Stuck in Aus

For two+ years we have learned to live with a pandemic. It’s 100 years since the whole world last had to learn to live with a pandemic. So we have no one to say ‘…in my day…’. We have had to learn to navigate this strange world ourselves.

Politicians and scientists and many in between have had opinions on how to reduce the death, manage the illness and generally get through the pandemic. We really won’t know how best to navigate this until (hopefully) it’s over.

Bruce & I have been diligent. We are vaccinated, we wear masks and wash them very frequently. We limit our activities to outdoors – walks, picnics in the park, we haven’t been in a cinema for 2 years, we eat at familiar restaurants. We have visited the city when we felt safe, and taken all precautions.

So it was quite a shock when what we thought were the effects of our third vaccination turned out to be COVID. We have absolutely no idea where it came from and fortunately we don’t appear to have affected or infected anyone else.

Oh well, stuck at home for two weeks.

Posted in Family, pandemic | Comments Off on Stuck in Aus

Fifty years ago – a celebration of life.

Today it is fifty years since I left home!

I was inspired to travel because my Pop (grandfather) and my Uncle Paul were travelling when I was a little girl and there was always great excitement when a postcard or letter arrived from them. Then my dad had some business trips overseas – this was a pretty big thing in the 1950s and 1960s. In fact when he flew to London in 1959 it took 4 days, with the plane and the crew and the passengers stopping to sleep each night.

I just had to go overseas when I grew up.

In 1970 I celebrated my twenty-first birthday, which was a very big occasion. One of the best presents I received was a Kodak Instamatic, very basic, but my first camera ever.

About that time QANTAS had a promotion called The How, why, when and where of here, there and everywhere, which I thought was very exciting. I had only travelled on airplanes twice before – to go to Canberra for work, so this was huge.

I left home when I was twenty-one on Sunday 18 October. I had worked for three years as a computer operator at CSIRO, so I had saved enough money to get me there and start my adventure, but I would have to work if I wanted to stay away. I had been studying at night school, learning programming and statistics.

Going overseas was a big adventure for anyone young. Melbourne had a brand-new airport called Tullamarine, so lots of my friends and family came to farewell me and to see the new airport.

My first destination was New York and the flight stopped for refuelling in Fiji, Honolulu and San Francisco. It took about 48 hours to get there. I was met by my boyfriend Rodney, who had left Australia a year earlier.

New York was big. Apart from finding the accents difficult to understand, it was an overcrowded, noisy place, full of yellow taxis and screaming police sirens. And I was much too excited to sleep.

We took the ferry around Manhattan Island, climbed the Empire State building and walked along Sixth Avenue. I saw my very first colour television at Radio City Music Hall.

From there I visited Canada – Montreal, Toronto and Niagara Falls and Ottawa.

There was a curfew in Montreal. the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) had kidnapped some politicians and killed one of them, so a state of emergency was enacted. I was not used to seeing fully armed soldiers on the street.

I finally arrived in London in November, just as winter was settling in. I was young, I didn’t notice the cold. But I did go out and buy a beautiful purple leather coat with a hood with black fur. I got a casual job in a chemist shop near Victoria Station.

My first real job in England, was with the Marconi Company in Chelmsford. I started in February 1971. I was employed as a junior programmer using Assembler language. I had to learn it first, so I sat at a desk and read through the manual for the first week – that is how you learnt programming in those days. I wasn’t anywhere near a computer.

In Chelmsford I met new friends, shared digs with two other girls, had a massive social life – going to the pub, going to parties, hosting dinner parties and travelling whenever I had the time.

At Easter I booked myself on a tour to Holland, my first European country. I loved the quaint houses, the tulips, the windmills and the clogged shoes. Now I really had the travel bug.

My new friends at Marconi came from different parts of the United Kingdom and many of them invited me home to meet their families or to take special trips with them. I went to York with Chris and Manchester with Judith, I hitchhiked to Berlin with Bernadette and hitchhiked around Ireland with Chris. I climbed the Snowdonia horseshoe and went gliding over Cambridge with other friends. Absolutely things I would never had done if I had stayed at home in Melbourne, Australia. Absolutely things I would never have done if I stayed with one boyfriend.

And I had a new boyfriend. His name was Tim and he was a keen sailor, so I learnt to sail on the River Crouch. Tim was also pretty adventurous, so we toured a bit including a hiking weekend in the Lake District.

But I was overseas to travel and explore the world, so after 8 months of working and playing and saving money, I set off to see Europe.

I traded in my little instamatic camera for a more complicated camera, which soon broke down, so I was travelling with no camera at all. I packed all my belongings into a trunk and left them with Tim’s parents. I bought a back pack and a sleeping bag and packed the bare necessities, and I was off.

Tim came as far as Paris with me, then another special friend Pat joined me, and we took an old steam train to Zagreb in Yugoslavia (now the capital of Croatia).

Pat and I were blown away by this new and exciting country. The boys whistled at us, which we thought was hilarious. The food was different. In the evening everyone went out walking, promenading. I was seeing a whole different world.

We got to Rijeka on the coast, expecting some sunshine and swimming, but it was October and it rained. Camping wasn’t very comfortable, so we hired a tiny caravan to sleep in and kept warm with one candle, and laughed a lot.

We took a ferry to Split where we discovered the best cream cakes ever. Sadly, Pat had to go home, she still had a job. So, I was really on my own, and still no camera to remember where I went.

I took the ferry to Dubrovnik and met a boy who was planning to hitch hike to Istanbul. That seemed like a really good idea because I would be safer travelling with someone else. We met some Americans who were driving a kombi van, so we stayed with them until we reached Sofia, then we got a ride in a slow bumpy truck to the Turkish border and a bus into Istanbul. I laughed because the Turkish bus had a heap of live turkeys tied on the roof.

The noise and smells and colours of Istanbul were mesmerising. Crowds of people, hot Turkish bread, kebabs, coffee in the very famous Pudding Shop, beautiful mosques, markets full of silks and rugs. I have been to Istanbul again, recently. It is still a fantastic city to visit.

I met a Swiss boy called Christian, who wanted to go to Cyprus, so we took the train down to Famagusta and ‘hitched’ a boat ride there. I certainly wouldn’t recommend doing that these days. In Cyprus we hitchhiked around the island and then I stayed a little longer and worked in a bar to get some more money together. I was always poor, just spending money on staying at youth hostels and buying food. I walked as much as I could and mostly just looked at famous places from the outside – but it was all a lot of fun.

Tim (from England) wrote to me and suggested we meet up for Christmas, so he took a train to Athens and I flew there from Cyprus. He told me which day he was due to arrive and I waited in Syntagma Square all day for him, but he didn’t show. Turns out the train ride from London took one day longer than he thought.

Fortunately, Tim had been able to get my camera fixed, so I was able to take photos again.

We explored Athens, then took a bus and a boat to Italy and then a train, arriving in Rome for Christmas Day. We didn’t have anywhere to go to celebrate Christmas but somehow managed sitting on the steps of the Vatican with a tin of sardines, bread rolls and a mandarin for Christmas lunch – probably one of the most unusual Christmas celebrations in my entire life.

We hitch hiked back to England, through Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. Of course it was winter and very cold. I had never been in such cold weather before.

We reached Luxembourg on New Years Eve and walked into a restaurant to order their cheapest meal, a bowl of soup, but ended up staying for dinner and joining in the celebrations. Even though we weren’t dressed up for a party and we didn’t have a lot of money, everyone made us feel very welcome.

In England Tim’s mother cooked me warming meals, washed all my clothes and mended my worn out jeans. I felt very spoilt and enjoyed a few days of luxury. But I still had things to do. I was soon back on the road again, this time to Genova in Italy, where another of my father’s contacts had arranged a job for me.

Once again I was working for the Marconi company, but this time I wrote a program in FORTRAN to calculate how sound waves could pass through telephone lines at different frequencies, which allowed multiple connections on the same piece of wire. Groundbreaking stuff in the early 1970s. And the programming was done on punched cards – much easier to manage than paper tape.

I shared a flat with three Italian girls who were all studying at university. We all spoke English, so they could practice for their exams. I learnt a lot about Italian and a lot about linguistics.

Being a foreigner in Italy was a huge advantage. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to show me their part of Italy – the mountains, the beaches, the restaurants, the night clubs. It was a lot of fun. But not surprisingly, I got sick, I was exhausted. But that didn’t last long.

Every weekend that I was free I was on the road. Sometimes I would explore Genova – the city, the hills behind, the very famous cemetery. I often hitch hiked somewhere – I went to Florence and Venice and Pisa and Milan and Turin and Monte Carlo and Switzerland. My six months in Italy was very, very busy and a heap of fun. Not only did I make some wonderful friends, I bought some trendy clothes and new underwear and lost some weight, so I looked much slimmer and better.

I left Italy in July 1972 and went to Austria to visit friends in Vienna and then to Germany to visit the beautiful Neuschwanstein – just looking, I couldn’t afford to go in.

But I was wanting to enjoy some home comforts, so I made my way back to England. It was so easy to just speak English again. I visited Winchester Cathedral, I clambered all over Stonehenge and explored Cheddar Gorge with some people from the youth hostel where I stayed.

I wasn’t in England for very long before I met Bruce and Denis. Well that’s another story for another day.


Extract of a letter home, approx June 1971

Posted in Photography, Thea, Travel | Comments Off on Fifty years ago – a celebration of life.

Statistics Europe, Americas, Antarctica 2017-18

It was a journey of ups and downs. The best of the best and a few mishaps on the way.

We flew to New York to enjoy watching Steph graduate, and took advantage to explore the eastern states, particularly the Blue Ridge Driveway.

Then across the Atlantic to catch up with Andrea and Hayden in Berlin and take on yet another Renault Eurodrive to explore Eastern Europe. Mishap 1 – The car wasn’t ready. We were given an Opel until they chased us down with our assigned Renault in the Czech Republic.

Our round trip of 74 days took us to Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, LithuaniaLatvia, Estonia and Finland – all new countries to explore.

Plans to explore England and Ireland were thwarted when I received news that my dear brother Phil had died, so we returned home for a month.

We managed some time in England before reaching New York for Thanksgiving, then to Jamaica, via Florida, to celebrate Bruce’s significant birthday with the family.

With a planned adventure to Antarctica booked for early February we took advantage to explore South America, stepping off from Panama we toured Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil – more new countries.

In that time my 8 year old computer broke down, so I bought a new one in Panama, which broke down in the Antarctic. The host provider for this website managed to delete it and loose their backup. Our backup disk failed us, we got food poisoning and I picked up a nasty virus – just a few mishaps.

We survived, spent 311 days away, visited 23 countries, of which 15 were new to us and travelled 127,247 km. I took 23,000 photos.

Two and a half years later with a repaired computer and a rebuilt web site, I have finally finished the stories of our journey.

So here are some statistics. The kilometres sightseeing by car, bus or on foot are not included. More detail below…


Air 98,639
Hire cars 18,942
Driving 3,654
Ferries 658
Car on train 1,654
Cruises 3,700
TOTAL 127,247
Country/State Days Photos
North America 59 3,236
Antarctica 8 2,777
Australia 34 30
Central America 9 1,120
Europe 114 7,454
South America 87 9,001
Grand Total 311 23,092

Counting the days and photos in each country

The flights

We hired cars a number of times. Of course the big journey was done in the Renault Eurodrive.

We also travelled from one city to another by road.

And finally, there was other transport – car on train, ferries and cruises.


Posted in Family, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Statistics Europe, Americas, Antarctica 2017-18

Statistics Asia, Europe, Americas 2014-2015

Between August 2014 and September 2015 we travelled. It was a 390 day journey around the world and back again, hitting 26 countries, most of them new to us. We slept (or spent the night) in 150 different beds and travelled a total of 145,766 kilometres – that 3.5 times around the circumference of earth.

Our primary destination was Barcelona, to watch Hayden defend his PhD. We knew this would happen before Christmas 2014, but without a definite date we embarked on a journey across Central Asia.

The first of it was well planned – a stop in Hong Kong, a 29 day jaunt through China, with a visa, accommodation, guides and transport planned. Another 49 days through Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. Once again planned with appropriate visas, accommodation, drivers and guides.

With poor internet in a ‘closed country’ we found ourselves trying to plan the rest of it. We walked across the border from Iran to Armenia without a serious plan. By now we knew Hayden’s defence date and had made plans for a family Christmas in Iceland. The rest was fluid. Somehow we managed to explore Armenia and Georgia and finish the ‘Silk Road’ of our journey in Istanbul.

We hit Europe! With family, we celebrated Hayden’s defence and Bruce’s birthday in Barcelona. We checked out Christmas decorations in Paris and London and joined the family in Iceland at Christmas. We celebrated New Year and renewed our passports in London.

After Christmas we chilled out in Barcelona for six weeks and planned our journey to the Americas, before hitting the road again. This time to Central America where we spent a wonderful 103 days in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Our last stop was a beach resort in Belize. That’s when we got a call from Evan – ‘can you come home to celebrate our wedding in two weeks?’

So our touring of USA and Canada was delayed a little. But that’s the benefit of having fluid plans. We are very grateful to good friend Ian from Los Angeles who devised an itinerary for us to hit the best spots in North America.

Journey 1 was a circuit from Los Angeles as far east as Durango Colorado, then north through Salt Lake City and Yellowstone, west to Portland Oregon and then down highway 1 to Los Angeles.

Journey 2 was west to east from Seattle to Vancouver, south to the Dakotas, east to the Great Lakes, back to Canada for Montreal and Quebec and then on to New York to visit Evan & Steph in their new home in Harlem.

Our last month was back to Europe – Switzerland and Malta, then on to Berlin to visit Hayden & Andrea in their new home.

So here are some numbers…

A journey around the world and back again

Beds and Guides

Posted in Family, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Statistics Asia, Europe, Americas 2014-2015

An old story – Europe in 2008

It’s exactly 12 years since we dashed to Europe to help Denis celebrate his 60th birthday. A Saturday night party at their local restaurant The Toucan and plenty of touring and exploring Switzerland.

We managed to include a visit to Hayden and Elisse in Barcelona and a family holiday in Andorra, as Evan was also touring. We drove along the Ruhr Valley in France to Switzerland for the celebrations.

Bruce and I then explored Hungary (Budapest, Lake Balaton and the Danube River), Slovenia and finished at Lake Como. A quick but memorable four week jaunt.

So now, in COVID isolation, I have been digging out some old photos and remembering some of the stories.

Posted in Family, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on An old story – Europe in 2008

LiB – Bikes in Berlin

It is a year since we were in Berlin, but the memories flood back.

We spent most of our time in what was the eastern sector of Berlin, the Soviet sector. It has been rebuilt since reunification and now attracts young professionals, many with young families. This is the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Europe.

Where the U-Bahn serves the western sectors of Berlin, there was no such infrastructure in the eastern sector. That area is now served by trams. But many people choose bikes as their primary mode of transport. Bikes are everywhere. In fact the major roads have clearly marked bike lanes.

Crossing Prenzlauer Allee, the road in front of our hotel, was a challenge. From the pedestrian lane, to a bike lane, a double car lane, two trams tracks, another double car lane, and another bike lane before landing at the safety of the pedestrian lane.

The bike lanes, one in each direction, are used by cyclists, e-bikes and e-scooters.

It is fairly easy to predict what cars and trams will do, but the bike lane users are always in a hurry, are focused only on what’s in front of them and regard pedestrians as the bottom of the food chain. We always thought the bike lanes were the most dangerous to cross.

Bikes are parked outside Kindertagesstätte or Kitas (child care centres), train and tram stops and offices. The bikes parked outside Kitas usually have a trailer or cargo area to transport the children. It seems as if the parents get their children to Kita, leave the bike there and continue by foot or public transport to work.

Children ride bikes from an early age. The balance bike is popular and I was amazed at how adept even toddlers were with them. No training wheels in Berlin.

It was frightening to watch a mum or dad riding on a busy road, with their child on his own bike, often with parent’s hand on their back, being pushed along to keep up with the traffic.

Helmets? Well there are a few.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on LiB – Bikes in Berlin

LiB – Drinking beer in Berlin

Berlin is undoubtedly the beer drinking capital of the world. And in Summer, when it is hot, the consumption rate goes up.

Interestingly, there is a huge selection of ‘non-alcoholic’ beer, but it falls into two categories. 0.0% alcohol is just that – zero alcohol, but ‘non-alcoholic’ may actually contain up to 0.1% alcohol.

In both categories you will find all the popular varieties including pale ale, IPAs and stouts.

This was important when Andrea was pregnant and breast feeding, as we had to target the 0.0% version for her.

But what really amazed us was the number of people carrying a bottle of beer in the street – open and being consumed. There were plenty of convenience stores that stocked beer, so as you wander down the street or into a park or onto the U-bahn there will always be an opportunity to buy a bottle of beer.

But we were not impressed when we saw people leave their empty bottles on the street. That was until we realised they were left as a donation to one of the many homeless people who would collect the empties and sell them.

Only in Berlin.

Posted in Family, Travel | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on LiB – Drinking beer in Berlin

LiB – Fehnsehrturm

One of the most iconic sights of Berlin is the Fernsehrturm or TV tower.

The TV tower, to broadcast GDR television, was originally planned to be built in the hills outside Berlin. But in the 1960s, the GDR government arranged to have an even larger TV Tower built in Alexanderplatz to demonstrate the strength and efficiency of the socialist system.

It was completed and opened on 3 October 1969, just before the 20th anniversary of the founding of the GDR. This year it celebrates its 50th birthday.

At the top of the tower is a large bulb to remind the people of the Soviet Sputnik satellite. At 368m the Berliner Fernsehturm is the tallest building in Berlin and is visible from nearly everwhere.

As you walk from the Brandenburg Gate up Unter den Linden to the Museum Island and into Alexanderplatz the tower is there to guide the way. From there, as we wandered all over the old East Berlin sector, the tower provided us with a point of reference. It became our focal point, our reminder of the amazing city of Berlin.

We treated ourselves to visiting the tower. We had the luxury of waiting for a clear day and going early in the day, before the tourists arrived. Visitors are limited to 380 at a time, with an extra 20 places allowed for staff.

The view was amazing, a great way to see Berlin.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on LiB – Fehnsehrturm

Living in Berlin

When I wrote my last blog we were planning to book flights to Berlin in early September, and return after two months.

The plan was to meet our first grandchild, and mix spending time in Berlin with the newest family member with some travelling, perhaps even chase some family ghosts. We would watch our new grandchild’s development for the first two months, by which time she should be giggling and recognising faces. Yes, she – a little girl was on its way.

But that didn’t happen.

I got a phone call from Hayden in early July, to say that Andrea wasn’t well and had been admitted to hospital with preeclampsia. The baby would probably be delivered premature. Could we come to Berlin ASAP.

The doctors were not concerned about the baby, but Andrea’s extremely high blood pressure was causing concern for her well being. 

So little Brianna entered the world on 8th July and we were on a flight on Saturday 13th July, to provide support.

And we spent two months in Berlin in glorious summer, a far cry from shivering through one of Melbourne’s coldest winters. In that time we learnt a lot about living in Berlin.

Our first experience was visiting the little family at the Vivantes Klinikum im Friedrichshain (Friedrichshain Hospital). To get there from our hotel we walked through the beautiful Volkspark Friedrichshain.

The park is a triangular shape with the hospital tucked into the south eastern edge. We entered through the apex on the western side into the beautiful Märchenbrunnen (fairy tale fountain in honour of the Brothers Grimm). We wandered past a huge field where families were picnicking, past the cafes and restaurants and the lake, up beside a stream where the little kids chilled, and into the number one gate to the hospital.

Sometimes we were anxious to get to the hospital for feeding time, other times we stopped by the cafe for a coffee or cool drink or just wandered and explored the park.

Inside the park are two hills. The Großer Bunkerberg (Big Bunker Hill) is in fact the Flakturm II G (flak tower) which the Red Army attempted to destroy. The Kleiner Bunkerberg (Little Bunker Hill) was a bunker.

The flak tower and bunker was subsequently covered with rubble from Berlin’s ruins to create artificial hills of 78m and 48m respectively. Volunteers, mostly women dubbed Trümmerfrauen or rubble women, cleared the debris from the bombed out buildings, cleaning bricks for reuse and carting unusable stuff to the parks.

Trees have now covered the two hills and they are popular spots to hang out.

The park has at least four playgrounds for children. Mums and dads bring their prams and let the children loose in the sand pits and on the play equipment. There are no helicopter parents here, children are taught to be independent, to brush themselves down if they fall over and to share their toys and games.

Berlin is full of young families. I think our little family will slot in nicely and enjoy the park as much as we did.



Posted in Family, Travel | Comments Off on Living in Berlin

2019 Part 1

We keep saying how quickly time goes. But as we reach the halfway point of 2019, so much seems to have happened. We have had a busy time!

It all started on 5th January, when Hayden & Andrea suggested a phone call. They were announcing their pregnancy. Fantastic news!! Due date was early September.

Of course we had to keep mum about it – they didn’t want to tell everyone just yet. That was hard, in fact it was very hard.

Whilst Andrea was struggling with morning sickness, we were preparing to meet the family to celebrate my 70th birthday in Macedonia.

So many of my friends decided I needed a celebration before Macedonia. There were the Girl Cousins, the Doggie Walkers, the Maggie Walkers, the GNOs and of course family and friends. And at each celebration I had to keep THE secret.

We were three months on the road, with a short stop in Doha, then to Macedonia to meet the family for a week of celebration. Magical touring in winter.

After family time, Bruce and I continued to Kosovo and Albania for an amazing history lesson, then to Corfu and Cyprus for a little warmth and relaxation.

We visited Hayden & Andrea in Berlin, the Busch family in Stuttgart and Denis & Martine in Switzerland before crossing the Atlantic in time to celebrate Evan’s 34th birthday with Ev & Steph.

We then flew south and drove across North America from South Carolina to California, nearly 6,000 kilometres through amazing country.

We finished our adventure in Hawaii, staying on the famed Waikiki Beach. I am still trying to finish my journal.

Home again, and resuming life in Melbourne. This time we have been sharing our time between Sorrento and Sandringham. We have been catching up with our blogs/journals and I have been dabbling in family history while Bruce has been kept busy with his freelance work.

Of course there are friends and family to catch up with as well.

And guess what, we are preparing another journey – this time to meet our very first grandchild in Berlin in September.

It has been a busy and fulfilling 2019 so far.

Posted in Family, Travel | Comments Off on 2019 Part 1