Saturday, November 16, 2013

Transports of delight

Munson (12 weeks, 5.5 yrs)
In my last post, I eulogised the car that carried me and Bondi around Europe, usually off-camera from the bottom of Tasmania to the top of Norway.  I included a picture of Munson aged about 12 weeks sitting in the passenger seat (above left). As it happens I bought a low-km used Scenic back in June which is a close double to the original (sans sun-roof, and a different colour). Today as we reached the park for his daily frolic, Munson jumped into the passenger seat again, giving me the chance to photograph him again (above right) in approximately the same position.

An hour or so later we walked back towards the cars with two friends and their dogs. Will reached his car first and opened the door. Munson jumped in and made another passenger seat his home.

Will and Munson

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering the Scenic

Inari, Finland 2007In July 2003, newly returned to Sydney from five years living in Seattle, I was looking for a car that could handle two big malamutes – Bondi and his younger brother Dougal, at that time undergoing quarantine together.
Mt Etna, Sicily I didn’t want to buy a big 4WD, and was looking for a respectable hatchback or wagon that allowed the two dogs to stand up. Most vehicles, even with seats lowered, were simply not tall enough inside, or worse, were covered with felt-like interior cloth that would have turned the vehicle into a velcro-lined hair bag.
Norway's Atlantic Highway - the one night we slept in the car  Windermere car ferry
Then I encountered the Renault Scenic, which was not only roomy, but the rear seats were individually removable, and allowed both dogs to comfortably stand, turn and lie down. Snapped off the Rick Damelian showroom on Parramatta Road, it first saw active duty collecting Bondi and Dougal from the quarantine station. I’d taken out the back seats and bought a large square of rubber sheeting to lay out across the back. That rubber sheet saw ten years’ duty – transferred to the Zafira for our three years in France.
Jonnie and Munson in Scenic  Munson in driver's seat
Fast-forward a couple of years: the car has taken us to Adelaide and back, on a five week tour of Tasmania, seen us around for a month in Melbourne. In May 2005 it’s shipped to the UK ahead of Bondi and me, and we collect it from Ipswich in mid July. For the next two and a half years, it sees us around Europe through dozens of countries, ferried back and forth across the Irish, Mediterranean, Baltic  and Norwegian seas. We circumnavigated Ireland, visited the Lofotens, Orkneys and Sicily, crossed fjords, drove up mounts Vesuvius and Etna, reached the northernmost point of Europe and so much more. In the UK alone, it saw an astounding mix of terrain between Land’s End and John o’ Groats.
Bondi meets Munson for the first time in the Scenic  Bondi's last trip to Sydney Park
During the time away it suffered two memorable insults – a farmer in Devon deformed the rear hatch, trying to move it out of his driveway with his tractor, and it had tyres slashed while in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
IMG_9816  kisses from Munson
In January 2008 it returned to Australia, full of my European baggage and souvenirs, ready to chauffeur Bondi through the final years of his life and Munson through the first of his. A series of transmission problems in 2010, too expensive to rectify saw it consigned to a corner of the garage of my friends Richard and Corinne, while Munson and I headed to France.

Richard was the best person to look after the car – as you can see from the bang-up job he did with my Pulsar fifteen years ago. (Thank you also Adrian for conspiring in this little matter.)

1998 Richard minding my Nissan PulsarIMG_9810  IMG_9799
This week it was time to clear room in that garage, and so with a heavy heart, our brave little Scenic was collected for the scrap yard. It was a very wet morning when it was hauled onto a flat-bed truck, and signed over to its second ever owner. A few minutes later on Windsor Road, I saw it ahead of me in traffic for a few seconds, and then the truck turned into a side-street and it was gone.  

Hauled away (1)  Hauled away (2)
The main memories I will take away are from the wheel, Bondi leaning over my shoulder, new sights and smells ahead.
2007-10-14 The Open Road - Skye to Fort William

Saturday, November 09, 2013

King of King Street

Crowds at Cafe Shenkin  Treats at the Platypus store waterbowl
As has been my habit for years – French rural diversions aside - I walk Munson in a five kilometre loop up Enmore Road and King Street Newtown, keeping to the shady side of the street on hot or wet days. It’s one of Sydney’s premier restaurant strips, legendarily with more Thai restaurants than any street outside of Bangkok.

While we were away it seems to have been taken over by frozen yoghurt outlets and Mexican restaurants, good news for those on diets of fro-yos and nachos. There has also been an explosion in the number of gelaterias, and the Thai restaurants now seem to alternate with Thai massage studios.

Such is the turnover in retail addresses that I feel compelled to scrutinise all the shop-fronts along our walk. This didn’t work so well when I first arrived as  my eye prescription had changed enough during the farm years that I saw COIN HAIRDRESSER and DENIAL CARE rather than Con: Hairdresser and Dental Care.
How do you remove a malamute from a gelateria?As we sat in the entrance of Cafe Shenkin, formerly The Old Fish Shop Cafe, Munson held audience with the passing world. Most entertaining was the four-year old boy with his dad: boy would pat Munson’s flank, Munson would “woo-oo” and boy would giggle. Rub, repeat until boy was staggering around laughing so hard that he could barely stand. Ten minutes later he returned for a second round of pat-woo-giggle until his father carried him off: “bye bye doggie”.

Everywhere I go I get a lot of stories, happy and sad about people’s relationships with dogs. A lot of recent ones have been quite sad – this day a man told me his daughter’s family lost two malamutes to the recent fires in the Blue Mountains when they had barely enough time to evacuate humans from the household. A few weeks ago, I encountered a guy on Alice Street who gave Munson a bit of a cuddle, then stood up, shook himself and said “you can’t own dogs, when they die they destroy you”, and walked off. Other stories of abandoned dogs are too disturbing for me to share. Munson may wear the dog-collar but I’m the one who hears confession on our walks.
The afternoon closed on a more positive note with a round of play at Sydney Park. Munson is entering the malamute life-phase which straddles ridiculous and noble. He’s mature enough to sit on a hillock, looming over and kissing his favourite human park friends, while occasionally giving himself over to squawking wrestles with both dogs and humans.
Lindy, 6mo husky   IMG_5372

Friday, November 08, 2013

Australian animal import changes

I just received a notification from the Department of Agriculture, Animal Import Operations ( formerly DAFF, formerly AQIS) :

New import conditions when applying for an import permit for your dog or cat come into effect from 2 December 2013. Under the new conditions the minimum post-arrival quarantine stay will be reduced from 30 days to 10 days. [my bold]

The applications will apply to animals entering the country after 3 February 2014.

Note that there are special arrangements for animals coming from New Zealand which are yet to be published, and that the period of 10 days is a minimum. The starting point and preparation duration of the animal pre-export are major factors in determining eligibility for that minimum stay.

The FAQ states under “What are the key differences between the old and the new import conditions?” that there is a new category system for approved countries that hints at a relaxation in the rule that your pet had to stay in one country for 6 months prior to export. Now it seems they are free to move between other equal status countries with respect to rabies-free status. I’ll try to find out more.

At the moment I can’t find anything on their website which states which countries are in which category now, aside from New Zealand as Category 1.

I would post some more helpful links but since most Australian departments change their name  with every new government, their website/email domain names change and are hopelessly broken for long periods due to poor site design. DAFF had not fixed the old AQIS references before changing to DOA (..ahem…) which further compounds the problem. It's very hard to keep up with official directives when they're buried on a website that can't make up its mind what department it belongs to.

Despite the department’s continuing struggles to clearly communicate its identity or policies, this is very good news!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Partner visa

Partner Visa application

Sent off today’s mail: our joint application for Gustav’s partner visa: a compilation of forms, photographs and supporting statements from friends and family. We started putting it all together back in May, slowly gathering all the paperwork required, but unaware that prices had risen by thousands of dollars since we started planning our return to Australia last year. That was a painful shock to the wallet, but there was nothing we could do about that.

A chance conversation with an acquaintance indicated that we should register our relationship in NSW, which was something I didn’t even know was possible.  We paid an early morning trip to the registry office in mid-October to complete those formalities, a rather unromantic witnessing of signatures and payment of the $207 fee.

With the final statutory declarations and signatures on supporting statements, and then certified copies of everything made ( three trips to a Justice of the Peace ) , it’s all been sent off into the hands of the “Partner (Temporary) Processing Centre”.  The name sounds like an unnecessarily complicated way of avoiding “Temporary Partner Processing Centre” which would be very ominous.

The visa has two components: a temporary (820) phase of two years and then a permanent (801) visa is awarded should no obstacles arise. The processing time service standard for the temporary visa is 6 months for 75% of cases presented.

Fingers crossed for a quick and positive response!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Star Paws: Wookiee and Ewok

Wookiee and Ewok (1)

Seated outside Don Campos cafe in Alexandria this morning with Munson and a flat white, a wee white dog has been left leashed to a cycle stand. It’s very friendly but pining for its master, lying with its head between its paws, making mewling noises.

I thought it would be would be better distracted with some friendly company, so brought Munson over to sit by it. Even if that weren’t enough company, everyone now stopped to say hello to both of them and take photos, with someone identifying them as wookiee and ewok.

The owner didn’t return during our time there, but at least we made the young ewok’s wait time a bit less fretful.

Wookiee and Ewok (2)

Friday, November 01, 2013

It’s cricket Jim, but not as we know it

IMG_5299Friday afternoons at Sydney Park have become a social cricket rabble for the regulars and their dogs. I retrieve balls on occasion, but I usually sit on the closest hillock and watch the madness unfold while I talk to one of the other non-players.

In truth I’m not a very cricket-y person; that and my non-beer-drinking are responsible for my expulsions from my native land every few years. The last time I recall playing a ‘proper’ game was when I was in about the fifth grade: everyone on the field pretty much had it in for me, but the bowler was armed. I was at bat, and the bowler was aiming at my head, some distance higher than the stumps. He only failed in making his target by my blocking the ball with my ungloved hand. My thumb swelled to about twice its normal size, and I was writing left-handed for two weeks. My desire to return to the pitch was dimmed forever.
IMG_5291 IMG_5292
Social cricket here is far less threatening. It’s essentially one batsman defending one set of wickets against a parade of bowlers, with a scattering of fielders, almost all holding a bottle of something in one hand. Between them wander small children and a great many dogs. Bowlers compete with the dogs for access to the tennis balls used in this game. You’re never sure if a dog that chases a ball is going to return with it from the out-field or run off with it for twenty minutes to show its friends.
IMG_5311 IMG_5312
Last Friday Gustav was invited to try his hand at bat, and quickly showed how his hockey skillz could be turned to sending almost every ball back to scurrying out-fielders, and today he’s returned to defend his reputation. Munson gets very excited that someone he knows is at bat, moving from spectator to spectacularly large obstacle on field, often simply standing in between bowler and batsman while balls rained down over his head. We’ve called Munson’s unusual fielding role “silly big dog” position, in reference to the fielding positions close to the batsman such as “silly mid on”.
Munson having a ball Munson congratulates his favourite batsman, Gustav