Monday, 30 May 2011

Happy Birthday Dardin!

Well tomorrow my first born turns 27!  I can't believe where those years have gone.  He has gone from being a very gorgeous, very cheeky, very mischievious little boy - to being an incredibly intelligent and talented young man. I remember feeling the first twinges of his arrival while watching 'Every Which Way But Loose'  in Townsville and that becoming proper labour at about 11:30 at night.  When he finally arrived at 2:10 the next afternoon he was a very healthy 9lb 1oz and was so alert and incredibly interested in all that was going on around him in the labour ward.  He was actually a bit of a sticky-beak!  He was the easiest of babies.  Slept well, ate well and was generally very, very relaxed. 

As a toddler, Adrian introduced many new words to our family.  Something that is too hot has for the last 25 years or so been 'a mit marm', we wear 'bedoongs' on our feet around the house.  The words of 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' went 'up a bird the word so high, like a dimint in dis ky' and had the cutest actions especially when he wore the groucho marks glasses and the beret!  (I wish I had that photo scanned in my computer so I could share it now!)  When he was about five he loved the 'deenaged uh, uh dingered durdles' and went on to love all sorts of other things.

I loved it when Adrian used to follow me through the bush and absolutely soak up all he could about plants and animals.  He was better at plant ID than most adults I knew and I remember very clearly when he was about 6 him explaining the difference between a eucalypt and a wattle to someone and even more tricky when he was about 8, him giving an adult (who was supposedly teaching the group of kids he was with) a lecture about why that plant was a paperbarkand not a bottlebrush....and he was right!  He always has been a very bright fella!

His teenage years were 'interesting' to say the least, and we had many fabulous times along with the normal trials and tribulations.  At this point in his life we discovered his talents as a musician.  He plays the guitar beautifully!  He started to learn to draw and my goodness does he have talent there!  There was still always the fascination with the outdoors - fishing, bushwalking, scouts etc!  He made some fabulous friends at this time in his life and still has them around him.  Says a lot about him that the mates have stayed doesn't it!

Adrian joined the army a few years ago and has served in Iraq and may go to Afghanistan at some point.  Mixed feelings there as a Mum, I really wish there was no need for him to do this but I am so proud that he is willing to step up and do his duty. I look at this young man who is a product of my upbringing and a lot of love and support from some really special people and the pride I feel just wells up.  I watch the way he fathers his children and know that is a role he excels at.  I have watched the way he has looked after his sisters and those he loves and know that he has a good soul and is a man with lots of love to give.  I know that on its own would make one of his heros really proud...oh and he has inherited his ability to give those fabulous bear hugs too....big shoes to fill there my love!!

(Note to self!  Scan some of those photos of Adrian when he was little when you get back to Australia!)

Happy Birthday sweetheart, I love you heaps! XXXXX

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The end of another holiday.....

We drove from Berlin to Ghent in Belgium on Good Friday.  When we turned the motor on in Berlin there was a horrible ticking coming from Bruce's dash.  It sounded like a time bomb!  Being Good Friday, there would be nothing open so Richard checked it out and could not work out what was wrong.  It seemed we had little choice but to drive and keep our fingers crossed that it was nothing serious if we wanted to get home.  Basically it was a full day's drive with Bruce making funny noises and us playing the music loud to try to drown it out! ACDC seemed to be a good choice as the ticking melted into the drumbeat.  About 5 kilometres out of Ghent there was a truck spewing fumes in front of us.  Richard turned the vents to recycle rather than fresh and miraculously the ticking stopped!  Those few kms were blissfully peaceful!  It seems Bruce's last few months will mean no fresh air for us!!

We had decided at more or less the last minute to spend the last few days of the Spring half term break in Belgium and were pleased we did.  We stayed in Ghent and did a day trip to Brugge.  Belgium was lovely although I think by the time we got there we were both exhausted, so we did a lot of wandering and looking around rather than going into places to visit, but that seemed the right thing to do.

Ghent is a pretty little town with very old buildings (including a fairy tale castle), cobbled streets, trams and lots of canals.  Our stay there was very pleasant.

The Castle

One of the canals...note the bikes they are everywhere!

A very eye-catching shop front!

Hams hung in the market hall.  There was an exhibition of local artist's work in here while we were in town.

Many of the building had cute little guys like this one as decoration.

On Easter Sunday we decided to go for a train ride to Brugge.  It was only half an hour away and was a pleasant day out.  We wandered around, took some photos, ate Belgian Waffles for lunch, wandered some more and then returned to Ghent.

One of the many churches.  The bells were ringing when we arrived in town and it was really beautiful!

 Part of the main town square.

There were boatloads of tourists on the canals and huge line ups to match! 

Look closely......Guido had been given a beer....and he had drunk it all!

Along with the canal boat trips were the rides on horse carts!

A very cute old organ grinder!

Obviously the place to be when all those pesky canal boats keep disturbing your peaceful afternoon on the water!

After our train ride back from Brugge to Ghent we had dinner and then spent our last night in Belgium.  On Monday morning it was up early for the drive to the Eurostar and then back home to London.  We left the train with Richard driving and us saying 'stay left, stay left' (we had spent the previous month saying 'stay right, stay right' every time one of us got behind the wheel) and hit the London traffic!  A quick stop for supplies and we were home to prepare for our return to work the next day.  It was to be a short week.  I started it with a pupil free day, then two days of the students and then it was another four day weekend to celebrate the royal wedding and May Day.  I will tell you about that soon.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


Our visit to Berlin was extraordinary.  Harvey started by making a new friend on one of the stations.  He is one of the 'Berlin Bears'.

We visited some amazing places and I guess I was most impressed  by the way the German community are holding their hands up about the whole WWII situation and saying never again!  One of the first places we visited was the Jewish Memorial. The 'Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe'.  It is really fascinating.  It is a sea of cement blocks basically and from the edge it quite frankly, looks a bit boring.  Just blocks that your eye tells you are not very exciting.

There are signs saying that you cannot jump from block to block.  I assumed it was a respect thing until we started to walk along one side of the Memorial.  Our plan was to walk along the side and head for the Brandenburg Gate, but that was not to be.  It drew us in and made us think and talk about it ....a wonderful piece of art!

As we moved through the area we realised that the ground undulated and the blocks became taller and taller. We quickly realised jumping from block to block was a safety issue and not just respect!  Some of these blocks would have been 6 metres or more in height.  There were people wandering through it everywhere, but it was so easy to feel you were all on your own as they dissapeared in between the blocks.  You caught glimpses and then they were gone.  A powerful reminder of what happened to the people at that time.  Richard's thoughts travelled to the representation of the volume of the structures and compared it with the 'volume of people lost'.  I couldn't help but think of the mounds of shoes, hair, suitcases, glasses and clothes again!  As you walked through there were occasional glimpses of the surrounding environment, but in amongst these towers of rock it was cold, quiet and lonely.  The most amazing feeling and a brilliant memorial.

We continued our walk and visited the Brandenburg Gate next and started to get some ideas about how the wall affected life in Berlin.  One side of this gate you were in the east and on the other side you were in the west!

From Brandenburg we decided to visit one of 'The Wall' sites.  The part of the wall we first visited was the boundary between the East and what was the French Sector.  The land was a Cemetary and was taken into the no mans land area between east and west.

Part of The Wall still in its original position.

A memorial to those who died trying to escape.

Some original Wall art! it!

We wandered around town a little longer and then decided to take a train ride out to visit the Olympic Stadium.  Plan A was to just see it from the outside, but the Plan B option was taken and we went in!  I am so glad we did just for the photos we got!

The view from outside.

The gate

Harvey was relieved we went in because he got to make another friend!

The Stadium from inside.

Love this shot of the stadium.

..and this one from the opposite end!

The original gate post for the entry to the race track.

We saw through the gates, but couldn't go in.

We also visited the DDR museum, Checkpoint Charlie and lots of other places....all fascinating!  But I thought to finish the post I would add a few photos we took for our son Sam.  We saw this Bugatti in a shop window and thought Sam would be drooling so we went in and took a few photos!  (I know Sam, we are embarrassing but we weren't the only ones!)

Will be back soon with Ghent and Brugge and that will be our Spring break done almost in time for the Summer half term break in two weeks time!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

A wrap up of Vienna and Krakow!

I know we have been home nearly two weeks now and I still haven't finished writing about our holiday in Europe and we have since had another 4 day day getaway!  So much to tell so little time to do it in!

After visiting Hundertwasser I spent the next day in the Belevedere Gallery in Vienna.  It was brilliant and I was lucky enough to spend the day in a stunning setting looking at amazing art.  Richard decided that the previous day's saturation was enough for him and went off to look around Vienna on his own.  In the process he found us a great place to eat that night so it was good all round!

The Upper Belevedere

I visited the Upper Belevedere first and what a pleasure that was.  The building is an old palace and is a stunning piece of architecture, worth the visit in its own right.  The main draw card for me was the work of Klimt.  There were many pieces his work, but 'The Kiss' and 'Judith I' were the absolute draw cards.  Both had me sitting in front of them mesmerised.  The expression on the faces and the detail in both pieces of work was incredible.  'Judith I' was apparently the first piece he created in his gold phase and 'The Kiss' the last.  Richard and I had seen posters of both the day before and had thought them a little boring in amongst Hundertwassers work.  Seeing them in real life changed my mind considerably!

To get to the next part of the exhibition I walked down through these wonderful grounds to the Lower Belevedere (you can see Vienna in the backdrop!).

The lower Belevedere housed two special exhibitions.  The first on the work of Egon Schiele.  What a tortured soul that poor man was.  He was one of the youngest artists taken into study art in the Vienna College and then had a disagreement with his professors and went off with some of his mates to start their own movement.  The exhibition was of his portrait work and was fascinating!  There were self portraits and portraits of others that were both commissioned and painted under his own direction.  He did portraits of his lover and then later of his wife that were very poignant. He unfortunately died at the age of 28 during the Spanish Flu epidemic.  The flu took his pregnant wife and the child she was carrying and then a few weeks later it also claimed his life.  A tragic story really.

The Second exhibition was on the 'Dynamic' movement and was incredible.  I never thought I liked modern art!  That statemnt is now showing itself to me as pure ignorance.  I think it is more accurate to say I didn't understand modern art.  Now it is really starting to 'speak' to me in its brilliance (Oh I still have so much to learn!).  On the wall of the exhibition I read a statement from the futurist painting technical manifesto of Turin that said 'Everything is in motion, is flowing, everything happens with the greatest rapidity.  A form is never motionless before us, rather appears and disappears unceasingly'  and then turned and saw a painting called 'The Dancer' created by Ludwig R. Reutterer in 1920 and almost jumped up and down with excitement because finally I got it!  I understood why Cubists and Kinetiscists created the way they did.  I saw the movement they were expressing and just loved it.  I was in awe of the talent of these artists and then went from painting to painting saying 'wow' over and over again! The work of Erica Giovanna Klien, Giacomo Balla, Elisabeth Karlinsky and Franz Marc held me staring and studying. Look up their work if you don't know it.  It is incredible! I think I was in that exhibition for about three hours and had no idea any time had passed (sorry darling, I will one day remember to check my phone when I am in an art gallery!).  

I will leave our trip to Vienna here with an image of a bag in one of the tourist shops:

Apparently the Austrian/Australian confusion is as common for them too!

We drove from Vienna to Krakow and went to Auschwitz/Birkenau one day and did some sight seeing on the second day.  We both really loved Krakow.  The people there seemed somehow more at ease than Prague or Vienna.  I have added just a few photos from our day in Auschwitz/Birkenau as a reminder.

There are many more but I will move on to Krakow!  This is one of the first views when we went into Krakow on the first night for dinner.  It is called the Barbican.

On this night we ate in a medieval restaurant.  The food was ok and the atmosphere interesting!

The day after the camps we went into the town square.  I shopped (new shoes! and a few skirts!) and Harvey hung out!  He found art work he liked.....

...some pretty cool Easter decorations (no he decided he didn't want his photo taken here that deer was too big and scary!)

... but had to have it taken with his new friends they may have been big but they weren't scary!!

We saw some wonderful buildings....

.....with fabulous details!

.....and very romantic poses!

and wondered how long this little guy has been hanging out there!

...and Richard even managed to snap one photo of me that is OK!  Believe me they are few and far between!

Oh one more thing.....we ate Georgian food while we were in Krakow.....yum!

Still to go.....Berlin!