Willy 2005-2017


We adopted Willy and his little pal Kuma from the Lost Dogs Home on 7 December 2007.

Our old dog Robbie had died in 2006 followed by our second dog Charlie in 2007. We got back from a holiday in December and I was looking at the Lost Dogs Home web site and found two Jack Russelly guys who they were looking to have adopted together. They were pretty sure they hadn’t grown up in the same home but had somehow found each other while roaming the streets and had become inseparable so they were being offered as a set. Perfect! We went straight down and brought them home. I let them out into the garden when we got back and Willy disgraced himself right away by jumping in the fish pond (he always loved water).

We never worked out their back story. Willy was about 2 to 3 years old, and Kuma probably a year younger, when we adopted them so we figure Willy was born in 2005.

They seemed healthy and well looked after but Willy was quite traumatized and it took several years for him to really become comfortable and feel safe. Kuma was relaxed at home but terrified out on the streets, and we took to walking them early in the morning so there were fewer things to be scared of. Over the years they gradually became less scared and more assured, even meeting a few doggy friends on their walks. We met a great dog trainer who helped us through those early couple of years and they even passed their obedience training — possibly because we were the only ones to turn up for the last lesson. Anyway, we have the certificates to prove it.

Everything seemed to happen to Willy. He spent a worrying night at the emergency vet after being poisoned, and then in 2012 he spent two weeks at another animal emergency hospital after eating a peach pip which got stuck and caused serious complications. We really thought he wouldn’t pull through from that, but he did, and in some ways it marked a new beginning. When he got home he seemed much more settled and it was as if he knew that he finally had a home where he was loved, a home forever. The years since then have been pure delight.

Sadly, in February 2016 we found out that Willy had a tumour in his nose. The first biopsy came back negative which was a great relief and he had surgery to remove it, but then further testing showed that it really was cancer and the prognosis wasn’t good. We decided to start on a chemotherapy treatment through 2016. Willy responded really well with mostly minor and occasional side effects. We wondered if he might make it to his adoption anniversary (he did) and then Christmas and New Year (yes and yes!) and then we started quietly wondering if he might magically live for another few months. Every extra day was very special.

Although the treatments were intense, there were only a few days when he wasn’t totally happy, running around, and barking at everything. He was the most talkative dog I’ve ever known, and took on the role of telling off everyone and everything while looking after his pack. Even on his last morning walk he was wagging his tail and full of beans, woofing at cyclists, joggers, other dogs, birds, and hot air balloons. It seemed like a normal day but by the evening he was looking a bit flat and then during the night started having seizures. So in the early morning of Friday last week we had to rush to the animal emergency and say goodbye.

Willy lived happily and well for one year and two months following his diagnosis and every one of those days was a joy. Our home is so quiet and sad with Willy not around to look after us.

Go well, little friend. xx


The last photo, Willy and Kuma together

Casting on

My little knitting blog has been a bit unloved of late and I’ve decided that with the new year it might be time to cast on afresh and see where we end up. Casting on, I think, is always the most exciting part of the knitting adventure. With the Year of the Rooster approaching I also checked my Chinese horoscope to see what it might hold and came away with the rather inscrutable advice that it “is always better to carry a Jade Mandarin Ducks Tassel with you always”. OK.

captureI do have a quite bit of knitting catching up to report on, but I thought I might start with a small project that I call my Charleston socks because (one of them at least) came with me on my travels to South Carolina last November.

It’s been an eventful year workwise and I’d only just been appointed to a new role managing our university library before I headed off to to Charleston where I’d been invited to give a lunchtime talk about ebooks. I used to get horribly nervous speaking in public but I guess like most things it’s just practice and I actually enjoyed it – it got a nice write up here.

When I first got the speaking gig I was hoping I could organise a little stopover or side trip but it all became a bit difficult with last minute bookings so I ended up flying straight through Melbourne to Charleston via Los Angeles and Chicago. I was initially hoping for Qantas but the flight connections through Dallas were pretty tight and the company sponsoring my trip thought United Airlines seemed like a safer option. Sorry United, but I think I’d take my chances on Qantas next time.

capture2The trip started out with the longest checkin line I’ve ever seen and a flight delayed by two hours. Luckily all the other flights were also delayed by two hours so at least I made all my connections, including at Los Angeles which always seems to be in a state of collapse. They really should knock the whole thing down and start again. At Chicago they seemed to have misplaced the plane and we got shunted from gate to gate until they found it. About 32 hours after checking in at Melbourne I fell into my bed in Charleston.

Charleston is a great little city and home to a great library conference, the eponymously named Charleston Conference, which brings together libraries and publishers. It’s not too big and is held at a number of hotels around Marion Square in the centre of town rather than a big conference venue so it feels even more small scale.

socksMy socks are plain old vanilla ones from a pattern by Ann Budd, but I really love the yarn: Schoppel-Wolle Relikt in a tweedy olive green colour. It’s made up of 70% recycled roving from the production of Zauberball but the bright colours of Zauberball become more muted in the recycling process. This is my second pair of sock in this yarn and I love it.

The people from the company that sponsored my talk were lovely and looked after me really well, but it can get a bit lonely when you’re away from home all alone so I’m glad I had my socks along for company.

Neat stitches


Not much (or any actually) knitting going on for the past couple of weeks as I had to have surgery on my hand, and it looks like it will be at least a couple more weeks until I can get back to my projects – of which I have a few!



Tiger Balm Gardens

For the last day of #blogjune we leave London with a short stop in Singapore on the way home to Melbourne.


We left rainy Heathrow via a short stop in Amsterdam before flying home via Singapore where we’d planned a one night stopover at the Hotel New Majestic in Chinatown.


We’d always regretted missing seeing the old Tiger Balm Gardens in Hong Kong, now long demolished and replaced by apartment towers. But then I read that the Singapore Tiger Balm Gardens (correctly, Haw Par Villa) not only still existed but had been restored, so we really had to organise a visit. We took the metro to Haw Par Villa and, dripping with sweat in the humid morning heat, walked up the hill through the old Chinese gateway. What an amazing place!


Haw Par Villa is named after the Aw brothers, who created the medical ointment Tiger Balm.

Built in 1937, Haw Par Villa is famous for its often gruesome depictions of Chinese folklore’s 10 Courts of Hell. But this wonderful theme park also has more, shall we say, tasteful scenes from other Chinese legends, such as Journey to the West and Madame White Snake. Pick your favourite from the over 1,000 colourful statues and tableaux on display, among them a giant gorilla and massive deity heads.

















Pink flamingos

For day 29 of #blogjune we visit a magical garden…


The old Derry & Toms department store on Kensington High Street closed in 1974, being replaced briefly by Biba before its days as a shopping emporium ended. It’s a beautiful art deco building opened in 1930 which thankfully remains, especially so as that means the beautiful roof gardens which opened in 1938 also not only remain but flourish.


The roof gardens are now mostly used for corporate events but if there are no events taking place you can visit this magical place completely free of charge. One morning we arrived at the old side door to Derry & Toms, asked the doorman if we could visit the gardens, signed in (you’ll need photo identification) and took the lift up to the sixth floor.

There are actually three gardens: a Spanish garden looking out over Kensington High Street and the neighbouring former Barkers department store…


The lovely Tudor garden…


And the Woodland garden, complete with resident Pintail ducks and four pink flamingos called Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks. There are over 30 different species of trees in the woodland garden, including trees from the original planting over sixty years ago, despite having only a metre of soil in which to grow.







A walk around the East End

For day 28 of #blogjune we head out east…


On the Saturday we met up with Wayne’s friend Pam at Spitalfields Market for a bit of mooching around the markets and record stores in the East End.



We had hoped to have lunch at the Square Pie Shop in Spitalfields but couldn’t find it, so we found a Thai cafe instead.


Then we headed off to the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood which, being a Saturday, was full of not only hundreds of screaming children but a brass band to boot. Despite the mayhem, it was fun.



We did eventually find the pie shop on our last day in London. Perseverance pays off!


Then on Sunday we met up with Wayne’s friend Sarah who cooked us a fab brunch in her groovy pad (there is no other word) in Camden Town.


A trip to the seaside

For day 27 of #blogjune we go to Brighton

We had originally planned to stay at Virginia Woolf’s garden studio as a base for exploring the area around Brighton, which we had to cancel, but we did still have a day at the seaside by taking the Southern Railway train down to the coast – sustained with a picnic of drinks and sandwiches from the Marks and Spencer food store at Victoria station.

It was cold and gloomy as we left London, but the weather improved with sunshine and bright blue skies. I think I even returned to London a little red from the sun.




After a walk along the pier we headed back into town to the Clifton district where we met Wayne’s friend Lorraine Bowen.

Lorraine is a music teacher, singer and cabaret performer who became famous through being a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent singing the Crumble Song, and being sent through to the semi-final by David Walliams.

Lorraine was lovely and so generous with her time and took us on a tour of parts of Brighton we’d never seen.



Then down to the beach for some excellent chips…


…and ice creams.