Gra Nomad Wanderings

Sunday, November 25, 2012


4.20 am
5:08 am
If you have a digital clock by the bed and you occasionally wake during the night, this could change your life forever. However, if you don’t meet those two criteria and you don’t have some knowledge of motor vehicle engine naming, then please, do yourself a favour and read no further. (Well at least that got rid of a bunch of women readers, although I still may have Deb, Fleur and Peta reading on.) Don’t think cousin Brian (who couldn’t pick a Datsun from a Mercedes) or Pa Pete will be still in attendance.  Hopefully Bill, Stivmac and Stiv’s daughter Brienna will still be with us.
At this stage I need to point out how life has changed since the intro of digital bedside clocks. Once, you might’ve mentioned that you didn’t sleep too well, woke a couple of times, maybe a bit after three. Now, sadly, since the inception of the digital bedside clock, that same conversation might be, “Yeah, didn’t sleep too well. Woke at 1:18 and stayed awake till at least 2:53. Then I remember seeing 4:12 and even 5:11. Hopefully I’ll get a better sleep tonight.” (Mainly because he would be more tired the following night.)
I have a friend who has two unusual attributes (at least two.) He is not a good sleeper AND he is a rev head. Neither of these character blemishes is catastrophic in itself, but put them together...quite a handful, or even a headful.
3:34 am  
(Actually pm as I'm not awake at 3:34 am). 
He will wake at, say, 3:15 am (yes, a quarter past three). That brings to mind – to him – a BMW 315. If he wakes at 4:20, then he is mindful of the 4.2 Jaguar. See how it works?
Many makes of cars have a model number on the rear e.g. MB 240, Volvo 440, Mazda 323, and Peugeot 307. Yet there are other vehicles that may simply have a model name e.g. Corolla, Cressida, Crown, Corona, Caprice and Calais. Of course the connoisseur would know that the Corolla engine is a 1.6, the Corona a 2.0 etc.
Easy isn’t it?
If you woke at 2 am – Audi Quattro 2.0, 2:40 – Volvo, at 3:25 – BMW, at 4:07 – Peugeot, at 5:38 – BMW and so on.
Special thanks here to Peugeot who, knowing my friend’s situation, have come up with the following models: 104, 105, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 304, 305, 307, 308, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 504, 505 and of course 508. (I may have omitted a couple here.)
My wife, the good wife, would prefer to see the following: 8:15, 8:30 and even 9:08. Correct, she is not a morning person, although she does wake during the night and see the bedside clock quite a bit. Of course there are not too many models like 815 etc that I’m aware of. The good wife doesn’t know a Holden 149 from a Datsun 120Y, so it would be pointless. Too bad about the following vehicles; Commodore 3.6, Cherokee 3.7, Boxster 2.7 and Grand Voyager 2.8.
Oh, are there a few numbers I’ve missed? Keep an eye out during the night and see what you come up with.   

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Staying in Sydney with #1 daughter (DM) for a few sleeps. Will be able to help son-in-law (BM) with the kids when DM goes to Melbourne for a brief 2 day work commitment.
Jump outa bed. 2 kids being fed - LM and CM. 
DM is getting ready to go. I am the designated driver of the new flash Honda…it’s my job to drive her (and 2 kids) to the airport.  Actually she does the driving. And she also takes 2 kids that AREN’T going to Melbourne. They can come for the ride. OM and CM. 
On the way to the airport – I’m in the front passenger seat – she drives, puts on favourite songs from the complex screen on the dash as they are asked for by various children, checks what terminal she will be departing from, answers various questions from those who are going on the journey and those who are staying at home. She is a most capable mother/driver/communicator/daughter etc.
We arrive at the airport drop off spot. She has just given me instructions about the pickup on Sunday night at 7 pm. Where to go, how to get there, what are the pitfalls etc. I’m digesting these when the car stops – we have reached the drop off spot. 2 kids, 2 bags, one mother, one stroller all get out. One grandfather and 2 small children in car seats remain.
Goodbye, seeya Sunday at seven. DM plus 2 kids and gear have gone. One in a stroller (NM). It's a special treat for LM who will get to spend time with his godmother. What do they call it - quality time. (Isn't all time "quality"?)
OK. Gotta change the screen from music information to maps… shouldn’t be too difficult. Gotta punch in HOME so the car tells me where to go. We're still at the airport.  Two kids are giving their opinions… always handy at a time like this, especially when neither kid actually goes to school yet. Oh, why won’t the car move off? There’s a problem. While I’m waiting, a Sydney driver has come and parked in front of me. Thanks mate!
Oh yes, I remember. The footbrake is push on with the left foot, and also push off. Yep, got it! That was easy…especially once you remembered and found the foot pedal. Now forward. (Funny place to have the gearstick – in the dash! At least you can’t miss it.)
After some attempts I manage to find the maps on the GPS screen…. favourites…press the picture of “home”.
Funny how every GPS is different. Each one has its own advantages and each one needs to be learnt. Am I too old to learn that sort of thing?
It is not a long journey back to “base”. I arrive there and feel far more confident as I park the car…the flash new Honda with all the gadgets. See, I mastered the GPS system and the traffic and two children. 
I wonder how people manage who are actually older than I am?  
Now which of these two kids didn’t have breakfast before we left? Rice Bubbles or WeetBix? 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


It was bad news to learn that our huge gum tree was beyond saving.
Found this spider in amongst the worms - worm farm. Type?

Really thrilled to find NO SPLINTERS had put a new lid on our back deck. Well done Mick and Dave. Trouble is we had to paint it then!! Certainly room for more plates!

 Great to see this guy - JHK (great initials eh?)  This is a "running machine!" Keeps his parents honest.

 Even though he's not 100%, the Coop can still flash you that killer smile.

 This guy takes things carefully.... and then warms to you. Quite the character. He certainly doesn't want to live in the shadow of his 2 big brothers.

 No! L.J. is outdoors! Cool! He can sure handle this bit of gear. Gets him to school a bit quicker than when he walked!

 Only 4+ months but she had her first swimming lesson last week. Loved every bit of it.

WJ has landed! Here he is working on his phone settings. Bit more practice needed. Must be cold in Canada if he's out here.
Good to be home again. Did you work out what sorta spider that fella is? He's still there if you wanna come look. 

Monday, November 05, 2012


If flight AA0008 had left at 4 pm as scheduled rather than 5:30 pm, maybe it woulda been easy to get the connection at Dallas onto QF0008 heading for Brisbane.
We’d arrived at Cancun airport around 1 pm (get there three hours ahead of the flight time, they say.) Even found somebody to share the taxi with, so we didn’t have to pay the full fare ourselves. Tipped the driver and took our own luggage into the terminal, despite efforts from locals to help us with that task.
Baggage and ticket check – fine, although the fella at the counter said we’d have to collect our booked-through luggage at Dallas and then put it on the Qantas flight. Didn’t seem a big deal at the time. Now all we had was our back packs, the netbook, a bum bag (Fay) and a man bag (me). Not a great effort to go through other aspects of the process – security check, customs, passport check. Finally we found a spot to sit so we could (a) work out how many pesos we had to spend, (b) what we’d have for lunch, and (c) generally relax before climbing aboard our 4 pm flight.
Then the fly in the ointment – flight has been delayed. Now due to depart at 17:20.  Hhhmmm. We were gonna have a bit of time in Dallas…now it seems it’s gonna be rather squeezy to make the connection.
Departure time did finally arrive, with us saying things like, There’s no way this baby’s gonna get away on time, as we queued to get on the waiting plane. Yep, we were right – it finally took off at 5:35 pm. Was there a time difference between Cancun and Dallas? Nobody on the ground at Cancun could tell us. They are pretty laid back there so even when I asked police, airport security and anybody else in a uniform, I got nowhere. 
Meanwhile, back on the plane we were trying to work out whether we had a chance of making the connection or not. I was a bit optimistic, especially when the captain said he expected we’d have a flight time of about 2:20 – below the scheduled 2:45. However, once we flew over land, things changed and airport authorities sent our plane on a particular route which would mean we certainly wouldn’t achieve the flight time of 2:20 as the captain had said. He apologised and knew there were people who were looking at making connections in Dallas. 

The plane did arrive in Dallas. We were somewhat anxious I guess. We were well down the back of the plane so it took us some considerable time before we started forward with our carry on. Time just seemed to hang. When we got to the end of the “tunnel” it was 9:30 pm. Our QF0008 was due to depart at 10 pm.
Have you been through an American airport lately? If you have then you understood how we felt. I mean, where the heck do we … oh forget it. When we reached the end of the “tunnel” there was an airport lady there with an orange sign – QF8 KEAST . 

She said… Ok, let’s go! We’ve gotta run! (Or words to that effect.) The next thing she did was to offer Fay a wheelchair for the coming journey. We both figured we could run…. Yep, even with all three crook knees and the one good one between us.   So we declined the wheelchair. (Did Fay look all that bad?)
Back in the resort Fay had done the final packing before we’d left. She had purposely kept our backpacks as light as possible. All the heavy items were in our booked suitcases. What a great move, Fay. Well done.
Mona (we learnt her name later), said we were gonna have to run. So run we did.
Fay isn’t really into running. Swimming - yes; cooking - yes; gardening – yes; bushwalking – yes; even some cycling. But running? No, not really. But like Henry Lawson’s Loaded Dog, both Fay and I were glad that when the chips were down, we’d remembered how to actually run. 
We’d only gone a short distance when my glasses fell to the ground – at the top of the escalators. Fay grabbed them in her stride like a good polocrosse player scoops up the ball. Within 5 seconds of that, a mobile phone bounced to the ground. That was Mona’s so I copied Fay’s agile style and grabbed it on the go.
The journey took us to the head – forget about lines – of the immigration check. People in the vicinity picked up on the urgency of the moment and stepped aside to let us through. The lady started to process us, and as per usual, I had to place 4 fingers from my right hand on the screen while later Fay was asked to do ALL TEN – yep, fingers and thumbs. I know my son Jeremy would’ve been tempted to ask if she wanted Fay to do the toes as well, but I worked out the scene when her answer to my only comment was, “We don’t work for the airline!” Once through there it was running again – yes, the three bad knees and the one good knee keeping pace with Mona.  Customs was excellent. He could see the urgency, took the completed card and let us continue. Security was pretty good but still thorough. We ran up to them and were instructed to remove shoes and belts and put everything in the trays which would go through the x-ray machine. Oh, don’t forget to take the netbook out of its case too. Then we went through the x-ray machine for people. The official asked me what I had in my pocket. I dragged out tissues, cards and my hand sized diary. He poked his nose and his white gloved fingers into the diary before saying we could grab our stuff and go. I knew he didn’t work for the airline so I didn’t make any comments at all.
Nearly lost Mona at this stage. She’d sped off ahead – did she go this way or that way? Oh, there she is! The gallop continued.
There’s the Qantas gate ahead. Looks like we’re gonna make it after all. Only Qantas officials in sight. The lady there took quite a while to punch stuff into the computer from our boarding passes before we were allowed to board. As we took our seats, storing our back packs in the overhead locker, the captain said, We have everybody on board now, so we’re right to go!
The plane took off on time. Thanks Mona. Thanks Qantas. How are your knees Fay? Only 15+ hours and we’ll be in Brissy. Short layover before heading on to Sydney.
That was the furthest and the fastest either of us has run for quite a while. Don’t forget, Fay was a sprinter in her heyday.
Oh, the luggage you ask? Good question! Well, there’s no way they made the connection so we just hope Mona was able to grab our two cases from the carousel, with all the souvenirs from 8 weeks’ travel and get them on the next flight to Sydney. I’ll let you know. I just remembered how many foreign number plates are in my suitcase!
PS Yes, we've actually arrived in Sydney! 28 beautiful degrees. 22.5 hours from start of the journey at Cancun to when we arrived in Sydney. Weary, that's for sure. All we need now is our case full of trinkets and number plates! Tomorrow?  Goodnight.

Sunday, November 04, 2012


 We've just spent a week here - Villa del Palmar, Cancun.
 This is the view from our balcony. Not bad eh?
 I'm sure we were celebrating something. Can't remember.

 This was one of the many pools at our resort.
If you look hard you can see somebody asleep..... it's a tough life!