Hairy House

Hairy House

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Going out with a Bang

It seems that Brisbane is pulling out the stops for us!
Driving home from dropping Lydia at choir yesterday, I noticed the clouds building up. "Oh good, looks like we might be getting some rain," I thought.
Hmm. According to the weather bureau, it was the worst storm in a decade. According to people I know who have grown up in Brisbane, it was the worst storm they have ever seen. Juliette and I were at home so we couldn't see much - most of the windows have bobbly glass and there is an enormous poinciana tree outside the other windows which block the view to anywhere else. It wasn't till the hail started bouncing off the back deck that we realised that this was no ordinary storm and then I was thrown into a quandary: our car that we need to sell in the next few days was sitting out in it all, but I wasn't sure I was game to drive it to the local car park. 
Miraculously, the car came away unscathed, Rupert was home ten minutes afterwards and we were able to pick Lydia up from choir and drop me off for a rehearsal in the city...but once on the roads, we were able to appreciate the full extent of the damage. Throughout Toowong and Bardon, the roads were strewn with branches and trees, step ladders, a roof. Windows smashed, cars dented, no power, of course in these areas. Driving out towards the Western suburbs, it seems that the damage was not as bad, but then Rupert had to drop me with some friends to drive back into the city for a rehearsal - which was interesting to say the least.
First rehearsal with choir and soloists, last rehearsal before concert on Saturday at St John's Cathedral. Programme to include Beethoven Mass, Magic Flute overture, Something Beautiful but Heart Rending, by Brahms, Something a bit Weird but Possibly Beautiful by Berlioz. The leader of the orchestra, the great Chen, had not been able to get in, due to lack of trains, we were down three first violins, a viola, first trumpet, oboes, Bass soloist, several choir members. There was a leak in the roof at the back of Cathedral and water poured down all evening, the sound echoing and magnifying off the stone walls, whilst an alarm sounded in F flat, double sharp diminished minor all throughout. It was hot, humid, there was glass all over the toilet floors where the windows had been Hailed, I had to lead the orchestra and had left my shoulder rest at home, so was not playing my best. (that's my excuse anyway). I take my hat off to Kevin Power, the conductor, who, instead of screaming and throwing a fit, managed to remain calm, if sweaty and slightly manic, throughout. Can't wait till Saturday!
Got home to find that we still have no power, and of course, no candles or torches as all that sort of stuff is on the plane to England. What would we do without iPods, eh? Though of course, they are now all run out of batteries, and we can't recharge, so guess where I'm headed now? We only have electric cooking facilities in our rental, so no coffee....but, thank God, gas powered water heating!! Incredibly grateful that our windows remained intact, unlike very many of my friends, some of whom have had every window in their house broken. Just wishing I hadn't bought a whole lot of fridgeable groceries, yesterday morning...
Oh Brisbane, will miss you so much!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Koalas and Kangaroos

For some bizarre reason, I had been under the impression that once we moved out of our house, we would have far more time...yes, well....
This week has flown past, we are now in another apartment – a lovely old Queenslander in Toowong – and we have the two remaining cats with us, so we are a complete family again. Every morning I cry when I get up and there is no Guinny to walk, but we will not think about that. We can almost see Rupert's office from here, as it's a two minute walk – but luckily, considering it's not one of the most attractive buildings in Brisbane – it is hidden by a beautiful, spreading Poinciana tree in bloom. Poinciana's are my favourite tree – even when not blooming – and they are one of the things I will miss most, with their bright, oval green leaves and fiery blooms.
One just slightly weird thing about this house, is the fact that there is an engraving on the wall of Aylesbury Vale – the very area to which we are moving!
So, in the last couple of weeks, I have played my last concert as concertmaster of Brisbane City Pops Orchestra and was given a three year National Trust Membership and managed not to burst into tears on stage. I have had my last gig with Brisbane String Quartet, playing for the first time at Victoria Golf Complex, (which turned out to be a case of music, bow and stands V gale force winds) against a stunning backdrop of the city at twilight. And I didn't cry much.
Over the weekend we visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for the last time. We first went to Lone Pine on our third day in Brisbane, with a one year old who threw a tantrum because I wouldn't let him eat the Kangaroo food or pooh. This time, the same child was more interested in discussing the pitfalls of communism, as we walked around the kangaroo enclosure in 35 degree heat, expecting intelligent discourse from me, when all I was really interested in was getting to the cold water.
Lone Pine was our home from home for many years. For the first eight years we were in Brisbane, we had family membership and I took one of the children there twice a week, on average, as it is right next to the Brisbane Montessori School where they all started their primary years. We have many wonderful memories of farting koalas, thieving bush turkeys, being chased by emus, having my expensive sunglasses pecked to death by lorikeets, children getting worms from eating said kangaroo pooh. It is a wonderful place, with its fat, wriggling platypus, the raucous cockatoos, the dinosaurial Cassowary loping around his enclosure, the kangaroos (not that different to the kangaroos I saw on my daily walk at home, but more exciting in an enclosure, of course...?) the rat-like Tasmanian devils with their Beatrix Potteronian cute factor, the weird and wonderful and beautiful snakes, doubtless plotting evil in their painted cells, the sheep shearing show (yes, and witnessing an audience of one hundred people of every shade and ethnicity, hypnotised into complete silence by the sight of a man shaving a half asleep sheep, makes you realise quite how Tony Abbott managed to be elected Prime Minister (well, not really, but perhaps makes it a teeeeeeeny bit easier to have an inkling of understanding)) the Bird of Prey Show, (where the presenter ends every sentence with a question mark, so you're not sure whether you're actually being informed by an animal expert, or taking part in some sort of weird quiz game ( as in, “this is our beautiful Fish Eagle, Iluka?” “The Barn Owl's primary food is mouse?”) ) the beautiful shaded walks and cool, turtle filled pools, the whistling shrikes and laughing kookaburras. It is hard to believe we will probably never visit again. Maybe one of the girls will come back one day and work there, talking in questions?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Goodbye to the House!

So, the house that we built - at least, the house we paid someone else vast amount of money to build for us (he may even have been called Jack, I can't remember) which gave us a very small say in the design - is no longer ours. 
The house that hosted many parties - children's parties with puppet shows and games on the lawn, teenage parties with swimming and "movies", adult parties with music around the piano, is no longer ours. 
Someone else's plates and cutlery and cooking implements will now be gracing the kitchen cupboards, someone else's furniture will now be hiding the scratch marks on the floors. Their dog will be mooching around the garden, sniffing the grass, perhaps looking for that big black dog who owned the lawn for five years.
Will the new people fix the broken tiles outside or will they sincerely mean to, for the next ten years? Will they paint over the Moroccan tile stencils with which I adorned my pillars? Will they manage to get the fruit trees to fruit, will they enjoy our mango harvest?
The funny thing is, that it's the little things that get to me. When sweeping the cupboard under the stairs, for instance, I came across two broken Christmas tree ornaments and was flooded with nostalgia, for this really is the end of an era. We are saying good bye, not only to a house, but to a stage of life, when our children were sweet and full of joy and all ours. (And used to drive me nuts and kept me in a state of sleep deprived near hysteria all the time, yes, but we will gloss over that.) I choose to remember the times when they were big eyed with wonder at the sight of boiling black clouds streaming in from the mountains, the wind tearing at the trees as the storms arrived; or the times that they stood, holding their breath and watching the flock of deer in the garden, or the huge white cockatoos feeding at the bird table, the Rosellas chirruping in the grevillea; the times when they would spend hours digging in the mud, faces shining with concentration; the soccer matches with friends or Rupert or the boys next door, the badminton games when Guinny would try his best to join in, rendering further competition impossible; the Christmases when their faces would light up at the sight of the tree and their eyes would sparkle as they sat and listened to the pregnant air, boiling with the scent of jasmine and mangoes and pawpaws and magic.
We are on to new adventures now and life will be exciting in the new ways, but there are certain things that we will never replace. We will not have friends who have known them and cared about them, all their lives. Our family traditions - favourite restaurants, favourite camping spots, favourite parks, will all be changing.
By the time I had finished cleaning the house on Friday I couldn't have cared about any of those things, but I had to go back on Monday morning and made the mistake of wondering through the rooms one last time, going out into the animal-empty garden to admire, for the last time, the  hot pink flowers of the bougainvillea as it exploded into the air. And there was a deer, a spotted fawn, standing fifteen feet from me, staring.
So I said goodbye to it and left, drove to the estate agents and handed over the keys. Thanks for the memories - cue swooping strings and muted trumpets........

Thursday, 13 November 2014

21st Century materialism?

The vast (and I don't use the word lightly here!) majority of our belongings are now on a dockside waiting for a bunch of alpha males to stop strutting and preening around Brisbane, before taking to the high seas. Our house has been cleaned within an inch of its life – the “Juliette is a phooey bum bum bum” scrubbed off Lydia's wall, the remnants of thousands of blue-tack spots scrubbed off Juliette's wall (ghosts of Justin Beiber past).
We are now free to ponder the next stage in our big adventure – and sort through all the issues of winding up tax and business's etc (groan...) – and, as I sit on our mattress in my cousin's playroom and look at our mountain of cases in the corner, I feel a sense of wonder and disgust at myself.
I don't consider myself to be particularly materialistic. Maybe I need to rephrase that. I didn't consider myself to be particularly materialistic. I have few material possessions I really care about save for sentimental purposes. I am not one of those women who loves shopping – when I have to go shopping, my asparagus side comes out and I find myself running around as quickly as I can, grabbing what I need and getting-the-hell-out-of-there as soon as I can. Rupert is the same, though he does have a weird penchant for keeping stacks of receipts for items bought thirty years ago and thrown away twenty years ago; Sam is obsessed merely with his iPod and his weights, Juliette with her iPod and her guitar/ukelele, Lydia with her iPod and any reading materials she can lay her hands on, though, admittedly, she did insist on shipping about 1000 stuffed animals which do nothing but collect dust on her bedroom floor. We don't have a play station or an X box – are they the same thing? - or a wii or a TV.
Every school holiday, I sort through piles of “stuff” and we give bags of clothes away to Meg, bags and boxes of clothes and books to St Vinnies.
So why has our shipping container been filled with 196 boxes of “stuff”? Why have we spent the last few weeks taking more carloads of “stuff” to St Vinnies, the dump, other people's houses? Why are we still left with so much “stuff”?
For the remainder of our stay in Brisbane, and for the first two months or so in the SUK, we needed to keep a certain amount of "stuff" with us.  Lydia was the most complicated, as she needs uniforms for school, ballet and two choirs and a trip to Canberra. The rest of us just need clothes for summer and for arrival in the English winter. Beyond that, I packed some special Christmas decorations which mean a lot to the kids (told you I was sentimental!), Christmas music we can't do without, both sheetwise and on CD, string quartet music I need for a couple of gigs, some recorders, as we won't have a piano to begin with. And I have my violin of course.
And I am left wondering why on earth we need those 196 other boxes and what the hell we are going to do with them in a house that's half the size of the one here?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Oh the joys

Was determined to keep up blog, but life been so busy.
Scrub, hoover, pack, go do concert, more scrubbing, hoovering, packing, oh no, where's the broom, has it been packed already, or is it merely hiding? Bother, I thought the box of rusty tools on the floor was for the dump, so chucked in the ancient, cheap-to-begin-with toaster – complete with one hundred years worth of dead crumbs, but it's all been packed up to take to England....will we now be charged $3000 for steam cleaning it?
Kids, getting so much older in so many ways, but delighting in the echoes of an emptying house, it hurts how much I love them at times.
Also hurts how much I love my dog, who is now John's dog – a dog shaped hole in my heart to join the cat shaped hole from last week. I loved the chickens, but not quite in the same way, so they are more like pimple holes on my heart.
BUT........important news – I have discovered cure for alcoholism. Drink from picnic wine glasses! Had a daring three whole glasses last night, felt completely drunk, slept the sleep of the wino, woke up to find that only half a bottle gone – and half of that was drunk by Rupert!
Also, good news – we have exchanged contracts on the house in the UK – which means that the crazy optimistic dream we had, of selling our house here before we left and having a house that we could move into when we arrived, is actually going to come true!!!!! (hopefully!) Of course, I might hate it, but to be honest, I really don't care. As long as the roof doesn't leak, and I can find a way of making coffee inside it, that's all I care about right now and if the kids have their iPods, they will be likewise fine.

Thursday, 6 November 2014


This last week has not been the best. 
I don't believe in fate. I really don't. The thought that stars or other matter have the remotest interest in what happens in my life, just doesn't make much sense to me.
But there are times when it does seem as though the fates are trying to tell me something. 
As anyone reading this blog may have guessed, I am not totally au fait with the idea of leaving Australia. Yes, there are times when I imagine soft green grass, morris dancing, pubs that smell of old wood and stale beer and banks of flowers; times when I think of dappled forest glades flooded with bluebells, the fact that James Ehnes if far more likely to appear in London than Brisbane; ties when I imagine strolling down cobblestoned streets and gazing at buildings that have History and Character and Beauty; there are times when I think of all these things - of my family and friends back in the Uk - and my heart glows at the thought of being back there.
And then I remember traffic queues at Sainsbury's, slipping on cobblestoned streets in the pouring rain, David Cameron, freezing cold winters, cramped houses with no swimming pools (yes, what poverty!) and my heart sinks. I look at my fat back lab and want to howl. I look at my three children - the eldest who has suddenly developed a social life after 15 years, the middle one who has enough drama in her daily life to furnish a Wagner Opera, the youngest, who is - most of the time - my little ray of sunshine - and I think about what lies ahead of them - learning to cope with getting up in the dark most of the year, learning to cope with grey skies most of the year, having to learn a new school system, the fact that the people who have known them all their lives are now going to be literally a world away - and my heart quails.
I look around at our lovely house, the swimming pool, the mango tree which is covered in mangoes, all of which will ripen after we've gone, all our beautiful friends and I wonder why on earth we are doing this?
And then we have a day like last Sunday, when I woke up to find that the chickens, Gwendolen and Dopiaza, had been slaughtered overnight, in spite of the fact that they were locked in their coop and that my beloved cat - the cat I have nursed through an amputated leg, tick bites, magpie attack, renal failure and depression, the cat who slept with me every night - was dead by the side of the road, presumably hit by a car. 
And now the thought of leaving this house is no longer so dreadful. To be honest, if it didn't mean saying goodbye to Guinny, I would leave tomorrow. If I believed in fate, I might even think that he/she may have played a hand in this, but then that would mean that she/he is not, after all, a very nice person, certainly not an animal lover!
Onwards and upwards, so they say. New horizons beckon.