Wind it up

This is the final diary-style entry in this blog. I will post one more update next month listing links to our other web sites and new projects.
I have enjoyed keeping a public diary of our last 3 years' worth of life changes: Moving to a new country and a new climate, moving from the city to the countryside, changing careers, having our first child, starting our little company, becoming part of the convoluted (but incredibly awesome) social scene in and around Nimbin town, and best of all, making a whole new set of (incredibly awesome but I would say that wouldn't I 'cause too many of them now read this blog) friends.
Our little family now feels settled in Australia, and embedded (if oddly) in the Nimbin/Brisbane axis of queasle.
This feels like the right time to draw a line under this diary, as we move into the next phase of our life down under; there will be new (hopefully exciting) online projects, some within a few weeks - I will post links from this blog if appropriate.
If anyone has tracked me down here but does not have any other way to contact/find me, you can reach me using jay [dot] stephens [at] gmail [dot] com.

C's mum Rose has immigrated from Lancashire (smart move) and is moving this weekend to a flat in Iluka, the spare bedroom of which will be much abused as our beachside home-from-home this coming Summer, I suspect.

C is pregnant with what will be our second Australian in the family (the due date is January 6, 2011). As when she was pregnant with K, C has combined getting pregnant with starting a contract in Brisbane (with immaculate timing, given that we were both trying for a baby, and also trying to find her a good contract for over seven months) so for the next 5 months she is living and working in Brisbane's CBD (her contract this time is with Brisbane City Council) and we're currently seeing each other 3-4 days a week, depending on our schedules. And yes - I'm the one looking after K midweek!

Having promised that this entry would be diaristic, I better deliver.
I have learnt how to cook pavlova that doesn't suck (between that and getting the Don Bradman question right on the citzenship test, I reckon I'm a shoo-in for a blue passport now!) C has moved back in to the rental with Marina in Brisbane's West End (midweek) but this time she's downstairs - it's a fairly dark and primitive space (think something between "grungy squat" and "rumpus room") but it's incredibly central to Brisbane CBD and 1 minute's walk from the funky cafe/nightlife scene in West End, and also an absolutely gigantic space (2 huge bedrooms, a massive loungespace, separate french doors onto the back garden, plus own bathroom). This makes it practical for me to come to Brisbane for the weekend with K sometimes, rather than C coming back down to Nimbin every week, and allows it to work for us as a poor man's pied à terre when we have time off together. Not trivially, it also means C is within striking distance of nutritious food when she's eating for two and too tired to cook.
We have been to the Lismore Lantern parade (which was awesome compared to last year - no mud, and a great - tho scary for toddlers - contribution from the dinosaur exhibition that was in town the same week).

we have been on a steam train, we have walked along the waterfront at Grafton, we have paddled at the beach at Iluka, we have spent half a day at Out Of The Box, we have cycled along Brisbane's riverfront and drunk mochaccino in the sunshine by Eagle Street Pier's vintage paddle-steamers, and we made it to the first Blue Knob Farmers Market and purchased awesome fruit loaf, local sheeps milk brie, and insanely delicious local peperberry mustard.

Nimbin has two new shops on Cullen Street - the mechanic's workshop (NRMA) has relocated behind the servo, off the main drag, and all manner of colourful wares now spill out across what used to be the mechanic's forecourt. This has filled in what was a bit of a dead spot along Cullen Street, especially combined with the old bank building on the far side being transformed into retail space, the chemists opening an embedded cafe, and the e-bar making use of the off-street outdoor patio area for their tables.


Chain migration

We drove to the airport to collect C's mum, who was arriving, for the first time, on an Australian resident's visa rather than as a tourist. En route, C got a call on her mobile to confirm she would be offered a 24 month contract with Brisbane City council.
We spent the day in brissie, and had dinner with Marina, who had set up a barbie in the back yard. Our ex-downstairs neighbour John was moving out, so the occasion was really a farewell for John (who has only moved about 1km towards Hill End). C will move into John's old digs midweek while she works her contract, and commute back to Nimbin for the weekends. Fairly silly, but there doesn't seem to be a sensible option.
Nej was very happy t see K again, and she took her away for ages, being "mum", which was even more fun for us than for Nej.
The following weekend was Mardi Grass. It was low-key compared to '09, which was probably terrible for the stallholders and shops, but made for a great weekend for ordinary festivalgoers: There were no queues, it was easy to sit down when you wanted to, and I was able to get to the front row to watch the Kombi convoy. With no plan defined, and this being our fifth Mardi Grass (and therefore lacking any sense of pressure to try to see everything), we simply wandered around for two days, soaking up the atomosphere, and enjoying the music, talks, live shows and carnival floats, with that particular smugness that comes from not having to sleep in a tent and use communal toilets, and having a "Local" sticker on your dashboard.


In the Market

Having done the Lismore covered market and then Nimbin market the following week (which featured a great line-up of bands and solo artists on the stage as they're now drifting into town ready for Mardi Grass) we then hit Lismore again to check out the regional organic farmers' market on the following Saturday - something that's been on our list for over two years, but somehow never seemed to fit. It happens at the showgrounds in North Lismore, and it is a bit of a Range-rover and wellies event, but with plenty of yummy local produce (including cheeses and wines I wasn't aware of) making it worth a visit.
We also made time for the Nimbin Autumn Art extravaganza - not only does the standard of the local art keep getting better, but the gallery now boasts its own cafe with a fine balcony overlooking the Nimbin valley, which makes it much easier for us to appreciate all that was on show with a recalcitrant toddler, as we were able to take turns nursing a cappucino and helping K with some crayons.
I finally finished the fishpond, filled it with water,got the pump wired up, and put four bemused goldfish in it. We'll see how long they last. Getting the pond finished in the front garden had the pleasing knock-on effect of motivating C and me to finally shift the great-big-brush-pile from near the front hedge, where it had grown to visible-from-space proportions, and was threatening to become a fire hazard.
I also had an extremely nerve-wracking close call with my hard-drive. It failed gradually, causing BSODs and staying up progressively less long between mandatory reboots, and the replacement HDD I'd ordered (foolishly, as a trial order via US-based international delivery company www.shipito.com, which I do recommend, but which takes a little longer than you'd think) came through just in the nick of time.
This Friday we drove to Gold Coast and caught up with Bas and Jo at their time share apartment at Coolangatta (Beach, wine, pizza, catching up - it's 18 months since we last made it to NZ) and then on the Saturday we drove back for Nik's birthday party (which, quite properly, was an all-nighter, but C and I flaked out of at about 2:15am).
The bank holiday Monday was spent getting the house and garden ready for C's mum's arrival from the UK - though the downstairs flat was more or less set up because my mum had stayed there only a few weeks before.



C needed a wisdom tooth removed, and we're still dentisting in Brissie, so we made a (somewhat painful for C) Friday of it.
K and I had great fun in the City - she somehow talked me into buying her preposterous quantities of junk food.
Rod & Cherdina had us over for dinner and wine and put us up (Cherdina is gonna be a mum, we discovered - she abstained from the wine) but of course K, being full of junk food, would not sleep. I gave up trying to sleep with a very awake and energetic toddler in the same bed at around four in the morning, jumped in the car, and drove round the corner to the river, and went for a walk with K over the Schonnel bridge, and round some of the UQ campus and back. Unfortunately, despite her running most of the way in both directions, she still had more energy than me when we got home.
Back in Nimbin I was able to pander to my (too often suppressed, these days) inner geek, as Phil organised a game of Paranoia - which was even more fun than I expected, and finished up as a sleepover. Unlike my student geek roleplaying days, we were all treated to fruit pancakes in the morning, and then we took a walk to the creek below Phil's place (great spot, steep hill coming back up though)!
Anja had organised a bonfire at hers on the Sunday evening. Unfortunately the wood was a bit too green to really burn, but that didn't stop us making an evening of it, with candles under the trees in her garden and cakes and a BBQ keeping us fed - early April is actually perfectly fine for evening outdoor events here in NNSW, even without a crackling bonfire.
This week, though, is my official "I'll only swim in the sea if it's a perfect day" cut-off point; in high Summer, I'll jump in at the beach no matter what the weather.
I kept my birthday quiet.
Last time I'll get away with that in Nimbin.


Marching on

I was chuffed that the competition fellow (but vastly more professional) blogger Felix ran on his blog ended up with me fluking the second prize. When it gets here I'll put a review page up (New resolution: From now on, if I read a book purely due to a friend recommending it, they can ask me for a review on this blog).
Midweek (unusually) involved some physical exertion as I joined a few others in helping Phil roll (yes, physically roll) his two 5,000 gallon water tanks into position, using the Pharaoh's preferred methods: Shoulder-pushing and lowering by rope.
Friday involved yet another round of immigration paperwork for C's mum: This time the department concerned wanted signed bonds and documents relating to Medicare guarantees, so we shuttled between the bank and the Centrelink office until we had the requisite signatures and the appropriate forms in triplicate.
Saturday saw some minor celebrations as we joined Benny and a group of mates to celebrate them finally getting the Rocksview guesthouse launched. There is some serious competition, but that place might genuinely have the best views of anywhere you could stay in Nimbin.
The weather is (so far) staying warm and dry - we must take advantage of the Nimbin pool a bit more before it changes its mind and serves up another slice of wet season!


Here Comes the Rain again

So we all got up at five am and piled in the car, dropped K with the babysitter (Chris of course) and drove Fran to Brisbane airport. Fran had spent her last day with K showing her how to recognise her Secondlife avatar, so in addition to Skype chats they can hang out in Secondlife.

After dropping Fran off, we caught APT6 at GOMA (really, really awesome - APT is my favourite mainstream art event; it almost makes me want to stop being a philistine, and some pieces even actually verge on relevance).
After taking that in, and two Ugees espressos, we headed to Naomi's new place in Holland Park to check out how they've got it set up. Quickly, is the answer.

As we had an excuse to be in Brisbane sans toddler anyway, and all our friends were going to a burlesque ball, we decided it would be churlish not to join in. Much sartorial fun was had, and despite the stage show being well below par, it was an awesome night. In fact, the stage show being pants might have actually made it better - the whole group spent more time chatting and interacting than staring at the stage. C and I said bye to our (far more hardcore) fellow burlesquers, and drove back across the Brisbane river to Naomi's in the pouring rain at five am, and slept for three hours. Five am is a horrible time of day when you see it in the morning, and then you see it that same night, without having slept in between. At eight am we got up, and realised Naomi and Bruce had left for work, leaving us alone in their house. We briefly considered trashing the place and getting the gang round for an impromptu beerkeg party, but decided to get eggs benedict at a Stones Corner cafe instead, and then headed South on the M1 to get back to our daughter (we need not have worried, as she'd had a great time for the whole 30 hours we were away - a new record).

Back in Nimbin, the rains had set in for real - there is now a steady alternation between drizzle and hammering rain, the sky is gunmetal grey morning and evening, and you can hardly leave the house without tripping over all kinds of delicious mushrooms.
Being severely out of practice, the weekend of driving and clubbing in the big city left us both destroyed - ten days of taking it very easy indeed ensued, which is actually rather pathetic. But I can be honest with you, right, blog-page? You won't tell anyone else? Good.


Sunshine in February

Last week in February, and it looks like the rainy season is creeping around. I've chosen the start of the rains as the ideal time to kick off an outdoor project - replacing rotten timbers on the deck. Replacing boards on a deck 20 foot up has a whole set of interesting challenges when there's a two-year-old always eager to fall in any holes or gaps, or throw plant pots down them. Or hit me in the face with the end of the discarded boards that has the rusty nails protruding.

Of course, it wouldn't be February in Nimbin without a blackout. K loves powercuts because she gets triple bedtime stories by candlelight. I'm less keen because it makes getting my job done a real pain. I still don't have a proper UPS or generator system, but I'm now able to run my small camping inverter to power a laptop and modem, and if the phone line is out I can fail back to my WiFi modem too, so quite a few things have to fail at the same time to keep me from getting online.
We spent a quiet weekend at home, as it's Fran's last weekend with K for a long while, so it's been good to maximise play time for them. We've also finalised getting the downstairs tiled - we just have to come up with the money now, and then that's the last detail and we can start worrying about the part of the house we actually live in. Finalised is not quite true. We have a quote, and we know how long it will take, and the dimensions the tiles should be... But we have yet to actually agree on a colour.
Finally, this week marks the beginning of a long-postponed project: I'm going to abandon hotmail for gmail. I've got so many online accounts tied to hotmail, so may secondary accounts forwarding to hotmail, and so many never-check-their-email friends with my hotmail scribbled in their address book, that it's going to be a long process. The straw that broke the camel's back? The shit integration between hotmail and Outlook. If you pay hundreds of dollars for a product from the world's biggest software company, and it's crippled and missing basic functions when you hook it up to that same company's webmail offering, it's time to look elsewhere.