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Archive for March, 2013

We’ve always had this built-on room at the back of the house that has pretty much stayed as a messy junkroom.  At various times, I’ve tried to tidy it up and get rid of some junk.  But one thing prevented the room being used properly, as we’d like – as an actual sunroom we could sit in on a sunny winter’s day (yeah right).  It leaked and the wood on the outside of one wall was rotting away.  H’s ex-boyfriend replaced a couple of the clear roofing panels and offered to fix the flashings.  Unfortunately, he didn’t do it very well and the roof continued to leak.  He hadn’t time to do anything about the flashing.

I’ve never had a lot of money and am only now starting to build up some decent savings.  What kept me back from getting this room fixed was lack of money and fear of how much it would cost.

Last year I got the bathroom fixed – that was more urgent that a leaking junkroom.  That cost a fair bit.  A year later, I finally called five builders to come and have a look and give me a quote.

Two turned up when they said they would and said they’d give me quotes.

One said I should contact a glazier (without even bothering to come and have a look).

One turned up too early when I wasn’t home and went away again, saying he’d be back.  He never did.

Another builder’s wife kept trying to make a time to come round but they were always busy and seemed to expect me to be home all hours every day just for when they weren’t busy.

Builder one’s quote never showed up.  Builder two’s quote came and it was quite a bit, but less than I’d feared for years.  He was the more knowledgeable of the two builders that showed up.

Anyway, the builder had a cancellation and said he’d start earlier than we’d planned, so late Tuesday night I belatedly remembered they were coming to make a start on the room and I hadn’t cleared it.  I biffed a lot of stuff into the laundry, took some junk to the garage (adding to the huge pile of junk ready for a skip bin) and put a few items in the spare room (read junkroom number 2, recently cleared up ready for wallpaper stripping, yet to do!)

I came home on Wednesday not knowing what to expect – a room without windows or roof perhaps.  It was basically all done!  I couldn’t believe it.  The bathroom builder took a week.  This guy took a day.  However, he wasn’t quite finished – he had the flashings to do (and I’d forgotten to tell him to replace the cat door section of wall).  They had also cleared away all the old wood, etc and left everywhere tidy.  I was impressed.

I came home the next day to find he had finished and he said he’d give me a quote for the cat door wall.  The invoice came via email on Thursday and I paid it online.

So, to Friday!  I went through all the stuff that was still in the junkroom, sorry, sunroom.  I ended up with piles to recycle and a bag of stuff to give away.  I then went through the piano stool which my mother made and which was still full of sheet music.  The piano was now gone, so it was time to deal to it.  Again, I put aside a pile to give away, a bigger pile to hopefully sell, and a pile which I couldn’t do either with.  Among the sheet music were German course notes of my mother’s when she did some language papers at the university (as an adult student).  I couldn’t bear to throw away sheets of paper of her handwriting, even if it was in German.

The piano stool duly sorted and cleaned up, I took it into the lounge and it is now serving as a coffee table.  It has a table runner on it and Jasmine loves it as  her new spot to lie down.

To Saturday.  I had a long list of things to do in town.  H was busy photographing a wedding today and has been dogsitting for friends the past week.  On my list were vegetables but H said she’d bought some salad and that I should pick it up in the morning.  I did so, then headed to the market.  H had wanted me to buy okra but I didn’t see any anywhere.

Veges bought, I headed to Mitre 10 for a test pot of brown paint.  The builders had replaced the clear panels with corrugated iron and lined the ceiling (as I requested).  They’d replaced one beam which needed painting brown to match the others.  Apparently, you can’t buy a test pot of dark brown paint.  Disgusted, I forgot about the rest of the stuff I wanted from a hardware store and headed to Spotlight to get some bamboo blinds to replace the old ones in the sunroom.  They didn’t have any.  I tried the Warehouse, and also looked at books as I had a $5 off voucher.  No luck.  I couldn’t be bothered going to other bookshops to use the voucher, so next headed to a supermarket and then to Bunnings.

They didn’t have test pots of dark brown paint either, except for a small pot of glossy paint.  I had hoped to ask someone but there was a queue for the busy person at the paint desk.  So I bought the glossy paint.  I no longer cared.  Then looked around, and eventually found a few items I wanted included a new cat door.  Those things aren’t cheap.  I looked at blinds and they had some bamboo ones but at $31 each.  I wanted 3 or H suggested 6.  I figured I’d look on TradeMe first.

Finally headed home via a garden centre to get some gravel to fill a pot hole in a section of the drive.  That whole, partially successful, shopping trip took all morning from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm.

In the afternoon, I made a start on painting the new bits of the sunroom.  The older bits will need a fair bit of preparation before I can paint it to match.  And I forgot to buy some more gap filler.  I thought I had some, but the little I had left was dried up.  Dammit!  Today, thankfully, the hardware store is open.

I’m hoping, once the building work is complete and everything painted up, that I can get some sort of flooring (old carpet from somewhere perhaps), some seating, and use the sunroom as a sunny room!!!

Well, this blog post is a lot longer than I had intended!

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Time passes so quickly! I’ve already been back home three weeks and done several things over those weekends.

The first weekend I was back from Melbourne, I headed down to the Southward car museum’s open day.

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The “open” part of the day was the chance to view their workshops and storage of many more old cars and bikes.

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Nothing at all has changed in the main museum.  They don’t have the space.  Meanwhile nothing is being done to the old cars out the back.  They really need to expand but apparently the board of directors don’t want to.  The money from the day’s takings, for example, went to charity instead.  Ridiculous and so short-sighted.  Car buffs that had been to the museum would have no reason to go back because nothing would be different.  They’re missing out on repeat custom, the idiots.  People with classic/vintage cars could get in for half price, so the carpark was actually more interesting than the museum itself.

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On the following weekend I did a bush walk with friends around a lake in Taranaki, which was within a fenced-off bush reserve.  Entering the double-gated reserve was like going into a big game park or Jurassic park!

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Views of the lake were stunning as we walked around it and not far into the walk we were rewarded with the curiosity of a North Island robin.

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We also saw tomtits, fantails and tuis and heard, rather than saw, wood pigeons.  There were bird calls I couldn’t identify but we didn’t see the birds themselves.  Apparently there are kiwi, native bats, geckos, etc, but of course we didn’t see any of those.   A treasure of a place not far from Eltham in Taranaki.

Last weekend I joined a friend at the Horse of the Year show. Her son was supposed to be taking part but his horse went lame, so we were free to wander around and view all the different events going on.

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Their evening extravaganza included Mark Todd.

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And finally, to yesterday, when I spent an afternoon with friends at the local vineyard garden party, sipping wine and listening to the Nairobi Trio and the Dixieland Gypsy band from Denmark.  We finished off with a nice meal in town.

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Alas, I have no more outings planned!

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The weather was fine enough today to visit the Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance,  a memorial to Melbourne soldiers.  H had said it was worth visiting.  I figured I’d do the outdoor stuff first, just in case it rained.

As usual, I got to the Shrine too early – opens at, you guessed it, 10am.  I had a look around the outside anyway.

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I wandered on down the road to the Botanic Gardens (missing, entirely, the Observatory gate to the gardens just across the road).  The gardens were nice, a sort of cross between the local Esplanade and Virginia Lake in Wanganui only much bigger.  There was a lot to walk around.  I walked into one part where there was a lot of bird sound as in the following video.

I strained to see the bird that was making this noise (while I changed lenses just in case).  Eventually, as I was leaving the area I spotted one – a small green bird with red around its eye.  I saw it making the noise – such a small bird for such an amazing sound.

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(I later identified it as a bell miner.)  I reached the lake and watched the birds – mostly swamphens (what we called pukekos), moorhens, seagulls and wood ducks, which are cute.  I also spotted an egret in a tree and what I, just yesterday, identified as a Nankeen night heron.

Wood duck and gull

Wood duck and gull

Nankeen night heron

Nankeen night heron

They were pretty much the only bird life I saw except a couple of rainbow lorikeets high up in a tree.

My aunt had mentioned a collection of succulents and cacti at a mound called Guilfoyle’s volcano.  I nearly forgot about it until I saw sign.  As H is into succulents, I thought I’d go along and take some photos.

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I headed back by a different path to the park exit, and thought about lunch.  I looked in at the cafe by the Observatory gate but it was horrendously expensive.  I figured I’d wait.

Back to the Shrine of Remembrance which was now open.  It’s pretty cool inside and had some great views of the city.

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It looked like it might rain, so I headed to the National Gallery of Victoria.  I was hungry by now, so decided to eat at the cafe upstairs which was full of grey-haired women.  I joined them.  I ordered a tabbouleh salad and darjeeling tea.  I didn’t enjoy the salad and the triangles of flatbread (can’t remember what they called it) tasted like birdseed.  Never mind, it was food.

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Interesting architecture inside the gallery.  I can’t describe it adequately.

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I spent a long time in the European collection, dating from the middle ages to modern day.  The gallery was world class – up there with the galleries in Europe – only better, in that it was free and you were able to take photos without flash.

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I had a look around the small Asian collection.  The Japanese section was closed.  I then had a look at the Thomas Demand exhibit, which was included in my ticket for Jeff Wall.  Interesting, if a little weird.  Again, there weren’t many works displayed.  I did like his picture of the ‘forest’ which was actually carpet rolls and thousands of leaves cut out of paper.  It looked real.  The Neo-Impressionist collection was next door and very popular.

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Overall, I was impressed.  Well worth a few hours’ visit.

I decided to wander round the CBD one last time, as I was flying out the next morning.  I visited the Block and Royal arcades, before heading back to the apartment.

C and I went to the night market at Queen Victoria market.  It was the last one of the summer.  People everywhere!  I had polish dumplings, a kalamaki and some sangria.

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We walked back to the apartment and I packed.

Said goodbye to C the following morning, trying to hide tears, walked to the station, catching a bus straightaway to the airport.  While on the runway, I was listening to music and one line was repeating:  “Come back and stay for good this time”

Tempting.

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My bad luck (or bad planning) continued the next day.  I had planned to visit the Botanic Gardens and the National Gallery of Victoria.

It was raining.

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Never mind, I thought.  I’d buy an umbrella on the way to the art gallery.  I did buy an umbrella, but the art gallery was closed on Tuesdays.  Feeling disheartened, I crossed the road and had a brief look at the Kings Domain park anyway.  I’d wanted to take photos of birds but there were precious few around, unlike Brisbane.

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After a desultory look around, I decided to visit the Ian Potter gallery which was open.  A semi-naked statue greeted me.  I was relieved it wasn’t one of those human statues!

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I then remembered that the Jeff Wall exhibition was on and H had asked me to visit it in her stead.  The cost of the exhibition also entitled me to visit the exhibition at the NGV of Thomas Demand.  There were 23 photos in total, some larger ones and many smaller pictures – rather a paltry collection, I felt.  I’d seen Jeff Wall’s work on the DVD “The genius of photography”.  I don’t really like staged photos but appreciated the work and the detail.

I browsed around other collections, which were free.

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I particularly like the 19th century art of Australian painters, Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton.

"The pioneer" Frederick McCubbin

“The pioneer” Frederick McCubbin

Arthur Streeton

Arthur Streeton

It was still drizzling outside, so I decided to have something to eat at Lord of the Fries, then headed to the mall opposite the State Library, which houses a shot tower.

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Again, I didn’t buy anything.  I had a coffee, then returned outside to see that the sun had reappeared.  I returned to Fitzroy gardens and wandered around.  There was very little bird life and no bats (as I’d seen on a previous visit).  I was disappointed.  It seemed I’d sacrificed luggage space (and weight) for my zoom lens for no reason.

In the evening, C and I took the train to Camberwell and changed for Auburn, to meet my aunt and cousin (and her partner)  at a restaurant in Auburn.  My aunt hasn’t changed a bit since I saw her last about 10 years ago.  She’s now 80.  We had a very pleasant meal and caught up, then were dropped off at the station to catch the train back.  The night was pleasantly warm.

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C was working for the remainder of my stay, so I was on my own to explore.  We arranged to meet for lunch.

I returned to Docklands, but I was too early for the factory outlets (DFO) on the other side of the river.  It didn’t open until 10 am.  It was also the wrong day for visiting the Fox collection of classic cars.   I’m not a great shopper, and since I only had carry-on luggage for the plane, I didn’t purchase anything.  In fact, I only entered one clothing store.  Shoes, I noticed, were cheap and there were some nice styles that I would’ve liked.  However, it was quite a relief not feeling obliged to do any shopping at all.  I did look in the book shop, which had a tremendous range of books.  I even found a book of 250 walks in the North Island (of New Zealand) for $5!  There were heaps of cook books of all different types.

I bought nothing, and wandered back over the bridge.  I watched the riverboats and thought that if I’d stayed longer, I would’ve liked a cruise on the Yarra.

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I wandered around Docklands, killing time before meeting C.  I didn’t feel like (or have the time) to visit anywhere else.

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I finally headed to C’s work building and met her downstairs.  An Italian cafe was there and we shared a huge Carbonara pizza.  It was simple, and delicious and it was great to hear Italian spoken and the delightful Italian accent of our waiter.  We’re starved of different accents and nationalities where I live.  On the next table, a couple of guys were speaking Spanish.

After lunch, C had time to sit outside for a while.  We sat in the shade and watched some mad people doing circuit training in the hot sun, running uphill while carrying 3 tyres, etc.  Complete madness.  I preferred sitting watching the birds.

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C headed back to work and I had intended to catch the free tram to the stop outside the State Library of Victoria.  I waited a while but decided it was quicker to walk.  I had a look in Southern Cross railway station to see if there was any information on regional trains for future reference, but could find nothing.

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I love railway stations.  I think it’s because I spent a lot of time on Sydney platforms with my parents when we visited my grandparents over several years.  I love train travel, and would love to do more in NZ, but the rail network has been run down since privatisation.  They say certain routes aren’t profitable (because of the crap timetables) and close them down.  Useless.

Anyway, I found my way to the State Library and eventually found my way to the main reading room.  The passages behind the upstairs balconies held exhibitions of old books and a history of Melbourne.

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Included was the armour and death mask of Ned Kelly.

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After visiting the State Library, I had intended to wander down to Parliament House to have a closer look at the fancy Paris-like lamps I saw from the tram.  Unfortunately, my sense of direction wasn’t accurate.  Instead of turning into Spring Street from the bottom of Carlton Gardens, I continued along Victoria Parade.  I should’ve realised quite quickly that it was the wrong road but stubbornly continued until I did realise that I was on the wrong track.  I looked back and saw the skyscrapers of the CBD getting distant.  I crossed the road and headed back and eventually saw the spire of St Patrick’s cathedral near Fitzroy Gardens.  I made my way to it and double-backed to find Parliament House.  I’d wasted 45 minutes and was tired.  I took a photo of a lamp and caught a tram back to the apartment.  Anything futher could wait until the next day!

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C  hadn’t been to the museum, so we walked there via Laneways and Drummond Street, apparently an upmarket area with lovely old houses.

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Without even realising it, we walked past the Old Melbourne Gaol, but because I’d been there on a  previous visit, I hadn’t intended to visit it.  We reached the park in front of the Exhibition building, which is a heritage site.

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On the other side of the Exhibition building was the museum.  Nearby, some people were rehearsing a dance, possibly South American. Certainly, the instructor was speaking Spanish.

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There was a travel expo on in the Exhibition building.  We decided to have a nosey, more for curiosity as to what the building looked like inside.  We ignored all the stalls (holiday packages for all sorts of countries).  Ironically a Maori group were singing a waiata when we passed near the New Zealand stall.  The interior of the building was, unexpectedly, decorative wood.

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We then headed across to the museum.  We looked around the outdoor foresty area, a collection of rocks and gems, and the section on body and mind before having the cheapest food available at the cafe – some rather stale heated ‘hot’ chips.  There were marvellous collections on animal life including insects and dinosaurs.

Skeleton of a 'land' whale

Skeleton of a ‘land’ whale

I really enjoyed the museum.  I much preferred it to the glorified playgrounds that newer museums in NZ tend to be.

We walked back via Dorrit Street, another street of lovely old houses.

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We had a snack of Malaysian food at Coconut Noodle House in Swanston Street.  I can’t actually remember what we ate, so it can’t have been exceptional.  What worried me at the time was that they had a tap running non-stop, unattended, in the sink behind the counter.  This created a decidedly negative impression particularly in a country which needs to preserve water.  It’s probably because of that that I forgot what we ate.

We headed back to the apartment for a break, before deciding on having a stroll in Docklands and buying something salady for dinner.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera, so missed out on some lovely views with the sun setting.  We went to the supermarket and bought some supplies.  I noticed that alcohol was expensive so didn’t splash out on any wine or beer.  C showed me where she worked and where she had drinks with her workmates on Friday nights.  A pleasant evening.

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I had a week’s interlude at work before heading off to Melbourne, this time to see C, something I’d originally planned for November.

I worked a half day on Friday then H drove me down to Wellington, where I stayed with H’s cousins and aunt.  I had an early morning flight, leaving at 6.20 am.  I had trouble sleeping with snoring coming from both directions.  I woke before the alarm and A was very kind to drop me off at the airport at 4.45 am!   (I did say I’d get a taxi.)

I had breakfast at the airport under Gollum’s eye.  The flight was delayed thanks to a late person – we had to wait for their baggage to be loaded.  Instead of movies this time, I watched Wallander, a British TV programme.  Unfortunately, about halfway through, they reset the screens because some people weren’t getting pictures.  After that, mine didn’t work despite their attempts to reset.  Needless to say, I didn’t have a window seat either.  It was a cheap no-food flight of four hours.

On arrival, it was wonderful to walk past the hugely long queue of non-Australians and non-NZers.  They would have had to wait for hours.  It was equally wonderful not to have to wait for a bag and I sailed out to catch a bus almost immediately to Southern Cross Station.  I was due to meet C there but as I was half an hour earlier than I expected I text her and she walked over.  Her apartment was not far away at all.

We took the free City Circle tram and took the long route to Victoria Road and headed over to Queen Victoria market.  I had a coffee at a small place (whose name I’ve forgotten) just by the market.  They only do coffee and it’s good coffee.  I even overheard an American asking someone if they’d got the hotel nearby just to be close to this place.  The market itself was mad – full of people.   Great place for food – you name it, they probably have it.  We bought a borek to eat, and walked back to the apartment.  I was amazed at the number of beautiful old buildings.  I had been to Melbourne before, but had obviously forgotten or not walked too much around the city.

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We headed back to the apartment, via a supermarket, for a breather before setting out for dinner.  C had told me about a light show called White Night.  It was more than a light show, however (where moving images were projected on buildings).  It was an all-night arts festival.  We had dinner at the Vietnam noodle house in Swanston Street.  I had a very nice pho.

We then headed down to Federation Square to await the start of ‘white night’.

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There was some great entertainment: bands, dancing and street theatre.

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The crowds gathered, and by the time the buildings were illuminated with lots of different patterns, the area was packed with wall-to-wall people.  Apparently 300,c00 people attended the event (the population of a large city in NZ).

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There was a lot going on, but I’d been up since 4 am NZ time (2 am Melbourne time) after a bad sleep, so was flagging.  We headed back to the apartment about 9.30  (11.30 pm NZ time) via the Crown Hotel complex (very posh!).  I’d been up 20 hours, so slept quite well.

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