Greg
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March 1997
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Groogle
In March 1997 I returned to Australia after living overseas for 38 years. I didn't keep a diary at the time, but I'm gradually writing down what I can remember of the experience. Don't be mislead by the present tense: all of these entries were written years later.

Saturday, 8 March 1997 Beijing -> Melbourne
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Landed at Tullamarine at the crack of dawn, and out to find my uncle Max waiting for me. Dad soon came along, and we set off to Mount Waverley, passing by where we lived in Carlton and stopping at the ANZ Bank on the corner of Grattan and Lygon Streets. After spending so much time in Texas, I had forgotten how green Melbourne is.

We're planning to drive to Adelaide next week in the expectation that we might find somewhere to live there, so we needed a car. Max was very helpful and took me down to a large car sales yard in Ringwood. I wasn't too sure whether to buy or hire a car, but it seems that the cheap car hire people won't let you leave the state, so that was a non-starter. Instead, looked for a cheap car which could ultimately serve as our second car when we're settled. Boy, are cars expensive here! There's hardly anything under $5000. On the other hand, after years in Germany I had forgotten how open and friendly people are in Australia. Finally found a Nissan Prairie 7 seater for $4,500. Being Saturday we couldn't pick it up immediately, and Monday's a public holiday, so it looks like being Tuesday.

Mick and Diane along for dinner in the evening. Much fun had by all.


Sunday, 9 March 1997 Melbourne
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Woke up in the middle of the night with an incredible cramp, and stumbled out of bed, forgetting where I was, and nearly fell through the window. When I got up in the morning, discovered that I had knocked over and damaged the bedside lamp and knocked my mobile phone onto the ground, where the display had fractured. Damn.


Monday, 10 March 1997 Melbourne
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Out to the airport to pick up Yvonne and Yana, who had arrived from Germany after a gruelling two day trip including hours in Jakarta airport. Later to Ringwood, where I was able to pick the car up after all.


Tuesday, 11 March 1997 Melbourne
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Into town with Dad today, who had to go to visit his lawyers somewhere in the west of the city. Spent a bit of time walking round the King St/Collins St area, and then decided to head back via Kew and Richmond. It's been decades since I've been here, but the memories gradually came back.

Driving down Dandenong Road went across a crossing where the traffic lights had failed—just flashing orange showing. Most of the other cars went through, and, half asleep, I didn't see the car coming from my right. Was unable to avoid a crash, and the car was a writeoff. That's the shortest I've ever had a car, and what with the damage to my phone the other day, things could be going better.


Wednesday, 12 March 1997 Melbourne
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Back to Ringwood to look for another car, and found a 1985 Mitsubishi Nimbus with 230,000 km on the clock. This is to be our second car; we'll buy a “first” car when we're settled and have more time to choose.

Also off to find a new mobile phone. It makes sense to buy the same model (Nokia 2112) so that I can at least use the batteries I had for the old one. On the positive side, I now have an Australian phone number, so it should be cheaper.


Thursday, 13 March 1997 Melbourne → Flowerdale → Broadford → Melboure
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My father had some business to do near Flowerdale today, so off to take a look around the countryside. My mother's family, the Collins, had owned the pub in Flowerdale from the 1930s until at least the 1960s, and the pub was run by publicans with the unlikely names Tom Collins and John Collins. It's in other hands now, but so we took a look around. It's changed a lot since I was last there, which can't have been later than 1978, but which was more likely to have been in 1958. Now it's not just a boozer, but also a restaurant.

On to Broadford, where we had lunch—Yvonne made her first acquaintance with a pub mixed grill, leaving her less than happy. Back to Melbourne and to Tandem in St. Kilda Road, where I met Sophie Mouzakis, who's been sending me around Asia for the last year or so.


Monday, 17 March 1997 Melbourne → Bendigo → Murray Bridge
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Today Yvonne, Yana and myself set off to South Australia with intent to find somewhere for to live there, accompanied by my father. Set off none too early, and first past our old house in Grattan Street, then off to Bendigo at my father's request. Had lunch there, and it was pretty clear that we wouldn't be in Adelaide by nightfall, so decided to head for Murray Bridge instead; I had a certain interest in South Australian country towns, and Murray Bridge sounded like a good place to look at.

Got there round dusk and found an old-fashioned little hotel to stay in, then out for dinner nearby. Yana ordered a steak—“Scotch Fillet”, a name that should be prohibited because of its inaccuracy. Far from being a fillet, it's a rib eye steak, and for some reason this one was particularly tough, something that Yana seems to suffer from particularly.


Tuesday, 18 March 1997 Murray Bridge → Basket Range (Adelaide Hills)
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Called up Jo Brock at breakfast and asked for a suggestion about where to stay in the Adelaide area. She recommended a bed and breakfast in Basket Range, so called up there and got some rather strange directions which appeared to include the registration number of their Percheron stallion, but proved to be a RAPID number, a shortened grid reference. Headed up there, through some particularly hilly country, and found quite a nice place, run by Sue and John Babi, originally from Hungary. We'll be staying for a week or two.


Wednesday, 19 March 1997 Basket Range (Adelaide Hills)
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Met up with Jo Brock today, who lives on a surprisingly hilly slope somewhere in the North of the Adelaide Hills. Drove around the Hills (mainly) looking at the countryside and potential places to live. Jo said that there were basically three, two in the lowlands (round Gawler and round McLaren Vale) and in the Hills round Echunga and Meadows. There were also a number of houses for sale in the area. Very tired back home.


Saturday, 22 March 1997 Basket Range (Adelaide Hills)
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Twelfth wedding anniversary today. In honour of the event, Sue cooked dinner and John introduced us to his favourite vintage, “Château Cardboard”, wine in a bag, which flowed freely.


Sunday, 23 March 1997 Basket Range (Adelaide Hills)
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It seems that the “Château Cardboard” didn't agree with Yvonne—or maybe it was the “champagne” that went with it—and she spent the morning at home nursing her head. My father and I off again to investigate the terrain, ending up going down through Echunga and Kangarilla to McLaren Flat. Took another look at a house for sale a few kilometres south of Echunga, which Yvonne had said looked interesting, but the house was tiny.

This was, in fact, Wantadilla. Looking up the drive before the extension was built, it did indeed look small.

Week of 24 March 1997

Basket Range (Adelaide Hills)

During this week we drove around looking at houses in the Mount Barker and Echunga areas. I don't recall the dates. By the end of the week, we still hadn't really come up with anything we really liked, though Yvonne was tending towards Wantadilla.

While driving around the area, got a call from Sophie Mouzakis: she wanted me to go to Hong Kong and Korea, the week after next. That's about as much notice as I ever got.


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