Newcastle

Being back in Australia we had to make a decision what to do about Adrian’s back. We had expected it to be worse while we were in England thinking the cold and the walking would have upset it. Instead it seemed to improve even if it was only slightly.

We went back to the specialist to discus our options. It wasn’t ‘if’ Adrian would need an operation it was a case of ‘when.’ Adrian and I talked about it but at the end of the day it was his choice so Adrian booked in to have it done. We started to look at how much we were going to be out of pocket. Before we came away on our tour of Australia we had looked at out health insurance and decided to cut back on what we would need. Too old to need pregnancy cover too young to need hip replacement. Somewhere in-between all of that we missed seeing back surgery. We were not covered. I will say ‘dam’ here but really we said lots of other words I really can’t print. We put a ‘stop and let us think’ on the operation. If we went public Adrian would be placed on a waiting list and we were told it could take close to a year. If we upgraded our health cover the waiting period was a year. We just couldn’t win.

Being back in Australia, Adrian’s back started to let him know it wasn’t happy. Ok one operation coming up. We would just have to juggle our finances. Before we left we had allocated money for our trip to England. We had planed to stay for 4 weeks and travel into Ireland and down to London and to Harry Potter World. Because of Adrian’s back we cut it short so we had the money we didn’t use to help pay the medical bills. We received quotes for everything and it wasn’t as bad as we first thought. We were told Adrian would have to be in hospital for 5 nights. (Being in hospital would be something new for Adrian as he had never been in hospital in his life. Being in England only the first baby is born in a hospital. Adrian being the second child was born at home.)

Adrian likes Dr Google so did a lot of research on what is going to happen. He then watched U tube clips from people who had had the same operation. Some of them were wearing back braces and this was weeks after the operation. They all seem to have problems walking and seem to be in a lot of pain. At this point Adrian almost changed his mind.

Expecting Adrian to be immobile for a while we booked in to the local showgrounds for 4 weeks. We were told we could only stay for 3 but after we explained about the operation we were told it would be ok to stay the fourth week. Nice. We then booked into a van park in the Hunter Valley for 4 weeks. We would then make up our mind with our next stop after that. If Adrian was still having problem we could always go back to the showground. If it was really bad we could start to head home. Worst-case scenario Adrian could fly back home and I would drive. We though we best cover all bases.

We left my brother’s home and moved into the showgrounds. We had only just set up camp when the heavens opened up. The water almost covered the bottom step and our doormat floated away. It was a good thing we weren’t planning to move on. I don’t know if we would have been able to get the van out.

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We had a week and a half before the big day. Knowing Adrian would be out of action for a while we decided to head off to Newcastle for some sight seeing. We started at Fort Scratchley. It was quite an impressive Fort for its time sitting high giving it a fantastic view of the bay.

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The name comes from Peter Scratchley. He had an interesting history in the military, fighting in the Crimean War and spending time in India and Australia before being sent back to England. He came back when there was a threat stemming form the Turkish Russian War. Over the next 30 years he planned the defenses in Australia and New Zealand, including a major fort at Signal Hill, Newcastle that was to later bear his name. He died of malaria in 1885 at just 50 years of age.

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The old barracks are filled with memorabilia and medals.  (Bonus a museum as well.)

scr 11Some of the guns are still on display at the fort. In 1942 under the cover of darkness a submarines opened fire on Newcastle. Their target was Fort Scratchley, the State Dockyards and BHP Steelworks. The guns fires lasted for 16 long minutes. (The attack came a week after the midget submarine attacked Sydney Harbor.) The story goes the order was given “Engage when ready.” To which a reply was given ‘Tell him I bloody-well have!” and with that Fort Scratchley fired a second salvo of shells for it’s 6 inch guns. Unfortunately the sub managed to zig-zag its way into deeper water and escape. The 6 inch gun was installed in 1911 and was Fort Scratchley’s most powerful weapon.

After the fort we took a walk along the water edge at Queen’s Wharf.

Across the road was Harry’s Café de Wheels. Harry’s is well known for having the best pies floats in Australia or so we have been told. It was tempting but we decided to settle for a relaxing coffee. It was nice to sit back and relax after the rush of the last two weeks.

We climbed the observation deck, known as the ‘Queen’s Wharf Tower’. It was built in 1988 to make Australian Bicentenary. A nice touch to the tower is it is wheel chair accessible. The idea behind the tower is to ‘elevate people high above the site where water, park and city meet’. The information sign said you could see for 20 kilometres on a clear day. Not knowing Newcastle well we didn’t really know what landmarks we were looking at or how far but we did see the Fort.

We drove along the cost line. Amazing. We stopped to do the Memorial Walk. Part of the walk is a Bridge structure, which leans out over the ocean. It is dedicated to the men and women from the Hunter that served in WW1. There are steel sculptures along the walkway. Engraved onto the sculptures are 3,859 family names of the 10,947 names known to have enlisted from the Hunter Valley area. It is rather a sad walk. An amazing view on one side and the listed of names who will never set their eye on it again on the other.

When we arrived at the end of the bridge we could see the weather starting to roll in.

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We retrieved the car and drove down to the bottom of the hill stopping for another look at the weather. You can tell it is going to be bad when the sea gales take shelter behind anything that they can find. We decided to call it quits for the day.

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