Thursday, July 31, 2008

I spoke too soon....

The day after writing the last post we had a phone call from Lesley saying they were alive and well and only an hours drive away from us!

I did a mad frenzied run around my mess of a house while they checked their camper van into a local campsite (despite offers for them to stay in our spare room) An hour later Byron drove to the camp site to bring them back in our car for a BBQ and rang me to say that he had persuaded them to stop with us for the night. More frenzied panicking and cleaning and making of beds went on while he drove them to our house. The only good thing I could think of as I looked at the dirty floors was that finally Lesley would believe that we didn't live a charmed and perfect life in an immaculate tidy house!

We had a great laugh catching up over a BBQ and a couple of bottles of wine while Adam, their 10yr old son raced around and played with our three like they had known each other all their lives. The next morning they joined us on the school run and had a look around the kids classrooms and met a few of their friends. They went off exploring for a few hours and joined us again for tea and more wine. We finished the evening by going into the TV room with bowls of popcorn and watching an episode of Dr Who which was great fun.

Adam joined us on the school run again today and played handball in the playground before assembly.
Sian proudly told me that all the other boys were wondering who he was and said that he was "pretty cool"
After one last cup of tea and an exchange of UK gossip they climbed into their camper van and headed off for the excitement of Sydney.

Safe travelling and thanks for calling in.
We are looking forward to getting a postcard from Fuji ! - Ooops, I mean Fiji !
Enjoy the rest of your adventure...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Vanishing Visitors....

Earth calling Lesley, Alan and Adam......

We have no way of getting in touch with you but were expecting you to visit us over the last few days. We hope you are having great fun "Camper-vanning" down the New South Wales coastline and would still enjoy seeing you if you are passing by.

If you read this blog we would love you to get in touch so we know you are OK.....

Sunday, July 27, 2008


We went for a drive today and called in to an openday at an old fashioned house called Tocal. It is a house that was built in the 1820's and is used as a glimpse into the past with refurbished interiors and outhouses and barracks that were all originally constructed using convict labour.

It was a really lovely day.

We walked around the interior of the house.

Watched a battle re-enactment in the grounds.

Let the kids ride a Penny farthing bike.

Watched horses have their horse shoes replaced (Ouch!)

The calves being fed.

...and held our noses while watching the extremely pungent pig snoozed!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You can't teach a Granny to suck eggs....

You can't teach a Granny to suck eggs, especially if that Granny is actually a Nanny who lives in Wales.

Byron's Mum has a thing about eggs.

When I first married Byron he told me about how, as a child, he would put a raw egg (still in its shell) in his mouth and would chase his Mum around the kitchen where she would be almost physically sick at the sight of it.... Strangely when Byron put an egg in his mouth and chased me around our kitchen when we were newlyweds I didn't give a stuff and told him if he wasn't careful I would squeeze his cheeks and crush the egg in his mouth. He looked a bit crestfallen that this party trick wasn't going to have the same reaction on me as it did on his Mum.

The reason I was remembering this story today was actually because it has a vague connection to a story about Byron's Dad...

Byron's Dad has a thing about Lemons.

He has no problem about them being in his mouth and in fact will cut up a lemon and eat it like a segmented orange. He doesn't even make the slightest face as he bites into the sour flesh. Gareth has taken after his Grandad. When our friend Angelina sent a lemon to us from her lemon tree I thought it would get chopped up and put in cold drinks at the weekend but Gareth begged and begged to have it for himself. Finally after breakfast today I gave in and cut it up for him and he tucked in with gusto.

In conclusion I have learnt that you can't teach a Nanny to suck eggs but you can teach a grandson to suck lemons!

Fairies in the park

Having looked through all the 500 or so photos I took at the park earlier this week I was amazed to see that in one of them I seem to have captured a fairy...!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last day of School holidays

Monday was the last day of the kids school holidays. We decided to tear Byron away from job applications and have a family day out.

We brought the kids bowling and had great fun. The kids had bumper bars automatically pop up on their turns so that the bowling ball couldn't go in the gutter but on Byron's go the bars went down so that the game was a bit more even (I stayed sitting down and was chief cheerer)

After the bowling we went to Mc Donald's and then on to Speers Point Park. This is a fabulous new park that was recently opened and the kids love it. We have been a few times before but I never seemed to have my camera on me. This time I did and took hundreds of photos.

When we were all done with the play equipment and almost ready to get in the car Sian suggested getting a rugby ball out of the boot and having a quick play in the fields next to the play area. Another two hours later and we were all pink cheeked and exhausted!

It was a great day out and a really good way to end the school holidays on a high.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Little Boy Blue

One of the people I mentioned in the last blog was my Granny Luddy who used to visit us and share my bedroom with me. She would teach me prayers and would tell me "old fashioned" poems and stories.

Only a few hours ago I went to our post box and found a letter to me from my Mum in Ireland. In it was an old piece of paper on which my Granny had written out a poem she used to tell me many years ago, "Little Boy Blue" by Eugene Field

If you click on the picture you will see a larger version of it. It gives me goosebumps to look at the old paper and know that it was written so long ago and yet landed in my hands at a time I had been thinking about her.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Randwick Racecourse

World Youth day has been a big part of kids school holidays since they began two weeks ago.

We had our overseas pilgrims, we went to formal and serious Norwegian masses, an "all singing all dancing" youth mass at the local high school, the huge Myuna Bay day of Mass, BBQ and Bush dancing, went to evening choir practises, sat around burning camp fires way beyond the kids normal bed time and took a zillion photos only a small handful of which made it onto the blog here. When we waved goodbye to our pilgrims we took a step back from the next group of WYD activities that were based in Sydney. We felt the kids had experienced enough WYD activities for it to be a memorable event that they would remember as they grow up.

My brother Joe in Sydney asked me a few times would I be travelling down to try to see the Pope as he drove around the city and said different masses. The media had suggested that there would be large crowds of half a million or more at some events and with the kids being so young I just could see loads of reasons why it would be more stressful than fun trying to bring them down. Joe and Rhonda had two tickets to the final mass in Randwick race course on Sunday. They were like gold dust and without a ticket I could see no point in travelling down in the hope of a glimpse of the event through a huge crowd.

On Saturday night I took the kids to a friends house for tea to let Byron and his friends have their "Beer Fest" We got home after 11pm and the kids fell into their beds asleep on their feet. At 11.30pm I was getting ready for bed when I saw a message on my mobile phone from Joe. He had two extra tickets to the mass the next day. Did I want them? I needed to get to Sydney by 7am to collect them.... It was too late to ring him and make a plan and the idea of getting on a train in 5 hours time seemed impossible. Also, who to bring? When you have three kids and one extra ticket you know two kids are going to be very disappointed.

Byron was surprised that I was turning down the tickets. He told me I was mad. I went back downstairs and spent the next hour on the Internet checking train times, charging my mobile and getting shoes and coats at the door. I fell into bed at 1.30am and after two hours sleep I was getting dressed and waking Sian to come on an adventure. I justified bringing her because she was the oldest and the most likely to stay calm in a crowd or handle being lost.

We drove to the local train station and waited 45 minutes on the platform in the freezing cold watching our breathe form clouds in front of our faces. The train was late (HOW can a train be late that early in the morning and when there are hardly any passengers on it?)

When we got to Sydney Central we met up with Joe, Rhonda and Cian without any difficulty and got our tickets from them. We all got on a shuttle bus which brought us most of the way to the race course and walked the rest of the way.

It was so worth it. As we went into the racecourse the excitement was immense.

The Pope was being driven around the track in the "Popemobile" and I put Sian on my back just in time for her to get a perfect look at him. As he passed us the crowd was cheering and waving and at the perfect moment the crowd seemed to part and Sian and I looked straight at the Pope as he turned to us with a smile on his face and raised his hand and waved. Sian turned to me and said "Mum, He waved at ME!" I know he was waving at the crowd but at that moment it felt like we were the only people he was looking at. That was the moment I knew that the whole journey had been worth it.

We found our space in the huge racecourse and sat down on our plastic sheeting and spent the next 3 hours watching the mass on the huge screens dotted about the race course. We were surrounded by French, Spanish and American groups of teenagers. We kept spotting Irish flags flying in the distance and I had to hold back from running to find the people waving them just to say "Hello"

At some points of the mass I became very emotional. It has been a difficult time for our family since Byron lost his job and the uncertainty of when he will find a new job has left me with a knot of anxiety in my stomach. When the Pope asked us to pause and call to mind all of the people who are dear to us my mind was like a whirlwind of pictures and names. Family and friends from Ireland, England, Wales, America and Australia. The chances are that if you are reading this, I was thinking of you.

When we were next asked to call to mind all the people who were dear to us but had died I went to pieces. I cried as I thought of my Granny Luddy who used to say my prayers with me as a young child and read me poems when I woke in the mornings, my Grandad Luddy who gave me sweets from his special tin above the fireplace, My Granny Sheeran who drove Mum mad by shaking boxes of Smarties outside the window when she came to visit (just before dinner time), My Grandad Sheeran who died long before I was born, Byrons Nanny Ponty, my friend Louise, our baby. It was so overwhelming.

At 1pm the Mass drew to an end and Sian and I started walking back to Sydney Central with Joe, Rhonda and the sleeping Cian. It took us until 4pm to get there and Sian was exhausted by the time we found our seats on the train.

When we got off the train we saw Byron, Gareth and Rhiannon waiting for us on the platform. I felt exhausted but very glad to have had the exerience. I am so grateful to Joe and Rhonda for offering me the tickets and for Byron for pushing me to go.

It was definitely a day I will never forget and hopefully Sian and Cian will always remember it too.

Beer Fest

Byron and a few of his friends who appreciate a few drinks decided to have a cultured evening of beer tasting (?) in our house this weekend. Co-incidentally it was also the night of a big Rugby Union match between Australia and South Africa. John Newton went off and bought vast amounts of beer from all around the world and ordered equal amounts of meat pies to help line their stomachs....

The room was well prepared, an extra sofa was carried in so that there would be the room for the 10 expected drinkers, the Australian flag was pinned to the wall, the beer fridge had been moved into the room to prevent unnecessary walking in and out of the kitchen and the log fire was burning brightly (well the "ambient burning fireplace" DVD was playing on the TV...!!!)

There was a knock on the door and in filed John and his wife Maree carrying boxes of beer so high you couldn't see their faces! A few trips back and forth to the car and the beer fridge was full, the Esky was overflowing and the extras were in the normal kitchen fridge!

Dr John was very proud of his organisational skills and took charge of the other men by demanding I get out my multi vitamins and make each of them take one straight away to ward off the next days inevitable hangovers!

At that point I left to have tea in Marees house with the kids and give the men space to cheer and curse their way through the rugby match.

I wont go into much detail about what state they were all in when I got home but they were having a GREAT time!!! Such a great time that they were in no rush to head home! Eventually someone mentioned the word "Taxi" and I took that as my cue to ring one on the quiet and then push them gently towards the door when it pulled up outside.

Today we returned the beer fridge to its rightful place in the laundry room and emptied the esky of the melted ice.

Despite the men's very best efforts to drink all the beer they left behind a reasonable amount which has been lodged in the "Baynham Beer Bank" which will store the beer and will have beer "withdrawn" from it on each Friday afternoon that the kids are going to tennis so that the contributors to its purchase can continue to avail of it until the bank runs dry.

...and the match result:

Australia 16 - 9 South Africa

Worth the hangover according to all those who were watching!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Buried treasure....

Gareth had fun in the park today with his friend Isaac. He wanted to be buried "standing up"

Isaac happily obliged.

Thanks to David for taking the photo with his fancy iPhone and emailing it on to us!

Monday, July 14, 2008

World Youth Day 2008, Pilgrims.

We have had an eventful week. This time last week we were preparing for our pilgrims from Norway and Byron had a job. Over the next few days we went through a roller coaster of emotions, fun and excitement with the arrival of Sabina and Angela and the shock of Byron becoming unemployed. The timetable of World Youth day events that I got swept along with was exhausting and on one hand kept me very busy and my mind very occupied but on the other left Byron home alone most days and he spent most evenings without company.

We said goodbye to Sabina and Angela today and we are looking forward to taking a deep breath, ignoring the piles of washing and messy tip of a house and sitting down with a bottle of wine to talk and plan for the future.

There were so many fun things that we did last week but I just wasn't in the mood to blog "Happy stuff" Rather than trying to write up each individual days events I thought I would give you a quick summary and post a few of my favourite photos......

Day one, Tuesday: Hung around waiting for a phonecall to collect our pilgrims, called into St Michaels collection point and watched a coachful of Norwegian teenagers pull up, found our pilgrims, Sabina and Angela and said hello, got sent away while they registered, returned an hour later having gone to a local Mc Donalds for a snack and a play, home, shower, meatballs and spaghetti, pilgrims snoring by 7pm.

Day two, Wednesday: Pilgrims up and dressed and fed by 8am! Spent the day at Blackbutt reserve with a detour to Kotara shopping center for a little retail therapy and to buy a basketful of food for a picnic, back to Blackbutt for the "Koala Encounter", home, showers, lasagna and salad, off to Norwegian language mass, pilgrims snoring by 8pm.

Day three, Thursday: Another early start, off to Caves beach with newly unemployed Byron in tow, back to Warner's Bay for lunch by the lake, home, showers, chilli tacos with all the extras, off to another 6pm Norwegian mass, then on to a 6.30pm mass practise for Sian and Rhiannon at the nearby St Paul's High School, back to Norwegian mass to pick up pilgrims, back to High School to check on Sian and Rhiannon, quick trip to local shops to buy essential WYD 08 tops for Sian, Rhiannon, Sabina and Angela for the following nights mass, back to St Paul's High School to collect Sian and Rhiannon, home by 9pm, Mr B already asleep in bed, big round of hot chocolates, pilgrims snoring by 9.15pm

Day four, Friday:
Pilgrims delivered to St Paul's High School for "Social Payback" i.e. setting up the hall for that nights big youth mass. Byron, myself and kids hide out in a local Starbucks and have a much needed caffeine/hot chocolate hit. Ran into shop to swap Sian's top for a different colour (she wanted the same as Sabina!) Back to St Paul's to collect pilgrims, all back home early afternoon, got stuck into a massive load of pilgrims laundry, Byron cooked a huge plate of sausages on the barbie and we ate at 4pm and head out for big St Paul's youth mass where Sian and Gemma were Alter Serving and Rhiannon and Sophie were in the choir. Sat in brilliant seats (just behind Bishop Michael) thanks to Monica getting there crazy early, Home by 9pm, all snoring by 9.15pm.

Day five, Saturday:
All jumped in car and drove to Fassifern train station. Got the train into Newcastle for huge Coroboree (? spelling, I think it is an Aboriginal word for a meeting of people) saw two whales off the coast and got a photo (get your magnifying glass out and look at the top right corner!) Took time out to stand on a deserted beach as a family and reflect on what a beautiful place we live and appreciate that there are far worse places to be when you are unemployed. Walked on to the crowded Newcastle Foreshore, met up with the Connelly, Fleury, Scanlon and Meek families and had a great day watching international pilgrims singing and dancing. Invited our friends back to our house for Pizza, Got home 5.15pm friends arrived into filthy messy house 15mins later. Ordered pizza, went to collect pilgrims from another Norwegian mass, supposed to finish at 6.30pm, finally got them out of church and into car at 8.15pm, raced to Domino's pizza and collected 7 rubbery pizzas, home, all stuffed our faces, pilgrims wandered around in a daze while all hell broke loose and eight wild, overtired kids ran amok through the house, grown ups drank numerous bottles of beer and wine and Paul played guitar! Eventually all our friends left about 10pm, pilgrims snoring by 10.05pm.

Day six, Sunday:
Another early start, off to Myuna Bay for a day of Mass, BBQ and Bush dancing. I was asked to stand in for the professional photographer who had failed to show and spent the day taking over 800 photos of the mass and festivities! I got dragged up on stage as the tokenary Irish Pilgrim to play the Bodhran! Home by 6pm, had left over Chilli, showers, kids and pilgrims snoring by 8pm. Byron and myself snoring by 8.05pm!

Day seven, Monday:
All up before 7am, mad rush of packing and helping pilgrims make packed lunches for their journey on to Sydney. Drove to St Michael's church and waved goodbye to Sabina and Angela, got home and sat with Byron drinking numerous cups of tea while kids ran around and played.

 for tonight, hopefully kids will be in bed as early as possible and Byron and myself will open a bottle of red, catch our breath, take the phone of the hook and talk about the future.

If I learned one good thing this week it was from the wonderful Bertilia, Monica's pilgrim from the Caribbean.

No matter what problems happened while she was here she always had the same answer...

With a great big smile and arms held out wide, her wonderful rich caribbean voice would boom out full of joy and laughter and say


Friday, July 11, 2008


We had some bad news on Wednesday night.

Byron was asked to ring into work for a company wide meeting at 2am Australian time. When he asked if he really needed to be at it he was told to take the afternoon off and have time with his family to "prepare"

This had us on edge and when Byron dialled in at 2am he was told that the company had folded and he no longer had a job. No notice. No job. No pay for outstanding holidays. He was told to just wait and see if he gets paid for this months work or not.

It is a very unsettling time. With a house full of pilgrims and a timetable to ferry them around from 9am till 9pm and the kids on school holidays there hasn't been any time for Byron and myself to sit down together and talk or just have quiet time together. We are trying to be positive. For every door that shuts another one opens, The adventure of new beginnings, Everything will be fine. These are easy to say in daylight but at night in the dark it is harder to believe.

We have each other and the kids and our health. We know we have all the things that are important. We just hope that it won't be too long before the talented Mr B finds himself a new job.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Holiday Tuition

Over the school holidays Gareths teacher has given us some sight words for him to learn and practise writing.

Rhiannons teacher has also encouraged us to do a little maths with her as she is finding it hard to keep up with her classmates. Nothing too taxing, just little bits when we find the time.

Byron seems to have taken it a bit seriously. He came out of his office and joined us for lunch today and did a bit of writing with Gar and mental sums with Rhiannon. After he went back into his office with a fresh cup of coffee I found Gar sitting on the floor with the white board in one hand and a pen in the other....