Tuesday, 27 January 2009

On The Beach

Sunday on the beach...

The Telfer house at Busselton.

We have still not been home to our farm. Instead we spent several days at my parents' place in York, recovering from jet-lag, before heading down to Busselton. Roger's parents used to live in a house on the beach front, and now Roger and his sisters use it for a holiday house. The first morning we were here I went for a walk on the beach in the morning, testing out my new 28-300mm lens. It is a monster, and I am not used to the push/pull zooming, but it does a good job.

Our house is on the far left in this photo.

The shoreline, where Odette enjoys searching for interesting shells.

Some local wildlife...

Looking along the shoreline towards Busselton, and its famous jetty.

Because it was a long weekend there where plenty of people around, and some friends from Darkan came to Busselton. Stuart and Kerrie Putland brought a boat and a "biskit" to tow behind the boat for some water fun. Stuart's brother lives in Busselton so he brought his family down to the beach on Sunday, and they set up a much needed shade shelter. Ian and Marita Putland and their children came from Perth and spent Sunday on the beach too. The Marcoux family came and spent Sunday afternoon on the beach and stayed for a barbecue on the front lawn (I use the word "lawn" loosely because the garden has not been maintained and there is probably as much sand as grass now.)

Stef and Marie on the water.

Matthew, taking it easy...

Odette, Sophie and Bonnie, with best friend Kirsty.

I wasn't allowed to take my new camera on the boat (didn't want to test out its splash-resistance so soon...) so I didn't get any photos of Stef on the biskit (i tried on the mobile phone, but can't download them.) He handled the rough conditions really well, and stayed on for a lot longer than I thought he would, depsite Stuart doing his best to dislodge him. Eventually Stef came off in spectacular fashion, and now Stef is suffering with a sore back and shoulder and wondering why he was so silly. I thought that it looked like lots of fun, and even though I didn't have my swimming costume (forgot to pack...) I had a go in my clothes. Stuart was a lot kinder to me so I didn't suffer so much damage, but still my shoulder is a bit sore, just from hanging on.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Tin Kettling

The crowd that surprised us as we were leaving Sainte Marie d'Alloix. Can you spot us amongst the crowd? Sophie and I were beckoning for Hugh and Odette to come and join us.

I don't know what it is called in French, but it was a surprise when we heard the commotion outside the house just as we were preparing to leave for the airport on Saturday. A group of people had walked up the road towards the house banging, whistling, hooting and waving flags. It certainly was a surprise!! We thought we had already said our final farewells...
I was so surprised that I laughed until I cried. It was certainly a send-off we won't forget!

Thanks to Annes' Mum for climbing on the garden wall to capture this angle...

I thought I would be clever and capture some video on my little camera. Photos wouldn't do justice to all the noise and carrying on being generated by the little throng. However the video is not quite what I expected. Goodness knows what went wrong here - I haven't looked at the settings that resulted in the time lapse style footage. It was all a blur anyway, filled with emotion, so this may in fact be what happened...

Well now I know there is a time-lapse function on the camera I will have to find a valid application for it...

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Back in Australia

Just a quick post to say that we are back safely after our trip home. I don't know why I was so worried about it (I do really - because I remembered the trip over). Maybe it was because the kids were all ten months older, or because they were more experienced and knew what to expect, or maybe because it was our natural sleep time during the longest stage. In any case they all travelled very well.
Monsieur Hesse drove us from Sainte Marie d'Alloix to Lyon, Saint Exupery Airport. Then we had a short one hour flight to Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport. The five hour wait was not too long, as it took us nearly two hours to get from our flight to the departure gate. That included customs and toilet stops. Then Sophie and Bonnie and I had a very long walk to the duty free shop to find Nanna's Chanel No. Five present; and a long walk back again to get our boarding pass so we could buy it. Then Odette and I had a long walk to a gift shop so she could choose the most beautiful Eiffel Tower snow dome for Nanna and Granddad. From Paris we flew to Singapore where the one hour stop was just long enough for us to get onto our connecting flight, without having to sit down and wait. From Singapore we flew to Perth and arrived at 1.55am local time. My parents were waiting for us, and they drove us back to their place, Hope Farm in York, where we arrived just before 5am.
Now we just have to work out our jet lag...

Today I'm looking forward to two of my sisters and their children coming for lunch. The kids are looking forward to a swim in the pool.

Friday, 16 January 2009

What's The Weather Like Today?

I just added a new "widget" to the side panel, to compare the weather in Le Touvet, France, with Collie, Western Australia. These were the closest stations available to compare with Sainte Marie d'Alloix (where we are now) and Darkan (where we will be next week).
At the time of adding, the French one was -4 degrees Celsius and the Australian one was 40 degrees Celsius. Goodness, I am bracing myself. And I hope the air-conditioning is working well at home!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A Flying Thing

The Marcoux's house is the highest one in this photo.

Here is a photo that I took this morning. And to get that view I had to get off the ground. Courtesy of William Raffin of Envie d'Ailes at Sainte Marie d'Alloix I was taken up over our village to get some aerial photos.
The ultra light machine we flew in is very simple. At first glance one wonders how it could fly.

Me in the back, with William Raffin as pilot.

But when the contraption is teamed with a parapente sail, the aerodynamics are right and it flies like a bird - only without flapping its wings.
The photography was not easy - I didn't have a lot of time, and there was a bar that was in the way right where my natural camera position would be, and a helmet blocking the view directly in front. Looking through the viewfinder was difficult because of the vibrations caused by the motor of the machine, so I did a lot of pointing and shooting in the general direction (next week I'll have my new EOS 5D mkII with live view so I will no longer have to look through the viewfinder all the time). After a few minutes in the air my fingers began to freeze. I have soft leather gloves which are great for manipulating the camera (and tieing shoelaces and doing up kids' zips) and have been plenty warm enough in all other situations. But today they failed me and my fingers got painfully cold.
Despite the cold I loved the flight. The view was magnificent. And it was fun. I started thinking about getting one of those things to fly around in at home. A two-seater so Roger could fly while I take photos...

Looking over Sainte Marie d'Alloix, towards the Chartreuse.

The winter landscape.

After my flight it was Roger's turn, so I took some photos of him in the air too.

Can you see that smog? Weather conditions have trapped the air in the valley, causing pollution to peak. The speed on the motorway has been limited to 70km/h to try to limit the pollution while the weather conditions keep the smog trapped.

Roger coming in to land.

There were army guys doing training while we were there, and the things they fly in are even more fantastic. Sort of like a big fan strapped on their back - no wheels.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Counting Down

The end is nigh. This time next week we will be in the air somewhere between Paris and Singapore. (Actually I started writing this post this morning. By this time next week we'll be on Australian soil.) I have been a bad blogger lately, because it is a little sad looking forward to the end of our wonderful time here in France. And I have been busy getting photos made into a slide show to show at our farewell gathering last night.

Farewell Party

Last night we had a huge party!! And I didn't take a single photo. So all you have is lots of writing, sorry...
The Mairie had sent out invitations to everyone in the village, inviting them to come to see a slideshow presentation of the photos I have taken in the village during our stay. I went through the photos I had selected for the book, and culled out ones that were not vitally important or not particularly pretty, and put them together in a movie slideshow that lasted over one hour. I used Adobe Premiere Elements 3 to put it together, and in the end all the work I did getting the soundtrack to match the slides was wasted. I burnt the DVD and tried it on the computer and the TV, but neither of them had any sound. I guess I'll probably work it out one day...
I had a practice run with the projector in the hall on Tuesday morning, to make sure everything would hook up properly and it went together without a hitch. Easy as pie. So I rocked up on Saturday evening and plugged evrything in and can you guess what happened?? I couldn't get the movie to show up on the screen! I fiddled with the computer display settings until I got a picture up, but it was cut into a very narrow panel on the screen. More fiddling with the computer, more people offering helpful advice, and more frustration. Eventually some bright spark fiddled with the projector and bingo! Dim the lights and on with the show...

The community surprised us by presenting us with some gifts, as a reminder of our stay here in Sainte Marie d'Alloix. Isabelle said some very kind words, to which my response in my surprised state was somewhat inadequate. Roger spoke in English, so about half the room would have understood some of what he said. We now have, to take home with us, a big book with aerial photos of the Alpes (can't wait to have a better look at it) and a small relief map of the region. The kids were given a CD with 42 French songs and rhymes for children, and I'm sure we will have fun singing along with that in the car in Australia.

We have been extremely fortunate to have been in such a welcoming little community. The kids have made friends who will be sad to see them go. Roger has been helping people to practise their English. People have got used to seeing me around with my camera, and mostly have been happy to have their photos taken. There were a few times when I didn't have my camera with me and I wished I had. For instance, when Fred was teaching Justine scuba diving in their swimming pool; or when young Jeff killed a rooster for the first time (the red blood on the white snow would have been very artistic I think.)
So last night we had a hall full of locals trying to spot themselves, or their house or their kid or their dog, in the photos. Roger counted 150 people sitting in chairs. There were kids sitting on the floor at the front (well they sat for about ten minutes before starting to run around) and others standing at the back. Everyone brought some food to share, and the Mairie provided drinks. After eating, Fred and Anke cranked up the music and the dancing started. There were even computer-controlled disco lights, thanks to Benoit whose company Airstar uses lights in display products. As the night wore on Anthony plugged his i-pod into the "virtual DJ" playing through Fred's laptop and the tempo of the music changed. He and his mate had dressed up in hats, sunnies and jackets and they put on a bit of a floor-show and managed to get more people into the groove. They even got Roger doing a few groovy moves.
Some people left after the photos and the food; some only came later after their other commitments had finished. We finished up at about midnight after a really fun evening.
It was a night to remember, and I didn't feel sad at all, knowing that we have made so many friends during our time here. We expect that we will have the opportunity to return the hospitality when some of our French friends come to visit us in Australia. They are more than welcome!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Window Fridge

Drinks in the "window fridge".

When it is colder outside than it is in the fridge, you don't have to worry about food going off. It is so handy to have the juice on the window sill. Just open the window and grab it - but it might be worth putting a little warm water with the juice so it doesn't freeze you teeth when you drink it. Lately we have had the problem of the apple juice freezing when we leave it in the window fridge.