Babysitting and other feats of strength

It's definitely springThe past week flew by. It was a little hard to get started on Monday after getting back so late from New York. I think I passed out shortly after getting into bed. Monday wasn’t particularly exciting. I worked, I did the washing, I went to the gym, the usual. In the evening we watched TV (catching up on the latest episode of Veep – this season is so good) and then I had a Skype meeting with people back home.

Tuesday evening I babysat for Dave while he went to the movies. We’d given Dave and Antony ‘two free nights’ of babysitting as a birthday present (though our availability was pretty limited). I went over early enough to catch-up with Dave and have a play with Josh. He’s exhausting, especially now that he’s crawling all over the place and pulling himself up to standing. There are so many corners he could smack his face on!

Dave left a little before 7 and Josh was distracted enough not to notice. This was great as there was no screaming or crying that Dad had gone away. He shuffled around on the floor for a while and played in the kitchen, intermittently returning to drink from his bottle. At one point he latched onto it and wouldn’t let go. He was getting tired! YAY!

I scooped him up, turned down the lights and guessed correctly that if I took him up to his cot, he wouldn’t screech and squawk, and would soon be asleep. I zipped him up into his baby sleeping suit thing, turned on the machine that tells you if they stop breathing, and left him to finish off his bottle.

He grizzled when it finished (there wasn’t much left) so I gave him another and within about five minutes he was out. Success! There was a video baby monitor so I could check up on him without getting up. He slept, but after an hour or so, flipped himself over onto his front. Panic!

I raced upstairs to turn him back over. He did not like that at all and promptly flipped again. I turned him another time with equal lack of success, before deciding that perhaps he knew best and I should just leave him be. It didn’t stop me from checking that he was still breathing every now and then.

Glen didn’t come and babysit as he had a headache, so I was on my lonesome. Glen messaged to say that he’d watched the first episode of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s new comedy, Grace and Frankie. He felt guilty for watching it without me so I watched the first episode, then we agreed we’d watch the second. By the end of the night I’d watched five and a half episodes (they’re only 30 minutes long).

Dave returned some time around ten, feeling refreshed from his night out of the house. I bid my farewells. One babysitting gig down, one more to go.

Wednesday was a typical day. In the evening we watched more of Grace and Frankie, forcing ourselves to bed after we’d watched five more episodes. There are only 12 or so in the whole season so we had one left to go.

Thursday Glen and I had a lunch date. We wanted to go to the restaurant at the Toronto Legislature but the information on the website contradicted with the information from the policeman and I wasn’t about to argue, especially when there were protestors around and everyone was in a heightened state of alarm. Instead we went to a Japanese restaurant near the hospital.

In the evening, Glen, Julian and I went to see Pitch Perfect 2 at the movies. I didn’t expect much from the sequel. There’s definitely a saggy middle in this movie and some of the jokes fall flat, but overall it was a good film. There was a lot of singing, and I even had a tear in my eye at the end. So, all in all, it was a good night at the movies. I did find it interesting that some of the sexist jokes in there absolutely did not get a laugh in the movie theatre. Good sign of the times that these attitudes are changing. And we all got excited when Canada had an appearance at the World A Capella Championships.

Afterwards we had a spot of dinner at 7 West, then home to bed.

Friday I packed and tidied the house, while Glen was at work. We’re off to London tonight for a short visit (6 days) and then off to Vienna for the finals of Eurovision Song Contest next Saturday. I discovered today that a friend from back home is also going but to the jury show on Friday night. The added bonus though is that he’s going to take a spare ticket Dion and Ben have so it won’t go to waste.

Glen got home at a good time for us to make it to the airport. It was a little like deja vu to arrive at Kipling Subway Station again on a Friday afternoon as we were only there a week ago. Had a bit of a delay checking in – our booking reference didn’t work – but it was all sorted out in the end and now we’re waiting for our flight to Ottawa and then Heathrow. Got a lot to fit in this coming week.

48 hours in New York City

A few hours prior to our departure for New York City on Friday night, I was coming out of our bathroom, and in a completely uncoordinated move, kicked the doorframe with my bare left foot. It caused a lot of pain and when I was able to look down (after sweating profusely), my little toe was pointing away from, rather than towards, the rest of my toes. I bandaged it to the next toe and applied ice, but the damage had been done.

When we met Bec on the lobby of our condo at 5:30 so we could walk to the subway together, I was hobbling. The walk took a while but luckily was not too far and I was able to sit on the way to the airport. Alastair met us at Kipling Station, where we caught the Airport Rocket to terminal 3. Upon exiting the bus, we saw an abandoned wheelchair so I got in and was chauffeured through the hospital by Alastair. We then left the wheelchair behind.

We had our best experience yet with US Border Control. When we stepped up, the officer asked, without inflection, “what is your relationship?” We had been primed for something less appropriate so we pleasantly surprised by this professional approach. We even chatted with her and she asked what I’d done to my foot. Pleasant. I wish I’d taken down her name. She’s the perfect example of how it should be done.

Julian was waiting for us as the gate. Hassan got through security eventually and then, without any delay, it was time to board our one hour and two minute flight to New York. Glen and I were sitting in the exit row. I had been positioned by the window but when asked if I was capable of handling an emergency situation, I said no, that I had a broken toe, and Glen would be much better suited.

We had the three seats to ourselves and it was a pleasant journey, over quickly. Dad went to Sydney this weekend which is a four hour flight from Perth. Being able to get to New York in an hour is heaven.

We landed and, as no one had checked luggage, we were soon out of the airport, into transport and wending our way to Manhattan. Our taxi driver was insane and I thought we were going to die at any moment. Luckily, we survived and got to Aaron’s apartment in West Village. Unfortunately he’s away this weekend so we won’t get to see him, but he very kindly lent us use of his apartment (again).

Despite earlier protestations that we would be going to bed once we arrived, we went in search of food nearby. We settled on Sushi Samba, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant. We had some drinks, ate some tasty food (so good to eat food with lots of flavor again) and then went to Marie’s Crisis, a singalong piano bar where the patrons sing songs from musical theatre.

There were songs from Rocky Horror, Les Mis, Oklahoma and Rent. Some I knew (and song along to), some I didn’t (and mimed to). Glen didn’t know any of the songs so was a little lost. Plus it was very crowded with not much room to move. We stayed for a couple of drinks and then headed home for bed.

Saturday

I get a bit anxious organising groups of people. There are nine of us on New York this week (Umberto had arrived on Thursday) but we’d whittled down our expectations to meeting at one location to find food at Chelsea Market. We aimed to meet at 9, which was easier for us as we were closest, with the rest arriving by 9:30.

Chelsea Market wasn’t too busy when we got in so finding food was easy. We settled for some Aussie meat pies (served by an Aussie). I thought it strange that, as an Aussie ‘tuck shop’, it didn’t spell savoury with a u. The pie was watery but edible. We also had some doughnuts.

We solidified more of our plans. Glen, Julian and I booked tickets for a matinee of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, while Bec and Al booked for A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Once done, we walked the High Line. It’s a lot greener than it was when I was here in November (obviously) and a lot busier too. I hobbled along at a slow pace, which was quite pleasant for a change (except for the pain).

We bid farewell to Hassan and Umberto who went to The Met, while the rest of us had lunch at a restaurant somewhere before going off to our matinees.

Darren Criss was headlining as Hedwig and he was excellent. I haven’t seen all of the movie version of Hedwig so my expectations were a little mishmashed. The narrative is a little obscure and was a bit hard to follow at times but overall the performance (his acting and his singing) were outstanding. We had no trouble giving a standing ovation for this one. I’m really pleased we got the chance to see it. The seats were good too (though the theatre was freezing).

After the musical, we walked up to Uniqlo to buy Glen a jacket. I bought some new gym shorts too. We then walked down to the New York public library, had a look inside, then caught a taxi home. We changed then walked to the Noodle Bar to meet the others for dinner.

Because it was so early in the evening (about 6pm), Al and Bec were able to secure the seven seats we needed. Julian, Glen and I had been to this restaurant the last time we were here, and Glen had been hanging out for a return visit. We ordered a bunch of dishes and shared them between us. We ordered just enough to leave full but still have room for ice cream, which we got from a shop on a nearby corner.

We then had plenty of time to walk across town to the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB Theatre) where we had tickets for the 10pm improvisation comedy show. Bec’s friend Victoria, who lives in New York, had bought us the tickets and came along as well with her partner, Simon. Because we were there early, we sat in the bar and had some drinks until it was time to go in.

There were five actors on stage. At the beginning they asked for a member of the audience to come up and share a story from their love life. A woman called Mary Jane jumped up and relayed her tale, which the actors then used to create little comedic vignettes on stage. Then in the second half they chose a word shouted out by the audience and then created scenes that spun off from that. It was all very funny and we had lots of good laughs.

After the show we went in search of some supper, choosing first a loud Jamaican restaurant where we sat down and then left before ordering anything, and then went to Momofuku Noodle Bar (which I have no desire to go to ever again). On the walk to the restaurants, I said to Victoria that I was certain I’d met her before and she pretty quickly pieced together that we shared a mutual friend and I’d met her about ten or so years prior at Curtin University. Talk about a small world.

Glen, Julian and I left the restaurant as soon as we had finished eating and walked home to collapse into bed at about 1:30. No late night dancing for us. My toe was nice and purple by then anyway.

Sunday

We woke to some sad news that the father of one of our close friends had passed away overnight (during the day in Perth time). We both felt awful that we couldn’t be there to offer our condolences in person or to do more to help the family at this sad time. This is when distance is so hard.

I also called my grandmother as it’s Mother’s Day and we had a chat. Glen gave her some medical advice as she’d recently had a fall and, while back at home, still had some bad swelling. It was nice to talk to her regardless.

The previous night we’d decided to forgo trying to coordinate brunch with everyone, especially as it’s Mother’s Day here too and everywhere would be busy. Glen, Julian and I went to Cafe Cluny, which is just around the corner from us. Julian and I had been there before. Luckily we were able to get in without a wait. Food was good and very welcome.

We caught a taxi uptown to the Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park. The Cloisters is part of the Met Museum that houses medieval European art. It’s also designed and built to look like a medieval monastery complete with chapels and cloisters. It’s in a nice spot too as the park is a reasonable sign, very green and beside the river. It’s one of those places that doesn’t feel like it’s in New York.

There was a lot of old religious art, relics and bits of old buildings from Europe that had been collected and brought back to America. It was interesting to see these things in their architectural context, but I must admit I didn’t read too many of the signs that talked about the meanings behind the paintings, just enough of the ones that I found interesting. I’ve seen a lot of religious medieval art and it starts to blur after a while. (Yes, I’m a philistine.)

The cloisters themselves (gardens surrounded by a covered walkway) were my favourite and again, a peaceful part of the city you’d never expect to find. One of the gardens is arranged like a medieval garden with time-appropriate plants arranged into their uses (e.g. medicinal, culinary, craft). After about an hour, we left and walked down the rest of Fort Tryon park, then caught the train to Chinatown.

Our walk down Canal St was a typical experience, I’m told, whereby lots of people ask you if you want to buy watches, perfume, purses etc. If you say yes, they then lead you down some dark alley to a whole in the wall where the fake merchandise is sold. We didn’t take anyone up on their offer. Apparently it’s a little scary as you’re not sure if you’re going to get a new bag or abducted.

We walked through Chinatown–which looks like every other Chinatown in the Western world–and went for yum cha at one of the oldest yum cha restaurants in Chinatown. It was busy, the food was ok, but it might have been better off going elsewhere. We went against our usual rule, which is if the place is full of white people, it’s usually not the greatest.

After a very filling late lunch, we walked to the start of the Brooklyn Bridge (we didn’t walk it but we took some photos). We then decided it was time to go home for a bit of a rest, so we caught the subway back to the apartment. We rested for a few hours, before heading out to get some food at the tapas place on the corner.

Aaron and Justin arrived back at about quarter to seven so we had a short catchup with them before it was time to go to the airport. I was sad to say goodbye. We’ll probably see Aaron at Christmas back in Perth, which will be great but different from seeing him in New York.

We arrived at the airport an hour before we were meant to depart but our flight had been delayed an hour and then another fifteen minutes (as had Al and Bec’s earlier) due to thunderstorms in Toronto. We boarded after 10 and landed just before midnight. Home by one. Asleep in five. Whirlwind trip complete.

Narcisse Snake Dens and Canadian Museum for Human Rights

I’d been looking forward to this day for about six months, ever since I first heard about the Narcisse Snake Dens in Manitoba. This is an area that has the largest congregation of snakes in the world. In the autumn, thousands of Red-sided Garter Snakes converge on this area and slip through the cracks in the limestone to huddle together and sleep through the long winter.

In spring, the snakes emerge, have an orgy, then go off to eat (they haven’t eaten for about six months) and, in the case of the females, lay their eggs. Then they come back again when the weather gets cold.

When I booked this one-day trip to Winnipeg, I knew it would be risky. The Conservation Manitoba website updates the status of the snakes on its website. Usually the last week of April and the first three weeks of May are the best time, with the peak being the Mother’s Day weekend (10 May this year). While I’d booked the flights a few weeks ago, I was pleased to see that on 30 April, the website showed they were out and about. I was excited.

My excitement dimmed when I checked the weather on Wednesday. Rain. Continuous rain. Snakes aren’t fans of the cold and rain would only make it worse. I boarded my 6:30am flight (which meant up before 5) feeling like I was going to be disappointed.

The flight was quick and less than half-full. I think I slept. We came through heavy clouds when we descended. It was not looking good. Once on the ground, I picked up my little hire car and set off for the Narcisse Snake Dens.

Snakes, Snakes, Snakes

It was a 1.5 hour drive, which was at times scary because of the trucks coming the other way. Their tyres would churn up enough water to completely cover my car and obscure my vision. This was when the rain was at its worst. There were periods when it stopped and I clung to this scrap of hope.

When I arrived, there was one other car there. The woman in the car got out when I did. She worked for Conservation Manitoba and she confirmed that today was not a good day to visit. Did I have time to come back another day? Sadly not. She suggested I check out the first den to at least get an idea but other than that, I’d be lucky to see a snake on a day like this.

I set off. There is a 3km loop that takes you past four dens. The first den I wasn’t really sure it was a den, but there was a boardwalk, some interpretation, and then a leaf-covered depression in the ground. I didn’t look very hard but I didn’t see anything moving. I decided to continue on.

I had some luck at den 2 and the longer I looked, the more snakes I saw. In total, I probably saw 8–10 snakes. Some were moving, some were keeping still, some were dead (which was probably why I kept getting a smell of a dead something wafting up. I watched them for a while. Even though they’re small, non-venomous and quite docile, I still got a little scared looking at them. I kept looking down at my feet to make sure one wasn’t climbing up my boot. Amazing how inbuilt that fear of wild snakes is.

I wanted to continue to the third and fourth den but before I got much farther down the path, the rain started up. I could see the carpark so decided to head back and wait it out. Interestingly, on the path back were a lot of earthworms. They were all emerging to take advantage of the rain. I’ve never seen so many earthworms like this out in the wild. (We had a worm farm at home but that’s different.)

Once back in the car, the rain really started to come down. I waited for 45 minutes but there was no reprieve. Even if the rain did stop, I wouldn’t be treated to the sight of a mass of snakes that I had been hoping for. With a little disappointment, I headed back to Manitoba, wondering if I’d ever get the chance to go again.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

After a quick lunch at The Forks Market (where I ordered a chicken salad but they forgot to include the chicken), I visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I’d first heard about this museum when I visited Winnipeg the first time in March 2014. It wasn’t open then, and it wasn’t open when we were here the second time, but now, it was open!

I got in there at about 2:15pm and had until 5pm. Surely, I thought, knowing my patience levels, 3 hours would be enough. I was wrong! I could have easily spent another hour in there, if not longer.

The building itself is so interesting from an architecture point of view. I’m not sure exactly what it’s supposed to look like but to me it looks like a candle flame, which makes me think of Amnesty International. There are eight levels, all connected with a ramp, stairs or elevator.

Each floor covers a different topic, such as the development of human rights from a historical point of view, human rights in Canada, genocide and the Holocaust, and the continuing fight for human rights around the world. The exhibits are all well put together, thought-provoking and engaging. There’s a lot of technology in play here, with audio, video, and interactives, but it didn’t feel overdone at all. It felt just right.

I was moved at various points through the exhibitions, and learned a lot about Canadian history. I didn’t know about the PLQ attacks in the 70s and the government’s military response. Scary! There were (and continue to be) a lot of things that still need to be fixed in Canada, but they at least have made a good attempt at human rights for its people. However, I was stunned to learn that Canada had its own version of the Stolen Generation. Hearing those stories was heartbreaking.

I also learned that Jews in Germany only made up 1% of the population prior to World War Two. That’s one percent, yet this small group of people were made scapegoats and suffered the most awful fate. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons with Australia’s current asylum seeker policy and those refugees who arrive by boat. A small number of people, demonised in the media and by the government, and locked up in concentration camps detention centres. You’d think we’d have learned by now.

By the time I got to the fourth level, I only had 45 minutes left. The guide recommended I head up to the 8th and top level to get a look at the view. I followed his advice. It’s a very small viewing area that provides a nice vista of Winnipeg. It’d be better if the day wasn’t so grey, and I bet in the sunshine the place just must sing with light.

I took the stairs down to the 7th level which was a nerve-wracking experience. There are about five flights of stairs between the two levels and you walk down through the bones of the building, and can see down, down, down on either side. I had to focus on my feet or else I’d never would have been able to get down.

I had to rush through floors 7 through 5. There was a fun game on the fourth level where you had to collaborate with various different groups and organisations and try to get them to support your goal of starting an inner-city sports team for Indigenous kids. It was hard work. Even harder in real life. Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend as much time in the genocide display as I would have liked (what an odd thing to write), but I’d read a book called A Problem From Hell that covered the whole sorry mess.

By that stage, the museum was closing and I had to leave. All in all it’s an excellent museum and well worth a visit. It would be good if there were one (or multiple) in other capital cities, especially ones with much larger populations like Toronto (for Canada) or New York. I’d also like to see an exhibition on the effect multinational corporations are having on human rights and how that erosion is being countered (where it is being countered). This museum was largely based around governmental stories, but that’s as expected.

I then got back in the car and drove to the airport. I was about two and a half hours early for my flight but I had dinner, updated my blog and then boarded the plane. The flight was fine and quick. It was a beautiful time to fly as it was sunset and the light on the wings was stunning. I’m glad I had a window seat.

I landed sometime after 11pm and was home just before midnight, glad to tumble into bed.

Wednesday night date night

Wednesday was a stunningly beautiful day in Toronto. It was a shame to spend most of it inside but I had work to do. In the afternoon I went to the gym and practically skipped through the warm sunshine. There were tulips blooming everywhere! I even spent some time on the balcony soaking up the sun, it was that bright and sunny.

Glen messaged at 5pm to ask if I wanted to go out for dinner. Our plans to have dinner with Pete and Royden were postponed due to illness so, rather than eat the lovingly prepared risotto leftovers that were sitting in the fridge, I said yes. I told Glen to meet me at a bixie bike station on College St.

Cycling through Toronto is not a pleasant experience. There are very few cycle paths and unlike the majority of those in Perth, the ones in Toronto are just painted onto the side of the road. They’re heaving with cyclists at 5:30 in the afternoon, all going at varying speeds and all swerving into traffic. It’s unpleasant. Not to mention the roads are so potholed that it is a jarring ride at the best of times.

I got to the station first and was there to meet Glen. We then walked down College St holding hands until we found a restaurant called Woodlot that had been recommended to us. We went inside. The first server we talked to was lovely and pleasant to deal, unfortunately she passed us on to a sullen server who I wanted to ask if everything was alright. I almost turned around and walked out.

Despite this unpleasant service, and the slow service to follow, the food was delicious. It was fancy, hipster food but it was tasty and more akin to what we had been hoping to find in Toronto food-wise. I didn’t have a dessert…but I had to help Glen with his.

After dinner, we cycled back home. It’s lovely being daylight savings at the moment as it’s still pretty light at 8:30pm. We discovered a new patch of cherry blossom trees. They’re outside the UofT library (Harbord and St George I think). They’d look stunning in the full light of day.

As we waited at the traffic lights at Bloor and Church, Alastair pounced off the sidewalk and nearly scared Glen to death. No injuries as a result, but we walked with him to our building then went up to say Bec and collect a few things from them before we headed up to our place.

This is what happens when we spend a weekend at home

As we look ahead to what’s happening in our final two months in Toronto, we exclaim how little time we’re actually spending in the city. This weekend was one of the few Toronto oases that we’ve had – and we made the most of it.

Saturday night we went to Ur and Israel’s for a pot luck dinner with Julian, Bec, Al, Pete and Royden. We each brought something so Pete brought Greek food (spanokipita and sausage), I brought a Vietnamese chicken salad, Julian brought pasta, Ur/Is made chicken schnitzel and Bec made a flourless cake.

Julian and I both thought that our recipes, which were designed for four people (or there abouts), wouldn’t cover the seven of us so we made extra. I should have learned by now not to do this. There was so much food! I was stuffed by the end of dinner and I think I only had one serving of everything.

After dinner we sat around talking before heading home sometime close to midnight. I could barely keep my eyes open.

Glen slept for ten hours, meanwhile I was wide awake at 10am with a headache and unable to get back to sleep. I got up. Eventually Glen stirred. We went to the gym and then it was time to go to Dave, Antony and Josh’s birthday party (they’re all born within a few days of each other, which is cute as they’re all one family).

We were two of about 14 people at the party. Josh, the one year old, got a whole lot of attention (which is to be expected because he’s so adorable). We ate food. We talked to people we hadn’t seen for a while, like Manny who’d flown in from Washington, DC, or Richard and Jim who came up from Hamilton. After the food had been served, we went down to the little park at the end of their street and Dave filmed all of us singing happy birthday to Josh.

When we returned, there was cake and the opening of presents, and then we watched the video Dave had made of Josh’s first year of life. He’d filmed about a second of Josh every day for 365 days and at the end included the video of us singing. It was very sweet.

The hours flew by and before we knew it, it was 5pm and Glen and I were off to see Cam and Vince who’d invited us over for a barbecue. The weather was nice enough to sit outside and eat. I think this was our first barbecue dinner in Canada (or maybe our second. Either way, there haven’t been many). We need to buy a barbecue when we return home.

We played Sushi Go, then walked down to Serrano Bakery to get some dessert, before returning to their place to play a new game called Yardmaster Express. We’d bought both games for them so it was nice to be able to play. Despite me winning two out of the three rounds of Sushi Go, Glen won the rest of everything and came out the winner overall. He’s not allowed to play anymore.

We called ‘Pumpkin’ at 9pm and caught the subway home. For some reason, I’m exhausted!

Spring, glorious spring

It’s a beautiful Saturday in Toronto. The sun is absolutely beaming down. Once we finally got out of bed, which was still much earlier than necessary for a Saturday, I didn’t think we could waste the day completely by staying inside. Glen went to the gym for a bit while I did a few things at home, but when he returned we headed down to Loblaws to get groceries.

I know. Grocery shopping on a Saturday. Not exactly exciting. Still, we were outside. The garden beds around Toronto are bursting with colour at the moment. The daffodils couldn’t be any bigger. They seem to be straining to increase the size of their trumpets, easily outshining the tulips.

Loblaws wasn’t too busy, which was a relief. I had a list of things we needed. We didn’t need much. I’m making a chicken salad for tonight’s pot luck at Ur and Israel’s and trying to use up as many of the vegetables I’ve already got in the fridge. If we’d stuck to the list, we would have gotten out of there with minimal stuff. I hadn’t factored in a hungry Glen.

“A whole watermelon! I must get one!’

“Will you eat this bag of mandarins?”

“I want mushrooms! Not the mushrooms you bought. These mushrooms!”

“Can you make chicken pie for lunch?”

I said no to the last one but then he said he’d make it so I told him the two ingredients we didn’t already have in the basket (cream and zucchinis). I said it wasn’t good for him. He scoffed and bought it anyway.

We gave the cashier something to laugh about, too. Glen had unpacked most of the trolley, ordering things in the way he wanted them but didn’t complete the task. So I loaded the conveyor up with the remaining items, one of which was this watermelon (which came to an outrageous $12). As he packed the bags and our old granny shopping trolley, I said he should wait to put the watermelon at the bottom. Then apparently it was my fault that the watermelon hadn’t been put through as one of the earlier items.

The cashier laughed and agreed with Glen, then went on to say how rude some customers were who expected her to reach down the end of the conveyor to get the heavy items when they were the ones to put them there in that order in the first place. Let it be known I don’t expect any cashier to move anything. What is this? The 50s? Anyway, she had a good laugh. So did we.

We wandered back up to the condo, stopping in at Bec and Al’s so I could borrow something…sweet chilli sauce…which I didn’t actually leave with. We chatted for a while as it had been probably two weeks since we’d seen them last. I’m sad to think that we’ve only got two months left and that this ease with which we see people will vanish once back in Perth. Al then came upstairs for a coffee and returned the curtains they’d borrowed from us. Unfortunately the tension rod was too short for their windows.

Once home, Glen made pie while I worked on promotional stuff for my new book which comes out later this month. I haven’t had much of a chance to do a lot over the past few weeks, and this week was a short week. After returning from Orlando, Wednesday and Thursday were spent doing work for the zoo and another client, but once that was all done, I found I could spend Friday just working on my stuff.

I managed to get some things done but there’s always much more that needs doing, so this afternoon was spent on Facebook advertising, some extra writing, and sending requests to reviewers. I’ve still got to edit an article I’ve written and come up with some blog posts. Time is running out (especially when we’re away so much in the coming eight weeks).

I then went to the gym in the condo, working on my legs. I hate doing legs. It’s always so exhausting. Returning to the apartment, I worked some more, then had a lie down with Glen. I’ll have to start preparing the salad soon. I keep looking out at the sunshine and wondering what else I could be doing. I never feel like this about sunshine back home.

And just to round off, last night we went for a walk because I wanted to do something and Glen needed to get something from the hospital. We wandered down through Queens Park and were rewarded with seeing two cherry blossom trees in bloom in front of the parliament building. They were beautiful, and would only look more so in full sunlight.

After the hospital, we wandered back through the village, getting a couple of bubble teas and enjoying our evening constitutional. Life is good.

Universal Studios

Glen’s gastro kept us up through most of the night. After dinner the night before, I’d gone to the cheerleading pool party with Tanya and Julian but didn’t stay long as wanted to be well rested for Universal Studios the next day. I should have stayed out as the net benefit would have probably been the same.

Anyhoo…

I gave Glen sympathy and assistance through the night when he wanted it. This was in marked contrast to the barely raised head I got. Not that I really minded as I’d rather not be touched when I’m feeling unwell, though when I had called out for water, I was met with a lot of grunts and questions. Glen felt really bad about that later.

Even though he wasn’t feeling completely well again, we’d already bought out two-park passes for Universal Studios, and Glen had been looking forward to going on the Harry Potter rides ever since we started planning the Orlando trip. There was no way he wouldn’t go.

We picked Julian up from his hotel sometime around 9 or so. He hadn’t had much sleep either so we were all a little worse for wear when we arrived. Plus it was raining cats and dogs so the thrill of seeing Universal was…dampened. We parked, put on our ponchos, collected our tickets and went to find fun.

We’d purchased Express Passes which helped us jump to the start of a few lines (though with the rain it wasn’t that busy in the morning). Our first ride was Despicable Me, where we get into a vehicle, put on 3D goggles, watch a scenario and the vehicle moves with what’s happening on the screen so you lurch left and right, up and down and stop suddenly. I didn’t hold out much hope for Glen surviving this ride, though thankfully he did. He had to ration himself after that, however.

Julian and I then went on a similar Transformers ride, which was much more violent and scary (Metatron comes for you!). Glen would not have been good on this one. After that we visited Diagon Alley. Glen’s eyes lit up. This was exceptionally well done. It was like being in the movie.

We went into Gringotts first and jumped on their 4D ride, which was excellent as well. This time you go through the underground caverns beneath the bank, escape from Voldemort and the dragon and then arrive safely back at the beginning. We then looked in the shops, which are all themed and sell Harry Potter merchandise. They even have an Olivander’s where you can buy a wand that activates various interactives around the park. This shop was packed! What a gold mine! There were lots of visitors wearing robes as well.

After exploring a bit more of Diagon Alley, Julian was keen to do a rollercoaster. Glen was a definite no so I said I’d sacrifice myself. Unfortunately, after joining the queue, the ride stalled. We waited but it didn’t start up again so we left and I promised I’d go on The Hulk with him.

We stopped in at the Beetlejuice Revue…which was…I don’t know. I didn’t know what to expect and I came away wondering what I’d seen. Basically Beetlejuice introduces a bunch of monsters (Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein etc) who then dance with girl monsters and sing to mashups of songs that don’t really have anything to do with anything. There were some very good singers in there though.

We caught the Hogwarts’ Express to the other park. You get in the train, take a seat in a carriage and watch the scenery change outside the window and people, like Harry and Ron, walk past your door. It was an excellent experience. We arrived in Hogsmeade, and stopped for lunch. Glen couldn’t stomach much.

Julian and I went into “Hogwarts” and did the 4D ride, which turns you all the way around, dangles you over a nothing, has “actual” dementors who loom out at you, and SPIDERS. I squealed quite a few times. One of the other great things about this ride is that it leads you through various rooms inside Hogwarts like a classroom or Dumbledore’s office. Was all really well done.

By the time we got outside, the weather had cleared up significantly (the rain had actually stopped a while ago, which was great) and now it was starting to get hot. I didn’t have my hat or my sunglasses. I was getting anxious. Glen wasn’t feeling well. Julian was tired.

From that point, I think we knew the day was done. We wandered through Jurassic Park to Marvel Super Heroes and Julian and I went on the Hulk. This was actually a pretty easy ride for me, though was still a lot of fun. Usually I keep my eyes shut but they were open throughout and I had a blast. MUCH easier than Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland.

We wandered around the rest of the park, didn’t go on anything until we got back to the Hogwarts’ Express and caught it back to the other park, seeing a different story outside our window. Once back in the station, we left the park and I drove us back to our hotel.

My passport had arrived (along with everything else). We killed some time in the lobby, then collected Tanya from Epcot and headed to the airport. Got through security, ate some dinner, boarded the plane early. The flight left at about 9:15pm and I think I had snatches of sleep though the seats were so uncomfortable they didn’t last long. Thank god the flight was only a few hours.

We landed before midnight (I think). Got through Canada Customs SO fast! There was no queue. We were asked one question. That was it. Julian and Tanya took much longer. Julian’s brother picked us up, we dropped him home, then got back to our condo at about 1:30. I showered and crawled into bed. Being home never felt so good.

While there were some annoyances on this trip, there was still a lot of fun. I wish I’d seen the World Cheerleading Championships live and perhaps that’s a reason to return to Orlando, but other than that, I have no burning desire to return in a hurry. I think Glen wants to go back to Universal and do the rides. Perhaps one day. Maybe when we have kids.