positions of responsibility to be created within the school, thus rewarding teachers with knowledge and skills for being prepared to have a greater input into the learning environment.  My understanding is that some of the harshest critics of ‘bulk finding’ prior to its roll out in schools became its firmest advocates later as they saw their own abilities and initiative being recognised and rewarded.  I am informed that within the union movement there was a questioning of the ‘one rule for all’ policy as some people began to see that the line that had been dished out to them for years held less validity than they previously believed.

We all receive feedback, some of it more desirable than others.  But the stuff I’m concerned with here relates to enterprise and improvement.  Take, for example, this blog.  I put a bit of thought into it and, for the most part, derive considerable pleasure from being able to record my thoughts.  Over the last four years I have gratefully received some feedback which I consider thoughtfully and reflect on for a period before writing again.  But knowing what to act on and which parts to think more carefully about before acting can give occasion for reflection.  I have been told that some like to read the occasional ‘rant’ while others think them indulgent, some appreciate the more philosophical discussions while others dislike the ‘sermonising’, some like the efforts made to emulate the style of a particular writer and others think it affected.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that one cannot be all things to all people so the last words of Ricky Nelson’s chorus to “Garden Party” sum it up.  From henceforth, be prepared for anything.

In Conclusion . . .

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems appropriate to bring the Perth saga to a close with some corrections and clarifications, as well as the short narrative that describes the homecoming.  Some will be wondering if I’m confused about 60s music or if The Monkees changed the name of one of their songs.  A simple Google search of Perth railway stations will reveal that the second last station on the Butler line is Clarkson and it happens to be on the same line as Edgewater, the station at which we alighted to be met by my nephew last Wednesday.

The other point of clarification is that we were never really serious about attempting to extract financial assistance from the mighty Mr Branson.  It was nice to vent but the chances of actually getting a response from his empire, or even a small Australian part of it, are too remote to contemplate.  She made valiant attempts to extract a refund from another airline on which we were double booked recently and they got as far as promising the money would be refunded.  Three and a half months later, guess what we have?  That’s right.  Diddly squat.  So much for living in Hope.

Our last day in Mandurah began at 6.30am or, in New Zealand time, 11.30am.  We had done most of our packing the previous night so were out of our timeshare and on the road by soon after 9.  Fremantle had charmed us and we didn’t need to have the car back to Perth until late afternoon so we made our way circuitously (another story for another time) to Freeo and dived into the undercover market space that had been closed on our previous trip.  What an amazing assortment of stalls.  Then we sauntered around another part of the city we hadn’t seen previously and finally made our way back to the car for the final leg to the rental car depot.  While there we enquired as to the name of the company, ‘No Birds’, and learned it was because most rental car firms employ young women to deliver their cars.  The company policy is ‘no birds’, hence the name.

At a little after 6.30pm (11.30pm NZ time) we were on our way home sitting in row 23 on a Boeing 777.  Those of you familiar with the beast will know what that means – unlimited leg room – and what a difference it makes.  Admittedly it cost a bit more but it was so worth it.  I can’t sit for two hours let alone longer so it was great to be able to move around and stretch in free space.

At 5.30am (NZ time) we landed in Auckland but so did a number of other planes so the baggage carrousels and the immigration lines were working overtime.  Consequently it was about 7 before we were able to stand in the force nine chilling Auckland wind waiting for the inter-terminal bus because someone I know declined my polite invitation to walk.  Once in the domestic terminal it was a short wait before heading to Wellington where reports of gusts were reaching well into the 120 – 140 kmh range.  The pilot powered in on what felt like full noise – fastest approach I’ve ever experienced – and we arrived with a bump, a hiss and a roar.  It was preferable to arriving sideways which is what the wind had in mind for us.

At 10.30am we were on our way again and made safe homecoming by 11.30, exactly 24 hours since waking in Mandurah.  Needless to say, it was a quick shower and into bed for five hours of much needed catch up sleep.  Another 10 hours for me and 12 hours for Her overnight meant we were starting to look and sound a little more human by midday Sunday.

So overall impressions of Western Australia?  Admittedly we saw only a small section but it is a really nice part of the West Island and has some attractions not found in other places.  Would we go again?  Maybe, if someone shouted us business class tickets, but probably not.  We feel as if we had a good look at what we could and a fortnight in one place was quite unusual for us.  All-in-all, a really good holiday in a delightful place – even if the village of Silver Sands has a beach with golden sands.  That’s Oz, I guess.

Take the last train to Clarkson

Tuesday evening continued:
The storm held off until the early hours of the morning and then only managed a solitary rumble of thunder.  But the threats of a deluge were sufficient to keep us from the beach until just prior to 6pm when we were there to witness the most impressive sunset.  We could tell it was good from the number of cars that pulled up at the beach and discharged camera-wielding photographers.  The dark clouds were stacked nearly to the horizon but a small gap allowed the sinking sun to appear below it just before setting.  What a magnificent sight and one appreciated by a growing band of watchers.  The romantic meal forgotten, we sauntered back to an indoor picnic by the tele.
Did I mention that TV is slightly less than magical?  I’ve done a flick through the available channels and have listed the channel titles and a rough approximation of content.
Nickelodeon – junior chickfliks
Showcase – all ages chickfliks
FX – chickfliks with nature themes
Soho – home improvement chickfliks
Comedy – funny chickfliks
Lifestyle Food – cooking chickfliks
Premier Movies – adult chickfliks
Comedy Movies – more funny chickfliks
Action Movies – chickfliks with blood and guts
Romance Movies – luvvy duvvy chickfliks
Thank goodness for sports channels – and the news.
Yesterday morning found us sleeping late and moving reasonably quickly to partake of breakfast and drive to the train station to catch the 10am to Perth and beyond.  We found the right platform – they both go to Perth but one stops at Perth and the other goes on to the northern suburbs.  We wanted Edgewater so boarded at platform 2 and stayed with the train through nearly 20 stations until getting off to find a handsome young man waiting to ambush us with his two secret weapons, Max and Fletch.  Max, being slightly older, went for his great aunty while Fletch went for his famous attempted downtrou of great uncle Colin.  Whew!  Being a belt and bracers man has its advantages sometimes.
We spent the day in the company of the three musketeers with Travis providing the commentary as he drove us around the sights and seens to be had in his neck of the woods.  At 2.30 we were left in care of the Mighty Max and Fearless Fletch while Travis went off to pick up Sally and Pepper from school.  I bonded with Buddy Nandos who is a sucker for being rubbed behind his ear and who rewarded my attentions by assuming his trademark posture – flat on his back with legs outstretched.  He really does do a good impersonation of a butterflied chicken.  Who knew a staffie could be so clever?
Travis managed the barby while Sally managed the showering and She managed the bedtime stories which had us all yawning.  A lovely meal and good conversation was spoiled by the advancement of time to the point that we only got home at about 10.30.  That was after busing the last five stations because the trains had all gone home for the night.
Today had an equally slow start and we were really only ready to progress forth to come fifth quite late in the morning.  Consultation with the receptionist produced an interesting interchange in which she suggested places of interest while we responded with “been there” and “done that” to almost every suggestion.  “You have been busy”, she opined.  And then came the clincher.  “Have you done the canal cruise?”
While waiting for the cruise to begin we sautered to a recommended cafe for coffee and one of us (guess) engaged in conversation with a mature woman from Brighton, England.  She’s been living in the area for 14 years but still can’t get used to a sunny Christmas so is going back home this year to celebrate a ‘real Christmas’.  Ok.  Whatever floats your boat.
Fortunately our canal tour boat floated and the next hour was spent being enlightened about a number of subjects including first people history, farming in the area, the development of the canals and property values.  Some dolphins were thrown in for good measure and a good time was had by all.  I should mention an optional fish lunch was provided so we could have fish on ships.
I was emphatically informed an icecream automatically followed an exhausting round of canal gazing but that turned out to be just another opportunity to make friends with other like minded people sitting in the sun and renewing their strength for the next foray into tourism.  An off hand comment by another mature woman with a pronounced English accent had us reaching for the car keys and heading for a pretty little town about 20 km from Mandurah called Pinjarra.  There really are some delightful small towns scattered around if you know where to look for them.  Thank goodness for GPS.
And speaking of which, I’m advised I misnamed our trusty guide by calling her Liz the other day.  Apparently her real name is Vicky and apparently my memory isn’t what it used to be.  I won’t go on with the list of apparentlies but I’m reliably informed it is extensive.  Such things happen when you are an ‘older person’, expecially when relayed by a child bride.
While dealing with editorial inappropriateness, I referred to a delightful little town down south as Dunborough the other day.  Its real name is Dunsborough and I apologise for any hurt feelings.
Tomorrow morning we can’t sleep in again because we have to be out of our accommodation by 10 and heading to Perth soon after.  The big AirNZ bird takes off in the evening and sometime on Saturday morning we get picked up at Nelson airport, which has undergone a change in our absence – or is that another piece of fake news?  We drop our car off in Perth sometime in the afternoon tomorrow and say goodbye to the little Crowolla that has served us well.  I’m quite impressed with some of its specs and am still discovering things it can do.  Today I pushed the wrong button while setting the autopilot and a sign flashed up advising me that radar detector was activated.  I’ve got used to the fact that it goes on a slow down protest if you get too close behind another vehicle while in autopilot but the auto lights have me completely fooled.  To get them to turn off the other night I had to turn them on . . .
There may be an opportunity to sum up when I get home but if not, I can say without a shadow of doubt that Perth and environs is well worth a visit.  We have had a great time poking around and have enjoyed it all.

A Persistent Stutter

I know the repetitions are starting to annoy and they are probably having a similar affect on you but there is little that can be done about it when the internet connections in this place have even my dearly beloved scratching her pretty little head.  When attempting to post, there is absolutely no way of knowing if it is sending for about three quarters of an hour, by which time She has lost patience and hit the send button a few more times.  Only three posts this time?  Well, that’s an improvement anyway.
Yesterday was spent leaving and arriving.  We kept leaving places and arriving at others. It was fun.  It was the fervent desire of my copilot and navigator that we progress back to Mandurah on as different a route as possible from the one taken migrating south so Liz was pressed into providing alternative routes wherever possible and she came through, although not entirely without protest.  However, I have to say the ubiquitous “Turn around where possible” was not heard as frequently as previously and ‘recalculating’ was the internal process of choice on most occasions.  All in all we got back to our time share by early afternoon and were back in familiar surroundings.  Provisioning took some of the afternoon but a walk down to the beach before sunset set the wheels in motion for a romantic evening meal to be enjoyed there later today.  That is if the threatened storm holds off.  You can imagine the conversation with phrases like “never listen to the weather waffle” being thrown in on regular occasions.  And to prove me and the forecast wrong it has been over 26 degrees today.
In such conditions we set out at a good clip on foot this morning and progressed down to the touristy part of town where we found coffee and a pleasant riverside walk to distract us from anything that might threaten to take our attention.  Holiday time is great for having time to think but the down side is that too much thinking can inevitably lead to planning and we all know where that leads.  My best advice for a successful holiday is avoid too much thinking – and the weather waffle.  At least one of you will be content.
And so it happened that we saw the barber shop.  “Weren’t you going to have a hair cut?” She commented.  “Mumble mumble” was the indistinct reply.  “What was that?” She persisted.  “I said I was going to have one when I got home,” I replied.  “Well, I’m just going to spend some time in this dress shop”.
The barber had a distinct look as if he was of Arabian descent and he spoke with broken English as if for him it was very much a second language.  “Where are you from?” I politely enquired.  “China”, was his swift reply.  “You have practised that”, I smilingly responded and then the grin appeared.  He had undoubtedly practised it and was used to getting a good response.  He was from Iraq and lived in Perth but he and his girlfriend every day traveled down to the shop he had recently bought in Mandurah and where he was building up a clientelle.  With repartee like that I can imagine it won’t take long for him to become popular.
Purchases were made in a nearby emporium for the little ones we will be visiting tomorrow and before we knew it the day was progressing nicely towards mid afternoon.  So much fun can be had when you leave your wrist watch at home and simply wander.  And not a drop of rain has made its way through the clouds to our place yet although the temperature has mercifully reduced somewhat.  Someone dipped Her big toe in the swimming pool before and made a face so I assumed She would not be donning her cozzy.
And so the holiday progresses.

Meanwhile, Back In . . .

Yesterday turned out to be a hoot.  She had booked us on ‘Margaret River’s Original and Best Wine Tours!’ (so said the brochure) and despite the fact the website appeared to be down or at least not accepting bookings, She made it happen.  She’s good like that.  And so we were waiting outside the drive of our BnB ten minutes earlier than required to be picked up by Andy.  Andy is a 60 year old surfer who has dabbled in the wine industry for much of his life since leaving teaching.  He treated us to stories from all over the world and proved to be a fount of knowledge about varietal differences and how to get the most out of a very small sample of wine during a tasting.  In case you are wondering, yes, the spittoons were called into service but not by everyone and Andy’s advice meant we were able to discuss the complexities of nose, viscosity, texture, overtones and fruit distinctions with the best of them by the end of the day.  He also told us where the best surf breaks were.
The day included six wineries, a chocolatery (I made that word up) and a cheese shop, and lunch appeared at winery number three.  While we ate, Andy bussed off to pick up the seven who had booked only for the half day tour and they joined the original six of us before we moved on.  The original group comprised the two of us, two girls from Perth (one of whom is now a firm NBF and who has promised faithfully to visit) and a couple from Singapore.  He was originally from Queensland while she was from the north of England.  We bonded fairly well but the other seven didn’t quite fit the bon homme atmosphere that had built up by early afternoon. 
The history of the region began to emerge as we listened to stories of how the bush gave way to farms and farms gave way to vinyards.  The story had a familiar ring to it and we found there were similarities to what we knew of the industry back home.  Some of the commentary was rather too familiar but we enjoyed hearing it from a different perspective and Andy was a good communicator, as retired teachers tend to be.  Well, some, anyway.
She proved to be the cheerleader in the appreciation department with a rallying cry of ‘Yum’ or ‘Yum Yum’, depending on how whatever we were tasting hit the palate.  The cry was readily taken up by Abbey (NBF) and on more than one occasion the person doing the explanations had to call for order as others joined in and showed their appreciation.  I expected things to get out of hand at the chocolate factory but instead everyone was quite well behaved although some were seen sampling freebies quite freely.  Some restraint was required when Abbey showed a lively inclination to sit on the fibreglass cow parked outside.
The six wineries visited varied considerably in poshness.  There were the small family businesses producing enough for the local market through to the large and glossy enterprises that had a global market.  One such supported the local art fraternity by buying paintings and using the designs for labels on bottles.  Two examples showing the differences appear below.

image

image

One thing became increasingly clear.  We were seeing a very small portion of the total area in grapes in the Margaret River area.
Andy delivered us safely home to our BnB at the end of the day and we were surprised how tired we felt after eight hours of sitting and doing little – except appreciating.

image

Alex and Abbey.  Expect to see Abbey visiting at some stage.  She is very like someone I know well, a great cheerleader and about as subtle as a train whistle at midnight.  Look out Nelson.    

 

Meanwhile, Back In . . .

Yesterday turned out to be a hoot.  She had booked us on ‘Margaret River’s Original and Best Wine Tours!’ (so said the brochure) and despite the fact the website appeared to be down or at least not accepting bookings, She made it happen.  She’s good like that.  And so we were waiting outside the drive of our BnB ten minutes earlier than required to be picked up by Andy.  Andy is a 60 year old surfer who has dabbled in the wine industry for much of his life since leaving teaching.  He treated us to stories from all over the world and proved to be a fount of knowledge about varietal differences and how to get the most out of a very small sample of wine during a tasting.  In case you are wondering, yes, the spittoons were called into service but not by everyone and Andy’s advice meant we were able to discuss the complexities of nose, viscosity, texture, overtones and fruit distinctions with the best of them by the end of the day.  He also told us where the best surf breaks were.
The day included six wineries, a chocolatery (I made that word up) and a cheese shop, and lunch appeared at winery number three.  While we ate, Andy bussed off to pick up the seven who had booked only for the half day tour and they joined the original six of us before we moved on.  The original group comprised the two of us, two girls from Perth (one of whom is now a firm NBF and who has promised faithfully to visit) and a couple from Singapore.  He was originally from Queensland while she was from the north of England.  We bonded fairly well but the other seven didn’t quite fit the bon homme atmosphere that had built up by early afternoon. 
The history of the region began to emerge as we listened to stories of how the bush gave way to farms and farms gave way to vinyards.  The story had a familiar ring to it and we found there were similarities to what we knew of the industry back home.  Some of the commentary was rather too familiar but we enjoyed hearing it from a different perspective and Andy was a good communicator, as retired teachers tend to be.  Well, some, anyway.
She proved to be the cheerleader in the appreciation department with a rallying cry of ‘Yum’ or ‘Yum Yum’, depending on how whatever we were tasting hit the palate.  The cry was readily taken up by Abbey (NBF) and on more than one occasion the person doing the explanations had to call for order as others joined in and showed their appreciation.  I expected things to get out of hand at the chocolate factory but instead everyone was quite well behaved although some were seen sampling freebies quite freely.  Some restraint was required when Abbey showed a lively inclination to sit on the fibreglass cow parked outside.
The six wineries visited varied considerably in poshness.  There were the small family businesses producing enough for the local market through to the large and glossy enterprises that had a global market.  One such supported the local art fraternity by buying paintings and using the designs for labels on bottles.  Two examples showing the differences appear below.

image

image

One thing became increasingly clear.  We were seeing a very small portion of the total area in grapes in the Margaret River area.
Andy delivered us safely home to our BnB at the end of the day and we were surprised how tired we felt after eight hours of sitting and doing little – except appreciating.

image

Alex and Abbey.  Expect to see Abbey visiting at some stage.  She is very like someone I know well, a great cheerleader and about as subtle as a train whistle at midnight.  Look out Nelson.    

 

Meanwhile, Back In . . .

Yesterday turned out to be a hoot.  She had booked us on ‘Margaret River’s Original and Best Wine Tours!’ (so said the brochure) and despite the fact the website appeared to be down or at least not accepting bookings, She made it happen.  She’s good like that.  And so we were waiting outside the drive of our BnB ten minutes earlier than required to be picked up by Andy.  Andy is a 60 year old surfer who has dabbled in the wine industry for much of his life since leaving teaching.  He treated us to stories from all over the world and proved to be a fount of knowledge about varietal differences and how to get the most out of a very small sample of wine during a tasting.  In case you are wondering, yes, the spittoons were called into service but not by everyone and Andy’s advice meant we were able to discuss the complexities of nose, viscosity, texture, overtones and fruit distinctions with the best of them by the end of the day.  He also told us where the best surf breaks were.
The day included six wineries, a chocolatery (I made that word up) and a cheese shop, and lunch appeared at winery number three.  While we ate, Andy bussed off to pick up the seven who had booked only for the half day tour and they joined the original six of us before we moved on.  The original group comprised the two of us, two girls from Perth (one of whom is now a firm NBF and who has promised faithfully to visit) and a couple from Singapore.  He was originally from Queensland while she was from the north of England.  We bonded fairly well but the other seven didn’t quite fit the bon homme atmosphere that had built up by early afternoon. 
The history of the region began to emerge as we listened to stories of how the bush gave way to farms and farms gave way to vinyards.  The story had a familiar ring to it and we found there were similarities to what we knew of the industry back home.  Some of the commentary was rather too familiar but we enjoyed hearing it from a different perspective and Andy was a good communicator, as retired teachers tend to be.  Well, some, anyway.
She proved to be the cheerleader in the appreciation department with a rallying cry of ‘Yum’ or ‘Yum Yum’, depending on how whatever we were tasting hit the palate.  The cry was readily taken up by Abbey (NBF) and on more than one occasion the person doing the explanations had to call for order as others joined in and showed their appreciation.  I expected things to get out of hand at the chocolate factory but instead everyone was quite well behaved although some were seen sampling freebies quite freely.  Some restraint was required when Abbey showed a lively inclination to sit on the fibreglass cow parked outside.
The six wineries visited varied considerably in poshness.  There were the small family businesses producing enough for the local market through to the large and glossy enterprises that had a global market.  One such supported the local art fraternity by buying paintings and using the designs for labels on bottles.  Two examples showing the differences appear below.

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One thing became increasingly clear.  We were seeing a very small portion of the total area in grapes in the Margaret River area.
Andy delivered us safely home to our BnB at the end of the day and we were surprised how tired we felt after eight hours of sitting and doing little – except appreciating.

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Alex and Abbey.  Expect to see Abbey visiting at some stage.  She is very like someone I know well, a great cheerleader and about as subtle as a train whistle at midnight.  Look out Nelson.    

 

Who’s Margaret?

I understand that one of the primary urges of human kind is to be heard.  Put another way, one of our great fears is to not be heard.  There are a number of ways people attempt to assuage this fear, the most common being:
1 volume – speak louder
2 repetition – repeat yourself
3 performance – make a scene.
If you were tempted to think there was an echo effect associated with the blog yesterday, I hasten to assure you it had nothing to do with any of the foregoing.  There was a slight and temporary glitch in the technical department and a person I am related to only by marriage got sidetracked at an inappropriate moment, resulting in a couple of repetitions – all right, a few more than a couple – of the original post.  For that we apologise and trust your already overflowing inboxes didn’t crash.  Being a bear of very little . . . technical ability, I was struggling with the sending of and called on Her for assistance.  She did a great job and made sure you didn’t miss it – eight times.
Today has been a day of southward migration.  It feels like we have come through a couple of time zones although the clock still says the same as it did.  It seems that is not the case in NZ, however, where the reports are coming in that the north and south islands have moved another hour towards the sunrise.  Or did that happen some time ago and no one told me?  It’s hard not to lose track of reality when in the land of other realities.  Remember, sometimes things simply aren’t as they seem.
We left Mandurah in cloudy weather and joined the motorway system that flows almost without interruption.  I was informed we needed to visit a town called Bunbury so we diverted for a look and a coffee.  And some petrol.  First fill up since leaving Perth a week ago and my copilot was getting nervous.  I suspect those movies we have seen of people running out of petrol in the desert and being eaten by vultures were playing in the back of someone’s mind so there were sharp words when it looked as if I was preparing to leave Bunbury without topping up the tank.  I wouldn’t dare . . .
The next advice came further down the road at about the half way mark.  We hauled off the motorway and went the other way for nearly 20 km along the beachfront until striking Dunborough.  This was on the recommendation of someone called Sally who knows about these things and who got it just right.  What a delightful little town it turned out to be.  Really just an overgrown village, it sports lots of cafes that were closing at 1pm and other shops that were closing at 2pm.  We circumnavigated the entire affair on foot to do it justice and, having Dun borough (get it?), we attempted to head south again.  Someone in their infinite wisdom had decided to dig up the entire centre of the village and while it didn’t concern pedestrians as they could see their way around it, our poor Vicky really got confused and kept telling us to go back through the closed road in order to progress back to the motorway.  It became a battle of wills but we persisted and ultimately triumphed.
The final part of the journey was through quite thick bush and scrubland with more and more wineries appearing in gaps in the trees.  Margaret River produces an inordinate number of wines, as we found out when we browsed a bottle store looking for something suitable to go with our Meditteranean meal this evening.  As well as doing the ‘borough, we dun lunch as well and, as a result, there isn’t a huge desire for a substantial meal tonight so it’s olives and cheese and a breadstick, all picked up in the town of Margaret River.
Tomorrow’s another day and it will be consumed with a full day tour of the sites and scenes (sights and seens) and tastings to be enjoyed in this part of the world.  Before then we will enjoy our hideaway in the bush, a BnB in the most glorious surroundings hosted by Helen and Ian who have given us the key and who said they are off to Perth in the morning and when we leave, just leave the place unlocked.  I love it.  Another time and place.
It transpires that one of the charms of this place is that it has spasmodic and low voltage internet connection so there won’t be any posting until we are nearer . . . I nearly said civilisation but that would be a travesty.  It is hard to imagine a more suitable place to lay ones head than somewhere the light disappears with the sunset and complete darkness envelopes the land, where the only sound of human kind is the hum of the fridge when it comes on and where four kangaroos paused for half an hour at twilight to feed just outside our window.  Actually, there were five as one had a joey in her pouch and it was leaning out to feed occasionally.

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