Springtime in the Gardens

By Vita Forest

Hanami in Sydney?

Hanami in Sydney?

Yesterday we took cousin Pippi on a holiday excursion.  Her Mum was recovering from the removal of her wisdom teeth and Pippi needed to get OUT of the house.  Her cousins, Max and Lucy, decided a trip to the Sydney Botanical Gardens would fit the bill (despite the sock fiasco of a few weeks back).  Holding hands, we marched her up to the bus stop and jumped on a bus to the city.

“My Mum and Dad lived in Paris,” she announced to the whole bus.

“Err, don’t you mean London?” whispered Max, encouraging a lower volume.

“Yeah that is the country, Paris is the city,” she continued.

“I think you mean London in England,” said Max.

“OK,” she agreed happily, looking out the window.  Max became distracted by a teenage emo getting off the bus, carrying on her back a Tardis backpack.  He is quite the Whovian.

We arrived at the Gardens and walked down the hill to where we could see some colourful spring flowers.  It was like a mini Hanami festival with drifts of pink blossom lining the path.  The kids stood under a tree and a confetti of pink petals fell over them.  Apparently in Japan, the weather reports on TV record the progress of the buds of the blossom trees in Spring (a quarter open, half open etc). I must get to that country one day.

More spring flowers

More spring flowers

“I’m hungry,” announced Pippi, and it was getting on to lunchtime.  We walked through the gardens trying to find the perfect picnic spot.

“I want to see the water,” I said.

“I want sun,” said shivering Lucy (she had left her jacket behind and the wind was cold despite the sunshine).

“I want shade,” said Max who was wearing jeans and a jacket.

“I want lunch!” moaned Pippi.

We found a spot on the grass on the edge of the shade of a big fig tree. Trouble was, the shade kept creeping over us, and even Max was happy to move out into the sun.

We ate our lunch and watched large groups of lunchtime joggers running around the base of Farm Cove.  They all seemed to have the same route.  They jogged slowly along where it was flat, but when they came to the bottom of our hill, they would suddenly burst into a fit of running and sprint up the hill, each trying to reach the top first.

Max watched them critically while he chewed his bread roll.

“I’ve worked it out,” he said. “The one at the front steals their wallets and then has to make a get-away.  The rest of them chase the thief.”

Lucy and Max lined themselves up two hundred metres from the race track and joined in the next sprint.

“What’s jogging?” asked Pippi.

“Slow running,” I answered.

She stood up and tried it out, her fists pumping around and around in time with her shrugging shoulders.

“Like this?”


She even tried it backwards.

It was then that Max raced back and threw down MY wallet (he had taken imitation too far).  I must have become distracted by the whole jogging conversation.

Pippi did slow running (jogging) and fast running to scare off the ibises which crept closer and closer to look for food.  Us older three drank tea and watched yet more joggers run up that hill.

“I need the toilet!” Pippi screamed, sending us into a panic.

Lucy and I decided to take her, Max decided to stay lazing on the grass, minding the picnic.

We walked, walked and talked, skipped and hopped.  Lucy did cartwheels (a large variety of them).
“I can’t do that but I can do a somersault,” said Pippi, the call of nature no longer seeming so urgent.  Lucy reminded me I had actually taught her to do cartwheels… back in the day.

We stopped by to look at some little brown ducklings and their parents gingerly walking down a plank into a pond.


“So cute!”

And found some seeds from a nearby tree that spun in spirals when you tossed them into the air “like a helicopter.”

We made it to the toilet in time… Pippi laughed in delight at the rush of air from the hand dryers.

We travelled back to where Max lay on the hill, slyly playing on his phone while thinking we were not in sight.  We decided to scare him and crept forwards up the hill.  Trouble was, Pippi cannot giggle quietly, so our cover was sprung.  She dived on top of Max anyway.

We packed up and found another lawn that was good for Tip and Hide and Seek.  Shoes off games.  Pippi had to count to ten but went up to twenty instead.


Coming ready or not!

“When are we going home?” she asked.

“We’re not,” I answered.  “We are going to sleep here.  Where will we stay?  In the tree?”

Pippi thought for a moment.

“In the toilet.”

This sent us into gales of laughter.

“I need to do a Number Two!” she screeched suddenly and the games were over.  Shoes were shoved on and we went on another expedition to find another toilet.




A Goldilocks kind of Adventure.

By Vita Forest

Paddington Reservoir Gardens

Paddington Reservoir Gardens

On Sunday, the kids and I opal-carded it around town.  ($2.50 all day travel.  Bargain).  We caught two trains and four buses.  Our mission was to find a good place to stop for lunch and we were a bit Goldilocks about it.  First we went to the Paddington Reservoir Gardens, but Max didn’t want to eat there (the grass area was “too small”).  Then we went back to the city and got off the bus at Hyde Park.  But there was some kind of loud thudding outdoor concert going on, and I thought it was “too noisy.”  Lucy also tried out a few cartwheels on the grass and pronounced it “too hard.”  So after another short bus ride, we went into the Sydney Botanical Gardens, one of my most favourite places of all.  The grass was soft, there was plenty of it, there were nice things to look at and it was not too noisy.  We all declared it “just right” and sat down to eat our picnic.

We sat just outside the fence that encloses Government House.  Our backs against the stone, sitting on the “just right” grass watching the world go by – the ferries dancing on the harbour, the people strolling by under their sunhats, the myna birds darting for scraps.  We took off our shoes and wriggled our toes, as we ate our food and sipped our tea (Earl Grey and Rooibus with milk poured from a tiny jar I keep for just this kind of outing).  Max tried to fit through the bars in the fence around Government House.  Although he could fit his legs and arms through, his head and hips were “too wide”.

Everything was lovely.

The view from the Sydney Botanical Gardens

The view from the Sydney Botanical Gardens

And then it was not.

Max and Lucy began to bicker and then there was some pushing.  Then there was some shoving.  Words were thrown.  Then socks.  One sock sailed over the fence and into the garden of Government House.  The sock belonged to Max.  He tried to fit through the fence again.  But as before, his head and hips were “too wide” and his legs and arms were “too short” to reach the sock.  Muttering in an annoyed kind of fashion, I said – there was simply nothing for it, we would have to walk ALL the way around the fence, past the fig trees, past Fiona Hall’s Folly for Mrs Macquarie, past the stand of bamboo, past the sculpture-that-everyone-wants-to-climb-on-but-you-are-not-supposed-to, up the lawn and into the gate of Government House.

With much huffing and puffing, we followed said-route and arrived in the gardens of Government House.

It wasn’t half bad – there was a tinkling fountain, there was the softest of soft grass, there were luminous titian clivias in the depths of the shade beneath the fig trees.  (The gravel was uncomfortable under Max’s bare feet, but that is what happens when you lose a sock…)

Government House through the bars of the fence.

Government House through the bars of the fence.

“You get the sock!” I ordered the siblings and went to look at the herbaceous borders.  There were some quite lovely plantings all in mauve and violet…  Lucy declared that she would pay $5 to whoever retrieved the sock, but then changed her mind once Max grabbed it.

He sat down near the wisteria to put on his shoes and then discovered…

He had lost the other sock!

Looking up at the sky through Fiona Hall's Folly for Mrs Macquarie.

Looking up at the sky through Fiona Hall’s Folly for Mrs Macquarie.

So we retraced our steps, past the fountain, past the clivias, under the fig trees, over the gravel, out the gate, along the path and over to Fiona Hall’s Folly for Mrs Macquarie.  Where he found his other missing sock, waiting for him on the grass.

That soft green grass.

And there ends the case of the mysterious missing sock.