The Thermals are out

This morning, amid raucous uncontrolled laughter from the Princess, I donned my newly acquired long johns.

“Me” in the Longjohns – True!

The green and white candy stripes clung to every bump and contour making HER see the need to grab at and fiddle with everything that dangled or protruded under the tightly fitting garment.

I’ve posted this picture although I’m well aware that some of you may be sceptical as to the actual appearance in real life.


Anyway they’re a great insulation against the Melbourne chill and very comfortable – first time in my life I’ve ever worn them even in Christchurch’s frosty, icy winters.

It was a truly beautiful day in Melbourne today, sunny and warm (when the wind didn’t blow) and was a reminder of Queensland.

We went into the city in the evening to meet and dine with a special friend.

What a wonderful, enjoyable time we had in the company of this uniquely interesting and thoroughly entertaining gentleman who possesses wisdom far beyond his young years.

I always feel hopeful after spending time with this man. Hopeful that there are still people out there that are able to manage the largest and most complex challenges with competence and confidence.

We hopped on a tram about 9:00pm and left the city still busy with traffic and throngs of people.

The tram was packed, even at that time, and as we travelled along a still busy and vibrant Brunswick Street we reflected on how blessed we were to be able to enjoy this city and its people.

Once again it was a pleasure to walk into the cosiness of the little home and be at peace with the world.

Winter rolls on in Melbourne

This morning is foggy and cold but not unpleasant.

Sue used to tell Kerrie that the thing she missed most about England was the distinctive seasons.

I understand completely what she was saying.

Growing up in Christchurch was the same – two totally separate seasons – the cold and the warm.

Queensland’s separation of seasons is less distinctive with the clear, warm winters.

Melbourne has those distinctly different seasons.

Many of the trees are bare with only a few stubbornly persistent leaves hanging on to the last.

Even the vibrant autumn colours have largely disappeared and yet there are still plenty of winter colours in this fascinating city.

On Saturday we decided to attend an AFL game at the Mecca of Aussie rule football, the MCG.

We took the 15 minute tram ride into the city from Preston to the Parliament Buildings from where we would walk a kilometre or so to the “G”.

This tram ride is a fascinating one, taking in almost the full length of Brunswick Street and travelling through Fitzroy past  the numerous small shops that give this place a heart and soul of its own. Brunswick St is packed with people for almost 24 hours a day. Every nationality under the sun is represented here as is every conceivable type of fashion from the smart, quality dressed business people to the way out, off the planet extraordinarily different.

Graffiti and posters are probably the main visual framing point as you proceed through this part of the world. Both are visible on every available space. It makes for a very untidy but immensely interesting landscape.

It’s chaotic with people, trams, cars and bikes everywhere giving the appearance of transport anarchy and yet everything seems to function very well.

There was a lady killed by a tram here last week and it made quite big news indicating that it is a rare occurrence. We’re amazed there are not a lot more accidents but I guess people just get used to getting around.

As is very common in Melbourne there were plenty of friendly folk only too happy to help show us the best stops to get off.  One young bloke even walked us almost to the MCG gate.

Even amidst the tense, fiercely competitive and vocal crowd people never stopped being friendly and genuinely interested in where we were from and what we were doing.

The MCG is a huge stadium and even with 62,000 people in attendance there were plenty of seats. The stadium holds about 100,000.

The atmosphere was electric even for a relatively ordinary game such as this one between Richmond and Melbourne.

The MCG – Mecca of Aussie rules football

Of course the supporters didn’t see it as “ordinary” game.

We soaked up the atmosphere and were amongst the last to leave thoroughly enjoying every second of the experience.

By the time we rode the jam packed tram back to Preston it was dark and we decided to visit our Chinese restaurant again.

Walking along High Street in Preston in the early evening is an experience in itself.

The street is jammed with restaurants of every type many packed with diners, especially the Asian ones.

We came across a noodle restaurant where there was a number of ladies hand making noodles.

This place was so full there was a queue outside along the footpath.

We were temped to try any number of places but opted for the one we had enjoyed previously.

It was also jam packed with a noisy yet vibrant atmosphere of mostly Chinese patrons.

Waiters were running around with live fish and dishes that looked fascinating yet mysterious.

Kerrie, being very conservative in her food tastes opted for a Sweet & Sour Pork but I decided to be a little adventurous and ordered a “Clay Pot”.

The Clay pot consisted of a mixture of foods mostly of which I had no idea of the origin. This was not the case with the 4 items that took pride of place on the top of the clay pot – 4 webbed feet!

Webbed feet took pride of place on the top!

Well I’d wanted to be adventurous so into I tucked.

It was really tasty although probably best I didn’t question the contents too much.

We shut out the cold of the city as entered the warmth and the inviting cosiness of our little home and we reflected on a wonderful day in Melbourne.

The week so far has consisted of working to capacity on the uni job but I had a long meeting on Monday in Melbourne with our client company and the uni about the preliminary reports we have sent from the program.

It seems they are taken aback by the huge volume of information they are now able to access relating to the way they use thier space.

They were extremely happy with what we had achieved and I felt we had created something of significant value.

We’ll be on the move again on Sunday.

School holidays start next week here and along with this there will be a dramatic increase in price for this site so we are heading to a place close the Dandenong ranges.

It’ll be a lot colder but who knows, Kerrie may yet get to see snow, one of her lifetime desires that has eluded us so far.

Cat set amongst the pigeons?

As expected, the initial reports that have been spat out by our program have had a significant affect on the Uni’s view of their space usage.

It all goes to reinforce our foundational philosophy of how to solve any problem or achieve any goal.

This way of approaching problems and goals seems to guide everything we do, (more so as we get on in years).

The 3 D’s.

DEFINE – the current situation accurately and honestly (with no holds barred). Then accurately define the vision, (the goal, where you want to be).

The more accurately you define the real picture, the better your chances of understanding how to change it.

After all, if you don’t know where you are, then how will you know where to start?  And if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

If you diagnose the problem incorrectly, the cure will be faulty as well.

DESIGN – Design a realistic, workable but simple Plan.

It seems to us the major cause of failure in most ventures is the failure to make detailed and specific plans.
Winston Churchill once said, “Let our advanced worrying become our advanced thinking and planning”.

DIRECT – Direct actions and effort to completing all the steps of the Plan. Just DO It!

Nothing but nothing is going to happen until somebody DOES SOMETHING!

Directing focused, thinking, actions and energy to the Plan is the only way it’ll happen.

“The vision must be followed by the venture.  It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs”.  Vance Havner.

It’s not what we know that determines our success but what we do with what we know.

I’m astounded at the increasing rate at which otherwise intelligent people from all walks of life believe what they want to believe and willingly and purposefully blindfold themselves to reality. Surely knowing the absolute truth, wheather you like it or not, has got to be better than the pain of building something on a false foundation only to have it collapse.

There, that’s my rant for the day!

We have a possibility of some more work down here which involves some software system design so when we know more we’ll be able to better plan the next step of the journey.

We’ll definitely be heading home to Brissy after we take delivery of the new van but we may need to come back to Melbourne again.

Yesterday we booked the car in for a service at Nissan and we’re getting 2 new spotlights installed today.

This is all in preparation for the trip home.

Kerrie has discovered a new “Heaven on Earth”.

It comes in the form of a new shopping centre – Northlands in Reservoir / Preston.

She dragged me there yesterday like a petulant child – I hate shopping centres – but even I had to admit that this absolutely huge centre was different.

The many food halls consisted of outlets I had never seen before and of course as a cook I always examine food outlets with a critical eye.

Most were quite amazing, imaginative and very different.

It was a rare thing for me to actually quite enjoy a couple of hours in a shopping centre.

When we take a break from work we usually go for a walk a few kilometres to a Vietnamese bakery where we get a loaf of bread for $1.80.

This bread is Awesome. Easily the best bread ever (except for Kerrie’s home made variety).

We must discipline ourselves in this shop because they also have the most delicious takeaways.

They make these Vietnamese Dim Simmy things that are deliciously moreish amongst other delights and the lemon cake is just  Que c’est délicieux.

Melbourne has definitely grown on us somewhat after getting out and about a bit and we have met some lovely helpful people.

We wrote once before about the shocking service Kerrie got in some clothes shops when looking for a jacket but this has not been repeated. Most encounters with shop staff have been really good.

We’re going to take Ben’s advice and go to an AFL game at the MCG tomorrow (Richmond versus Melbourne). Two local teams should make for a great atmosphere and we can’t stay in Melbourne without visiting this Mecca of AFL.

It’s like we’ve emerged from a cave

After working for about 40 hours in the last 48 we finally got the first and most difficult part of the uni job done.

I had a nightmare yesterday when at the final hour I thought I had messed up big time.

I think fatigue finally got to me.

Poor Kerrie tried so hard to comfort me and finally I just handed it to God and went to sleep.

When I awoke a few hours later I had the answer.

This always happens without exception.

I honestly cannot understand why I still worry about things!

There’s still a lot to do to finish the job but the worst is over.

It was a major milestone for us today and was a bit like being released from a sort of prison. A great weight lifted from our shoulders as we finished about 9.00am.

We decided to have the day off and go somewhere for lunch.

We headed over to Aussie Wide first to drop off the bike rack which they are installing and the 2nd battery.

It’s very exciting as the new van is now just two or three weeks away.

We then decided to make our way into Melbourne and find somewhere where we could get a nice steak.

We ended up stopping and walking through Brunswick and past hundreds of fascinating shops and restaurants in the predominantly Italian section.

We stopped in at the Mediterranean deli supermarket.

What an amazing place!

It was full of imported Italian foods of every conceivable type.

There were literally hundreds of different cheeses, salted and dried fish, and row upon row of pastas that we had never before seen.

The wine section was incredible with hundreds of Italian wines and spirits.

We bought a bottle of Chianti as it’s been years since I sampled one as I’m writing this I have a glass beside me. It is superb.

We were served coffee by an old Italian gentlemen who called us senor and senora.

It was the most wonderful coffee.

We also had traditional Italian Cannoli with ricotta filling done in true Italian style and a small cake that was soaked in liqueur that was unbelievable.

We will definitely go back there to explore this unique area some more.

We drove over to Port Melbourne then back through the City and back to Brunswick where we parked the car and took a tram back into the CBD.

By this time we still had not partaken of lunch and it was 5.00pm so we decided to make it dinner, opting for a restaurant that we discovered a year ago when we first came to Melbourne on another uni job.

Traditional Cannoli

This was disappointing I’m sad to say and nowhere near the wonderful meal we had there the first time.

We should have gone back to the brilliant Chinese restaurant we found a couple of weeks ago in Preston or stayed in Brunswick and tried one of the many Italian, Turkish or Mediterranean places.

You live and learn.

Driving home was great amid the hustle and bustle of the city at night and although we were both rather tired we loved the day and we both had a really lovely time.

I looked at Kerrie and am so thankful for the skill, dedication, encouragement and comfort she has provided over the last few weeks amidst a very intense part of our journey.

We will see you all soon. Love you all.

I know we haven’t written the blog lately but there’s a reason.

We’ve been spending our entire day working on the project for the company in Melbourne.

It has proven to be a massive task and I wonder if we had realised this at the beginning we would have taken it on, but it has evolved along the way.

Originally we were told they had all the data we needed to complete the assignment.

WRONG… they honestly thought they did and are still amazed that what they have been looking at all these years is wrong.

Now the data doesn’t come from one source, but several such as IT, Timetabling, Facilities etc., and our job is to collate this all together to formulate a meaningful report which tells them the buildings they’ll need to build in the future.

So what started with Chris designing one program to produce the information they require has now turned into Chris designing 2 more programs to enable us to bring all the data together and for me to be able to collect all relevant data from timetabling.

This is all the units that are offered at all 5 campus, around 45,000 of them.

Say you are doing a “Bachelor of Business” course you will have to do so many units per semester over 3 yrs to complete your course. Each of those units consist of Lectures, tutorials, workshops, seminars, computer or lab classes depending on what you are studying. Now most of those are over every week of the semester (those I love) others are a couple of weeks here and there and something else will fill in other spots etc. (these I dread).

I start about 8:30-9am and work to 8-9pm .

I have  2 computer screens up, one has the new program that Chris developed open, then I have 2 excel spreadsheets open, one contains all the units broken down to ½ hr slots and the other is a copy of Syllabus + (This is a program that universities use to timetable all the units. I worked with this at ACU thank goodness) If I had a copy of the program on my computer it would be easier but you need a licence and I’m not getting one.

I also have open 2 internet sites from the Uni to compare dates and units as then I am able to copy and paste a lot of info from there.

So I have filtered the spreadsheets and work one unit at a time taking the information from the spreadsheet and transferring it on to the program.

Then I have to look up on the internet and find what that unit’s name is and copy that over. I then go to the spreadsheet that has the enrolment numbers for that unit, this has been sent to us from IT.

I go back to the S+ spreadsheet and check if they have to attend all the lecture and tutorials or just some of them. I then place all this information on to the program. Now remember Chris had to build this from scratch, and so if I have any problems because he put it together so quickly he has to fix it for me.

So when I am finished all the units will be in, what they are called and how many students attended them. Now we can’t be 100% perfect as I can only go on the enrolment numbers I have no idea if the students evenly spread themselves over the teaching sessions.

Chris on the other hand had developed another program to bring all this information that I’m collecting together and match it all the sq meterages of all the buildings and locations on campus as well as Faculties, times etc.

Chris starts any where between 1am – 4am and goes through to 8-9pm. His mind is obsessed with this.

He is working query’s and codes to bring all this together behind the screen so that the company and the Uni can put in any scenario they want to try and see how it affects the space they use now and in the future.

What courses could be done away with and what would that impact have on the room usage?

What would happen if they increase nursing? What rooms, labs would need to be built?

Do they really need to build multi million $ buildings or just change rooms around to be able to have flexible rooms to suit small groups then open up walls for larger lectures?

All this is to be decided on the information that we give them. Scary isn’t it.

So we haven’t forgotten you and we will get back to writing the blog when we are doing something else than sitting in the caravan watching the world literally pass us by. Every time I see another van leave for travels unknown I seem to find myself singing “On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again”


The new home and downtown Preston

There we were working in the little home while noticing the comings and goings of every conceivable make and size of caravan, motor home and tent you could imagine, when suddenly an Aussie Wide Bunderra comes in.

This is the same brand as our new home although a different model. Ours is the “Destination”, theirs is the semi off road version and theirs was a 23 footer whereas ours is 20ft.

After giving the owners a little while to set up we toddled off down to have a chat.

The owners are a lovely cattle farming couple from South Australia and have had their Aussie Wide for four years.

It was so good to have a long conversation with them about the van, (and lots of other things), and to hear them praise the van and the manufactures.

They are just as happy with their van after travelling over 70,000 km in it as they were the day they bought it.

They didn’t just display satisfaction with it – they down right praised it!

They advised on a couple of small points we should consider like doing away with the front window.

They have never taken the cover off it in 70,000 km and the front window was where they had there one and only leak.

We’ve observed ourselves that the vast majority of the caravanning community never open the cover of the front window.

They also advised reconfiguring a large back cupboard which is difficult to reach right to the back of. They advise creating access to the back of this cupboard from outside via an exterior cupboard door.

They told us not worry about how many changes we make to the original design as the crew at the factory will bend over backwards to make sure it’s right.

They summed up the van and the manufacturer by saying that we would never hear a criticism of the Aussie Wide van or the company. Big statement indeed!

We heard of a new dealership for the Aussie Wide vans in WA where the dealer took delivery of his first van and sold it 1 hour later.

After this chat with these really lovely people and hearing their story of their farms and how they came to be on the road, we became very excited about the new home.

We found this review by Camping and Motor home magazine, although ours is the Destination model and in a different price range.

The Aussie Wide Bunderra

The Aussie Wide Bunderra – Click image to enlarge

After working till 7.00pm we decided to do something fairly rare for us and eat out.

Kerrie felt like Chinese and since Preston, our neighbouring suburb, has a large number of Chinese and Asian restaurants we decided to head to downtown Preston.

It’s a very busy place with every nationality on the planet living here and you are definitely spoilt for choice where Chinese dining is concerned.

We chose one that looked inviting and on entering we noticed that the place was almost full to capacity and almost every diner was Chinese.

C-Culture at Preston

C-Culture at Preston

It had to be a great recommendation for the place.

The menu contained dishes we had never heard of with ingredients like pork intestine.

We opted for a more “traditional” meal consisting of Wanton soup, Choy Bow, Peking duck (a specialty), Mongolian Lamb and Garlic Prawns.

It was worth it!

The food was exquisite and we realised why the place was full of Chinese people.

It was reasonably price and the service was great.

This was one of our few experiences with the Melbourne restaurant scene. So many people tell us that Melbourne is the food capital of Australia. Melbourne has the nation’s finest foods from every nationality in the world.

We’re sure this is true and this dinner at C-Culture in Preston certainly gave weight to the argument, however, we have experienced equally delicious Chinese food at 3 Brisbane restaurants that we have discovered over the years and go back to regularly.

Also we will never forget the Blue Eyed Trevalla that we ate in Hobart or the exquisite food we enjoyed on our last night in Tasmania with Barry and Christine.

So our point is that fine food, good products, great service and a general expertise in the preparation of a product is not exclusive to any city or state.

You find people everywhere that are just darn good at what they do.

Our new home

Well we have ordered our new home.
An Aussie Wide 20ft.

Note the tunnel boot and front boot.

Note the tunnel boot and front boot.

We have taken a few shots of a similar van that was being built at the time we were at the factory to give you an idea of what we are getting.

The company web site doesn’t have the “Destination” model yet.

There was a couple of changes we have asked for which is one of the benefits of getting a new van.

We are getting a full oven so had to move the microwave over the fridge. The fridge will be smaller but a lot bigger than we have now. The stove top will be the extended bench not the glass top.

The stove top will have the bench extended over the top

The stove top will have the bench extended over the top

Adding a few more power points as well as the 12v adapter plugs for the laptops.

The table folds out to give heaps of room to work

The table folds out to give heaps of room to work

The colours will be similar – just a few changes to the walls and cupboards.

I get my queen size bed and washing machine.

Queen sized bed with plenty of storage under

Queen sized bed with plenty of storage under

Bathroom has seperate toilet and shower - not pokey - and washing machine

Bathroom has seperate toilet and shower – not pokey – and washing machine

Toilet and washing machine

Toilet and washing machine

Looking toward the ensuite

Looking toward the ensuite

Chris gets his tunnel boot, as well as the front boot and a grill on the chassis for the hoses etc.

Tunnel Boot and tool boot

Tunnel Boot and tool boot

There is also a cupboard for the generator with slide out rails so that it’s all locked away.

We’ve also included 2 Solar Panels/Inverter, satelite TV, Gas/Elec hot water, extra solar batteries, reverse cycle air conditioning and we are still contemplating adding a deisal heater which many travellers swear by.

We’ll add a Reese hitch to the car for better towing as well.

Windows are all tinted with insect screens.

There is water filtration (we will add some extras to this), and  2 large water tanks.

Delivery will be in 4 – 5 weeks which is much earlier than we thought so we’ll now pull out all stops to have the uni job finished well before then.

Something we’ve not done for a while!

Hi Ho, Hi Ho It’s off to work we go…or for Kerrie anyway.

Today we start a couple of weeks of 9 to 5s at the University.

Kerrie starts today and we both head in tomorrow.

I’m going to drop her off and head over to Aussie Wide to confirm the new caravan.

Weather reports today are warning of colder weather, sleet, cold winds and even snow on the Dandenongs.

It’s started as I’m writing this at 6:30am.

Very icy wind outside, but the little home is still warm and cosy.

The Coburg van park, (Melbourne Holiday Park), is very nice indeed.
It’s in the middle of suburbia so to speak yet it’s a lovely bushy, clean and tidy setting.

The facilities are second to none and from the road you can see the buildings of the CBD not too far away.

We have a concrete slab (great for utilising the annexe), a great outlook and the people are super friendly.

There’s good local grocery shopping and everything we need for the next few weeks. The bus is right over the road and trams start about a 10 minute walk away.

It’s good to be away from the old Rockbank with its mice and mud.

The most famous landmark in Coburg would probably be the notorious Pentridge prison, or what’s left of it, not far down the road.

This is where the famous gangster “Chopper” Reid had his ears cut off.

It also combined the Jika Jika maximum security prison where 5 inmates died in 1987 during a riot and fire.

Taking a long walk around Coburg revealed an older suburb with most of the homes from about the 1960s era.

Most are looked after and we get the impression of a fairly quiet and peaceful place, even though quite heavily populated.

We went to the RSL for lunch in neighbouring Reservoir yesterday and discovered some interesting and unique shops and restaurants.

It was a great experience to drive from Rockbank to Coburg on Sunday.

It reminded us of how much we love this Nomad lifestyle.

The road (even though it was only ¾ of an hour away), the view of the van behind us again in the rear vision mirror, the anticipation of new places all combined to make us yearn to be back on the road proper again.

Well we’ll keep posting while we’re here folks and remember we love you all.

Moving to Coburg

I can’t believe a week has flashed by without a blog post.

It‘s been an intense week for sure.

I’ve been rising at about 3:00am to start work and apart from walks to the toilet block and the occasional drive to Melton for a break I’ve been working till 8 or 9 at night.

Kerrie has worked almost the same hours.

We now have a deadline to meet with this Uni job and still we are struggling to get the data we require from them.

We had another intense meeting in Melbourne yesterday going over exactly the same points and making the same requests we did 2 weeks ago.

I firmly believe that many people today, no matter what positions they hold, have lost the art of listening.

So many people are intent on talking, on telling you what they know, and they just don’t seem to listen.

Sometimes I feel like opening these meetings with an introduction to the best brother in the world, Barry. I would like to say, “Folks, before we start, I want to introduce you to the best LISTENER in the world, Barry. If you learn from him how to LISTEN, many of your problems would be solved automatically.”

But enough whining.

Kerrie specifically told me not to whine in my posts!

We’re packing up the little home today and we’re moving to Coburg till we finish this job.

It’s only about 15 minutes drive to the uni and a short tram ride to the city.

View Larger Map
It’s a lot more expensive but we’ve checked it out and it’s very nice.

We’re looking forward to moving from Rockbank which has been home now for 5 weeks since we returned from Tasmania.

Speaking of Tasmania, we think about it so much. We miss it. We will return one day.

Lots of Tasmanian caravans are making their way through the van park here at the moment so I guess the annual Tasmanian winter migration north is well under way.

We’ll make the actual move to Coburg on Sunday so we are ready to go into the uni Monday or Tuesday.

We’ve definitely decided to move up to a bigger van.

We’ve fallen in love with this lifestyle and the ability to move on when and where we choose.

There are so many wonderful places to see in this country and we have talked to people who have been living the nomad lifestyle for years and still get excited about different places.

Our goal is still to settle on our own small piece of Australia, but we will continue living in the van for some time yet.

As we’ve posted before, our little home has been a great blessing to us but there’s a big difference between living in a van temporarily, where you know you will be back in your house one day soon, and permanently living in one.

We have all but decided on an Aussie Wide van direct from the factory custom built.

It’s a 20 footer with plenty of room to work and live comfortably.

The “home comforts” are a queen sized bed, full oven, good sized fridge/freezer, ensuite with separate shower and toilet (not pokey), washing machine and reverse cycle air conditioning.

It has enough solar power to allow us to work for days without mains electricity.

It has Satellite TV, large separate water tanks for shower and drinking (allowing us to use pumped creek water for showers), water filtration, a slide out cabinet for the generator, one way windows (we see out but no one sees in) and cupboards in abundance.

It also has numerous technical and construction features that outdo the competition.

We’ll make a final decision early next week after we have confirmation of the money from the uni job but if we go ahead it’ll take 6 to 8 weeks to build.

We think it’ll take a solid 4 weeks of work to finish the uni job after which we’ll take the little home to Cooba Peedy and back while we wait for the new van.

After picking up the van we’ll drive to Queensland and Brisbane.

We need to register the van in Brisbane and it needs to be there to do it. We have 28 days from pick up to do this.

Since it’ll be too late to head to Darwin as we originally planned (getting too hot) we’ll do a bit of travelling around Queensland, come back to Brissie for Christmas and then head back down around the Blue Mountains, Mt Kosciuszko and the Snowy Mountains etc.

We then hope to do country Victoria and then head to Darwin about April May.

There is a hint of other work in Melbourne so this is a rough plan at best.

Kerrie’s very excited about moving this weekend as she’s well and truly over the Rockbank experience.

There are some lovely people here at the moment though.

Well folks I’ll post again tomorrow when we’ve moved.

We love you all!