Sunday, 29 January 2012

Andrew with Nellie (RIP) at Hunting Lodge

Allan Gill with new Japanese maple

'Hunting Lodge' - no hunting, but lots of lodging!

Dear Reader,

Allan Gill and I were fortunate to purchase this unique property in October 2011 after selling our flat in Kings Cross.

Burradoo is a hamlet subdivision just beyond Bowral, about one third of the distance from Sydney to Canberra and 90 minutes on the F5 freeway. The northern part of Burradoo is formed by the streets between the main southern railway and Moss Vale Road.

Hunting Lodge is built on the rear of a large original estate which has been subdivided as a ‘battleaxe’ block. The land is one fifth of a hectare (just over 2000 square metres or half an acre). The house was built 13 years ago by Bowral decorator Anne Gaff and her husband Fred who is now deceased. They took great pains to site the house in such a position that most of the main rooms face north, towards a symmetrical lawn with rose garden on the east side and conservatory/barbecue area on the west.

The garden was designed by Joan Arnold and comprises hedges for privacy, almost completely separating the driveway from the house itself. Hidden from view, the long drive curves around to a porte-cochere and a circular return with garage beyond. The garden has numerous fruiting and ornamental trees. These include apple, cherry, pear, peach, plum, crab apple, persimmon, kaffir lime, three varieties of lemon and a navel orange tree. There is a large old pinoak tree, a glorious 13 year old blue spruce, beech and silver birch trees.

We feel very privileged to own a house in such surroundings and need to pinch ourselves occasionally to be reminded that it is all for real. Just for the record, there are a number of crazy coincidences including the name of my grandfather’s house in Ramsgate which was “Ranelagh”, after the suburb in Dublin. Also, my father was sent to boarding school in Bowral at an early age. 'Our Lady of the Sacred Heart' school is now long closed down … it was on the north side of the line on Centennial Road not far from the railway station. There are now some vineyards and an exclusive winery on the hill behind the old school site, all in view of the ever-present Mount Gibraltar ("The Gib") to the south.

We hope that all our friends will visit Hunting Lodge at some stage soon. Allan has an open-door policy at any time but a phone call would be appreciated so he can boil the kettle. Andrew remains in his Sydney residence in Francis Hall.

Andrew's surgery web page:

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Rail Journey to Bowral.

Rail Journey to Bowral.

One great benefit of the Southern Highlands is access by train on the main southern line. In fact Bowral first existed as a ‘railway town’ due to the need to dig a long tunnel for the railway about 1865. Mount Gibraltar and surrounding terrain made a formidable obstacle. In 1919 a ‘modern’ twin-track parallel tube was built which remains to this day. The old tunnel is now used for growing mushrooms while little if anything has been done to the tracks since the line's duplification and by-passing of the winding and single-track Picton loop line just after the first world war.

I could not use the train initially with so much to do after selling the penthouse and moving into the 6th floor apartment in Kings Cross. There were goods and chattels being ferried from one place to the other, new purchases, hardware, kitchen utensils, garden equipment, dog and other items unsuited to the train. But now for visits, with just a lap top and a dilly bag, the train is a logical alternative to an hour and a half on the freeway (in good traffic).

I have now taken the train many times when visiting Bowral, first experimenting with the complex country versus city timetable. Although a slightly longer journey, it is far more relaxing on the train and it allows one to sit back and take things easy. My city destinations of Kings Cross and Redfern are easily accessible from the Central Station terminus.

The choice of trains has been an education. The fast Canberra and Melbourne trains have some advantages, with buffet cars and shorter travelling time - and the first class option can be a bonus. However, a big disadvantage is that on the way into Sydney the trains are often late due to many issues in the hundreds of kilometres travelled already. This does not occur in the reverse direction as trains usually leave Central on time. In the case of country delays, a slow train may have to run in front of an express, thus negating the time advantage. More traps for young players!

There is also the matter of booking and paying on-line for the express trains which are only for reserved seating and more expensive than the local train. The fastest ‘local’ of the day is the 8.18am from Bowral which stops in only two or three places before Central, arrival right on 10am (and it usually does I am told by regulars - allow minor delays for rain, track work, etc). [NEW TIMETABLE FROM OCT 2013 8.49am IS THE 'FAST' TRAIN]  And this is an air-conditioned, comfortable rail-motor giving ample room, having four carriages rather than the usual two. For most of these ‘twin sets’ during the day it is necessary to change to an electric train at Campbelltown or Macarthur. Then there is the choice of going to Sydney via the East Hills and Mascot line (which is slightly faster) or the Homebush and Strathfield line. These trains run approximately hourly during the day, stopping at most of the country stations, including the local, Burradoo which must be one of the smallest railway sidings in the state (room for only two carriages and no staff!). The trains from Campbelltown to Central are all expresses of varying degrees.

The scenery on the line is delightful. While there is no Grand Canyon, Chesapeake Bay or Swiss Alps to admire, the Highlands towns of Bargo, Picton and Tahmoor are all charming, along with the crossings of the Nepean, Georges and Cooks Rivers.

And my recommendations? The noon Canberra express train (daily) from Central and in the reverse direction, the 8.49am from Bowral direct to Central (M-F only). The first is reserved seats only, $19 for economy (which is perfectly comfortable) and $25/$35 for first class (both have access to buffet car). The return train is $8.20 for adults and $2.50 for those holding concession cards (no booking necessary).

Story written by Andrew Byrne.

Link to Andrew's story on New York subway: New York subways

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Lost in the country … all roads lead to Robertson.

Lost in the country … Mid-January 2012.

Dear Reader,

I never thought I would be pleased to be lost but it was an unexpected pleasure to be off course trying to find the Burrawang butcher. Maugers (pronounced Majors) Meats was highly recommended and when we finally got there they did not disappoint.

Having taken the wrong turn after the railway level crossing near Illawarra Highway on Sheepwash Road we found ourselves on the road to Fitzroy Falls, taking a very long way around and back to the famous meat mart. En route we passed a series of beautiful vistas, country lanes and an enormous lake. There was little traffic on the roads until we arrived at the falls where the National Parks car park was almost full and there were throngs of people in the visitors centre. I suspect most were day-trippers from Wollongong looking for diversions in the post-Christmas holiday hiatus.

We passed through the almost non-existent Highlands town of Avoca near which there were a number of magnificent properties, one in particular looked to comprise a Hollywood-type palace on a hill remote from the road. The place had every sign of great wealth including vast rows of tall trees, dark varnished wooden fencing and greener than green fields, most being devoid of livestock. And where there were animals, in a rear paddock on the left, they looked to be prize beasts in manicured meadows like in the movies. I was told later that Judy Davis and her actor husband had a property in the area.

This is all beyond the Wingecarribee reservoir which I gather is the water supply to much of the Southern Highlands. All these small country roads seemed to lead to Robertson although we never got there ourselves having back-tracked via the falls after our detour to Burrawang and its charming main street, general store and pub.

The old stone school and headmaster’s house are presently for sale for 3 million dollars. They have been combined and restored into a grand 5 bedroom residence. The two storeyed pub has glorious views over the green hills and dales below the elevated town. There is a general store which is also up for sale.

It was both an education and a pleasure to visit Mauger’s Meats. On entering the traditional shop-front two young butchers bantered as they dissected various cuts of meat. All of the beef and lamb comes from their own properties, something I confirmed with one of the lads who then quipped: "This one was Daisy!" as he indicated the huge side of beef he was turning into trays of familiar cuts. We ordered a few items, some ready packed in the display window, others duly brought from the rear cool room.

We were advised not to eat the sausages that day since they had only just been made and needed a day to ‘cure’, something I never knew. We were told that they may tend to fall apart if cooked on the same day. On reflection, in the city one would rarely buy sausages on the day they were made.

The business also makes pastry pies once each week: beef or chicken and leek, in individual and family sizes. But you have to get there on Thursdays or Fridays as they run out. They are cold and ready to warm up. We tried both types and they were delicious.

The beef rissoles contained nothing but beef and onion powder and were also excellent. Eye filet steak was sold in a pack of six rounds - I overcooked them slightly, being as yet unused to our new, town gas barbecue. Of course they hardly need any cooking at all. Equally, their lamb and beef sausages each turned out to be delectable at a number of meals later in the week.

Our dog named Nellie Melba, a 14 year old dachshund, was equally delighted with half a kilo of beef off-cuts (good enough to make an Irish stew, to be sure) and some ribs, cut to measure.

Just as we were paying up, the boss arrived with the local newspaper and a story about animal cruelty in Burradoo (our town!). The offenders had been dragged through the courts over neglected cats and dogs and fined a large sum by a judge who was scathing in his condemnation. We commended Mr Mauger on the fine business he was running to which he pointed out that it got more difficult every year with the competition from supermarket chains. He said that the old hardware store in Bowral had just been bought out by Woolworths for a huge price, with the intention of simply closing it down. Same was true of some liquor outlets with Dan Murphy in town too.

Our trip home was faster and more direct for obvious reasons. We had the choice of going through Moss Vale but we chose to take the direct route this time.

Written by Andrew Byrne ..

Friday, 16 December 2011

Highlands highlife.

Sent on Wed 14th Dec 2011. Highlands highlife.

I just thought I might share a few precious moments from last weekend in the Highlands, far from the madding crowd.

We had our first formal invitation – an ‘At Home’ at the home of an old school friend, Mark Darling and his wife Stephanie at ‘Kooyong’, Sutton Forest.

On the way we motored through Moss Vale where a ‘Carols’ function was being held in the main central park around 6pm. We slowed down to see throngs of people in what looked for all the world like a film set for a Miss Marple movie. And all the characters were there, from Santa to the priest … kids, old folks, young lovers, etcetera.

After a false turn into the wrong driveway we found ourselves at the homestead of our friends with a dozen or more fancy motor cars parked in the salubrious and extensive grounds, punctuated by a huge old oak tree and a row of Robinias. To be sure it was a ‘Highlands’ crowd … yet we managed to meet some delightful and interesting people nonetheless.

We initially were introduced to a pleasant older lady who, with her daughter, runs a business designing and marketing custom children’s toys from their home in Moss Vale Road. They send the designs to Manila where they are made up and sent back in appropriate quantities for the exclusive local market including David Jones in Sydney. We discussed the recent unseasonable cold weather, central heating, city and country life. I was intrigued that she stated that she never ate in restaurants.

Another man worked in the centre of Sydney near the Town Hall whence he commuted virtually every week day, leaving at ungodly hours. He described the train journeys on Melbourne, Canberra and local trains, each of which had advantages. He particularly enjoyed the saloon bar on the Melbourne express.

Next I moved in on the tallest man at the party who just happened to be Lee Macarthur-Onslow, a man I went to school with and who I had not seen for over 40 years. We neither recognised each other, understandably. His extreme height of about 6 foot 7 inches is only matched by his wit and lively personality. He waxed lyrical about the wealth and influence of his family over the past two centuries (“It was 1804, actually”) … one of his ancestors used to grace the two dollar bill until it was replaced with a coin. He even spoke about the acquisition of the hyphen in his family name. His mother and I worked together for some years at Rachel Forster Hospital for women and children where I was deputy superintendent for a time. Lady Macarthur-Onslow was a very impressive woman but sadly is very frail and ill at the present time according to Lee. He reminded me of another connection which was that Kimbal Ryrie, also a colleague from Cranbrook School, was partner of John Augustus, St Vincent’s anaesthetist who also worked at Rachel Forster Hospital until its closure in about 1985. John and Kim live just beyond Bundanoon, a hamlet nearby and on the way to Fitzroy Falls I believe.

Perhaps predictably, the most interesting people at the party were the only two refugees … an Italian man named Nerio and his wife. Despite being in Australia for nearly 60 years he still had a thick northern Italian accent. They were children at the start of the last war and we heard memories of Hitler’s forces coming to Treviso, Nerio’s home-town (she is a Roman), to take able-bodied workers to Germany for the war effort. His father had been taken to work in the Volkswagen factory in Bavaria. Nerio had been a tailor in Woollahra before opening a cantina and vineyard in the Southern Highlands where he and his son now produce high quality wines for a discerning consumer market. As we were leaving he came up to me and asked if I ever heard of a man called Barry Byrne, a decorator from Moncur Street in the “old days”. I exclaimed that in fact he was my cousin and was a right bastard! He said that Barry had once given him a small picture which he still had all those years later … possibly 30. We had been speaking a mixture of Italian and English and then got to comparing genealogies and it appears that his family originally came from the Italian-Swiss border country like my grandmother’s. In fact Barry’s mother Rita’s middle name was Helvetia, the Latin for Switzerland. She was born in Bathurst, NSW.

We were greatly impressed by what Mark and Stephanie had done with the property which presents as a friendly, welcoming establishment home. The rooms are enormous and ceilings stentorian. The gardens surrounding are a mix of new and old, all tasteful, measured and seasonal.

I was thinking of starting a blog on our move to the area … but on second thoughts there is little new except that we are discovering what others have been doing for many years. Any way, it remains a pleasure to be able to call ourselves a part of this wonderful corner of New South Wales.

After dropping the car at home in Burradoo we took a cab to Café Rosso just five minutes away where Sebastiano found us a table. He asked if there was anything in particular we might like and I said crab. He recommended some pasta with crab and seafood sauce and roquette salad. It was a delicious end to a marvellous day in the Highlands.

As a bonus later than night we caught a glimpse of a magnificent lunar eclipse. While initially obscured by thick clouds, by about 1am the moon became visible intermittently through the gloom and looked like a giant black balloon with a tiny white skull-cap. Quite a sight indeed – and no need for any fancy telescope.

Hope these notes are of idle amusement if you ever get such moments and reached the end.

‘The end’.

AB ..

Moss Vale Memorial Park

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Four hens make us primary producers!

Only three would stay still for long enough for the picture.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Anglewood Mansion, Burradoo

One of my patients was an inmate at this house, reminding me of the war-time billets in "Brideshead Revisited". Anglewood Mansion had been used as a half-way house and I was told that the newer building on the north side was the female wing. The place would make a great setting for "Fawlty Towers Revisited" in my view! When my patient lived there he said that it was surrounded by fields, orchards and farm animals. It has been on the market for 3.8 million dollars and would probably need a great deal spent on it from its external appearance.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Next two weeks ideal to see autumn colours in Southern Highlands.

Dear friends, colleagues and family:

These are some highlights from our house and nearby gardens.  We are spending the weekend inspecting the ‘open’ gardens:     

Best season’s cheer, Andrew B .. [apologies to those already here!]

Osborne Road in early morning.