Wednesday, 20 February 2013

(en)rolling along ...

Scenes from Vaughan's year of Distance Education
We collect the keys for our new home/life on Thursday.  It will also be Vaughan's first day at his new school.  He has already had a sneak preview because we visited briefly on the pupil-free first day of term, just after our initial inspection of the house.

I'm not sure what appealed the most, the small-size school, the three resident cats or the classroom axolotls and fish! 

In any case while all family members waited impatiently for news of our rental application, Vaughan was just as keen to hear whether we "got the school", so there were beaming grins all round when both verdicts were positive.  Given his excitement over "getting" the local small school, we are hopeful our Young Master re-joins the classroom in super-smooth fashion.

It is fair to say his previous traditional school experience was not positive.  As a result, throughout the greater part of 2012, Vaughan studied at home under my supervision.  We had already been doing "School of Hamby" for several months when our enrolment with Sydney Distance Education Primary School was effected in May.

Some of Vaughan's "expressive, original artworks"!
Our work-sets were delivered by post, with support documents on flash drive.  Vaughan's teacher was always on hand for guidance and we looked forward to receiving his comments (and cartoons!) on marked work.

Being Vaughan's supervisor this past year has been an interesting learning experience.  There were many highlights, which included being VIP guests at the special Book Week author presentations hosted by Lake Macquarie and Newcastle libraries.  

We definitely appreciated being able to augment the formal curriculum with frequent "excursions" to a number of wildlife parks and zoos as well as the Australian Museum. 

Distance education definitely agreed with Vaughan.  He received a number of merit certificates throughout 2012 - as well as a Principal's Award for his wonderful collage picture book, "The Sleepy Swamp Turtle".   His end-of-year report was "highly satisfactory" with "high achievement" in both English and Mathematics - and many positive comments for his other subjects.  As a parent it was heartening to read of his progress as a "motivated learner" and know that my supervisory efforts had contributed to his excellent results.

As much we have largely enjoyed "School of Hamby" together, it is time for Vaughan to (en)roll along and rejoin the traditional classroom.  Fingers crossed the "getting" is good!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Our Riverless Cottage!

5 acres of potential!
Vaughan and I have been watching a lot of "The River Cottage" series lately.

It is a sign of Hugh's influence that our vegie-phobic Young Master actually sampled a spoonful of miso soup (before rejecting it) and ate half a snow pea last week!

I know.  It isn't much.  But it's definitely a tiny dint in his "nothing green" philosophy. 

I'm hoping that if Vaughan becomes my gardening assistant, he will be tempted to try the fruits (and vegetables) of our labours.  Of course, I have fingers crossed that our efforts actually produce edible temptations!  I am a very good armchair gardener and have enjoyed watching Gardening Australia and similar programs over the years.  However, my practical gardening experience is fairly modest.  In the past I have successfully grown cherry tomatoes and various herbs - in pots, about 1000km further north in a different climate-zone. 

Although there are a number of fruit trees growing near the house, I'm not sure there has previously been a vegie garden.  If there was at some stage, it is long gone.  We will be starting from scratch - and actually starting will be one of the most important steps. 

We pick up the keys to our new home on Thursday.  Meanwhile I am researching gardening methods and possibilities - and telling myself that gardening isn't rocket science (unless we decide to plant rocket)! 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Caravan capers!

Caravan front  (interior views)
Last week was definitely a big one - as well as Vaughan's dental operation on Monday and signing the lease for our new home on Tuesday, we bought a caravan yesterday! 

The van is unregistered, which isn't an issue as we don't intend to use it for touring - well, not yet anyway (though we are tempted)!  For now, we'll stick to our original plan of using it to create an instant house extension for Erin.

In case you might be thinking we flaunted the rules by towing the van without registration, we purchased a permit from VicRoads (for the bargain price of $21.30) which grants us permission to tow all round the countryside for the next month!

Caravan rear (interior views)
We are well pleased with our purchase.

The caravan is perfectly serviceable as is but will be given a mini-makeover with new curtains and upholstery, when we get a chance to measure up and purchase suitable fabric (or praps raid my stash once our stored stuff arrives on site)!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

She'll be apples (and peaches, pears and figs)!

We've had a huge week - and it's only Wednesday!

After all my financial wizardry on Monday, Vaughan's dental operation yesterday was quite successful. Some of the expected work was not necessary, which obviously was a much better outcome for our boy (and our bank balance).

He is recovering well and quite keen to show of his new "armour-plated", "Jack Sparrow" teeth!

In normal circumstances we may have achieved some "school" today (Vaughan is still enrolled with Sydney School of Distance Education) but instead Nick and I walked up to our local post office first this morning to obtain our money orders for bond and one month's rent. There were a few moments of angst when the postal worker suggested there may be a daily account limit for such transactions but all processed smoothly and we headed out of the city shortly afterward.

After signing the lease, Nick sought permission to go onto the property and walk around to establish the best position for a storage container. He has been making enquiries about hiring one but they can be delivered in a few different ways (which impacts on cost), depending where on the site you want them - so the walk-around was good for sorting that out.

While Nick was pondering possible locations, the rest of us were walking around - counting fruit tree varieties and just breathing deeply of the country air, which smelled wonderful!

We had previously spotted several apple trees, a couple of pear trees and perhaps a peach/nectarine. Vaughan is particularly chuffed with today's discovery of a mulberry tree - because one of his friends gave him a collection of silk worm eggs prior to our departure from Summerland Point!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Love it when a plan comes together!

Our neighbouring cows and countryside ...
We've had a huge day here. I rang a local paediatric dental clinic this morning at 9am and was able to secure an appointment for Vaughan at 10:30am. Everything went a bit crazy after that.

Vaughan is booked for day surgery tomorrow. There was a small mountain of paperwork involved in securing his admission. Not to mention some intricate juggling of finances..

At some time amid the afternoon madness, Nick rang to check whether any verdict had been reached regarding our rental application - and was advised we were successful!

As welcome as this news was, it necessitated more calculations and financial wizardry. Given Vaughan's procedure, we have organised to sign all the lease documents on Wednesday morning (rather than tomorrow as the agent suggested). For obvious reasons, we've been a bit (or a lot) preoccupied today but I'm sure a more suitable level of excitement will kick in soon.

Our tenancy will commence later in February so we have a few more weeks of serviced apartment living - and dining out. I think we are all keen to move on though. The house is three bedrooms on 5 acres. There are several existing fruit trees on the property, including a fig "bush". (I've been researching fig jam recipes in preparation. I'm good, just ask me)!

There is talk of chookies - and bees. Vaughan has plans of stalking our resident rabbits as a catch and release exercise. Nick is more keen to emulate Elmer Fudd (the cartoon character, not our truck)!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

4-Star Camping!

In the lead-up to 5 December (when both destination/direction were still unresolved) there were many half-serious jokes about us going to live in the forest.  Of course, Vaughan quite liked the idea!

As D-day loomed closer with no solution evident, talk of forest camping became more serious and some discussion had commenced regarding a separate tent for the cats. ( I guess that would have been a kit tent)?!

Finally, barely two weeks before our exit date, we received confirmation of a three-month temporary accommodation booking in Melbourne (part of Nick's relocation package, though his initial contract was only delivered two days before our departure).

As you can imagine, life in a serviced apartment is vastly different to free-camping in the forest! 

Although most of our belongings are in storage we have more "stuff" than usual hotel guests, so on Tuesdays and Fridays there is a bit of a scramble to clear some space for the cleaners.  Even so, they left a note for Erin on top of a pile of clean sheets because they "could not arrange this sheet" (due to all the stuff over her bed)!

Caged Cats! (16 December 2012)

Nick's relocation package includes three month's  accommodation for our family with various other generous benefits. 

Unfortunately our apartment is a pet-free zone, so Oscar and Sunny (pictured at left) and Keegan (Erin's rainbow lorikeet) are enjoying a holiday also, staying out-of-town with family.  They are being very well looked after - spending more time outside than behind bars!

Indeed they may not be keen to come home, particularly Sunny who has been hand-fed chicken tidbits to tempt his appetite! 

Another long road (6 December 2012)

After sleeping in a bit, we had breakfast and packed up the menagerie - then were on the road again just after 9am. 

The distance from Forest Hill to Melbourne is about 450km, so it was another long drive but we had most of the day to do it in - and weren't nearly so tired starting out.

There wasn't much time for sight-seeing. We drove through some lovely country though ...

We probably did more than 450km as we called in to visit family on the outskirts of Melbourne when we arrived in the early evening.  We were made very welcome as there was a roast dinner waiting for us.  We spent several hours chatting, which meant we were driving through the city in the dark and arrived at our apartment about 9:40pm or similar, to unpack and start settling into what would be our temporary home for the next few months.

"Fighting gear"! (5 December 2012)

The sign had been dimly lit when we arrived in darkness!
I cannot describe how relieved I was to finally glimpse this sign in the darkness when we pulled into our overnight accommodation shortly before 10:00pm - and moments before the manager shut up the office.

He directed us into parking spaces, not unlike an airport groundsman gesturing pilots to steer their planes around the tarmac!

Once parked, he gave us a quick tour of the cabin in heavily colloquial language - indicating the "nuke machine" (microwave), "fighting gear" (cutlery), "idiot box remote" (TV controls) and "other crap" (pots and cooking utensils)!  There was more room than expected but the best feature was that pets were welcome - and the cats soon made themselves comfortable.

We'd eaten various junk food en route, so I was happy to have a cup of tea on arrival while Nick cooked some steak and simple frozen vegies for himself and Erin.  Vaughan showered and then settled in for a couple more chapters of "The Wizard of Oz" and was very quickly in bed and asleep afterward. 

It wasn't much longer before I retired also.  After 10 nights sleeping on our air bed, I thoroughly appreciated a proper mattress that night - and a sleep-in till 8:00am!

Walk the cat! (5 December 2012)

As you can imagine, there were many last-minute preparations prior to departure.  One had been to purchase a harness and leash for Oscar - to prevent accident or escape during roadside rest stops.

Oscar wasn't being given preferential treatment.  Sunny is far more a scaredy cat (and not particularly mobile) so he was not considered in need of restraint.

In fact at our first stop, he quickly scuttled back inside his enclosure when taken out for a stretch!

We weren't greatly surprised by Sunny's wimpiness but we were a little taken aback that Oscar responded so well to his lead.

Well, he was fine to walk where he wanted to go at least!
Nick had booked us into a pet-friendly cabin just short of Wagga Wagga.

It is worth noting that with so much else going on, I did not enquire as to the overall distance to Wagga until much later in the day - and I was then acutely disappointed to learn we will still some 300km short of our destination.

We took many very frequent rest stops during the afternoon/evening/night - very necessary for all convoy members.

Moving the menagerie (5 December 2012)

Our two-car convey held a party of four people, two cats, one bird and one stick insect. Nick drove Elmer towing our trailer, with two human passengers.

Although Erin initially drove the "menagerie car", I took over the driving just South of Sydney and remained in the driver's seat till the end of the day.  Sundance aka Sunny (one of our cats) rode beside me with Lucy (Vaughan's stick insect) riding atop Sunny's cage. Our other cat, Oscar, shared the back seat with Keegan (Erin's rainbow lorikeet).

Keegan often travels with us on our camping trips but long-distance driving was a new experience for the cats - and stick insect!  Lucy didn't complain at all but Oscar and Sunny did at various stages!  Overall they did well though - thankfully.

Stuffed stuff! (5 December 2012)

We handed the keys back after our final property inspection and then stuffed a last load of stuff into storage. 

Both units are now filled to capacity, so more culling will be on the cards in the New Year!

After a KFC lunch our two-car convoy was on the road, heading South - at 1.00pm.  We were in for a very long haul ...

Moving Out! (5 December 2012)

Two very full storage units!
Nick started moving boxes and lesser used items over to our first storage unit in early November. 

At the end of the month, we enlisted the aid of removalist to shift our furniture into a second unit (next door to the first).  The same company has assisted during our previous two moves.  In 2009 we needed 15 man-hours of assistance but a year later we required only 12.   Another two years down the track and we had reduced even further to 8 man-hours! 

Final hours ...
The house was a lot barer afterward and we started camping out at home.  It was lucky we had our Engels and stretchers/air beds!

On the last night all beds were shifted into dining room, so as to leave the bedroom carpets in pristine condition after they had been cleaned.  I use the term "night" loosely.  Nick and I stayed up till 2:00am and then were awake again around at 6:30am, to clear away the last of our belongings in preparation for an end-of-lease pest treatment.

Snail's Pace (December 2012)

"Is there anything as horrible as starting on a trip? Once you're off, that's all right, but the last moments are earthquake and convulsion, and the feeling that you are a snail being pulled off your rock" 
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Even though Ms Lindbergh was describing holiday travel rather than relocation, I felt very much like that rock-clinging snail in the immediate lead-up to our departure.

Early September 2012 marked our two-year anniversary of moving into what had, until very recently, been our home.  Almost to the day we received a Notice of Termination with an exit date of 5 December.  There was much to-ing and fro-ing throughout the next three months.  As you can imagine, it was a very stressful time – knowing we had to go but not knowing where we would end up. 

Melbourne, Rockhampton and Mackay were all considered equally valid options during that very uncertain period.  Finally, barely two weeks before our exit date, we received confirmation of a three-month temporary accommodation booking in Melbourne – and so we started heading South on 5 December.  Our “essential” clothes and belongings came with us but for now the rest remains locked up at Morisset.

A sense of unreality prevailed as our departure date loomed.  Most of our energies had been directed toward culling and packing, putting our furniture and “stuff” into storage – while preparing to hand our rental home back to it’s owners.  We were incredibly busy (and super-stressed).  A few days before our exit date, when we started making our farewells, the reality of our interstate move began to filter through and my snail-like tendencies became apparent!

We are no strangers to moving, given this is our 5th move since August 2005.  However, the other shifts have all been fairly local, with the longest distance a mere 30km.  Our latest relocation was much, much bigger - in all senses of the expression.
Although my childhood had been somewhat nomadic, since the early 1980s I have lived in various locations along a 75km stretch of the NSW Central Coast/Lake Macquarie/Newcastle region – and we were moving 975km away to Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city. 

We've had many adventures but this one will definitely be our biggest yet - stay tuned for our updates!

To put matters in perspective Melbourne has a population of 4.1 million, which is in sharp contrast to the estimated 2,500 of our previous lakeside locale!