The Retirees in the Capital – Canberra

On 12th January 2017, we received wonderful news. Adam and Fasheena have brought another grandchild and their first child into the world. We had arranged to be in Canberra shortly after the birth. Arriving on the 31st January we settled into our hotel and then went to visit number 5 grandchild Francis (after my Dad and me) John (Fasheena’s father) with a third name Nakandemb referring to Fasheena’s passed relatives that Francis will not meet. Francis is a healthy 3 week old boy. Clearly adored by his parents. Fasheena is a confident relaxed mother taking motherhood in her stride. Adam is as excited as I can recall seeing him and like Fasheena seems to take to parenting with a natural instinct. So we have spent some time bonding with Francis and spent sometime looking around Canberra.

We stayed at Olim’s Mercure Hotel near the War Memorial in Ainsley Road. Whilst this is one of the earliest hotels in Canberra and is built in the style of a 1927 country hotel parts of it have been added to provide modern accommodation. Unfortunately we had not done enough research and we were given a standard room – standard for 1927 and the maintenance on the room had not been attended to regularly. To their credit our hosts recognised our complaints and waived breakfast charges.

We spent the first day with Fasheena and Francis until Adam got home from work. Fasheena had a friend Betty visiting as well. So after they had prepared dinner (we were bonding with Francis), Adam showed us Canberra at night from Mount Ainsley.

The next morning we caught the RED bus to see the sights of the city. We did not have enough time to visit the War Memorial (next time) but the Bus went down Anzac Ave past the memorial to the seven conflicts involving Australians at War. We then left the bus at the Lake Burley Griffin boat dock to take a trip around the lake on an electrically powered boat hand painted to depict I know not what.  Some of the sights were Anzac Ave to the War Memorial, Australian National Museum, Telstra Tower at Black Mountain, Australian National Library, Old and new Parliament House, High Court, Blundell’s Cottage an early stone cottage formerley part of the original Duntroon Farm, the Carillion and Kingston shoreline from the Lake.

We disembarked at the same spot and from there went to the High Court. I did not know the court was sitting hearing an Appeal from the Court of appeal in Western Australia. It involved an interpretation of the Constitution and all Attorneys General from the States and Territory were there to intervene. Her Honour Justice Susan Kieffel QC was presiding with the full bench including Mr Justice Eidlmann the new man on the bench getting blooded. For me it was interesting particularly as I was not on the spot briefing Counsel. The Court is very impressive and free to visit. Security is not as tight as I expected. No metal scanners met you at the door. Instead we were met by a friendly member of staff who also volunteered to take some of the following photos.

From there we went to the Australian National Gallery but we were short on time as we wanted to have lunch and visit the Australian Mint. The Mint is not regularly on the RED bus itinerary. You have to ask the driver and provided it is 2.15 pm  he then dashes to the Mint before returning the bus to the scheduled route. In the Mint there is an interesting video on the Australian-born artist Stuart Devlin of the reverse side of Australia’s coins and all of the other designs he has done in precious metals and stones.

After the video we caught up with the guide taking visitors around the history cabinets of Australia’s currency. From the First Fleet until minting of gold coins following the 1850’s gold rush currency proved difficult to keep in the colony until Governor Macquarie obtained 40,000 Spanish dollars from the UK government and punched out the middle of the coin to create our first N.S.W. currency. After the gold rush and the competition between various Mints federation saw the unification of minting coinage. The Royal Australian Mint produced other pennies and shillings until decimal currency. All current coins portray Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, on the obverse, with the present effigy having been designed by Ian Rank-Broadley. This is matched with designs by the Australian-born artist Stuart Devlin on the reverse.  They now comprise 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c coins – all still referred to as ‘silver’ though actually 75% copper and 25% nickel, and for many years there were also “bronze” 2c and 1c coins.

The tour then took us to the minting floors where collectable coins are produced and another floor where the standard currency is manufactured by robots with minimum human intervention.

I was so engrossed in everything that we almost missed the bus. Exiting the building we spotted the bus moving off in the car park. Fortunately the driver spotted us and waited for our late arrival. Unlike the previous day of clear skies and high temperatures this day was scattered cloud threatening rain. Our plans for an al fresco dinner at Kingston looked at risk particularly as we had brought clothes for summer evenings not wet and windy afternoon and night. So after the bus dropped us at Civic there was a spot of shopping at MYERS and we were set for dinner. Adam, Fasheena. Francis and Betty joined us on the lake at Kingston. Francis was perfectly comfortable and well mannered for a three week old. The next day was spent with Fasheena Betty and Francis before we caught the plane back to Brisbane but not before planning the next trip when Francis would visit us in our home and meet Tank the Cat who will join him in Canberra.


The Retirees go Abroad – ANZAC Day Dawn service and Villiers Bretonneux

We did not get back to Des Hortillonnges on Friday; I napped too long apparently. We did go back to the Mall but the promised rain seemed imminent as the weather closed in. Dark clouds and sprinkles of rain chased us all the way back to the apartment.

We set the alarm for 02.00am. I slept like a log and Kerry nervously awaited the alarm. At the appointed hour we dressed packed our backpack and headed for the train station. We were not alone. People were gathering from all directions and not just Australians. However the guides were not so anxious and they did not arrive til 03.00am and the buses (17 of them) until 03.15am. This caused many to wander aimlessly checking and double checking that they would not miss the bus.

Suddenly, Tour Perrett was illuminated with the Australian flag and then followed the guides and then the buses in no particular order. Our tickets allocated the bus we were to catch. Some were the “short tour” – just the dawn service and others like our bus number 5 were for the “long tour” – the dawn service and the French service at the memorial at Villiers Bretonneux. Boarding the bus we were issued with badges to identify our tour and bus number and lapel badges to commemorate the occasion.


The bus took about 20 minutes to travel to the Australian War Memorial and about 20 minutes to navigate the traffic to drop us at the memorial. There were thousands of people, some walking but most arriving by bus. As we alighted fine rain started to fall and a strong breeze blew it into our faces. We walked through the entry into the cemetery. Grave stones decorated with flags of the nationality of the soldier where known stood to attention to our left and right. Australian, New Zealand, British, French, Indian and South African flags identified the nations recognised at the memorial.

There is limited seating so we made our way quickly to get a good position from which to witness the ceremony. Darkness splintered by the camera lights for the broadcast and the official ceremony spread all around so everything seemed somewhat eerie with shadows crossing the graveyard and the monument continuously. We found suitable seats and then the rain started to fall in earnest. We had brought our “Bayeaux Tapestry” ponchos and umbrella. We were confident we would stay dry. Many were not prepared and someone made a lot of money selling clear plastic rain hoods. The military personnel carried on with protection and despite the rain.

We were seated by 04.00am. However the service could not start til the Gallipoli service had finished. In between there were songs, music, a photographic tribute projected onto the tower of the memorial and rain.

With the dawn members of the Federation Guard formed the Catafalque Party to commence the service. The Australian Ambassador to France welcomed everyone and the Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett presented the Call to Remembrance. Monsignor Stuart Hall Principal Chaplin for the RAN performed the Prayer for Remembrance and the Prayer for Peace. Kevin Andrews Minister for Defence delivered the Commemorative Address and Madame Pascale Boistard Secretary of State for Women’s Rights delivered the Commemorative Address for the French nation. This was followed by a reading then the official wreath laying, the Ode of Remembrance the piper, the Last Post, a Minutes Silence and Reveille. The service ended with the national anthems for Australia and France a final blessing from Monsignor Hall and the Catafalque Party dismounts. And still it rained.


The solemnity of the occasion was somewhat destroyed by the rush to the buses that followed. Our rain coats and umbrellas had been partly successful and everyone had the same paranoia about missing the bus back to Villiers Bretonneux, so everyone hurried past the graves to board their bus with some mayhem ensuing. And still it rained.

The drive to the village took less than 10 minutes. So by 07.30am we found ourselves dropped off in an unfamiliar place with vague directions as to where to find the village square and the French Memorial. But it had stopped raining and the glow of the morning illuminated our path to the village. A short stroll through a wooded park brought us to the Marie (the village town hall and Mayor’s office), the village square and the “commercial centre” of the village.

The rush was on for toilets and a warm beverage. We found a less popular café and comfortably fulfilled our requirements before strolling around to the village, the village church, the bakery, the museum and the school. The French service commenced at 09.00am followed by a concert. We attended the service along with the same dignitaries who had attended the Australian service but we were unable to attend the concert. The village hall was filled to overflowing. So we returned to the bakery and the courtyard at the rear until our bus returned at 10.30am.

We returned to Amiens by 11.00am. The stroll back to our apartment seemed a little harder now but after some lunch at the apartment and a rest we were off to Des Hortillonages.

The Retirees take a holiday – in Australia – Canberra

It’s early March and we have returned to Australia for a number of reasons. It was cold but fine as when we left Long Eaton but the unseasonably high temperatures, high humidity and lack of breeze made Brisbane just as unbearable.

My first Saturday back in Brisbane and I am off to Canberra (two hours by plane) to see our son Adam. He is loving living in Canberra. I have never been impressed by Canberra the few times I have travelled there but this time was very different and I can see why Adam has chosen this as his home. Adam introduced me to one of his neighbours by telling me to check out next door. So I poked my head above the fence and to my surprise his neighbours included a large male eastern grey kangaroo standing at least 5 feet tall. The neighbours don’t mow their grass and the roo hops down from Mt Ainslie park to graze on the grasses.

Sunday I forced Adam to take me on the grand tour of Canberra which included the following;

Mt Ainslie to view the city and surrounds and to photograph the War Memorial through to Parliament house.

Then onto the War Memorial. Despite visiting a few memorials around the world – Arlington in Washington, Les Invalides in Paris for example I still believe the War Memorial in Canberra is the best.

Then to Parliament house, the House of Reps and the Senate,

then to Kingston on the lake for lunch (new residential unit strip with cafes and bars)

then to Black Mountain and the Telstra Tower which is obvious on the Canberra skyline no matter where you are, and finally

to Mt Pleasant above Duntroon.

Monday I catch my taxi to the airport then pick up my car. I am at Caloundra by 11.30 am in time for our lunch engagement with Ivor and Shannelle . Only thing is I have picked up a gift – a cold.