In the reflection below, you can see a bit of the view upon which he looks out when behind the counter.
The shiny stripy things are petrol/gas (depending on English dialect) pumps, in case you were wondering.
After a morning in Byron Bay, we made our way to Sydney and its Northern Beaches, where my middle brother is currently living.
Below is Barrenjoey Head, where you can walk over the dunes on the left to reach the beach on the other side of the head.
The waters are clean, clear and blue. Some beaches have gentle swells; on others we enjoyed the adrenalin rush of big waves and a bit of a rip-tide.
My sister-in-law took us on a short scenic drive one afternoon. Pristine, uncrowded beaches follow one another around the coastline, each more beautiful than the next.
I need to be living there; every time I opened my eyes, any unpleasantness would dissipate, any problem could be handled, I'd live forever. Sadly, being neither independently wealthy nor supported by someone who is, being able to afford this is somewhat problematic: a house with a view (even without a sunset view) costs many millions. At this time I'm not able to come up with the requisite funding, so that phase of my life have to wait.
We got up early the last morning so my brother could take my son wake-boarding.
The sun was barely up, ditto the local populace, so the waters right at the cove in front of the house were still and uncrowded, which meant that we didn't have to go far. All the sailing boats in the background were moored. Or is it docked? Or anchored? They weren't moving at any rate.
Our timing was perfect. As my son hauled himself back into the boat, we were surprised by a few heavy drops of rain. By the time we climbed back onto the jetty there was enough rain for a rainbow.
By the time we got back to the house, it was pouring.
By the time we got back to the house, it was pouring.
After the rain cleared, I stood on the top balcony, still in my swimsuit. I think the colours attracted this lorikeet, who perched on the railing about five feet from me.
A friend came to see what was going on.
Another two friends made it a party.
If I'd had some bread and milk and honey, they'd have eaten from my hands. Very biblical in their food tastes, apparently.
We spent our last night in Sydney proper, where we met up with my oldest brother, his wife and two little girls for a Peking duck dinner (my son and I fantasize about Peking duck from visit to visit. We always go to the same place) and then for coffees.
Charlie and Ruby get steamed milk with a swirl of caramel sauce and think they're highly privileged, especially as they get to swarm all over Stuart.
Our trip home was wonderfully un-delayed and un-beset by disaster or lost luggage or weather (there was some armrest-clenching turbulence about three hours out of San Francisco though); the biggest calamity was my media centre (the thing that allows you to watch movies on demand in-flight. I love Qantas) which periodically rebooted in the middle of almost every movie I watched (four).
My strategy for jet-lag to and from the Antipodes (loosely speaking, as the American Midwest has no true antipodes) is to sleep as much as possible on the way there, and stay up until a reasonable bed-time; on the way back I get as little sleep as possible to ensure a really good night's sleep once home. It usually works quite well.
I really needed the awake time on the way home because my knitting plans for the trip didn't exactly work out.
For starters, I completely messed up the sizing on both nephews' sweaters. I've never done that before. The sleeves were too short on Darwin's black sweater with cables running from shoulder to wrist, so I had to cut the yarn on the sleeve just below the raglan join, work another cable repeat and graft closed again. (Yes, across the knit-and-purl cabled section too) One sleeve was perfect, the other slightly less so, but (a) it's black yarn after all and (b) my nephew will be too big for it very soon, though it's really quite fetching on him right now.
Julien's sweater required a whole lot more time.
The sleeves were too short, so as I'd worked them down from the armholes, I simply undid the wrist ribbing, worked some more stocking stitch and then redid the ribbing. Unfortunately the sleeves were also much too narrow, though my sweet Julien insisted he really liked them that way. Against his protests, I undid the sleeves all the way to the armhole pick-ups and redid them. The body of the sweater still barely fits him. As his mother says, it's sporty-looking. Next time I'll get her to send me the critical measurements.
All this took time away from the cashmere-and-silk socks I'd planned to make for the cat-sitter.
I've knitted with multi-stranded yarn plenty of times, but I guess this is the first time I've knitted with such fine multi-stranded yarn. Five sewing-thread-fine strands arecombined to make a rather lightweight (lighter than standard) sock yarn which has the unfortunate effect, due to its not being a single nice, fat, round strand, of slowing the knitting process considerably on account of all five barely-visible strands lying flat next to each other on the needle, reducing the likelihood of scooping up all five strands for each stitch when knitting at my usual pace.
I have been unable to knit at my usual pace.
I also felt compelled to undo an entire foot, as my usual favourite heel (short-rowed, garter stitch over two-thirds of the stitches) just didn't look as good as usual. The redone foot took two or three movies (The Social Network, Inception, Going the Distance) to make, and then there was still another sock to do.
Salt kept me awake, but there's only so much you can knit in one movie, and after that I was pretty tired and required a nap.
Despite my best efforts, the flight from San Francisco home was fairly consumed with napping as well, so I'm about half a sock short at this point.
We were convinced that our cat would be really annoyed at us for leaving her with other people and cats while we were gone, but in fact she greeted us by doing the roll-and-wiggle, and we've been having quite the love-fest this morning.
She's purred more since we picked her up than I've heard in all the time before our vacation, and is currently glued to my lap, sound asleep - none of that sleeping-with-head-up-just-in-case nonsense, she's all passed-out and dreamy-twitchy.
Neither my daughter nor I (though really I should know better) could resist all of the shiny things at the gift shop of Crystal Castle, and it turns out that I'm expected to make wearable pendants from her purchases (well, mine too actually, but they'll just go into my stash for now, rather than dogging me as unkept promises), so even though wire-work isn't my forté, I completed two out of three (she took the agate mini-geode with her to work before I had a chance to photograph it) pendants.
The kyanite crystal scares me a little, as it's very fragile. In an ideal world in which I could do everything and had every relevant piece of equipment, I'd do some electroforming to coat its entire back and seamlessly join it to a bail, strengthening the piece while detracting as little as possible from its crystalline structure.
I'm not sure what I'll end up doing, as I have neither the knowledge nor equipment for electrofoming.
Besides, the sleeping cat on my lap precludes any activities which involve losing her current bed.