How many people get to live their dreams? I am..........!

This is my story from the time when Capt'n John and I first decided to sail around the big block, to circumnavigate this great land of ours, AUSTRALIA.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Australian War - The Bombing of Darwin Ecumenical Services

The Australian War - The Bombing of Darwin Ecumenical Services

my father, Colin Alfred Hockey in 1941 just after he enlisted
Tuesday 19th February 2013 was the 71st Anniversary of the first Bombing of Darwin; MrJ and I took the bus into the city to participate in the commemorative service and then on the Wednesday 20th February 2013 we drove down to the Adelaide River War Memorial Cemetery at the Township of Adelaide River, some 125k down the Stuart Highway.
I have a close tie to the memory of this day. My father served in the RAAF during the Second World War and was posted in Darwin and other parts of the Northern Territory during all the bombings. My father pasted away 17 years ago and never did return to the Northern Territory since those war years.



The Japs Bombed Darwin
It was World War II and many of Australia’s young men and women had enlisted to serve their country and their Queen. Many of our servicemen had been posted overseas in the war throughout Europe, North Africa and the islands of the North Pacific.
On 19 February 1942 mainland Australia came under attack for the first time when Japanese forces mounted two air raids on Darwin. The two attacks, which were planned and led by Mitsuo Fuchida, the commander responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbour ten weeks earlier, involved 54 land-based bombers and approximately 188 attack aircraft which were launched from four Japanese aircraft-carriers in the Timor Sea. The first wave of bombers was spotted passing over Bathurst Island, to the north of Darwin, half an hour before the first bombs fell. News of the sighting was radioed to the RAAF operations centre in Darwin, but was ignored by officers on duty because they believed the aircraft were American Kittyhawks returning to Darwin. It wasn't until a few seconds before they dropped their bombs that the first siren in Darwin was sounded, and this delay added to the casualty toll.
"We could see the red dots on the side of the aircraft, they were so low," says one witness. "We thought they were dropping silver bells, until we realised they were bombs. I was terrified and ran to shelter in a quarry."
In the first attack, which began just before 10.00 am, heavy bombers pattern-bombed the harbour and town; dive bombers escorted by Zero fighters then attacked shipping in the harbour, the military and civil aerodromes, and the hospital at Berrimah. The land targets included the Post Office, Telegraph Office, Cable Office and the Postmaster's Residence, where postal workers were killed. The attack ceased after about 40 minutes. The munitions ship Neptuna, a merchant ship, was tied up at the inner wharf when it copped a direct hit. It exploded with the loss of at least 45 lives. Men were blasted into the sea, burning with fuel oil: some were rescued in acts of extraordinary bravery, but many others perished.
The second attack, which began an hour later, involved high altitude bombing of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Parap which lasted for 20–25 minutes. The two raids killed at least 243 people and between 300 and 400 were wounded. At least 22 aircraft were destroyed, including two Catalina flying boats, eight ships at anchor in the harbour were sunk, and most civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed. The Japanese encountered little resistance. A lone Kittyhawk managed to meet the incoming fighters but was quickly shot down. Anti-aircraft gunners fought hard but with little effect. They had received no training.
The raids left Darwin stunned. Chaos, bordering on anarchy, reigned. Civilians looked to the government-appointed Northern Territories administrator, Aubrey Abbott, for instructions but he dithered, expecting the military to take control. Communication was poor enabling local authorities to keep a lid on what happened on that awful day. Communications out of Darwin were also very poor and it took time for the news to filter out; while the Australian authorities played it down, for fear of provoking national panic.

Contrary to widespread belief at the time, the attacks were not a precursor to an invasion. The Japanese were preparing to invade Timor, and anticipated that a disruptive air attack would hinder Darwin's potential as a base from which the Allies could launch a counter-offensive, and at the same time would damage Australian morale. With Singapore having fallen to the Japanese only days earlier, and concerned at the effect of the bombing on national morale, the government announced that only 17 people had been killed.The air attacks on Darwin continued until November 1943 (the last one being over Adelaide River), by which time the Japanese had bombed Darwin 64 times. During the war other towns in northern Australia were also the target of Japanese air attack, with bombs being dropped on Townsville, Katherine, Wyndham, Derby, Broome and Port Hedland.
In the hours following the air raids on 19 February, believing that an invasion was imminent, Darwin’s population began a southward rush by any means available heading for Adelaide River and the train south. The panicky exodus became known as the Adelaide River Stakes, as people packed whatever possessions they could manage and took cars, bikes; even the council sanitary cart; or walked towards Adelaide River. Approximately half Darwin's civilian population ultimately fled. The panic in the town was repeated at the RAAF base, where servicemen deserted their stations in great numbers. The exodus may have been chaotic, but a civilian rush to leave a battlefield is hardly a cause for shame. Instead, the finger of shame can be pointed at the military. After viewing the total destruction at the airfield, the RAAF station commander ordered his men to meet at a kitchen station half a mile down the main south road and half a mile into the bush. This order was passed on by mouth and was inevitably corrupted. Some men went three miles down the road; others seven. Some men simply took to the bush. Three days after the bombing, 278 RAAF personnel were still missing. One made it to Melbourne in 13 days. First newspaper reports said there had been "considerable damage" in Darwin, but later stories told of minimal impact. Stating there were two deaths, said one report, when the real figure was at least 243.
The Northern Territories administrator, Aubrey Abbott, appeared to compound the problems by his ineptitude. In an acclaimed book on the Darwin bombing, An Awkward Truth, Peter Grose writes that Abbott tried to enlist the help of military police to restore order. But they themselves ended up drunk and took part in the looting that followed the attacks.  Abbott himself spent his time securing his drinks cellar and making sure the bank's money was sent away for safe keeping; a strange set of priorities for a man whose town was in ruins.  However, unlike many, he did, a least, stay at his post, remaining for another 12 days after the assault. One of the few other laudable responses to the raid had come from the gunners who'd tried to repel the Japanese onslaught, though their meagre munitions, which made them no match for their aerial opponents.
The exodus south and the looting and disorder which subsequently occurred led the government to hurriedly appoint a Commission of Inquiry led by Mr Justice Lowe which issued two reports, one on 27 March and the other on 9 April 1942. The awkward truth was still too raw to be dealt with. Lowe used temperate language in his report, but there was no mistaking his meaning. He blasted top RAAF brass for a lack of "competent leadership", which had led to "deplorable" outcomes. He said the quality of the men was not unsatisfactory, but they had been failed by a lack of training and a lack of leadership. Many of those military men who absconded into the bush had not been trained in the use of rifles, and they had only a few rounds of ammunition, and were unwilling to "hang around to be massacred by the Japanese." Lowe rebuked Abbott for failing to plan for an air attack and for dithering before handing power to the military. But he refused to criticise him for removing liquor and crockery that otherwise would have been looted. He also acknowledged the "many acts of heroism" during the raids, with special mention of nurses at the bombed-out hospital and a prisoner, "Sinclair by name", who was released from Fanny Bay jail during the raid and who "performed magnificent service" in providing first aid to the injured before reporting back to jail.
the boys in the bush
It has taken many years for the awkward truth to emerge about the panic and the failure of leadership, from the authorities following the bombing. For any analysis, it did not look good. Yet the negative truth masked other, equally true, stories of courage and heroism among soldiers, sailors and civilians alike.
From the first raid on 19th February 1942 until the last on 12 November 1943, Australia and its allies lost about 900 people, 77 aircraft and several ships. Many military and civilian facilities were destroyed. The Japanese lost about 131 aircraft in total during the attacks.
The Australian Government at the time put out a 50years Secret Act stopping any information about the war in Darwin from being released to the public. For years the attack was kept a secret and was rarely mentioned, but now the story is finally being told.
More interesting reading

Tuesday 19th February 2013 - The Bombing of Darwin Ecumenical Service

dressed in the uniform of the 1942 day
Her Worship Lord Mayor of Darwin, Katrina Fong Lim & Mary Lee
Three thousand people, including a large number of veterans tuned out on a typical Darwin very hot and humid day to commemorate the people who had lost their lives during the Bombing of Darwin. MrJ found us refuge along with the majority of the crowd under the protection of a large cover that Council had erected. We took our seat and waited. I was too restless to stay put, leaving MrJ in the company of a rather remarkable woman, Mary Lee whose father had been killed while helping to load the Neptuna, when the first bombs were dropped but his body was never found. Mary (aged nine at the time) with her mother and eight other sibling, were evacuated to Katherine which was also bombed. Mary has a great history in the Territory and many decedents. Some, including grandchildren, were at the service this day. One in particular was Her Worship Lord Mayor of Darwin, Katrina Fong Lim.
soldier down
Off I went, camera in tow, to rub shoulders with the big guns. Big guns literally, up the back where the artillery guns were to be fired and with the rest of the media pack. This is where I spent most of my time during the service which in my thoughts went far too long. Two of the military personnel involved with the ceremonies (one soldier of the Catafalque Party and an airman of the Flag Party) fainted and one had to be taken to hospital. The media cameramen went wild, trying to get that shot and it was the big news item in all the media the following day – main topic was too hot, too long with too many dragged out speeches. The boys and girls of the forces stood their posts in the extreme humid Darwin heat as those have done before them and will do again, along with the many veterans and public. Because of the time of year for this service maybe they do need to change some protocols.
media man
 For me the service was not as emotional as I thought it would be as I was being carried along with the excitement of the media playing their paparazzi game. Something that I have never experienced before and will probably never experience again; I can’t lie and say that I did not enjoy the experience. I did, it was a real buzz!
The crowd had gathered, a Naval Patrol Boat patrolled the waters of the harbour to keep any other boats clear, the soldiers were in place and then at 0948hs the air-raid sirens sounded, the exact time it had sounded on this day 71 years ago. For a few moments everyone stood still, an eerie stillness along with the eerie sound of the sirens. It was at this moment that I recalled the memories of my father and wondered where he was right now back then.


 This mood was immediately broken with the sound and sight of the flypast of five F/A 18 Aircraft and the firing of four M2A2 (105mm) Howitzer Guns from the 8/12th Regiment, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery. It was like being at the frontline, the noise was thunderous, I was close enough to see and smell the sweat on the soldiers faces. Like everybody else, I did wear the earplugs suppled and did keep behind the imaginary line patrolled by a few soldiers, some dressed in the dress of the era, even so the noise of the guns thundered through my chest and the smoke from the shots covered me in a thick haze. The noise, the smoke, relentless sun and the humid heat all helped to produce that dirty, smelly, sweaty feeling and here I was bobbing around with my camera in a light dress. That’s about as close I will ever come to the real thing.
My counterparts, I feel that I can call them that now, the other camera men and one woman (an official naval photographer) carried their big guns while I had my little one, which up until today I had always thought of as a big camera (It is compared to my old point and shoot cameras) and we all got the same shots. Well nearly, they had the better zoom lens.
The service had started - The Catafalque Party entered the parade ground and took their post. A catafalque (cat-a-falk) is a raised structure supporting a stand that usually holds a coffin to allow mourners to file past and pay their last respects. A watch or catafalque party was traditionally mounted around the coffin to ensure the safety of the body while it lay in state. Legend has it that the first catafalque parties guarded important and wealthy people’s coffins from thieves and vandals. Today, catafalque parties are mounted around coffins as a sign of respect and around memorials on occasions of remembrance. The catafalque party consists of four members of an armed guard, the four sentries, who stand, their heads bowed and their arms (weapon) reversed, facing outward approximately one meter from the coffin or catafalque as a symbolic form of respect for those who have fallen, a waiting member in reserve and a commander The origin of the tradition of resting on reversed arms is lost in time. It was used by a Commonwealth soldier at the execution of Charles I in 1649 (the soldier was duly punished for his symbolic gesture towards the King’s death) and it is recorded that at the funeral for Marlborough in 1722, the troops carried out a formal reverse arms drill which was especially invented for the service as a unique sign of respect to the great soldier.
a deceased veteran's great, great grand-daughter

The speeches were made; they went on forever, before the laying of the wreaths by the veterans, official and public. The Ode to Remembrance was read, the response – Lest We Forget, the Last Post was played and the Minutes Silence was done, which put me back in the memory of my dad. We all joined in with the singing of the National Anthem, music played by the Australian Army Band Darwin, the Catafalque Party and Flag Party dismounted, the Australian Defence Force Party departed the parade area and we all went home.

Well, not really – most of the crowd went home or to wherever, the officials and official Veterans went to an official luncheon at Parliament House, MrJ and I took a walk around to Parliament House but only got as far as the Library, we did not have the right invitation to get in (now that is another story in its self). We then went and grabbed some lunch at The Deck, great Curried Duck Slices and Rice, yummo, and then went for another long walk along the Esplanade before heading for the bus and home.

the Digger's

 Wednesday 20th February 2013
The Memorial for those with no known graves at the Adelaide River War Cemetery

With the loan of Fern’s car MrJ and I were out early to drive the 125ks down to Adelaide River where the War Memorial and War Cemetery for the dead from the Bombing of Darwin. MrJ was wearing his service medal and I had my dad’s with me. Adelaide River was going to be the frontline if the Japanese had of invaded Darwin after the air raids.
This day, standing out at the Memorial and seeing the numerous graves, a lot of which are un-named, brought out the realization of the horror of the bombing to me. I began to have many thoughts of my dad and his mates. Where were they on the day and days and months to follow? Dad did speak of mates who had been killed but never told the full stories, just that they had died. Were they here? Which one would they be or were they one of the un-marked graves? I will never know.

Saysha Ham

The Commemorative Service at Adelaide River War Cemetery was a small quiet affair, about 200 people attended. Two busloads of people, including the old veterans who were in Darwin yesterday came out. The service started at 1000hs. It had turned out to be another very hot humid morning; the boys and girls of the Catafalque Party and Flag Party once again stood in that one position for near the entire service, which was not as long as yesterday’s. All visitors were helped to their seated and regularly supplied with cups of fresh drinking water by the students of the Adelaide River School. The service began with the song I Am Australian, performed by Y11 student from the Good Shepherd Lutheran Collage, Saysha Ham with an angelic voice and a very competent guitar player. Saysha also sang the Nation Anthem, Advance Australia Fair and the Hymn, Abide with Me. It was fabulous to see all these school students taking a part in the service; brought back memories of a small village and my children’s involvement in similar remembrance days many years ago.
Her Worship Lord Mayor of Darwin & MrJ

There was dignitary present, including Her Worship Lord Mayor of Darwin, Katrina Fong Lim who MrJ and I got to speak to at the end of the service. Lord Mayor Katrina is an easy to talk to lady, a very down to earth person with a huge infectious smile and a long family history around the Territory. One speaker or should I say storyteller, Richard Luxton a historian who told the story of two servicemen that were buried at the War Cemetery, prayers and wreath laying. The veterans’ one by one, or being assisted by their helper, approached the cenotaph, stood silently and quietly laid a red poppy down. The Red Poppy has special significance for Australians; the Red Poppy was adopted as the Emblem of Remembrance.

Because I was allowed to move around with my camera (I did so quietly) I was able to see a few of these special things up close and by seeing them I was feeling them too. This made me very emotional. The wreath laying was followed by the reading of The Ode
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

This was followed by the Last Post, a minutes silence and the Rouse –the raising of the flag. That did it for me. I raised my hand to still the tinkling of my dad’s medal on my chest; it was too much, I welled up with tears. The relaxed atmosphere of a more personal small service where you can sense the camaraderie felt by the diggers along with the natural bush surrounds and the stillness of the grave sites, was a huge emotion ride for me and no paparazzi to spoil the feeling.

MrJ and I had arrived early so before going to the Cemetery we had an iced coffee and a sandwich at one of the picnic tables just across the road. The bush setting was perfect with small kangaroo and/or wallabies in the distance feeding on the grass, the sound of the birds above in the big shady trees and the scurrying of the ants to the smell of the food. It was quiet! Then it was time to go.
After the service we called into the historic railway from WWII at Adelaide River and then drove back to Darwin stopping at the Noonamah Pub which is now called a tavern, for some lunch. Nothing fancy, a Barra burger and a beer!

Footnote: I have sent away for my father’s War Service records. Maybe they will help me add more pieces to the puzzle.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

January 2013 – Nancy Takes a Holiday

As the sun sets gently in the west- Cobar NSW
January 2013 – Darwin to Cobar and Back

(My apologies for changing my comments setting – dues to the hoards of  anonymous spam messages being left, I have been forced to make it comments from registered user only)

Balmy evenings
afternoon storm clouds
2013 starts with more hot humid weather with threatening afternoon storm clouds which bring a few storms but still no sign of a real wet season.
MrJ has been busy doing odd jobs around the boat or out helping Rob with the work on Babe’s keel while I get to stay home and find things to do out of the heat, like spring clean and play with photos.
We did have the use of Fern’s car for a while but all good things have to come to an end more sooner than later and so the car went back  leaving MrJ and I to catching the bus everywhere, one more. I don’t mind catching the bus, it gives you a great ride around town and cost next to nothing – I pay $1 and MrJ is free with his Gold Card. We may find it harder to get to some faraway place, this we have yet to find out.
January is my big holiday month when I get to go south to see the grandkids.
I had been busy getting my travel sorted, my street clothes sorted and washed, after being stuffed in a locker for so long. The plane ticket from Darwin to Sydney we purchased online last year in July, to be able to get the best deal. My train travel from Sydney to Dubbo and a bus from Dubbo to Cobar I also bought online. This internet shopping is great...!

Farewell Darwin
My biggest problem was going to be overnight accommodation in Sydney going down and on the return. I looked up a few of the hotel and backpacker accommodations and all the cheap places were already booked out and I was not prepared to pay over $100 upwards just for a night’s sleep. So I decided to give my sister Marj a call on the off chance that she would not be busy those two nights. Bingo – I was in luck as she was happy to give me a bed. My sister Marj inherited our parent’s old house where we all lived when I was a child. Marj has always been there, she just never moved out and the house is still the same as back then only now a bit more rundown. So sad!
The day came for me to go and as luck would have it, MrJ was able to borrow Alison’s car to get me to the Darwin Airport, on another very hot and sticky day. It was so hot and humid that as soon as I stepped outside my glasses would fog up making hard to see anything. I certainly did not miss the humidity!
Up and away in no time I was the air for the four hour flight to Sydney. Darwin is 1 ½ hours behind Sydney. Although I left Darwin at lunchtime I would not be getting into Sydney till 7.30 at night. Once off the plane in Sydney, I was able to collect my baggage without any holdup, jump in the first available taxi in a huge line up of waiting taxis and make a b-line straight for Marj’s. It was a very hot evening in Sydney, one of the hottest days Sydney has had for many years. At least there was not the Darwin humidity

Hello Sydney

Marj’s old house is not insulated and Marj does not have any air conditioning, just a couple of small fans. I really don’t understand how Marj can live like that. (Not being critical - just my own thoughts – each to their own).
The taxi pulled up outside the old house; I pulled my bag up the small steps and was greeted at the front screen door by my sister huffing and puffing with near heat extortion as she came down the dark hallway to let me in. The poor lady was so hot that the beads of perspiration were sliding down her face. It was good to see my sister; I just wish that she would do better for herself.
Very early the next morning I showered in a bathroom that only half of the taps work and the wall leaks above the bath, dressed, woke Marj to say thank you and see you on the return trip and then caught another Taxi to Central Train Station where I was to board the early morning XPT for Dubbo after which I changed from the train to a Country Link bus for Cobar. Being school holiday, the train was packed with holidaymakers. There were a number of people travelling on to Parkes for the Annual Elvis Festival; what a colourful lot they were and we all had a cheerful trip with little sing-songs happening throughout the carriage.
I got off the train in Dubbo at lunchtime; the heat hit me and was glad when I was on the bus in the air conditioning again. The bus driver was a bit sus, a bit of a slime-bag, touching my hand, arm or shoulder whenever he came close to speak with me. He even came right away from the bus at Cobar, when after I had grabbed my bag and moved away to the side road to wait for Carla and Corey to pick me up, to remind me about what to do on the return trip. What a wanker...!

Bella Edward & Livy
The Cobar grandkids, Bella, Livy and Edward, were so excited to see me. Big hugs and kisses all round. I tossed my bag in the back tray and climbed in for a ride through the red dirt heat. By now it was late afternoon so we all settled inside, out of the Cobar extreme heat.
Bella had once again given me her bedroom for my stay while she was bunking on the floor in Livy’s room. Oh what excitement!
Beautiful Bella, the placid one whose face lights up with an infectious smile and dazzles you with her so grownup conversations. Lively Livy is always on the go, so keen to be helping and doing or instructing you on how to do stuff. Edward, the baby boy, asserting his ways in a house full of girls, likes to be left alone but at the same time does not want to miss out on anything.
The two girls were very busy with giving Nan the grand tour of their wonderful things as Edward stayed a little in the background watching. The next day Edward was just as eager as the girls to have Nan look at all his stuff – I knew he would come around sooner than later.
Carla (my youngest daughter) and Corey have a nice tidy little house in a quiet street towards the western edge of Cobar. They still have Ruby the pussycat, the two dogs Chevy and Rebel and a pen full of chooks, one of which crows like a rooster. How funny!
At the house I spent my two days playing games, doing puzzles and drawing as well as helping Carla put out or bring in the huge loads of washing. I had forgotten about that side of having a small family.

Bella in the old train carriage
Thursday we all went for a tour through the local Cobar Museum, which gave me a better idea of how this mining town came about. Later that afternoon we spent a couple of hours at the local swimming pool. Once I had cooled off in the water I hopped out, grabbed my camera and took some great shots of the grandkids and their antics jumping off the small diving board and sliding down the waterslide. That evening at sunset, we took a drive up to the look out over the big open cut gold mine.
Edward talk on the old phone
Livy poses with the old pram
pool antics
walking at the Newy
Friday morning Carla, Corey and I took a short walk, with the kids riding alongside on their bikes, around the Newy, the town lake. And of course there was a stop to play in and nb the water's edge. How could we not?
That afternoon we all climbed into the 4X4 and went for a bush-bashing drive through the dead dry red dirt countryside; seeing wild kangaroos and emus.
Friday afternoon is also Happy Hour at home. Carla, Corey and I sat under the front carport have a couple of cold beers while the kids played in the portable pool or rode their bikes in the driveway. It was just a great time to relax and unwind with lots of chit chat!

Carla says that once Edward starts school next year that she will be promoted from a stay at home mum to a stay at home wife. Hahaha – so funny! Corey is still having the back problem issues and is now on a permanent disability pension. Not so good for such a young man! But I will say will all the hic-ups, medical issues and troubles that Carla and Corey have been through in their young lives it is great to see the love, understanding and caring still in their eyes. I take my hat off to them for working through everything together!

My visit to my Cobar family was over in no time at all when I found myself on the bus this time leaving Cobar behind. I waved vigorously out the window to just as vigorous waves and kiss back.
The four hour bus trip back to Dubbo passed quick enough, with me nearly finishing one of the books that I had packed. And there was no creepy bus driver this time!

Jack, Bridie, Kai & Piper

Manda (my second daughter) picked me up from the train station where the bus terminal is too. The heat was still the same in Dubbo, a hot dry heat that dried your throat. Piper came to pick me up too while Kai and Bride stayed home to finish their Saturday chores which they were just finishing as I walked in the door. Everything was dropped for a great big round of hugs and kisses. How much they have grown up over the past twelve months!
Bridie and I bunked in the double bed in Kai’s room while Kai bunked in Bridie’s bed in Bridie and Piper’s room bed. Kai is a big sixth grader this year and Bridie is growing into a very bright beautiful young lady. I didn’t slip past my shape eyes that Bridie still takes the old bit of sarong material that I had given her to bed with her as a cuddle blankie. How cute- -makes me feel all warm and fuzzy!
Manda was on holidays from the Police Force; she is still enjoying her job and looking forward to working for a long time yet.  Clint is back at work after the Christmas New Year break.
That afternoon Cassandra (daughter number one) came around with little Jack (the youngest grandkid). Jack had turned one at the end of last November and I had not seen him since this time last year. Jack is certainly the one year old, cute as a button and a blonde blue eyed handsome little dude. And I’m not bias! Jack had not long woken up from his afternoon snooze, he was not too sure of me so I let him play around on the lounge room floor with his cousins. As I watch them play I could see that Jack never let his mum get too far out of his sights.
Sunday family exercise

old rail bridge across the Macquarie River
Early Sunday morning we went for walk along the walkway/bike track beside the old railway bridge. Clint and Kia rode the bikes out while Manda, Bridie Piper and I went by car to the beginning of the walkway.  Once at the walkway Manda and Bridie took off at jogging pace leaving Piper and Nan to wander along at leisurely walk with Piper chatting all the way.
This is a newly constructed walkway with a footbridge crossing the Macquarie River beside the old railway bridge. This new walkway now this completes the old walkway to the Western Plains Zoo making a circuit back to town. On the way home Manda and Clint swopped places with Manda riding the bike home with Kai.
I thought we were here to catch yabbies..........................!!!

How many yabbies..................?
After an early light lunch, we drove out to Clint’s mate’s block of land, out on the Old Mendooran Rd where we were hoping to catch yabbies out of one of the old mud dams. I mean old mud dams too as there was not much water left in the dam. The bush area around the dams was all dried and cracking, there has not been rain out this way for quite some time. Like the same at Cobar, everything is brown or red, dead or dried up and dying – no beautiful wild flowers this year. I hope they get some rain soon or the country will be in a bad drought again.

We did manage to catch a few yabbies, Bridie and Piper looked like they were doing most of the work but in reality I think Manda caught the most. The boys spent most of the afternoon splashing about in the muddy water and in the end the yabby catching was given away for the water fun. An old foam boogie board became the entertainment of making a mud home for the yabbies and then giving this game up for more splashing about and jumping off the board.

Even Bridie was getting in on the act, leaving Piper to patrol the yabby lines. Meanwhile Nan, after doing my share of yabby catching out in the hot dry sun, was sitting comfortably in the shade of an old gum tree watching the kid’s antics of splashing about in the old mud dam.

It was time for home and a good hose off. The yabbies that had been held in a bucket of muddy water had been released as most of their mates had escaped from the mud corral on the boogie board leaving no enough yabbies for a feed. The kids got hosed off and the afternoon turned into another one of those backyard Happy Hours with Clint and the kids in the blow-up pool or the kids jumped on the trampoline, Manda and I relaxing in the shade, a couple of cold beers and lots of time for more chit-chat.
Monday was a lazy day around the house. Bridie and I were kept busy trying to make bead bracelets for ourselves and Piper while Kai played his games. I helped Manda put the washing on the line and that was about it for my morning.

That afternoon we went up to see Cassandra and Jack at home. Jack loves to play with his cousins and the two girls love to mother him.
While in Dubbo I could not miss out on spending a night with my youngest grandson. Tuesday I went over to Cassandra and Martin’s for the afternoon and stayed the night.  Little Jack with his bubbly temperament was having such fun in his own house, flashing his bright eyes and giggling out load as he explored the world or investigated mum’s kitchen cupboards.

Jack had an open and shut thing happening; just at that age and small height to be into all the cupboards. Breakfast time was help mum with the dishwasher. How funny! Cassandra and Martin are doing well; Cassandra with her personal training business starting to expand and Martin has taken to driving trucks instead of driving a restaurant kitchen (more evening hours at home).

Tuesday morning, before going up to Cassandra’s, I borrowed Clint’s and went and spent the morning with my dear friend Eilleen. Eilleen greeted me at the door with a big hug which I held for a long time. Eilleen tells me that she thinks of me as one of her daughter; that makes me feel very emotional. We sit out in the back sunroom for hours chatting about our lives and life in general. So good to see Eilleen again and she is looking very well. Good!

Wednesday Manda the kids and I went to the movies to see the new Hobbit in 3D; great movie on the same lines as Lord of the Rings. The 3D glasses did not fit so well over my glasses but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie and ate load of pop corn. It was Miss Piper’s first big movie show; how well behaved she was, sitting through the whole movie without a boo. I think this movie was a great stimulation for her very active creative mind. Back at home I spend some one-on-one time with Bridie finishing our bracelets and colour-in one-on-one time with Piper. Kai is happy to watch TV.
That afternoon I took some fun family shot around the backyard.

Thursday Manda the kids and I spent most of the day at the local Dubbo swimming pool – thank goodness there is a lot of great shady areas. I did a bit of splashing around in the little pool with the kids and left the big pool to Manda and the two older kids while I kept an eye on Piper still in the little pool.
Sometimes Manda would take Piper with her in the big pool and then cousin Jess arrived and all the kids went screaming down the big waterslide.
Once again I took loads of photos of the grandkids at play.

Manda and Clint had asked me to do some formal portrait shot of their family. I was on the last day of my visit, Thursday that we did manage to get them done. Late in the afternoon we drove out to Clint’s Aunty Deb’s house on the Macquarie River – Clint’s mum, Narelle lives out there too. The only place in the west to have any greenery was by the river and we could not have picked a better spot for photos with great subtle afternoon light and the beautiful Macquarie River as a backdrop. It had been a long and energetic day for the kids, all doing their best to look good for the camera in the numerous setting we choose to stand or sit for the photos, but kids being kids they did get a little restless especial young Piper. I thought it would be good just to let them do a few shots being silly and poking our tongues. Hahaha – it worked and we were back to looking great for the camera again.

The morning I had to leave Manda was called into work, some court hearing, and Cassandra was to pick up Bridie and Piper after her morning class had finished, meanwhile Kai had stayed out at Debbie’s and Clint had already gone to work. Cassandra had come home from work and now Jack was asleep. Cousin Jess was called in to stay in the house with Jack while Cassandra came down and picked me up. It was a quick drop off at the station, hugs and kiss and then they were gone and I was left to sit and wait for my train....................................................................... :o(
I was sitting in my sad thoughts when there was a tap on the shoulder. What a surprise to see old friends Tom and Hilary standing there. They were at the station to farewell a friend and could not walk past without say G’day. Just in time to cheer me up!
I board the train back to Sydney carrying with me many great memories that I will hold dear and carry with me for a long, long time; memories to recall at quiet times or when I’m feeling down, memories that will lift my heart and spirits and will make happy, memories of family and good times.

You don’t really want to know all about my long trip back to Darwin and my second stay at my sister’s, so I’m not going to write about it. All you need to know for a good ending is that I made it back safely to my darling MrJ, my beautiful clean home on ALANA ROSE and I had one of the best holidays with my gorgeous family.