Sunday, April 30, 2017

New Trees and Bridge

NEW TREES........
A  couple of years ago the large, old, Banksia tree which stood at the back of our replica lighthouse died. Then we had the Big Wind of 2016 and dead branches started falling. The dead tree had become something of a hazard and it was finally cut down and the remains removed late last year.

Some months ago, after a chat with our benefactor, John Ibbotson, we decided to plant a new tree. Not a replacement Banksia, but one of these.........
..........a Poinciana - the tree which has spectacular flowers in springtime and in summer acts like a leafy, shady umbrella.

So yesterday John and I dug holes and planted not one, but two of these trees; one will bear red flowers and the other, yellow.
Yes, yellow! I have never seen a yellow-flowering Poinciana but here's a photo of one:-

So we now have the red one planted a few metres away from where the Banksia stood.........

  ......and, on the other side of the building, the yellow one.

Hopefully they will flourish and grow to maturity.
If so, then the view of the lighthouse from down the grassy slope will be spectacular in springtime.

.....and NEW BRIDGE
Work on the new bridge at Grafton, which will provide a replacement for the old "bendy bridge" across the mighty Clarence, is starting to get underway.

The week following Easter saw the arrival off the mouth of the river at Yamba of a very large (48 metres in length) barge carrying equipment, including a very large crane, that will be used as a work platform for the construction of the pilings and the bridge itself.

The photo, which I took with my little Panasonic Lumix, shows the barge under the control of two towing and the other (tucked right at the corner of the barge) assisting at the it arrived off the mouth of the river.

After negotiating the bar the trio proceeded up river to Grafton.
Only another year or so and the new bridge will be in use.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The BIG Moreton Bay Fig tree.....

On the Lawrence to Grafton Road, right HERE, is a magnificent Moreton Bay Fig.
I've been meaning to grab a photo of it for ages and took advantage of a run into Grafton earlier this week to finally get around  to it.
(Click on the photo and it will open up much larger).

The tree's roots must have been "trimmed" where they meet the road....perhaps ages ago, when the road was just a dirt track or maybe when the surface was asphalted.

The tree is so large that the canopy crosses the road....and how great it is to see that rather than cut the branches off, the powers-that-be have merely trimmed them to allow road traffic to pass underneath.

Moreton Bay figs are amazing trees - they rely on a small wasp for their regeneration, live to about 100 years and their root system above the ground forms huge buttresses.

Here is some information on the tree, botanical name Ficus macrophylla.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Storm Front

This storm-front rolled over Yamba in the late afternoon of Friday 20th. January.
A really fascinating cloud formation at the very leading edge of the storm.
The four photos were taken between 5:20 PM and 5:21 PM...that's how fast it was moving.

All the photos enlarge when clicked.

We had about 20 mm of rain in the hour or so following this amazing display and further soft rain today.
Nice...and very welcome.

UPDATE - Monday 23rd.
The area newspaper The Daily Examiner published two of the above shots, along with some from other contributors, in today's edition.
I also learned that the type of cloud formation is termed a "shelf cloud", or "shelf front".

Sunday, December 18, 2016

An Evening of Christmas Music

I was invited to perform a piece of Christmassy music at a recent gathering of friends and acquaintances at the home of the same lady who hosted a similar evening last September.

So armed with my Yamaha PSR E-443 electronic keyboard and the song  - Handel's "Joy To The World" - firmly locked down in my head I duly presented my arrangement of the classic piece.
(Note that it is ascribed to Handel; there is no clear evidence that he actually composed it.)

Back: Michele & Conner. Front: Bruce & Margaret.
Michele is my teacher, Connor is a young man (last year of high school next year) with an amazing voice and Margaret is a good friend, a fellow music (electronic organ) student of Michele and our wonderful hostess for the evening.

A great time and I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I continue to obtain a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction from my music and the lessons, which now total 40 since February of this year.

We have a six-week break during the annual summer holidays until the end of January and over that time I will continue to practise and also revise the lessons of the past year.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Forty-three years ago today.....

......we were on the second day of our honeymoon at Korora Bay (northern beaches of Coffs Harbour).
I snapped this shot of my new bride on the rocks at the end of the beach near the Sandy Beach Apartments (the Google photo bears little resemblance to the location as it was forty-three years ago!) where we were staying.

The year before we were married we were out in Sydney (where we lived at the time) and popped into one of those self-photo booths, which were dotted here and there (usually at railway stations) and often used by people wanting wallet-sized B&W prints or shots for a passport application.

This is the only such photo which I still have of that era.....

In 1976 we moved from suburban Sydney to our new home at 72 Buena Vista Road, Winmalee (Google photo is recent...taken after the fires of 2013) in the Blue Mountains, both of us commuting to work in Sydney by train.
The following photo - one of my favourites of Shirley (she looks very contemplative) - was taken in 1977 at the dining table.

Memories are enhanced by photos because they trigger details.
These pix bring back memories of some wonderful times.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Learning to play the piano.....properly!

For some years I've been able to play an electronic keyboard by ear and to use the automatic accompaniment, but I've never been able to read music or to play left-hand chords.

This all started to change in February of this year, when I commenced piano lessons with Michele Saunders Music Studio, here in Yamba. In fact, the studio is literally 100 metres from our front gate. How good is that?!

I have a Yamaha E443 electronic keyboard which has lots of bells and whistles but which, at the touch of a button, reverts to what is effectively a 61-key piano.

Lessons are half-an-hour per week and I am now coming up to my 30th. lesson. That's 15 hours of tuition in total over the past eight months and I am enjoying every second of the experience.

I never had the time to do this whilst I was working and helping to raise two children but now, in retirement, I have all the time in the world.

I practice at least an hour a day....not necessarily all in one go; some days I'll have a half-hour session, other days I'll be sitting at the keyboard for a couple of hours.

Last Saturday night I had my first "public" performance - at the home of a very dear friend (Margaret) who plays the organ beautifully and who hosted an evening of light classical music for about twenty or so friends.
There were four musicians - Michele (on guitar...her expertise is boundless), Margaret on her electronic organ, myself on my Yamaha keyboard and a gentleman by the name of Peter who plays a Kawai electronic piano (88 keys). Peter and his wife Claire were visiting for a week...and the stay included  several music sessions with Michele.

Peter is blind, is 83 and Michele is his music teacher.....his remote music teacher, because he lives north of Brisbane and Michele coaches him via the internet.
Yes, that's correct........and we believe it is a unique arrangement.

Here is a photo of three of us....Michele, Margaret and myself...........

 And another which includes Peter...........

I couldn't live happily without music.....and to be able to learn to read and play it from such a lovely and encouraging teacher as Michele is one of life's bonuses.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tehachapi Loop

My friend Steve, who lives in Hemet, California, was recently passing the famous Tehachapi Loop during one of his regular business trips in California when he chanced upon a BNSF freight train negotiating the track at the same time that he happened to be there.

It's a consist made up primarily of double-stack containers, with a few auto-carriers on the rear and hauled by four what appear to be GE "Dash 9" (or maybe ES44) locomotives.

The following photographs were sent to me by Steve.
All enlarge when clicked.

Thanks, Steve!
I envy you the opportunities that you have to see this piece of railroad history on a regular basis.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Up, Up and Away!

My 70th. birthday was celebrated over six-month's ago (November 2015) and as a special gift I was presented, by my wife, son and daughter, with a 45 minute flight in a helicopter.
I deliberately held off taking the flight until the weather moved out of the stormy, unpredictable summer and well into the calmer period of autumn.....late autumn, in fact.

So yesterday (Wednesday 25th. May) I headed up the highway from Yamba to beautiful Ballina, a 75 minute drive and it was a simply superb autumn day; 23 degrees, light breeze and a blue sky. Just a perfect day for my first flight in a helicopter and a perfect day for top-down motoring in the MX-5.

On the way to Ballina I stopped at New Italy - a roadside rest-stop with picnic facilities, cafe, art displays etcetera. This location commemorates the settlement in the area of approximately 130 Italian immigrants back in the 1800s.
 Note that all photos enlarge when clicked. 

My flight was booked with Air T&G, a helicopter-flight business operating from Ballina Byron airport.
They have three Robinson R22s, two R44s, a Bell something-or-other which is a "Huey" look-alike, and a Bell 47, which anyone who has watched M.A.S.H. would immediately identify.

After being weighed and leaving behind anything of a loose nature (keys, mobile phone, pen) I was taken out to the little two-seat R22 by my pilot, Ryan.
With the aircraft and Ryan both dressed in black it looked like something out of an action movie!

After a pre-flight briefing we climbed in, donned a headset each and Ryan went through the checklist then fired her up.
We had to let the engine warm up for about five minutes and, once ready, Ryan did a radio check, advising other aircraft in the area of our intentions (it is uncontrolled airspace at Ballina) and we "taxied" out to the edge of the runway. Yep...taxied. About a metre above the ground!

On the way to our launching pad we passed this Bombadier CL-600 operated by Execujet, out of Sydney.

Past the general aviation hangars and services.
The hangar on the right contains what appears to be an ex-RAAF (or maybe RNZAF) Victa Airtourer.

We held short (hovering a metre above the ground) for a Jetstar service to make its landing.
Once he had touched down and commenced taxiing we were clear to lift off and, in the words of The Fifth Dimension, we were "Up, Up and Away"! 

We tracked inland initially...west towards Alstonville, flying at 1000 feet, over many macadamia plantations, one of which (or part of one) is pictured below.
The country is so green that it's almost unbelieveable - like being in Ireland!

We turned northwards, heading to the coast near Byron Bay, and passed near Bangalow.

There are quite a few palatial residences in this area; this one was once owned by Paul Hogan.

This is a new section of the Pacific Highway which was only opened within the past twelve months.
It includes twin tunnels which pass through a hill that, although providing spectacular views, was very twisty, slow and dangerous.
This new section of dual carriageway is part of the major restructuring of the Pacific Highway currently in progress between Woolgoolga and Ballina.

Below is a shot of the northern end of the tunnels, with the old highway alignment on the left and the new dual-carriageway road on the right.

Beautiful country around here; lush green and soft, rolling hills extending inland to the Great Dividing Range.
You can make out Mount Warning, that sharp peak in the centre of the ranges, which was spotted and named when James Cook sailed the Endeavour up the east coast in 1770.

The photo below that of the countryside is the view along the pristine beach extending north to Brunswick Heads and beyond to Hastings Point.

Ryan had us cruising along at 1000 feet and a little under 80 knots.

We met the coastline just north Byron Bay and then started tracking south, dropping down to 500 feet.
I have not edited the colours in the photo...that is exactly what we saw. I think the ochre tint is from the sand being stirred up.

The next series of shots are of the lighthouse at Cape Byron, the most easterly point on the Australian continent.

We saw plenty of dolphins on the way south to Ballina, and even a manta ray. But no sharks....which was good because there were dozens of surfers.
Sadly, no whales. It appears that the warm current is still making its presence felt further south but they should be on the move pretty soon.

We arrived at the mouth of the Richmond River, where it meets the Pacific Ocean at Ballina, and turned inland to approach the airport, with a final view south along the beach towards Evans Head.

Ryan held the helicopter short of the approach as we waited for a light aircraft to do a "missed approach" practice and then we were on finals and ready to touch down.

Of course, I had to have the obligatory photo taken as I sat in the R22, so here you go....

That yellow disk is not a landing light!
It's lens flare, from the sun.

What a fabulous experience this was. Totally absorbing, and thoroughly enjoyable.
I will do it again, one day.....maybe get a chance to do a whale-watching or a "hands on" flight.

Thanks, family.
This is up there with the hot-air balloon flight for my 50th.