Work it

Working for a railway which for 141 of its 149 years of existence only owned infrastructure in the state of Queensland, I don’t usually travel to other states for project-based work.  Usually, the places I visit look a bit like this and are on the outer edge of nowhere:



In fact, one time, Facebook even told me I was too remote to even be able to check in.IMG_0713

However, I have been lucky enough to become involved in a project which is based on Newcastle: an actual city in a different state!

A Newcastle flight is barely long enough to turn your flight-moded iPad on and off again, but we got some extra value from ours on Tuesday afternoon where we were required to board twice.  It appeared as though someone on the flight had been allowed to take his checked bag on the plane.  Consequently, by federal law, we all had to disembark and go through security again.  We did, however, get to see some of the back corners of the airport where the general public is usually not permitted, so at least we got a free behind the scenes tour, even if we were about an hour delayed (for our hour flight).

I was sitting next to my colleague, DD, on the flight because we were booked on the same ticket.  This afforded me some of her Gold privileges, such as sitting up the front and jumping queues like an “it girl”.  DD had to check herself when we landed.  It was so green, she had a moment of doubt about being on the correct flight but then quickly remembered that we weren’t actually supposed to be in Mackay.  Crisis averted.

This is how green it was (and I haven’t even doctored the colours in this photo):IMG_0051

Another change we noticed as soon as we stepped off the plane and embraced the cool wind evaporating pin pricks of moisture from our skin, instead of the Brisbane “breeze” like the breath of a coffee-drinking giant.

Our accommodation was booked at Noah’s on the Beach at Mereweather, which, on this afternoon, was a little stormy and dramatic, the perfect location for a meeting between Cathy and Heathcliff.  The hotel was charming!  Old style, glamorous furnishings with a seaside touch.  I took a photo of my room because I was particularly in to my curtains.


I had about half an hour before meeting my colleagues for dinner, so I went for a walk along the water’s edge, down to the Ocean Baths, which, as I recall, I had seen before in the movie Bootmen.  I over-indulged in the photo taking but I’m not really sorry I did.

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I am fascinated by shadowed clouds and churning tides.  I get a strange feeling of misplaced nostalgia when I am in cool places with bad weather.  I found a word which describes this feeling a little on Word Porn’s Facebook page:



But, I didn’t have forever to explore my sehnsucht at the beach, I had to meet my colleagues for dinner in the beautiful dining room.



The food was incredible!  In the morning, we also ate here watching the sun sparkle on the water and enjoying buffet poached eggs, which came in their own little egg-sized saucers.

We had time for a quick coffee at the Foreshore before our first meeting so I panorama-ed it:


We returned to the Foreshore for lunch and were surrounded by flocks of bold seagulls.


You might think that I spent all of my time on this trip eating, but alas, I’ve just left all the boring engineering bits out.

In the afternoon, we had time to look at the area where the project would be constructed.  It appears that NSW signalling equipment is housed in much more interesting quarters than ours.  We saw one equipment room which was two storeys, with a verandah all the way around, painted with a railway-themed mural.  Newcastle indeed!

We also drove through some interesting forest where the leave had re-grown directly on the trunks, which I hadn’t seen before.  It looked like the trees were wearing green feather boas.



Our return flight was much less eventful.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by Davey waiting for me at the airport which was a delightful way to end my work trip.



It’s a jolly holiday in Maryborough

Last Saturday, we commenced our south-bound road journey. The trip back home is always less exciting than the one there because the destination marks the end of the holiday.

In order to keep Davey awake, we listened to Radio National, with the hours marked by the familiar ABC fanfare. There was a reasonably interesting assortment of articles. One of the more eclectic involved Brians Blessed and Cox talking about space exploration and poetry. (For those of you who don’t exclusively watch BBC programming, Brian Blessed is the loudest man in the world, usually associated with portraying kings in Shakespearean plays and Brian Cox is touted as “the new David Attenborough” but he’s got a much less posh Lancastrian accent and a slightly rock-star-going-to-seed appearance.)

We stopped in a few different places this time, some which I didn’t even know by name. (I do often know surprisingly obscure regional town names because they are also the names of signalling interlockings, so this was noteworthy.) We ordered some well-made homemade pies from the roadhouse in Carmilla, which seemed quite a remote sort of place; the sort of place that might not notice if travellers went missing… I had a flicker of a thought that perhaps homemade pies might be a mistake, but the owner’s name wasn’t Mrs Lovett so I think we were probably safe.

I spent some of the journey playing Clumsy Ninja on my iPad, which, I fear, may be becoming habit forming. He’s just so cute though, see…

Our original plan was to make it to Childers in the first day but by the time we arrived in Rockhampton, the temptation to break the journey to sleep was too great and we stopped for the night at our regular, the Rocky Resort Motor Inn. In an unusual move, I tried something other than the steak for dinner and it paid off. I now also recommend the seafood pasta at RRMI.

As we drove out of Rockhampton early on Sunday morning, we saw a waterhole swarming with native birds, so I had to stop and photograph them. It took a little while for me to get a decent shot because the humidity was so high that as soon as I got out of the car, my camera lens fogged up, but I did get there eventually.

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On the trip, I had been listening to an interview with a expert on unusual words and found one which might have suited the situation above: Gongoozle (verb) to stare idly at a watercouse. I was excited about getting the opportunity to use a new word but after finding the quite graphic contemporary definition of the word on urban dictionary, I think I might use it sparingly to avoid confusion.

Based on the recommendation of my Aunt and after getting in a spoonful of sugar kind of mood after watching Mary Poppins on Saturday night, I made the request that we stop in Maryborough to see the statue of the famous fictional creation of P.L. Travers (a Maryborough native, who, I just found out, shares a birthday with my dad).  She was a little shorter than I though she would be but I suppose I’m not really sure what the metric equivalent of “practically perfect in every way” actually is, so perhaps it was spot on.



As we got closer and closer to home, the smoke grew thicker. I must admit I was surprised that it was smokey from the fires on Straddy so far north, but it did make the landscape look slightly more mysterious than usual.

Somewhere reasonably close to Brisbane, I fell asleep listening to interviews about a war which I hadn’t even known had happened and woke up just in time to advise Davey to take the wrong exit from the freeway. World’s. Best. Navigator.

I had had an incredibly relaxing holiday; it’s a week later and I’m still in a good mood. But I was very glad to get home to my own bed and start off 2014!

Twelve days of Townsville

On the first day of Townsville my true love gave to me, a bailey ball on a new deck…

Upon our arrival in Townsville, we treated ourselves to a well-earned cold shower and then accepted an invitation from Davey’s sister, Kimi and her husband Damo to see their new deck.  (I’m still working on a collective super-couple name for these two.  Perhaps “Kimo”…)

As expected, the deck is a lovely addition to their home and also provides an excellent viewpoint for observing black cockatoos.


Kimi tells me that there are a particular pair of love birds who canoodle and nibble each other affectionately, but they were bible distance the afternoon we were there.

During this visit to Kimo’s I was introduced to bailey balls, a derivative of rum balls which, not surprisingly, contain bailey’s instead of rum, and also choc chips instead of sultanas.  (I’m thinking about them again now and drooling all over my keyboard.)

In the evening, I visited my parents and began my Christmas holiday viewing with Christmas specials from two of my favourite lady detectives, Miss Fisher and Miss Marple!

On the second day of Townsville my true love gave to me, two Christmas trees…

I went to my grandmother’s house for a visit on Monday morning and was confronted with a sleigh-load of Christmas.  Even when I closed my eyes, I still saw red and green! Grandma has approximately 120 hand-crafted ornaments on her tree and a variety of other Christmas-related paraphernalia surrounding it.


I always associate Christmastime with craftwork because I would have endless holidays to spend, often with my grandmother and aunt (the Queens of Creative), fashioning Christmas presents for others and lovely things for myself.  After my busy, craft-free year, I was looking forward to my break to induge in something handmade-ish.  Grandma and I spent a little while looking up craft project ideas on Pinterest and Etsy, and upon deciding on a crochet watermelon tape measure and a silohette cross stitch respectively, we went out for a little shopping.

In the afternoon, we visited mum who was setting up her owl Christmas tree, which doesn’t have quite as many decorations, but is about a third of the size as Grandma’s and only has owl-themed ornaments.


On the third day of Townsville my true love gave to me, three dry wetlands…

I had quite a relaxed Christmas Eve.  I got into the Christmas spirit by watching two Muppet Christmas movies and proceeded with my cross stitch.

To satisfy my desire to photograph unusual birds, Davey took my for a drive to the Town Common.  Unfortunately, the three bird hides at the wetlands from which one can usually stalk waterbirds were all dry.

But it wasn’t all bad news.  We did see some birds from far away:

A Black-shouldered Kite with Voldemort-red eyes:


A Kingfisher:


Some Sarus Cranes:


On the way home from our anticlimax of a nature spree, we saw a flock of Magpie Geese just loitering around the railway crossing.


To be honest, I think Davey’s parents’ front yard has a greater variety of feathered wildlife than anywhere else.

I have seen:

Rainbow lorikeets


Pacific black ducks


Greater bower birds


Spotted turtle doves


Peaceful doves


House sparrows


Sulphur-crested cockatoos




Blue-faced honey eaters


And a little lost domestic budgie, which seems to have made their yard its home


and all without even having to get out of my pyjamas.

On the fourth day of Townsville my true love gave to me, four types of pudding…

The fourth day was Christmas Day!  Every year my mother would force my brother and me, regardless of our age, to have a photo with Santa.  About 10 years ago, we began to rebel and I began to generate photoshopped Christmas photos instead.  This year’s had a Doctor Who flavour:


I was uncharacteristically domestic on Christmas morning.  Firstly, I completed my cross stitch, naming him Chester the Argyle Reindeer.


Davey’s mother also provided me with instructions for my contribution to lunch, preparing a beetroot salad and decorating her already set toblerone mousses (with help from my minions).



This was the first year that I had attended a Cawood Christmas for a full day, and I was not dissapointed.  I counted 18 places set at the table!  But there was an incredible amount of amazing food, including four types of puddings!

We were all quite exhausted by the day’s eating, especially Davey and Blu, so we had an early night.


On the fifth day of Townsville my true love gave to me, $5 bird feeder…

I was somewhat excited for the Boxing Day sales and made, what turned out to be, the sensible decision of going to Castletown instead of Stockland. Castletown had changed a bit since I used to work in the newsagency there. For a start, neither of the newsagencies are there anymore and the parking actually seems to be sufficient for the number of people who shop and work there!

The sales weren’t nearly as impressive as I thought they would be. Many of the shops were closed and all I bought were two pairs of earrings and a $5 bird feeder which Davey’s dad requested. However, it proved to be a useful purchase appreciated by cockatoos and ducks alike:


The reason why Castletown was the sensible choice, despite me not being particularly inspired by the goods on offer was that Stockland’s traffic management plan was insufficient for their inaugural Myer Boxing Day with some shoppers being stuck in the car park for 2 hours and needing to be supplied with bottled water throughout the ordeal. You can read about it here.

On the sixth day of Townsville my true love gave to me, six dishes steaming.

I had high hopes of completing another argyle cross stitch creation on Friday but after some grocery shopping, watching of the Doctor Who Christmas special (after which I was a little emotionally drained and tear-stained) and lunch with Grandma, I was unreasonably exhausted and spent most of the afternoon asleep on the couch.

In the evening, Davey and I had dinner with both sets of parents at the Capitol Regent, a Chinese restaurant which we used to frequent when I lived in Townsville. I even had my 18th there! The restaurant was much the same as I remember, including the same waiter, and the online review summed it up quite accurately, “Great food, average service”. We ordered six dishes (lemon chicken, honey king prawns, Mongolian lamb, garlic pork belly, duck hot pot and beef with cashew nuts) and we were impressed with all. I also had my obligatory banana fritters for dessert. (I am certainly a creature of habit.)

Davey asked about the significance of the painting on the wall in the restaurant.

After contemplating the meaning for a while, we concluded that it must have been Harry Potter fan art with the golden snitch surrounded by Fawkes the Phoenix, a Norwegian Ridgeback and magic clouds in Hogwarts house colours. When I went to take a photo of the wall, my mother chastised me saying not to take a photo of the frieze it in its old, run down state and that she would probably have a photo of it when it was new, hanging in the Satay Mass, the restaurant where mum worked when she was younger, and where my parents had their wedding reception. I wonder if JK ever dined at the Satay Mass…

On the seventh day of Townsville my true love gave to me, seven beers a-brewing.

After my lazy Friday, I hopped into action on Saturday morning and completed a satisfying incline walk on the Cawoods’ treadmill, knowing that I had an indulgent lunch ahead of me.

Davey and I had lunch with Shannon, a fellow past grammarian and ex-Code Valley employee, and her husband, Steven. At Davey’s request we went to The Brewery, a micro brewery that is housed in the old Townsville post office. I have been to The Brewery many times, most recently for my 10 year high school reunion, but I had never made full use of its brewing capacity, until now. I ordered a tasting paddle which had 7 of their usual beers – Townsville Light Bitter, Townsville Bitter, Bandito Loco, Belgian Blonde, Digger’s Golden Ale, Ned’s Red Ale and Flannagan’s Dry Irish Stout – and another seasonal one which I never found out the name of.

In my true old man style (the strange preferences I have for dry red wines and ports when my female contemporaries are drinking sweet whites and blondes), I liked the darker stouts the best, although Belgian Blonde and the mysterious seasonal beer were also not too bad.

In the evening, Dion and Cara arrived in town, freshly tanned from their tropical cruising escapades and we welcomed them at my parents’ house with Dion’s favourite childhood meal of chicken schnitzel.

On the eighth day of Townsville my true love gave to me, eight (hundred) leeches leeching.

On Sunday, we went for an adventure facilitated by Damo’s special privileges as an employee of Trility, the maintainers for the water treatment for the area. Damo led us a secret wilderness spot for a BBQ. There were some beautiful rainforest views, and a couple of curlews as well.








We stopped for a little barbecue and then moved on to a spot for some swimming.

Ever enthusiastic, Davey was the first in the water. However, he was not rewarded for his eagerness and was soon out of the water again, covered in a colony of baby leeches. After de-leeching Davey, we drove further down the creek to find an alternative place for a dip.


I set up a camp chair and took in the serenity of the clear water reflecting the clear blue sky.


After some swimming and sunburn, we headed back to the city, stopping at the Rollingstone Pub for a cold drink and some chips. The Rollingstone Pub is THE meeting place for any travellers in the area, ioa universal landmark, known to all. I remember my mother telling me that when her students were sent home from their school retreats, they always had their parents pick them up at the Rollingstone Pub.

On the ninth day of Townsville my true love gave to me, 9kg of pig baking…

Monday was our nominated day for “second Christmas” (to be said in the style of Samwise Gamgee when talking about “second breakfast”).

I arrived a few hours before lunch and found Cara preparing a secret Christmas treat for my mum – owl cupcakes!



Last year was the first time that Dad had cooked a glazed ham, and he did a pretty good job.


But this year, I took responsibility for the ham and two rolls of pork, while I did get some help with some carving and lifting. I do also owe some credit to my friend Aoife who lent me the macadamia nut and pineapple jam glaze recipe. Not too bad, if I do say so myself!


We had a lovely day of over eating, had wearing and present opening.






One of my more fascinating (some might say creepy) presents was a notebook with a leather cover which had its own face. It may be a little ugly, but I love every wrinkle!


On the tenth day of Townsville my true love gave to me, ten counts til midnight…

Tuesday was New Year’s Eve and also Davey’s dad’s birthday. We began the day with breakfast at Coffee at Tiffany’s.
I was uming and ahing about going to see the Lego exhibition at the Perc Tucker Gallery, but my decision was made for me when I discovered that the gallery was closed for the duration of my stay in Townsville. With this news, I spent most of the day lounging at my parents’ house and helping them buy a new lounge suite for their new sunken lounge. My parents’ place, like Davey’s parents’ is home to avian wildlife, but these turtledoves were a bit more snuggly than the ones I had observed before.


We spent our New Years’ Eve evening having a barbecue and pool party (and took some photos to commemorate the event).




John and Damo take barbecuing very seriously and the food was great.


I made the mistakes of telling Davey’s little cousin the backstory to Avatar: The Last Airbender and having to demonstrate the various types of element bending/martial arts, and also showing and attempting to explain Game of Thrones to the adults.

But all in all, I had a great night, and successfully made it past midnight!

On the eleventh day of Townsville my true love gave to me, eleven hours’ sleeping…

On New Year’s Day, I spent a disproportionate amount of time sleeping, waking up briefly to savour Grandma’s Chinese delights – especially dim sims and her famous chicken sticks!

On the twelfth day of Townsville my true love gave to me, twelve iPads glowing…

On Thursday morning we visited my grandparents in Ayr and had a little morning tea while enjoying Gran’s gladiolus, pictured with Gran and Grandad below:


In the afternoon, Leo kindly accompanied me to see The Hobbit after various other people declined. The cinemas seemed almost deserted when we arrived and was certainly less busy than I remembered. The movie was amazing! The 3D used active glasses and it was like looking through a window it was that realisitc. I was also pretty pleased with the addition of Tauriel as a mighty female character!

In the evening, we had dinner at Cactus Jack’s. I had a nostalgic tour down the happy hour cocktail list and ordered Southern Fried Chicken Crispers, as I always do. We were a little surprised by the clientele at the next table. They were 12 children, all quietly playing with their iPads while the parents, at the next table enjoyed their evening. We found it a little strange that they weren’t even interacting with each other, but perhaps they were, just virtually.

And so ends my Christmas holidays in Townsville, so there is not much more to say, except:

On the twelve days of Townsville my true love gave to me,
Twelve iPads glowing,
Eleven hours’ sleeping,
Ten counts til midnight,
Nine kilos of pig baking,
Eight (hundred) leeches leeching,
Seven beers a-brewing,
Six dishes steaming,
Five dollar bird feeder,
Four types of pudding,
Three dry wetlands,
Two Christmas trees,
And a bailey ball on a new deck!

Merry Townsville, everyone!

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