Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Barossa – Travel Log 17

It couldn’t be easier to locate…

Drive north out of Adelaide along the Port Wakefield Road [A1] until the off ramp for the Northern Expressway [M20] is reached. The latter is a beautiful road and along its length overhead road bridges/interchanges each named after battlefields in honour of Australian Veterans who fought at them; such as Long Tan, Tobruk, Kapyong and Kokoda.

The M20 gives way to the Sturt Highway [A20] near the town of Gawler where the countryside is flat in all directions and on approaches to the Barossa the first of the vineyards begin to dominate.

Our initial destination was the town of Nuriootpa [Aboriginal word for ‘Meeting Place’] and from there we would strike out to locations we wanted to see. Nuriootpa might be a small town, but it has a nice little shopping centre which included a post office. The High Street has a variety of shops including cafes and all the major banks. The town is about an hour’s drive from Adelaide and has a growing population of around 5500. It is the largest in the area and services more than fifty wineries.

We arrived mid-morning and our first stop after Nuriootpa was Maggie Beer’s Farm. Driving back towards the Sturt Highway we turned left into Samuel Road soon reaching the turn off to the farm at Pheasant Farm Road. What a wonderfully peaceful location where a café/farm shop sits on a large pond which is home for a variety of water birds and turtles!

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Sitting at a table protected from the sun by large canvas parasols we enjoyed the vista whilst drinking our Lattes. After a visit to the shop it was time to move on and visit some vineyards. If in the area a visit is well recommended.

We left the farm turning left back onto Samuel Road and headed for the town of Tanunda and stopped at the Lambert Estate which was the first winery we came to.

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With hindsight we should really have taken a tour to the Barossa as for me having to drive all day I couldn’t really sample too many wines; although my wife assured me some were quite nice. We purchased a couple of bottles of sparkling wine which was quite palatable and set off in search of the Langmeil Winery which had been recommended to us by our bus driver the previous day when we had been on the Murray River Highlights Tour. He wasn’t wrong. Apart from having a beautiful ambiance the winery’s Cellar Door had a certain je ne c’est quoi and the wines on offer were of a particularly fine quality. Trying to decide what to buy was difficult, but we settled on a delightful Rosé.

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We left the wineries, for now, and went to find the Mengler’s Hill Lookout; another “must see” location recommended by the bus driver. Following the map in our visitor’s guide book we took the road out of Tanunda and at about two kilometres out stumbled upon the small community of Bethany…

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Bethany – viewed from Mengler’s Hill Lookout

…It was like stepping into a time warp: Established in 1842 it is one of the oldest settlements in the area. Originally known as Bethanien [changed after WWI in an attempt to remove all German place names from Australian towns] by its first occupiers – Lutheran migrants accompanied by a pastor named Gotthard Daniel Frietzsche arrived from Silesia. Approximately two thousand acres was leased from the land owner, George Fife Angas (1742 – 1879). The most prominent building is the church built-in typical Lutheran style.

The first vines were planted by the Schrapel family in 1852 in establishing the Bethany Winery which is still being run today by the sixth generation.

Leaving Bethany behind, we drove up to the Mengler’s Hill Lookout. A memorial commemorating the pioneers stands proudly at the car park. A sculpture park beautifies the landscape with weird and wonderful rock creations, but the real masterpiece is the views of the breathtaking Barossa landscape as far as the eye can see.

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By now it was well past midday and the worms were biting. The previous evening the wife and I demolished a pack of Pringles and drained a nice bottle of white wine from the Yalamba Winery located in Angaston before we went out to dinner. As we were quite near to Angaston we decided to head over there for lunch.

So far the trip had been easy-going; the roads all well signposted and every destination easy to find – until now… Thanks to some bright spark twisting the road sign and then twisting it back at a fork in the road it wasn’t too easy to determine where we should be heading. How I longed for my Tom-Tom at that point. Stopping across a driveway to a remote property I went in search of a local to obtain directions – none to be had I flagged down a passing motorist who was able to assist.

It didn’t take too long to find, after yet another wrong turn and tempers fraying; but driving down the main street was a worthwhile reward in itself. Apart from the obvious new buildings the town retained many of the original historic structures. Having found a “modern” pub we snacked on a couple of beautiful steak sandwiches – washed down by a glass of wine for her and a cold lemon lime and bitters for me… whose idea was it to drive oneself in a wine-producing area??

We had just one more winery to visit before we returned to Adelaide. From Angaston we headed back towards Nuriootpa and going through it to return to Samuel Road where we had been that morning. We drove past the turn off for Maggie Beer’s Farm until we reached the junction at Seppeltsfield Road. Here we turned right to visit one of Australia’s most iconic and largest wineries. The entire road is lined with massive palms on either side and is affectionately named by the locals as the Avenue of Hopes and Dreams. Just before the Seppeltsfield Winery is reached you can’t help but notice the Seppelt Family Mausoleum located high up a small hill on the side of the road – too many steps for us to make the climb – we drove past it and entered the winery. It certainly was a huge complex compared to the smaller boutique wineries we had been visiting all day.

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The winery was established in 1851 and most of the buildings seemed as if they dated back from that period. Apart from the winery though there were lush gardens. The Cellar Door was large and the high ceiling gave it a formidable, but cold feel. Some of the merchandise on offer was quite expensive, as were the wines. We settled for a Rosé which was smooth, had a good nose, and extremely palatable… spoken like a true connoisseur!

To fully appreciate the Barossa you have to visit it. The South Australian Tourist Board put out an advertisement which I simply adore, especially the music so I can’t resist but add the link to my blog:

The drive back to Adelaide was quite pleasant and we looked forward to our planned evening of dinner at our hotel’s rooftop Skyline Restaurant to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary.

RLB – Tomewriter


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Murray River – Travel Log 16

We were picked up by a courtesy bus from the hotel early morning and taken to the bus station in Grote Street to meet up with our tour bus. Sealink operate several tours along the Murray, but the one we opted for was the River Murray Highlights Tour which consisted of a lunchtime cruise aboard the paddle-steamer Proud Mary.

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Proud Mary

The tour bus was air-conditioned and comfortable. The driver [I have forgotten his name] was knowledgeable of the area and extremely amiable making the nice trip into a very memorable one. The only disappointment was the weather: it was overcast, with light showers and was slightly chilly; however it didn’t dampen the day.

From the heart of the City we motored down the South Eastern Freeway [M1] until the turn off for Monarto taking us past the edges of the zoological gardens. The Monarto Zoo covers an area of one thousand hectares and provides for the conservation of Australian and exotic international wildlife.

We arrived at the historic river town of Mannum late morning – a small place with not much to see. The visitor’s centre had the usual selection of maps, brochures and souvenirs; and there were a mix of shops, cafes and hotels – nothing new! This we visited after our river cruise when some free time was made available specifically for it. However immediately upon arrival we were taken to meet up with the paddle steamer.

Once on board we were invited to the dining room for coffee and cake, thus allowing the crew to get us underway. The wood-panelled room was well-appointed with beautiful lounge chairs, dining and occasional tables. A bar was available which also sold a few souvenirs.

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Having had a coffee and a couple of biscuits my wife and I headed for the upper deck to enjoy the views the Murray had on offer. Despite the bleak weather we weren’t to be disappointed.

As a onetime lover of anything geological I was rewarded with some exceptional ancient limestone and colourful sandstone cliffs and bluffs; the strata clearly visible and intermingled with conglomerates.

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The banks are graced by a vast mixture of flora, mostly gums and weeping willows with their long curtain of branches dipping into the water providing hiding places and a protected habitat for the numerous varieties of birds, such as cormorants, pelicans, herons, gulls, to name but a few of the ones we spotted. This place would be a “twitchers” paradise.

Lunch was an all-you-can-eat buffet with a fantastic selection of meats, vegetables, pasta and rice salads, green salads, prawns, cheeses and fruit. With our appetites sated we returned on deck to enjoy the return journey savouring the views and locking them to memory. As Proud Mary tied up next to the magnificent Murray Princess we prepared to disembark and continue with the rest of our tour.

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After being taken into the town for a wander for around thirty minutes or so we left Mannum. We were taken to view the Mannum Waters Marina development which is envisaged to provide some 600 allotments on a 750 hectare site. The development will provide 156 berths for houseboats and there is to be a variety of retail outlets, cafes, and residential properties on the foreshore. It certainly was impressive, and the beauty of such a development an hour or so outside Adelaide must be an inviting proposition for those who would rather live outside the city but be within striking distance of it.

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The views of The Murray from the heights above Mannum are superb and we were happy to have had the opportunity of having taken this tour especially after the not-so-nice trip to Murray Bridge.

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Our return to the city took us through the Adelaide Hills via Mt. Torrens and stopping at the toy factory at Gumeracha on the Torrens Valley Road [B10] for afternoon tea [at our own expense]. Well worth a visit especially if you have children:

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We returned to Adelaide at around 5pm. It had been a nice day and well worth the cost.

RLB – Tomewriter


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Hahndorf and Murray Bridge – Travel Log 15

We left Adelaide along the South Eastern Freeway [M1] to have a day at Murray Bridge. After about 25 minutes we approached the off ramp for Mount Barker Road [B34] as we had been told that a visit to Hahndorf was a must.

The small town was established in 1839 by Prussian refugees escaping religious persecution. The first settlers cleared the land to plant vegetables which were then sold in Adelaide. As the village expanded stone cottages were built to replace make-shift huts and canvas tents.

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The Mount Barker district became known as the breadbasket of the colony as Hahndorf’s farmers began to grow various grains especially wheat, and mills were built to take advantage of the abundant crop.

As with other parts of the world when gold is discovered, the village grew in prosperity when gold was found in nearby Echunga and Hahndorf became a popular destination for a vast number of miners and other types of tradesmen such as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and bakers to name but a few.

Today, Hahndorf is a popular tourist stop and offers a wide variety of craft and speciality shops, cafes and hotels. The tourist visitors’ centre in the heart of the town is next to the old Lutheran school and the Alec Johnston Park.

After a stroll through the town and a welcome cup of coffee [it was a cold day] we drove off in search of Murray Bridge. Rather than re-tracing our path we continued heading south and stumbled upon the Beerenberg farm shop – no way could we not stop!

It was like walking into an Aladdin’s cave of food… wonderful jams, pickles, sauces, chutneys, all graced our sight. Such a vast array of produce and you can also buy online… Hooray! If you can’t visit the shop in person, then it’s worth a visit through the internet:

We came away with several jams and pickles – thank goodness our luggage allowance was 23kgs!!

It was time to move on again and reach Murray Bridge for lunch.

When we arrived we found a town no different to many we have previously visited throughout Australia. Although it allegedly is the largest town situated on the Murray River in South Australia what we saw of it did not impress [which is why I have no photos of it]. We drove through the town and headed for the river; after all we were keen to see The Murray having heard so much about it since arriving in Australia in 1988.

We stopped at a small car park where the surrounding trees were filled to capacity by thousands of white parakeets – their intense raucous chirping and noticeable re-decorating of the road and pathways with their droppings making you want to not hang around too long in one place.

We strolled along towards what appeared to be an RSL club on the water’s edge. Certainly the location was worth a look. The club on the other hand was not. We stepped into a dark, unwelcoming establishment, and though appeared packed with locals did not appeal to us except to use their toilet facilities before making a hasty return to our car.

Fortunately our search for a decent restaurant was rewarded when we found the Murray Bridge Hotel at 20 Sixth Street on the corner with Fifth Street. The food and beverages were of a fine selection, and at least it made us feel that we hadn’t had a wasted trip. I would gladly recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere nice to eat at Murray Bridge:

Our hunger sated we returned to our vehicle to start out on the 78 kilometre drive back to Adelaide.

RLB – Tomewriter


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I expect it’s because I have yet another cold at present which has got me thinking about doing things differently or should I say revising my priorities.

I had decided I would be putting book writing on hold for a couple of months and concentrate on my blogs whilst I await on the fate of The Sword and the Rose and To Embrace Amidst Orange Blossoms.

Although I have every intention to write Out of the Darkness and Affectionately Yours… I think I may be putting these two books on a back-burner for a while.

The reason being that I have had a re-think… and a re-prioritisation of what to write.

When my mother published her memoir in 1997 she said she had regretted naming it When the Wind Blows. One of the reasons was because the author James Patterson had released a best seller at the same time with the same title [Barnes & Noble rating 4/5 and Goodreads 3.9/5].

The main reason however was her unmovable love for the Nile. As children growing up in London in the late fifties and sixties all we ever seemed to hear was reminisces of her life in that far away land.

Some time ago Mum came up with the idea of re-writing her book with a revised title; but now in her late 80’s and suffering from macula degeneration the likelihood of this happening is next to zero. As a loving son and author in my own right, I hope to allow her achieve this ambition by re-writing it on her behalf.

I agreed to do so on one condition. Mum had used fictitious names for the characters in her book. This being a memoir of her life experiences I see no reason as to why the true names should not appear, especially now as so many of them are deceased. This book would then be a tribute to their memory as it would be for my father’s as my mother had intended.

The only other change I may make is to add photographs where appropriate [always assuming I can find them – mum had a clear out of these not too long ago and I fear many memories have gone to some landfill project]. The rest of the book will remain unchanged except in the Preface where references are made in the present [for we are now in the 21st century] and will be presented in the same manner of the original book.

Ever since mum wrote her memoirs the book has been in high demand; unfortunately as she only printed a limited number of copies many people who would have loved to have read her story never got that opportunity. It is hoped by re-writing it as a soft copy initially it may allow greater distribution. When it is completed I will be sending it on her behalf to various 3rd Party Publishers in the hope they will pick up the option to turn this good book into a great one.

As of today Exiled Children of the Nile will begin to take shape. I hope I can do it and my mum justice.

RLB – Tomewriter


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How Long Does One Wait?

Back in the 1990’s when I first started writing my non-fiction history book and my novels I was disappointed when doing the rounds of Literary Agents and Third Party Publishers I began getting “knocked back” by every single one of them in Australia, England, and even the USA.

For years my manuscripts were “lost” in a box in a cupboard until last year when I decided to upload them onto soft copy onto the computer. One by one they got done.

The first of them was “Beneath Southern Stars” – the 2nd novel I had written. I hesitated about approaching 3rd party publishers again, but then thought what have I got to lose? I should have known better… After the 3rd rejection I said “sod it!” and self-published it through Smashwords.

I did the same with my non-fiction history book: “Smithy’s War” and children’s fiction book “To Tell Three Tales” – both also published through Smashwords.

With my Mum’s novel “A Tangled Web” and our poetry anthology “Poetic Whispers” I didn’t even bother attempting 3rd party publishers – you could say by then I was truly disillusioned by the game and just self published as with the others.

However, as much as I have sold copies of every book – not all to friends and/or family: in fact the majority of my friends and family haven’t even bothered to download the free samples let alone buy a book! – A self-published author is not regarded “published” unless he/she has signed a contract with a third-party publisher.

I hope in time this narrow-minded view will change, but for now whilst the big corporations hold the monopoly and power over Independent publishers we have to grin and bear this stupid stigma.

My Novel “The Sword and the Rose” when I initially wrote it in 1999 had taken me two years to conduct all the research needed to turn this story into a Historical Saga.

How it came about was when many years ago my father’s elder brother, Edwin, told me a story of how our ancestor came to arriving on the island of Malta in the early 1500’s. It seems he and his brother had an argument which flared into a duel. The brothers lived in Valencia, Spain and as duelling was an offence punishable by death the young men fled. One was captured and hanged. The other changed his name and arrived on the island of Malta to start anew.

In a way therefore I have my uncle to thank for my version of how my ancestor came to being on Malta. The difference being is that I begin my story some 100 years later.

Having invested so much time on this saga consisting of over 100,000 words and, as I believe, it is a lovely story [perhaps even romantic – there certainly are romantic elements in it] I decided to go against my gut instinct and submit it to a 3rd party publisher.

My first choice was Allen & Unwin [not sure why I picked them – perhaps because they might have been one of the smaller publishing houses appealing to my nature] but as per their guidelines stated after 3 weeks it became apparent they weren’t interested. I moved on to the next one.

Harlequin said they would review manuscripts between 8 – 12 weeks. I submitted the manuscript in full as per their submission guidelines in mid-May 2013. The deadline approached at the same time as the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Fremantle during August. It was also my birthday weekend and I didn’t want to spoil it with another rejection so I let it well alone.

During the conference, which incidentally was sponsored by Harlequin, I raised the question of waiting times for manuscript submissions with Sheila Hodgson, Senior Editor, Harlequin Mills & Boon UK. She confirmed it would be 90 days but emphasised that agented material or previously contracted authors would receive priority.

When I returned from Fremantle I sent an enquiry email to Harlequin and was told they were still to review my work as they had an exceptional back log.

Fellow authors [who I also list as friends] told me that I have no loyalty to publishers and should submit it to others at the same time. Personally I dislike multiple-submissions as I feel as though I am being dishonest in some sort of way. But having waited some 4 months without an answer, I approached Momentum Publishing. Their guidelines advised that if I didn’t hear within 30 days then they were not interested.

As they did not get back to me either, I took it as punishment for having submitted it whilst I hadn’t heard back from Harlequin. Being honourable I emailed Harlequin at the weekend just gone [5th October 2013] and told them that as I hadn’t heard back from them that it was obvious they weren’t interested and for them to withdraw my submission to protect my copyright.

I received the following reply:

Hi Robert,

We have not yet reviewed your manuscript, and I really apologise for this. We are trying to get through hundreds at the moment, and because we want to make sure we properly consider each submission, it is something that is taking an unprecedented amount of time.

We understand that you may want to submit to other publishers, and we have removed your submission from our system.

Thank you, and we wish you the best of luck!

This response only seemed to strengthen my suspicion of what Sheila Hodgson had said in August that agented material or previously contracted authors received priority and hence pushing my work to the bottom of the pile.

So after five months I pulled the plug on them… stupid? Maybe, but then how long does one wait for a third-party publisher to say whether or not they want to take on your manuscript?

The manuscript has since been submitted to another publisher. I shan’t name who as I don’t want to tempt fate.

Meanwhile however, I have also submitted my romance novella to a 3rd Party Publisher – their waiting time is allegedly 2 weeks. I will wait three before moving on to someone else…

The joys of writing AND publishing…. why do we do it?

The answer to that is simple: because we love it!!

RLB – Tomewriter

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Adelaide – Travel Log 14

Adelaide is the Capital City of South Australia and is the centre of the largest wine production area in Australia. The City lies between the Mount Lofty Ranges in the east, and a thirty-two kilometre sea frontage on Gulf St Vincent to the west; although suburbs have expanded to the north and south. The original city was designed and located by the State’s first Surveyor-General, Colonel William Light (27 April 1786 – 6 October 1839), in 1837.

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Colonel William Light   &   Adelaide / Torrens River

His plan was to use the River Torrens to separate the city from the residential area and to incorporate a green belt of gardens and parkland around the city. The airport is at West Beach, which is located ten kilometres from the city.

South Australia was the only Australian colony which was entirely settled by free settlers; no convicts were sent here. The development was geared to accommodate the influx of migrants who, in turn, were responsible for Adelaide’s growth. Discoveries of gold and copper attracted miners as early as 1845, and by 1847.  German refugees were working on the first vineyards.

We travelled down in May 2013 to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary flying Virgin Australia and hiring a car through europcar which we picked up and returned at the Airport.

This was our first trip to Adelaide so our choice of hotel, the Rydges South Terrace, though very comfortable was not in a very practical part of the city.   They had a nice restaurant on the ground floor but this was only open for breakfast. Their rooftop restaurant – which was also where the pool was located – was a bit more upmarket. The night we chose to eat there, it seemed as though it was undergoing renovations, and part of it was also screened off for a function. Unfortunately for us, as it was on the night of our anniversary, the romantic ambiance we wanted was not there and we felt a bit let down.

As I said above, South Terrace was not a very convenient location as we found out on the first night when we decided to go and look for a place to eat. We drove to the centre of town only to find there was nowhere to park. In the end we would have been better off to have left the car at the hotel and taken a cab. Walking was an option, but it was a fair distance, even to make it to King William Street and pick up a tram it still would have been quite a hike. There are numerous parking stations [looks like Wilson Parking have the monopoly], but next time we visit we’ll stay around North Terrace instead and don’t bother hiring a car – it’s not really essential.

North Terrace is the place to be. It is home to all the universities, museums, galleries, restaurants of practically every nationality and most importantly it has Rundle Mall: a pedestrian precinct with a vast array of shops, restaurants, bars and pigs rifling through bins…

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The city is small and it is a pleasure to visit. We also took advantage of a couple of tours both run through Sealink. The City Tour was a half day event which took us around the city with expert commentary. It also included a tour of the Haig Chocolate Factory:  and a trip out to Glenelg [I will cover this in a separate blog]. Both are well worth a visit. The second tour was to the Murray River which I will also cover separately.

One of the nicest restaurants we did find, actually about a two-minute walk from the Rydges was a pub at 179 West Terrace: The Elephant and Castle Hotel. The food was superb and inexpensive and the staff friendly and helpful. Needlesstosay it became a regular haunt.

We used Adelaide as a base for trips out to the surrounding countryside. Their roads were a dream and the motorways toll-free; and places like the Murray and the Barossa which seem so far on paper are not really thanks to the roads. We only became “lost” once due to poor signage whilst at the Barossa, but thanks to a friendly local we found our way to where we were heading [Angaston] and only wanted to go there because the previous night had enjoyed a bottle of sparkling wine from their winery.

It was a nice trip and perhaps we shall visit it again one day to cover the places we didn’t get a chance to see this time around.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Spring Holiday – Last Day… Happy Birthday!!

Tuesday 1st October 2013 – Happy 30th Birthday, Brad.

They say dogs have a sixth sense and Riggs isn’t an exception. Perhaps it’s because I may have changed my routine this morning or maybe he just guessed something was up – whatever it was, he was sulking.

I must admit I was rushing about a bit changing sheets on the bed and doing a bit of extra tidying up in the house and packing away my things; but he’s a dog for goodness sake what would he know? And that’s the thing… he does know!! Clever chap…

I was out the house by 8.30am and back in Berowra to join Sandra and Brad for his birthday breakfast – a good old fry up.

After the family got themselves ready we headed out at about 11am for the Banjo Paterson Cottage Restaurant at Gladesville. We had an excellent lunch: entrée’s and mains only as dessert awaited us at Brad’s. As I mentioned it in “Day Eight” I had purchased a cake and some sparkling wine.

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We drove back to Berowra to pick up Brad’s things and his beaten up old car which leaks oil everywhere and the garage have said it requires a new gearbox. So far between Brad and Sandra a small fortune has already been spent in repair bills on this vehicle – a 1992 Toyota Corolla Seca. Though it might have been good at one time it has now become a cash drain.

As I was fed up in hearing about all the problems and heart-wrenching stories of breakdowns etc., last Saturday I put a deposit on a 2008 Holden Astra Wagon [Automatic, one owner at a reasonable price]. I told the dealer it was on the condition that Brad like’s it and test drives it to his satisfaction otherwise the deal is off.

Sandra accompanied Brad in the Toyota whilst I followed in our car and had told him to stop at the Holden Dealership at West Gosford to pick up “his present”. Needlesstosay his eyes lit up. When we got there Sandra and Brad set off for a long test drive – too long: I was beginning to wonder where they had got to, but after 30 minutes or so they came back – Brad a huge smile on his face.

Off I went to their accounts office and transfers finalised Brad drove off in his new car…

Brad Car 2

At his place out came the bubbly and cake:

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… and one very happy dog was glad to have us all there to share with him in the celebration as a new milestone is reached… 30 years old today: Hopefully the start of a new chapter in his life and ours.

RLB – Tomewriter

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