Australia, July 2015 Absolutely capital

I slept like a log for 4 hours or so. Woke up at 3.50pm to an empty house and a note saying "Gone to fetch the girls, back soon". The headache has gone but I'm freezing cold. Yes, me. I sit in one of the living rooms near a tiny heater and obsess over whether the Avios and points from my outbound flights are ever going to hit.

Kevin arrives back with Alex and Harry and the madness begins. Instantly they start colouring stuff in, then I am subjected to an impromptu trivia quiz posed by Alex. The first question is "what's the world's smallest mountain?" and none of us know - turns out there's no globally recognised definition of 'mountain' but the answer seems to be Mount Wycheproof right here in Australia.

Shamefully, I forget Alex's middle name. Oops. She tells me how many goals she scored at football all day, varying between 1 and 100. Then it's packing time because 4 of us are heading to mountains tomorrow and need to get our stuff ready. Then it's time for Harry to practice photography with my phone.

As taken by a 4yo.

Soon there is lasagne, and Sal arrives home to hear about everyone's day, and at some point the money becomes the new best toy and I am asked to explain all the countries where it comes from. Hong Kong money is Alex's favourite. Harry vacillates between Vietnamese and Indian and Malaysian and South African and basically all money. I promise I will show them on the globe where each note comes from, but only once we are back from the snow.

As the girls get ready for bed, Kevin and I go on a sortie to a draughtsman's house to drop off some kind of paperwork about how they no longer want to build a thing they had previously been granted permission to build, and then we go to the off licence.

I've been hearing how good Porters is for ages now. Best off licence in the world, he says. In fact most of our non-messenger Facebook interaction is a steady stream of "check out this new stout/porter" photos Kevin tags me in. So tonight we get a couple of bottles of a 'breakfast stout' and a 4 pack of Feral porter.

Oh, and the spirits guy gives me a taster of 4 gins just for asking if they have bottles of a particular brand I'm going to buy (well, get bought for me) whether I like it or not. The best of the bunch is an English gin called Old Tom but still I get him to purchase the 4 Pillars, it being the first Aussie spirit I've heard of that isn't Bundaberg rum.

We also get Sal to negotiate her whisky choice over the phone with the staff and head back laden with Chivas. Back at the flat we tuck into a Feral first and it is great - smoky and dark, tasting notes according to Sal being 'that is a cheeky little bitch of a beer'. I realise the gin has to stay in Oz because I can't take liquids home anyway, never mind.

We watch The Voice again and Jessie J is still a cow. Then just a trailer for Embarrassing Bodies makes us all feel sick. We fail to name the Australian states' emblem birds, nor understand the difference between a state and a terrtory, but I introduce this hemisphere to the unimpressed owl.

This owl is worth sharing even though I cannot provide orginal credit.

We watch Brian Cox and argue about whether he has a top lip or not. None of us are quite sure how comes the Australian govt has made it illegal to report child abuse in detention centres. Helen's ears burn as I get the third degree from Sal. "OK, she's direct because she's from Yorkshire you said. Does she want kids. No? Good." and etc. I think she passes the (remote) test.

Blog, then sleep. No waking in the middle of the night, and waking naturally and rested at about 0640 with the kids already up. I emerge pretty sharpish because we are aiming to leave during rush hour for a drive down to Canberra.

The drive is supremely nondescript after the rainbows which presage our departure, and the bacon stop. Takes a while, and a lot of tunnels, to escape Sydney and then it's just a boring freeway through crap scenery with occasional glimpses of trees that are less boring than the other trees. With an hour to go we pass a town featuring the largest concrete sheep in the world and as I read up on it, I discover the wikipedia page called "Australia's big things".

Lake? Really?

Half an hour later we reach Lake George. Kevin has been talking this up the whole way; it is a lake without water. i.e., it is just a shitload of flat land. I am singularly unimpressed. More impressive is Harry's ability to count to 108, only jumping forward to 100 about 15 times before its actual turn.

Canberra arrives and is boring and shit. A planned city, Australia's Milton Keynes, the route to the hotel is to carry on straight, go round a roundabout, park. It's a relief to be able to answer "are we in Canberra yet?" with yes, though we've been doing that for 20 minutes anyway.

In and out, off to Questacon. This is Canberra/Australia's equivalent of Manchester's MOSI or the Science Museum in London, except a bit worse. The ticket vendor tells us he has beard envy, then we grab some food, before plying our ways through rooms 1-8. There are audio exhibits and visual/optical illusions and they are fun. Then there are more hardcore science rooms like ones about earth and water and they are a bit meh.

SCIENCE
Argh! Foremans!

The creche room gives the girls a chance to burn off their donut/gingerbread man and at the end of it all we make a slow way back to the car via two xylophones and a giant seashell. Everyone is hungry but the hotel restaurant isn't open yet so while Kevin bathes his daughters, I grab a beer.

When they join me, the girls are insanely cute and crazy. Harry is full of hugs and kisses and a desire to play a game which involves kneeling on my knees and then falling into my torso. Alex decides this looks great and so plays the same game. After some kerfuffle we manage to shepherd them into the restaurant where Harry orders fish and chips with fish. Kevin's pulled pork is disappointing and no-one likes my hickory sauce.

Back at the room and the girls go through their typically bonkers "go to bed" routine. I go to the bar and write this what you are reading. The Ashes is delayed, so I hear, so I'll see what the excitement is about the State of Origin for a bit, maybe.

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