Saturday, 4 September 2010

Winter with the Woods

"My name is Nab Nab. I'm a little penguin from the Melbourne and I've got a twin brother who goes by the same name and lives in Northwich, Cheshire. We were purchased by the Wood family during their month-long trip to Melbourne, and now whilst I'm living here with Tom and Katie, my much-loved twin has flown home with 5 year old Jamie and his sisters Rosie, 7 and Millie, 10. They had an incredible Australian adventure during their school summer holidays, seeing sunny Cairns, the glorious Great Barrier Reef and the spectacular Sydney. After a touring route that encompassed Koala cuddles, a sighting of Migaloo (the world's only white whale) and multiple kangaroo sightings, they then ended up in rainy, cold and wintery Melbourne for 2 weeks! That's how Jamie found me and my brother, during a trip to the Melbourne Aquarium to shelter from the rain. Keep your eyes peeled for me and my brother in the photos below, and in future blogs!"

Millie, Rosie and Jamie in front of Port Melbourne beach, with our apartment marked

Melbourne might have been wet and cold this August, but luckily for our visitors, they had two very important people to visit! Tom and I were delighted that his sister Anna and brother-in-law Kev made the brave decision to spend 24 hours on a plane with three young children in order to come and visit us in Australia. Of course it was a no-brainer for Kev, because he left after 3 weeks and had a peaceful flight back on his own. Anna had to make the return journey as a single-parent, but thanks to the in-flight entertainment the children had plenty to occupy them, even if it was 'Alvin and the Chipmunks : The Squeakwal' on repeat!

Our visitors arrived tired and hungry late one Saturday night in July. They had been on the go for over a day by the time they arrived, but it was only then that Anna discovered that Jamie had been wearing his trousers back to front with no pants for the entire journey! All of our friends (yes, all two of them) here in Melbourne were amazed that we managed to sleep everyone in our 2 bedroom apartment, but this was only thanks to Radio Rentals, who loaned us a set of bunk beds for a month. All five family members slept in one bedroom, which I didn't think was too different to their caravan really?!

After a long sleep they woke up to Christmas in July. It is traditional for the Poms in Oz to celebrate Christmas during the winter time, so 6 months on from December 25th, we decorated the tree, had a traditional roast dinner, and even a visit from a Secret Santa. Also in true British form, it rained all day and we were pretty much stuck in the apartment. Anticipating this situation, Tom and I had purchased a new Wii game to provide some entertainment - Wii Sing! The children loved doing karaoke, but I don't think our neighbours appreciated the talent that they heard, and the next day we had a note under the door asking us to kindly call the building manager. I conveniently 'forgot' to call and we haven't heard anything more - nor have we turned the karaoke back on....

Jamie decorates the tree

Immediately after 'Christmas' the Wood family left for travels around Australia, and Tom and I reverted back to normal life in Melbourne. Two weeks later they arrived back, and Kev had one more week with us before he flew home and left Anna and the children for 2 additional weeks. If we were in the UK, Tom and I would only ever spend a weekend at the most with the Woods, so it was really nice to have their company for a longer period of time. I got to know the children a lot better, and Tom's Uncle credentials increased to new heights, and he was renamed 'Uncle T' - infinately cooler than 'Uncle Tom'!!

The Woods can now claim to have done every tourist attraction in Melbourne, apart from the “Twelve Apossums”, to quote Millie(!). On weekends Tom and I joined them in their sightseeing adventures, and for my birthday weekend we went to Phillip Island to see the little penguins. We were blessed with sunshine (unusual for August in Melbourne) and as well as seeing the penguins we spotted koalas, visited the chocolate factory and played on the beach. Jamie took Nab Nab everywhere and was very keen to show him all of his Little Penguin cousins. All day he asked, 'where are the penguins?', even at Phillip Island race track!

Letting off steam at the beach on Phillip Island

At the koala park

Where's Nab Nab?

Birthday cards and rice krispie cake

The lesser-spotted koala

Oh and a real one!

Another weekend we hired a huge 8-seater mini bus and all piled in to drive to the Dandenongs. Initially rather intimidated by the size of the vehicle, I soon got used to driving it and now quite fancy trading in the Focus! The main focus of the day was intended to be a ride on the Puffing Billy steam train, but the stop en route at Grants Picnic Ground to feed the parrots inadvertently became the main attraction. This is the third time I’ve blogged about these parrots, so regulars to the blog will be familiar with the format. For newcomers and the less attentive of you out there, Grants is a clearing in the forest with lots of well trained parrots and cockatoos who love to eat bird feed from tourists’. We anticipated that Rosie might not be too keen on the birds, as she is famously rather timid when it comes to animals, but none of us predicted the amusement it would bring to watch her run scared from the cockatoos, which she referred to as ‘the eagles’! After nearly an hour, when it was time to leave, Rosie plucked up the courage to hold a parrot – well done Rosie. We videod the whole thing, and the 3 minute edit is on YouTube if you wish to have a chuckle - click here!

Move over Nab Nab, Jamie has a new friend

Rosie was reluctant to say the least..

And my other car is... a bus!

Flamin' gallah!

Millie didn't mind the 'eagles'...

.. until this!

For the reference of future visitors, Hotel TomKat operates rather like a self catering apartment at times, and with Tom and I maxed out at work, Anna was left to keep house for most of the time. She was a fantastic support to us during our busy times at work, and we would come home every night to find dinner on the table and the children ready for bed after playtime with Uncle T. Having the children around was a great way to switch off after a long day, and we are now lost without Anna to cook for us! Our take-away consumption has spiked to an all time high... (thanks for those meals in the freezer though Anna, perhaps you could send over a few more?).

The children were also really keen to understand what Tom and I did for a living, and how things were going at work. Explaining audit to a 7 year old isn't easy (having said that, explaining my job to an adult isn't that easy either), but Tom's definition that he goes to work 'to solve problems' was understood by all! I had a few important meetings during their stay, and Millie always asked whether or not I'd lose my job if I didn't do well at each one! Thanks Millie - luckily I'm still employed!

The final big event of the trip was Millie’s tenth birthday, which we celebrated with an Aussie cake, some helium balloons and a few presents. We also made a trip to Scienceworks, a local science museum which Millie had picked as her chosen entertainment for the day. I got a present too – a flat tyre! Anna spotted it as we were about to leave the museum and together we managed to change for the spare wheel in no time at all – girl power!

Australian themed cake, created by Anna, myself and Tom

Happy 10th birthday Millie!

Tom turned Jamie into Spiderman with the face paints

While Anna and I made a more artistic attempt for Rosie!

When the time came to drive the Woods to the airport, Anna, Tom and I were all really sad. With tears welling, little Jamie cut the tension by asking as we pulled up to Melbourne Airport whether or not we were still in Australia! With the family safely dispatched, Tom and I returned to an empty apartment and collapsed exhausted.. having family in town reminds us of how much we value spending time with them, and when family leave time the distance to the UK always seems the greatest. We now are now settled back into normal Melbourne life again, and look forward to our next set of visitors.... for reservations and rates see ;-)

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