Blog Hangover II – Newcastle

The next overdue blog concerns a second work trip to Newcastle.  You might recall, that the first time I went to Newcastle this year, the weather was romantically stormy, but not actually too bad.  This time, the wind was so strong when I got out of the car, that it was a struggle to move forwards.  This is not an exaggeration.


My room appeared to have a bed surplus but if you look very closely in the distance, it actually had water views.

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We had a lovely dinner in the restaurant.  I had the duck this time, which was incredible, like the pork I had on my previous visit.

In the morning, the weather had cleared and we had a coffee at the foreshore where there was a cormorant who was very happy to show off while being photographed.

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In between all these outings, we actually attended some meetings, which aside from being commercial in confidence, don’t make particularly interesting travel blog material, so I have omitted them on purpose.

 My boss’s boss suggested we go to the “surf club”.  I was expecting a parma and chips sort of “surf club”.  But the Mereweather surf club is a higher class facility complete with wine cork interior decorating (another establishment, like Emporium, featured in my last blog, who have combined wine and walls…)


The view was incredible!

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We even saw a dolphin in the distance!


I also managed to take a photo of a SER (Signalling Equipment Hut) from south of the border.  The SERs here are really given the artistic treatment.  Here is two storey SER with a verandah, painted with a mural of a train:


I was a little more opportunistic on this trip, and organised a second night in Newcastle so that I could visit my maternal aunt and her family.  (I wrote “maternal” that to mean that she’s my mother’s sister but it reads as if I’m describing her as motherly and caring, which is also accurate.)   I spent many summers visiting the Simmons household and after I eventually found the house again, I experienced a lovely, nostalgic feeling of coming home.

I was secretly hoping that my aunt would cook one of my favourites, a chicken and mushroom peasant stew, and quite by chance, she had planned exactly that meal!  A win for telepathic, food-related, familial communication!

I was actually feeling a bit run down by this time, despite the number of warm cups of tea provided, so I returned to my hotel after dinner, ready to fly back to Brisbane the following morning.

Blog Hangover – Chinese New Year

I have an absolutely massive blog hangover.  It is really shameful.  I was very tempted to just pretend that I hadn’t gone anywhere for a few months and walk away but I write this blog mostly for future me, so that my slightly senile older self can remember the things that have happened to me.

 So, the first neglected event was Chinese New Year.  Although, I only ventured as far as Fortitude Valley, I figure that the exceptional cultural difference between my day to day life and the colourful experience that brings in the lunar new year warrants a blog entry.  (Yeah, I just insinuated that the Valley is a different country… what of it?)


Figure I

My brother works in the Valley and is “in” with the owner of a yum cha place so we left him in charge of booking us a banquet.  After a few warmup drinks at Emporium (which had solved the universal problem of deciding whether to spend money on walls or wine by making them the same thing – see Figure I), we joined the queue outside the restaurant.  The people in the line ahead of us were being turned away with a quite blunt, “No booking; no table!”, but when the maitre’d spotted Dion, he rushed us in to our table, apologising for making us wait to get inside.


Figure II

We had a set banquet, with an incredible amount of food (see Figure II), although the entrees were served after the main and soup.  And then the lions arrived to eat up the money that we left in our Asahi bottle…






I’ve seen a reasonable number of lion dances over the years but I had never stopped to ask what exactly was going on, particularly why lettuce is hung above the door like a more edible version of mistletoe…. so, using the phrase my boss very surprisingly once said to me, I GTS (Googled That… erm Stuff).

Here are some fun facts about lion dancing:

  • First of all, possibly quite obviously but perhaps not, in the way that some people actually get the first question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire incorrect, they are lions not dragons.  Dragon dances are quite different but an easy way to tell is to count the legs.   Here is a rule of thumb: 4 legs = lion; > 4 legs = dragon.
  • Lions’ heads are made of wet-look shiny lycra reminiscent of some tap dancing costumes I was subjected to in the late 90s.  This is so evil spirits will be scared away because they will see their own reflections in the mirrored surfaces on the lions’ heads.
  • The type of lion that we usually see is a Southern Lion.  It turns out that Northern Lions look more like Pekinese dogs and will do acrobatic tricks (other than eating money) such as balancing on balls.
  • The lettuce (or other sorts of “treats” like pineapples, banana, oranges, beer, crabs…) are hung above the door as a challenge to the lion dancers.  The lettuce can be hung as high as 6m and if two lions approached at the same time, they would fight for the lettuce (and the accompanying lycée packet reward).  Also, when the lion eats the lettuce, this brings good luck.
  • The lion encounters the Laughing Buddha, the guy dressed as a monk with the mask, who teases the lion with a palm leaf fan.  The lion chases the Buddha so he can try to eat the lettuce, which was a little confusing because the lettuce was already hung when the Buddha arrived…
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, lion dancing sounds like it was a little bit West Side Story.  Rival lion dancing troupes used to hide daggers in their dragon costumes and “rumble” at festivals.

At the end of the performance, we received our fortunes in cookie format.  Mine was, “You will be free of the burdens you carry.”  Sounds promising, even if it is only as literal as my gym bag getting lighter!


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