We lived in Canberra for 15 years before we moved back to Sydney - I hadn't been back for a visit in the year and a half since we moved. Tim had taken Jasmine back to visit friends a couple of times, and he's been back there for work too. This past weekend Jasmine wanted to go to a friend's birthday party there - they've kept in touch this whole time - and Tim wasn't keen but I decided I was ready to return. I'd had no interest before this - when I move on I move on!
It's a three hour drive, we got there just before lunch time Saturday for the very end of the party - the time had been changed a couple of days before, too late for me to change all my plans and bookings even if I'd been willing to drive up Friday night which I wasn't - and left Jasmine with her friend for the weekend. My first item on the agenda was Kingsley's for lunch. It has fried chicken, much like KFC but not as greasy and I loved it the whole time we lived in Canberra. (Also nicest roast chickens, but I was craving the southern fried.) It was still tasty, but turns out 'not as greasy' is still very greasy! I ate most of two pieces and felt a bit nauseated. Oh well, maybe I'll stop craving it now!
There was a stationary store that sells my favourite pens a block away so I popped in there. I can get them in Sydney but not anywhere near where I usually shop. They are a bit more expensive than normal ball-point pens but I love them because they are 0.7mm instead of the usual 1.0mm, usually it's hard to find fine point like that other than felt tip. I've bought quite a few over the past few years but of course they keep mysteriously going missing from my desk. It's like teaspoons and socks. Some little gremlin somewhere likes to eat them. How often do you use up a pen before it disappears? Never?!
I drove past our old house. Apart from some pot plants by the front door I couldn't see any changes. It was the back of the house that really needed work, but I didn't dare creep around and look. It didn't feel like home at all, I got a cold grey vibe from it.
I drove down to the lake and went for a walk, it was always my favourite place for walking. As I had rather expected, there was a very cold wind off the water, chilling my hands, ears and nose. Winter in the mountains. I lasted for 20 minutes before I went and had a cup of tea at the library café.
Here we see the National Library from the vantage of my lake walk...
After my cup of tea I joined the library tour. It was only of the public spaces, unfortunately, but it included some interesting information. I knew that the book storage goes several stories underground, but I didn't know that that part of the building is much wider than the above ground part. It stretches out under the lawns and car parks. The tour guide lady also took us into the national treasures gallery, stuff like Captain Cook's writing desk from his ship and personal log (he "discovered" Australia for England, not counting the Aborigines who'd lived here for tens of thousands of years or the Dutch who visited the other side of Australia before Cook got here).
I did enjoy the tour but I was glad to go at my own pace around the other exhibition there, of Japanese woodcuts (illustrations) from traditional novels. The art was interesting but the best part was the little summaries of the books they were from. Like: a man falls in love with a peasant girl but his family forbids him to marry her because she's a nobody so he becomes a monk. Then he finds out that she is actually a noblewoman, but it's too late. So he commits suicide. So she commits suicide. Sounds a bit like Romeo and Juliet. Lots of moral tales, like the woman who leaves her husband for a rich lover then eventually comes back but her husband and son don't want her back and she learns the error of her ways. The pictures are apparently all full of symbolism; the pattern of her dress means this, surrounded by autumn leaves means that, two children in the background means something else. Fascinating.
Time to move on to my next appointment at the National Museum. I had time for a slice of chocolate raspberry cake - turned out to be the only really delicious food I had all weekend, and it was the only unplanned one! - before going to my Virtual Reality session. It was an underwater dive on the Great Barrier Reef narrated by David Attenborough, taken with a 360 degree camera. We were in swivel chairs so we could easily look around in every direction. Then there was a bit about earliest life in the sea, showing us trilobites and eight-foot long sea scorpions and stuff. Very enjoyable. When I took my feet off the floor it felt like I was floating around.
It was starting to get very cold. I booked into my modest hotel room then walked a few blocks to my favourite Chinese restaurant which we used to go to often and ordered my favourite dish (Shan Tung chicken). In the past it had varied from moderately spicy to very spicy. This time I think they forgot to put in any chilli at all. Bland bland bland. Walked back to my hotel in the freezing evening air and snuggled down for the night. Luckily The Fifth Element was on TV.
In the morning it was still hovering around freezing so I stayed in for a while and had leftover Chinese for breakfast. Bland is ok in the morning. I finished the book I had with me then checked out and went to Questacon, the interactive science and technology museum. Lots of interactive stuff to do. I used to take the kids there a lot, we had an annual pass. It was more a time-killer this time, somewhere inside in the warm.
Finally it was time to go and meet Caroline, my best friend from Canberra. We had lunch at the arboretum, I used to go there a lot to write as it has lovely views. Our lunch table was right by the window.
I picked up Jasmine from her sleepover then we had the three hour drive home. I was pretty tired by the end. Family was over at our house to play Dungeons and Dragons, just the boys, but also my four year old niece Emma who was bored out of her skull and latched on to me as soon as I walked in the door wanting attention I was too worn out to give. I just wanted everyone to go home so I could have a quick dinner and collapse. But they were there for another hour. I ended the weekend exhausted and grumpy. But otherwise it was a nice couple of days.
After weeks and weeks of 'finished by the end of the week' promises, our tiler turned up and finished putting the paving down in the narrow corner bit. He still has to finish the grouting and then seal it all. 'By the end of the week'. Sigh. It looks nice though.
Jasmine is home sick today. Down with a cold or flu, she was starting to get sick yesterday. I always let her stay home when she asks because she so rarely asks - she loves school. Aiden would stay home every day if I let him.