Tuesday 27 March 2012

Seeya Paul & Elaine

Jealous, jealous, jealous.....

The very last of our Aussie based narrowboat contacts are off on their adventure.  We wish Paul and Elaine and The Manly Ferry all the best for their travels.  Can't wait to read all about it and see lots of boaty photos.  We'll catch you up one day!

Thursday 22 March 2012

A dong on the head!

My mum seems to be having a rest from injuring herself so Mick thought he'd make up for it.  Tuesday he split his head open!  It seems it didn't knock any sense into him but he's got a nice long row of stitches and will have a nasty scar.

He was late coming home from work and about an hour after he'd usually be home he rang and said he was running late and was 15 minutes away.  Not long after Peter, the man he works with, arrived and got out of his car with his hands full of bandages.  I had a fair idea of what may have held Mick up at work.   Peter had driven him to the hospital and Mick had left the bandages in his car when he got in his own to come home.  When Mick got home he said he hadn't told me on the phone what had happened because I wouldn't have wanted him to drive home.  He was right!

Not the first time and won't be the last.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Bonegilla migrant centre

I've just had a couple of days away with my mum.  We did something we've talked about for a long time and drove to Wodonga (at the border of Victoria and New South Wales) to visit her first home in Australia.

It was the Bonegilla migrant centre which operated as such between 1947 and 1971 with more than 300,000 migrants spending time living at the centre.  The first migrants at Bonegilla were refugees from refugee camps in Europe following WW2.  They learned English while living at Bonegilla and were assisted with finding work.  From 1951 the migrants arriving at Bonegilla changed from refugees to assisted migrants from many European countries, including Finland where my mum was born. 

My mum was the eldest of 10 children and was 13 years old when the family arrived at Bonegilla at the end of 1959.  Of the 20 something blocks of buildings (each like a little village) they have kept one block as a museum.  It was the block where my mum's family had lived so it was excellent for her to see it again.

What a shock it must have been to arrive from such a cold country as Finland to the blistering Australian Summer.  The accomodation was in un-insulated army huts, there was no trees or shade or grass as there is now.  The migrants lived in small one room cubicles, each with one tiny window and a door to outside.  Larger families like my mum's had 2 of the cubicles.  The toilet and shower block was a couple of hundred metres away and they ate in a canteen.

Many of the migrants who have written in the guest books don't remember their time at Bonegilla fondly, they disliked the food and hated the living conditions.  My mum remembers it all as a big adventure with lots of other kids around, a great place to swim in Lake Hume beside the camp, and the start of a new life. 

Sunday 18 March 2012

Recipe - penang chicken

This is a recipe we've tried a few times before.  This week I started cooking it and then realized I had no evaporated milk.  I rummaged frantically through the pantry and found a tin of coconut milk which I used in place of the evaporated milk, coconut essence and cornflour.  Mick declared it delicious - better than it's ever been before.  Hmmm.... it goes to show it is difficult to get the same flavour when you replace ingredients with low fat alternatives.  Sorry Mick, but this was a "one-off" special treat!

From STGTBT Book 4

500g skinless chicken breast, cut in strips
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp crushed garlic (in jar)
1 tsp crushed ginger (in jar)
1 cup fresh green beans, halved
2 cups zucchini, sliced
2 cups cauliflower, small florets
3 tsps Penang paste
2 tsps fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp chopped basil
2 tbsp cornflour
375ml can light evaporated milk
1 tsp coconut essence
Handful peanuts

In a large frying pan, sprayed with cooking spray, sauté garlic and ginger and chicken until chicken is nearly cooked.   Add all vegetables and cook a further 2-3 minutes. Add the Penang paste, stir well and cook for 5 minutes.  Add fish sauce, sugar and basil.  In a bowl, combine the evaporated milk, coconut essence and cornflour, then pour into the frying pan.  Stir continuously until thickening.  Serve with rice and sprinkle with peanuts.

Flexible solar panels

Mick and I have talked about solar panels before and I wrote something about it at that time.  The Waterways World magazine we received a couple of weeks ago had an article about installing flexible solar panels on the the roof of a narrowboat.  We read it with interest but it raised an interesting question.

The article said the panels are glued to the roof of the boat.  What happens to moisture between the solar panel and the roof?  Wouldn't it cause rust?  I think I better investigate!

Friday 16 March 2012

Will there be water left for us?!

The blog reading lately is increasingly alarming.  Are you guys running out of water?  It's hard to imagine that here we are at the tail of our Summer and everything is awash from the heavy rains, and over there in England you're supposed to have just done Winter and there is already talk of canal closures and restrictions.

We just hope there is some water left for us by the time we get there.  Please save us some!

Thursday 15 March 2012

Passports.... tick!

One more item on our list has now been ticked off.  We now both have appropriate passports to fulfill our dream.


Tuesday 13 March 2012


We had a second inspection by one of the prospective house buyers.  It turns out they are looking for a property for 3 people to buy together, and so far two of them have seen it and loved it.  There were phone calls between them and the agent with questions for us about the flooring and the gardens and now they say they'll bring the third of them to inspect the house on Friday.  Fingers crossed... again!

Sunday 11 March 2012

Recipe - Tabouli

I'm a big fan of Tabouli and really like this recipe - it makes a small batch because I much prefer it fresh. 
1/4 cup dried cracked wheat (bourghul)
1 cup water
1/2 tomato, de-seeded and diced small
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
5-6 mint leaves, chopped fine
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 tsp crushed garlic (in jar)
Pepper to taste

Put the cracked wheat and the water into a bowl and stir occasionally, leaving it for about an hour.  
Drain off any unabsorbed water and add the other ingredients to the bowl, mixing well.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Three in a week

The two house inspections in two days grew to three inspections in less than a week.  That's a huge improvement on the last 6 weeks of nothing!  In fact the people that came through on Thursday returned again yesterday for a second look.  The Saturday folk asked for a copy of the Section 32 (sale contract) and made enquiries about whether we'd consider a deal on leaving behind the outdoor stuff.  It's more promising than it has been in months.  We're not getting our hopes up but it feels a little more positive.

Friday 9 March 2012


This crazy country of ours.  We've had so much rain the last week or two, although here in central Victoria it's eased off now.  In the north of the state and in parts of New South Wales they are battling terrible floods.

The little town of Nathalia have a temporary flood barrier built to attempt to hold the flood waters at bay.  Last night there were townsfolk evacuating after a second evacuation notice was issued with the danger of the town being inundated if the levee breached. On the news they said the water that was appearing on the other side of the levee had actually come from under the road from the enormous pressure of the flood waters on the other side.  Last night they had the army, the State Emergency Service and the Country Fire Authority all frantically plugging up the spots where leaks were appearing.

These photos from the Herald Sun : Nathalia floods.  The metal barrier is holding back what looks to be well over a metre of water.  I don't think I'd want to be standing by that barrier if it lets go.

In the words of Dorothea Mackellar :

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

Thursday 8 March 2012

An early birthday present

Sunday was my little nephew's 2nd birthday.  They had a small family get together in the park on Sunday afternoon.  It was a lovely day and Declan was extremely excited about the cake on the table.  He ran around with his cousin, Sam, ripped open his gifts totally ignoring the contents, and kept the adults well entertained.

My other brother and his wife were in Sydney for the weekend.  I drove my stepmum home after the birthday get together and collected my brother's dog from her place to take back with me.  I figured that I should work Monday instead of Tuesday in Melbourne as I'd be down there already for Sunday.  I took Zac back to my brother's and spent a couple of hours sewing until they got home later in the evening.

They hadn't been home long when Leanne, my sister in law, started saying to my brother that she couldn't wait months.  For what, I wondered??  He was shaking his head in disgust but didn't really object to whatever it was she couldn't wait for.  She rummaged in the bag they'd carried on the plane and pulled out a small box, handing it to me and said "Happy Birthday".  Birthday?  Mine isn't for 3 months!  I opened the box to find a narrowboat teapot.  What a thoughtful gift, and anything "narrowboat" is bound to please us!

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Puppy love

We've been a bit sad the last week or so without Coco in the house.  Saturday we had a perk up with a visit from Andrea and her 16 week old labrador puppy, Grace.  We thoroughly enjoyed playing on the floor with Grace who is at the boisterous stage.  We felt happier when they went home and had something to smile about.

Then, to make the week even better I had coffee with Vic, my old school friend, who had just received an 8 week old black labrador pup.  She's a guide dog "puppy walker".  Tiny Fee is the sweetest little girl - soft and gentle and placid.  I wanted to take her home!  It's such a wonderful thing to do to help out the guide dogs.  I would love to be a puppy walker but I don't think I'd be able to give them back.  I'll just have to visit.

Monday 5 March 2012

The Queen Mary 2

Not quite a narrowboat but what a sight arriving at work this morning!  My Tuesday job, which this week I'm doing on Monday, is on St Kilda Rd in Melbourne and on the 5th floor of an art deco building.  As I walked along the external walkway to the office door I could see a ship in the distance.  We can't see Port Phillip Bay from where we are, and Albert Park and the lake are in between, but this ship was so enormous that it towered over the trees between the office and the bay.

Not a very good photo taken on my phone, but my employer brought her camera in and took a couple of photos so we'll see how they turn out.

Today we have the pleasure of the Queen Mary 2 docking in Melbourne at Station Pier, the largest ship ever to visit Melbourne. This photo (from SMH this morning) shows how enormous she looks compared to her surrounds.

We got talking at the office about how tall she must be for us to see her from here.  I did a quick search and found this from Wiki.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Pick of the week - Afore Ye Go

This week we picked another ABNB boat - nb Afore Ye Go.  Great colour, great price, but not so sure about the name!

The layout of this one would be just perfect for us.  At first I wasn't so keen on the breakfast bar idea on a boat but I really like this one.  The washing machine is accessed from the breakfast bar area (being in the dead corner of the kitchen cabinets).  There is also a small second cabin which is perfect for a guest and for a little office area. 

It looks like it needs a good cut and polish (hopefully not a new paintjob), and there is no central heating boiler installed, although the radiators are there in readiness.  We would remove the "return" of the L shaped dinette to allow room for a couple of armchairs.  So there's a little money to be spent but nothing outrageous.

Price: £47,500
Length: 57ft 10in
Builder: JL Pinder & Son
Fitter-out: JL Pinder & BH Narrowboats
Style: Trad
Year registered: 2004
Engine: Barrus Shire 40 diesel
Plating: 10/6/4
Last out of water: April 2010
Water tank: 150gall (approx) integral tank
Headroom: 6ft 4in
Fit-out materials: Oak faced ply with sapele or stained softwood cappings. Floors in carpet except wood effect laminate to galley & bathroom.
Insulation: Spray foam
Berths: 3+1
Berth sizes: 6ft 3in x 4ft 0in perm double, 6ft 3in x 2ft 6in perm single in separate cabin, 6ft 0in x 2ft 0in single on saloon settee
Fridge: Shoreline 12V 4cu ft
Washer/dryer: Candy Aquamatic washing machine
WC: Thetford swivel seat cassette wc
Shower: in laminated cubicle with doors
Cooker: Vanette built-in hob & oven - gas
Water heating: Engine > calorifier (plus c/h if fitted)
Cabin heating: Squirrel s/fuel stove. Central heating circuit inc towel rail, 2 rads & calorifier coil ready for compact diesel boiler to be fitted if required.
Mains 230V: Landline, 2500W Victron pure sine wave inverter/charger
Other: Two separate bedrooms, one single, one double. Breakfast bar. Glazed cratch with vinyl cover.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Two days in a row

We've had the last six weeks of Summer without a single inspection of the house.  We'd almost given up!  This weekend has been a slight improvement with two inspections in two days.  I don't think either of them is a promising proposition for a buyer but it's nice to have someone looking.  The agent said it's typical for people to look at houses more once the Summer is over.  There was also some positive talk on the news tonight about house prices in Melbourne.

Friday Mick came home early afternoon to find a couple wandering along the outside of the front fence.  They went up to him as he got out of the truck and were asking about the house.   I couldn't believe it when he told me what came next.  They loved the house and were interested in buying it but they weren't ready to move from Melbourne for another 4 years.  Would we consider selling it to them and renting it back for 4 years?  What?!  If we wanted to live here another 4 years we wouldn't have the house on the market. They wouldn't want to rent it to someone who didn't take excellent care of it and they could see we looked after it well.

I don't know what Mick said to that but shortly afterwards he had a call from the agent and an inspection an hour later.  We felt it was a bit of a waste of time.  Another inspection today by a couple who couldn't quite agree on what they wanted to buy.  He wants somewhere for his vintage cars, she wants a lovely old house.  We'll see if anything becomes of it.

Friday 2 March 2012

Remembering places of interest

I often read of an interesting place, a good pub, a fantastic mooring, or something else that we wish we could remember.  For example, Heth on nb Takey Tezey wrote about a pub she liked.  So I'm going to start adding a blog entry when I see something to remember and label it with the name of the canal.  It might help!

The Ragley Boat Stop  is on the Trent and Mersey Canal at Barrow on Trent.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Map of the canal system

A couple of years ago we bought a map of the UK canal system.  We bought it online and we were happy with our purchase.  The problem is that it's so enormous we don't often get it out.  We'd love to have one about half the size but I just can't find something suitable.  We want to pore over it and dream about where we'll go and what we'll see.

Anyone have a suggestion?

The one we already have is Nicholsons - Inland Waterways map of Great Britain (2009).

Rain on

We've had quite a bit of rain in the last few days.  Some areas of our state (Victoria) and also New South Wales have been flooded.  Some of them are copping it for a second or third time since the flooding we had over last Summer.  Shops washed out and homes with flooring and other possessions ruined.  It's crazy.

We're having a drier day today, according to the weather report, but the few days following are expected to be wet again.  Poor Mick went out on Monday and spread fresh gravel on our garden paths.  The extremely heavy rain of Sunday night had all but washed it away.  He was horrified when we got another dose of very heavy rain the following night. 

We try not to complain about rain having lived with drought for so long, plus the temperature isn't so hot.  Rain on!