48 Pizzas

One of our first decisions after arriving in Cobar was to celebrate the arrival every month with take-away pizzas. We gave ourselves 3 days’ grace – in case one of us was away or, heaven forbid, it was Monday and the Pizza Chef had the night off – so now the ‘official ruling’ is Pizzas will be eaten on the 23rd (the day we left Paradise) or the 24th (the day we arrived in Cobar) or the 25th (the day we woke up in Cobar) of each month of our 4-year tenure. Last night was Chicken and Bacon (Kaye) and Perri Perri Chicken (Nigel). Thank you to The Great Western Pizza Chef! ……….. and still 46 pizzas to go.

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Sliding Doors

My interest in old photos of Ivanhoe was sparked by a lovely lady called Olive Huntly, who showed me some photos of Ivanhoe dust storms over the years. When word of mouth spread and people discovered that I had an interest in the town’s history,  suddenly everyone wanted to share photos and stories with me. It was a rewarding and welcoming experience.

Sadly, Olive has passed on but I wanted to share a story she told me about how a young girl from Victoria came to be raising a family in outback NSW.

It seems that at 17, Olive was running late and missed her train. While she was waiting for the next train, she noticed a newspaper on the bench where she was sitting and started to read it.

Her eyes were drawn to an ad for a governess in Mossgiel – a town that she, as a city girl, had never heard of.

Olive successfully applied for the job, became a governess and eventually fell in love and married a station owner, settling down and raising a  family on Barwonnie Station. Although she sometimes couldn’t help but wonder how different her life would have been if she hadn’t missed that train, there were no regrets. She loved the back country and never left.

Perhaps we can all take something from Olive’s story.

Where the Wild Dogs Roam

Last week we spent my birthday at a caravan park in Lightning Ridge – some 400 kilometres ‘up the road’. Of course, it wasn’t quite the same as Batam Island where we spent Nigel’s birthday but surely ran a close second! This is not your usual outback town and driving around, you might be forgiven for thinking you’d entered some kind of parallel universe.

No one knows for sure what the population of the Ridge is – which seems to have something to do with the fact that there are quite a few residents hiding out from ex-wives and/or the law etc.

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A large percentage of residents are miners – in search of the elusive black opal, for which the town is famous. According to the odds, it’s a massive gamble because one in ten miners will actually find opals and of that group, one in ten will make any money out it and in that group (you guessed it!) one in ten will get rich from it.

However, if you talk to a miner you’ll discover that they love it and will willingly spend a great deal of time, energy and resources down a mine shaft listening for the sharp tap when the pick hits opal. This happy addiction is fed by the knowledge that a good black opal (with a degree of red through it) can fetch around $10,000 per carat!

For anyone interested, you can purchase an annual mining licence, that will entitle you to stake a claim 50metres by 50metres.  Here’s the ‘dirt’:  Opals are found under a layer of sandstone, which contains voids left by decayed vegetation, fossils etc. When water seeps through these cavities, it leaches the silica from the sandstone and deposits it further down under the sandstone where it builds up (think millions of years). As the water continues on its way, it leaves behind the silicone deposits which, under pressure (think more millions of years) crystalise and become opals.

The first thing you’ll notice as you approach Lightning Ridge is Stanley, the 18 metre metal emu built by local artist John Murray. His body is actually made up of two car bodies and his eyes are satellite dishes so you really can’t miss him.  The next thing you’ll notice is that there are seemingly no building regulations regarding the ‘homes’ which have been erected on the claim sites dotted throughout the opal fields.

The Ridge has quite a lot to offer tourists including art galleries, fossicking heaps and opal mines open to the public. We were lucky to be allowed to take the Bear down one of the mines – although, to be honest he didn’t try very hard to hide his discomfort and was obviously relieved when we were back above ground. There’s also a sidewalk restaurant that sells Italian fare, a pub, Bowling Club, Aquatic Centre (we were jealous) plus a huge community artesian spa pool (we were very jealous). Then there’s the weird and wacky Amigo’s Castle, Bottle House and Astronomer’s Monument as well as (apparently) the largest collection of succulents in the Southern Hemisphere.

The people might be eccentric (car doors strung from trees advertise anything from self-guided tours to the ‘Nudies Camp’) but they’re friendly and welcoming and with perfect winter weather we had a lot of fun. In fact, the only place we were sorry to miss was the Chambers of the Black Hand http://www.chambersoftheblackhand.com.au/  (underground mine and tourist attraction) with its many carvings and sculptures but unfortunately no Bears were allowed.

We finished the holiday with a visit to John Murray’s Art Gallery with the intention of passing on regards from Anne and exited with a stunning print (my birthday present) titled Where the Wild Dogs Roam. It so reminds me of outback skies that I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. If you’re interested, you should find it here.

http://www.johnmurrayart.com.au/limited-edition-prints

Back in Singapore

Well, I’m back at Number one son’s computer in Singapore but at least this time the keyboard is set to English (last time it was German) and I can now find the apostrophe.

Firstly apologies for the huge email that I sent from Lightning Ridge and apparently forgot to resize the photos….. it didn’t even fit in some of your mail boxes so huge humble apologies that!

Callum and I have had a bit of a whirlwind trip and between us we’ve managed to fit in quite a lot of tourist attractions including Singapore’s famous Botanic Gardens.

Other sight-seeing included the Dinosaur Exhibition, Little India, Singapore Zoo, Sentosa Aquarium, China Town, Gardens by the Bay and even the Light Show, which Nigel and I missed last time. We did it all by public transport and I’m proud to say that we never once got lost…… although I must admit that my grandson has a much better idea when it comes to all things directional!

There were also the mandatory swims in the pool every afternoon – usually after shopping – as well as a chance encounter with a rather large water dragon that luckily decided that it didn’t want to cross our path after all!

Now, there’s just one more sleep before we head off to the airport tomorrow night. It’s been fun catching up (and being spoilt) but now I’m looking forward to some winter weather again. After years in the outback, this humidity has become quite foreign to me, if you’ll excuse the pun.

What about the Project?

It’s been a few months since we re-settled in Paradise  and after making good use of Gumtree to rid our house of excess furniture, crockery, cutlery etc it soon felt as if we’ d never left.

Still, there are always fond memories of people and places that won’t be forgotten and we feel richer for the whole experience.

The Cenotaph has been constructed and with the extra funding from the  second successful grant application, the fence, honour boards and display cabinets have completed the project. While I was disappointed that we couldn’t make the inaugural ANZAC Day ceremony, it was an honour to  be involved in securing the funds that will ensure that the WWI service personnel of  Enngonia and surrounds will not be forgotten. Here are some photos of the Cenotaph as it’s evolved.