Easter Sunday – a Brassy Day

A beautiful sunny day. Happy Easter to all.

We were going to go to the church service at the Cathedral but I want to stay outdoors. So we head to our happy place. The beach.

The Merewether Ocean Baths

We drive this time as we want to explore.

These baths are famous and I remember going there as child visiting an aunt in Newcastle. They are wonderful. If I lived here I’d be at these free baths everyday. With the grandchildren. There are two big baths. One very shallow sandy bottom with a sand beach. Perfect for little children.

The other big pool is long – 100m by 50 metre wide with 10 lanes across for lap swimmers. It’s washed by waves and today the waves are pumping. Big waves crashing over into the pool create a wave pool. There are round the year swimmers here daily.

Free pool for all

There are flower capped ladies walking and talking and more importantly laughing together. There are lap swimmers of all shapes and sizes some in budgie smugglers some in short wet suits.

I spoke to one lady as she was preparing to enter and she told me she swam twice a day since her husband died. She said it helped. And I couldn’t agree more. Swimming is good therapy. So good for the mind. As well as the body.

Steve swam so laps and I walked and chatted.

We walked along the beach front and watched the surfers. The surf is up and they are all out there loving it. Hundreds of walkers stood and watched the display.

Newcastle must be a very fit town. Lots of Lycra for its hundreds of runners, walkers and cyclists. and lots of wonderful foreshore to do it. And hills to climb.

Back in the car we drive to Bar Beach left the car and walked north to eventually join the Memorial Walk. A new walkway suspended above the cliffs and rocks. It’s a tribute to those who have served. It was very windy walking along and we saw several hats being swept over the railings.

From there was drive a little further through King Edward Park with Easter picnickers and found the steps down to the Bogey Hole. Down we went until we caught sight of it. Spectacular. No swimming there today. It was so rough. The giant waves were crashing into the pool and half way to the steel steps leading onto the water.

Steps to the Bogey Hole

After all the walking it was time for brunch. The seaside cafes were awash with eaters. The 30% holiday loading wasn’t putting people off. So we headed back to Darby street a few streets back. A different cafe and a delicious brunch.

How many ways to do smashed avocado? lots and lots is the answer. Did we in Australia invent this popular way of serving avo for breakfast? Do you have it overseas as well? I’d love to know.

Back to our lovely hotel where we changed and Steve headed off to start an Easter afternoon of brass bands. I did a little reading then ‘ booked’ our room refresh. This hotel the Crystalbrook Kingsley has an app for your phone or an iPad in the room where you can do everything including selecting a time to service ( refresh) your room. So convenient.

I also love their bamboo room key ( or link your phone to open your door). It has a green footprint so everything is environmentally friendly. The room lights are great. Including the little low level light that comes on as you walk to the bathroom at night. I loved it. No stumbling around.

I got into the swing of it and joined Steve at the Civic Theatre to hear the Brisbane Brass A. ( not Steve’s new band. He’s going in Brass B) They were very good. Good enough? That shall be revealed.

We took a break for dinner and went along the street to an Asian Fusion restaurant Light Years. what a find. We had a few shared plates prawns, pork Bao Buns , Spring rolls. A glass of bubbles and wine before we made it back to the City Hall to hear the last few bands in Brass B section. Yes we heard Brisbanes B band and also one from the country town of Gunnedah. They were a big surprise. A small town with a big sound.

A little video of Brisbane B

Many in the band are still at school. ‘At least half ‘ said one of the proud mums sitting near us. The conductor was the most enthusiastic bouncy conductor there. It’s obviously a big community effort to get them here. Shades of the movie ‘Brassed Off’s ‘ Grimthorpe Band. They were followed by a local band of mostly retired musicians. I’m getting invested in this competition.

Brisbane B played and were very good. The last band performed at 8.30. There was quite a wait for the results. We looked up the results of the Brass A bands and Brisbane A came a very good 6th.

Finally the results were in for Brass Bands B …..a Victorian band won followed by ……… Gunnedah! Small town made good. I was thrilled for them. Disappointed for Brisbane B. But their 6th out of 14 bands was still very good. They all played 4 pieces. A hymn, their own choice , a March and the test piece selected by the judge ( poor them heard it 14 times).

So it’s all over until 2023 when they will be held in Adelaide. So we could be in Adelaide even longer in March with the Writers Week, The Fringe and now the Brass Band Competition . if Steve is playing with them!

Now the long trip home. 10hours and at the moment Steve is playing his favourites from his CD collection. Yes Brass Bands. I might put my AirPods in and listen to an audio book.

Easter Saturday in Newcastle

After the dramatic lightening last night today it was a bright, sunny but very windy day. We decided to walk along the Harbourside to Newcastle beach.

There are some lovely buildings in this very old town. It was settled very soon after the first settlement in Sydney.

The old railway station
Customs House

Steve was keen to swim in the Ocean Baths. A famous old sandy bottom pool. Unfortunately it is closed. After a lot of controversy it has been decided to renovate the pool and concrete the bottom!

We continued on to the beach. Newcastle has many beautiful beaches and is known for its good surf. I love the steps leading onto the beach. It gives a natural seating area to sit and watch the beach , the surfers 🏄‍♀️ and to catch a little warming sun.

The beach cafe was doing a brisk business in the very chilly breeze. Steve got our coffees and we sat away from others on the steps in the sun. So good.

We walked back up the hill behind the beach. Newcastle has a few good steep hills with wonderful views over the beach and to wards the harbour.

There are some lovely very old buildings including the old hospital.

The hill rose sharply towards a cathedral which we thought was Catholic but turned out to be Anglican. It was cool outside so we went into explore and found a team of volunteers cleaning, getting ready for the Easter celebrations.

I sat and quietly observed and enjoyed the peace while Steve went off to explore. I then heard a voice calling ‘Fran, is that you!’

I looked over to see a lady armed with a broom. It was Janey Smith , the National Chair of ADFAS. I’d just returned from our Sydney Conference ( where I picked up covid) Janey knew to keep her distance and we laughed about the coincidence of meeting in the church. We had planned on meeting for coffee but when I got covid I canceled. Yet here I was ! Almost covid free but definitely keeping away.

I love the tapestry kneeling pads. There must be 300 in the church.

Back to our lovely room at the Crystalbrook for a rest and refresh. This is a very good hotel with a lovely room and a well planned bathroom. What is your favourite hotel ? For amenities and layout?

By now it was lunch time which we were having at an airy outdoor cafe on Darby St There are lots of places to choose from but our friends Brian and Deb Campbell had chosen one for us that had big tables and was away from any other people.

We had a huge catch up. Like Elizabeth and Peter from Crescent Head we met the Campbell’s through their son Richie and our son Rob’s waterpolo career. We sat and cheered their many games together in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane , Beijing & London. Our boys are friends and so are we!

After lunch Steve headed off to more band competition and I headed to the room to rest and read.

Steve enjoyed Canberra City band where he played about 55 years ago!

Steve had a chat to some of the members of the Canberra City band including the conductor. A good reminisce for him. They’ll be inviting him to the bands 150year anniversary in 2025!

A quiet night in our hotel tonight.

Road trip to Newcastle

‘You’ll love it’ said Steve.

The National Band Championships are to be held in Newcastle. an hour north of Sydney. About 10 hours south of Brisbane.

We always go to our beach place at Caloundra for Easter but Steve has joined Brisbane Brass and will start with them playing his trombone after these championships.

Three days after being hit with covid we set off. Steve decided he could risk sitting with me in the car for the 10 hours it takes to drive. If I wear a mask.

We were to stay with our friends Peter & Elizabeth in their beautiful home on the hill overlooking Crescent Head beach. But I wouldn’t put them at risk.

Instead, we met them by the river in Gladstone. It’s a pretty spot. The weather was warm and Elizabeth had the Rose,beer and nibbles all ready at a socially acceptable distance. After sitting for 5.5 hrs with a mask I was ready for a splash of Rose!

After two hours of non stop chat we drove into Kempsey to stay the night at the Blue Moon Motel. At $140 it was a find. They had room service from their motel’s Chinese restaurant and a full moon. Just right for a night.

My covid symptoms are very mild almost non existent, thank goodness. So I’m coping well with the travel.

Last night we had dinner with Dinah, a school friend from Steve’s Canberra days. It was at a airy table almost on the verandah – to be away from others. It was at her sons restaurant Tinta. It’s on Lake Belmont and was just lovely. delicious barramundi.

Our hotel in Newcastle is well located next to City Hall where the championships are held.

This morning we heard the Brisbane Brass band 2 – the one Steve has joined and will start playing with when we return. They were very good and Steve is feeling nervous that he isn’t ready for it. But boy …..he’ll give it a go.

Dinah & Steve we’re at school together more than 55 years ago
The views over the lake were beautiful including the lightening behind the clouds.

Music in the Hills

We’ve always gone to Ukaria in the Adelaide Hill for an Adelaide Festival concert. I always enjoy it.

Ukaria was built to house beautiful performances.

Taken from their website.

The performance this year was called Dawn.

It was a stunning performance. The quartet was wonderful but the second piece a Beethoven for Violin and piano was simply amazing. The playing was so wonderful it is hard to describe. The room was spellbound and at the end stood and applauded.

We followed this with a visit to a park in Mt Barker to see the Disco Dogs. It would be better at night when the dogs are lit up but still fun in the day. Music is coming from the dogs and you can walk around and through them and dance along.

The park had a great Sunday afternoon vibe. Food vans picnicking families and beautiful weather.

A quick visit to niece Vashti and her family in nearby Balhannah rounded off the afternoon.

Adelaide Fringe Fever Festival

Two Fringe events in one night. Wow!

Two very different shows.

The first one at one of the many squares ( should they be called piazzas!) in Adelaide.

Called 80’s Ladies it probably would not be my first choice but my niece Vashti a professional Sax player was in the band for the show. and it was great.

It was a riot of fluro. See niece Vashti with her saxophone 🎷 in the background of the above photo. It was loud , fun, and our group were definitely the oldest in the crowd!

Somehow it was great fun. I sang along to 80’s songs like Working 9 to 5 and It’s Raining Men…… and we came out smiling.

The show finished ….. we sat outside having a Gin & Tonic looking at the trapeze artists then walked a few blocks to another Square – all lit up and in party mode.

We scrambled into the Speigeltent, found seats and settled in for Elephant Man the Musical. You probably remember the sad story of the Elephant Man. A movie starring John Hurt. Now thanks to a wonderful director – a local team – including musician husband & wife – it’s now a musical.

Complete with a ringmaster, beautiful nurse, evil Doctor, assorted musicians, actors and the sad elephant man we clapped and sang and shed a tear through the musical journey of the elephant man.

After thunderous applause we left the tent to meet the actors outside. My niece knew the music writers from her days of studying jazz at the uni.

Vashti meets her old uni friend – composer of the music.

This original Australian production is co-directed by the Olivier-award winning, Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe veteran Guy Masterson alongside Christopher Mitchell. This gothic fairy tale retelling is as hysterical and heartwarming as it is heartbreaking. It’s going to Melbourne soon if you happen to live there.

We followed the next afternoon with a visit to the old Capri theatre complete with art deco foyer, velvet chairs and old style organ. It’s gorgeous and if I lived here I’d be on the volunteers list and work here. We saw the new Fisherman’s Friends movie. A great fun viewing.

Capri Theatre , Goodwood Adelaide.
Restored art deco foyer

We could go to shows morning, noon and night. It’s a feast here during Festival time. You should try and come one year.

Observations of a Writer’s Festival – Adelaide

My postings have been a little thin this week.

I’ll blame the weather! It’s been cool and a little rainy so I’ve jumped in and out of the Writers Week.

The program is for me a little hit and miss. Wednesday I jumped between Sloane Crosley and Holly Ringland and her editor.

I really enjoyed Holly Ringland the day before. She wrote The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. And is now promoting The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding. Holly is an engaging author and describes herself as a sensory writer. She uses all her senses and places her writing in a natural setting.

Also on Tuesday I heard Sally Hepworth. She writes fiction with a twist. A little murder….. family settings. It’s very popular here and in America where some of her books are set and all around the world.

Sally Hepworth on the move.

I went to a session with Inala Cooper a Yawuru woman with German and Irish heritage. In her book Marrul: Aboriginal Identity and the Fight for Rights, she shares a deeply personal and moving account of the impact of colonisation on her family.

The session was enlightening. Inala is a very good speaker and the moderator Amy Mc Quire was very good at letting us get to know Inala. Her father Mick Dobson and Uncle Pat have been involved in trying to forge a treaty. We heard about their trip to Geneva for the UN work on treaties with indigenous cultures from around the world.

I’ve also heard one of my favourites – author John Boyne. He was on a panel with other Irish writers Esther Freud and Louise Kennedy. And he had a session talking about his sequel to the Boy in Striped Pyjamas. I’m reading All the Broken Places at the moment and it’s wonderful.

You get a feeling for who is very popular with the audience. John Boyne is popular.

The audiences are mostly over a certain age. Others are probably at work! There are the usual seasoned writers week attendees. They know how to scurry into a good seat – reserving one for their fictional friend so they are not too crowded ( until approached by a game person who questions the empty seat with a bag on it)

I love a spot of eavesdropping at these gatherings. You have time before a session starts. Lots of little discussions usually involving books. There are some wonderfully well read people here. Books have definitely not gone out of fashion.

I had to leave for a while on the last day for an online ADFAS meeting. What is ADFAS? It’s a society for those interested in lectures by wonderful speakers on topics of a decorative & fine art nature. Check it out here : google ADFAS

Peter Fitzsimons without his trademark red bandana.

I arrived back to hear the booming slightly overpowering voice of Peter Fitzsimons. My goodness does that man like the sound of his own voice. He writes histories of people and events in Australia. His latest one The Battle of Long Tan is about the Vietnam War.

The moderator for the session didn’t have to ask many questions.

The last session of the week is probably the most relaxed and enjoyable Alexander McCall Smith. The sun was out. It was delightfully warm and what a treat. He is author of so many books – over 80 I believe & he kept us entertained with descriptions of his characters from books in his series. I’m listening to the audio The Bertie Project from his 44 Scotland St series. Set in an Edinburgh apartment block the characters are delightful. Especially 6 year old Bertie ! Have a read it’s easy and full of fun characters.

His series set in Botswana features Precious Ramotswe who is kind, wise and good. Precious solves crimes in a cosy readable way. Then there is the Isobel Dalhousie series. …… I could go on …..but check out his website if you don’t know his books.


And so the Writers Week in Adelaide concludes. It’s wonderful. It’s free ( I’m going to give a donation to keep it free!) and it’s usually great weather!


I’ve been coming to the Adelaide Writers Week for a few years and never had rain. But yesterday afternoon it started and in the evening there was rumbling thunder and lots of rain.

But I didn’t go to hear writers yesterday. We went to The Jade, a small venue in the city with a small stage & a bar !

We were at the Knitting Cabaret.

Melanie Gall. The Knitting Singing Lady.

What is that I hear you asking. Performed by a young Canadian woman Melanie Gall, it is storytelling and song all at once. And knitting. We were encouraged to bring our knitting. Which our group did.

The performance told the story of the importance of knitting during the World Wars. There are hundreds of knitting songs. Who knew!

And along with old slides of photographs of the time we knitted and enjoyed the singing the storytelling and the glass of wine!

The show started with Melanie asking if anyone had anything to share. Normally people are a bit shy. Not these knitters. They were up in the small stage showcasing their wooly wraps and shrugs and socks.

Today, Monday is cloudy and trying not to rain. Steve and I got the bus to North Terrace and walked to the Pioneer Gardens. Behind Government house this year there are no gates. No covid restrictions means no checking in as you arrive.

Very free and easy.

The programme today is very full. Three stages going from 9.30 through to the last session at 6! Im not sure I’ll last that long.

Lots of choice.

First session has just finished and featured 4 writers who have written biographies of other writers.

Very interesting session and makes me want to embrace Biography a little more.

Have you read The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. she turned out to be a very insightful speaker. She very sensitive and describes her own writing as sensory. She is very much influenced by nature.

She talked about her latest book character Aura and why she has her covered with many tattoos. She also has many tattoos and said ‘Choosing to alter her skin. She wanted something to come out not to put something on the skin. …..Not a marking a revealing.

Next up are the Irish writers. Headed by John Boyne – just about my favourite writer also Louise Kennedy & Esther Freud.

It was not the funny Irish session one might have expected! Rather serious about the extent of the cruelty of the nuns & priests. Finally John Boyne said ….. “we must remember that the Irish are wonderful people, I love being Irish and we are learning from the past. “ He provided a few humorous moments.

I bought both books.

There’s so much on today and tomorrow.

Follow along……..

Off to Adelaide

For those of you who usually follow along ….. I’m off to Adelaide. Writers Week , the Festival and the Fringe.

Adelaide airport is big and very well set up with local products for sale and even a piano for the talented ( or not so ) to play.

Always so much to see and do in this accessible festival city. We are lucky to be able to stay with Steve’s sister not far from the city. We enjoy seeing my niece Vashti , her husband and four children. Always fun

I flew down yesterday and we met Steve off the Overlander train from Melbourne. He had driven our friends MG from Brisbane to Melbourne for them, staying with friends along the way. Needless to say- he loves driving.

We spent the first night catching up with family and looking ….. and booking tickets to festival events and planning who I would see during Writers Week. It’s been particularly controversial this year with new director Louise Adler booking some speakers with strong views and opinions on the Israel – Palestinian situation as well as the Ukrainian Russian war. It’s providing a lot a comment in the papers and on TV.

This morning I headed out for a walk in the tree lined streets admiring the sandstone houses – so different from Brisbane’s wooden houses.

This afternoon we went yo our first Fringe event. A play called Recalibrate. It was in a tiny theatre call The Lab with a wonderful courtyard for drink before or after.

My nieces friend Katie was in the play about a mother , her two daughters and a student of the mother. Well presented, good acting and only a little confusing!

In the late afternoon we are enjoying the great weather with a Gin & Tonic and getting out our knitting needles for a Cabernet show tomorrow.

I’ve started knitting a snood! A small project I’m hoping to finish. A small circular scarf for the neck. Tomorrow should be very funny!

I’m starting the Writers Week on Monday. There may be some controversial speakers but there are some I really enjoy reading. So I’ll be going to see John Boyne, you must read The Hearts Invisible Furies and Echo Chamber. Also Alex Miller – A Brief Affair. Bill Browder, Sally Hepworth, Jane Harper. Just to name a few

Check out the program and tell me who you would like to hear.


The sky is blue , it’s warm but not hot and Adelaide looks beautiful. It will be a good week.

Pichi Richi Train in Quorn

My last post for this trip is about another train journey. This time a step back in time.

In 1878, construction commenced on the Port Augusta and Government Gums Railway. The line was extended to Oodnadatta in 1891 and further to Alice Springs in 1929, establishing an important rail link to Central Australia.

The famous Ghan passenger train travelled this way from 1923 to 1956, and on the northern part of this route until 1980. Such a pity the Ghan doesn’t stop here now ut would be a great place to break the journey.

This historic train bring back the romance of train travel, as it was in its heyday a century ago. The name “Pichi Richi” came from the section of track between Port Augusta and Quorn, through the Pichi Richi Pass, which was first opened back in 1879.

During the war years this was a major junction for trains carrying troops. At one point 43 trains came through a day. The local women would feed the men in the local hall during a break in the trip. Quorn would have been a bustling town.

So the train is old. Today it is run entirely by volunteers. And what a variety of train enthusiasts offer their services to keep this historic train ride operating.

David, one such enthusiast met us at our assigned carriage to clip our ticket and welcome us aboard.

David looked the part – covered in train badges

We settled into our bench seats with other train buffs on this sellout Sunday morning short run through the Pichi Richi pass to Woolshed Flats.

David gave us a run down on the train and it’s history, speaking faster than the train was moving !

He told us that the carriage we were in named Warana was the one Mel Gibson sat in for the scene for the movie Gallipoli.

Many movies have used Quorn and this train in their scenes. Gallipoli, The Shiralee, The Water Diviner, Wolf Creek, Sundowners, The Tourist, to name just a few.

It’s such a popular attraction people stop their cars by the side of the road to watch & wave to those on board. Today with the marathon on with runners having started in Port Augusta it was extra busy.

We moved through the countryside through the pass and arrived at Woolshed Flat. Here you disembark and have morning tea while the engine is detached and moved around, in a move to then put it at the front of the train. Great to watch.

The engine moving to the front of the train for its return journey.

We spent half an hour chatting to other train buffs watching the engine manoeuvres. Our driver, an 82 year old man is assisted by his son and his 18 year old grandson who shovelled the coal. Trains run in the family.

David welcomed us back on board for the return journey. Our fellow passengers had bonded over the journey. There were four sisters away for a weekend who were joking, laughing and having a ball. A few caravaners on holidays and a family with two little children. The two year old boy was hooked. He loved this Thomas the Tank engine experience.

If you are in this area do yourself a favour and do a Pichi Richi train trip. At $61 it was a great experience and the money goes directly to its maintenance.

Quorn SA. Train Paradise

Leaving Wilpena wanting more is a sign we have enjoyed our visit. I’d like to do some more of the walks.

We stopped at a few more lookouts with the view changing each time and always magnificent.

The drive back out to Hawker was quite different to the drive in few days ago. The morning light is so different on the hills surrounding us to the light in the afternoon.

A coffee stop at Hawker was a surprise. There is a big café opposite the information centre. It’s has the best coffee, quandong pies , meals and more. Well worth a visit. The cafe staff, Sev and Kads, itinerant workers from Wollongong were helpful and chatty about this great cafe.

Quorn is only an hour away along the straightest road – looking out at flat land. Years ago this proved too hard to grow anything on so there were a number of abandoned brick houses left by disappointed farmers.

Arriving in time for a heritage building walk it was interesting and sad. So many lovely old buildings many empty but almost in need of repair.

Lunch at the Quandong Cafe was terrific.

Quorn has a lot to offer and it would be good to see a bigger industry bring people to town to live and work. At the moment it is the Pichi Richi steam train that brings visitors to town. We’re going on it tomorrow.

I’m surprised the town looks so quiet. Not many people around today. There’s a marathon here tomorrow. It starts in Port Augusta. There will be lots of people around then. Accommodation was booked out, so we’re staying at a cabin about 10 mins from town. We tried to book at one of the hotels for dinner but had to go to the other hotel, The Austral. Bonus there is karaoke on.

Our little cabin at Pichi Richi Park is basic but comfortable and there’s a heater! We sat looking at the view reading the papers before heading back into town for silo light show.

What is a Silo Art show? Most country towns have large grain silos. They are like a big blank canvas. It’s been a trend in Australia for the silos to be painted. These Silos are heritage listed so can’t be painted So they project images onto the silos at sunset each night.

We arrived as the sun was setting. Tuned our radio to the station suggested for the audio and sat in our car and watched. It’s like being at the drive in movies.

We got our quandong ( a local treat) gin and tonic set up and sat back and enjoyed the show.

In fact they should show movies here. Perfect screen. The light show consisted of various different segments outlining the features and activities of a Quorn. a section on the food, the attractions, The indigenous history.

The streets were quiet except for those heading to the two hotels for dinner. It wasn’t quiet in the Austral Hotel. We sat near a big group of Marathon runners. The good part is they weren’t drinking much and finished early. But they were friendly and fun!

The bar staff ready for karaoke

The runners head off for bed and then the karaoke started. It’s always funny to watch this entertainment. Ordinary people get up and have a go . Good on them. But really. The choice of songs could be better for some!!!

Marg and I were not going to do it but it wasn’t long before we felt we could do better than most! But we’d resisted and ended up singing all the way back to our cabin.

What’s your favourite karaoke song?