Sunday, April 22, 2007

Japan update coming soon..

Once I've finished enjoying scenes like this:

Worked out this (the subway one is arguably worse, this is overland only):

And eaten every single one of these, oh how I love Japanese bakeries...

Then the blog will be updated. Soon. Honestly!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Technology Update

Thought I'd take a break from regular blog style for Japan, partially because I haven't been keeping notes and therefore have no idea what's happened in the past week, but also, change is good as we're always being told in corporate HR seminars. So this entry is a techo-summary. All those without a geek bone in their body, skip, you won't find this interesting!

Anyway, even the most occasional peruser of my blog must have picked up my angst with regard to the so-called laptop I have been carrying around with me. And where better to replace it than Japan?

New Laptop: Sony VGN - SZ48GN
Centrino Duo 2Gig Processors
1Gb RAM (may have to be bumped up by half a gig some time very soon)
160Gb SATA drive
Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 Graphics
DVD burner etc
Fingerprint recognition
Vista Business
Picked up a little Microsoft Optical Notebook mouse to go with it, and a strongish case.

Initial impressions: It's a gorgeous machine, and I can't help stroking it (when no one is looking). The fingerprint recognition is rock solid - no more windows passwords, just pop my finger on the pad and in we go. They also allow you to "register" web sites, so in future one doesn't have to type in passwords to access, for example, online banking - again just a touch of a button does it. Still delights me every time I use it (I know, I am a geek). However, Vista is definitely far from rock-solid. I've had no system-wide problems yet, but plenty of IE and Outlook crashes, and explorer reloading occasionally. This is on an almost fresh OEM build. Not good. Plus the interface.. the amount of prompting for confirmation etc is really quite annoying. Nice little touch - ethernet seems to do auto-crossover.

Proper Camera
Canon EOS 400D
Sigma 10-20mm ultrawide lens

Notes: Need a telephoto - I've dumped my 50mm fixed and 28-300 as they were both broken. Panasonic should cover it for now though (see below). It's a good camera - to be honest most of the time it's on auto-everything, which works just fine. Is useful to be able to tinker in low light conditions though.

Point and Click Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 (Silver)
SD card (Might have gone for a Fujipix but for their ridiculous XD format obsession)
28-280mm zoom lens (yes that's right)

Notes: First impressions good. I need to work out how to use the damn thing at some point, but the zoom is great. Spot metering is a bit iffy at times. And slightly heavy, but that'll be the Leica lens. I dumped the Sony P200 in favour of this because the Sony has dust inside the ccd, and it's going to be a pain to get fixed, even here in Japan. I'm annoyed with Sony for a number of reasons though, the dust being just one. For example why did they drop the mini-USB that they had in previous models for a non-standard connector in the P200? It's bad enough that they have their own card format, which technically isn't great, but to then also put in a proprietary connector **as well** is just plain rude IMHO. So Panasonic it is...

Phone/PDA: Orange SPV M3100 aka HTC Hermes
Samsung 400Ghz chip
2Gb expansion card
Touchscreen, 3G, Wifi b+g, EDGE, qwerty keyboard, 2MP Camera

Notes: I'm not really a fan of these sorts of devices. Why can't Orange release the bl**dy C700?! Anyway, it serves its purpose. Handy having 3G, as it's worked in Japan! Whatever next?!

Other bits and bobs
Bluetooth GPS Device
Battery powered. If I see one of these that charges off USB I may bin this one! Sony sell one… hmmm… then again, being a Sony, it's probably got a dodgy proprietary interface.

160Gb portable 2.5" HD in an icebox case
For backups

Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones
New purchase to accompany my iRiver N12 mp3 player. They are nice, the latest version, single AAA battery in the neckstrap. They work best with "droney" noises like trains, planes, but they do take a fair bit of everything out. If you switch on the noise-cancelling when you're not playing music, I'd liken it to dunking your head underwater, or the sensation you get when an aeroplane is descending to land - everything is muted, but still just about there…

New Japanese Technology
Hmmm, well I have noticed that everyone now has TV on their flipphones. They watch it using 3G rather than directly off the airwaves (I think). So watch for this in the UK in a year or two.
The other new thing you see everywhere are little square bar-codes that are coded business cards. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but I think you point your mobile at it, take a picture, then your phone reads the info and stores it. So you see them on cards, adverts on the tubes, on brochures etc.
Toilet seats that lift up automatically? Don't think I've seen those before… and check this for a toilet control panel:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hong Kong Night

After a very pleasant flight on Qantas First Class, which I have to say comes a close second to BA - strange as Qantas Business seemed pretty poor, I arrive in the city I left in 1996, this time to a new airport. It's foggy. My old friend Leo is here to greet me, and together we head into town.

It's been a while

The plan is to recreate a night we spent just before he emigrated for Canada in '96. I think it was the first time I ever got seriously drunk. I've never particularly liked gin since. And certainly not those dodgy Chinese herbal spirits which one can buy from corner shops. They're just plain wrong.

Anyway, I dump my bags in luggage storage in the airport and we catch the train to Kowloon. It's changed lots since I was last here - it feels cleaner, brighter, glossier. I guess the old dirty neon signs are never far away, tucked up in little alleys and side-streets, but the main roads now feel more like Singapore or Tokyo. We eat in a restaurant called Chao Inn, just below a bar we'll try later called Aqua.

Concentrate on the food Leo, not my amazing hair

Food is good, and it doesn't take long to put away. Upstairs the bar is touristy, full of Westerners and pricey. They can get away with all of this though as they have a rather special view:

Can't believe the Bank of China building is now "small"

We're sat between a fat English family and a bunch of French teenagers. This wasn't how I envisaged the evening! So after drinking our way through the hefty minimum cover charge, we head down to meet another school friend, Heidi, who is with a friend of hers, Dave. My goodness she's lost lots of weight - I don't recognise her initially! Still the same height though ;)

Who is this lady?!

Together we hop on the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island, to Lam Kwai Fong, the infamous pub street, where Leo and I had our night all those years ago.

No oriental can fight the two-fingered urge in photos for long

I have no recollection of where we drank last time. We try various establishments out - including an English pub without a single English beer, outrageous! It's getting late, and Heidi and Dave disappear off. Doesn't stop us though. With daylight returning, and thoroughly worn out, I head to the airport at 6-something in dire dire need of sleep! At check in there seems to be a problem. My ticket has been cancelled. Oh dear! Apparently Qantas haven't informed Cathay of the changes they made when reissuing, so Cathay have voided the lot. Luckily there's space on today's flight, but I've lost my HK - Jo'berg reservation. I am not amused but far too tired to do anything about it.

Living in a true jet-set fashion, I just miss my little brother coming out as I head in through security. He's just arrived from South Africa, needs to buy his JR Pass, then will join me in Tokyo this evening (darling!). He needs to come out here because you have to buy the JR Pass outside of Japan. I check out the First Class Lounge - it's pretty big. They are serving freshly-made dumplings for breakfast but I'm not in the mood. Not long till on to plane, via the Starbucks that Mei had tipped me off about for my Green Tea Frapp fix.

Finally I slide into the First cabin, only to my horror to discover.. Children! Making noise as well! I ask to be moved, but the cabin is full. Damn Cathay! Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. The stewardess does appreciate my mild irritation though, and tells the kids to be quiet whenever they get too noisy. Doesn't help much though, as the "friendly crew" translates into CONSTANT INTERRUPTIONS - even the feckin video does it, keeps randomly switching on when I've turned it off! No washbag either. Not impressed, Cathay! Give me Qantas First again!

We're served brunch on the plane, and I opt for the Japanese one, served Kaiseki style, which consists of (roughly in order, and I'm not joking here - portions are smallish but this is what was provided) sweet broad beans and eel roll skewer, salmon roll with rape blossoms, bamboo shoot with sesame paste, fish cake with seaweed, stewed squid and braised shrimp, sliced salmon belly, smoked snapper, Japanese grass shrimp, clear soup of fish ball with bamboo shoot and soaked wakame seaweed, lily bulk shaped in cherry blossom petals, kinome, braised bamboo shoot, seaweed, Japanese butterbur, sea bream roe, braised gluten and carrot, baked seafood with mayonnaise sauce, assorted shell meat with tasazu vinegar sauce, cherry leaf noodle and white buckwheat noodles, steamed rice, miso soup and assorted pickles. [Take a breath]. Seriously! Washed down with a not especially nice Grande Cru French wine, and almost peachy Anqi supreme Ti Guan Yin tea.

That out the way, I try to sleep, but have to wait for them to bring a blanket and put it on me. I don't want a blanket, but it's easiest not to fight the "helpfulness". Into Tokyo, and luckily I know the drill, and so can squeeze some sleep on the train into town. Yokoso Japan!


I spot the Opera House and Harbour Bridge lit up at night as the plane lands. Sydney done, I can move on now! Okay, okay, I suppose I ought to see whether there is any more to the place…

Q and Natalie pick me up from Sydney Airport, and give me the tour of the city - through Paddington, Oxford Street, past Hyde Park, (I'm not in London, honest!) then down Margaret Street and over the Circular Key and the Harbour Bridge.

As "Banjo" Paterson so aptly put it in 1902, commenting on my RTW trip..

It's grand to be an unemployed
And lie in the Domain
And wake up every second day
And go to sleep again.

They live just north of the bridge, in North Sydney, next to Neutral Bay park. We arrive at their flat, which is a three-storey thing, with underground car park. It's a nice flat which they've been in about a month. Q has stocked up with beers, which we enjoy before retiring. Luckily for him the decent ales he's ordered for his housewarming haven't been delivered, so we just work on his local lager supply.

Q lives in a place which is named "A good fishing spot"!

Next morning we walked down to the harbour, a 10 minute walk, leading out right next to the famous Harbour Bridge. The Opera House is just across the water.

Not bad for a 5-10 minute walk from one's front door

Q and Natalie

We hop on the ferry from here, admiring as we do so two chaps fishing next to a "No Fishing" sign.


The boat takes us across the water, over to Darling Harbour, past the James Squire brewpub, noted for later! There's lots happening around the waterside, entertainers performing etc.

Today is Good Friday, and we've been warned that almost everything is shut in Australia, it's supposed to be like Christmas Day back in England, but it turns out not so bad. We walk through to Chinatown, and the Market City shopping centre, where we go to Dragon Star Chinese restaurant for yum-cha. Of course Sydney has one of the best restaurants in the world, the French-Japanese fusion "Tetsuya's", (signature dish the mouthwatering-sounding confit of ocean trout served with unpasteurised ocean trout roe, followed by double cooked de-boned spatchcock with braised daikon and bread sauce) but aside from the remote chance of getting a table at the best of times, it's closed today. Next time...

After lunch, a pleasant and required stroll through Hyde Park to the Botanic Gardens, which is full of all sorts of weird things - it's the Australian way!

Tthen up to Sydney Opera House. It does look quite impressive, one of those icons you know so well before even visiting the country.

Next more walking, round to Darling Harbour and the James Squire brewpub. We try their Highwayman, IPA, Docklands IPA, Pilesner, Golden Ale, Craig Stout, Amber ale and Governer King beers, some a couple of times to make sure. I think we settled on the Highwayman and Governer King as being fairly pleasant and worthy of recommendation. Food for me is chilli squid and crab salad.

I am a happy boy

We watch an ultra-cute Korean 2-year-old try to make multiple breaks for freedom from her parents. Dad keeps having to collect her as she tries to totter between the bouncer's legs. Q and I brood away, Natalie thinks we're just plain rubbish.

Next day it's raining, alternating between light showers and seriously heavy downpours. We're waiting for a "window" to go fishing just near the house.

Moody blues

In the meantime we watch one of the old favourites, Blues Brothers 2000. Rain still hasn't stopped, so we start watching Ray. Finally the rain stops, so we wander out excitedly to go fish off the quay near their house. Some bait from the corner shop, where we were going to ask for advice, but as the old chinese woman there has trouble finding the words to explain that the bait is underneath the ice-creams in the freezer (!), so we head down unadvised to the chosen spot, just 30 seconds from Q's front door, and get set up.

There's a dead fish in the water, which isn't a great sign, but we're not fishing for food, it's for pleasure. After a bit of fiddling about with the line because I thread the line the wrong way through the bale, we get started. Q soon picks up his casting as Natalie appears to take some photos. We're getting a fair bit of tugging, but little else, until suddenly, Q's got one! He reels it in without too much of a fight - it's about as big as your average goldfish, but by jove it'll do, it's a catch!

Next challenge is to get the hook out, which is imbedded in his gill. I confidently explain that it's easy, you just put your finger in its mouth and AARRRRRGHHH I squeal like a girl as it clamps down on my thumb! Q has a go with similar results as Natalie catches our pathetic gestures on film. Finally we get it to settle down on the ground without wiggling too much (poor bugger's probably drowning by now) and I get the hook out, then Q scoops it back into the water via a few bounces on the rocks. Oops! Looks like Nemo will live another day...

The rainclouds roll back in shortly after, so we retire, then Marc and Jess turn up from their drive from Melbourne with Niran in tow. We all head out for pizza in the nice place all of 15 metres from Q's door, then retired to the house and stayed up chatting till all hours.

Little Kvanz

Big Kvanz

Once "all hours" was over, I had to help my little brother Lewis out with changing his flights to get him to Japan in about a day's time. Stress! I finally get to bed coming up to 5am. Up in a couple of hours!

Q drops me at the airport. In, all fairly painless, until the SOUR NOTE! Bloomin' airport security confiscate my antibacterial handwash, the wash that has accompanied me to Russia, all round Europe, to Nepal twice, to all of South America, across the Pacific, and they confiscate it. Why? Because the bottle is a 250ml bottle, and you're only allowed 200ml or something. THE BOTTLE IS 80% EMPTY! B**stards. Time for another continent...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Beautiful Perth

Perth, in Western Australia, is one of the most isolated cities in the world. I'm planning to stay with Tony and Marcia, who I met in Peru and again in Patagonia, and who have kindly offered not only to let me stay with them but also as Tony is not working, to hang out with me and show me Perth! Marvellous! Tony picks me up from the airport, and drives me around. I expected the city to be very linear and flat against the coast, but in fact it's quite hilly and deep, with lots of park space and conservation areas of bush. The town is booming at the moment, as mining, iron ore etc, from around here is driving the massive expansion of China, especially Shanghai. All over there are new smart houses being built, especially in the prime beach-side spots.

Tony heads through the centre of town, along the main thoroughfare, lined with skyscrapers, then climbs up to King's Park, an enormous green space with good lookouts overlooking the centre and the Swan River, which empties in Freemantle Harbour and the Indian Ocean. Freemantle, south of here, is the main port of Perth, and the oldest part of the city. We head along Perth's clean and uncongested roads to the cemetary. This is the resting place of Bon Scott, of AC/DC fame - cans of beer and Scotch bottles surround the grave.

Rock on, Bon

Next back to business, specifically the Little Creatures pub which Tony has shares in.

It's a large trendy industrial brewpub, with large benches, pipes lining the brickwork, and big aluminium vats on one side where the brewing magic occurs. The toilets look out over the factory floor through tinted windows. Out to the back, where we hop on to a bench facing a small quay with boats and yachts tied up.

There's an extra beer here since Tony last visited, and so we have a Pale Ale, Roger's Brown, Bright Ale and a Pilsner to sample. We work our way through them before settling on the Rogers, the mildest, as the drink of choice. The beers are bottled and sold all over the place, and according to Q there is a pub with their beer on tap in Sydney.

Nibbles were supplied by us ordering kangaroo!

Boing boing boing chop

Haven't seen any of the things, but apparently they are everywhere. But I have eaten one! Small chunks of meat on skewers, satay-style. Yum! As Tony points out, Australia is one of the few countries in the world that eat their national symbol. Marcia turns up later with her very nice friend, Anna, who has recently returned from 7 or 8 years of living in London. As Tony points out, Aussies all go to the UK to work for a few years, but they always without fail, come home. Brits coming to Australia to work for a couple of years never want to go home!

A couple of bottles of sauvignon blanc and some pizza later, we head off feeling somewhat light-headed, via Anna's house to pick up some pillows (Tony and Marcia came home a few days ago so are not completely organised yet!

Tony and Marcia's house

Back at the ranch, I meet Ned, the beautiful golden retriever who slobbers a lot and shows his affection more through licking his lips than wagging his tail.

The Nedster

Tony opens a bottle of red wine and walks me through some of the best Australian bands, possibly a mistake, as a short few hours later, Marcia wakes us up. Time to go to Rotto!

Rottness Island
Rotto, as those in the know call it, is an island [GPS: 31.99556S, 115.54095E] that one can just about see about 11 km off the WA coast, which has previously been used as a prison and a military base. The name comes from the Dutch for "Rats' Nest", so called because when the Dutch arrived here in 1696 they thought the island was covered in large rats. These rats are infact "Quokkas", a cute small marsupial unique to the island, like a cross between a wallaby and a cat. They're very stupid, pottering about the place without a care in the world, so it's just as well they don't have any natural predators on the island. A fox would have a field-day here.

There are all sorts of measures to keep them from getting into trouble, like "Quokka Blocker" saloon-doors about two feet high on the entrance to shops. It is the symbol of the island, so the pub is the Quokka Arms, newspaper Quokka Times etc.

So, we say goodbye to Ned, always difficult when he gives you the "look"!

Then take the 7:30am (!) ferry over to the island from Freemantle, the other side of Perth. Neither of us are feeling great after the couple of beverages the night before, especially with a reasonable swell which the boat surfs along. A pie and coffee for breakfast at the bakery sorts us out though, and we head off on our bicycles.

The island is quite well organised, with good paved roads running all the way round, no cars, a single bus looping round, toilet facilities periodically and lots of informative signs. However, the main draw of the island is that it is dotted with small but very beautiful beaches, all round. It's always possible to find a small sandy bay for yourself to enjoy in peace.

Pottering round, it's hot, but okay as there is a nice breeze. Temperature's probably in the early 30s, as it is for most of my time in Perth.

Here'll do

We swim at the Basin and another beach on the south side, snorkling a bit, there is plenty to look at, some reasonable size fish but our attempts to catch them "bear style" fail miserably.

The water is cool but oh so refreshing, and spectrum of beautiful blues, from turquoise through deep ocean blue. From some of the island, as one paddles about, it is just about possible to make out the towers of the CBD in the distance, filled with suited and booted workers wasting their life away, and of course poor Marcia and Anna. This is the life!

What Tony does when he says he's "working from home"

Time for a spot of lunch, adequately catered for with fish and chips at Geordie Bay general store.

After we amble round at a leisurely pace to the second lighthouse of the island, Bathurst Lighthouse, built after a disaster on the island when the other one wasn't spotted.

By now it's mid-afternoon, so we drop the bikes and head to the Quokka Arms for a quick beer before the ferry back. Tony says that usually there are Quokkas all over the place by this time, but today they're being especially lazy and are not entertaining us.

The ferry back is much less bile-inducing than the way out, and so we arrive back feeling good, albeit slightly tired.

After popping home for a shower and to dump the bike, we miss the sunset, or rather enjoy it en route to the OBH, the Ocean Beach Hotel, a bar with a lovely view of the sea. Again, the Little Creatures Pale Ale is on tap, so Tony and I settle down on that before the ladies join us, when we head over the road to the Blue Duck restaurant. I commit an Australian faux-pas by ordering a bottle of the Wairau River Pinos Gris from (gasp) New Zealand, to frowns all round, though reluctantly all agreed it was good. I've been there, they're nice people so I'm happy to buy their wine!

Food was oysters to share, Tony having the Pear and Parsnip (or am I imagining that?) soup, which sounds awful but was apparently quite good! Then fish of the day, which was nicely done, though I confess I can't remember what fish it was! A local one!

Tony and Marcia have had enough by this stage, but Anna kindly takes me to a pleasant bar at Subiaco Hotel, in the trendy Subiaco area, apparently one of Perth's most stylish and cosmopolitan suburbs. Incidentally I like the dress codes they enforce in bars and restaurants in Perth - the general statement made, even in quite swanky places, is that shoes must be worn. How the London bouncers would be straight out of a job here! Anyway, the vibe is good, though it's beginning to quieten off as we arrive, and after a bottle of Madfish *Australian* wine, we call it a night as we're one of the last left. Overall, as Marcia pointed out, I've done quite well considering that it has been mid-week here. Perhaps we've been in all of the best (or only!) good bars in the city, but I am impressed!

Have rod, will fish
Next morning, it's one of my rites of passage as a man... Tony is taking me to the Fishing and Tackle shop! I need help, and I'm not ashamed to ask for it. These guys have a wall six metres across just with hooks, floor to ceiling. I have no idea what I'm doing. A nice chap guides me to a rod, the Ugly Stik graphite 4 piece, which is not telescopic, but does break into four pieces, making it more beefy. Compliment that with a Daiwa Spitfire 2500i reel loaded up with a 4kg line and we're ready to go. We grab a box of hooks and sinkers, and some whitebait, as recommended, for bait and we're off to satisfy our hunter gatherer instincts.

We head down to the dog beach at Brighton, feeling guilty that we don't have the lovely but oh-so-dim Ned with us. Over dunes to a beautiful golden beach with turquoise water.

Bit busy today

The plan is to fish, then perhaps have a swim, but the water is just too nice to ignore, so we switch - swim first then fish. Into the beautiful blue water, through some swell, not enough to be unpleasant, but just enough to enjoy an occasional body surf. The water's a perfect temperature. We can see dozens of dolphins slightly further out, doing some fishing themselves. As Tony points out, you always feel safe when there are dolphins about, as they will protect you from any sharks that come in close to shore.

We decide there's precious little fishing at this beach, so drive along to Hilary's Boat Harbour, where there are rocks that we can sit on and cast lines from. There are plenty of fish about, we can see them! We find a comfy spot, then I unpack my rod, removing plastic, tags, stickers etc. What a newbie! Oh well, we all have to start somewhere. I fidget about with my kit, and am eventually in a position to attach hook and sinker, which Tony does for me (the first time). Bait attached, and we're all ready.

Fumble fumble

I cast my rod, but it all goes wrong, tangled fishing wire everywhere. I haven't quite worked out this reel system. I mess around, trying to untangle and sort it out, meanwhile my hooks flail about down below. Of course they get jammed. The embarrassment. My first attempt with my own rod and I don't even get into the water! In the end I reluctantly cut the line. Tony suggests just the one hook for starters might be more economical. I hang my head low and agree.

Now things start to work though. I soon get my casting technique going, and to my pride Tony admires a throw, though of course the next time I completely fluff it as the bale flips over prematurely and I nearly gouge my own eye out. Anyway, the whitebait we are using as bait are certainly being enjoyed by the fish down there, but they're obviously not stupid enough to bite the hook. Time and time again we throw our lines down, only to bring them back up seconds later empty.


And rest..

Of course, the mission today is to catch a "WA dhu fish", a local fish that apparently is a rite of passage for anglers around here. The lovely Anna has promised to come to the BBQ tonight if we catch one. Tony laughs at me at and tells me there is absolutely no chance of catching one on-shore. I try anyway. Then the goal drops to catch something, anything. Then the goal becomes "bring your line back with the bait still attached". We resort to playing with the crabs which creep about on the rocks next to us, at least they grab and hold our bait for a few seconds before letting go, more action than the fish are providing.

Tony gets the closest to catching something, bringing a fish up to the surface, but the little bugger gets away at the last minute. People wander by and ask "caught anything, mate?". I learn that "nah, just feeding 'em" is the correct response to this question. In the end though, it's not about the results, it's about the taking part. We're in a beautiful spot, looking back across the bay, the weather's perfect, and the conversation is good. All that's missing are a couple of beers and life would be complete.

What life's all about

Fishing lesson 1 over, we go shopping for the bbq that Tony and Marcia are hosting for me and my friends I met in Egypt tonight. All is prepared, and we wait, enjoying a few beers. Eventually I call, and find out they're not coming. Oops. Slightly awkward, though Tony and Marcia are very nice about it. I suppose it does mean more food for us, and even Ned shares in the feast, enjoying a few tasty sausages that are left over at the end.

Marvellously late start the next day, some breakfast, bit of breakfast TV. There is outrage here about a sudden rise in the price of petrol. It's the long Easter weekend, and everyone is going somewhere, and when Australians go somewhere, they have to drive some to get there. 1,000km is fairly normal, and a 10% rise in the price of fuel is going to make a significant difference in cost. What is amazing is that this is a fairly regular thing, and apparently they always drop it back down after the weekend! The breakfast show TV presenter suggests it is clearly collusion between oil companies, and just before the show cuts to an ad-break, leans in to the camera and says "Am I allowed to use the word B**STARDS!?" It'd never happen on Breakfast with Frost!

Next day. Back to the Dog Beach.

Today it's back to the dog beach, this time with a dog, our Ned. Tony has to lift him leg by leg into the car. He angles him towards me, then once we get going tells me that Ned has been known to spew in the car before. Nice! Out and on to the beach. Ned is a quite nervous soul. He's a beautiful dog, and was bred as a show dog, but just doesn't have the temperament for show-grounds. He has a good time sniffing about with the other dogs as Tony and I enjoy the Perth surf, me for the last time (this trip). It's ridiculous that this is just a dog beach. You can see from the photos how nice WA beaches are. Maybe it's not as fun when the weather is bad, though thunderstorms are apparently beautiful to watch out at sea.

Tony takes Ned for a swim. Ned doesn't like swimming, and it's no great surprise, as he hasn't yet worked out that it's best to keep one's mouth above the water when in the sea.

Hasn't quite got the hang of swimming without diving gear

After the sea Ned gets hosed off.

With the inevitable shake that follows

Followed by mad dog syndrome to ensure coat is nice and dirty again! Hurrah!

That done, we meet Marcia for a last lunch for me on the grass up in King's Park, looking down over the lovely city that has been my home for the last few days. It's been lovely, thanks to the gorgeous Marcia and especially Tony, for giving up so much time and being such marvellous hosts.

Goodbye Perth, and thank you Tony and Marcia!