Friday, December 30, 2005

13 in the bed and the little one said....

Wow! We have just survived our biggest houseful of overnight visitors! Charles + Sue stayed overnight with their two children Ben (3) and Hannah (1) Helen (Sues sister) + Pete and their two kids Sam (5) and Tom (6months)

Our head count was 6 adults and 7 kids! We had a brilliant day in the pool, a hectic bedtime for the little ones, and finally a wonderful BBQ steak dinner washed down with copious amounts of beer + wine!

I'm not sure whos idea it was but we ended up having a lovely midnight swim! We tried to light some floating candles in the pool but there was a light breeze and they were blowing out faster than we could light them! It was a fabulous night and despite the alcohol drunk there were no hangovers this morning! Perfect!

We had a lovely breakfast courtesy of Mr B! Bacon, muffins and eggs all BBQ'd within an inch of their lives!!! All washed down with mugs of tea!

After breakfast the temperature was creeping up + up so we slapped on the suncream and jumped into our swimmers and into the pool again to cool off ....It's becoming a bit of a great, predictable routine!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


For those that know my brother Joe (and those that don't) let me tell you about his dislike of insects.....

When we were kids and our little sister Carrie ran screaming from the bathroom having found a spider was lurking in the bath, did she run to her big brother for help?.....


It was well known in our family that Joe was equally "cautious" about anything living in our house that had more than 2 legs! I had forgotton this when we arrived in Australia nearly 3 months ago. You may think that now that he is 30 he would be more rational about these things..

No again!

One example of this was when Joe, Byron and Rhiannon were getting ready to be pulled along on an inflatable "hot dog" behind Kels speedboat on Boxing day. Before they even started moving Joe managed to topple the hot dog over and they all went tumbling into the lake. Why? Because of a fly!

Last night Joe and Rhonda joined us for a bottle of wine (which became 2!) As we opened the front door for them to leave I saw a fantastic stick insect. I picked it up and sat it on his windscreen hoping to make him jump. I was disapointed when he didn't react much to it. He thought it was fake! I wish I could have taken a photo of his face when he realized it was real!

Here is a photo we took of it on my arm after he had left...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day

Ok, so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were hardly traditional by any standards. Would Boxing Day be more normal?


The morning started fairly normal with breakfast outside, but by 10 we had filled our Esky with cold drinks and food, packed the car with wetsuits and lifejackets and went to Anne and Kels for a day on the water .... along with 30 other people !

Essentially, we all took it in turns on Kel's boat, being pulled along on all manner of inflatables such as rubber biscuits and a hot dog that sits four people. I shared a ride on a hot dog with Rhiannon and Joe, while Gina was at the back of the boat to check for hand signals from us to give the pilot. Unlikely as it may sound, she got busy gabbing to Rhonda and forgot about us being towed, and was beautifully unaware to my gesturing to slow down as poor Rhiannon was being bounced up and down like a kangaroo on heat. Too late, we were flung off good and proper into the middle of the lake - Rhiannon got a small fright but I swam to her in a couple of seconds and as she had her lifejacket on she was fairly happy. She even started laughing in the water when she realised that her swimshoe was floating away, good 'ol Uncle Joe rescued it for her! It was quite an experience and she was bragging about it afterwards so hopefully she isn't too mentally scarred.

Sian and Gareth also had turns, they are all much more confident in the water recently, Sian must have swam 50 metres to a pontoon and then back again! Gareth was more than happy bouncing on a floating trampoline.

We ate a great lunch next to the lakeside and decided to leave the party and go for a drive as we were getting a bit too much sun. We drove to Nobby's Lighthouse, Newcastle, which is about 30 minutes away. It has a fantastic beach with tremendous surf, but an ice-cream was all we needed - you can have too many beaches sometimes...

Looking at the lighthouse from the cafe, we decided to take a walk along the peninsula towards it, and it was well worth it just for the views.

That's it then, Christmas is over for us here, and it's been quite an experience. New Year is next, bring it on!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Our first Aussie Christmas!

We have had a really different but special Christmas day today!

The weather was warm as we have come to expect, but not as hot as the "tumble-dryer" day we had on Christmas eve! The kids were up at the very respectable time of 7am and were so excited that Santa had filled their stockings. Rhiannon woke before Gareth (they share a room) and she went through Gareths stocking and put some of his goodies in his arms as he slept!

We had the usual mad morning with mountains of wrapping paper and lots of fab presents.

Thank you for everyone back in the UK and Ireland for making a special effort in sending exciting parcels in time for Christmas; we're on first name terms with the delivery man!

After a few webcam and phone chats we decided to test some of our new Christmas presents - off we went down to the pool, all five of us dressed in our wetsuits, dragging Gareth's new dinghy behind us. We spent hours splashing and messing around the water, ate lunch wrapped in towels and wetsuits and then straight back into the pool for the rest of the day (hardly traditional !).

For all those who are dying to know what we ate for Christmas lunch; we broke with Aussie rules by sticking to a fairly traditional roast lunch, but then had a mountain of fresh prawns for tea - Rhiannon refused to eat them but has become a dab-hand at peeling them for the rest of us. Gareth, on the other hand, has his mouth open as soon as you have them peeled and you just can't keep up with his appetite.

It was a noisy day as Sian got to grips with the hundreds of functions on her new electronic keyboard and Rhiannon just let rip with her new drum set...!

Despite feeling a natural nostalgia for family and home, we can honestly say that this was a fantastic Christmas, and hopefully the beginning of new traditions for us here.

Here's raising a glass to you all, as the sun sets on our Christmas and rises on yours. Cheers!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

What a brilliant day. The kids have been suitably hyped up by us both and can't wait to get to bed!

The one downside was the heat. Every now and again a westerly wind appears and it's unbelievable. It feels like you're in a tumble dryer as the wind is so hot. We struggled in the house so we decided to go to a restaurant close by because we know their air-con is set too low...should be perfect for newbies like us, right? Nope. Within 10 minutes of ordering our food there was a power cut and the kitchens made the restaurant hotter than outside !!

Sian and Rhiannon had rehearsed for weeks for an evening Christmas Mass today which was fabulous. The church was overfull, with people like me just turning up at this time of year just to soak up the atmosphere. Both girls were "angels" in the mass and had tinsel in their hair. Sian was her usual perfectly well behaved self, whereas Rhiannon was also her usual self and
made everyone laugh by pulling faces and elbowing her friend next to her. Angel, my foot! Where does she get it from?

After Mass it was a quick drive down to the local jetty where we were met with about 500 other families. What for? Santa was arriving by boat to throw sweets at the children and there was a mad rush as his boat appeared around the bay, complete with loud music. It set the scene perfectly, as the kids knew that Santa was in town and they had to get to bed pronto.

We quickly went to Anne and Kel's house for a lovely meal and to exchange gifts. I'm getting into the Aussie way of thinking at the moment - my main gift from them was a large cool box (for keeping grub and beer cold) called an Esky and a fishing rod. Even Rhiannon has her own rod at the moment, Gareth had a big car and Sian received a jewellry box.

Bed time was swift for the sproggs, no messing around except for setting some carrots and a pail of water for the reindeers. Still hot tonight though...

Christmas Wishes!

Hi everyone, this entry is just to say Merry Christmas to everyone back home in the UK and Ireland.

We're thinking of you all constantly at this time of year - to be honest it's a bit of an emotional roller-coaster. We're torn between wanting to be back with you all, and wishing that you could all come here and spend some time with us next to the pool.

Gina and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who helped us make this move possible. You've been so supportive about this adventure of ours, even though it has taken so long to happen. Sorry for putting you all through it!

We feel so lucky to have so many friends and family back home thinking about us - fortunate also to have so many fond memories of previous Christmas'. This move would just not have been possible without help, whether it was buying our furniture and cars, buying our house, topping up our hangovers, gifts and messages of support - they all counted and are very much appreciated. Sometimes, we were totally overwhelmed with your support and generosity....

Parents/Grandparents are especially missed at this time of year - just letting you know that the little ones are coping better than us but you're in their minds too, especially as we have photographs of family all over our house!

Something weird happened today in the local shopping centre. The kids saw Santa while I waited outside. Before I knew it I was being called in. Why? Santa only had the strongest Welsh accent I've ever heard, and he wanted to meet me because he recognised that the kid's names were all Welsh. It turns out that Santa was from Rhondda, just a few miles from where I was born...I had a lump in my throat as I was walking back to the car.

Here are some photos of the last few weeks before we left the UK, click an image if you want to see a larger version of the picture:

Happy Christmas to you all.
Nadolig Llawen.
Nollaig Shona.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Delivery

Hooray! All our belongings from the UK arrived today !

You can't believe what a difference this is going to make - we've been sleeping on the floor for the past 2 months and now we have a bed. Our furniture, crockery, bikes, desktop computer, mirrors and pictures all help to make this rented accommodation more homely, and just in time for Chrimbo too....

Gina was her usual mad self and was whizzing around the place sorting through everything while I was working. Where does she get the energy from?

Oh yeah, my whisky collection has also arrived and will be receiving some special attention from me over this festive period. As for Christmas spirit? Santa can have port instead this year...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I took Rhiannon and Sian fishing again this evening, it's becoming a regular thing, and a great way to wind down after work.

It's only a 5 minute walk to the local jetty and we shared a small rod between the three of us.

We didn't catch any fish but we got loads of bites and little fish scoffed almost all of our bait. I think we need to be casting a little further out. The girls are pretty good at casting now and don't mind handing me bait to hook on for them.

Just before we left a large pelican flew in and swam close to us for a look. For a laugh I threw him some bait (whiting) and we almost fell over laughing when he opened up his huge beak and caught it! That was it, the fishing came to an abrupt end as the girls lobbed food his way for the next ten minutes - great fun!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Carols by Candlelight

Sunday night was brilliant. There was a carol service on the other side of the lake in a place called Speers Point. We all jumped into Kel's boat and motored over there for 7:30. We had a great meal and wine on the boat while listening to the carols. Kel had a bit of a fright when the water police were skimming around the harbour checking the boat licenses which he had left behind...luckily they went past us with a wave so we cracked open some beer to celebrate...

The kids loved it, driving the boat, climbing into the hold, throwing tomatoes overboard and the obligatory use of the boat toilet...."dad, I need a poo" - ask your mother, little fella, dad's got his hands full at the moment...

The fireworks were due to go off at 8:30, but when 10pm came and the kids were fast asleep in the hold the natives started to get restless. Foghorns, flashing lights and shouts soon hurried the singers along and the proper night could start at last. I managed to rouse Rhiannon and she had a great time with us watching a superb display over the water.

The trip back took ages, it was almost midnight, and we had to find Kel's small "tin" boat to take us back the last 5 minutes to the mooring - I don't know how he managed it because it was so dark.

This looks like it could be the start of a Christmas tradition. Might have to buy a boat...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

House Viewing

After yesterday's excitement with buying the land, we couldn't wait to go back to see the house that we're going to build. The show home is about 30 minutes drive away, and we even managed to get the kids excited by telling them that they could see their new bedrooms.

The house has four big bedrooms, and we intend to convert the downstairs study into another bedroom with its own bathroom and shower. It has a double garage, formal living area, dining room, kitchen, family living area and an extra room that's called a "rumpus" room over here (basically a place where you can lock the sproggs in !)

Upstairs has another family living area with room for sofas and entertainment such as a tele and hifi and four bedrooms. There is also a balcony upstairs too. Here are some pics:

Downstairs study-soon-to-be-grandparents-bedroom...

Formal living area for posh people like us...

Here's a photo of the kitchen (this was taken from their website)...

Here's a picture of the front of the house (again, from their website)...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Real Estate

It's been another busy week. Today we officially placed a holding deposit on some land ! The land is about 600sq metres with a slight slope. It is in quite an elevated position in a completely new development.

We have been looking for what seems ages now for the right plot to come along as level blocks are fairly rare in this area, but the house we have decided to buid requires an almost level building area.

How long will all this take? Good question, the land needs to be "registered" and this doesn't take place until February 2006. After this, the house may take up to 10 months to build...this means that we could be in our very own house just in time for next Christmas ... you're ALL invited !!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Gone Fishing

I spent a very enjoyable day sea fishing on Thursday - took the day off work and left the house at 5:30am, armed with sandwiches towels and a big tub of factor 30 suncream.

It was blisteringly hot, and four of us left Toronto at 6am after booking the main Swansea swingbridge to be opened at 7am. We finally anchored about 18 kilometres from shore and spent all day pulling in nanoguys and snappers.

It wasn't too choppy, but I still had a moment when I was a little "ill" over the side of the boat much to everyone else's amusement. The smell of diesel, prawns, squid and cigarette smoke couldn't have helped, nor the fact that it was 35 degrees with a nice big swell in the sea...

My sandwiches didn't look too appealing but luckily the sea got a little calmer in the afternoon so after tucking in it was back to studying the fish radar (!) to see where the shoals were hiding. We anchored over an old boat wreck where the water was about 100 metres deep, and at one stage we were hauling in fish every cast!

By the time we got back we were all exhausted, but not too tired to put the BBQ on. After doing the hunter-gatherer bit, I then finished off the evening by cooking the snapper in foil with lemon juice. Superb...

Bathtime was a perfect end to the day - kebabs and beer too !!

Gina spoils me sometimes....

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sydney Trip

What a busy day...we got up at 5:30 to catch the early train into Sydney. Having rushed out of the house half dressed and still eating cereal we arrived at the train station only to be told that there was a bus service instead because of work on the line. It meant a two hour exciting journey on a double-decker train was going to take three sticky hours on a bus. No thanks, I don't think so! We decided to drive down instead and we got there in under 2 hours. It's fantastic to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge again, the kids love it too.

Rather than drive straight into the city, we parked a few miles out and decided to take a ferry across into the main harbour, right next to the Opera House. It was only about a 5 minute crossing but well worth it.

One of the main reasons for the trip to Sydney was to let the kids see Santa. We were recommended to go to a store called David Jones, and so withn a quick 10 minute hike we were there. It was magical, a proper grotto complete with carousels, talking trees (!), fairies, lucky dips and the obligatory 1 hour queue...It turned out very well, Santa looked the part as he was very jolly, fat and a classic Aussie accent. He was very funny and I even got a chance to sit on his knee too...

We then spent a few hours walking around the centre of the city. It really is a fantastic place, fairly easy to walk around with loads of street entertainers, classy shops and restaurants, arcades, parks and the constant view of the monorail overhead. For those newbies like us there are City Rangers in every street who are people that you can ask directions. We went to a brilliant old building, called the Queen Victoria Building, often called the QVB. It's over 150 years old, which is old for Sydney, and is breathtaking inside. It is just huge, with 4 stories with balconies on each level so that you can see other levels at all times. With its large open central that is used this time of year to place the biggest Christmas tree we've ever seen - it covers all floors with the star in the roof.

From QVB, we walked to a place called Darling Harbour. It's just around the corner from the main harbour, and it has a very relaxed and chic feel to it. We had lunch outside then took the kids to a great park, complete with sand pits and waterways to splash in.

By the time we got back to the ferry for the trip back to the car our feet were aching and Gareth was in such a deep sleep that he completely missed the return trip on the sea.

It's always a sign of a good day when the kids sleep on the way home and crawl into bed once we open the front door. To top it all, Gina has just finished cooking me a steak dinner and I can hear the wine being opened....... I'll raise a glass to you all, Iechyd Da!