What would Saturday mornings be without breakfast?

Before I left Adelaide, Saturday mornings would find me at the Central Market in search of breakfast. I arrived at around 8am and would meet up with whichever family members dragged themselves out of bed. While seated at our customary table, friends would often drop by. They knew where to find us.

Breakfast

Fast forward and I relocated to Melbourne for work. Living in the CBD, I had plenty of choice for breakfast and I was keen to continue the tradition, albeit mostly by myself. Occasionally visitors have joined me but mostly I have explored the culinary offerings of the laneways and café’s within easy walking distance. On occasions, I dragged out the car to travel to Port Melbourne or perhaps to Williamstown, searching for new experiences, but mostly I have confined my Saturday mornings to the CBD.

The breakfast ventures are more than just food for me. It’s the social experience as well. I look for a place that has good coffee, the weekend papers, and a certain level of ambience. Today it was Grey & Bliss at Port Melbourne. When you live alone, seeking experiences outside your four walls are important; plus fresh air, stray conversations, things to see, and perhaps good food.

Would you believe, I left my phone at home today. Once I have finished the papers I usually scan the emails or other news. Today I had to look around me. It was noisy. Typically, the floor was polished concrete and grating chairs and chatter bounced off it. Alongside my table, two women watched a video on their phone, with the volume up loud. It matched their shrieks of laughter. I considered frowning my displeasure, but they wouldn’t have noticed.

Outside, a small dog yelped incessantly. The owner had tied it to a pole and left it there while she did her shopping. The yelping ricocheted around my head. The café owner came and shut the adjoining door in an effort to soften the noise. He said that probably someone would steal the dog. That often happens when people leave cute dogs tied up in the street. Eventually, the dog stopped barking, but whether the owner returned or a thief took advantage of the opportunity, I have no idea.

You can overhear strange snippets of conversation. Two other women were discussing their various medical conditions, or perhaps those of their family. I tuned out, not being interested in disturbances in someone else’s gut. Only a few people are reading papers, which is good for me. It means that there are copies available for me to feed my newspaper addiction. I wish tables were bigger to accommodate my coffee, the water bottle, the paper and my breakfast. Most people are reading screens, even those in the company of a partner or friend.

One young couple sat side-by-side instead of opposite each other. He was in dude dress, with his baseball cap turned backwards. She was wearing a simple black shift, teamed with ankle boots and socks that showed above the boots. They weren’t speaking or reading – just sitting with each other.

My usual menu choice revolves around eggs, but feeling the need for change and adventure, today I ordered the ricotta hotcakes with poached pears and whipped mascarpone. It was a good choice.

A Fair Go for Whom?

As Australians, we have been brought up on stories of giving everyone a fair go. It’s part of our culture and is a value that we hold most dear.

My European ancestors came to Australia in the mid-nineteenth century looking for a fair go. They came from times of hardship, unemployment and poverty. They hoped that in this new country they could make a reasonable life for themselves and their children. Their descendants are now spread far and wide, leading by comparison comfortable lives in middle Australia. Someone gave them a fair go.

There are historical examples that support our belief.  The miners fought for a fair go at the Eureka Stockade, some of them giving their lives for it. A few decades later, Australia was the first country to both give women the vote and to grant them the right to stand for election.  We were brought up on stories such as the bravery of John Simpson and his donkey, bravely providing first aid and carrying the wounded until he himself was killed during the Gallipoli Campaign at Anzac Cove. Heart-stirring stuff.

1856 saw the introduction of the 8-hour day for stonemasons in Victoria, granting them Saturday afternoons off.  This was fought for on the basis of not sacrificing health and shortening the duration of human life; allowing working men the time to develop their minds through education; and allowing tradesmen to be better husbands and fathers.  In time, these working conditions spread throughout the workforce.

We have believed that education is the right of all Australian children and that access to affordable health care should be given to everyone. We like to think that if anyone puts their mind to it, they can do anything.

Post WW2, there was mass migration to Australia from war-ravaged Europe.  Those people didn’t always have an easy time of their re-settlement, but they and their children have helped to make Australia the multi-cultural society that it is today.  In spite of calling them Wogs, Eyties, Ethnics, Poms and various other names, we like to think that we gave them a fair go and often use those names affectionately today.

It is true that our concept of a fair go was often biased. Our indigenous Aborigines rarely got a fair go and many struggle to do so today. Immigration policies restricted Asian neighbours from migrating here, although early Chinese migration played a significant role in the development of nineteenth-century Victoria.

Common sense and a review of history tells us that the concept of ‘fair go’ is very subjective. It is reserved for PLUs – People Like Us.  We are the ones who deserve it and as for the others – they just have to buckle down and earn it or else learn to change their ways and to become PLUs – if we let them of course.

In recent years, even the righteous and deserving are questioning what has happened to the fundamental value which underpins our way of life.  We have seen government and commercial actions which have threatened our Australian pride.

We imprison people who have fled their homelands as conditions there have become untenable or worse, life-threatening. We deny them adequate health care, education, and the opportunity to lead a meaningful life and to contribute to meaningful society. Even worse, we deny them any form of hope for the future. When we are being particularly scornful, we accuse them of being just ‘economic refugees’. Since when is that a crime?  So were my ancestors economic refugees, and one of them even jumped ship to remain in Australia.

We erode the benefits and working conditions of the most vulnerable of our workers. We also have begun the process by which penalty rates are reduced, a move that will spread to many industries. It seems that we no longer deserve compensation for giving up our evenings or traditional family time.

We are increasing the cost of education, ignoring the fact that for us to truly be a lucky country, we need a skilled and educated workforce. We need our scientists, our teachers and our technicians. We need to invest in our people if we are going to innovate, to develop industries, and to keep up with other nations. The return on this investment is a clever society and dare I say it, a fairer society. It is one in which everyone has the opportunity of developing their skills and talents for the benefit of us all. Increasingly, only the wealthy are able to educate their children.

We refuse to pay our job-seekers a livable sum of money, choosing to label them leaners and bludgers in spite of the fact that changes in technology and the economic environment has seen many jobs disappear.  Some are too inexperienced, some are over-experienced, some are too you and some are too old. Some no longer have skills in demand and others have never had the opportunity to develop them in the first place.  Whatever the reason, it is their fault that they can’t find a job and they don’t deserve our charity.

Just to make sure that life is really difficult, we restrict their eligibility to social security benefits on the theory that this will make them try harder. Bad luck that they can no longer afford the costs of applying for work, nor can they afford to pay rent or keep up the mortgage payments while they search. They just need to try harder.  We also reduce the number of staff within Centrelink and make it more difficult for those who need social security assistance to access information and accurate advice.

We hound our social security recipients on the theory that they are all out to defraud the government and therefore the tax-payer of valuable funds. We use poorly defined algorithms to decide just who is a miscreant and put the onus of proof on them in establishing their innocence. We then use bullying tactics and private debt collectors to enforce payment, whether they actually owe it or not.

Our political leaders, with the self-assurance that they are acting on behalf of us all, explain that it is a system that is working well, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. In the meantime, their colleagues are caught out rorting their entitlements to the tune of thousands of dollars. If they lose their parliamentary seat, they can seek comfort in the knowledge that entitlements and a comfortable superannuation payment will follow them into private life. After all, they deserve it. It’s only fair.

So what does a fair go meant today?  On the evidence available, it means to strongly define who deserves it and who doesn’t. Those who deserve it are the ones who get to decide who don’t. Those who don’t, only have themselves to blame for their situation. If only they were a PLU (employed, educated, and fit) they might be deserving also. That’s only fair.

Do you think that we still abide by the maxim of a fair go?

Protesting Melbourne

I have been so impressed with the fact that Melbournians are prepared to take to the streets with a megaphone and a chant when they are not happy or see an injustice.

I live very close to Parliament House, and this is the gathering place for many a protest. I am alerted to this fact by the amplification of speeches on the steps of the House, and perhaps the roar of the crowd.  Stepping out onto my balcony, I can see the placards, the t-shirts, the cameras and the police. If it is a large and organised protest, Spring Street will be closed off to traffic and police cars with flashing lights will block the lanes to traffic.  Police wearing protective clothing and hi-viz vests will collect on the street corners and will form a human  barricade part way up the  steps to ensure that an unruly mob does not storm the House.

I can’t usually decipher the words of the speeches from my apartment but I can hear the crowd response.

“What do we want?”
“Roar!”
“When do we want it?”
“Roar! Roar!”

There were anti-Trump protests, protests on Australia Day relating to the impact of colonisation on the original inhabitants, taxi-drivers protesting against the devaluation of their taxi-licences due to the introduction of Uber and protests on International Women’s Day. These are just a few. Some protests have been union-led and others are organised by a small band of true-believers. As I made my way home past Parliament House a couple of days ago, a group of people of middle-eastern appearance was appealing for acceptance and tolerance of all people – we are all of one blood.

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Sometimes, the protests are focused on a government department and then the marchers are more likely to take over the street in which I work. The music and megaphoned chants rise to my desk on the tenth floor, and the crowd decries the Centrelink debacle or perhaps decisions that doom refugees to a miserable and interminable existence.

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Whatever the cause, it reassures me that people are still prepared to take to the streets and to voice their opinion on what they believe is right and to protest on what is wrong. The day the protests stop is when we all have to worry.

 

Looking to the future

Do you know those feelings before starting a new journey into the unknown?  There is a mixture of excitement and fear.  The excitement focusses on anticipation of the wonderful things you will see, the people you will meet and the experiences that you will have.  The fear focuses on whether you are competent enough, and how will you manage and what if you fall over?

I’m embarking on a new business venture and so am experiencing all of those thoughts and feelings.  The new venture is prompted by several things.  For a start, I am one of those people who is always coming up with new ideas.  When I was younger I just launched into them with the zest and enthusiasm of someone who was really green and didn’t know it.  I had some failures but some successes too and it taught me a lot.  I really wish that I’d had some mentors during those years of exploration and enthusiasm, but that’s another topic.

Secondly, I can see that there is no security of tenure with my current employer and redundancy is likely to come my way by the end of the financial year.  This coincides with my increasing dissatisfaction at a role that is increasingly dumbed down and diminished in content and engagement.  It is  not surprising therefore that my frustration at working in a non-supportive environment has lead to my thoughts of self-employment again.  I also recognise that this is a poor employment market for people past a certain age and if I don’t want to find myself in the clutches of Centrelink, I will need to be resourceful and to develop alternatives that are financially viable.

The third reason is that I can see a new challenge in the future and it excites me.  That doesn’t mean that I am not apprehensive about what I am proposing but the prospect of taking back control over my working life is a greater incentive than the fear is a detraction.  Right now I am in the research phase and working on my business plan and just doing this preliminary work fuels the anticipation.

Although I am not in a position to disclose full details right now, I am keen to develop relationships with other service providers, and specifically those who are not totally embedded in the youth culture.  I would not expect for instance that the copy on my webpage would contain words such as ‘totally awesome’ as my target audience will mostly come from Gen X and Baby Boomer age groups.  I will look for a copy writer who can engage with and not alienate that age group.  Likewise a brand manager, graphic designer and photographer.

Finding a mentor of course would be fantastic but jut as useful will be developing a network of people who are at a similar stage in life and perhaps starting new ventures of their own.  If that sounds like you, give me a shout.Anticipation

 

 

 

Six Word Saturday

I am a little confused about the mechanics of this but have agreed to link to Cate and the 6-word Saturday task.  OK, it’s Sunday now now Saturday but I have only just found out about the link-up.  My six words are more of a reflection of what is going on in my life right this minute, rather than describing my Saturday, which was quite a different experience.

Cleaning, thinking, too many ants.  Damn!

If you want to read more about the Six Word Saturday, there is more of an explanation here.

Walking with my shoes, talking with my heart

It really is time for a parting or the ways.  There is little sole left between us anymore, but I still hold on to the memories.  We are moulded together, you and I and have that comfortable relationship that doesn’t evolve over night.

It is approaching ten years since my mother died.  Breast Cancer.  We knew it was aggressive; we knew what the outcome would be but there was still the shocked disbelief when it happened so quickly.  I found myself wandering around wearing the purple floppy hat that she used to wear while hanging out the washing in the summer sun, clinging to that vestige of contact with her.  I even used to ring her mobile to listen to her stating her name, clearly and precisely.  I was never sure whether to talk to her during those calls or not.  Would she get my message?  I was desperate for those connections not to disappear.

The clean-up of clothes and possessions was one of those tasks to be endured.  Lots of stuff went to the local charity shop, and other bits and pieces were claimed by family members.  Other things, we simply didn’t know what to do with – too good to throw away but perhaps too old, too out of style or just simply not needed.  A conundrum that is no doubt being addressed by so many right at this moment.

It was during one of these sessions that I encountered you.  You were not really my type, with me favouring options that were more open and less restrained, but probably still seeking that connection with mother I gave you a try.  Oh how comfortable.  To my surprise, the fit was good.  I rocked backwards and forwards, testing the cushioning and support  and after a few tentative steps, we walked out together.  It was the beginning of a dependent relationship and I soon fell in love with a pair of black Rockport walking shoes.

***

Mother had done the hard work for me, with her feet moulding the soft leather and creating a comfortable cocoon across the toes.  The back was softened too, so that it embraced and shielded rather than abraded my heel.  I was so delighted that I even wrote a poem entitled ‘Walking in my mother’s shoes’.  I liked the support that they gave me and the ability to walk and walk and walk. I guess that is why they were called walkers. 

I wore them to work and on field trips – even times when I should have been wearing a steel-capped variety.  Regular polishing maintained the soft leather and I took pride in their gleaming presentation.  I am not sure how long mother wore those shoes, but as the years of my custodianship passed, the soles took a battering and in time began to separate from the uppers.  I flopped and flapped around for a while, walking with a strange strut because of it but finally presented them for inspection at the shoe repair booth.  There was a lot of umming and ahhing, but eventually I was told that they could be re-soled.

This involved slicing off the old sole and gluing a replacement in place.  It worked – for a while and then either left or right would become loose again and I would carefully reglue.  The gaps between gluing became shorter and shorter resulting in more flipping and flapping.  In the end I had to accept that the re-soling had not been a success.  They were retired to the shoe rack in my cupboard.  I was not ready to let them go, even if they were not wearable any more.

It has got me thinking about shoes and the connotations that we bestow upon them.  I have tarty shoes and practical shoes; dancing shoes and running shoes; working shoes and playing shoes.  Each pair creates a mood and ambiance with which I have a co-dependant relationship.  I both create it and assume it on wearing the shoes.  They don’t quite have a life of their own like the red shoes of Hans Christian Anderson but they each have a personality none-the-less.

***

A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a clean-out.  It is part of the de-clutter program that I wrote about here.  You smiled at me gummily from the rack, with your soles clearly separating around the toes.  I knew that I had to act quickly before you talked me out of my resolve.  I felt such a traitor and kept my eyes averted from your lolling tongue.  I hope you understand but it was time.  I had to do it.   The lid slapped down with finality, not just on you but yet another link with my mother.

In Search of the Fountain Pen

Those who saw my previous post will have read of my lament about the disappearance of hand-written letters and my intention to resurrect a fountain pen with which to better write such epistles.

I found my beautiful gold pen, which was a prize for Letter of the Month in a magazine ( a lovely surprise at the time).  I bought a bottle of ink, no longer having one in the house or if I do, not being sure where to find it.  There was much deliberation over the colour – black, royal blue or blue-black being the only choices.  In the past I used a brown; pages in my journal from a couple of decades ago are written in this colour.  The black was too sombre and somehow the royal blue not serious enough and so I settled on the blue-black.

It was with anticipation that I unscrewed the cap and carefully rinsed the nib, drawing up some water into the reservoir and squirting through again to clean the works and clear out any dried ink that might impede the flow.  Happy with this process, and having carefully dried the nib, I inserted the pen into the ink this time and squeezed the springy metal surrounding the rubber reservoir in order to draw up a supply of ink.  Of course I got ink all over my fingers – I don’t think that I ever used a fountain pen without doing this.  I screwed the barrel back into place and was ready to go – or at least to write.

It was then I remembered one of the reasons why I had not previously persisted in using this pen.  The nib design does not allow for any variation in your stroke – no fine upward sweep followed by the downward pressure forming the stronger part of the letter.  It is writing with character.  This pen however delivered a uniform flow of ink, whether on the upward or downward stroke.

That’s OK – I can live with that.  My memory might be playing tricks on my anyway as perhaps it was only with the pen that we dipped in the inkwell when learning to write  at school that such graduations were possible.  (Although ballpoint pens became available while I was in Primary School, we were not allowed to use them and they encouraged poor handwriting.)  What I also discovered though is that the ink does not flow consistently to the nib and I remember this happening before.  It soon dries up – mid-sentence and then you have to unscrew the barrel and give the reservoir a gentle squeeze to force ink through again.  Inevitably, this results in ink blots and as yet I have not invested in a blotter. (Note to self.)

I persisted for a little while and gave up in frustration.  Today, I went to one of those stationery super stores, looking for another fountain pen but they only had a small very slim disposable specimen.  It comes pre-loaded with ink and as soon as the ink runs out, you throw the pen away.  That won’t do.  I don’t want a disposable pen that ends up in landfill.

I rummaged around in an old drawer after that and found a calligraphy pen, but unfortunately without any ink so I can’t even use that.  I just went on line and Googled Fountain Pens in my city (Adelaide) and turned up the only specialist pen shop in town.  Reviewing their website, I could see that they stocked fountain pens up to $5000 in value.  Holey Moley!  I don’t think that I will write enough for that.

There were others at the other end of the scale though and I think that one of those will be for me.  It will have to wait until I can get into the shop though as I don’t think that ordering on-line is the way to go.  You need to hold your pen and test the weight and the grip before deciding to buy.  I saw a similar pen to mine, also a Parker Pen so perhaps I might take mine into the shop as well to see if they have any suggestions for making it work satisfactorily.

With my on-line search, I also found a Fountain Pen Network, for people who sell or use fountain pens, with on-line classifieds as well – just for pens.  Fascinating.  The search continues.

A life in Boxes

De-cluttering (see earlier blog). What a surprise – progress is slow!  Much slower than I anticipated.  I keep getting sidetracked on associated issues, like sorting through boxes of mixed up Lego.  I have re-assembled kits and reconnected the bits with their instructions and boxes.  The balance, I have sorted into colours or like pieces (i.e all the wheels together) and stored them all in cliplok bags.  Once I had done all of this, I was still in a quandary.  Do I keep it, sell it, or give it away?  Some of the bigger kits are worth a couple of hundred dollars on eBay.  In the end, it was stored carefully into large plastic storage boxes and put back into the attic.  Those boxes are along side other boxes containing the train set and similar multi-componented toys.

And so it has been – sort, classify and decide on disposal.  I still have stored in that attic things like boxes of linen and towels, old dinner sets and household bits and pieces that I have always thought that young Donald might use when he leaves home.  I have this underlying concern that as soon as I dispose of these items, they may be required.

I must have around twenty of these boxes in the attic now.  They contain much-loved clothes from earlier decades, each with their own memories.  Perhaps one day I will have granddaughters who will enjoy exploring their contents, and might give those designer labels an airing again. There are boxes of quilting fabrics that I will use one day.  Boxes of other craft items.  Boxes of bedding and quilts – we have had many different bed configurations in the house over the years and have retained the blankets and quilts, even though the beds may have gone.

I also have a large plastic box that is the ‘picnic basket’.  In theory, I can just grab this and go, but I should check its contents and their cleanliness etc before the next trip.  It has plastic plates and cutlery, chopping board, sharp knives, can opener, bottle opener, scissors, tea towel, washing up brush and detergent, tea, coffee, salt, pepper, storage bags and items of this nature.  So handy to have it all together and it just needs checking now and then for currency.

I have all the travel items in the attic as well.  Suitcases and wheelie bags and back-packs and sleeping bags and packing cells.  I love the packing cells that I discovered a few years back.  It makes the organisation of packing so much easier.  Of course these things are not in boxes but are tumbled in their own corner, along side the sporting equipment that is rarely used and in fact hardly ever was.  There are still the tennis racquets and the boogie board and the cricket bats and those sorts of things – just in case.

As I write this, it is apparent to me that I was always equipping our house for a larger family – in my mind there would be children coming and going and ‘doing things’.  The reality was that I only had the one child, and he was very non-sporty and as there were no other children of similar age growing up in our immediate locality, he didn’t do a lot of outdoor stuff either.  It is a warning not to place too much emotional anticipation on the advent of grandchildren.

I also have heaps of financial records, the sort that should be kept for 7 years.  I haven’t addressed them as yet but I am sure that there are some older years now that can be culled.  Stored on those racks (I have heaps of metal shelving racks in the attic as well) is lots of stationery and study notes from various courses over the years.  That could do with critical evaluation.  Many of the notes are probably out of date.

Sounds as though I have kept everything, doesn’t it?  I have still managed to give away a lot of items – furniture, books, clothing, and toys.  Some has gone to friends and some has been disposed of via Freecycle.  There are other items, that I have had for many years, that I have decided to dispose of via auction.  There is a lovely brass art nouveau fire tool set.  I have always loved the lady, but I don’t have a fire and don’t have a use for this item.  It has just been stored in the attic.

Brass Fire Tools

And then there is the antique phone that I have had since around 1980.  It still has the inner workings and my techie brother-in-law tells me that it could be made to work again, in a limited fashion.  Again this has just been sitting in the attic for years and I have to ask myself of what value it is stuck up there.

Antique Pnone

Another item that I will be very pleased to see go to a new home is a Dexter Rocking Chair that was left here by a lodger and never re-claimed.  He had promised someone to french polish it and it has been sitting on my back verandah for around five years.  I feel so sorry for the person who originally owned it as they must have done a lot of work in stripping it but I have no way of knowing who they are or contacting them.

Another aspect to the de-cluttering is sorting out all the stuff left by lodgers.  Mostly this is clothing and shoes, but also electrical items, tools, fishing gear and of course antique rocking chairs.

One task that I was not looking forward to was de-cluttering my computer.  There will still be junk data files lurking in corners but I have deleted a lot of dead software and many folders also that have not been access for a long time.  In part, I had to do this as I am running out of storage space but in part I want to de-clutter before my next computer upgrade.  I felt very virtuous after I had spent the time on this.

So what of my transitional son?  I have received the odd text but I haven’t seen him since my last post.  He was supposed to come home last night (with Daisy) but did not turn up.  Perhaps today.

Bread and Cheese

I haven’t explained so far that I am visiting my very old friend Lucy in Amsterdam. She and I first met when we were both living and working in Alice Springs, more years ago than I care to admit and we have been long distance friends ever since. I am accompanied by my brother-in-law, Dermot. Dermot was the husband of my sister who died and is mentioned in previous posts.
This is a healing trip for us both.

Yesterday was spent wandering around Amsterdam. Dermot and I explored the lanes and alleyways and walked past the small dark coffee shops and the sex museum and similar establishments. The weather was crisp, but no where near as cold as what I had expected. I think that wearing a hat and minimising heat loss through the scalp helped.

We were talking a lot and so didn’t really walk anywhere with a sense of purpose – just went where our feet lead us. The only thing that I needed to buy was a pair of snow boots and I found some cheap plastic fur-lined boots for E20.00. Although the suitcase is quite full, I should be able to squash these in somehow.

We walked past so many wonderful looking cheese shops, with the rounds of cheese stacked in pyramids, and surrounded by fridges of various cream and other cheeses. I absolutely love the cream cheese with ginger. The ginger is a tasty counter foil to the creaminess of the cheese. The visual assault on the senses was matched by the bread shops, that were stacked with so many different types of bread loaves, rolls and sticks and there there were the bins of pastries and other baked goods. Often there seemed to be a golden glow in these shops, so perhaps the lighting was chosen very carefully to make then seem warm and inviting.

Kamikaze bicycles presented a bit of a challenge. They came from every direction and wove all over the road and paths. They had an assumed right to be wherever they wanted to be, and the small scooters as well. We seemed to be continually jumping out of the way, with our confusion compounded by the fact that instinctively we looked in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic. There were lots of people on foot as well of course. Thinking about the bread and cheese shops, I wondered about the weight of the Dutch people, but they are no where near as fat as Australians have become. Perhaps it is because of all the walking and bike riding. Also I did not see a prevalence of sugar-filled soft drinks such as are increasingly consumed in Australia and I expect that this would also be a relevant factor.

Residential apartments are situated all through the city centre and people seem not to use blinds and curtains through the day. This gave us the opportunity to look in as we passed, observing the steep perilous stairs to upper levels, and their collections of furniture and memorabilia. It gave a fascinating snapshot as we passed. I revelled in the role of voyeur.

Dermot was not staying with Lucy and myself but was instead ensconced in a bed and breakfast on a barge moored on one of the canals. After walking and walking we retreated to the wheelhouse of his barge and sat there with a bottle of single malt smokey whiskey, watching the activity from both the boats on the canal and the other barge-dwellers who were moored around us. We marvelled at the expertise of the barge skippers who so neatly manoeuvred their vessels around corners and other craft. From time to time, the barge cat came to pear at us, not game to come any close but intrigued enough to watch us anyway.

In the evening, the three of us had dinner at Pont 13, a restaurant housed in a large barge that in a previous life was used as a ferry. To get there we had to walk some distance to the canal, catch a ferry and then walk again. This was just as well, as it was an enormous meal. Dermot and I started with antipasti vegetarian and seafood platters, and they would have served as a main meal by themselves. It was a refreshing change to some of the meals that we have recently been served in Australia, which have been all attitude and little substance – at great cost of course. Even the meal of Brussels Sprouts was delicious!

The different thing about the restaurant though was the big black dog that wandered between the tables, no doubt hoping for a tasty tidbit, and the black and white rabbit that was in a cage in a corner. (It was a pet, not the next evening’s meal.)

Dermot has departed for Oslo early this morning and I will follow tomorrow. Lucy and I have just had our breakfast of bread and cheese before getting ourselves organised before perhaps making a bike ride to a neighbouring village. We have yet to decide.