An Island Off an Island

Musings from Bruny

I have just completed an online customer experience survey with Air Dolomiti. A subsidiary of Lufthansa you would be forgiven for not necessarily recognising it as a brand; they were unknown to us until a week ago when we flew with them from Genova to Munich. There were a number of things which impressed me about this airline, especially their positive attitude towards constructive feedback.

It’s a shame that Qantas doesn’t take a leaf out of Air Dolomiti’s book! Almost a month after my first message to Qantas’s ‘Customer Care’ service I am still only at the ‘thank you for your message’ stage despite multiple attempts to contact them via various means. Sad when you have to resort to your blog to vent your spleen.

Let’s start at the beginning. We left Hobart on 16 May bound for Sydney and then onto London. Our planned turnaround time in Sydney was comfortable but a series of delays in Hobart made it increasingly tight. Consequently soon after takeoff we informed the cabin crew that we had a connecting international connection. The young woman who we will call K had an interesting response – ‘can you remind me again when we get closer to Sydney, I have a terrible memory’. Right! The consultant in me wanted to suggest that a pad and pencil may come in handy or that she might want to reconsider her career choice; would she remember the safety drill in an emergency? As it happened she did remember we’d asked her something and came back to ask us what we’d asked her. She was ‘onto it’. That’s the last time we ever saw her! Luckily there were another few passengers for the London flight on board, all of whom had received a similar response, and collectively we found our way to the transfer gate to be whisked across the tarmac.

By comparison my new friends at Air Dolomiti handled a similar situation in a proactive and reassuring manner. By the time we landed in Munich on our delayed flight from Genova every transferring passenger had been assured of what was happening and what steps they needed to take regardless of their final destination. Maybe K could see if she could undertake a mentorship process with the Germans?

Relived to be aboard QF1 London bound we settled into our seats. The ‘leather’ on my footrest was shredded and the whole thing was attached to the seat in front at a particularly jaunty angle and the mood lighting had been removed and gaffer taped over. Annoying but first world problem. What wasn’t so acceptable was the remnants of a previous passenger’s meal tray down either side of my seat and their used earplugs in the tray area. I informed the crew who apologised profusely and promised everything would be addressed at our stop over in Darwin. It wasn’t, and the first of my correspondence with ‘Customer Care’ began.

Lesson learnt- take a photo of your luggage for reference!

My mood wasn’t lightened when we arrived at Heathrow but my suitcase didn’t and I began the long process of 1) actually locating the company which handles Qantas lost baggage and 2) dealing with them and their website over the ensuing days. It was only after I found a sympathetic ear at the end of the line a few days after our arrival, when I may have lead her to believe that I had a more important role in the wedding we’d travelled for than mere guest, that things began to move. The word ‘gown’ is quite powerful. It was a week before my bag and I were reunited by which time some of the outfits I’d packed for specific events were surplus to requirements. I must acknowledge Regional Express (REX) here – ‘the years we prefer to forget’ mean that I now always travel with spare underwear and makeup even if it’s only meant to be a day trip so I was at least a little prepared.

Fast forward to last Monday when we turned our faces to the south and boarded QF2 for Sydney after a magical three weeks catching up with family, friends in England and being part of Sam and Guiditta’s wedding in Italy. After a couple of glasses of bubbles in the Qantas Lounge we boarded the plane and settled into our seats. ‘Better just check down the sides’ I said laughingly with my mirth turning to disgust as I ejected a salt and pepper sachet from one side of my seat and a paper napkin from the other. I was on that call button before I’d even been offered the welcome drink. While I feel some assurance that this complaint was recorded the comment that this was a now common problem didn’t fill me with confidence. I’m sure if I scroll through Qantas’s increasingly difficult to navigate site there will be a comment about COVID and cleanliness.

I decided the best way to cope was to sleep the 15 hours to Darwin which I did. I no doubt looked a sight as no care package with eye mask was forthcoming so I wrapped my scarf around my eyes a la ‘pin the tale on the donkey’ and just got on with it.

Arrived in Sydney at 5am and through to the luggage carousel soon afterwards. This time my bag appeared almost immediately but by the time the roundabout came to a standstill there was nary a sign of Marcus’s bag with its distinctive yellow wheels. Another victim of Qantas/LHR or both! The luggage controller must have come from central casting in the ‘how not to offer customer service’ training video. As we were the first flight of the day I dread to think of the help and advice others received. After days of checking the status of Marcus’s bag and a long phone call he received a call today to say it’s in Hobart and should be with us tomorrow, a week after it was last sighted.

So I can hear some of you say ‘just don’t fly Qantas’ and believe me our long-standing loyalty is being tested – this is the Readers Digest version of my complaints. The reality is that when COVID hit we had a number of flights booked with the flying kangaroo and made the decision to support them rather than asking for a refund. We’re now in the situation of having flights booked to use up our credit. Qantas communications constantly talk about respecting each other but increasingly I’m feeling that respect for the customer has gone the way of the Tasmanian Tiger.

Time to take Ruby for a walk and be grateful for the life we lead. Rant over.

Postscript: M’s bag has just been delivered by courier. Thank heavens he had gone by the consignment note not the address label Qantas had affixed to the bag which was going to a ‘Richards’ at Bicheno which is 4.5 hours north of us! The driver twigged there was a problem when he looked at the label as he had delivered to the Bicheno address yesterday. Tell me Qantas, is it that hard?

We are often guilty of waxing lyrical about the beauty of the view from our house, looking back across the d’Entrecasteaux Channel to Tasmania. It’s a scene we never get tired of due to the ever-changing nature of it. Today, for example, the gale-force winds are chopping up the water and the white caps are charging across the Channel. No water craft of any sort would venture out in such conditions. All this framed by the trees thrashing about and struggling not to be shredded by wind and rain. Tasmania keeps disappearing as each rain squall comes and goes. Even in such a miserable state, there is majesty and charm because it’s our view.

I write of this now because we have been lucky enough to experience some other pretty spectacular and/or special coastlines in our recent trip to England and Italy.

The first of which was a nostalgic trip back to the coastline of my childhood. Back in the day it was plain old West Bay, Dorset, but now it is deemed part of the Jurassic Coastline, famous for its fossils of that era. Few people would describe the beaches of West Bay as beautiful – more brutal – with its pebble beach, monolithic piers imposing themselves on the English Channel and the towering cliffs of East Beach (made famous by the TV series Broadchurch). To the east is the geographic phenomena of Chesil Beach and The Fleet ending in the spectacular Portland Bill. For the first time in living memory this pilgrimage was met with sunny and warm weather. (To be fair, most other visits have been in winter).

The next coastline on our journey could be described in gentler terms. Our hotel in Genova was situated in the heart of the marina with our balcony overlooking the millions of dollars’ worth of yachts directly below us.

We took a day cruise down the Ligurian coast to Portofino. The dramatic cliffs are interspersed with quaint and picturesque villages huddled in the many coves and inlets along the coast. Being Republican Day in Italy gave the Italians the chance to ‘come out and play’. Every conceivable water craft was being employed to catch the first of summer warmth. Most impressive of such craft was the super yacht “Arrow” a 75m monster available to rent at 850,000 euros per week!

Lastly, and most memorable, was the location of the wedding that was our raison d’etre for the trip. This gem was found east of Genova in the township of Borgia-Verezzi. The site of the wedding, and our accommodation was the Villa Sole, a stone building clinging to the side of a precipitous cliff with incredible views down to the coast. Between parties, weddings and breakfasts we spent many long hours sitting, marvelling at the vista below, always with a prosecco or Aperol spritzer in hand.

Now I type this surveying the Channel on a cold, rainy day while I contemplate how much I missed it while we were away.

I knew it, I knew it, as soon as I saw those dreaded suitcases appear, something was afoot. Why is Auntie Beb here if they are going away? Then it happened, off they went in Dad’s Ute with not a look back.

So here I am, ready to take my anger out on Auntie Beb. First there was her nice pink sock, very tasty. Then knickers – if I get my way she won’t have any left before long. Damn, she’s got the hang of making sure her bag is closed and the bedroom door too.

Oh well looks like M & D have deserted me and Auntie Beb has got treats so it can’t be all bad. I still get my walk on the beach, and breakfast and dinner are usually on time.

What’s this? Just got into a routine and strangers arrive. I’m told it’s Auntie Patricia and Uncle Mossy. They were forewarned about my addiction to socks and knickers and immediately kept their bedroom door closed. Spoil sports. Although I did try Uncle Mossy’s glasses, but then realised a Labrador doesn’t need glasses being a seeing eye dog.

I believe Auntie Patricia was responsible for M &D getting my big, big, big sister, Licorice, who they describe as the second naughtiest dog they’ve ever owned. Not sure who was judged the naughtiest. I helped Auntie Patricia in the kitchen and also assisted her in eating her dinner.

Just got used to them being here and they all decided to go out for the day and I had to take a chill pill, the indignity of it all. WHERE ARE MY MUM AND DAD????

On the upside Auntie Beb keeps treats coming and sometimes she indulges me with something special – she doesn’t strictly adhere to Mum’s words about ‘portion control’! Better not tell M & D.

Then yesterday I heard a familiar sound. Was that Dad’s Ute coming down the hill? They’re back with all sort of foreign scents about their persons and tales of lost luggage. I was so pleased I haven’t given them the treatment – yet! That will come when they least expect it.

Ruby ( with thanks to Aunty B for taking dictation).

Last year I was required to write about an ancestor who had fought in World War I as part of the Diploma of Family History at UTAS. We were encouraged to focus on someone who was Killed in Action as it ws less likely that their story would be told by their descendants. I decided to focus on my cousin (first cousin 3x removed), Andrew Mitchison who died in Belgium on 16 September 1916. I was blessed to find that his diary forms part of the Australian War Memorial’s collection while another relative was able to supply these photographs.

Lest we forget.

Anzac Day 2022

The Memorial Gates at the entrance to Grahame Park in the Newcastle suburb of Carrington were officially unveiled on 23 February 1924. Listed were the names of 258 Carrington men who had served in World War One. Of these 27 had been killed in action or died of wounds. One of these was 2450 Private Andrew Mitchison, 19th Australian Infantry Battalion, Egypt and France, 1915-1916.

Andrew Mitchison was born in Newcastle on 1 September 1888 to Andrew and Annie (nee Jackson). Andrew and Annie had arrived in NSW in 1884 aboard the SS Cambodia settling first in Wollongong before moving to Newcastle c1887. Andrew was one of seven children; six sons and a daughter. His brothers Horace and John Comus Mitchison would also serve in World War One.

Ship being loaded with coal Basin Wharf 1914

From his attestation papers we know that Andrew was five feet, six inches tall, weighed 121 pounds, had a fair complexion and fair hair with blue eyes. Prior to enlistment he was employed as a labourer by the Railway Commissioners on the Carrington Dyke cranes.

Andrew enlisted in the AIF on Sunday 18 July 1915, a day after an open-air recruiting meeting in Newcastle which had attracted “many thousands of enthusiastic people … a display of hands showed a large number who were willing to go to the front”. July 1915 was the highest month for enlistments during the war and this was closely associated with the losses at Gallipoli, the sinking of the Lusitania and government recruitment campaigns. He reported for duty at Liverpool two days later on 20 July. In doing so he was not able to attend the marriage of his only sister Hannah (Molly) to Edgar Law on 24 July.

The people of Carrington established a trust fund to provide a gold commemorative medal for every man from the Municipality who went to the War. These were presented to 27 young men who were home on leave prior to embarkation at patriotic ceremony on Saturday 11 September 1915. Amongst those to receive one were Andrew and his brother John.  Writing in his diary local resident Frederick Roberts wrote, “Carrington had a red-letter day on September 11 1915. The people were giving off the departing heroes a public send-off’”.

Andrew embarked on the SS Themistocles on 5 October 1915, arriving in Suez on 2 November as part of the 5th reinforcements of the 19th Battalion. From this time he kept a diary which details his time in Egypt and France. The months between November 1915 and March 1916 were spent training and trench digging with time to see the sights of Cairo and the Pyramids and to catch up with fellow Novocastrians in other Battalions.

Already the importance of contact with family was uppermost importance and in particular thoughts of his fiancée Grace Sticpewich were uppermost in his mind.“Out trench digging this morning and thinking of my girl. Would just be having tea which I often had by her side and thinking of what might have been had I been with her now. Had a good long look at photos, memories of home”.

Andrew also reflected on the original 19th Battalion which had arrived from Gallipoli; “they were to be pitied … they were poorly clad and what they did have was torn and ragged but they were in good spirits at having a spell from the trenches” In March the 15th Battalion sailed from Alexandria to Marseilles, a voyage of six days. They disembarked on Sunday 26 March and marched through the city where “the people gave us a great welcome and a lot of clapping”. This was followed by a 60-hour train trip which took them from the south of France to the North “my first glimpse of snow and its bitter cold”, and long marches en route to Flanders. His entries over Easter 1916 are a litany of mud, death and destruction “They are putting more shells into us now. The most unpleasant Easter holidays I have ever spent”.

Over the next three months Andrew participated in offensives around Fort Rompu (west of Armentieres) and Warloy-Baillon. From July through to August Andrew took part in the major offensives around Pozieres which he described as “Hell’s Glen”. On 26 July 1916, he wrote “Arrived here in reserves Sausage Gully last night. One only realises what war is when he comes here. Guns roaring in hundreds. Our boys are doing good work but one sees one continual stream of wounded men passing: some walking, some in ambulances, and some prisoners all day and night.”

Frank Crosier, Sausage valley Pozieres, Australian War Memorial

In early September the 19th moved to The Salient, a bulge in the trench lines in front of the Belgium town of Ypres. Andrew was killed here on 16 September 1916 when the German’s counter bombardment with minewerfer collapsed a front line tunnel burying five men from the 19th Battalion in addition to a number of Canadian soldiers. The men had been mining tunnels as a precursor to the Battle of Messines. It would be almost a month before his family in Newcastle learnt of his death.

Andrew had written a letter to his family on 22 July 1916 which included the prophetic words “Mother dear should you receive this letter, you will know that something serious has happened to me…” He describes how the action would be escalating to drive the Germans back behind their lines, and that in doing so “many lives must be sacrificed and one never knows when it may be his turn”. ‘He concludes “always know that my Dearest and Best and last thoughts were of you Mother Dear and Grace…Andy” The letter was subsequently printed in full in the local media.

Andrew had made a will in April 1916 leaving 5 pounds to his father and the remaining part of his money and shares in the Star Bowkett “be equally divided my mother, Mrs Annie Mitchison & Friend Miss Grace Sticpewich”.

Andrew Mitchison

As the War moved towards its conclusion a presentation of solid gold bars to returned soldiers and the next of kin of those who had fallen was held at the Carrington School of Arts. Each bar was inscribed with the name of the serviceman and, as a sign of respect, the audience remained standing while the Mayoress made the presentation to the next of kin. In subsequent years Andrew would be remembered his family and friends with insertions in the ‘Roll of Honour’ column in the Newcastle Morning Herald.

An early photo of Andrew’s grave

Andrew is buried at the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground near Ypres, Belgium. The inscription on his headstone reads He died a hero’s death. .

Grace Sticpewich married James Caird from Cooks Hill on 19 April 1924. Caird too had fought on the Western Front and was wounded at Villers Bretonneux.. Grace died on 3 May 1977 in Sydney.

Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War, – AWM4 Subclass 23/36 – 19th Infantry Battalion

Bean, Charles Edwin Woodro, The Australian Imperial Force in France  1916, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1982.

Commonwealth War Grave Commission, ‘Private Andrew Mitchison’,, accessed 30 July 2020.

Crozier, Frank, Painting, Sausage Valley Poziers, Australian War Memorial, ART00239

Gosford Times and Wyong District Advocate

Jobson, K.H., ‘First AIF Enlistment Patterns and Reasons for Their Variation’, Australian Defence Force Journal, no. 132, 1998, pp. 61–66.

Matthews, Wayne John & Wilson, David Andrew,-Fighting nineteenth: history of the 19th infantry battalion AIF 1915 – 1918, Australian Military History Publications, Loftus, N.S.W, 2011.

Mitchison, Andrew ‘Diary 1915-1916’, Australian War Memorial, PRO3864.

National Archives of Australia B2455

Mitchison, Andrew, photograph, 1915, original held by Virginia Deurhof, Newcastle.

Mitchison, Andrew, brooch, c. 1915, original held by Virginia Deurhof, Newcastle

New South Wales State Archives, Assisted Immigration Shipping Lists, NRS5316, 4/4809, S S Cambodia_4 Apr 1884.

New South Wales War Memorials Register, ‘Connolly Park WWI Memorial Gates and Brigadier Frederick Galleghan Memorial Plaque’,, accessed 30 July 2020.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate

Ray, Greg & Ray, Sylvia, The Hunter Region in the Great War 1914 – 1918, Greg and Sylvia Ray, [Garden Suburb, N.S.W.] 2017.

Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, New South Wales.

Roberts, Frederick, [A Newcastle Coal Trimmers Diary], University of Newcastle,

The biennial Bruny Island Bird Festival is now done and dusted and all at #87 can sit back and consider how they will contribute to the event in 2024. As passionate bird lovers we were always going to be involved and the program which included talks, walks, markets, an art exhibition and workshops offered many opportunities. It was wonderful to see almost all events fully subscribed and wherever you went you’d come across small groups of twitchers deep in concentration. Let me tell you some of the camera equipment on display was a source of lens envy!

Those of you who follow us on Facebook will know that Marcus took part in the gatepost sculpture exhibition that required you to create something from recycled materials. The sounds of industry were evident from his workshop and he emerged with Tempus Fugit (time flies), a skew whiff cuckoo clock constructed from old timber and metal, pine cones gathered from the beach and a bird which started life as a plastic drink bottle. Our neighbour, Wally, had also been busy ‘creating’ and in the late afternoon before judging both entries were carefully put into place. We wandered up and down the stretch of Bruny Island Main Road connecting our houses while the sun set and not a car in sight. To steal a Darryl Kerrigan line, ‘how’s the serenity’. Excitingly Wally was awarded first prize – you can see all the entries on the Gatepost Sculpture Trail .

Meanwhile I took myself off to a Feather and Botanical Printmaking Workshop workshop run by Rhyll Plant from Castlemaine. Beach walks had centred around me collecting feathers and leaves to print and I was amazed by the results. I probably hadn’t done any real printmaking since high school and let’s not even think about how long ago that was! I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it and am now stocking up on the essentials. Look out, no doubt you will receive printed cards this Christmas.

To finish the weekend two special ‘birds’, our friends Zoe and Stacy flew in from Sydney for the weekend and joined us for Sunday lunch. So lovely to have them with us.

‘And Ruby’ I hear you ask? She told me to remind you that she’s a bird dog and her contribution to the festival revolved around keeping watch over the sightseers looking at the sculpture and bird-life in general!

Love from Bruny, cheep, cheep.

  • For our overseas readers Darryl Kerrigan is the main character in the classic Australian movie The Castle. Many quotes from the movie have become part of our everyday vernacular.

It would seem that my much-waited for new, better- behaved self was not as long- lasting as was hoped for. We’re back to square one in the trust stakes.

In my defence, the following events were not always my fault! Some have a very valid explanations for my actions. First and foremost, M&D place great faith in Adaptil – a product to calm the canine spirit via a diffuser. Is it my fault that the diffuser ran out a couple of weeks ago? Is it my fault that they couldn’t be bothered to get a refill? Without its soporific influence, what are the chances of me reverting to type?

‘Private property’ does not apply to black Labradors!

So, my ensuing behaviour over the last week is wholly expected. Three times this week on our evening walk I have taken it upon myself to disappear up into the houses fringing the beach. Twice there were mitigating circumstances – once when a visiting Staffie urged me to follow him/her up to its house and the other time when my mate Norman took off and I followed him. The third time was entirely down to me. I get this wild impulse to ‘go crazy’ and no amount of reason or orders will deter me from giving in to this inclination. I’m pretty sure that I could be forgiven if I would succumb to reasonable requests to come back, but they go unheeded. I just love leading M&D on a merry dance through the gardens and surrounding bush. When I finally decide to return, I am unceremoniously placed on a very short lead and dragged back to the car where I get ‘the lecture’ on how disobedient and naughty I am. Ho hum!

My crowning glory was an incident, again on the beach. M&D had stopped to chat (interminably) with some friends and their visitors. It was quite a windy day and at one stage the straw hat of one of the visitors blew off and I valiantly raced to save it from going into the water. There, the story should have ended but that ‘wild impulse’ I mentioned earlier kicked in and I had a whale of a time totally destroying said hat. Can you imagine the mortification and embarrassment of M&D! Strange thing was, I think they saw the humour in the situation and I luckily escaped any real censure.

At home I have managed to get hold of a few stray socks, hankies and dish cloths which have caused late night tummy upsets and much cleaning up under the bed. Just to finish, I’m quite proud of my toilet roll work. Remember that advertisement where the cute Labrador puppy runs through the house trailing Kleenex toilet tissue behind him/her? Well, I just think that stealing the roll from the holder and taking under the bed to totally shred it, has much greater impact.

I can’t help thinking that this occurrence in the kitchen yesterday may have been a ‘get square’ attempt by Dad.

Did you deliberately dust me with flour Dad?

The other motivation for my attitude is the constant vibe in our household at the moment about distant shores, and the hushed tones in which ‘kennel’ is uttered. My demeanour of late will serve as a reminder of the consequences of their travel plans.

I’ll keep you posted – Ruby.

Hi there, Ruby here.

It goes without saying that I love my M&D. I constantly seek their company and get quite edgy if they pay each other attention and not me. We must have family hugs – not individual ones. It’s also fair to mention that they can be a little pedestrian (not boring, perish the thought). So, to say that the last week has been ‘Ruby heaven’ is somewhat of an understatement.

One afternoon I was out on the deck surveying my surrounds when I saw a little white VW wagon turn up our driveway. I used to go out to work at Pet Care Extraordinaire in one just like it. My interest was immediately piqued. Then an ear-splitting ‘Hello, Ruby’ awoke every living creature on the north of Bruny. Only one boisterous but saintly person could do that – my bestie – Aunty Adrienne!

I charged up and down the deck barking raucously, my whole body moving like an articulated vehicle and my tail thrashing about in absolute delight. I raced down the steps to the one person who can eclipse my M&D. Aunty A had arrived with her friend Rylee to come and spend time out of their Tassie holiday with me.

Its fair to say that I rarely left her side for the next three days. We went walking together, had long chats on the bed together, she always had a snack on hand and we slept together. Happiness on a stick. I showed Aunty A all my favourite places and a few new tricks since we last spent time together. She may not have been particularly impressed with my epicurean treat of wallaby poo but I know she would forgive me anything.

You might think that I was devastated when Aunty A and Rylee left but now, I realise that Aunty A is still in the world and that she has promised to come back and visit, I’ll just look forward to her return. Can’t wait for the crazy, fun times to roll again!

We have been so busy settling into life on Bruny that it takes a repeat visit from a friend to take us off island and explore some of the many jewels that Tasmania has to offer. During Regina’s recent stay the two of us headed up to Hobart one Saturday to enjoy a couple of the capital’s drawcard attractions.

First stop was the iconic Salamanca Markets which had celebrated their 50th anniversary the previous week. Open every Saturday from 8.30am – 3 pm, the Markets stretch the length of Salamanca Place adjacent to the dock area. With over 230 stallholders and a focus on Tasmanian goods there was plenty to tempt us – and yes we gave in to the need to buy! Can’t say too much about our purchases as some readers will be the recipients of our spending but we were both pretty happy with ourselves!

Our second stop was the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens which sits on the edge of the CBD. Marcus and I had done a tour here during winter and so I was a font of some knowledge which Regina seemed to accept as gospel! Established in 1818 they are the second oldest Botanic Gardens in Australia (Sydney having pipped them by 2 years), and like Sydney they adjoin Government House and have impressive water views. They were a blaze of colour and the community was out in force, lunching on benches and partying under trees. We opted for the Café which, after a couple of visits I can highly recommend.

Of course many of our (Australian) readers will associate the gardens with the ABC’s Gardening Australia as it is the home of the Community Food Garden tended on screen by Tino Carnevale. Previously it was known as Pete’s Patch after the late Peter Cundall beloved of generations of Australian gardeners (including my Dad who could be described as a groupie on those occasions Peter came to Orange!).

To complete the tourist experience I treated our guest to a supermarket visit – always the best way to learn about a community/country I believe.

Happy days.

Hi friends, Ruby here reporting from Dennes Point.

I’m currently enjoying a well earned rest after a busy ten days with Aunty Regina who arrived from Bendigo bearing chocolate from Aldi for Mum (no Aldi in Tasmania), Victorian ‘stickies’ for Dad, and a delicious dried beef thing for me! I think Aunty R has spent too much time with Lucy ( her brown Burmese) as she was amazed at how quickly I chowed it down and returned to the lounge room to rejoin the conversation. I mean, I didn’t want to miss any juicy gossip.

The view from the jetty

One of the many good things about a visit from Aunty R is the early morning walk the two of us take. I’m allowed to sniff away while she takes careful note of scientific stuff. We often take in the rock platforms which Mum and Dad rarely do. A treasure trove of new and exciting delights.

Mum and Dad used the opportunity of a resident dog sitter to head up to Hobart for a night of wining and dining while Aunty R and I had a girl’s night in. What fun it was! We curled up on the lounge under a couple of Mum’s quilts ( the ones I’m usually not allowed near) and grazed on things from the fridge. Aunty R is a bit of a disciplinarian about what I eat but I enjoyed it all vicariously.

Yesterday was her last day here and boy was it memorable! We started off on our walk as usual at 6.30 am and headed down to the beach to do one final rock platform inspection. Suddenly I found myself being dragged unceremoniously across the wet sand. Resisting I then found myself being dragged on my back! The cause of this urgency was an injured quoll Aunty R had spied laying at the base of the cliff. It was Animal Rescue writ large on Bruny Island.

Sensing that this was not the time to be ridiculous I allowed myself to be tied up while Aunty R bought her professional skills to bear on the poor sick little soul ( even though they are my nemesis I am not heartless). OK, I admit I may have barked a little.

Aunty R wrapped the quoll in her sweatshirt and we headed home to call Bonorong Wildlife Rescue. After speaking to them Mum and Aunty R headed off island in a flurry to deliver the quoll to the vet and I settled down to await their return congratulating myself on my role in the drama. When they came back it was a quick turnaround to get Aunty R packed up and off to the airport.

This morning I went into Aunty R’s room just in the hope that she might have returned and a morning walk was on the cards. She left me a parting gift of another beef strappy thing. I wonder when that will be handed out!

Love from the Island

Postscript: sadly our precious little quoll didn’t make it. Thanks to Bonorong and it’s volunteer network for all they do to care for our amazing wildlife.

Everyone is sick of hearing about ‘The year like no other’, but Covid aside, for us it really has been. Our relocation to the Apple Isle is definitely complete, and we’re feeling more and more like Tasmanians. This morning we were offended because Lara Hyams on ABC News Breakfast forgot to mention Hobart’s weather along with all the other state capital cities. Local news presenter, Guy Stayner has supplanted Juanita Phillips, although I must admit to a subscription to the Sydney Morning Herald.

It hasn’t been the hottest summer so far this year so we have had to make the most of what few warm, sunny days we have been afforded. Thankfully, the ferocious winds of last year have remained at bay. Our evening walks with Ruby along Nebraska beach have become part of our daily routine and we have even managed a couple of swims, albeit very quick ones. Ruby even managed a tentative but very brave swim out to us – through sheer desperation rather than for enjoyment.

Two kayaks ready to hit the water!

Our Christmas presents of kayaks have only had the one outing so far. For rank novices the conditions have to be prefect, that is a hot day, no swell and as few witnesses as possible. It has to be said that Jan has proven to be much more adept at kayaking than me – it must be all that dragon boating experience, or maybe my centre of gravity is too high. The world’s most stable water craft is still problematic. When we made it known that kayaks were our Christmas present to each other, every local without omission, regaled us with tales of their redundant crafts languishing in back yards, being used as garden beds or forlornly slowly mouldering away down at the beach. Of course, we will prove to be the exception to the rule!

Ruby assisting with the opening of gifts – and modelling her new collar. Thank you Personalised Pet!

Christmas was very quiet but lovely with traditional fare for lunch and beautiful Bruny oysters, cheese and beer later in the day. We spoiled ourselves with lots of other gifts and caught up with family and friends via Messenger video calls. Yesterday I dismantled the Christmas tree but I knew before that Christmas was over by the appearance of Hot Cross buns in the supermarket on Monday.

Another marker for the end of the festive season is the rapidity with which tourists come and go. Last week there were at least 40 boats moored off the beach, beach shelters, gazebos and kids everywhere. This week we are almost back to normal although the ferry queues have been horrendous with upwards of an hour and a half wait on both sides.

At times the ferry queue is diverted through the Pub carpark at the top of the hill to alleviate congestion on the highway.

Of course, the other indicator of summer is the welcome addition of live cricket on TV. I don’t think I’ve missed more than a handful of balls yet. The Sydney Test is rather frustrating at the moment with many rain delays. Jan managed to secure me a couple tickets for two days of the Hobart Test so let’s hope the weather is a little kinder. We also have tickets for the ODI against New Zealand in February.

We’re all aware that people say they are amazed at how much busier they are in retirement, and whilst I don’t generally concur, I have noticed that I only read 20 books last year, down from the 30-35 count of my working years. Perhaps Netflix and SBS on Demand have taken over. Heaps of landscaping and gardening have taken precedence lately as we try to tame certain areas while still trying to keep it as a sanctuary for the stunning wildlife and birds that frequent our block. The back yard has been tamed (nearly) and the weed-infested rubbish tip out to the side of the house is coming along nicely too. We really went overboard with a new house sign that arrived just before Christmas. We kept the original house name ‘Wainui’ which means ‘Big Water’ we think in Hawaiian. Can’t miss us now!

Looking flash!

So, 2022 will hopefully be the year that we can finally go and see more of Tassie, which means accommodating the needs of Ruby’s separation anxiety and looking forward to friends and family taking the opportunity to come and visit us. Hope to see you soon.

Antarctica has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. To date the closest I have gotten to ‘The Ice’ is vicariously through Regina and Suz’s photos when they made their grand tour, and a magic view of the ice floes on a trip from Sydney to Johannesburg a few years ago.

Antarctica from 35.000 feet

Australia’s new Antarctic Icebreaker the RSV Nuyina arrived in its home port of Hobart in late October. Grand celebrations were planned with a flotilla ready to welcome her and vantage points advertised. I had a 6am date with Ruby to go down to the Point to get a good view of her on her way up to Hobart. Sadly fate in the form of a snap 3 day COVID lockdown combined with a fog you could slice with a knife put paid to that! After hours of tracking her progress I was just able to pick her out from the kitchen window in Storm Bay heading up the Derwent. Even a fog finds it hard to disguise something so big and well, orange!

Since her arrival Nuyina has dominated the Hobart waterfront but today she heads south to Antarctica on her first voyage carrying 67 expeditioners and crew to refuel Casey research station, transport helicopters to Davis research station and undertake marine science commissioning. In the following days the French vessel MV L’Astrolabe and the US icebreaker Aiviq which has been chartered by the Aussies will follow in her wake.

Hobart is one of five global Antarctic gateway cities (the others are Cape Town (South Africa), Christchurch (New Zealand), Punta Arenas (Chile) and Ushuaia (Argentina)), and the impact of the frozen continent to the south is highly visible through the presence of government agencies and educational programs. The Australian Antarctic Division headquarters are located at Kingston (our local service centre) conveniently between Bunnings and Mitre 10. I say conveniently as I have an image of a research station phoning up to say they need something and a staff member popping over to one of these super stores, putting it on the account and placing the item on the relevant shelf for the next courier delivery- that’s what we would have done in the library! I guess the logistics of transporting something to Davis is slightly more complicated!

The Australian Antarctic Program is currently recruiting for the 2022/23 season. I did check it out but it would seem that the need for a library consultant of a certain age is limited. Shame really as imagine the blog posts I could write!

Constitution Dock, Hobart

Safe travels to all those heading south.

School is out and the traffic in front of 87 Bruny Island Main Road has increased – well expediently would be an over exaggeration! Let’s say there are one or two additional cars and the odd caravan with every load disgorged from the ferry. Wainui sits right on the entry to Dennes Point where the gravel switches to bitumen and the speed drops down from 80 to 40 (though 80 is optimistic or down right suicidal on much of the 11km of bends between us and the main drag). We lounge on the deck and identify the tourists (who generally slow down as they enter the settlement), and the locals who maintain speed until they hit the first bend with its ‘Slow’ sign painted on the back of an old real estate board. Just to reinforce the fact a second slow sign is a 100 metres or so down the hill. Between 7.30 pm and 6 am when Bruny is sealed off from the world (ie the ferry doesn’t run) the road is mostly silent.

By comparison the alternative highway that passes the house, the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, is busy at all hours of the day and night. Having recently come to this conclusion we are trying to prove ourselves wrong but just when we exclaim ‘no craft on the water,’ we’ll see the flash of a tinny out fishing, the sail of a yacht on the horizon or hear the distinctive thump of a power boat moving through the swell. The sheer variety (and beauty) of many of these vessels is a delight and the telescope and binoculars are always on hand, as is my new favourite app, Deckee, which helps me work out who they are.

Ronja Storm off Nebraska Beach

The Channel is very much a working highway and the fleet that in our house is collectively referred to as ‘The Ronjas’ are in constant movement servicing the fish farms in the Channel and out into Storm Bay. The ‘Ronjas’ are named after the Ronja Storm which is owned by Huon Aquaculture and is in perpetual motion past the house. She is pretty impressive even though we hate what she and her minions represent.

HMAS Hobart off Dennes Point

Last week the quality of ship on our stretch of waterway went up a notch when HMAS Hobart called in over several consecutive days – a bit eerie to look out into the early morning and see a guided missile destroyer slowly cruising past. Those of you who have read Heather Rose’s novel, Bruny, won’t be surprised to learn that I was supposing all sorts of secret squirrel behaviour on the go. Maybe the fish farms were about to blow up? I think the reality was more simply that they were doing the ship equivalent of a plane’s holding pattern before they could enter Hobart. Oh well, imagination is a fine thing!

With love from Bruny xx