|Brisbane river with city skyline behind.|
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The first fortnight back in Brisbane was spent in and out of the city, back at Brisbane Boys College and on the beaches at the nearby Gold Coast.
The comfortable relationship which, on the surface, seems to exist between the Queensland Education State schools and the Private system has always impressed and intrigued me. I think it must be down to the retention of the direct grant funding which of course in England the government abolished for political reasons best known by themselves.
Of course in Jersey the direct grant aided system has also laid a solid learning base. Queensland has a school system which has a solid church base and it hasn't been eroded with time and that key interest and involvement in the educational needs of its young people has, it would seem, paid massive dividends.
This church funding from organisations like the Uniting Church and Wesleyan groups has also benefitted the provision of hospital services too. I attended an end of school year spectacular at my pal Bill's granddaughter's school which is based at Carbrook and again is a church facility; a calvary Christian College.
It was an interesting finale to the close of another school year and advent to the six week's school break now fast approaching. It also reminded me of my first six week break I enjoyed when teaching out there and remember how strange it seemed starting a long holiday in December.
I enjoyed the trips in and out of the city centre, never tiring of driving alongside the Brisbane river, but particularly enjoyed revisiting Brisbane City Hall, the architecture is superb and the space in front is, I always felt, a natural centre point for Brisbane.
The last time I was in the City Hall square I was watching Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan filming "The Delinquents", and before that I recall attending a concert watching Tony Hatch and his wife Jackie Trent, and inevitably it concluded with a "Neighbours" singsong by the entire audience and played in by Mr Hatch on the piano. That was way back in 1989.
December in Australia is peak surf time as long as there's no influx of jelleyfish, which there wasn't, and I spent a few days at Tugan nestling between the highrises of the Gold Coast where the beaches are pure sand and there's a handy surf club at one end of the beach. A gale several weeks before had decimated the pelican population apparantly they had been clearing up the carcasses in lorry loads over several days.
Just before leaving for Melbourne Bill, Colin his brother-in-law and myself were back in the area to climb what is called the East Peak or Mt Cougal, a walking track along the Queensland/New South Wales Border. It's part of the beautiful Lamington National Park, a world listed wilderness area of the South East Queensland Border Ranges. We followed the Currumbin Valley to commence our marathon 4 hour walk.
This vast forested region contains Australia's largest presence of pristine sub-tropical rainforest, over 900 species of plants and 120 bird species. The park tops 1,100 metres, clothed in cool temperate rainforest dominated by the ancient Antarctic Beech trees, one of the refuge species of Gondwana, that huge southern continent before it split. In the area there are waterfalls, remnant cores of volcanoes across the Tweed Valley to observe and the tallest mountain in New South Wales, Mount Lamington at over 5000 feet.
Now that all seems lovely and it was, but when you're maybe not as fit as you should be and in the company of a former Australian International runner and an Iron Man National Champion it doesn't bode too well for taking in the scenery, the priority was to keep up and this I was doing particularly badly!
Psychologically there was one way to get some respite, if you went over the other side of the wire fence accompanying the route you could on returning, feel you had relaxed for an hour as this was the difference in time zones between the two States. Needless to say I didn't keep altering my watch!
I did get very close to the top and now know how the rest of the Everest party in '53 felt leaving Tensing and Hillary to grab the glory. The view though was well worth the effort and it did remind me very much of looking across the Blue Mountain Range a few years previously in New South Wales.
As Bill and Colin swept past me on their way back, it was now most definitely downhill all the way, and when I finally made it to base a good half an hour after Bill, Colin was nowhere to be seen.The final insult was when I asked where Colin was? He, it transpired had got fed up of waiting and set off running back home to Tugan, back through the Currumbin Valley and we caught up with him in our car some 12kms later.
On my next trip to Oz I think I will do some walking before I leave!! There would be no problem being bored on the next days flight to Melbourne in fact I was just going to sleep all the way.