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The forecast is hot and sunny

26 Aug

Dickon on Waikiki Beach

I was asked the favourite place question again the other day.  Rain drops were chasing each other down the window in a race to the sill, the boys were sniffing and nose blowing, and we were all shivering slightly in a not put quite enough clothes on for the weather sort of way.  I gave my it’s hard to choose answer.  Then I looked out of the window, and it came to me.

We spent last winter on the beach.  From November to March we were in Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia.  We swam every week, usually every day.  Sometimes we swam in pools, sometimes rivers or lakes, but mostly we swam in the sea.  Clear, tropical, saltiness, as warm as bathwater.   Sometimes there were big waves to duck under and make us scream, sometimes there were little spotty fish and coral to marvel at through leaky masks, sometimes there were surfers wearing Santa hats.  Always it was warm.  I couldn’t choose just one, but my favourite place was the beach*.


* Disclaimer: I reserve the right to have a different favourite place next week. And the week after that.  And so on.

Red Dog

30 Mar

Bungy jumping Granny McGarvey, little convict Grace, transported for stealing apples, Tahi the one legged kiwi.  We’ve had a few travelling companions since we left home, but none as memorable as Red Dog.

Everywhere we go, we keep an eye out for local books to read the children.  Often they’re really helpful to explain the new things we see around us, whether it’s bush tucker or volcanoes, and the adults usually learn something too.  So when we discovered that there was a famous Pilbara dog, who’d had a book written about him by Louis de Bernieres, we had to get it.

Red Dog, so called because of the local red dust in his fur, belonged to no one and everyone in Karratha, at a time when the North West Australian mining town was little more than a collection of caravans.  He’d turn up at people’s front doors expecting to be fed and watered, and they’d always oblige.  He got the best seat on the mine buses and travelled the length and breadth of Western Australia, hitching lifts with his friends.  In this impossibly remote, rocky, arid, place, largely populated by men far far away from their families, the lovely dog found it easy to make friends.

Although Red Dog is not a strictly a children’s book, there’s plenty in it to keep them interested.  Red Dog’s famously stinky farts feature heavily, as do stories of his battles with local cats, and gun wielding caravan park caretakers.  Like all the best books, it’s funny and sad in equal measure, with beautifully drawn characters and atmospheric descriptions of the otherworldly landscape of the Pilbara.  Apparently it’s being made into a film, I hope they do it justice.

Our book, with its own covering of red dust, is now in an Australia Post box on a cargo ship, making it’s slow way home to London.  One day, we’ll be able to read it again and remember our big adventure in the ancient red desert on the edge of nowhere.


19 Jan

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We ate them on the beach of course.  And they were sweet az.

There’s a dead possum in the middle of the road…

19 Jan

A Kiwi playground game for you…

One of a group of children sings the above.  They point at another child who has to sing “and I one it”, the next child sings “and I two it”, and so on until you reach “and I eight it” (ate it, geddit) and they all fall about laughing hysterically.

And that’s it.  Simple but effective.

splish splosh

16 Jan

“Quick, put my suncream on please!” says Ned as we dump our stuff on the sand.  He rubs it in as quickly as possible before running down to the water’s edge, and throwing himself headlong into the crashing surf.  The waves are as tall as a grown man, the white foam goes into his eyes, ears, nose and mouth as they break over his head, and as each one recedes, he emerges grinning, his long fringe plastered to his forehead.  It’s like a Guiness advert, but without the galloping horses, or the dramatic soundtrack, and it’s not in black and white, but you get the idea.  He is at one with the waves.

It’s a far cry from the timid boy who sat on the top step of the swimming pool in California, arm bands firmly in place, not daring to go out of his depth without his arms firmly clamped around an adult’s neck.

All three have made huge improvements in the water.  The elder two are now swimming properly, not very stylishly, but they can get from one side of the pool to the other and they are expert snorkellers.  Dickon wouldn’t go in the water at all the first few weeks for fear of drowning, now he’ll happily bob about, out of his depth with armbands on, and yells “I’m a surf dude” as he ducks enthusiastically under waves at the beach.

There’s no doubt that the amount of time we’ve spent in the water helps.  Some weeks we’ve swum every day and I don’t think a whole week has gone by since we left home when we haven’t swum at all.  The fact that it’s always warm and sunny must also help.  It’s a far cry from Eve’s school swimming lessons of last winter, when they’d return shivering and bedraggled, after spending all of ten minutes actually in the pool.

I hope over the next six months they’ll continue to improve and become really confident swimmers.  I also hope that their emerging love of the water will continue to grow and remain with them for the rest of their lives.