Shelley was a dab hand at making choux buns.

Jungly stuff

We are in Vietnam and are being exceedingly lazy – one of the best things about going somewhere one has been before is that there is less pressure to see stuff. Rather than revisiting museums or boulevards it is perfectly acceptable to loaf about and read books.

So we do.

Squishy sofas

I am writing this while sitting on the veranda, leaning back into the cushions of a very squishy sofa as the sun sets across the Mekong river. If is almost as romantically idyllic as it sounds apart from the constant rumble of construction and noise from boats on the river. Cargo barges that sound like circling helicopters and the noisy fishermen’s boats with their engines like bilious mopeds not forgetting the loud radio playing Vietnamese opera at high volume.

Our main activity is to go and visit a furniture factory owned by my oldest friend – it is very impressive.
Once this is done we feel that our duty has been done and we can return to the reading of books interspersed with staring at the river and short snoozes.

Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden, Lavender Bay, Sydney

We are in Australia for the next three weeks. Our main purpose is to visit Stroma (my daughter) who is a pastry chef of prodigious talent and is currently working in a restaurant called Fred’s.

Fernery, Sydney Botanic Gardens

I could drone on and on about how marvellous Australia is but I fear this blog has had too much of me swanning around the world in recent months and very little to do with gardens or gardening.

Christmas Day, Seal Rocks

This seems to be a bit of a faux pas if this blog is still to retain its position as a gardening blog: already we have slipped a long way from practical tips and advice. So, rather than giving you a day by day run down I will try to keep this brief – especially as I am actually getting round to publishing this nearly a month after our return.

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase

In short –
Sydney – great city, excellent sea, good food

Bronte Beach, Sydney

Melbourne – laid back, weird weather patterns where it can be 17 degrees one day and in the 30s the next.
Hobart – spectacular hills, charming architecture, one extraordinary museum.
Fires – pretty hideous but, obviously, tourists are not encouraged to go into areas that are ablaze so we did not see any. People in the UK probably saw more by watching the television. We had smokey days (especially in Melbourne) when the wind was blowing in wrong direction.

Smoky Melbourne

The Australian government are obviously looking in the wrong direction and fire should be used as an asset in land management (as it has for millennia). Hopefully they will listen and act.
Or at the very least start paying volunteer firefighters.

Red Cow Farm

To keep a bit of gardening to the fore I did visit an interesting place called Red Cow Farm in the Southern Highlands (a couple of hours outside Sydney). This was a fine garden albeit a bit strange as it was a green oasis (watered by a deep borehole) amongst the brown dryness of an Australian summer. I have written a piece about it for House and Garden so more will be revealed at some point.

Melbourne Botanic Garden

We also visited three Botanic Gardens – Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart – of which the best was Melbourne. A really lovely place, well laid with lots of diversions and hideaways

Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Hobart

Christmas Day was spent on the beach. New Years Eve was spent avoiding crowds.

Tesselated Pavement (a geological curiosity that my wife and daughter found less than fascinating)

Tasmania is a nice place – good architecture (if you like corrugated iron and good colours, excellent mountain – see the featured picture which is from the top of that mountain looking down on Hobart.

Museum of Old and New Art – extraordinary place.

Enough of that. It is now February and outside it is grey and dismal. It was an amazing trip but, my goodness Australia is a long way away and the jet lag coming back is pretty hideous – especially if you are elderly.

I am listening to the Waitin’ on a plane by Maddie and Tae.

PS I got a Christmas card from someone called Orla (a gardener and passionate music fan apparently) who said nice things about this blog but did not give me an email address so I could write back. Hullo Orla: thank you for your kind words: glad you share my continued adoration of Jane Garvey and Fi Glover.