Monday, 23 February 2015

Waiting for the word.

Our container should have arrived this week in Melbourne.  We were told the ship would dock last Thursday but we haven’t heard anything yet.  

We are hopeful.  

Mind you, it will be at least another two weeks before we get our hands on our stuff because quarantine officers will be giving them the once over.  Australia is very strict when it comes to importing anything into the country by private individuals and so all of our beautiful things will sit around somewhere waiting to be checked; and it isn’t cheap either.  $750 up front just for the normal processing.  I hope they don’t kick up a fuss about our thirty-five clocks, or the mirror collection, paintings, books, teapots . . .

Of course, there is nothing that can be done to expedite matters and so one is forced to sit tight and wait to be contacted.

And so while we are waiting, why not grab your sun hat and come with me for a walk around our garden.

I purchased this house in partnership with my mother (Mme. O) a little while after my father died. We did not want a big garden as we both had busy lives but we did want somewhere to grow roses and a place to create a terrace for outdoor dining and general lounging about.
That was then but all these years later I find that thanks to AGA I have grown to love gardening and this is one of the reasons that AGA and I will be buying land upon which to build a new house and a new much bigger garden.

But anyway . . .

The roses are looking lovely:

When we moved to this house I planted the roses along the driveway and up to the front door.  The recent rather hot summer days have burnt some of the petals but all in all it has been rather a good year:

This rose, which we believe is 'Queen Elizabeth' was presented to my parents by a neighbour when we first arrived in Australia.  Do you think that this is the correct name? On moving house I made sure that part of it went with us:

I do like French marigolds.    We have a lot of them at present.  They always put on a good show.

Now this is a pineapple lily.  I have to say that I don't like it.  AGA on the other hands, loves it.  I have promised faithfully not to kill it as I did (accidentally) his Mother-in-law tongue plant while we were in Germany . . .

Foxgloves are always so lovely.  This was a self seeded one that popped up one day.  My grandmother used to say that it was wrong to bring foxglove into the house because it would make the fairies angry and the milk would always curdle.  In the corner of this photo you will be able to spot some 'Johnny Jump up' violas.

A cherub who in the dim and distant past suffered a French revolutionary accident, having his head accidentally knocked off.  Luckily it was able to be reattached.

The Meyer lemon is enjoying itself in a large terracotta pot and I must say that the perfume from the flowers is heady to say the least!  Given that lemons are sold for $1 each in the supermarket I can't wait for own ones to get a move on and grow:

This rhubarb was termed 'French' when I purchased it at the local Farmers' market the other week. My father grew champagne rhubarb and as a child I hated it!  As an adult my tastes have changed and I like it a lot.   I do not know why this is called French Rhubarb.  Perhaps they put the word 'French' on it to attract people like me!  At the moment it remains in the pot while it acclimatises to the garden.  I went to a website called Rhubarb Central to see what varieties there are but the term French Rhubarb was not to be found.  Perhaps it is an old name...  When my old gardening books arrive I shall look it up and see.  That wilted leaf stalk has been removed.

This is a stone pine.  It is only a baby at the moment but it is part of the group of plants destined for the acreage we intend to purchase.  It is a plant that reminds me of the South of France and Italy.

We are able to grow bougainvillea in Victoria although it is not as prolific as it could be.  I do enjoy this plant.  I have seen them grown as hedges.

The garden in full swing:

The man-next-door gave my mother (Mme. O) this dahlia.  Under the care of AGA it has blossomed and looks lovely!

The bijou herb garden is coming along nicely.  Basil, Mint, Apple Mint, Tarragon, Chives, Rosemary, Flat-leafed parsley, Curly leaf parsley, Mme. O's tomato plant; all presided over by Apollo, basking in the sun.

I hope you have enjoyed having a poke around our garden!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

At long last...

It’s been a long time.

Actually, it's very long time.

I last made an entry on this little bijou blog back in June of last year.  Since that time so much has happened that I have had little or no time to even think about my blog, let alone write something in it.

This is what happened:

We returned to Melbourne to spend time with AGA’s father who was slowing dying of the cancer ravaging his body.  We went to see him in the hospital almost every day and we were able to play our part in taking care of him and his needs in those final days.  We then attended the funeral of the father of a dear friend, which took place in Country Victoria, and upon on return AGA’s own father died.  The death of a parent brings with it a lot of responsibilities and AGA and his siblings (with us spouses as support) had a very difficult couple of weeks sorting things out.

Then it seemed that one minute we were at the funeral and the next we were on a 'plane and returning to Germany. 

Once back in Kaiserswerth we had to prepare for our permanent move back to Melbourne.  There were forms to complete, the moving of our possessions to organise, the gradual withdrawal from all those things that we normally did, and all this while attending to our usual duties!

We employed a company in England to move 'us' to Australia because our German is not expert and we wanted to be certain that we would understand all that was taking place.

We had a lot to move.

When I write ‘a lot’ I really do mean it.  A 40 foot high cube shipping container – the biggest there is for domestic use – was required.  We had to prepare the inventory as well as working out what was going to go and what was not.

This photo was taken in the midst of trying to get everything in to a couple of rooms for ease of sorting out what stays and what goes with us to Melbourne.  All of this was going...

Seven chandeliers, thirty odd clocks of different shapes and sizes, chairs, cooking equipment, the croquet set, copious cushions, lamps, chairs, tables, and I-don't-know-how-many-books to name but a few: it all adds up!  And then we had to organise a storage facility for when it arrived in Melbourne.

In the midst of this we were able to travel to Stockholm for a week's holiday as well as a weekend in Paris and another in London to catch up with friends.  They provided small windows of sanity in our suddenly frenetic lifestyle.

And of course there were various hiccups along the way.

The moving day arrived and there were hold ups because the moving men were stopped at the port of Calais due to a spot strike by dock workers.

The upset and upheaval of seeing one's possessions being wrapped up and sent over the balcony (via a conveyer belt) to the van that would wind its way through the streets of the village to where the moving van was parked was somewhat distressing.

I didn't like returning home to see  this. . .

The moving men were rather young (the ‘boss’ was twenty-one) but they were extremely helpful and understanding.  We felt most confident in them but once everything was gone it all seemed rather forlorn.  
The once beautiful apartment was but an empty shell with mattresses on the floor for sleeping, some old bits of Ikea furniture that were not going with us, together with a ancient garden setting that was to serve as our table and chairs.  We felt like Romanoff princes deprived of everything after the revolution!

 Our apartment was somewhat empty after the moving men had cleared it all out.

In Germany it is the renter’s responsibility to have the apartment painted to the satisfaction of the landlord, prior to leaving.  Failure to do so will mean that the bond money one put down will not be returned.  So we had that to organise as well.  Luckily a very nice chap from the school was able to be employed to attend to it.

The apartment was not the same any more.  All of our 'stuff' was gone and the rooms echoed.  I was not even sure that Fritz, our name for the ghost that lives in the building was even bothering to visit.  I don’t think that he would have liked it.  AGA said that perhaps he had decided to go with the furniture.  If he did then he is in for a shock as he spends a few weeks on the ocean waves.

And, as I said previously, while all this was happening we had our day-to-day work to attend to.   I found the emotional aspect of saying goodbye to the school children extremely draining.  It was very hard going I can tell you.

So there we were in an empty apartment. 

No books. 

No harpsichord. 

No paintings. 

No beautiful things.

It was all somewhat depressing.

Having attended Midnight Mass at St Swidbertus for the last time, we spent Christmas Day in the apartment, and had a simple meal to celebrate; inviting our good friend Susan B to dine with us.  It was awkward with no good cooking pots and only garden furniture to sit at but we managed to create some semblance of a festive repast and Susan is always good company.

It was cold!
And then it was time for the hand over.  
It felt strange to walk away from the apartment we had lived in for over seven years, knowing that we would never return to it.  We had enjoyed our time there and while we were ready to begin our new adventure, we could not help but be a little sad.

We spent the last week of our time in Germany staying at the apartment of friends who had gone to London for the hols, and had kindly said that we could stay there rather than in our own, empty apartment.  

Once again we had a proper bed to sleep in rather than sleeping on the floor.  AGA was particularly pleased because the moving men had accidentally packed his pillow and he had been using old, rolled up towels as a substitute.

On New Year’s Eve we boarded the plane at Dusseldorf airport and late on New Year’s Day, after a fairly uneventful flight, arrived in Melbourne to be greeted by my mother, sister, and niece.  It was nice to be back amongst our families once more.

Of course the arrival was followed by the inevitable bout of jetlag and I find as I get older that it takes longer to get over.  Someone told me that one should allow a day's recovery for every hour one flies but that would be twenty-one days!  I am pleased to say that that was not the case although it did take about ten before we were sleeping normally once more.  

Another shock was the weather.  We lunched with a friend on the day before we flew out and experienced a high of -2c.  Two days after arriving in Melbourne, the weather soared to 40 degrees C.  Needless to say we were rather worn out.  However since that day the temperature has sat mainly in the twenties, which has been much better – with the occasional early to mid 30s thrown in for good measure but then it is summer so one should expect it.

So there we were in Melbourne and feeling rather happy when a calamity occurred.  We had just sat down at table for lunch when a cracking sound was heard coming from the ceiling.  Next thing we knew we were busy propping the structure up as for some reason it chose that moment to come away from the building structure.  Luckily plasterers and electricians were on hand and after a week all was back to normal.

But not before some rather unwanted dramatic moments.  The following photos show the scene prior to the arrival of the workmen (with a pensive mother in the background).  The second one is in the midst of the work when it looked as though a bomb had hit the room.  The final photograph shows the room back to normal and looking as if nothing had ever happened:

And so my friends, what with one thing and another I am only now returning to the calm and tranquility of my blog.  

Here at the edge of the Yarra Valley, the garden is looking lovely:

We are experiencing the delights of summer in Melbourne:

 We bought a small barbecue until we get a brick one constructed.

And all would appear to be right with the world once more.

I do hope that you will forgive my absence (given the circumstances).  We are motoring over to the country town of Daylesford this weekend and I shall take some photos to share with you while I am there.
I also hope that you enjoyed this post!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

We were there, now we are here!

For the past week, AGA and I have been recovering from jet lag.
We are at present in Melbourne for a few weeks, visiting the family and preparing for our migration in December.
It is a difficult time because AGA's father is still a very ill man.  It has become quite clear that he can no longer remain in the family home because he needs 24 hour care.  At present he is in a local hospital for respite care and it is unclear how long he will remain there as he is recovering from a fall he had a few day ago.  This creeping form of cancer is a terrible thing.  We go to see him every day at present but usually he is too tired to speak more than a few words at a time, and by the end of half an hour he has drifted off to sleep in his wheelchair.

* * * * * *

To counteract the jet lag that a 30 hour journey (including three stops en-route) gives one, we have tried to keep ourselves busy, especially in the garden.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet we were able to go online in Germany and order plants for our garden in Melbourne.  They arrived the other day in two large cardboard boxes:

Inside the were treasures!

And more treasures!

And there were these:

At first I thought they were dead but they came with this sign:

Then, down to Bunnings (a local hardware/nursery chain that we LOVE) for some potting mix and some dried cow manure:

. . . because we have pots to fill!
These are known as 'citrus pots' and will one day be home to lemon trees when we build a new house.  In the meantime our small lemon tree grows in a more modest pot:

We planted a few parma violet seedlings in this pot but underneath are lots of bluebells.  We are ophinh they will put on a lovely display when they grown and flower:

Meanwhile, the camellias are in full bloom:

There is plenty of work still to do!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Elements at war

It has been oppressively hot in Germany over the past week or so.  

Hot and extremely humid.

We seemed to go from cool weather in which we wondered whether the summer would ever arrive, to having it suddenly switched on and put on 'extra high'.  The high level of pollution in the skies over  the wide shallow valley in which Dusseldorf sits, combine to keep the heat in one place for long periods of time.
Combine this with hundreds of children under the age of twelve who spend lunchtime running around on the playground, and then come, sweaty and smelly, to the Library for book choice time and I think you get this picture.  With no air conditioning the classrooms and the library gradually warm up and by the time we are ready to go home we are well nigh wilting!

And then on top of all that we have had 'The Storm'.

* * * * * *

Monday was a public holiday (Pentecost Monday) and had proven to be rather a pleasant, albeit warm, day:

In the evening we had dinner on our balcony:

We admired the first of our Asiatic lilies to flower:

An hour later and we were running about battening down the hatches!

The storm came rolling across the sky before we were ready for it.  The clouds were suddenly yellowish and extremely angry looking.  
Full bellied with mischief.
The birds had all gone quiet.  The wind picked up and reading the signs, we and our neighbors began to take down the pot plants, lay the tables and chairs on the balcony floor, and take inside everything that might be considered fragile.  
Then the storm hit.
The sky was suddenly as black as night and the sound of thunder was everywhere. 

(I recall that my great-grandmother had a habit of waking up the entire household if a storm occurred at night.  She would everyone get up and go down to the cellars, no matter how fast asleep they might have been.)

As the storm vented its full fury upon us, I stood at the doorway and try to make some videos with my iPad, but it was too dark and too violent and so we abandoned the idea and retreating inside, closed the doors, the windows, and pulled down the external blinds.  
There was one truly enormous crack of thunder right above the apartment that frightened the living day lights out of us but then, after a while it all seemed to die down and we went to sleep.  At 5:30 in the morning it started up again, even more violently than previous.  I slept like a babe thoughout this second round but AGA was awakened and stayed awake for quite a while.    A parent I was talking to later at school told me that at the height of the storm she witnessed a fire ball!

In the morning all was calm once again.  Birds were singing and all was peaceful.  I looked out of the sitting room windows but could see no damage, and as we began our walk to school I said to AGA that it appeared to have been a lot of bluster but not much else.
But as we walked through the village we realized that it had been a lot more than mere bluster...

Here is the Linden Avenue that leads out of Kaiserswerth, last weekend:

And here it is yesterday, after the storm:

I do not know why some trees were spared while others fell.

Our end of the village was blocked by falling trees

...while the other end was flooded because the drains had backed up under the huge volume of water.  The roads were bumper to bumper with traffic as cars navigated fallen trees on the main roads in order to get to work.
For our part, we walk to school and so we had to navigate our way around (or over) various fallen trees on the way…

The massive trunks had to be climbed over and I soon realised that I am not as nimble as I was when in my twenties…

We passed parents walking their children in the opposite direction, to get to the local village kindergarten:

No cars could get through.

No one was going to be able to move their cars until the trees were cleared.  I think that a lot of branches came down because they were laden with flowers.

Imagine the force that broke and twisted this tree:

The branch of this tree (together with the top part) was snapped off and blown into the nearby allotments.  It crushed the little allotment houses and took a day to saw up and clear away.

These few photographs show the damage in our small village.  It was duplicated all over the city and the general area on a much grander scale.  On the weekend I am going to walk by the river to see what has happened as I am  told that most of the trees lining the Rhine have been blown down. 

Trees had fallen on the tram lines, upon countless cars, on houses.  Lightning strikes caused fires despite the driving rain.  Sadly six people were killed - cyclists and gardeners caught unaware - but considering how swiftly the storm blew up, and its ferocity, it is surprising there were not more.

We are going to have a lot of disruptions as gangs slowly clear the debris.  

On a lighter note, a student told AGA that their trampoline was blown clear away and they have no idea where it went.  I was telling a colleague who told me that she counted four floating in the Rhine - carried there by the force of the storm.  Others were blown in to fields. Our lily lost one petal and  another one bravely opened, as if to defy the elements!

There were many other areas in Germany that were hit harder than we were and the storm seemed to make the heat and humidity even worse.  As I write this we are experiencing a little relief although it is still 22c at 8:12 in the evening.

. . . and because we live in the 21st Century where iPods and iPads and mobile phones are our means of instant communication, everyone - young and old - have been out and about taking photos and movies and whatnot.  And so I joined them to provide you with a small window on what we have experienced here in the last forty-eight hours.  

If you are interested you can read more about the storm here.