Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Day 2009 at the Henrys'

Here we are, the four of us. Our son Dale, Robin (me), daughter Meredith, and wife Christina.

Apart from grandson Tory Muller, this is our whole family. Christina and I are orphans and I have no brothers or sisters. Christina has a brother.

We were enjoying one of our occasional family breakfasts when we all gather at my house and have a brunch (half way between breakfast and lunch). Usually it's pancakes, coffee, juice, fruit, and perhaps a cup of coffee. Sometimes we have bacon and eggs with tomatoes on toast, but as this was Christmas Day and we were heading to the Crowne Plaza Hotel for Christmas dinner, we had light pancakes with a bit of mixed fruit and as the morning progressed the girls had champagne and Dale and I had a YUPPIE beer called a Crownie.

At 11:40 we departed for the Crowne Plaza Hotel for our fabulous lunch of seafood, a variety of warm and cold meats, salad, vegetables and six or seven different types of sweet including cheese cake, my favourite.

We had a lovely day, didn't eat or drink too much and after lunch lazed about watching some videos before cranking up the barbecue again, this time to cook some tiger prawns that had been sent down from Darwin. We had a light dinner of salads, prawns, (shrimps to some of you) and cold meat and eventually fizzled out at 9 pm.

If you celebrated Christmas Day, we hope you had as nice a day as we did.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grandson Tory Jet Muller Turns 8!

If I hadn't experienced it, I would have said there was no way Tory could have turned eight.

Why, it seems like only yesterday that we rocked up at the Midwifery Unit at the Alice Springs Hospital to see what millions of years of genetic history had presented us; A healthy boy with unexpected blue eyes and an elongated head from his vacuum (Ventouse) delivery.

Interestingly, both his grandmothers are midwives and were working at the Alice Springs Hospital during the birth.

Although it seems like yesterday (as these things do), much water has passed under the bridge in the last eight years. (See him in the photo with his school mates and mum while cutting his birthday cake).

Tory has been fortunate enough during that time to visit the United Arab Emirates twice, to visit Thailand, Singapore and a number of Australian destinations. Much more travel than I had done by that age, although I did move to and live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya between the ages 7 and 10.

He plays soccer, cricket, baseball and more. In the near future I'm going to introduce him to squash and maybe one day he will volunteer to be my golf caddy.

Tory tends to be a bit wild and wooly at times, but that's healthy for an eight year old. We get on well and I'm looking forward to many years of companionship including having a beer with him in a hotel somewhere on or shortly after 24 November 2019 when he reaches legal age.

As one of my colleagues from Al Ain Women's College wrote after his email signature, "If I had known grandchildren were so much fun, I would have had them first."

Hmmm, but I would have missed many wonderful years seeing my daughter and son reach adulthood.

Stay well.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Walking In Wonderland

Well, Wonderland may be hyperbole, but it is rather pleasant walking in the hills that surround our street.

This morning a little after 5:30 am I left our house (see the faint yellow sign), turned right (heading left on the photo)  and up on the hill following the white spotted, black line.

There is a couple of spots with moderately steep upgrades that get the heart pumping. It's a pleasant walk that takes about 30 minutes ... all the exercise an old dog (and even some young dogs!) needs.

From the surrounding hills, you can see The Gap south of Alice Springs through which the old Afghan camel trains used to pass. Nowdays of course, our trains and motor vehicles pass heading south to Ayres Rock (Uluru) and into South Australia or heading north to Alice Springs and beyond. You can also get a good view of the rest of the MacDonnel Ranges, the result of upheavals of an inland sea billions of years ago that later dried, vegetated and left such an impressive mark on the landscape.

As a boy, I collected various types of trilobite fossils from the countryside around Tennant Creek, 500km north of Alice Springs. They are somewhere between 250 and 500 million years old, which is an inconceivable number of years when compared with the minuscule 70 or 80 we spend here.

The weather this morning was very comfortable and I never ran into anyone walking their dogs as I often do.

While walking I took several photos of the surrounds and one of my house, which I have posted on Facebook at 
Usually kangaroos, some of which hop into our backyard, or around our house at sunrise or sunset appear whtn you walk this track, but I didn't see any today. When you walk close to them they are either lying down in the shade and, startled by your presence take to flight or they are grazing and move a few more metres out of your way.

This is not the only route one can walk. Tory and I took off on an unknown track a few months back and took 2.5h to get back home. Even Tory was stuffed when we got back, which was a good sign.


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Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Betts Shoes for Old Feet

What has a pair of old shoes got to do with a blog about travels, visitors and the like? Stay tuned and I'll tell you.

Over a decade ago while working at the Commonwealth Building in Alice Springs, I walked to and from work every day except on the rare days when it rained and occasionally when I woke up tired and cranky and just couldn't be bothered. It was a 20 minute walk each way, all the exercise an aging body needed.

Because I've had gout in my two large toes, first diagnosed when I left the Air Force at 24 years of age, it was always a struggle to find a shoe that provided both optimum comfort and a business style. At my elevated level, I couldn't really wear coloured sneakers to work. Not good for the corporate image.

The first pair of "walking" shoes I found that were black leather were Reebok sneakers. They just passed the business appearance test but lasted about 20 months before they were worn through on the bottom. Out they went.

Next came the Rockports and then another pair of so-called walking shoes, neither of which was really satisfactory. In desperation, I searched the (then) four shops in Alice Springs looking for something I felt didn't actually exist. I found the above pair of Airflex shoes at Betts ... The Best Shoes for Old Feet. I'm still wearing them probably a decade later.

They were wide enough to relieve my gout problems (exacerbated by lateral compression) and the inner sole was well cushioned. Not only that, they looked nice enough to wear to work.

The boots shown above have walked in most capital cities in Australia. They spent three years walking the corridors of the Higher Colleges of Technology in the UAE, they've been to Germany, Scotland, Canada, Hong Kong, Cyprus, and these days pound the long concrete walkways of the Alice Springs Correctional Centre (If they had a memory they could tell a tale or two!). They cost me $75 AU and were without doubt, the best value for money I've ever experienced. Look at the sole shown in the photo ... hardly any wear. Outside, they shine brightly when polished. Inside's a different story. The Airflex innersole has died and although still relatively comfortable, I very much wanted a replacement.

Saturday I found it. The Betts Hawk, $170 AU and hopefully my new friends for the next decade. The Hawk also is lighter and has no metal parts to set off metal detectors when you walk through airport security scanners. Now how's that for two pairs of shoes and maybe many thousands of kilometres travelled?

Have you got a favourite product you'd like to share with us? Write a comment between now and end of November and have a chance to win a baseball cap or a beer cooler from Alice Springs. (Only two prizes. Robin is judge and his opinion is final)


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Ewaninga Rock Carvings and Crocodile Burgers

Diane and Gerry had a busy day on Friday. We took them to the Ewaninga Rock Carvings south of Alice Springs, Emily Gap to the south east and then went for dinner at the Overlander Steakhouse, one of Alice Springs' most popular restaurants.
The first photo is of the girls at the entrance to the Ewaninga Rock Carvings Reserve inspecting the route map. It's a very pleasant walk with a salt pan and several collections of petroyglyphs that
were carved by Aborigines using hard stones, probably quartzite of which the region has numerous outcrops.

The second photo shows some of the petroglyphs although they aren't all that visible with full sunlight on them. The circle in Aboriginal useage usually refers to a community or group of people. Some of the other shapes are figures of people and kangaroos.
On our way back to town, we detoured off the Stuart Highway towards Ross River where we visited Emily Gap.

Emily Gap has numerous ochre paintings that have to do with three caterpillars, although I have no idea how the photo of the vertical lines at left relates to caterpillars.

There's nothing at the site that looks like a caterpillar, although much of Aboriginal art is based on their Dreamtime or religious mythology and isn't always clear.

There was a cold wind developing at Emily Gap and it seemed to be flowing through the gap, so we didn't bother to stay long enough to debate what we were looking at. I took a few photos and headed back to the warmth of the car.

On the way home we decided to detour to the Overlander Steakhouse as our visitors wanted to try some local cuisine such as emu, kangaroo, camel or crocodile. They decided on the crocodile burgers, but neither really enjoyed it and said they'd probably not eat it again.

We'd called into the Bojangles Saloon for lunch earlier in the day, but had arrived too late for the lunch menu ... the kitchen was closed!

Diane tried an Australian beer (as did I, even though I've had 45 years practice ;-)) so, without lunch, by the time we'd walked about Ewaninga and Emily Gap, we were all pretty hungry.

This morning we arose at 5:30 am and put our visitors on a bus for a two day tour of Ayres Rock and Kings Canyon. They go to one of the destinations the first day, return to Erldunda which is about 200 km east of Ayres Rock where they stay overnight. The next day the head off to the second destination.

It's the same trip that friends Michael and Linda Fairhart and Sofie and Maureen did earlier this year and all reports are that it's a good trip.

I'm off to Darwin for the week on Monday and our visitors fly out to Perth on Tuesday.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Friends Visit from Al Ain

We are always delighted to have our friends visit. This weekend we have the pleasure of Gerry Jones and Diane Evans' company.

Gerry and Diane work at the Al Ain Women's College for the UAE's Higher Colleges of Technology.

They had flown into Darwin and spent a few days there and at Kakadu (east of Darwin in Arnhem Land) before heading south on The Ghan Railway. They arrived Thursday morning and on Thursday evening we went for the hill walk at the back of our house. There are numerous walks, but the one I usually do, sometimes accompanied by grandson Tory, is the 20 minute one. It's a horse-shoe shape. We enter the left side of the horse-shoe just up the road from my house and walk back to nearby Terry Court with another five minutes walk to return home.

In the early evening or early morning, the view across the Central Australian landscape and of the McDonnell Ranges is awe inspiring and stunning. Typically the sky is stark blue providing a panoramic background for 360 degrees as far as one can see.

At the time of writing the ladies are at the Alice Springs Desert Park. On return we'll have lunch at Bojangles Saloon (as Diane wanted to have a drink in a traditional Australian pub) and then head out of town to show them the Ewaninga Rock Carvings ... ancient Aboriginal artwork (petroglyphs).

I'll post more photos of Ewaninga (pronounced "youwaninga") etc later.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Visitors from Sydney

We love having visitors and were delighted to have Maureen and Sofie stay for several days recently.

Both are nursing professionals from Sydney. Maureen works for the NSW Air Ambulance (a high flyer no less) and Sofie at a local hospital accident and emergency department. We've known Sofie since we were all young, single people in Hobart, partying every weekend as though there was no tomorrow, so it was extra special seeing her and we were delighted to make a new friend of Maureen.

For a while Robin had to cope with not one, but three nurses in the house.

I took this photo of Maureen and Sofie on ANZAC Hill overlooking Alice Springs. Almost everyone who visits The Alice drives up the only lookout in an almost flat landscape (excluding the MacDonnell Ranges seen in the background) and gets a great 360 degrees view of the township.

For anyone who considers themselves to be a mountain climber, you can get a better view from the MacDonnells, but they are steep and it's a hard slog climbing to the top. The only vehicle access is on a private road owned by telecommunications company, Telstra which leads to the communications towers at the top of the ranges. Unfortunately, travelling on that road is prohibited, so it's climb or nothing.

While here the ladies followed in the footsteps of Mike and Linda Fairhart and went on an Emu Run Tour of Ayres Rock and Kings Canyon to the west of Alice Springs. They appeared to have had a good time visiting.

After leaving here they flew to Darwin and planned to fly back to Sydney after a short stay.

Our next visitors are due in early July; Diane and Gerry from Al Ain Women's College will also be doing the Emu Run Tour (hopefully the tour company will send me a carton of booze for all the business I've been passing their way ... oh yeah, that's right).


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Travels in Victoria

While staying at our timeshare at Mansfield, 200km north of Melbourne, we visited several vineyards and Mt Bulla, which is a ski resort township in the Victorian Alps. One photo is of Michael and Linda on the Mt Bulla ski lift, an apparatus with which they - and any Canadian worth his/her salt - is highly familiar.

We had also visited Banrock Station, a vineyard in South Australia, before travelling east into Victoria. Banrock Station is an environmentally friendly wine producer with a wetlands bird-life sanctuary at its vineyard and produces wines in as environmentally friendly manner as is practicable eg, their wine casks come in totally recyclable cardboards.

Unfortunately, when wine tasting is on, someone has to drive. Here's a quiz: I'm the photographer. Look at the photo of Christina, Mike and Linda wine tasting and answer this question, "who do you think was driving?" Yes, of course, but the day before Christina drove and I joined in the wine tasting.

Occasionally, we stopped at small townships for coffee. You can see Linda and Christina enjoying theirs
We dropped Mike and Linda off at Tor and Nadine Hansen's where they are close to Melbourne city centre for their last couple of days in Australia. We drove on to our second week of timeshare at the Nepean Country Club Resort near Rosebud south of Melbourne. Click here for info about the Club.

On Friday we head back to Alice Springs, a three day drive.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We are fortunate to have Mike and Linda Fairhart still holidaying with us enroute to Canada ex Al Ain. As Christina hadn't had a break for six months (midwifery is a hard life!), we decided we'd head south for a break while showing our guests part of Australia.

We travelled in our old, but reliable Toyota 4WD Forerunner diesel to meet Mike and Linda at Erldunda as they had been to Ayres Rock on a bus tour which terminated (for them) at Erldunda Roadhouse rather than have to travel another two hours north to The Alice.

At Erldunda Mike met and befriended a young kangaroo. A little bread goes a long way in making new friends.

Our first leg took us across the South Australian border where I took a photo of Mike and Linda as proof they had been there, done that.

The first major stop in SA was Coober Pedy, famous for being one of the world's largest opal producers. It's also a place where the heat of summer has driven people underground. The motel shown in the photo is an example of underground living where the hard rock has been carved out to make living space.

From Coober Pedy we headed south to Port Augusta and then east into the Murray River areas of New South Wales an Victoria. More about that soon. Watch this space.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Our Canadian Visitors

This week, Michael and Linda Fairhart visited us at Alice Springs enroute from the United Arab Emirates to Canada, arriving Thursday afternoon.

On their second morning we drafted them into an early morning walking race with the Alice Springs Walking and Running Club. I had expected they'd resist my offer, however, they didn't bat an eyelid and lined up as keen athletes like the rest of us.

Here they are all numbered-up (and hopefully limbered-up for the race)

Those keen enough, ran the 4 km around the Central Business District. The rest of us, the more sensible people, walked. At the end, everyone received a numbered ticket and had a chance at winning prizes donated by the owner of Centralian Sports shop. The top prize was a Panasonic television set. Other prizes consisted of a heart-rate monitor, pairs
of socks, T shirts and water bottles.

I managed to better my time by about three minutes from the last race a fortnight earlier, so I was pleased with myself. Here I am with Linda.

Friday night we had a scrumptious meal at the Juicy Rump restaurant which is part of the famous Lassiter's Casino and after dinner helped the casino make a profit for the 2007-08 fiscal year.

Saturday we spent idling about ... you know the dictum, "All work and no play ....".

On Sunday we visited the Standley Chasm which is 45 km west of Alice Springs and dropped in at Simpson's Gap which is on the same Larapinta Highway, but a bit closer to town.

As flies were plentiful, the ladies each bought a fly net. Mike commented that they were looking like Emirati women. One of the photos following shows Christina and Linda wearing their fly nets.
Another is of Michael at the entrance to Standley Chasm and finally, a photo of the Chasm.

According to the publicity, Standley Chasm was gouged into tough sandstone by floods that surged down a narrow tributary of the Finke River over untold millions of years.

The Chasm is at its best around noon on a sunny day when the sheer walls glow from reflected sunlight to create a breathtaking display of stark form and rich colour.

There are also many lush plants, even some cycad palms that have survived from wetter ages millenia ago.
Early this morning Linda and Mike drove off in a bus for a tour of Ayres Rock and Kings Canyon.

We are going to meet up with them at Erldunda Road House 200 km south of Alice Springs tomorrow evening and on Wednesday drive off to Coober Pedy to visit the opal fields and then to a cabin we timeshare in the Snowy Mountains area of Victoria.

We did tell them not to get too excited about the snow, it's not the right time of year for that here.


Standley Chasm (Chris in distance)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Alien Diversion - A Learning Experience

When I've been sitting on my bum for a few hours in front of my computer, I look forward to the occasional diversion; I usually go mow the lawn, do some housework, get a coffee or go for a walk. But this morning's diversion was a new learning experience as I became aware of Aliens among us.


When Tory, my seven year old grandson sidled up to me and said, "Pop, can you help me birth an Alien?" I had no idea what he was talking about and a little worried about what might come next, given the state of television and some of the topics that are discussed in prime time.

I said, "Tell me more."

He handed me a plastic cylinder six inches tall with a white cocoon inside and a sheet of paper with directions. Here was his new Alien. All I had to do was remove the top transport stopper and pour water into it and bingo, an Alien would appear with a flashing light. "Yeah, that's right", I thought and helped him pour water into the top.

Within minutes, the water had dissolved the cocoon and there in front of me, safely contained within the cylinder was an Alien creature with a flashing light on it's forehead. Not only that, the light could change colour.

The light was orange, which meant it needed "food". From a silver packet included with the kit, we poured some Alien food into 125ml of water and the light changed from orange to green ... a good health signal.

When I took Tory to school as I do on Tuesday mornings, I ensured him the Alien creature would be fine at home alone all day and that he could feed it again tomorrow.

Never before in my long years had I seen such a kid's toy. We both learnt something that morning.

There must be a group of engineers and scientists out there who do nothing else at work, but design toys for kids. They'll never be out of a job and their work becomes more and more technologically advanced.

So, this morning's diversion was a welcome, if unusual diversion. But, I'll have to go now, I'm off to KMart to buy an Alien Creature of my own.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Australia Day 2009

This Australia Day we went the whole hog and had not one, but two celebratory events; first on Saturday, 24 Jan at the work premises of T&T Power Generation in the industrial area and the second, a brunch at our house in the leafy suburbs of Araluen.

Tori and Trevor, owners of T&T Power Generation provided a wonderful dinner of king prawns (shrimp for those of you from North America) followed by a barbecued steak with a variety of salads and dressings, all washed down with a variety of spirits, beer and wines.
A large number of people attended even a few kids, these ones at left being aptly outfitted and a good indicator that our traditions will be carried forward by the coming generations. I might add that the little fellow was drinking soft drink ... we want our kids to

follow our traditions, but some of them we don't want adopted too soon or too vigorously.

We took our photo record early so we could get it out of the way and focus on the real events of the evening. Here is a photo of you-know-who in our Australia Day paraphernalia ... not the sort of stuff you'd wear on any "normal" day.

A bit over the top eh?

We managed to have a wonderful evening of eating, drinking and socialising renewing friendships with a couple of people whom we had not seen for years and made a few new friends.

As has been our family tradition for as long as I can remember, we had a brunch at our house for family and a few friends.

My father's birthday was on Australia Day and he had me convinced for at least a few years that the National holiday was in honour of his birthday.
By the time I'd turned 25 I realised that he'd been pulling my leg for all those years. If he was still alive, he would have
turned 91, which is far too old for anyone, even my father.
We set up outside in our covered area which was pleasantly warm with a gentle breeze. Excellent weather for Australia Day.
Chris, the master of the kitchen, slapped together some waffles for the first course, served with boysenberries, treacle, cream, or strawberry topping, whatever one preferred.
I made a flask or two of coffee, a cooler flask of cordial, and cranked up our barbecue for the traditional sausages, bacon, eggs on toast, tomato and mushrooms. The last photo is one of our son Dale finishing off the mushrooms.
If you'd like to see more photos of our Australia Day celebrations, you can find them here

Robin and Christina

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Goodbye to a Good Bloke

On Sunday, 18 January 2009, our friend David Hansen died at his home in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. David and his wife Linda were part of a group including Christina and me, for whom one of our other friends had coined the phrase "Group of Eight". We travelled to Jordan, Syria and other places together and had many memorable times enjoying each others' company.

I took the above photo of David on ANZAC Day, 25 April 2008, at the old Al Ain Golf Club. ANZAC Day is the day each year when Australians and New Zealanders remember those men and women who gave their lives for their country in various theatres of war.

We had only known David for a few years, but it was long enough to know that he was a "Good Bloke". A good bloke who will be remembered with great fondness.

Goodbye mate, we hope you have found a better place.

Robin and Christina