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My wife woke up worried about the basil. It was chilly last night, and she was afraid the potted plant might be shivering out on the patio. We have come back to a different country. The heat wave that greeted our discombobulated senses in January is long gone. It is winter and the temps are in their teens (centigrade), thirties and forties (Fahrenheit). There is rain and wind. Clouds skittering across the sky almost every day.

One of my fellow recumbent riders in Melbourne is a weatherman. Such an easy job, I tell him, whatever you predict is bound to come up during this city’s climate lottery on any given day. Cloudy with a chance of meatballs? You got it. To demonstrate his perversity in the face of the elements this time of year, Alan heads for the snow in upper elevations. This weekend he is winter camping.

The political climate has changed as well. Premier Bracks stepped down on the very day I landed. Citing personal matters. It seems that he is having trouble with his children. Having endured more teenage turmoil than he is ever likely to witness, I commiserate. John Brumby, the treasury secretary has taken on the task, launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister John Howard. There’s an election coming up.

Aside from the time zones and the complete change of seasons, the change has included a geographic shift from an old colonial home in the rural farm country of Nova Scotia to an eccentric, modern house in a muliticultural, vibrant city in Australia. Slow to fast. Right now, the Royal Shakespeare Company is in town; a film festival is in full swing, a lively poetry festival has just started and the luminaries attending the Melbourne Writer’s Festival will hit the City in two weeks.

My transition between these two worlds was San Francisco. I parachuted in for a brief visit with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson. They tucked me into their busy, young parent lives on their last weekend of normalcy. While I was there, Dolan got an offer from an up-and-coming software company in Portland. It will be a big change after six years at Cisco. Like the weather, it will all take some getting used to.

By the way, Eric and his companions sailed into safe harbor in County Clare, Ireland on July 26. I’m sure the weather there was sunny and fine. Trust the Irish to plug it into their deal with the EU. No more bad food, no more rain. Stay tuned.

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The wings that brought us here were made of steel, but the fuel that drove the engines came from the decomposed remains of plants and animals millions of years old. I dreaded the long flight, since it followed on the heels of a long drive from Gainesville, Florida to Nova Scotia, then two flights from Halifax that took us to San Francisco. The flight from DC to San Francisco seemed particularly long. Fortunately, my son, Dolan was there to meet us and we were able to spend two days doting on my grandson, Lucas Alexander.

We boarded the flight about 11 PM, and finally took off an hour later. I was well prepared, with a very long novel by William Boyd called “Any Human Heart” and several books on an MP3 player. The one I listened to on the way over was called “Holy Cow!” I hadn’t really taken notice when I downloaded it that the author was a woman journalist from Melbourne. It was a fascinating account of a year she spent in India. It was a trip she made for love. The first time she went through India she hated it, but her boyfriend (soon to become her fiancee) was stationed in New Delhi as a reporter in the region. Thanks to Dolan, I had an excellent set of noise reduction headphones that helped reduce the engine throb considerably. In addition to what I had with me, Quantas was pretty generous with it’s media selection. I watched most of “The Illusionist” and an intense Aussie psychological thriller called “The Last Train to Freo.” Stephanie and I slept and watched movies and time passed remarkably quickly. Even eighteen hours.

We landed in Sydney and changed planes for Melbourne without having to go through customs or immigration. I was very grateful for that, since it meant we didn’t have to manhandle our luggage twice. Fortunately, we were met at the airport by a hired driver who brought us to where we are staying now– at University College, one of eleven colleges on the campus at the University of Melbourne. Cally has stayed here before, and thought it would be a good transitional home for us. We have an apartment to ourselves with a kitchen, but all three meals are available in the dining hall. These apartments are generally used by visiting professors. Since Cally is an incoming professor, it was considered appropriate. Until last night, we were very comfortable here. That is when the road work began.

The road work, which started just as we were going to bed and apparently went on all night, was on Cemetery Road, which is just across from the gravel parking lot directly outside our window. We are situated at the top of the University campus, at the very bottom of a large, irregular oval favored by runners and soccer players and dog owners–Princes Park. This coming weekend the park is going to be the site of one of the largest musical events in the country– The Big Day Out. That seems to be the reason they are repairing the road. Lucky us. Rumor has it that ticket prices are somewhere around $100 Australian. I have no doubt that we are going to be able to hear if for free. Unless we make a break for it.

So far, our excursions have been limited. Stephanie and I went to the zoo, which is walking distance from where we are staying. Stephanie has been to St. Kilda beach (twice), and we have been out to an animal preserve about an hour from here called Healesville Sanctuary. It was not much different from the zoo, really, but all the animals there are from Australia and the setting is pretty. It is located in a hilly region to the Southwest of Melbourne called the Dandenongs. The area was formed by volcanic activity, originally, but it looks very tame and mellow now. There are some excellent vineyards in the area that we are planning to explore later.

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October 2017
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