Them new place feels.

We are coming up to two months in the new place since moving from Sydney to Brisbane over the Christmas period. And as usual, with a military move, nothing runs smoothly. The prepack and uplift in Sydney was pretty good, and we headed out on the drive up without any dramas. Doctor Who, our now senior guinea pig, survived the drive up and seemed to enjoy it. The kids had fun and it was an easy move up.

The down lift into the new house was quick. By mid afternoon we had all our belongings in and ready for us to start unpacking and sorting. This was the easiest, drama free move we have ever experienced. For me, growing up an Army brat, we had many a move with dramas – car breaking down, interesting accommodation stops (un-flushable poos in toilets, mounds of pubic hair in the shower drains, neighbouring guests playing the Lost Boys soundtrack on repeat as they sat outside and downed can after can of beer – just to mention a few), myself or one of my three brothers getting sick, my mum suffered hyperemesis gravidarum on our posting from Darwin to Sydney – she was so sick in the temporary accommodation in Sydney as we waited for our house to be ready for us to move into.

The first afternoon in the new place we went and picked Ripley and Dwight up from the pet resort where they had been enjoying their own little holiday as the rest of us drove up to Brisbane. Dwight was quite confident exploring the new home, for a cat he is very un-catlike. Ripley lost her cool when she saw her new massive back yard (our place in Sydney had a yard the size of a postage stamp – it was really small). So, to watch her take off and do zoomies around the big space was awesome. She trotted to the back door, tongue hanging out, tail wagging – a very happy German Shephard!
We had the house sorted out quick, and Mike and I were stoked at how smoothly this move had gone and how nicely we were settling into our new place. We had gone out and bought the school supplies, high-fiving each other at how great this was all turning out.

Then Ripley started scratching at her ears. She started shaking her head a lot. Her head then remained tilted. We took her to the vet where it was discovered she had a severe ear infection in both ears that would require her ears to be flushed out and treated. Okay, nothing too major. We booked her in for the day procedure and the week leading up to it she was on a course of steroids to help open her ear canals in preparation for the procedure. The morning of, I took her in and filled out the paperwork. The vet explained exactly what they would be doing and what the after care will be. Easy. They then took her into the surgery to get her ready and I went back home to wait out for the call to say she was ready to come back home. I got the call, but it wasn’t to say she was ready to come home. Whilst cleaning her right ear, the vet found a large haematoma that would require draining. Alright, drain away. Later that evening we were finally able to go and bring her back home. She was groggy but her ears were now clean, and her right ear had a collection of stents in them to help with the draining out of the haematoma. On the way out of the clinic, the nurse gave us a cone to use on Ripley if she started scratching at her ears – we didn’t want her to pop the stitches in her ear.

Turns out Ripley was the best patient; not once did she scratch at her ears. Dwight on the other hand was proving to be the difficult one. He was determined to get at Ripley’s stitched up ear, and this is where we put the cone to good use – not on Ripley, but we placed the cone over Dwight to contain him – stop him from trying to help clean out Ripley’s ears. It worked!

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The only way we could keep Dwight away from Ripley’s ear.

So, a minor blip on the road to settling in. No big deal. We moved onwards. The kids started school, and as expected there were tears and frustration at missing their friends and school from Sydney. To help them adjust, Mike took them over to a co-worker’s place for a swim in their pool and a barbecue lunch. The co-worker’s son is in the same class as Mish, and his daughter was attending the same high school as Tilly. I stayed at home in order to get the school lunch baking done and to catch up on an assignment. I was going to go out later that night to meet some other military wives, hoping to make some new friends.

I missed the dinner.

Instead I was sitting with Tilly and Mish at the ER waiting for Tilly to be seen.

Whilst at the barbecue lunch, Tilly had managed to face plant the pool wall when she swam right into it. When they walked through the door, I was greeted with my daughter sporting a massive purple honker on the middle of her face, followed close behind by Mishy, whose face had been char grilled as a result of not applying sunscreen. As I was grabbing ice packs, slathering aloe gel onto my son’s face, arguing with my daughter that she will be going to the hospital to have her nose checked out, I was gathering my handbag and googling the address of the local hospital. Less than a month in the new place and we were checking out the emergency department.

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Marcia Brady – Tilly channelled this look following face planting into the swimming pool wall.

Diagnosis: Soft tissue damage, and a slightly crooked nose that will need to be checked out by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist; we were cleared to head back home to rest. She had a night ahead of her of ice packs and Panadol. When we got home, I remembered that she had her school photos coming up that week too. I looked over at her, her mashed up nose, panda eyes, relaxing on the couch watching You Tube. Next to her was Mishy with a painful looking face – shiny from the layers of aloe gel I kept applying to stop his face from cooking.

Two days later, following our trip to the ER for Marcia Brady and El Scorcho, I sat with what was going to be my first of many coffees for the next few weeks, and watched my husband pack his gear into his car and head off on tasking. No sooner had he driven off, Ripley got up and walked over to the dining room and vomited.

Oh boy. Here we go…

I cleaned up the vomit and put Ripley outside where I then watched her. She wandered around the yard and then went and laid down on her bed. Maybe she overindulged in the kitty litter? Whilst she relaxed outside, I got the kids up ready for school. When I returned from school drop-off, I brought Ripley back inside. She seemed flat. Missing hubby? I offered her one of her favourite treats, she turned her head away and rested her chin on her paws. I called her over to the other side of the room and I noticed she seemed really slow to stand. This wasn’t right. I called the vet (who had only a week earlier taken the final stent and stitches from out of Ripley’s inner ear) and I explained what was happening. They booked her in for that afternoon. In the meantime, I washed her mouth out and thinking to myself could it be she has licked a cane toad? She was drinking water, but not enough.

By the time I got her to her appointment, she was flat. The vet was going to take her in for the afternoon and run bloods and to get her on a drip for hydration. Half an hour after admitting her, I got the call to say Ripley had pancreatitis. This is the first (and hopefully now the last) time this has happened, and my head was spinning. Of course, something like this would happen when my husband is interstate and I am in an area I am not familiar with. Ripley ended up spending two days in hospital undergoing treatment. By the Friday evening, despite her latest test showing her pancreas was still giving her grief, she was stable enough to come home for the weekend. She had a pain med patch on her back leg, and she was much brighter and excited to see us and be back at home than she was when we brought her into the clinic on the Wednesday.
My job over the weekend was to keep her fluids up and serve up several small portions of either boiled chicken breast or specialised dry dog food throughout the day and on Monday morning we would be back for another test, and if still positive, we would have to discuss further testing and examination by a specialist. My mind was trying to work out how I would juggle things if I had to drive across through Brisbane to the specialist with the kids in school – would I have to take them out of school for the day because of appointment/driving times being outside of school hours? I played nurse over that weekend, determined to get my best friend better. The thought of not having her kills me, and when she was in hospital, I felt lost without my side pup.

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Back at the vet – this time with pancreatitis.

Come the Monday morning, after I got the kids to school, Ripley and I were back at the vet for the next blood test. As I sat and waited for the vet and Ripley to return, my stomach was in knots. She had been doing so well over the weekend, I would be gutted if I couldn’t turn it around for her. Eventually Ripley and her vet returned, and the news was the best – NEGATIVE! We did it! We got her pancreas back down to normal levels. We could go home and get on with things – and with a specially modified diet. That afternoon she came with me to pick the kids up from school so she could give them the good news.

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So for the weekend leading up to the final blood test on the Monday, I had to serve up several small portions of boiled chicken and special dry food throughout the day for Ripley. Dwight was so incensed that his sister was getting “special treatment” he decided to protest – refusing to eat his “blah” food in order to get what Ripley was getting. So I had to make up a Dwight-serving (plate on the left) so he felt he wasn’t missing out on what poor Ripley had to eat (bowl on the right).

They say things happen in threes. Since moving in we have had ear surgery, busted nose and sunburn (which cleared up without blisters or peeling) and then pancreatitis. The kids and I have been housebound as Ripley recovered from her ear op and then pancreatitis, and the kids from their own injuries. We have not had a chance to get out and explore the area. This last weekend was the first weekend we were able to go out because Ripley was okay. Saturday, we checked out Springfield and enjoyed a nice long lunch, making the most of the slightly cooler weather that has come over. Yesterday (Sunday), we got up early to check out the local show ground market for breakfast and a scout about. The kids were happy to score a collection of 90’s era Yowie figurines. I enjoyed a fantastic coffee and stocked up on some soy melts from Violets Gifts and Treasures – as I type this I have Lolly Shoppe in the burner and the house smells like a candy store.


It finally feels like everything is now starting to settle (touch wood!) – the kids have made friends and are loving their new schools, and Ripley is back to normal. Dwight is still annoyed I am enforcing his diet, and Doctor Who shows no signs of slowing down despite his age. As for me, I am looking forward to eventually making friends and establishing myself.


This will be a good posting.

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A New Adventure for Team J – Coffs Harbour, NSW

So after a good nights rest in our lovely room at the Charlesworth Bay Beach Resort in Coffs Harbour, we were up early to embark on a full day of activities.

Coffs Harbour is one of the largest urban centres on the North Coast of New South Wales. Situated 540km north of Sydney and 390km south of Brisbane, Queensland Coffs Harbour is our favourite holiday spot to relax and unwind. It is probably most known for the tourist attraction and amusement park, the Big Banana – a massive banana, the first of Australia’s Big Things it was built in 1964 on a banana plantation. You can walk through the Big Banana, pose for photos out the front too. It is a popular item on the Aussie tourist to do list. The weather in Coffs is always lovely – even in winter, and there are plenty of accommodation options available.

Up and ready for the day ahead, we started off by grabbing breakfast (and a coffee for me) at the Coffs Central Shopping Centre. Whilst there, I popped in to some shops for some bits and pieces for the day’s activities, and Mike bought the kids a Play Station VR set for Christmas. Whilst walking about the shopping centre we came upon Santa who was handing out candy canes. Caffeine hit, new swimmers (bathing suit), sunscreen, batteries for Tilly’s camera and the first Christmas gift sorted, we set off to our first activity for the day – checking out the Clog Barn Holiday Park.

 

 

This is a cute little attraction and accommodation option, that Mike and I have stayed at previously (December 2004 on our first posting from Sydney to Townsville). Back then the accommodation was clean and comfortable and unique. This time, we took the kids in to walk through the clog shop and model Dutch village before grabbing an ice cream each from Big Oma’s Coffee House (the morning was warming up quite quickly). Whilst eating our ice creams we met a lovely little pup by the name of Katherine who was enjoying her breakfast next to her owner. She had finished her breakfast before him though – for a tiny dog she could eat like Flash Lightning! Meanwhile, her owner was enjoying his big breakfast serving from Big Oma’s and holding conversation with Tilly and Mish. The staff there were all lovely and super friendly. At certain times, they run a clog making demonstration – we were too early for that, but you can still check out the workshop and look at clogs that have been made and are available for sale.

From there the Team headed to Dolphin Marine Magic. This is a fantastic education centre for young and old alike. The team there run shows daily to educate visitors on marine life and the conservation and preservation of our oceans. We arrived in time to catch the dolphin presentation which had a cameo by the lovely sea lion Adelaide. The dolphins, Zippy and Bella flipped and splashed, jumped and called out to the audience. The children were all enthralled by the experience. After the presentation, everyone was invited to come down to the pool where Zippy and Bella were doing the rounds for belly rubs (the LOVE their belly rubs). If you have not had the opportunity to pat a dolphin, they are very soft and smooth. Round and round they went, lapping up the attention. Then it was off to look at the other animals. We hung around the pool for a while, watching Zippy and Bella swim and play. They would come up to the sides to look at people, checking everyone out. Sometimes they would grab one of their balls and push it to the side to who ever was standing there wanting them to play. Mish was one of the lucky ones to be chosen by Zippy to play fetch – and he absolutely loved every minute of it.

Whilst we were still with the dolphins, Mike had snuck off to organise for the kids to meet Ozzie – a great big and beautiful sea lion. Last time we visited the park in 2009, the kids had their photos taken with one of the seals, and here they were going to get to do it all again. Ozzie, as you can see in the photos is a great big beautiful sea puppy. The kids were smitten with him, getting the chance to give him pats, toss the ball with him and feed him. For the photos they decided to poke their tongues out instead of getting a fishy, whiskery smooch from Oz.

Following the meet and greet with Ozzie, we headed up to see the Little Blue Penguins get their lunch. Initially we thought it was to watch the handlers feed them, but they had it all set up and visitors were able to line up and feed the penguins. They were so funny to watch, huddled up waiting for the handler to open the gate. The little wings and tails wiggling in anticipation for the big bucket of fishies. A few of them tried to climb off the little platform to dive right into the feeding bucket, the handler would gently set them back on the platform. They were adorable little characters, and oh boy can they put away their food!

 

The whole experience at Dolphin Magic centres around conservation and preservation of these wonderful creatures and their habitat. They are running an awareness program called Experience. Discover. Act. You can become involved in this program by simply snapping a selfie of you out and about picking up rubbish and tag on your social media it to #EDADMM – in doing so, they hope to spread awareness of the plight our marine life are facing due to pollution.

 

Before we knew it, it was coming up to lunch time and we were heading over to the next attraction – The Big Banana.

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Tilly and Mish letting me take a nice “normal” photo of them…

I don’t think a visit to Coffs Harbour is complete without a visit to the Big Banana. It is a large amusement park, spread out through a banana plantation. Right up behind the Big Banana is the café where you can enjoy coffee, cold drinks, cakes, hot meals and frozen bananas. There is a kids arcade next to the café, and out behind is the ticket counter for the other activities that are on offer. You can choose from tours, theatre (4D experience is coming soon), mini golf, laser tag, tobogganing, and if you are brave enough, you can try the Racer Slide. There is also a water park too cool off in, a cheese shop (for blessed are the cheese makers!) which not only have all things cheese, they run cheese making workshops and have a selection of amazing handmade chocolates to choose from. There is also a candy and opal shop on site too. We bought tickets for the Racer Slide and the toboggan. First up, the Racer… Holy cow it is a big, long slide! The hike to get up to the top can rattle you if you are not a mountaineer, or just fit in general. Mish made it to the top, but upon looking down the slide he went pale and shaky and decided he wasn’t dare devil enough to give it a go. Mike went down the slide twice, I had one go and that was enough for me – self preservation kicked in as I felt my bum lift only so slightly off the slide. I didn’t see anything other than my life flash before my eyes as I screamed all the way down, clutching the carpet sack I was sitting on for dear life. Tilly on the other hand, first go and she was wild about it.

We gave her all the remaining tickets, and she would bolt up the steep incline, carpet sack over her shoulder – without breaking a sweat. She would then take her spot on one of the lanes and as soon as the light turned green, she was off like a shot, arms up in the air and whooping it up in adrenaline. Mike had over estimated our eagerness for the slide and as such had purchased a heap of tickets for it. So much so, that Tilly befriended two other young girls and was only too happy to share the remaining slide tickets with them (we didn’t mind, and we could see the girl’s parents were grateful for the chance to be able to get off their feet and have a cold drink and a rest whilst the kids wore themselves out).

Slide tickets finished, we headed up past the water park to the toboggan ride. Mish was apprehensive about it, but I managed to convince him to come with me on my toboggan. First round, he loved it – I put him in control of the brake, so he felt comfortable. Second go, he wanted to remain with me. The third round and he was ready to take the ride on his own and he and Tilly set off to do the toboggan track with the parentals watching on.

It was getting late in the day, so we wrapped up our visit to the Big Banana with a stop in at the cheese shop to sample some cheese and buy a box of handmade chocolates (yum!). We decided it was time to head back to the resort where we would finish the day with a swim in one of the three lagoon pools at the resort and then a wander down from the resort onto the beach for a spot of shell collecting. Unfortunately, we had to be on the road the next day to head to the next stop in our road trip, so the quiet swim and beach combing was a lovely way to finish up our fleeting visit.

Some other places we wanted to check out but didn’t get round to seeing was the Bunker Cartoon Gallery and the National Marine Science Centre. This just means that we absolutely must and will go back to Coffs!

To be continued…

We were also sad to learn of the passing of a wonderful man, Coffs Harbour local and Australian surfing legend Scott Dillion. We had the absolute honour of meeting him during our 2009 holiday when he was running the Legends Surf Museum. He passed away on the 12 December 18 at 90 years of age. I will always remember our meeting him – he absolutely adored the kids and took us through his museum, finishing with us all sitting on the porch and chatting and goofing around, and before we left, he had gifted us with an autographed poster. A very down to earth Aussie bloke. 

May he rest in peace.  

 

A New Adventure for Team J

Things are starting to settle down on what has been a month of big changes for our family. As I sit here typing this, we have just clocked up our first week in our new place. So, where will I begin? Last month was crazy. We were packing up our home in the lead up to our posting interstate, I was also trying to continue with my university study and working full time right up to our pre-pack day. Our daughter Tilly was closing the chapter on six years of Primary School, graduating year six and also saying goodbye to all her friends as she was getting her head around the fact that she will be starting her high school journey in another state, away from the friends she has made over the last four years of our posting to Sydney.

The day of her graduation was surreal – I could not link the Tilly standing next to me, holding her graduation certificate with the tiny Tilly who walked through the gates of the school on her first day of Prep, with such swagger and sass. Her school bag was bigger than her, and now she stands the same height as me, and is on the cusp of her teenage years. I sat through the graduation ceremony, in a daze, but holding it together. I cried when the Principal dismissed the year six students from the hall “for the very last time.” The teachers were all wiping away tears…so were all the other mums in the hall.

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Tilly on her first day of school with her cousin Em and little brother Mish (2012) to last month’s graduation with her dad Mike and little brother Mish

That night she had her formal, so we made a big fuss about it for her. She had picked out her outfit two weeks earlier and now she was excitedly getting dressed. I let her wear a little mascara and a touch of tinted lip gloss. When she came out of her room, myself, Mike and Mish all were caught off guard by just how grown up she looked. The little Prep Tilly was well and truly gone. She was driven to her formal in a Corvette –owned by my boss’ husband. Tilly loved it, she could not stop talking about how great the car sounded and all the attention it got when she pulled up the front of the venue. The boys in her class were pretty impressed by her ride.

All the year six kids looked so different now. Like young adults, they were ready for a night of good food, dancing and cake. Parents were not allowed, we had to go off and do our own thing, and this was just for the kids. Mike, Mish and I enjoyed a dinner with some friends before we went in to get some quick photos, have a dance with the kids and then head home. It was a fantastic night for Tilly – she had so much fun partying with all her friends. I exchanged numbers with other mum’s so our kids can all stay in touch. Then that was it.

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Last day of school.

The day of the removal up lift was the kids last day at school. They had their shirts signed by friends and teachers, exchanged Christmas gifts and cards with friends and come the final bell, it was hugs and final goodbyes. Tears and more hugs. I grew up an Army kid and we moved every two years. I hate this part of the life – it never gets easier and I felt so sad for my kids and their friends.

That was that. The next morning the cars were packed, we checked out of the hotel and we started our journey to the next posting. Dwight our cat and Ripley our dog were already in the pet resort in our gaining location of Brisbane. They were flown up the day before the up lift. From all accounts of the pet transport company and the pet resort, they were doing just fine. Our guinea pig, Doctor Who was going to travel up with us – he rode shotgun in Mike’s car. Doctor is 5, almost 6 years old, so in guinea pig years, he is a little old man. He handled the trip really well though. We had a comfy travel crate for him and a portable pen for the hotel stays.

The drive out of Sydney was surprisingly really smooth considering we were heading out on the very first day of school holidays. Tilly and Mish rode in my car and we had it stocked with lots of snacks, cold drinks and audio books – the kids LOVE the Tree House series by Andy Griffith and Terry Denton. We were on the first leg to Brisbane – Sydney to Coffs Harbour. We love Coffs, it is our favourite little family get away spot. So we were all pretty excited to be going back there for a two day mini-vacation. By 3pm that day we arrived in Coffs and checked into Charlesworth Bay Beach Resort. We quickly unpacked and set up Doctor by the big double doors so the cool ocean breeze could cool him down. No sooner had we unpacked, I was running the kids down to the little beach – the very first beach Mish was taken to when he was seven months old (we had stayed at this resort back in 2009 when we had a little family vacation upon Mike’s return from deployment). It was really surreal watching him running into the waves. Last time he was at this beach he was not too thrilled by it.

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We finished off the long day with Thai from a great little place called Memory Thai (Tilly highly recommends the Pad Thai and Mish and I love the Yellow Curry).

To be continued…

 

 

I am still here!!!

Me: I’m going to sit down this morning and catch up on some writing.

Dwight: What’s that? You’re going to feed me?

Me: No. You have already had two packets. I am going to do my wri…

Dwight parks his crunchy cat butt down, right on my laptop keypad and he stares straight at me.

Dwight: What’s that? You’re going to feed me?

Before I can push him away I hear a loud BANG from the lounge room. I run in to see Mike is playing the PS VR, twirling about with his “gun”. He stuck it up in the air right into the ceiling fan WHICH WAS ON!

I have turned the lounge room ceiling fan off for Captain Oblivious’ safety, made it clear to Dwight he is not getting more food, fixed breakfast for Mish while he gave me a run down on Xenomorph aliens; now I just want to sit and write.

Tilly is still passed out in bed. She is my favourite human in this house right now.

The Latest Fad…

Mish has a new obsession. Aliens, or to be more specific, Alien. It is all I hear about now. Friday night whilst trying to piece together my critical reflection piece for my uni subject, I was given the run down of the entire Alien franchise and cost comparisons of Alien figurines. I am pretty sure the odd reference to a xenomorph has made it’s way into my now already submitted piece. 😖

Yesterday the discussion continued as I dropped Mike off to meet up with his coworkers, did a quick grocery shop, and then tried to catch up on tutorials. Aliens, aliens, aliens. I could not catch a break – even when I went to the bathroom, Mish stood outside the door and demonstrated his Alien and Predator sounds. Nice. Meanwhile, Mike was partying up on a boat in the Sydney Harbour and Tilly had barricaded herself in her room to avoid the Aliens obsessed brother of hers.

It was relentless. By the time he went to bed my brain went into survival mode and shut down. Anything I had wanted to work on that day was now not going to happen because my brain could only muster enough cells to enable me to sit and stare at the tv as The Christmas Prince movie played (don’t ask me what it was about, I just saw blobs of colours and spent the movie preparing to scream at the first sight of a xenomorph).

I wake early this morning to fix myself a coffee and to sit and listen to some podcasts in peace and quiet as the family sleep in. I am excited. A break! I let Ripley out (the dog, not the Alien killer) and walk into the lounge with my cup of coffee. My eyes on my phone with the first podcast up and ready to play. Then I saw him. Mish was up. Bright eyed and sitting on the couch, looking at me. I just about died.

Me: “uh…good morning son.”
Mish: “good morning mum.”

I pause and wait for it… nothing…

Me: “would you like some breakfast?”
Mish: “yes please.”

Breakfast made, I sit down with my coffee. I turn the podcast app off because I know my fantasy of alone time whilst still coherent, just like my fantasy of Prince Harry leaving Meghan Markle for me, is never going to happen.

He swallows his first mouthful of cornflakes…

“Mum did you know that the protomorph is bigger than the xenomorph? I also think my request for a twenty nine, ninety five dollar Alien figure is more reasonable than Tilly’s request for the larger Queen Alien figure which retails for over one hundred dollars. Hey, do you know where the eyes are situated on the Alien’s head? Do you know the speed of which the Alien can project out it’s second mouth? Like, this fast…” he swings his arm out to demonstrate.

Oh boy. It is going to be another long day for me…

 

Cat on a cold patio roof.

IMG_4700Anyone who has a cat will tell you that they are experts when it comes to psychological warfare. Whilst you crave their love and attention (because just look at them! Fluffy, purring balls of cute!), they treat you with contempt, tolerating you long enough to provide belly rubs and food on their terms. They often call the shots in the relationship. They can do what they want – they are independent (ish). This is my cat Dwight Kat Shrute. A big, fat, four year old tabby, who only seeks us out for a belly rub, food or to sleep on our legs at night when we fall asleep. He is an indoor cat, his only foray out of the house is when he darts into the garage as we go in and out in the course of putting our washing through the dryer. He will run in, flop on the concrete and then proceeds to roll all over the floor. He has a nosey through the tools and bits and pieces that we have stored in the garage. If we are not quick enough, he will even spring up into the dryer (often on top of the clean clothes fresh out from the washing machine). When he gets in the dryer, he then seems to puff himself up so as to make it hard for us to remove him from the dryer.

Whilst he likes to sit by the window and watch the birds outside, he prefers to be inside where he gets the house, great food and the dryer. We were proud that our cat shunned the great outdoors – look at our cat, being responsible and not out there killing native wildlife. What a great cat we have.

You know sometimes it is bad to get complacent…

Last month my parents were visiting from interstate. My husband and I had turned our young son’s bedroom into the guest room and Mish got to camp out in the home office. In preparing his bedroom for my parents to sleep in, I noticed that the window flyscreen had fallen out and onto the patio roof. We would sort that out later (my dad actually fixed it for us), but at the time we were not too worried as the window was fitted with a safety lock, so the window could only be slid open no more than a gap of 12cm. My husband slid the window open to let fresh air into the room, and I made the comment “maybe we should keep the bedroom door closed whilst the window is open. I don’t want Dwight to get out.” Mike looked at me as if I had two heads, “what? Really? No, he won’t fit through that tiny gap. Look at him, the cat is a tank! Too fat to make that little gap. Plus, he has never shown an interest in getting out. Pffft!” Still, I insisted that the room remained closed off for as long as the window was open.

Later that evening my parents arrived and we spent the night catching up on everything over dinner. The kids were loving being with their Nanny and Poppy. Ripley, our dog, remembered my dad from the last visit and she was all over him like Velcro (he is the bringer of cookies and bones). Our guinea pig, Doctor Who sat in his hutch and kept staring at mum – I believe it was because he recognised a fellow vegan in my mum. Dwight thundered down the stairs and into the lounge. He stopped and stared at us all before going over and giving Ripley a quick cat bath. They had a play fight and Dwight sat on his little armchair and watched us all for a few minutes before heading in to the kitchen for his dinner.

As the night wore on, we decided it was time to all head off to bed. I got Tilly and Mish sorted and tucked up in their beds. My parents changed and settled down in the guest room. Mike went into the study to play a quick game of warships on his computer, whilst I headed back downstairs to do a final check of the doors and windows. As I walked around downstairs I realised that I had not seen Dwight since he wandered out of the lounge room hours earlier. Usually he comes back downstairs to circle me in the hopes I will give him an extra packet of food before bed. I called out for him. Nothing. I searched all of the downstairs, behind furniture. No cat. I went into the garage on the chance that maybe he snuck in as I was changing the laundry over in the dryer. I poked about the tools and boxes. No cat. I turned and looked at the dryer which was thumping away. My heart froze. No! Did he jump in the dryer without me realising? Surely not! Oh my GOD! With my heart pounding and hands trembling, I paused the dryer and opened the door. The warm air rushed out at me. I sniffed, relieved that all I could smell was warm, clean sheets and not singed fur. I began to take the sheets out of the dryer and let out a huge sigh of relief when I saw that Dwight was not in the dryer.

Alright, so not downstairs, he must be in his usual spot – under my bed. I run upstairs and into my bedroom where I called out to him before dropping to my hands and knees to look under the bedframe. He was not there. Home office – nope. Tilly’s room – nope. Mish’s (guest) room – nope. I was getting annoyed. Where was this bloody cat? Mike was not concerned. He continued his computer game, convinced the cat would appear out of thin air as cats so often do. My parents though were just as bewildered as I was as to where he could be, and they came out to help me look for him. We did another search of the house to no avail. The only thing left would be outside. But how? Oh my God, the WINDOW! Mike was still incredulous of my theory that Dwight had managed to slip into the room and squish himself through a 12cm gap and out to freedom.

Mum and I went out to the backyard whilst dad looked out the bedroom window onto the patio roof. He was not on the roof, not in the backyard. Maybe he jumped across to the neighbours’ patio which winds around to a big garden with trees. From there he would climb down and into another yard. I had a vision of my big fat cat wandering around the pool in the yard behind our home. What if he got down, but could not get back up over the fence to come home? I came in to see that Mike had decided to join the search party and had gone out the front to see if he could find this cat of ours. He shook his head at mum and I. So we went out to look for ourselves. I crawled around the communal driveway, peeking under parked cars. Mum poked about in the garden beds. We make clicking and cooing sounds. God knows what the neighbours made of it – two women outside rummaging through the gardens, making weird sounds – at twelve o’clock at night. It was freezing and I began to get upset and angry that Dwight could do this to me. I bought him his favourite food earlier that day, I let him shred my arm as he let me rub his belly, and now he has the audacity to leave me. Break up with me without as much as a post-it-note (a little Sex and the City reference there).

As I stood by the trees, feeling hopeless, rejected and pissed off because it was freezing cold and I was no doubt cementing my neighbours opinion of me as being a bit odd, I heard a rustling. I looked up into the branches and in the dim light I could make out a grey, furry body and a little face with big black eyes and twitching whiskers. “Dwight!” I gasped. Mum heard me and came running over to where I stood. “Oh, not Dwight. Just a possum.” As it sat in the tree peering down at mum and I, we stood with arms outstretched, wriggling our fingers to try and coax it down so we could pat it. Looking back, not a smart move on our part as mum and I have shit night vision, so for all we know, we could have been offering our arms and fingers to a large rabid rat. We were none the wiser.

Possum

Not the possum mum and I encountered (and tried to adopt), but looks exactly like it (image: free stock).

 

It was no use. The possum/rat grew bored with us and climbed over the fence. Mum and I were freezing, we both realised we were out walking around on the cold concrete barefoot. We had to go back inside, there was nothing more we could do. Dwight was gone. Inside, mum and I decided we would camp out in the lounge room so we would hear Dwight if he returned. Mike and Dad did a final look out the upstairs windows overlooking the patio roof, but Dwight was nowhere to be seen. Soon the house was quiet. Kids, Mike and Dad were sound asleep. Mum and I sat up in the lounge room, mum offered me words of comfort. She assured me that Dwight would come back home. If someone found him, they would help him because he is such a lovely cat. We could check with the vet and council in the morning to see if he had been brought in. “He will come home Jassie. I know he will.” In my head I was seeing him being skittled by a car – we are surrounded on all sides by main roads. I saw him being attacked by a dog – he has grown up with our Ripley, but she is such a dope of a love pupper, she would never hurt a fly. I saw him being picked up by a stranger and taken in as their new cat.

*With the help of my mum and  my brother James’ artistic skills, these were my picks for the Lost Cat posters for Dwight.

I was woken around 2.30 am by Ripley sneaking over to Dwight’s food bowl and scoffing the cat treats I had put in the bowl the night before. She was quite loud (she can’t do stealth). I grumbled at her to get out of it. The sound of Ripley eating the cat food carried up the stairs and woke up my dad who came downstairs to check on mum and I. When he returned upstairs to his room, he heard a rage carrying on outside the window. Next minute he runs back down to mum and me, excitedly informing us he had found Dwight. He was outside the bedroom window on the patio roof! Mum and I leapt up and into action. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a tin of cat food and a sachet of diet shake (thought it was a pouch of cat food). I handed the tin to mum and she grabbed a fork and ran out into the backyard and proceeded to tap on the side of the tin, calling out for Dwight. I ran back up the stairs with dad, where he shone his torch out the window. There was our tank of a cat, Dwight Kat Shrute, sitting there like Jack Nicholson in the final scene of The Shining, glaring at us, it was clear to see he was pissed off with being stuck on the patio roof. Dad tried to coax him over to the window, but Dwight sat and stared at him. I held out the diet shake packet and shook it. Dwight looked offended – he is quite sensitive about his weight apparently.

The Shining

Jack Nicholson kindly re-enacts Dwight’s patio roof discovery scene (stephenking.wikia.com)

 

I then ran into my bedroom to wake up Mike (and I also needed to pee). As he staggered toward me, I quickly informed him “cat is on the roof!” and then I threw the packet of diet shake at his face and bolted into the bathroom. When I finished, I opened the bathroom door to see Mike still standing there holding the packet of diet shake and looking offended – he is quite sensitive about his weight apparently. I explained the packet was for him to shake at the cat, who is almost frozen on the roof. Mike, in his still sleep foggy and offended state could not figure out how the cat got on the roof. “The PATIO ROOF!” I said, and then ran out of our room to head downstairs and out into the yard where mum was still out there, in her pyjamas, barefoot on the cold grass, hopping from one foot to the other, tapping the tin and calling out to Dwight “Dwighty!” *ting, ting, ting* “Dwighty boy!” *ting, ting, ting*.

Dwight let out a really loud and long howl of outrage. Mike had now joined mum and me with a ladder. He set it up and dad steadied it as I climbed up to see Dwight. Mike had gone back upstairs to the window. One of us would get him down. I held out my hands and softly called out to Dwight. He sat, like a big hairy lump and glared at me. He would not budge. Instead he let out another really loud howl. Oh my God our poor neighbours! Mike leaned out the window, he called out to Dwight. Dwight looked at Mike and then back over to me. He wasn’t moving. By now I was getting really impatient and grumbled at the cat “Dwight you fucking womble, get off the roof!”

Meanwhile, Mike was now dangling precariously out over the windows edge, arms outstretched. Dwight finally, FINALLY got up and moved to Mike and for a moment we held our collective breath as Dwight appeared to then hesitate just out of Mike’s grasp. He seemed to be contemplating the neighbours patio roof, and I was waiting to see Mike lose his balance, tip out and over the window and slide on his belly down and over the edge of the patio roof, where he would land in a crumpled heap in the garden bed below; I would have laughed out loud at this thought if I was not cold and tired and desperate to get the cat back in the house.

Dwight moved closer to Mike, however his eyes remained firmly locked on the neighbours’ patio. Just as it looked like he would do the bolt, Mike swooped down and grabbed him and quick as lightening, pulled the cat back inside. Hurrah! Dad, mum and I ran inside and we greeted Mike as he came downstairs with Dwight balled up in his arms. The cat was freezing to the touch, and we were all relieved that we found the shit head and he was back indoors where he belonged after being out on the roof for a good couple of hours.

Since then, we came to the conclusion that Dwight was quite happy outside, it was only when he heard Ripley eating his food that sent him into a panic and he began making noise to come back in. Following his adventure, he spent the next few days hiding under our bed. He has not set paw back outside, obviously for fear of Ripley eating his food on him.

Lesson of the story? I was right, Mike was wrong. I’m gonna sing the I Was Right song! Oh, and our cat is a dick (but we love him!)

 

Until next time!

 

Jasmine x

A Haunting in the Hawkesbury

 

It was late 2008, during a Friday luncheon at the oldest hotel in Australia, the Macquarie Arms Hotel in Windsor, NSW; when my daughter Tilly (who was two years old at the time) had an encounter with one of the hotel’s residents – of the paranormal kind. But, before I go any further Dear Reader, I will first go into a brief history of the Macquarie Arms Hotel…

 

In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie had granted land to emancipated convict Richard Fitzgerald. The instruction given to Mr Fitzgerald by Governor Macquarie was for him to build a two-story hotel that would service the town of Windsor and provide accommodation to passing gentry. Mr Fitzgerald set to work, and in 1818 the Macquarie Arms was opened to the public. The hotel was also known as the Royal Hotel (1872-1900) and in its early years was occupied by the 73rd Regiment Red Coat Soldiers – who lived in the upper levels while down in the cellar, the convicts lived. The convicts managed to secure themselves access to rum, smuggling it up from the banks of the Hawkesbury River through the aptly named “Rum Smugglers Tunnels” to keep themselves merry and warm whilst living in the cellar.

Later, the Macquarie Arms would become a private residence before reverting back into a hotel.

With such longevity, it goes without saying that the hotel has a life within it. Tales of ghosts are inevitable in a place so old and so worn as the Macquarie Arms. From reports of seeing soldiers on the upper levels, to run-ins down in the cellar with convict brothers Richard and Fitzpatrick, who met an explosive demise in the cellar thanks to an incorrect mix of chemicals in their endeavour to make rum. Then there are the stories of little Mary who lived in the main bedroom on the second floor and at seven years of age, had perished in a fire that had trapped her on the upper floor of the hotel.

Back to late 2008 and the luncheon. I had been to the Macquarie Arms a few times prior to getting married and having children, but this was the first time going there with our daughter. At the time I was also pregnant with our son Mish, and as a stay at home mum with a rambunctious toddler and another bub on the way, I was looking forward to eating a meal that I had not prepared, and spending time in the company of other adults. I love the Macquarie Arms Hotel, as I walked through the gate I looked down at the well-worn steps (it was the last time I was able to see my feet and the ground beneath me before the big belly swell) and found myself wondering about all the people that had stepped through over the 190 years the hotel had been standing. Tilly, holding my hand, leapt up over the big step with ease and she began to try and wrestle herself free of my grip, wanting to march right through the front entrance on her own.

Stepping through the entrance, Tilly and I stood and waited for my husband to arrive. Whilst waiting, I looked at the lunch time menu deciding I would have one of everything (what? I was eating for two!) and when I looked down at Tilly to ask her what she would like from the children’s menu, I found her engaged in chatter with someone off to our right in the dining room. She was smiling, waving and saying “Hi! My name is Tilly!” She would wave again and let out a giggle. She then put her little hand over her eyes and went “peek-a-boo!” Hmmmm…okay. I sidled back so I could see into the dining room to see who she was talking to. I couldn’t see anyone there. I walked over, holding Tilly’s hand and stood in the doorway of the dining room. It was empty save for tables and chairs. Tilly was still chatting away to someone…something…

“Imaginary friend” I thought as my husband arrived and we proceeded upstairs and onto the balcony that faced over towards the Hawkesbury River.

Tilly and I were seated on the end of the table closest to the doorway into the hotel. We were facing the direction toward the far end of the balcony and the river. Tilly, in her high chair looked about and then her gaze settled on the far corner of the balcony. She smiled and immediately began waving and saying “Hello! Hello again man!” I followed her gaze and the corner was empty. I wanted in on this, so I asked her who she was talking to. “That man” she said, pointing over to the corner. “What man?” I asked, the hairs on my arms began to stand up. “The man there in the red coat. See?” No, I didn’t, I didn’t see, couldn’t see, but it did not mean that something was not there. Her face told me that there was something, someone standing right there, and they too were interacting with her.

Then as lunch was served, Tilly, who had been happily chatting away to the “man in the red coat” suddenly waved in the direction of the corner and said “bye-bye!” and that was it. She turned her attention to her food and made a stellar mess of the kid’s serving of spaghetti bolognaise, turning herself orange and smelling of tomato sauce. Over lunch, I quietly informed my husband, who has a very weak disposition when it comes to all things spooky of what had just transpired, and he instead chose to cling to the hope it was just an imaginary friend and she was just being a typical toddler. I decided to think of it as that way too, until it came to her afternoon nap when we got home from the lunch. As I sat on the side of her bed patting her to sleep, she sleepily said; “He was a soldier…” and with that she rolled over and was sound asleep.

BOOM! (or should that be BOOOOO!) Paranormal activity right there!

Fast forward to last Friday evening where after spending all day cooped up in my home office working, decided to drag the kids out and head into Windsor to stock up on candy from the lolly shop and maybe grab some dinner whilst in town. Satisfied with our candy stockpile, we wandered down in the direction of the restaurants that sit adjacent from the Hawkesbury River. We were intending on having stir-fry, but as we approached, I found myself looking across the road at the Macquarie Arms Hotel. I had not been there since that lunch in 2008 and I knew that we had to go there for dinner instead. The kids were immediately sold on the proposal – they know all too well of Tilly’s encounter and the history of the hotel, and they were now hoping to see if the soldier or one of the other ghostly occupants would make themselves known over a chicken schnitzel, fish and chips and a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise, washed down with a few glasses of lemon squash (lemonade for my dear overseas readers) while seated in the exact same place we were sitting in back in 2008.

 

Unfortunately for whatever reason, the ghosties did not feel in the mood to join us for dinner – however this did not stop those of us alive from engaging in a discussion on all things paranormal in the Hawkesbury region. I was telling the kids about other stories I have read regarding the paranormal activities in this area – and there are plenty of stories and first (second, third… ) hand accounts available on line should you wish to investigate it further (I have provided some links on the Hawkesbury region and paranormal accounts for your further reading pleasure).

Although we were stood up by the spirits, I did take the opportunity to take some photos of the upper level of this beautiful building. I will be honest – I was hoping to capture a flash of a human shape or an orb, but no luck (I did get the tip of my shoe in the photo of the staircase, but that does not count). I will however, in the near future be looking at going on a local history/ghost tour of Windsor so you just may never know what I will see then… I will keep you all posted!

Jasmine x

IMG_4738

Sunset over the Hawkesbury River

*All photos are mine, and were taken using my trusty old iPhone 6S Plus – JJ

Links for further reading:

http://www.macquariearms.com.au/history/

http://www.discoverthehawkesbury.com.au/heritage/heritage-trails

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85930517

https://www.hawkesburygazette.com.au/story/3905753/the-ghost-of-the-regent/

http://unexplainedaustralia.com/21-ghosts-hauntings/68-wisemans-ferry-ghosts